Visit

http://www.alexeyofficial.com
http://www.stix.rocks

for additional, up to the minute information about this kickstarter!

Thank you everyone from checking out my kickstarter!

As you may already know, my name is Alexey and I’ve been playing some serious drums since I was 6, about eight years ago. (You can check out many of drum video at https://www.youtube.com/alexeydrummer )

I have a secret second passion I would love to talk to you about… that is, I love to act! Pretending to be other people, to live in a different place in time! Some of you might have seen my previous 5 minute video where I do just that, and thanks to you, that video, which is on my channel, got well over a million views and a meeting with Disney!

Now, I would love to make a TV series that you can see on my channel, or maybe Netflix, HBO, Disney, who knows! An entirely new show with a brand new concept different than anything I have shown you before!

We are living in a time where taking initiative, to do it yourself, make your own tv series or movie, is a great way to make entertainment immediately, build an audience, then make more shows using viewer input to help guide us with the story you would like to see us tell!

Which leads me to the purpose of this kickstarter: to create a tv show with all of your support. Working with producer/director Richard Halpern (bio within this campaign), we created a narrative series called STIX. And let me tell you, I am very excited about this.

Set in 1973, STIX is the story of Alexey (played by me), a teenage drummer trying to find her way, alone, in a male-dominated world of music. The pilot episode will center around myself and the troubled relationship I have with my dad, who would rather see me do something he feels a woman is supposed to do vs doing what I want to do, play in a rock band. You’ll also meet my friends, a fun rag-tag group of junior high kids, all of whom try to sneak into an adult only rock show with me. What happens next I can’t reveal, though I will say it’s great, outrageous fun where you get to see me truly cut loose and thrusts the end of the pilot to a cliff-hanger that will leave you craving more!

We truly want this show to have an edge, presented in a way with daring story ideas and mature topics that are, tonally speaking, something close to a movie set in the 70’s like Cameron Crowe’s ALMOST FAMOUS or striving to be up there with the best of what Netflix or HBO has to offer.

Funding a TV series pilot can cost a lot. From paying the cast of over a dozen persons, a crew over 20, locations, wardrobe, set design, it can get really expensive. Especially a show set in the 70’s, where we need to secure locations, sets, clothing, etc. that capture the look of that era. Which means higher rental and purchase costs to attain this unique look.

Richard is really good with crunching budgets, and he figured out a way to cast, shoot, edit, market a pilot for around $60,000, even though the typical cost to produce a show of this length starts at around $300,000. For your contribution, if we can hit at least $60K, we can make a full 30 minute pilot that, when completed, will have you wanting more!

What we can offer for your contribution is something I am super excited about: things from t-shirts, a design that I created, to Alexey signed drumsticks. (Check out the photos above of examples of these and the rewards section for how to get these)

One of the coolest things I am creating is an original! A movie-like poster that conveys the excitement and character of the series, each hand-signed by me and numbered, limited to only 500!  Keep an eye out here or on social media for the big reveal of this poster!

STREEEEEEEEETCH GOALS!

Would we like to have a full season of 8 half hour episodes? Sure! So with this, we have stretch goals that can make this happen! Every dollar you contribute over $60k, will go to pay cast and crew more money and keep them dedicated to working our cool show down the road.. More money will also get us better production values on locations, props, permits, camera, lighting, the list goes on! If we can hit $110 K, we will be able to produce two, 30-minute episodes, back to back! $160K, 3 episodes! You get the picture!

Please, help me make my dream come true by creating a truly fun, funny, dramatic tv series that will entertain you, make you laugh, even maybe make you cry. Check out the campaign and see if there is something for you! Even the smallest contribution of $5 would be greatly appreciated and cherished! If we all work together, watch together, and be entertained together, perhaps the show will get picked up by a major distributor for you to watch on a big network!

Thank you so much for everyone who has been cheering me on for many years! And thank you everyone for considering being a part of my great dream!

Peace and Love,

Alexey

(check out the video above for a cool treat for all my fans!)

 

Risks and challenges

Hi, this is producer/writer/director Richard Halpern. Thank you for being a part of this fun series and dream for Alexey (and myself too!)

Creating a pilot for a television series has some great challenges that, in many cases, offers great rewards to those who participate in the creation of the show. In the case of STIX on Kickstarter, the risks are minimized for fans like you, because in the end, you are getting great rewards while helping to contribute to making a fun series that, maybe, can end up being the next big thing. We thank you for this!

For production of a show like this, there is pre-production (writing process, the casting process), the process of production, then, post-production and finally PR/Marketing.

All of these areas have unique challenges.

In pre-production, writing is subjective , though in the end, if we can create a show that entertains, then people will become connected to the story and characters. We will work hard to hopefully create a story that will keep you engaged every minute of the way!

Through casting, the show can rise and fall based on putting together a cast that can bring the written page to life. Alexey and I will work together to bring a fine cast that has chemistry. The cast will be a mix of unknown actors with a few “veterans” who have worked in film and tv many times, to bring great experience to the production. It is possible too that a lot of this production will have improv to it, where we allow the characters to create action and dialogue based on the outline they are presented with.

Production, the actual time we are shooting the show on video, many things can happen: a great crew working in unison to “make the day” (that is, completing in the day the number of pages you wish to shoot). Sometimes during production unexpected moments occur, like a puppy running into a shot and doing something funny, that can be magical. Though obstacles like weather, cast and crew illnesses, equipment breaking down, etc, can present a challenge. Though knowing these occurrences might happen, and being prepared for it, is how production rises to the occasion to make magic happen.

In post-production, this is the time where all the work we have done gets crunched down to a 10 x 10 room with a computer, editing software and a skilled editor that will, like a great game of Tetris, piece together all the scenes and edit them in a such a way to tell a fast, fun, compelling story. The key here is to sort through the best “takes” (that is, the number of times a certain scene was shot in production), find the best takes, and use these to create the story. Also, knowing what to keep in the story and edit out (leave on the cutting room floor), is something that requires skill, conversation and input from all (heck, we may even post some early scenes for you to help us mode with input and suggestions for post!)

Marketing/PR happens when we take the finished product and release it to the world to see. From writing a press release, sending it to all major media, sending out screeners for critics to watch and review, placing ads, etc, this is the process done to get eyeballs to be part of the project!

Word of mouth is the greatest PR/Marketing in the world; if fans like you love it, and send a link to your friends, who sends a link to their friend, that is a dream come true for a final tv series of movie to get! Word of mouth is loved too for this campaign, so, we truly hope you can share this project with the world!

Thank you so much for being part of this Kickstarter campaign! We appreciate your support and all the great “word of mouth” you can give us!

Sincerely,

Richard Halpern

about Richard Halpern

PRODUCER/DIRECTOR BIO

Richard Halpern is an award-winning director and producer, working in the film business since 1990. Richard also wrote and produced UNDER THE BED for Leonardo DiCaprio’s Appian Way & Radar Pictures (RIDDICK/SPRING BREAKERS), produced the feature film AMNESIAC starring Kate Bosworth and Wes Bentley, the feature-film ALL SHOOK UP starring Sarah Chalke of TV’s SCRUBS, Executive Produced the Television Series THE STRAND, starring Katherine Helmond (SOAP, BRAZIL), the feature film THE OBJECTIVE, directed by Daniel Myrick (THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT), produced/directed the feature-film ZZYZX, starring Kenny Johnson (THE SHIELD), produced and directed the feature-film W.M.D. for Indican Pictures (Boondock Saints) and produced BIGFOOT COUNTY for LIONSGATE ENTERTAINMENT.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0356960/?ref_=tt_ov_dr

About Alexy

NAMM-2010,2011,2012,2013,2014,2015

Interviewed by -Rock Oracle Russian Magazine
Tom Tom Magazine -Magazine for Female Drummers
Rock N Roll Magazine
Las Vegas Sun Journal
Drum Talk TV
Stars2come
Decibel Geek Podcast
Creatures of The Net
Power Talk 1420AM Radio-Florida
TFC Balitang America
FOX TV MORE LAS VEGAS
Legato Music Magazine
Rock At Night
Rockwired

ALEXEY likes Hard Rock,Classic Rock and Metal Bands and Rock and Roll

Alexey won the Next Great Drummer Competition in the Beginner Category held in Las Vegas, NV (she was only playing drums for 6 months at the time) and then at Knott’s Berry Farm in Los Angeles.

April 23,2011, -ALEXEY won in Las Vegas in the Intermediate Category.

She won First Prize for the Next Great Drummer online youtube finalist(Feb.1,2012)

Finalist for the Air Drumming Contest – Drum Channel

She performed on the stage with Miss Patti LaBelle.

Long Beach Jazz Festival with The Next Great Drummer All Star Band
Aug.2010 and Aug.2011

She has been performing on stage with her brother, who plays piano in local charity events. (www,WonderChild.org)

Ex drummer of – AC Generation
Ex drummer- House of Domini

JAMMED WITH

ERIC SINGER – KISS (SCHOOL OF ROCK)
Jackie Ramos- Moxy ROXX
Meytal Cohen
Nick Menza- Megadeth
Mark Allee
Eric Seats-Ms.Patti LaBele
Veronica Bellino-Jeff Beck
Logan Gladen-The Robotix
Zach Lucero
Thomas Lang- StOrk, John Wetton, Vienna Art Orchestra

Derek Roddy- Hate Eternal, Nile, Malevolent Creation

Boys and Girls Clubhouse Las Vegas:2010-2011
Donald W.Reynolds Clubhouse-
Boys and Girls Club James Clubhouse with NGD
Lied Memorial Clubhouse
Shots4Tots
Cashman Field 51’s-Fresno Grizzlies
Filipino American Festival Foundation Nevada
Fox5TVLas Vegas
NASCAR- March 10-11,2012
NASCAR -2013

Dec. 17, 2011-Was invited for Stevie Wonder “- House Full of Toys Benefit Concert with Choir and dancers at the Nokia Theater.

March 15,2012-Was Invited by KISS BAND to perform with the KISS Tribute Band – Mr. Speed in the opening of the KISS Monster Mini Golf in Las Vegas, NV.

June 15,2012 -ALEXEY played with the SIN CITY SINNERS at Green Valley Ranch Resort,Henderson

June 16,2012-ALEXEY had a session and record a song to Mr.Trevor Lawrence Jr. at Vision Studio Valencia,CA

June 29,2012-Played with the ALL STARS OF SCHOOL OF ROCK at The Hard Rock Cafe as a guest

Sept.8 & 9 ,2012-with the SCHOOL OF ROCK LAS VEGAS ,we performed at The Hard Rock Hotel Casino(VINYL) playing The Beatles 4EVER

Dec. 9,2012 – ALEXEY was invited by The Cash Presley Band to play a song with them at Toby Keith’s at Harrah’s Casino Las Vegas through the drummer Mark Allee.

Jan.25 & 26 2013 – Southpoint Casino Las Vegas with School Of Rock Las Vegas(The Showroom)

Feb.8,2013 – Plays with AC Generation at Cashman Center Las Vegas (Love is in the Air)

March 9 & 19,2013-Plays with AC Generation at NASCAR Las Vegas 2013

March 23,2013-was invited to play with the Kiss Tribute Band local las vegas for the First Anniversary of Kiss Mini Golf.

April 18,2013- Champion of the Hit Like A Girl Contest (HLAG) under 18 worldwide.

April 26, 2013- Interview and featured on TFC Balitang America

May 25,2013-Plays with KISS ALIVE in New River,AZ for wounded soldiers

June 16,2013
Hard Rock Cafe Las Vegas with School of Rock

Sept.7,2013-
Jam with Mr.Dan Shinder of DrumTalkTV

Oct.27,2013-Played with SIR KISS TRIBUTE BAND for the KISS Pre-party at Hard Rock Cafe,Miami Florida

Oct.30,2013
Won the KISS Eric Singer Drum-off at KISSKRUISE 3 (Norwegian Cruise Line)

Nov.5,2013-Interviewd by
http://joshbelcher1.blogspot.com/

Nov.30,2013- Guest drummer for F.T.C. Band for fundraising event for the victims of typhoon haiyan Philippines

Dec.8,2013
Alexey and Cidney will perform for The Kierrah Fashion Week(Haute Holiday)event at Sofitel Los Angeles Beverly ,Hills
Red Carpet at-3:00pm
4:00-Showtime

Dec. 16,2013- Interview for The Rhythm Magazine UK
for Hit Like A Girl 2014 Launching

Dec.22,2013- Alexey will be playing for The Holiday Tribute to Michael Jackson Annual Kierrah Foundation Toy & Gift at the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City,CA with NU Skool Sing Old School Kids,Agape youth Choir,Kierrah Catwalk.

January 24-26,2014- At NAMM for the Press conference of Hit Like A Girl Contest 1024(Zildjian Both)

January 27,2014- Drum Channel with The Guitar Center Winner drum off 2014, and Val Sepulveda winner of Hit Like A Girl over 18years of Hit Like A Girl Contest.

January 27,2014- Played with Thomas Pridgen and The Memorials at DrumChannel.com

March 15,2014-Play at The Catalina Jazz Club with the NU Skool Sings Old Shool

April 3,2014- Drum Channel for the Hit Like A Girl Winners announcement.

June 14,2014- A quest performer in Miss Santa Clarita Valley Scholarship Pageant Performing Arts of College and Canyon

July 6,2014- Jam with Thomas Lang(Stork,Paul Gilbert) Derek Roddy (Hate Eternal/Nile) @ Drum Channel for the Big Drum Bonanza 2014

Sept.27,2014- Nu Skool Sings Old Shcool Los Angeles Convention Center

Nov.8,2014- Sin City Sinners at The Vinyl Hard Rock

Nov.19,2014- Drum Channel at Oxnard ,CA
Jammed with Val Sepulpeda and Fernanda Fuentes

Jan.2,2015 –
Vincenzo’s Pizza Newhall with Cidney and Iris

Jan. 19,2015-Guitar Center Drum off 2015 — at Club NOKIA.

Jan.25,2015-NAMM Convention

March 19,2015- Female Drummer Documentary
May 2,2015-The Mirage Las Vegas
May 12,2015-Open Mic at Valencia,CA
May 16,2015-Relay for Life(Sylmar,CA)
June 5,2015- Relay For Life(Los Angeles,CA)
July 5,2015- Schooners at Sunset ,CA(HOD)
July 8,2015-(HOD)@City of Industry,CA
Sam Ash Music Store

July 19,2015- NuSchool @ The Whisky A-Go Go

April 21-17,2015- GAPKIDSXED- GAP TV Commercial campaign featuring Ellen DeGeneres

May 7,2015- GAP Field Leadership Conference in The Mirage Hotel Las Vegas,NV

August 18,2015- FOX 5 KVVU- TV Local LasVegas – interview

August 20,2015- TFC Balitang America Interview – Bev Llorente- ABS_CBN

Asian Journal- Robert Macabagdal

Aug.20,2015- Commendation Award from- Senator Harry Reid (Las Vegas,NV) United States Senate

Aug.22,2015- GAP The Grove (Drum Solo) Launching Party of GapKidsxED

Aug.22,105- GAP Sherman Oaks- Special appearance for GapKidsxED

August 22,2015 -Moxy AndTheInfluence (MXI)opening for MissingPersons :
7227 Edinger Ave. Huntington Beach (East of Goldwest)

Sept.3,2015- Featured i Umagang Kay Ganda Manila,Philippines (ABS-CBN)

Sept. 19,2015- GMA TV interview

Sepr.23,2015- Drum and Drummer event saGuijo Cafe + Bar
7612 Guijo Street. San Antonio Village
Makati City,Manila Phil.

Sept.25,2015- Dutdutan Tattoo Convention (World Trade Center) Manila Phil. with Death By Stereo by Francis Jerome Abalos

Sept.26,2015- The Howls at Full Moon with Wolfgang as a guest drummer- Music Museum Manila

Sept. 30- SaGuio Cafe and Bar -Sandwhich and Imago

Oct. 1,2015- Jam with Arnel Pineda of Journey and Fuseboxx

Featured – Legato Music Magazine

Oct.2, 2015- played with Sandwhich and Imago band at 12 Monkeys Music hall and pub

OCT.8,2015- Jam with Jerome Abalos
Oct.9, 2015- Jam with Zack Lucero of Imago (JB music Phil.)

Nov.15,2015- NU SKOOL Sings Old School 2015 Beatiful Souls Award

Dec. 12, 2015- MXI – opening for Iron Maidens at Fuzion in Huntington Beach, CA

Dec. 19, 2015- MXI at Rock City Studios in Camarillo ,CA

Dec, 27, 2015- Jam with AntiTrust Band in Las Vegas

Jan. 2, 2016- MXI @ Whiskey Richards in Santa Barbara, CA

Jan. 10,2016- Shot a music video with the band “WALK THE MOON “- Work This Body.(Los Angeles,CA)

Jan. 21 to 24, 2016- NAMM 2016
Jan. 23,2016- Band Interview with She Rocks The Planet
Interview- Drumline.net

Jan.24,2016 – MXI at NAMM GoPro booth
Jan. 26,2016 – Jam with Eric Seats and Mark Allee
Jan.30,2016 – play with AntiTrust in ODM Theaterin Las Vegas

Feb.12,2016- Moxy And The Influence at the Yost Theater
Feb.19,2016- Boys And Girls Club- Tustin,CA
Feb.19,2016- Antitrust @333 Live Los Angeles,CA
Feb. 27,2016- Arnel Pineda Concert- Music Museum Greenhills Philippines

March 5,2016- Penarrubia Town Fiesta with Mitoy Yonting and Draybers Band
March 6,2016- Kawayan Festival- Camp Juan Villamor
March 12,2016- Marilao BulacanMarch 6,2016 – Kawayan Festival Abra

April 3, 2016 – MXI -Forgotten Saints Hollywood,CA
April 4 -5,2016 – Antitrust Las Vegas
April 13,2016- Hit Like A Girl 2016 @ drum channel

April 21, 2016 – Akademia Awards (MXI )
April 23 ,2016 – Drum Clinic
April 30,2016 – MXI

May, 26-29,2016 – MXI at Rocklahoma
MXI- 30 interviews at Rocklahoma

July 6, 2016- MXI Album Release- Radio Interviews

July 15,2016- MXI- Orange County Fair
July 16,2016- MXI- Fort Bragg,CA
July 23,2016- MXI- Orange County Fair
July 31,2016- MXI- Cooks’s Corner- Trabuco,Canyon,CA

Aug.2,2016- Music video with Saving Forever ( Sony/Epic records) #alltheway

Aug.6,2016- Laklak Fest- Antitrust – Kapistahan Grill LA,CA

Aug.27,2016- MXI_- The Yost Theater- Sta.Ana,CA

Sept.15, 2016- MXI – Malone @Sta.Ana, CA

Sept.17, 2017 – Antitrust ( Stardust Club )
Downey,CA

Sept.17- 2017 – Jam with Slapshock . No.1 nu metal band of the philippines.

Sept.25- MXI Music video for Unbreakable Bond movie
Oct.6,2016- Semi finalist for Blue Man Group Drum off las vegas

Oct.7 to 9 -Disney Princess Dream Big Commercial (Vancouver Canada )
Oct.24,2016- Antitrust with Death Angel (La Vegas,NV)

Nov.4,2016- Chain Reaction ,Anaheim,CA (MXI)

Nov.20,2016- Cooks Corner
Nov.27,2016 – Antitrust EP release in Las Vegas
Dec.18,2016- MXI

Jan.14,2017- Antitrust EP release in Los Angeles,CA

Feb. 11, 2017 – Behringer Electric Drums Commercial
March 15, 2017- Antitrust (LAs Vegas)
March 17,2017- Antitrust (Las Vegas)
April 28,2017- (Las Vegas)

Endorsed By – DW drums
TRX Cymbals

stay tuned for more! Thank you everyone

 

 

Achievements

Next Great Drummer Champion – Beginner Category
Next Great Drummer Champion – Intermediate Category
Next Great Drummer Champion – Advance Category
KISS Kruise Drum Off Champion
Hit Like A Girl – Worldwide Champion – Under 18
Nu Skool Sings Old School Allstar Award
Talent Certificate from Senator Harry Reid of Las Vegas, USA

 

CONTACTS

FACEBOOK

https://www.facebook.com/pg/alexeydrummer/

14/WorldDrummer/Disney PrincessJasmineCommercial/ HLAG champ/|Acting|GAP /AlexeyTheTVSeries/NGD champ/Antitrust
www.alexeyofficial.com
www.twitter.com/alexeypoblete
www.youtube.com/alexeydrummer
www.instagram.com/alexeydrummer
alexeyinquiries@gmail.com
#AlexeyTheTvSeries

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THE TITLE OF THIS BREAKING NEWS ITEM IS

Artificial Agent (Detroit, Michigan) ROCK STARS AND METAL GODS “Devil in the White Dress” Video Premier BREAKING NEWS BY Anne Erickson 106.7 the D Radio FAME — NEWS ITEM PICKED UP HERE and  October 21st 2107 Concert News Warrant / Artificial Agent * Live @ The Emerald Theatre — 31 North Walnut Street — Mount Clemens, Michigan 48043

https://www.facebook.com/artificialagentdetroit/

 

Artificial Agent has a new VIDEO UNLEASHED ON PLANET METAL TODAY it is titled Devil in The White Dress

 

 

ALSO Artificial Agent has a Concert With Warrant on October 21st, 2017 @ The Emerald Theatre which is located @

 

Emerald Theatre

31 North Walnut Street

Mount Clemens, Michigan 48043

TIX INFO @

http://www.ticketweb.com

 

Biography
With the release of “Love Won’t Strangle Me” …Artificial Agent has become a non stop rock machine! Effectively opening for the likes of Vince Neil, Eagles of Death Metal, Warrant,Poison, Ace Frehley twice,Alice Cooper, and several opening appearances with the Steel Panther. They have won over fans young and old…….”Artificial Agent reference plenty of familiar territory on this record, but manage to have twisted it into a pretty unique experience – one which should see them get some well deserved attention.” -100% Rock Magazine….Artificial Agent is making a name for themselves in the Michigan music industry by creating music that is true to their core genre, classic hair metal. Often pulling from musical influences such as, KISS, Mötley Crüe and Queens of the Stone Age; Artificial Agent combines both old and new school influences to create their captivating sound that has drawn fans in from all across the Midwest…..
 TOP 100 ALBUMS OF 2017

Adrenaline Rush “Sole Survivor” Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal

Alice Cooper “Paranormal” Hard Rock/Heavy Metal

Angel Nation “Aeon”

Arch Enemy “As the Stages Burn!”

Arch Enemy “Live Power”

Arch Enemy “Will To Power”

Artificial Agent “Programmed To Destroy”

Asphyx “The Rack” Reissuse

Avatarium “Hurricane and Halos”

Bathsheba “Servus”

Battle Beast “Bringer of Pain”

Beyond the Black “Lost In Forever” 2016/2017 REISSUE

The Birthday Massacre “Under Your Spell” — GOTHIC

Black Death “Black Death” — 1984 /2017 REISSUSE

Blues Pills ” Lady In Gold – Live In Paris” — Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal

Burning Witches “Burning Witches”

Butcher Babies ” Lilith” — NuMetal ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Celtic Frost “Innocence and Wrath’  1984/1985/1986/1987 — / 2017  — Noise/ BMGCompilation

Cirith Ungol “King of The Dead” 1984/2017 REISSUE Metal Blade CD/DVD  

Chastain “We Bleed Metal 17”

Cradle of Filth “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”

The Crüxshadows “Astromythology” Gothic

Cynic “Uroboric Forms”

Dark Age “Dark Age” 1984/2017 REISSUE

The Dark Element “The Dark Element”

Destructor “Decibel Casualties”

Deteriorate “Rotting In Hell” 1994/2017 REISSUSE  

Deuce “Deuce” Anthology Compilation 1981/1983/1984 — / 2017 REISSUSE

Dimmu Borgir “Dimmu Borgir”

Dimmu Borgir “Forces of the Northern Light”

Doll Skin “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”

Edge of Paradise “Alive” HARD ROCK / HEAVY METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Electric Wizard “Wizard Bloody Wizard”

Evanescence “Synthesis”

Evil Invaders “Feed Me Violence”

Exit Eden “Rhapsodies In Black”

Fire Strike “Slaves of Fate”

Greta Van Fleet “Black Smoke Rising” Hard Rock

The Haxans “Party Monster” — GOTHIC HARD ROCK

Halestrom “ReAniMate3.0

Hawaii “Loud, Wild, and Fast” 1984/2017  REISSUES

Jess and the Ancient One’s “Jess and the Ancient Ones” 2014/2017 REISSUSE

Ice Age “Break The Ice”

Infernäl Majesty “No God” — HEAVY METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR FRONTRUNNER

Insatia “Phoenix Aflame”

Jess and the Ancient One’s “Jess and the Ancient Ones” 2014/2017 REISSUSE

Kreator  “Gods Of Violence”

LA Guns “The Missing Piece”

Lady Beast “Vicious Breed”

Last Union “Most Beautiful Day” has a release date of late December 23, 2016 or December 30th, 2016 release day….!!!

Elisa Scarpeccio * W0rld-Class Vocalist Last Union fame and legend

Marylin Manson “Heaven Upside Down”

Metallica “Master of Puppets” 1986/2017 REISSUSE

Morbid Angel “Formulas Fatal To the Flesh” 1998/2017 RESISSUSE

Morbid Angel “Kingdoms Disdained”

Motörhead “Under Cöver”

MindMaze “Resolve”

Myrkur “Mareridt”

Ne Obliviscaris “Urn”

Once Human “Evolution”

Over Kill “The Grinding Wheel”

Pagan Altar “The Room of Shadows”

Poison Garden “A Victorian Carol” Gothic

Psychedelic Witchcraft “Magick Rites and Spells”

Psychedelic Witchcraft “Sound of the Wind”

September Mourning “Volume II”

Septic Flesh “Codex Omega”

Sisters of Suffocation “Anthology of Curiosities “

Shadowside “Shades of Humanity”

Steel Panther “Lower The Bar”

 

Tarja – From Spirits And Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas)
Terminatryx “Remyx v2.o” Gothic

Torture Squad “Far Beyond Existence” — BRAZIL NATIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Vaultwraith “Death is Proof of Satan’s Power”

Vixen “Made in Hawaii” 1983/2017 REISSUSE

Walk in Darkness “In the Shadow of Things”

Warrant “Louder Harder Faster”

WildeStarr “Beyond The Rain”

Witchery  “I Am Legion”

Xandria “Theatre of Dimension”

 

 ONELINE
 http://www.artificialagent.band/
FACEBOOK
https://www.facebook.com/artificialagentdetroit/
INSTAGRAM
https://www.instagram.com/artificialagentmusic/
YOUTUBE
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9KSt0ybOYavBjh9emJ8Qag
 Here is a previous video called Artificial Agent “Master Blaster”

 

Doll Skin

(Phoenix Arizona)

Manic Pixie Dream Girl

UNLEASHED UPON PLANET METAL ON

June 16th, 2017

EMP RECORDS

ELG0022

EAN/UPC

700220562264

As a Death Metal-age/ Avant-Garde-age/Gothic Metal-age publication…….I am sure 50,000 readers are wondering why in the fuck are Doll Skin featured in these pages!! They have everything in common with the bands we cover the most here, and our biggest influence as a News Service, and we have a Heavy Metal and Hard Rock Hall of Fame section to this webZine….are the publications Sonic Cathedral and Metal Maidens….I will have to dig around to see if they are featured there, since the biggest part of the bands sound is on target taste for this publication….Described elsewhere as a HEAVIER and HARDER more KICK ASS and a more BAD ASS updated version of The Donnas meets The Runaways…which is true…..but of course the band does have it’s own sound and it’s own style…..KICK ASS METAL  just did a RazorBack Records order for Vaulwraith, EvilSpeak Magazine #5.5 and The Hells Headbangers Version of Horrific “Your Worst Nightmare”….so fucking relax. Also we secured a copy of the Dark Age “Dark Age” October 31st, 1984 CD on the GODLY NO REMORSE RECORDS….Tons of Death Metal/ Avant Garde / Gothic albums write-ups/ reviews in the works and, our yearly article the top 100 albums of 2017 1st article which we publish every October 30th each year so you know what CD’s to pass out for Halloween, and what gifts to give as gifts, for Christmas ….I am getting this CD for my 18 year old niece, for Christmas, 2017….!!!! Something for her Heavy Rotation of Slipknot, Pantera, The Birthday Massacre, Motorhead…..!!!! My neice has Pink/ Purple/ Blue/ Green/ Platinum Blonde/ Brunette/ Red hair all @ once !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This HAS TO BEEE THE CD she gets for Christmas !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

On a Wicked Wednesday October 11th, 2017 I got to see these Phoenix, Arizona Hard Rock Hero’s alongside Detroit’s Own Far From Fiction,

Mia Walby * Far From Fiction FAME

and of course read the first sentence of the beginning paragraph again, were doing a concert review of one of the greatest bands of all-time, Austin, Texas One-Eyed Doll, who ruled by the way…!!! Oh yesterday was Friday the 13th, October 13th, 2017 and the new LA GUNS CD “The Missing Peace” album was unleashed on Planet Metal…..!!! And that album rules all the way….!! I have been a LA GUNS fan since day 1….whoa….Seen them live a billion times, so I got to see Doll Skin for the 1st time, and the band RULES in a live setting, total KILLER GUITAR TONE by Alex Snowden….and a expert of the axe, total hard rock / heavy metal metallic mayhem, that will whip you in a frenzy !!!

There are some alternative metal / alternative rock / alternative avant-garde / bands we feature here, and the one we were really big fans of was Bad Seed Rising, but they disbanded here, so looking @ our 2017/ 2018/ 2019 top 100 artist for each genre of metal / avant-garde/ gothic we cover, this band easily takes Bad Seed Rising spot, on our top 100 list for that genre!!!!! Each time a top 100 band disbands we find a band to cover who earned that ranking, but even if Bad Seed Rising were still around these days…………………. Doll Skin I hope can be a UNSTOPPABLE FORCE for those of use who love WORLD-CLASS VOCALIST AND KICK ASS GUITAR and a top-notch world-class rhythm section !!!!!!!!!!!! So for the best of the best live bands of this decade and this the 21st century Doll Skin, rules and it is just the case of each top 100 band for each style we cover, we cover up to 700 bands of each style, and do local news articles, not to avoid the pseudo-intellectual/elitist category or whatever, but I go to the record store 3 times a week, and there are times I can buy every album in the store, and there are times the budget is around $300 to $500 dollars a week, so it is back to the best of the best, when the economics work at your purchase power disadvantage !!!!

It was by serendipity one of our favorite bands of all-time One-Eyed Doll, got to tour with Doll Skin……so it was by good luck and nothing else, I got to see this KICK ASS BAND LIVE, and was able to get the June 16th, 2017 timeless masterpiece “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” the same time….!!

Reading this bands Wikipedia page, whoa……tons of achievements already since the band founded in 2013, and the first release in December 2015……I am not even mad at my hard rock experts who I hired to find, the best in alternative metal, because were still on the Industrial / Neo-thrash/ NuMetal- side of modern rock / extreme metal. Reading this bands wikpedia page objectively first then subjectively once again, then looking for the objective facts knowing the subjective evocations on this band unique/ one-of-a-kind, brand of hard rock….!!!!!!!!!!! 

For Arizona Heavier Hard Rock / Heavy Metal History everyone knows about, Flotsam & Jetsam, Sacred Reich, ICON, Surgical Steel and POWER METAL favoirtes Insatia from Tuscon who disbanded on October 10th, 2017……..so yeah if you have a hard rock section in your serious record/ serious metallic collection, make room for Doll Skin…..and add there whole back catalogue right away………………….they are the real deal, the authentic rock stars and metal gods !!!!!!!!!!!!! The reason I said the whole back catalogue is because I seen there 10 song set list on October 10th, 2017, and this song has been forever with me since then, and like each song this band composed it never left me….because the bands WRITES killer songs …………………………. all KILLER and NO FILLER songs ever since, they founded in 2013!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   

 

Adrenaline Rush “Sole Survivor” Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal

Alice Cooper “Paranormal” Hard Rock/Heavy Metal

Angel Nation “Aeon”

Arch Enemy “As the Stages Burn!”

Arch Enemy “Live Power”

Arch Enemy “Will To Power”

Asphyx “The Rack” Reissuse

Avatarium “Hurricane and Halos”

Bathsheba “Servus”

Battle Beast “Bringer of Pain”

Beyond the Black “Lost In Forever” 2016/2017 REISSUE

The Birthday Massacre “Under Your Spell” — GOTHIC

Black Death “Black Death” — 1984 /2017 REISSUSE

Blues Pills ” Lady In Gold – Live In Paris” — Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal

Burning Witches “Burning Witches”

Butcher Babies ” Lilith” — NuMetal ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Celtic Frost “Innocence and Wrath’  1984/1985/1986/1987 — / 2017  — Noise/ BMGCompilation

Cirith Ungol “King of The Dead” 1984/2017 REISSUE Metal Blade CD/DVD  

Chastain “We Bleed Metal 17”

Cradle of Filth “Cryptoriana – The Seductiveness of Decay”

The Crüxshadows “Astromythology” Gothic

Cynic “Uroboric Forms”

Dark Age “Dark Age” 1984/2017 REISSUE

The Dark Element “The Dark Element”

Destructor “Decibel Casualties”

Deteriorate “Rotting In Hell” 1994/2017 REISSUSE  

Deuce “Deuce” Anthology Compilation 1981/1983/1984 — / 2017 REISSUSE

Dimmu Borgir “Dimmu Borgir”

Dimmu Borgir “Forces of the Northern Light”

Doll Skin “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”

Edge of Paradise “Alive” HARD ROCK / HEAVY METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Electric Wizard “Wizard Bloody Wizard”

Evanescence “Synthesis”

Evil Invaders “Feed Me Violence”

Exit Eden “Rhapsodies In Black”

Fire Strike “Slaves of Fate”

Greta Van Fleet “Black Smoke Rising” Hard Rock

The Haxans “Party Monster” — GOTHIC HARD ROCK

Halestrom “ReAniMate3.0

Hawaii “Loud, Wild, and Fast” 1984/2017  REISSUES

Jess and the Ancient One’s “Jess and the Ancient Ones” 2014/2017 REISSUSE

Ice Age “Break The Ice”

Infernäl Majesty “No God” — HEAVY METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR FRONTRUNNER

Insatia “Phoenix Aflame”

Jess and the Ancient One’s “Jess and the Ancient Ones” 2014/2017 REISSUSE

Kreator  “Gods Of Violence”

LA Guns “The Missing Piece”

Lady Beast “Vicious Breed”

Last Union “Most Beautiful Day” has a release date of late December 23, 2016 or December 30th, 2016 release day….!!!

Elisa Scarpeccio * W0rld-Class Vocalist Last Union fame and legend

Marylin Manson “Heaven Upside Down”

Metallica “Master of Puppets” 1986/2017 REISSUSE

Morbid Angel “Kingdoms Disdained”

Motörhead “Under Cöver”

MindMaze “Resolve”

Myrkur “Mareridt”

Ne Obliviscaris “Urn”

Once Human “Evolution”

Over Kill “The Grinding Wheel”

Pagan Altar “The Room of Shadows”

Poison Garden “A Victorian Carol” Gothic

Psychedelic Witchcraft “Magick Rites and Spells”

Psychedelic Witchcraft “Sound of the Wind”

September Mourning “Volume II”

Septic Flesh “Codex Omega”

Sisters of Suffocation “Anthology of Curiosities “

Shadowside “Shades of Humanity”

Tarja – From Spirits And Ghosts (Score For A Dark Christmas)
Terminatryx “Remyx v2.o” Gothic

Torture Squad “Far Beyond Existence” — BRAZIL NATIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Vaultwraith “Death is Proof of Satan’s Power”

Vixen “Made in Hawaii” 1983/2017 REISSUSE

Walk in Darkness “In the Shadow of Things”

WildeStarr “Beyond The Rain”

Witchery  “I Am Legion”

Xandria “Theatre of Dimension”

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCERT REVIEW IN A COUPLE OF DAYS THIS CONCERT IS TONIGHT

@ THE TOKEN LOUNGE WESTLAND, MICHIGAN 48185

JUST STARTING THE LAYOUT ON THE CONCERT REVEIW !!!!!!!!!!!

#SomethingWickedTour
http://oneeyeddoll.com/tour
🖤🖤🖤🖤🖤
SEPT 27 Las Vegas, NV
SEPT 29 Colorado Springs, CO
SEPT 30 Denver, CO
OCT 04 Kansas City, KS
OCT 05 Omaha, NE
OCT 06 Joliet, IL
OCT 07 Indianapolis, IN
OCT 11 Detroit, MI
OCT 12 Cleveland, OH
OCT 13 Pittsburgh, PA
OCT 14 Baltimore, MD
OCT 15 Clifton, NJ
OCT 18 Richmond, VA
OCT 19 Spartanburg, SC
OCT 20 Jacksonville, FL
OCT 21 Tampa, FL
OCT 25 Lafayette, LA
OCT 26 San Antonio, TX
OCT 27 Austin, TX
OCT 28 Houston, TX
OCT 29 Dallas, TX
OCT 31 Phoenix, AZ
NOV 01 Hollywood, CA
NOV 03 GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
NOV 04 DUBLIN, IRELAND
NOV 05 BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND
NOV 06 MANCHESTER, ENGLAND
NOV 07 LONDON, ENGLAND
NOV 09 EXETER, ENGLAND
NOV 10 SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND
NOV 11 HAARLEM / AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
NOV 12 HAMBURG, GERMANY
NOV 13 BERLIN, GERMANY
NOV 15 BRNO, CZECHIA
NOV 16 PRAGUE, CZECHIA
NOV 17 VIENNA, AUSTRIA
NOV 19 WEINHEIM, GERMANY

❤️ With friends Doll Skin in the USA, CO-OP on selected dates & Social Repose in Europe!

📸 Terry White Photography

Ernie BallSeymour DuncanBlackstar AmplificationKORGTregan GuitarsDauz DrumsCrush Drums and Percussion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TOP 666 AVANT-GARDE METAL HEAVY METAL ALBUMS OF ALL-TIME

 

And Oceans   * A.M.G.O.D

Finland’s …AND OCEANS greatest strenght, at least in my humble opinion, was to create unique, strange melodies and atmospheres combined with the full might of Black Metal along with some rocking, stomping, nearly danceable parts. While focusing on the last mentioned aspect on the last regular album “Cypher-Insect Angels And Devil Worms”, on “A.M.G.O.D.” you have the perfect symbiosis of these three ingredients, making this album the best of their career. A career, which has ended at least under this name, for …AND OCEANS will continue under the name HAVOC UNIT, so they say. Although there is some obscure split-album with three tracks from them and HAVOC UNIT to be released this year…? The world watches and waits, but for now I’ll focus on A.M.G.O.D. Just one more thing, half of the members plays in ROTTEN SOUND as well, and the other half more or less in ENOCHIAN CRESCENT, THROES OF DAWN and THE TRUE BLACK DAWN, all of them being excellent combos but with VERY different styles.

Maybe this open-minded genre favour of the musicians is adding to the variety of …AND OCEANS music and helps to make this album so outstanding. The basis is black metal, underlined (and I mean underlined, not dominated) by keyboards, interrupted by sporadic synth-eruptions. But the range of used moods spans from mid-tempo mosh parts (“Esprit De Corps”), the dark and irreal “Odious & Devious”, the electronic “Of Devilish Tongues” and more. Just listen to “White Synthetic Noise”- starts quite slow, then blasts away into a Techno-Trance-interludium which explodes into yet another blast beat- unbelievable. I don’t like this techno-parts normally but hey, if it works- and it does, I assure you. “Postfuturistika”, the last “regular” song on this album, has this nice, blasting Black-Metal vibe and ends in a really quiet, melodic part. And the melodies are why you should listen to …AND OCEANS, they are really unique (as it seems to be with most things coming from Finland). Only the last track, “New Model World” is something which was not really needed, this techno-track does not anything to improve an otherwise perfect album.

Furthermore, …AND OCEANS cultivate a strange sense of humor, away from average Black-Metal lyrics, kind of the way SOLEFALD did… Just take songtitels like “Äcid Sex and Marble Teeth” or “I Wish I Was Pregnant” from their album “The Symmetry of I – The Circle of O”. Just what kind of drugs does it take to invent such titles as a Black Metal- band? This just proves that …AND OCEANS are balancing on the line between genius and madness and they seem quite happy there. Whether you like it or not maybe depends on your own state of mind, but in my case, a little madness is appreciated.

 

AND OCEANS * Cypher

…and the dance is on! Having celebrated Black Metal with the “certain something” throughout the years, the chameleons of …AND OCEANS decided to strip their music of every element that was BM, and left over is an album called “Cypher”. It is …AND OCEANS alright, you’ll recognize that when listening to the typical melodies, but everyone who knows and loves the first three albums will surely check his CD-cover again to be sure after the first song. No blastbeats, no shredding guitars, no screaming. If a band changes that strongly, you would normally use the image of a snake shedding its skin, reappearing in a different guise. Yet in this case I would use another picture. To me, …AND OCEANS base has been Black Metal throughout their releases, with some electronic elements. Now imagine this Black-Metal skeleton has been extracted from an electro-skin which had to stand on its own now. To be frank, I was not sure if it would be able to, and I was still not really convinced after a few rotations of “Cypher”. Too calculating, too success-orientated did I deem this image change, having barely swallowed the turn of direction of some other former BM-bands like, for example, THE KOVENANT (which evolved in a similar direction and which I continued to dislike to the present day).

I tried really hard to like this record over a few years, playing it once in a while. Finally, something made >snap<. And there they were again, the …AND OCEANS I loved. And I realized that there wasn’t really anything new, I just did not recognize the amount of electro-elements of the older albums. Okay, the songs have become straighter, catchier and easier to comprehend; the melodies have been reduced to their inherent rhythm to fit the beat, and the amount of samples and sound effects has slightly gone up. But I have to admit, this step foreshadowed itself in songs like “Esprit De Corps” from “A.M.G.O.D.” (which is a good reference – if you like the slower, catchier songs from that album you might not be as surprised by “Cypher” as I was).

To cut it short, the songs on “Cypher” were written to make a good ruckus at life-gigs. Heavy, aggressive, electronic mid-tempo beats with threatening guitars and vocals. Nearly danceable. And then, when the little devil inside me wonders whether this would even be played at some gothic-EBM parties, “Opaque: The Morning I Woke Up Dead: Today Is the Day” crushes every further thought on that with the only blastbeat on this record. And I am happy again.

 

<CODE> * Nouveau Dreaming

While everyone interested in exploration had been waiting for Ved Buens Ende to come back on the avant-garde scene ever since their only record in 1995, nothing really similar in feeling was released. The urge to discover a band as dissonant, as feverish and as psychedelically foggy-dark then found its way into <code>, a band that was already shaped in England in 2001, and then started including members from Ulver (Erik Lancelot on drums), DHG and Ved Buens Ende (Vicotnik on bass guitar and backing vocals). This is without any doubt a black metal band project, but with an almost floating-like and dreamy quality to the way it is musically presented. The mixing, mastering and overall production were obviously crafted with great attention regarding sound details, as the whole product comes out sounding as much aggressively biting as it is ambient, relaxing and almost oceanic in vastness. Headphones are highly recommended in order to let it go, since this kind of music is always enrobing and overwhelming. Don’t be afraid, let yourself be captured and start dreaming.

One of the jewels here is Kvohst, now singer in DHG, who made with this album his second appearance as a full-time vocalist. His clean chants always bring a feeling of lurking mystery and relief, something along the lines of self-examining melancholy but without its common cheesy sadness. To make a pharmaceutical comparison, Kvohst’s vocal feelings are more heroine-oriented than LSD so. His performance is a bit reminiscent of Carl-Michael Eide from Ved Buens Ende and Virus, but more tranquil overall and usually more trance-infusing instead of being sarcastic or absurd. His loud and screaming grim vocals, together with Vicotnik’s typical tiny grin spits, also make up for a powerful and convincing heavy atmosphere.

Musically, <code> are exploring traditional black metal but with something more, though it is hard to name that little extra. The guitar riffs aren’t on the front-side here; the more I hear them, the more I comprehend how they have been melted in a distant horizon, around the sound periphery so to speak. Their music is however always on the doomy side of metal music, using more intricate watery grooves than usual blast beats and crushing rhythms. Regarding this, every black metal fan has to hear the way Vicotnik, here known as Viper, handles his shining bass guitar lines on Nouveau Gloaming, since his presence throughout the album always takes a big part of the ambient sound. I never had the chance, prior to this particular performance, to hear that much of fat, audible bass sound coherently assembled to a twisted black metal context. Out of all the songs, the chilling finale Ghost Formula is an avant-dream metal genre in itself, even more laid-back than the other calmer musical parts; it’ll for sure take you off right into other smoky and uplifting dimensions. As you can guess, it is personally one of my favorites.

Nouveau Gloaming is indeed for the rainy dark nights, when only smoking a joint and relaxing to your decelerating heartbeats in a candlelight atmosphere is what you’re up to. Always listen closer and you won’t keep yourself too far from <code>’s fuzzy mind trip of hallucinatory visions.

 

Code *  Resplendent Grotesque

It has been greedily awaited by the initiated fans for a time felt as long as aeons: the second album by the <CODE>, a band English at heart and with international line-up. “Resplendent Grotesque” had been repeatedly announced in a language which made the slobber flow and the blood cease, just to become postponed again and again. Now it’s finally out and with bloody-minded instinct and ingenious character it sweeps away the consideration that the debut album “Nouveau Gloaming” might become reprised. <CODE> reinvents itself with eight songs snatched away from madness or the devil itself, driven by a passion that is seldom in contemporary black metal. With the recruitment of Vicotnik on bass and Adrian Erlandsson on drums, founding member and guitarist Aort has completed the band with musicians who don’t care about conventional performances and who sublimate “Resplendent Grotesque” individually and demonically. Albeit this forwardness <CODE> sounds first of all metallic, saturnine and heavy, takes up influences from thrash, death and classic heavy metal without loosing power at any moment. The track “Jesus Fever” bursts with an energy that stands the comparison with any – and I place emphasis on it – with any metal classic. While in business as usual many bands are credited with releasing so-called “milestones” which short after mostly turn out as gravestones reflecting their lack of ideas, <CODE> builds a labyrinth-like mausoleum in which its by no means decrepit spectres fume and rage with such a power that each step inside offers new surprises. Being down to metal earth on the one hand, “Resplendent Grotesque” falls on the other hand into line with the inscrutability of Atrox and the dignity of early Arcturus and Sadist. Thus even long-serving veterans among the metal fans will have to fight with this 35 minutes devouring beast which won’t disclose all its secrets on the first encounter. In the course of time vocalist Kvohst seems to move over to the other side. His unfathomable performance in “A Sutra Of Wounds” happens beyond words – not even the most courageous among the avant-garde artists in Norwegian black metal ever sounded that wicked and ambivalently impressed – not so say simply and safely maniac. The eight songs emerge as individual character studies which are close to each other topic-wise but not in the form of expression: sometimes the music sounds blackguardly brutal, then again ghostly disarming or just nightmarish. Moreover “Resplendent Grotesque” in all its manifold devilish subtlety emerges as most compelling definition of black metal since the turn of the millennia. This music form has been endlessly trivialized after the principle of evil was made flesh, and today no other band goes against the dumpy with such unrivalled mastery as <CODE>. In the last decade black metal never sounded that alluring and fiendish. May mischief and pain follow the ecstasy about this stroke and may the victims become many!

 

3.33  * Bicameral Brain

 New Jersey’s 3:33 prefer to keep their identities and production methods obscured behind a carefully-arranged shroud – no mean feat in an era where musicians’ personal lives, opinions, social media activity and media appearances are as much up for consumption as their music itself. Like Banksy or Burial, the artists behind 3:33 prefer to let their work speak for itself. Of course this approach comes with drawbacks – mostly a lack of presence in the critical-festival taste conglomerate that pushes fans toward the ballyhooed artists of the day. One has to wonder – do 3:33 even want to be ballyhooed? That’s hard to say, but the fact of the matter is that they deserve the opportunity, given their consistent quality and formal innovation. 3:33 have created a confrontational, challenging brand of instrumental hip hop that stands far apart from ostensibly similar beat-oriented projects. They have also delved boldly into ambient music, offering their own dark and tumultuous take on the genre. 3:33’s double album Bicameral Brain, released in late 2013, is a bracing culmination of 3:33’s unique dual aesthetic, showcasing a split-natured but cohesive collection of songs that are groovy, menacing and transportive all at once.

For the sake of analogy, imagine if you will Endtroducing….. era DJ Shadow and Negro Necro Nekros era Oktopus (from Dälek) both cloaked and silent, moving back and forth in the orange glow of flickering torchlight, engaged in a cryptic dance between turntables, samplers and mixers, in a clearing in the woods. Of course, 3:33 are their own beast. In their aural workshop drum grooves balanced on the bleeding-edge of distortion serve as frameworks, providing the sturdy skeletons upon which melodic (or amelodic) and ambient elements are hung. While this sounds an awful lot like the recipe for any old instrumental hip hop, there is a very definite edge to 3:33’s compositions – a certain sensibility that emphasizes aggression, dread and darkness over comfort, smoothness and warmth. There is a pervasive ominousness to Bicameral Brain, and also a bold obtrusiveness that demands attention, and renders the music utterly unsuitable for mere background play. By way of comparison, Dälek’s work has sometimes been referred to as “Hip hop for people who hate hip hop.” In the practical sense, this translated roughly to “Hip hop for people who like heavy music” (Dälek released a number of albums on Mike Patton’s Ipecac label and toured with Isis, among others), which is a rarely-encountered crossover. 3:33 however, are exemplary flag-bearers of this esoteric tradition, offering the sort of saturated abrasiveness and doom-filled darkness that comprise the comfort zones of many heavy music fans.

Bicameral Brain is a double album, and each disc has its own character. Disc 1 (the BB- series) consists of the characteristic sound 3:33 mastered early in their output, with heavy beats supporting layered, heavily processed samples. “BB-2” stomps in with a confrontational, front-loaded drum loop, which presages a parade of hums, buzzes and sirens, treated and modified so as to become biomechanical, the boundaries between organic and synthetic sound hopelessly smeared in the cycling din. “BB-3” follows with a beat that could have been catchy in a different context, but here it is used as an insistent bludgeon, urgent and tense in the foreground of the slitherings and diffuse tones of the song’s other elements. “BB-5” begins in the same malevolent tradition as its contemporaries, with rhythmic hitches serving as additional disorientation. However, the song soon gives way to tinkling, mellifluous jazz keys and horns, while retaining a palpable sense of dread. “BB-6” is built around the terrifying, pained roar of some Godzilla monster, with the proceedings slowing to crushing thuds and sickening crashes as the cries of the beast echo unabated.

And so it goes for the BB- series. In comparison to 3:33’s earlier work, the songs here are a bit colder, less organic, even somehow desaturated (as the album art attests). There aren’t any double-take highlights, like the “Ilias! Where are you!?” sample from “LFTG-3” (from Live from the Grove) or the yapping dogs from “ITMOI-3” (from In the Middle of Infinity). Nonetheless, the disc is admirably consistent, and marches through its frightening territory in an array of textural guises, varying tempos and moods enough to keep listeners guessing. “BB-11” closes out the first disc of Bicameral Brain with a promise of things to come, burgeoning without drums for its first four-plus minutes before offering the first chick of a hi-hat.

Disc 2 of Bicameral Brain (the BB2- series) is a continuation of The sensibility 3:33 explored on “White Room,” the 41-minute closing track of 2012’s In the Middle of Infinity. The intent of “White Room” was an exploration of the mood impact of ambient soundcraft in the longform, often without percussion. The BB2- series has the readily apparent advantage of hindsight and growth, and is a more well-rounded, more absorbing trip down the rabbit hole than the previous work.

The BB2- series is a haunting and deep drift into an illogical phantasmagoria, one swirling with voices in severe states of agitation, distress and rapture, glassy-eyed and frightening in their chants, screams, arias and howls. They are strained and close to breaking, their waveforms pulling apart like tortured Slinkys. In seeming death-struggle with these human elements are a frightening army of electro-mechanical sounds, clattering, screeching, humming, beeping – torture devices or voices of some future hell in the making. Drumbeats phase in and out at their own behest, often thrumming and tapping with restraint that would have been unthinkable on disc 1. Contours and sequences are evident, but something about the BB2- series defies cataloging, its construction and fluid progressions too enigmatic to grasp – almost like Ephel Duath’s Pain Necessary to Know, but in a very different musical context. There are also some unforgettable milestones along the way, like the lovely whale-calls in the aquatic, mostly languid “BB2-5,” or the groovy drums, smoky saxophone and radio-chatter on “BB2-6.” There are also tribal worship circles, cascading desert horns, watery drips, muffled grunts, and most unexpectedly, a passage of euphonious-but-unnerving jazz in “BB2-11.”

The journey the BB2- series represents is otherworldly and even transformative. There is a high level of meticulous detail in the construction, yet the closer one looks at the brushstrokes, the less they reveal about the gestalt. By the time the last radiator hissings of “BB2-14” cut out to silence, one feels as though they have gone through to the other side of something – some haggard and fraught spirit journey into, and beyond, the manifold depths of the unknowable mind. As much as 3:33 represent a uniquely pummeling version of instrumental hop hop, and a nightmarish vision of ambient drift, by the end of Bicameral Brain, one can’t help but feel wistful stirrings. The journey was often ugly and loud and scary, but in the cacophony and unrest there were breath-catching moments of awesome power and supreme beauty. Crushed to dust physically by BB- and plunged into other worlds by BB2-, we emerge inexplicably refreshed, happy to have awakened, and curious about the things we have seen and heard. Perhaps some time later, not right away, we realize all we want to do is get back there again.

A FOREST OF STARS *  The Corpse Of Rebirth

Cutback: The early nineties (back then far less legendary than nowadays widely acclaimed, but a time of development and discovery). In the tiny heavy metal section of a small record shop a gangly boy spots a CD which attracts him with its morbid Acheronian elegance reflected in the tongue-twisting title “Symphonaire Infernus Et Spera Empyrium” and a cover artwork of its own. With a mixture of curiosity and concern he spends his rare pocket money for this EP of a British band whose sound is yet unknown to him but whose moniker makes him shiver at once and fantasize: My Dying Bride – what a name! What a motive to let one’s imagination play with the words and to dream away! At home he can’t believe his ears. Being no stranger to Scorpions and Metallica he isn’t really prepared for this massive dark wall of sound hitting him down on the floor. Having no deeper idea of “death-” or “doom metal” and no clue of the uniqueness of My Dying Bride’s already unquestionably individual sound the poor boy suddenly feels like these musicians must see the world with similar visionary, yet hopeless eyes like Edgar Allan Poe.

Cut. Back to today (even less legendary). It’s not that irritating to reflect that since this first encounter with darkest British metal music(k) some handfuls of years have passed and that this boy scarred to his wits has over the years become a fanzine editor sharing his passion for somehow gloomy music in some extravagant, not to say quite irrelevant media. Although he still loves to explore nightly music in all its various forms, he feels more and more bored by the metal scene, especially by the process of “professionalization” in regard to recording technique which is in most cases just a shallow orientation towards mainstream and easy-listening sounds.

 

A FOREST OF STARS?! Already the name lets me prick my ears – and so does the music of this British quartet. To be precise and to avoid misunderstandings: the adventurous music alone is worth your attention! The band calls it “psychedelic black metal” and this term hints at the many levels of the music and its trance-like quality: this is music you can sink / fall / dive / drown into and dream away with, spellbound by mysterious melodies clad in bewitching violin tones, unyieldingly pounding (not too hasty) drums and a sound that combines the in the true sense of the world natural elements of black metal and neofolk. Vocalist Mister Curse tends a bit to the eccentric and actually reminds me more than once of Lee Dorrian’s bizarre interpretation of “The Voyage Of The Homeless Sapien” – by the way one of the most marvellous pieces of music by Cathedral and in the history of psychedelic metal. Curse doesn’t sing / shout / growl the metal way, but he – what surprise! – curses, moans, swears, clamours as if a horde of demons would breathe down his neck. And so plays the whole of the band: possessed and hag-ridden by some dark force whose disturbing presence can be traced in projecting compositions with a life of their own. Some of the special vocal arrangements first seem to be chaotic, but they make sense in the end and add a lot of atmosphere to the gloomy music. The listening experience of this outstanding debut album obviously doesn’t take place on the acoustic level exclusively, at least I can’t imagine a listener with some fantasy, whose mind doesn’t start to do summersaults while listening to the different peculiar sounds sticking out the metal base, be it the piano, flute or violin – and of course to the ear-piercing performances by Mister Curse. It took me seconds to imagine him as some kind of doomed addlebrained hunchback swearing at the world from an unlighted hole under a likewise grim looking opaquely branching tree.

Cut again. Turning back to the facts: music-wise there’s a lot to discover, be it the malign acoustic passages in the song “Male”, the ethno drums in “Earth And Matter”, the sheer intensity of the dramaturgy in the song “Female”, psychedelic effects here and there… yet this is an underground recording and although the sound is a bit diffuse, I’m really thankful that this uncompromising and individual music hasn’t been debased by a contemporary sterile mainstream metal production. It would be silly to praise this album to the (star-lit) skies as if it crowns the band’s achievements and couldn’t be excelled by a future release, but it would be even sillier not to state the extravagant class of this debut which in terms of musical extremes makes most tabloid black metal protagonists appear pretty unspectacular and one-dimensional. “The Corpse Of Rebirth” could become the headline of a thrilling new chapter in dark British metal music, taking up influences from the national doom legends and interweaving them to a network of sounds that is truly psychedelic and avant-garde. From the angle of music history this art is spirit-wise closer to visionary musicians like Bo Hansson, King Crimson or In The Woods than to most of today’s metal scene.

 

A FOREST OF STARS * Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring

Those ears of yours just picked up a sneaky peal of thunder. Are you ready for the lightning to strike? Are you?

Break point. These are the main words that come into mind after constant and repeated listening sessions to the British quintet’s second album. We ‘d rather be careful enough to avoid the use of the word “record”; here; it is more of a collection of sounds and images, poems and scripts, thoughts and feelings, summing up anything one could expect from an artist. Perhaps that is their key to unlocking the ears of some very dedicated followers they have earned since 2008, when their debut was released. With their new effort howeThose ears of yours just picked up a sneaky peal of thunder. Are you ready for the lightning to strike? Are you?

Break point. These are the main words that come into mind after constant and repeated listening sessions to the British quintet’s second album. We ‘d rather be careful enough to avoid the use of the word “record”; here; it is more of a collection of sounds and images, poems and scripts, thoughts and feelings, summing up anything one could expect from an artist. Perhaps that is their key to unlocking the ears of some very dedicated followers they have earned since 2008, when their debut was released. With their new effort however, new acquaintances are to be joining this “gentlemen’s club”, as they refer to themselves.

Considering the black metal basis of the group, the quality here is outstanding. One of the major assets here is the orchestration. It all comes down to the instruments selected. Violin, flute, keyboards, pianoforte or percussion are not the standard listings in the genre’s textbook. Knowing when to step back and forth, all of the above create an amazing wall of sound together with traditional playing. Blasts and screams appear often, but keep a remote view to the industry’s clichés. The pieces are lengthy, the shortest being over 8 minutes, but do not lose their breathing ability at all. An overall ambience, mixed with psychedelic elements, also marks its seal on this dark drama anthology. Lyrical themes and lines deserve a special mention. Their completely fantastic prism offers various interpretations, and promises to keep the reader puzzled as well as charmed.

The opener Sorrow’s Impetus is a (not so) quick fix of melancholy, as Ulver would say. Fast-paced riffing is intercepted between slower ambient passages, where the violin takes the lead. Percussion, an unstoppable force throughout all the tracks, helps create a woodsy atmosphere. Moving on to chapter II, a piper’s haunting melody – introduced by the flute – levitates the whole song up to a raven’s flying. From up there, cynical lyrics are spat towards every possible direction, drawing a picturesque social comment. Next is Summertide’s Approach, a gigantic hymn. The violin incarnates an utterly gentle tango part, influenced by the Victorian era. Piercing guitar outbursts offer electric chills behind raging vocals, until all instruments swarm away towards the exit in an instant mind-taking slow part.

Thunder’s cannonade resembles a weather forecast: calm halfway through, and then a storm gets released, ending in heavy pouring rain. In Chapter V, mesmerizing female vocals will hold attention before a majestic riff dissolves everything. The closing chapter is another showcase of brilliant vision: robotic vocals (somewhat reminiscent of Cynic’s vocoder), placed carefully inside a marvelous slow piece of lazy guitars, mix perfectly with theatrical singing. “Delaying the inevitable as seasons become as one. All is as nothing, all has nothing to become.” Pure art.

They may have chosen to steal spring, yet they warn of being able to do so with (our) summer as well. The album is created to mature with time regardless of seasons, and so will those who chose to mature with it. The infinity of the musicianship and their spirit is an absolute guarantee. Don’t believe me? Try measuring a forest of stars.ver, new acquaintances are to be joining this “gentlemen’s club”, as they refer to themselves.

Considering the black metal basis of the group, the quality here is outstanding. One of the major assets here is the orchestration. It all comes down to the instruments selected. Violin, flute, keyboards, pianoforte or percussion are not the standard listings in the genre’s textbook. Knowing when to step back and forth, all of the above create an amazing wall of sound together with traditional playing. Blasts and screams appear often, but keep a remote view to the industry’s clichés. The pieces are lengthy, the shortest being over 8 minutes, but do not lose their breathing ability at all. An overall ambience, mixed with psychedelic elements, also marks its seal on this dark drama anthology. Lyrical themes and lines deserve a special mention. Their completely fantastic prism offers various interpretations, and promises to keep the reader puzzled as well as charmed.

The opener Sorrow’s Impetus is a (not so) quick fix of melancholy, as Ulver would say. Fast-paced riffing is intercepted between slower ambient passages, where the violin takes the lead. Percussion, an unstoppable force throughout all the tracks, helps create a woodsy atmosphere. Moving on to chapter II, a piper’s haunting melody – introduced by the flute – levitates the whole song up to a raven’s flying. From up there, cynical lyrics are spat towards every possible direction, drawing a picturesque social comment. Next is Summertide’s Approach, a gigantic hymn. The violin incarnates an utterly gentle tango part, influenced by the Victorian era. Piercing guitar outbursts offer electric chills behind raging vocals, until all instruments swarm away towards the exit in an instant mind-taking slow part.

Thunder’s cannonade resembles a weather forecast: calm halfway through, and then a storm gets released, ending in heavy pouring rain. In Chapter V, mesmerizing female vocals will hold attention before a majestic riff dissolves everything. The closing chapter is another showcase of brilliant vision: robotic vocals (somewhat reminiscent of Cynic’s vocoder), placed carefully inside a marvelous slow piece of lazy guitars, mix perfectly with theatrical singing. “Delaying the inevitable as seasons become as one. All is as nothing, all has nothing to become.” Pure art.

They may have chosen to steal spring, yet they warn of being able to do so with (our) summer as well. The album is created to mature with time regardless of seasons, and so will those who chose to mature with it. The infinity of the musicianship and their spirit is an absolute guarantee. Don’t believe me? Try measuring a forest of stars.

A FOREST OF STARS  * A Shadowplay For Yesterdays

 

My first aural encounter with the new and eagerly awaited album by the Gentlemen’s Club was through a not yet definitive version of their video for a track evocatively entitled “Gatherer of the Pure”. I am a genuine fan of the band (endlessly grateful to our Thor Joakimsson for “discovering” it in the first place) and therefore fully aware of its artistic potential and human qualities, and yet I was not expecting to be moved to tears by what I saw and heard in such a powerful manner. Their previous efforts, so enchanting, full of yearning, mystery and promise, had stirred my feelings very deeply, but this was something else…

I shall not spoil it for you; suffice to say that the video is a work of art painstakingly crafted by one of the members of the Club, graphic artist Ingram Blakelock…. He utilized a beautiful, ancient art form originated in the Far East which became very popular in Europe during Victorian times. You can guess what I am talking about from the teaser below and the album title itself: this suggestive visual technique is part of humanity’s collective consciousness, so what we have here is not just the obvious desire to connect with the exceptional mood of the Victorian epoch – so full of ingenuity, enthusiasm for the future, thirst for the exotic and the mysterious – but a powerful, timeless tool that stirs the collective imagination since our childhood.

While this video would fully deserve a hot spot in any art gallery for all to enjoy, as it goes well beyond the sensibility and taste of the underground metal fan, what about the music?

You are warned, “Gatherer of the Pure” is a dangerous song because its structure and content will reduce your heart into a pile of ashes. Here is how it builds up: a dusty record is spinning in the dark; far away gloomy factory noises overlap the sinister squeals of the doomed animals gathered at the town market; then the accordion introduces Mr. Curse’s deranged, agonizing, inimitable vocals which instantly plunge me into the core of AFOS’ unmistakable aural zone. Suddenly, something otherworldly creeps into this vivid slice of bygone space-time: an eerie, spellbinding melody played by a keyboard goes through my ribcage like a wave of protons, opening its way through the heart. An outpour of grippingly fast drumming and emotional guitars swirling like glowing plasma floods in, sweeping me into a new wondrous dimension where the main bewitching factors, powerfully bound together by pure talent, are Intensity, Mystery and Melody. The latter, as I would discover a little later whilst exploring the album promo, being one of the enhanced ingredient of the latest magic potion of the Yorkshire spiritual travelers.

The entire concept behind this audio-visual masterwork not only inspired the album title, but represents in its full glory the creative axis around which the entire engaging concept spins.

“Gatherer of the Pure” ends with the whispering presence of restless souls unable to abandon themselves into the arms of eternal sleep, waiting for their chance for revenge. One of AFOS’ exceptional talents is that of giving flesh (or should I say an ectoplasm-like outline) to the mysterious, disturbing, ominous feeling that characterizes so many aspects of the Victorian culture. This aura has been masterfully caught in this album, each track possessing at least one peculiarity – or touch of genius – adding generously to the whole picture. Once completely immersed in the entire full-length experience, it is impossible to single out one outstanding moment; there is so much detail to explore that the more overt spine-tingling, moving sequences become stepping stones that allow the listener to survive the perilous, dark waters that one can distinctively perceive lurking in the abyss below the densely woven tale. That said, “Left Behind as Static”, is one of the most stunning songs of the album, because it shows another of the big shifts within AFOS’ palette: a vivid, poignant approach to a progressive rock gravid with local history. The guitars feature more prominently (and splendidly!) in this evolved sound, offering plenty of mesmerizing moments packed with equally rich and ethereal tones, flowing or meandering freely (and tastefully) into old Genesis territory (“Selling England by the Pound” era) recalling a fascinating quintessential Britishness that smells unmistakably of pagan roots. This devotion towards their heritage, remarkably, is filtered brilliantly through a fresh, modern ear, and this is made possible by the different backgrounds of each band member: this is to me signifies an outstanding success, one of the finest examples of how new, exciting creative paths can be found through harmonizing diverse approaches and experiences.

To recap, AFOS have raised their game exceptionally: the sense of history (Victorian but also pagan), the new openness towards unabashedly captivating melody, the exquisite outpourings of British-prog (which has never sounded so fresh!), are amongst the main motives that caught my immediate attention. Now I must mention once again Mr. Curse’s vocals, as they put the final sigil onto the uniqueness of this stunning band, delivering once again some of the most poignant interpretations you can find, dancing on the blood-stained razor-blade in-between psychotic and heart-breaking. Delightful Katheryne and The Gentleman are also lending their vocal chords, like several ghost telling their stories through a musical séance (I am particularly looking forward to reading the lyrics!). Furthermore, Kath’s evocative flute and spellbinding violin are like fleshly, blood-red flowers touchingly dotting the filthy path of stinking, foggy, dark Victorian alleys. And what about The Gentleman’s keyboards, threading through the structure of the album with the metaphysical sorcery of an absinthe-fuelled spiritualist dragging his congregation into the depths of the dark and genial abyss of his mind… Also, the creative drumming and guitar-work demonstrates that these musicians not only work hard, but also listen to (and play) a lot of different styles of music, a sure way to broaden one’s mind and skills!

Thanks to this eclectic and dedicated Gentlemen’s Club, we have here a kind of avantgarde metal that is multi-layered, individual, and spreading across diverse artistic expressions. I cannot wait to see A Forest of Stars on stage again during their upcoming UK summer tour. And European promoters: demand these artists now or you will miss out!

 

A FOREST OF STARS  * Beware The Sword You Cannot See

A Forest of Stars’ 2012 A Shadowplay for Yesterdays found the English band stepping up their game with a collection of extreme metal songs as deep as it was broad, audaciously cycling through a taxonomy of mostly British genres: progressive and psychedelic rock, the UK folk revival and its apocalyptic neo-folk offshoot, goth rock, post-punk, black and doom metal. In its gloomy, rained-out, misanthropic, occasionally uplifting way, it is perhaps the most English album ever recorded (especially if you factor in the bonus tracks). If it has a weakness it is the flaw that most eclectic music shares by necessity. In the absence of a strong center, the parts end up upstaging the whole. It is an album of exquisite parts. And to be sure, I love every one of them.

With Beware the Sword You Cannot See, A Forest of Stars have taken a tighter, denser approach, fusing the disparate genres into a single, emphatically convincing sound that is fully the band’s own. This is by far the band’s strongest album, and it’s also the most unrelenting, heavy and difficult to absorb. To understand what I mean more fully, it’s helpful to look at a single song.

Almost right from the start, the first track overwhelms you with a churning distorted riff that recalls the band’s more Neurosis-influenced days before violinist Katheryne sets in with an elegantly downcast melody, injecting a mustier atmosphere, something a little sadder, a little gentler. But before you can mellow out, the band unleashes a meteoric torrent of guitars and rapid-fire drumming that reminds you that, yes, you’re listening to a metal band. This is followed by a reprieve of horror movie atmosphere and spoken word that segues to a heavy (and proggy) mid-tempo riff and a folky, multi-layered vocal arrangement that sounds absolutely end of the world with the heavy accompaniment. Wrapping things up, a short section with a hazy organ creates a classic space rock vibe that launches the song into its finale, a deeply melancholy guitar and keyboard riff that trudges despairingly forward, eventually replaced by a achingly beautiful violin harmony that seems to hover over the dim reflective puddles of a barren landscape.

The sound here is so densely packed it can initially be difficult to separate the different parts and influences. If you listen carefully, you can hear traces of Comus, Current 93, Gabriel-era Genesis, Pink Floyd, Neurosis, Bauhaus, and assorted black and doom metal bands, but the band never apes them. The last 40 years of Anglo-American music is just the toolbox they use to present their incomparable atmosphere and aesthetic.Their sound rambles over a whole history of rural and urban moods, from overcast and sodden green valleys to glass-and-steel Victoriana, from industrial slums to failing farms. The tone they generate is by turns decrepit, morose, gritty, ethereal, entropic, wistful and beautifully defiant. The feeling I always come away with is eschatological: the end of all things, or more often than not, a single person–the end of all things for each of us. The splendid cover art’s references to Ragnarok gives you an idea.

As always, the lyrics here are very inward-looking and subjective and despite the occasional occult or metaphysical turn (this is a band that has had its fun with nineteenth-century Spiritualism after all), are more about the business of life, struggle and death than any kind of cheap gothic or pagan metal back-to-nature satisfactions–suffering, private and public, is a major theme, one that almost gnaws at the attentive listener. The vocals are mostly spoken, hysterically bellowed or growled by Mr. Curse, but more melodic lilting is conservatively employed throughout the album–along with the quieter atmospheric breaks, I wish there were more of these moments. As much as I enjoy Mr. Curse’s heady theatricality, the mad affect can begin to grind on one’s senses after a while. Overall, I would welcome less bombast and more emphasis on musicality, something the band is certainly capable of.

I’ve been somewhat obsessed with A Forest of Stars since their debut The Corpse of Rebirth, and they’ve come a long way since then to create a wholly one-of-a-kind sound. Despite my few minor misgivings, I am pleased to say that the band have certainly topped A Shadowplay (perhaps my favorite record of 2012) and have created a true metal classic with Beware the Sword You Cannot See. They have confidently brought all of their arcane interests and reference points together into one singular vision, one that is as inspiring as it is grim. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

AARNI * Bathos

Someone wrote sometime, somewhere along the net, that Aarni’s music is doom-metal standing on its head. Well, I’m not sure whether is the head, but is sure does see the world upside down. Listening to Aarni is like taking a long walk in the realm of Alice and her wonders.

This time, the beginning lies in the front cover; this livable psychedelic drawing rests assuring that things are going to get weird and definitely not averaged in sight, even in the Avantgarde graphic zones. Well, it is quite weird. The surface brings forth musical ingredients well-known to the esoteric areas of the metal map. The doomish side manifests slow-‘n’-low guitars, dominant bass and a foul-cold atmosphere. Actually, try to imagine the result of Black Sabbath, who brought children in the meadows of the weed land, like in “Mental Fugue”, something in those tunes just screams “Ozzie and Tony’s guitar!”, even with the Spanish mood. The vocalist and the “Pinky and the brain” behind this band, Markus Warjomaa, delivers a flawless deep voice, as if a wackier version of Glenn Danzig, whispering lyrics that clearly have been written under some chemical influences – after all, who else can write a song about the European Union, such as “Quinotaurus (Twelve start in sight)”?. Maybe it’s the bleak Finnish moods, that created the “Doomintroll” character, into some other side, colorful and showcasing a lovely devilish smile. Aside from the vocal aspect, Aarni displays stoner-driven guitars, low-tempered and sluggish, that dominate most of the songs. They are accompanied by clean guitars, with crystal quality and buttered melodies, like in the epos “Kivijumala” . The songs tend to be long, as if embarking to trip in some parallel festive universe, with dancing monstrous figures into the most delusional spheres of Finland’s troll colonies.

Heaviness is not hard to find in this album, yet the leading motive is the undistinguishable atmosphere, fluctuating between space-doom metal, world music and pure psychedelic tunes (such as the damn-obvious Doors tribute in “Kivijumala”), straight out of San Francisco in its happy periods. One can also identify heavy influence of the friggin’-hammering Finnish dommsters Reverend Bizarre. In that manner, Aarni is somehow quite a brighter version of Reverend Bizarre and manifests the ability to play metal and design a little smile on the listener’s face, although quiet, large parts of the album are melancholic. Nevertheless, it makes the listener think and wonder (“what in hell’s name did Markus dude take?”), what’s going on within this music, what does it reflect? The answers lie in a long range; from a twisted “Moomins” homage to an honest tribute to musical guidelines, which came from those golden decades. Plus, the world- music structures, turning to mournful doom-metal sound and vice-versa. Aarni, my dear, just don’t give a damn.

Aarni gives us yet another world to sink in, as if Lewis Carroll was playing in a metal band, had long hair and was stuck inside a green cloud. It’s like a little Woodstock in the valley of the weird animals. It’s a chemical cocktail of the stoned and the sub-genres of high spheres; and it feels good, man.

ABERRANT VASCULAR * Pelopia

This is a three-piece suite EP, the latest effort from the Finnish band. Already at the inside cover, the band stages itself as “operatic avantgarde metal”, and this claim has a lot to do with both, subjective and objective truth: start from Vladimir Lumi’s vocals, which are pure opera and finish with the epic feeling hanging from the ethereal synths, giving a final result, a curtain of a mighty strangeness. Unfortunately, this strangeness, a world waiting to be deeply explored, ends within 15 minutes long. But I’m reaching the end too soon.

As stated before, three tracks are presented within good, but not superb, production. The first song called “Shto oni zasluzivat” (Russian anyone?) opens with a gentle stroke of synths, falling into somehow-weak guitar burst, which reminded me of the start of “Kinetic”, the opener of “The Sham Mirrors”. As I wondered about the source of this comparison (and the conclusion pointed to something regarding the distortion depth), Lumi’s voice comes forth, all might and glory, sounds so assure and decisive and blend uniquely with the electronic beats. Indeed, Lumi is a professional opera singer, an impressive tenor who provides the cachet for the band’s self definition. His vocals are lucid and strong, sometimes aching and whispering (there’s even some sort of blackish scream, style the late Michael Haas vocals) but mainly traveling easily and skillfully through scales and phrases. Tracing the vocals only is fascinating, for this is singing. He gives the EP almost the solemn touch of the elusive avantgarde seal. But yet again, there’s the music. The constructions are the eternal duel between guitars with average distortion and also the general place in the whole production and highly interesting and changing synths work, which claimed to be the musical highlight of this EP. The synths combine clear electronic influences (as they’ve heard best in the guitar-given sheath), classical piano flickering (another statement of the operatic attitude) and tiny electro samples, coming directly from the industrial world. They slide gently into one’s ear upgrading the songs a few levels. Therefore, another listening should be done carefully, giving those little “friends” the rightful attention.

Aside from few interesting riffs, the guitar work isn’t stirring. It absorb from some major genres, such as Doom, Black and even Heavy metal. And yet does not succeed to stand at it’s own as contra to the prominent synths and of course, as steady foundation to Lumi’s vocals, which swallows it all as a storm. The drumming also deserves attention and slides along with both electronic beats and human touch.
The best song in this EP is the second one, “Dorei”, which leaves the listener mesmerized, due to the combination between the synths and the vocals. They take the listener’s ears to somehow familiar journey, thanks to the heavy influences of Arcturus and The Kovenant. One might say that this EP is a mirror of the sham… However, after some listening, is becomes obvious that the band has much talent to withdraw those roots to places of their own. The last song, “Paradigme / quintessence”, sung in French and clearly in the veins of its ancestors – leading synths and guitar scratches under the dependable vocals conducting.

As said earlier, the trouble with this effort is that it’s over too soon. Once the listener had a glimpse inside this odd Finnish world, he’d like some more of digging in. When one regards that as another demo, it stands as a great ticket for the band, although I recommend strengthening the guitar department. In an overall look, Aberrant Vascular created an EP, that surely leaves taste for more, and this time, for a full album by this talented band.

 

 

ABIGOR * Fractal Possession

The music of ABIGOR is a weapon and shall haunt all those who try to discover something beautiful in it!” This statement is found on the “Nachthymnen”-Album; taking them literally I’ll try to convert most of their outputs so far into- weapons. Here I go.

Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age: A spiked club
Orkblut – The Retaliation: Same as above
Nachthymnen: A sharp falchion
Opus IV: A rusty bastard sword
Apokalypse: A war hammer
Supreme Immortal Art: A pike
Channeling the Quintessence of Satan: A guillotine
Satanized: Absorbent cotton with chloroform
Fractal Possession: ?

Yes, finally it has arrived. A new ABIGOR- Album. I thought Reunions were only for members of aged norwegian Black-Metal Bands fearing to sink into oblivion, and I am glad I was wrong there. You can’t speak of austrian BM without mentioning ABIGOR, and with this album they have proven that once again. I do not think that it is necessary to waste words on ABIGOR’s biography here, for 1) it should be known to most of the metal scene anyway and 2) for the unlucky individuals that have missed this band so far may check the link to their site above.

First, let’s set things straight : This album has by far the best sound of all their albums and can easily withstand international competition as well. Everything is clearly audible; from the eerie guitars to the once again hammering drums to the new singer to the fitting embedded soundeffects. Speaking of soundeffects: there are plenty of them here, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if it is a real effect or some freaky guitar sound. Oh, and Thomas Tannenberger has returned to the drumchair of ABIGOR where he belongs. I don’t think one has to argue about the skills of Moritz Neuner, who has played drums on “Satanized”, but at least I had the feeling that his style did not fit ABIGOR too well. Now, hearing Thomas on this album there can be no doubt that his style is exactly what ABIGOR needs. This guy was and is simply one of the most groovy, tightest and most dynamic Black-Metal drummers, period. And the new singer A.R. takes ABIGORS vocals to a new level: Mostly snarling like MAYHEM’s Attila, this guy manages clear, spoken passages as well as growling and screaming.

The songs: A perfect symbiosis of the last two albums. The cold, precise riffing of “Channeling…”; combined with the strangeness of “Satanized”. A good balance of infernal blasts, technical parts, and slow, melodic parts. Although you can’t really compare ABIGOR to them, the created atmosphere is not unlike the last two MAYHEM- outputs, to give you at least a diffuse picture. I’d have a hard time which songs I would recommend to listen to, each one is unique but bears enough elements to recognize ABIGOR. My personal favourites are “Liberty Rises A Diagonal Flame” which brings up nostalgic memories of glorious “Nachthymnen”- days and “The Fire Syndrome” which, with an eerie, aggressive atmosphere, opens gates to demonplains somewhere beyond the stars and briefly, riffwise, mentions “Opus IV” (as does the start of “Injection Satan”).

ABIGOR have topped themselves here, easily achieving top grades in creativity and innovation. The songs are unbelievable complex and at the same time straight; there is a huge amount of breaks, effects and samples involved, but what sounds like too much works out fine in the end. So, what weapon is “Fractal Possession”? I can’t get the picture of a machine-armed with surgeon scalpells and killing with deadly precision- out of my head somehow…

 

 

 

ABIGOR * Time Is The Sulphur In The Veins Of The Saint

One can only be curious to hear what Abigor will do next, after having listened to their previous effort, Fractal Possession, which was kind of a revolution in the band’s always personal sound. Yeah, it’s true that Abigor have always had a distinct sound of their own but, at the same time, they have always been expanding and refining it to unsuspected limits.

This ‘Time is the Sulphur in the Veins of the Saint’ is another twist on their sound and compositional skill, obvious first by the fact that we have just two long compositions, near twenty minutes each one. So, if we had to compare this album to the previous one, the first thing we would think would be that it seems to lack structure, due to the long compositions which apparently do not repeat anything, so there is no song structure anymore and it’s difficult to keep track of all the parts, riff after riff. Because both of the parts of ‘Time’ are ever-evolving pictures of despair and desolation, and it may look like there is no continuity along the composition, but we have to make an effort and abandon any typical album view and take the time to let ourselves enter the big picture without searching for choruses and such structures.

On the other hand, if we had to compare the sound with that of previous incarnations, the sound is quite similar to that on Fractal Possession, but the palette is indeed richer. The effects and guitar modulations are more subtle and we have some new effects plus some synths here and there, and given the approach is more atmospheric the production is more adequate for slower parts and slightly better overall. Especially the bass sound has improved, that contributes to obtain an overall colorful sound opposed to the more synthetic one that was present on Fractal Possession.

Finally, the most important thing about the review: the picture itself. The overall mood reeks of post-apocalypticism and decadence, with a lot of dark ambiences and decaying slow parts, but there are also a lot of fast riffs trademark of Abigor with their so personal melodies and some mid-tempo riffs, so the image is painted with variety in style and emotions. The amalgam of sources of sonic anguish is enviable here, from almost ambiental parts with synths to raging blastbeats with special effects, through vocal choirs and doomy or even industrial parts, in continuous progression. The theme is TIME and it seems they achieve to express what they want, because listening to the album I get the impression of travelling in time through the band’s different eras, from the rawest to the most sophisticated, the same as history itself, even I get a glimpse of what the future would be for the band, and surely the blurry and darkened image that paints in my mind with each listen corresponds to the future of mankind and the unfolding of the world’s history. Or at least that’s the impression I get with every listen…

 

ABORYM * Fire Walk With Us

Rome: Center of the Catholic Church and domicile of the pope. This devotional ambience is not supposed to be the right place to deliver a satanic and misanthropic Black Metal-Band. But maybe it is exactly the Holy Ghost who surrounds the Italian metropolis, which gave birth to the blasphemous, and in every sense insurgent character of Aborym. “Fire Walk With Us” is the second opus of this drug-influenced cartel. In my eyes it represents the bible of industrialised, modern and (to satisfy this website) vanguard Black Metal.

From the very beginning this album attracts the attention of the victim. The comparatively transparent production creates a futuristic and clinical atmosphere. A dominant element of the sound is the drum machine, which is well programmed and demonstrates the musical talent of these Romans. Driven by the digital drums, the guitars celebrate an ecstatic orgy of modern Black Metal in every track (beside the techno-like “Here Is No God S.T.A.”). Most tracks are quite complex, but the guitar-magicians Nysrok and Sethlands manage to keep the flow in every second on “Fire Walk With Us”.

Songs like “Our Sentence” and “Total Black” are charged with fast tremolo-picking as well as meditative staccato riffs and dramatic, monumental and opera-like guitar eruptions. You will find no single arrangement on this record which appears artificial: The compositions seem to have been written millennia ago by a metaphysical entity and Aborym, in the year 2000, only represents the earthly tool to create what ever existed.

The prophet of these transcendent visions is Attila Csihar, notorious for his work with “the true” Mayhem and legendary Tormentor from Hungary. The collaboration with Aborym shows his urge to experiment with different styles of extreme music and to break through boundaries. His performance can best be described with two words: Sick and alien. Csihar alters his voice quite often and accommodates his style to the emotional development of each song. The listener gets terrorised by high-pitched, aggressive Black Metal vokills as well as with the shamanic and adjuratory expression we all know from “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”.

“Fire Walk With Us” represents the perfect mélange of unsettled industrial sounds, dark ambient and Scandinavian influenced Black Metal. The latter aspect is also underlined by their felicitous interpretation of “Det Som En Gang Var” by Burzum.
Sure the Italians can not be counted as the inventors of Industrial Black Metal. But compared with their Norwegian colleagues (and role models) Mysticum they travel farther into the abyss of the human psyche. A success which is achieved by a highly professional attitude and admirable mental power.

 

 

ABORYM * With No Human Intervention

With their third album “With No Human Intervention” the Italian Avantgarde Black Metal freaks of Aborym rose again from the deepest abyss of human psychological nightmare to show the world once more what misanthropic metal art is all about. After the quite interesting, but heavily underestimated “Kali-Yuga Bizarre” and the follower “Fire Walk With Us”, this album represents their peak.

After a short introduction the chaos of alien musical dimensions hits the clueless listener. From the beginning the title track shows what the art of Aborym is all about: Fast, disruptive (digital) drums, epic guitar chords, lightspeed solos and ecstatically dancing synthesisers, which are drawing never heard collages of sound. The general atmosphere created by the dominating electronic ingredients is very unfriendly, cold and confusing, but coeval the music has an appealing effect. One reason might be Attila Csihar, who once again proved on this longplayer, that he can be considered as one of the most unique and extreme vocalist in the metal scene. Unlike on “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” or “Fire Walk With Us”, the Hungarian drug addict abandoned his trademarks and, in a sense, sounds less shamanic. Instead we can experience high pitched Black Metal screams, which can only be described as matchless and supernatural. It is very refreshing to hear Csihar experimenting with his pervert voice.

The songwriting first appears quite progressive, abstruse and cryptic. But after some time, when the Homo Sapiens got used to the celestial way of communicating, the tracks develop a logic structure, with which Aborym manage to switch masterly between the uttermost different human emotions and states of mind. Regardless if we get attacked by modern, industrial-rock influenced stakkato riffing, if we are terrorised by digital warfare of the strangest Techno/EBM and Industrial sounds or if Nysrok demonstrates his musical skills with his breathtaking guitar-solos: The sound cosmos of these Italian guys is always in a crossfire of different influences. Even Black`n Roll is cited (“The Alienation of a Blackened Soul”). The music is mostly connected to the old spirit of Black Metal, which was invented on Norwegian classics like the mentioned “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” and “Antichrist”.

Talking about the production, which took place in Temple of Noise Studio in Rome, I must say that I first had problems getting used to it. Especially the drumcomputer might discourage the blimpish Black Metal fan. But in the end the sound fits in very well the overall inhuman feeling of the music. I must add, that “With No Human Intervention” although features some nice and emotional moving parts. But every time these excursions to the brighter side of life appear, they get undermined by one of Csihar’s choleric scream attacks.

The lyrics are also quite opaque. It is nearly impossible to find a clear structure, an overall message. Of course you will find the typical antichristian propaganda. With “Faustian Spirit Of The Earth” (which was written by Bård “Faust” Eithun) the band tries to offer a more religious and philosophical approach towards life and humanity. “Me(n)tal Striken Terror Action 2” deals with the 9.11 terror attacks, which is quite unusual for this type of music.

After all praise I have to state that “With No Human Intervention” has also two defects: First, the booklet doesn’t fit the high standard of the music. The obligatory number of the beast in the logo as well as the pictures of naked nuns going nude with the crucifix between their legs really doesn’t impress anyone anymore. It seems like Aborym, by now grown-up men, still have a hard time to get rid of the old-fashioned and boring clichés.

The second defect for me is the obvious need of Aborym to adorn with “big names”. Several times we can read in the booklet about the co-operation with Faust, Nattefrost (Capathian Forest) and Irrumator (Anaal Nathrakh). Sure this underlines the integrity and credibility of this band within the extreme metal scene, but Aborym really don’t need this type of self-adulation.

To come to a conclusion: Aborym have found their own interpretation to celebrate a style of music which was important and inspiring for a whole generation of angry musicians. Most of them failed to offer something new, refreshing. However, for me Aborym is the only band which successfully managed to combine styles like Techno, Electronic Body Music and Industrial with Extreme Black Metal. A vanguard approach which can’t be honoured enough. At least I tried it.

 

 

 

ABORYM * Psychogrotesque

 

Fans of warped avant-garde heaviness should know this industrial/electro black metal act inside-out, but if this is your first encounter with the band from the heart of Italy, beware: this final incarnation is the real thing. Along its now 17 year long career Aborym has attracted collaborations with the likes of Attila Csihar of Mayhem/Sunn O))) fame and ex-Emperor Bård “Faust” Eithun, just to mention the most iconic names. Happily adjusted into a slim-line formation comprising original member and mastermind Malfeitor Fabban on vox, synth and bass, hugely talented Hell:IO:Kabbalus on guitar and the aforementioned Faust on drums, Aborym managed to stun and excite the well weathered Season of Mist warlords when they were presented with this insane and layered new concept album!

Let’s start the analysis from a mundane angle.
The very aptly named “Psychogrotesque” boasts a great, meticulous production by Fabban, aided by Emiliano Natali of Fear No One Studios (Viterbo, Italy) and Marc Urselli of famed Eastside Sound Studios (NY). In spite of this, the album manages to maintain throughout scarily palpable levels of abject perversion drenched in truly malignant horror and overt twistedness (which, as you will see from the upcoming interview with the band, is far from being a mere shallow exercise aimed at shocking young and impressionable minds). Amongst the intoxicatingly dark miasma spread across the ten parts that make up the mastodonic single track of the album, we have the brilliance of daring and spitefully individual music which (glorifying the self-evolving true spirit of black metal) now well and truly transcends its niche genre: can these mere ingredients create a masterpiece? Fuck yes!!! All the melodrama that might have seeped through their (always exciting and barrier-crushing) previous releases has been gagged by bucketfuls of harshness, brutality and sickness copulating endlessly on a decaying bed of organic waste, digging deeper and farther into the most uncomfortable reality of the human condition. And such scenarios demand the wide and fearless employment of the darkest expressions of music in general, naturally executed with both skill and forward-thinking eclecticism. And so Aborym’s creative horizons spread like a gargantuan arachnid’s web effortlessly linking up space-time warping: from an indestructible black metal core closely intertwined with thoroughly modern electro-industrial cyberpunk (from techno to D’n’B), like Indiana Joneses of the future we stumble into archetypes such as prog, jazz and – of course – classical music, all duly subjected to careful, almost loving Aborymization. But the appreciation of this work, a story set in a mental hospital, also firmly rests on the fact that it is a brutally honest conceptual metaphor of our ill society that punches right in the stomach those who treat music as a shallow fairground for futile ego-trips. The intricate and visionary lyrics include, by the way, passages from Comte de Lautreamont’s “Les Chantes de Maldoror” and from our favorite poet, William Blake.

Let’s now get into the nitty-gritty of the ten musical parts.
For once the customary ambient instrumental that opens most albums these days actually has a purpose as Part I provides the blood-chilling, skin-crawling setting to the story. You hear the disgustingly realistic buzz of huge bluebottle flies feasting on human feces and grime, while vague disturbing moans and hospital-like noises echo in the background. Then in Part II the mayhem begins as glorious, deadpan and brutal as anything, pushed forth by an awesome Faust on fire behind the skins! The industrial-gothic keyboards are firmly plunged into the background pouring psychotic gloom into the mix, but at the same time letting the deranged, bile-soaked vocals (by Fabban and legendary guest Karyn Crisis of crossover/hc Crisys fame) and the majestically evil cacophony of the guitars prevail. Part III is a wall of sound that spells no-fucking-compromise in spite of its melodrama, also thanks to the fantastic pummeling that has been cleverly produced in quite an organic way rather than in the soul-less fashion of a machine-gun. This leads to Part IV which, with an extremely unsettling performance by Malfeitor Fabban, defines one of the most memorable moments of my 2010 musical journey so far: a jewel of pure morbid sickness for those who understand the Italian language but surely a vividly perverted experience for all – “I porci quando mi vedono vomitano…” (“Hogs vomit when they see me…”)! A real open-brain autopsy on society’s collective madness.
The genius continues with the first wicked saxophone solo of the album by Marcello Balena introducing Part V, a threateningly slow anthem showcasing Fabban’s eclectic vox that fills your chest with poisonous vapors until you are suffocating. Joy oh joy – after some deep Teutonic-Goth vocals, Part VI imparts more delirious saxophone delight, then a cool guitar interlude, which reminds me of certain obscure, drugged-up and totally awesome 70s Italian prog, precedes more viscerally evil vocals from Karyn. That’s also where a sample from a dusty record of obscure lirica suddenly illuminates the grotesque madhouse landscape with a decadent surge of nostalgia, but it is only a mirage: the track wriggles into insanity again with a deranged flash-solo by Hell:IO:Kabbalus, plunging once more into the swamp of the most degraded corners of the human psyche.
The feeling of psychotic coldness is by now almost unbearable, but suddenly Part VIII kicks in with its explosive dark techno march! Wow: fuck coldness and horror, here for 2 minutes and a sprinkle of seconds we can dance our brains out and with complete relish, as there is still not an ounce of shallowness about, just pure sardonic lunacy! Another short instrumental part links up the techno moment to the epic end to the album: it is the only perhaps slightly unconvincing moment of the entire album, especially the corny carillon bit at the end, although the intriguing guitar noises by Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath) keep my concentration in a tight grip. And Part X does pounce in like a demented zombie-monster, displaying the best of the excellent guitar work on the album: varied and layered, it goes from riffage that is as acrid as vomit yet as heavy as any Neurosis outpour, to an array of über-dark metal solos that are fluid, trippy and frankly disturbed, respectively by Blood Tsunami’s Peter Michael Kolstad Vegem, The Hour of Penance’s Giulio Moschini and Hell:IO:Kabbalus. The soaring epilogue sees Karyn shredding her throat to William Blake’s “Human Abstact”. Now, at this point you’d be left aghast trying to make sense of what you’ve just heard, and that’s when you’ll be hit by the last surprise of the album: after about 4 minutes of total silence an eerie, chilling, highly ritualistic outro pops its ugly face from the darkest chambers of Aborym’s mind. The nightmare is now over… or was it all real?

“Psychogrotesque” is here to break the mould with Aborym’s past, but also to set some standards. These are musicians who have been flying high the torch of open-mindedness and stubborn individualism within the often sectarian and fashionable universe of extreme metal for many years. Malfeitor Fabban, a hard man who tells me has received many insults in his life (and therefore coped well enough when I accidentally called him “cute”) deserves a special mention for being in 2010 still at the helm of a grotesquely exciting project in spite of all odds. And with Bård’s drumming, sensational as always, pushing the work to incredible places when he takes off into pure black metal territory, and the rich guitar-work that has poured from the ripe sacks of newcomer Paolo Pieri aka Hell:IO:Kabbalus (who shares the composing duties with Fabban) there can only be one happy ending in sight.
Packed in a blood-chilling old-school cover by Fabban which, like Aborym’s own music and lyrical content, does not at tall comply with the current trends, “Psychogrotesque” is as infectious as the Great Plague and keeps growing on me at a worrying rate. Right now it’s all the medication I need.

 

 

ABORYM * Dirty

 

Aborym are an oddball in the sense that they live and make music just the way they fucking like: Fabban and friends are rebels, lunatics and hopefuls.
We all know the heavy-weight history of the band (and if you don’t, here’s your chance to get stuck into a very dark piece of extreme music history), the mess they got involved in, and which big names they attracted within their orbit, considering they operated within the context of an uneasy epicenter, the deep south of Europe. Aborym became an unpredictable force within the avant-garde black metal scene and my hat comes off every time I come across a product from the furnaces of this now consolidated trio (made of Fabban on vox, bass, programming, keyboards; Paolo Pieri, guitars, keyboards; Bard Eithun, drums) for the barriers they pushed down, including – and more so! – when they disgust the elitists expecting something “predictably avant-garde”. A classic example of their “who gives a shit” attitude was the release of Psychogrotesque, a darkly intense album gravid with social comments which had strong artistic and progressive qualities, but disappointed those who expected their experimental vein to follow the industrial route. A comment on the lines “They should listen to Thorns” stuck in my head at the time, reminding me of the hypocritical snobbism of people who forget that good music should in primis focus on freedom of expression, whichever are the tools chosen. Well, when you grow up, barriers hopefully do come down and genres blur into nothingness: only quality and content mean something. And this is something that the real agitators of the underground have been fighting for for years and years and years…

Twenty years in the trenches, smelling the shit close by, knee deep. Aborym have seen it all and have the scars to prove it. They have not been a touring band, no big bucks made from merchandise sales, no big labels throwing big money on ads (Season of Mist was just an episode, and there was hardly any publicity done): Aborym are still in it because music is their life, albeit in a different way. The way of the warriors. No, they don’t come from aloof, snowy-white peaks but from the murky, decadent, corrupt pits of Roma Divina Urbs. They like their music to be permeated with real life with all its contradictions, brutality, insanity and injustice; they want to feel human by feeling angry, outraged, scared, abused. Aborym shuns the insulating, abstract concept of intellectual transcendence as escape route: there is NO fucking escape… So be ready to be burnt! Aborym are back to give us the torch to throw into the safety of our own goddamn cozy houses.

Double album: the first part features new material, the second, a heartfelt gift to the fans, presents re-recorded versions of two of their hymns, “Roma Divina Urbs” from the legendary Kali Yuga Bizarre and “Fire Walk with Us” from the homonymous album; also 3 covers of classic bands (deal with it!) such as Iron Maiden (“Hallowed Be Thy Name”), Pink Floyd (“Comfortably Numb” )and Nine Inch Nails (“Hurt”) and a track written with Alberto Penzin (ex-Schizo, CO2) and the fans, “Need for Limited Loss”.
Here I shall concentrate only on the new material, some of the most incandescent, sick, mind-blowing shit I have heard in a while. It’s quite easy to scare and unsettle people if you are Sun o))) or Portal, but doing it when the aggression is rooted in appealing sounds and melody is, well… quite a feat. The ingredients used this time by Aborym are: plenty of electronica in all its shades (from the 70s onwards), industrial, black metal, classic metal and hints of psych-prog rock: the mix is tight and so expert that it all flows sounding perfectly smooth. Except that, slower and ambient parts aside, this work is like a long electric shock. Musically the 10 tracks have a heterogenic structure and change in mood, so we are swept into different, rollercoaster-like directions for the duration of the album which, in spite of being a hefty one, slips all over you as fast as foul-smelling oil over the white feathers of a seagull suffocating to death.

Dirty demands multiple listening sessions, as it owns the rare quality of sounding so effortless that it can easily fly past you if you blink: instead, especially if you enjoy it with headphones on, there is a lot of detail to discover and enjoy. Just scratching the surface, you will bump into breathless incursions through cold black metal epicness juxtaposed to surreal and sinister calm (“Factory of Death” and “The Day the Sun Stopped Shining”); acid and unsettling avant-garde sounds (“Face the Reptile”); a lot of ultra-dark electronica, often filthy and strident, sometimes drenched in psych prog/krautrock (“The Day the Sun…” and “Across the Universe”), cool ‘80s electro-goth moments ….. and juicy dance ones (“Helter Skelter”). Whether it’s Atari Teenage Riot, Ozric Tentacles, Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Gary Newman or Eat Static, there is a firm footing in tradition from which the band does not trying to hide in any way…… is by far my favorite track because, together with the heat-breaking “The Day the Sun Stopped Shining”, sicne it has an emotional impact that is rarely found in metal: here I enjoy the intense black metal lashings, than I contendedly prik my ears over the drum & bass and breakbeat parts, then I sink into the most epic and magnificent, yet infinitely tragic, dark hymn to human perversion and degradation…

I do not like to draw comparisons with the earlier work of bands, as time changes perspectives, and those lucky enough to have written masterpieces (as they did) are always under scrutiny, often with unfair and unrealistic expectations. But in this case I shall venture in a couple of personal comments. Dirty is neither in the vein of Psychogrotesque or their first stunning mastrpiece released back in 1999, Kali Yuga Bizarre, which was a free-wheeling outpour of madness framed within incandescent effluvia of twistedly dark melody and full-blooded elegies that are still an inspiration to younger Italian bands such as Movimento d’Avanguardia Ermetico (even Urfaust have probably listened to “Darka Misteria” quite a lot). We are though somewhat closer to their more belligerent and equally incredible industrial outputs. But Dirty, although it blends some elements of the past, puts no focus on a particular genre, offering instead a seamless and fresh fresco of “Aborym styles”, past and present and future: it is unmistakably an album of maturity. For this reason Dirty will grow on you with each listening session, finding its strength in a tight aggression that is given life by natural melodic passages and lyrics that paint Filth, Ugliness, Sickness and Evil not with abstract colors but with real blood, sweat, tears and cum. Yes, Aborym bring closer the fleshy stench of humanity. Going under the skin of this album means to get addicted to its highly alcoholic smoothness, to shiver with horror to the trippy nightmares, to feel the feverish beat of a dying breed of which we are all a guilty part of.

ABSTRUSA UNDE * Introspection

 

 

What was sold by the press kit:
– A massively ambitious musical endeavour: the first release was inspired by jazz, metal, and modern composers, “illustrating the myth of Orpheus”.

– The name-dropping of several giants within the avantgarde metal genre and beyond.

– An invented language.

– This release is called a “journey across a wide range of acoustic environments, preliminary results of the experiment in progress”, performed by a 10-piece line-up, in addition to the standard metal line-up including 4 vocalists (three harsh, one soprano), violin, cello and clarinet.

I think most readers here should be more than a little stoked to hear what would come out of this ambitious project.

What was purchased in the shape of “Introspection”:
– More or less traditional symphonic Gothic Black Metal, with eclectic tastes and influences – you have some jazz, some electronic musics, some folk music, a lot of cinematic drama, and some circus/Vaudeville themes.

– Traditional (but good! but traditional…) “Beauty & the Beast” vocals. The harsh vocalists are good, but were really three of them needed? The soprano Perrine G., appears the main vocalist, and does a great job at it. But when will we hear the first operatic male singer / female growler line-up?

– A horrible sound. I don’t know what happened, but it seems they forgot to mix the album. Vocals and synthesizers are perfectly audible, but the tinny distorted guitars are completely lack of strength and attitude. Together with the drums – that could easily have been programmed, but obviously aren’t – you get the impression that somewhere near, something is stuck a vacuum cleaner. Was the mastering technician instructed to remove all bass frequencies? Was it mixed in laptop speakers? I don’t know who let this pass, but if someone in the band is guilty, he or she should be kicked out.

When getting over the abysmal tin-can production, what is revealed beneath it is a quite interesting, playful set of songs. Heavy on the burlesque synthesizers, it has elements driving the listener both towards late Arcturus / mid-era Dimmu Borgir and onwards to more Goth-symphonic Germans – you know, the pompous people with top hats and lace, dreaming of forlorn castles. Very dramatic, very aesthetic. Quite cheesy, but in all honestly – I appreciate it.

 

 

ABSTRUSE * Transgression

 

Transgression is the first release from this ambitious Greek duo, formed back in 2002. Veiled and Substant, sharing the vocal, visual and musical duties, states a pretty bold mission objective – to fuse extreme metal’s eerie darkness, the strange tonal systems of modern art music (serialism, atonal and tone scales et c) and psychedelic visual art, in order to walk down a new musical path. Indeed, pretty ambitious for a band’s first release, and before listening it mostly seemed pretentious and rather silly. But… I was very, very wrong.

The music of Abstruse (a synonym of “obscure”, it seems) is extremely experimental, though it rarely leaves a metallic context. Their claiming of using the disharmonic scales of 20th century avantgardist composers is definitely no ostentatious bullshit, among the dark metal riffs (a fair reference should be early progressive death metal) I can hear not only traces of Schönberg’s Twelve-tone technique, but a distinct use of it; programmed melodies intertwine with guitar sweeps, melodies are turned inside out, played in reverse, everything those Germans did back in the angst ridden 1920’s. The dreamy whole tone scales of Debussy add a misty surreal veil to the chaotic dodecaphony… But still, they never leave the metallic course. Bloody awesome? Indeed! The opener hints both to the crazy electrojazz of Last-Minute Lies-era Fleurety and to the playfulness of the Atrox guitarists. The slightly slower “Ceremonial Torches” brings to mind a dark mix of Karl Sanders mythological solo works and The Residents (!!!). The guitar lines at points resemble the works of Carl-August Tidemann before joining Winds (i.e. Arcturus)… but enough references. Is it strange? Yes. Great? YES. Few can achieve music as technically stunning as this, without simultaneously losing my interest. Very cerebral. I like that.

The vocals are pretty strange, deep half-roared whispers most of the time. The programmed drums might annoy some, but they merge naturally with the overall technological sound; only the blastbeats sounds plastic. What I also like is the visuals accompanying some of the songs on a DVD. Psychedelic as hell, blurry shots of nature flowing into each other in many pretty colours (a lot of colour inversion and that kind of stuff). I‘m an ignorant when it comes to video art, but I know what I enjoy. This, for example.

If you are in any way interested in experimental, groundbreaking or just highly technical music, you want to hear this. This will definitely not be the last you’ll hear from Abstruse.

 

ABSTRUSE  * Ivory Tower

 

Vertiginous steps into a swiftly ascending labyrinth, turbulent staircases into the stargazer’s solemn tower fields. Unheard shapes floating synaesthetically among the corners of your eyes, deep blue and black. Clocks unwinding, tolling thirteen knell. Gothic decrepitude of synaptic misfires, jagged MIDIan bursts collapsing maddeningly, a sixteen bit laughter menacingly journeying down echoing corridors. ABSTRUSE are back.

Or is, I should say, as this Greek orchestra is now a one-man venture lead and consummated by the near-anagrammatical Substant. As before, shapeless and borderless; the attitude towards composition more cerebral than easily listenable fortunately intact. This self-released demo album has cleared away the pseudo-techDMness of the debut, opting for a more distanced, theatrical manner (not mannerism). There might be issues among listeners with delicate ears yearning for tidy, organic productions feasting in mainstream normativity. Like analogue drums and balanced output levels (the vocals and lead guitars are often in your face, perhaps too much at times). The percussion are not so much for keeping a steady beat (I think there is one or two of those for fans of order and rock traditions), as for accentuating the activity/placidity or the compositions as a whole.

The percussions are more orchestral than not, as this whole record is more orchestral than not, but think not of Hollywood film score bullcrap. Think the systematically cerebral compository techniques of 20th century art music Modernism, and you’re getting closer. Whole-tone and dodecaphonic scales (and self-constructed ones!) abound; even a clear-cut example of digital aleatorism – a piece of software created by Substant himself, connecting a media player to a MIDI interface, allowing any given video information to program sounds. Itself. John Cage, eat your heart out. Perhaps it is symptomatic that the least convincing track is the one with the greatest “hit potential” – discernible rhythms and structures, clearly defined choruses, et c. I prefer not. What ABSTRUSE offer is a new, or at least extremely rare, attitude towards the melding of metal and art music. Though some listeners may be hindered by the home-made production, I hope that more and more will realize what ABSTRUSE are doing, and if not enjoy it, at least take heed. When the “metal+orchestration” still equals the cheap and bland Hollywoodization of corporate “extreme” metal, ABSTRUSE creates a sorely needed counterpoint – not only figuratively speaking.

ABSTRUSE * Earthbound

 

Earthbound” is the third release from Greek eccentric avant-metallist ABSTRUSE, after 2007’s Transgressions demo and 2010’s Ivory Tower album. The previous issues I hailed for their inventive approach to combining metal music with experimental composing techniques and Gothic atmospheres. Now they – or he – is back with a second full length, and though the main approach and style is retained, some of the spell has been broken.

Don’t get me wrong, there are moments here that stand out in alluring aesthetic fire, where mysteries of harmonies and timbres are hinted at and subtly unveiled. However, these sparks appear too seldom and too randomly, occluded by too many unwanted elements. My major gripes with this album are these:

– The production. Even though the sound is clear and atmospheric, it is imbued with the jangliness and thinness plaguing many home productions. The many elements collide with each other, fighting for space, and blurs and distracts the listener. Perhaps that was intentional, but it makes this a tiresome listen.

– The vocals. Nothing wrong with the clear vocals; the Gothic speech-vocals are quite good actually. But, and this is a massive but, the semi-harsh, groaned vocals sound strained, restrained and sometimes even like a joke, as if not taking it serious. Hadn’t they been on top of the whole mix, square in your face, they might have been tolerable. Now it isn’t so.

– Tightness. The drums often sounds like they’ve been played on pads, with fingers, by someone who is drunk. The rumbling and rambling percussions are indeed strange, but strange doesn’t necessarily entail good. The clusterfucks on some tracks are simply bad.

– Arbitrariness. Elements, sections and segments come and go, and even though there is a certain structure or narrative audible behind it, many songs tend to drag, churning irrelevancies, moving seemingly nowhere. This isn’t a constant, but happens much too often to be enjoyable. The album at times comes across as a series of outtakes and ideas, in random order.

– The LENGTH. It’s almost 80 minutes. Half of it could be scrapped, and this would have been a great album. Now I have to listen to it in segments, three songs at a time, only to discover that the last 3-4 songs is where it happens, where the good songs are. The physical limitations of the vinyl LP should be taken into consideration at all times when bands consider filling an entire CD with music. No-one wants to listen to 80 minutes of anything.

Despite elements that are highly enjoyable, avant-rock bizarreries that challenge the listeners in a good way, reminding of for example Chris Cutler and Fred Frith’s more playful moments, it is too often that the listener is challenged negatively. Earthbound becomes a test of endurance, especially considering its exuberant and ridiculous length. Much of the Gothic and surreal aura and atmosphere from the earlier releases is lost here – to me at least – and the moments of beauty are lost amidst the heaps of rubble and meaningless wank. Perhaps I am outweirded by ABSTRUSE. The enjoyable sections and segments are in a minority, dragged down by the majority that only inspires me to turn it off.

ABSTRUSE follows & perseveres in their singular vision, still as unique as ever, and I respect that. I will however not be expected to salute the outcome of those visions.

 

 

 

ACHENAR  * All Will Change

Just as I breathed a sigh of relief upon completion of the Cervix review, I looked at the Achenar album with some trepidation. Upon playing my fears were intensified as it begins with some interesting sample that are quickly overtaken by noise. As I was cursing and thinking that this was punishment from the boss (Chrystof) for something, it turned into some of the darkest arpeggios I have heard in while. I sat entranced as the sheer weighty atmosphere overtook me, complimented by suitably moody and strange synths. The vocals are somewhere between chanting and choir work but suitably infused with a gothic sensibility. The textures are layered to a climax and a sudden stop, making “Survive Yourself” a very memorable first song (following the earlier intro mentioned “Origin”). The second track is much more insane, taking cues from Skinny Puppy and Merzbow. Yes it has some harsh frequencies and a ton of noise, but it also has a rather alien sense of songwriting, and at least a small family of crystal meth fed monkeys jumping all over the keys and buttons of a sampler. More bizarre and rather scary soundscapes lead to “Verify Me”. In terms of atmosphere and sheer weight this smokes most of the dark stuff I have heard this year. The rhythms created out all over the record are pure genius, utilizing electro-industrial drumkits as well as all kinds of found sounds to mesmerizing effect. The lyrics are also sufficiently ambiguous yet threatening enough to mantain a near-constant mood of unknown fear. Songs like “Re-Everate” take the rougher sounds of bands like In Strict Confidence, and then rape them to produce alien-hybrid offspring.

Project mastermind, Scotsman Duncan Hemingway, proves to be a true expressionist of post-modern avant garde composition on tracks like the enthralling “Sojourn”. It came to the point where I was actually looking forward to what madness each track would bring, and to say the least, it does not disapoint a fan of avant garde music. Honestly, even as a musician it scares me as to how a piece like “Let Us Help You” is composed, much less created. What sort of mental dichotomy leads one to be equally enthusiastic in making rhythmic barrage of noise and samples on one end, and the neo-goth brilliance of a song like “With Conviction” (infact a few places reflect the experimentation of euro-BM bands as they expanded their wings). It all ends with the alternately haunting and bitter sweet strain of “1+0=10”. Highly recommended for anyone claiming to be into avant garde music.

 

 

ACHENAR * Super Death Explosion Kittens

 

Disturbed technocratic metal distortion caught in a system malfunction. Not completely unrelated to ZWEIZZ’ stabby bizarrotronic headfucks; breakcore, drill&bass, IDM whatever – messed-up electronica vested in a metallic foundation; all sounds simulating metal riffs are born digital. And, which was weird for me, not shying away from humour. Perhaps not my cup of tea all the time, but the self-irony and distance is refreshing!

Surprising evolutions into almost symphonic territories on the last track (which makes up 1/4 of the release), worthy of Emperor or similar (the use of French horn brings many associations), but never leaving behind the utterly programmed and electronic spheres that are the bases of this little album. Massive harmonies, the only moment of breath in this cluster.

And it’s short too, merely 20 minutes, which is good since I probably wouldn’t be able to cope much longer. I mean, it’s good, but my tolerance level for these spastic programmed drums and all-digital riffs isn’t high enough to be able to enjoy more of it. But it’s still very nice this headfuck. And despite being almost completely computer-generated, it has a flow and feel to it that electronic music often seem to lack.

 

AENAON * Phenomenon

 

This mini-album received quite a lot of praise since its release and in fact AENAON from Greece demonstrate a more than solid potential with their skill- and powerful interpretation of modern Norwegian extreme metal. Norwegian? Yes, the south European quintet (nowadays quartet) doesn’t hide its influences of post-anthem Emperor and the likes – but maybe within that detail is the devil…

Nothing extraordinarily bad can be written about this recording in a balanced review: okay, the production lacks some fundamental power and is not on the same quality level as the music, but all songs offer a nice collection of riffs, a strong rhythm section, graspable vokills and good arrangements, on top the fourth song “Navel” is a small hit with its catchy melody line and the combination of fierce and clean vocals. Without doubt a song strong like this would add some quality to most of the free magazine samplers, which means nothing else that AENAON are able to place themselves above “standard extreme metal” paradoxity.

I can only recommend to go further in that direction – and to take over the conceptual criticism on the own musical agenda. AENAON cite Democritus, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, and in this context they state that “defying the knowledge that was offered to us by certain individuals, men chose to follow lies, created by jealousy”. That’s an idea which offers much room for exploration, hopefully as well in regard to the music, because if anything is yet missing, it’s something which makes “Phenomenon” really outstanding. With their debut the Greek have drawn a bow from the ancient philosophy on their local doorstep to nowadays metal, the question is how far and where they will shoot their arrows next time?

 

AENAON  * Extance

Extance. Is it an outward existence, or an ecstatic entity possesed by rapturous delight? Why not both? With their sophomore album, the Greek progressive black ensemble AENAON have set out to expand the boundaries of the black metal genre by putting together different and diverse styles such as alt rock, jazz and blues within its traditional structures, all on a sophisticated, conceived manner. Extance is an introspective look that sets for consideration, a statement that simulates the question of individual’s self awareness in eleven parts.

‘The First Art’ is created in minor, subdued piano chords . A dark yet diffusing introductory track which serves as a beffiting link to the ‘Deathtrip Chronicles’ that is up next. The vocals are but uncontrolled rapids that forcefully mark the beginning of ‘Extance’. Constant changes, ranging from one string, palm-muted riffs to the driving pulse of quickly strummed chords, intense but infallible in sequence. The song’s middle section briefly unfolds the jazzy nature of the band, the saxophone parts are succeeded by the haunting melodies of the lead guitar and of course the complex riffs that lead us back to the original flow of the piece. ‘Grau Diva’, which follows, is the most straight-up song of the album in terms of composition, delineated by continuous and aggressive riffing, which is enhanced by desperate, chaotic screams. An ode to duality and the sexual confused status of the human substance, this diva is finally lead to her ecstatic climax. The work done in orchestration is stunning , all the changes are extremely attentive and despite the numerous layers of instruments and effects used, nothing seems overloaded or excessive. Everything comes through clearly, the transitions are seamless and the music remains very cohesive. Also worth mentioning is the very focused performance of the clean vocals and solos, something that AENAON seem to have perfected in Extance.

Further down the record, ‘Der Müde Tod’ is truly rampaging. Featuring the most traditional and unfiltered black metal elements ever found on an AENAON song, though there is much more than that. The transitions are ever-changing and surprising as to what this band is truly capable of, showcasing different sides of the same beast. AENAON’s out of the ordinary take on black metal, is exactly what one could expect upon a band bearing the progressive black metal tag. Their prominent artistic approach is cannot be overlooked, the band draws influence from arts in generally whether it’s classical european cinema or visuals. ‘Closer to Scaffold’ is a rugged trail in emotional fluctuations between insanity and death. The course of the song reaches anthemic proportions, especially it’s chorus that feels enormous as if it’s a desperate , resisting shout before the very last step into the scaffold. There some distinctive DODHEIMSGARD sperms spotted here, as in ‘Deathtrip Chronicles’. The vast experimentalism and avant-thinking defines the album as a whole, it defines AEANAON’s identity as a whole. The majority of guitar parts sound dark and grandiose, offering themselves as main parts or bridges between all the stylistic changes. The efficient blend of synths, saxophone, bluesy guitar solos and acoustic strums accopanied by blast beat discharges are further proof that AENAON have finally stabilized their sound perspectives. After the eccentric ‘Land of no Water’, that features SIGH’s Mirai Kawasima as a guest vocalist, yet another interlude is introduced. I find the use of those intervening pieces pretty much needed in records so heavy on information,as it lets the album breathe and the listener digest the music better.

 

 

Back to the album now, ‘Funeral Blues’ appears as yet another surprise to an already multi-faceted album. This album is weighted by the sensational vocal delivery of Tanya who has imprinted and interpreted her parts with every ounce of herself. The singer of fellow Greek’s UNIVERSE217 is in perfect tie with Astrous’ own harsh screams that cover this highly theatrical totality, which is comprised of sounds and emotions rather than actors, this is definitely one of the most deep and interesting songs on the album. Last part of Extance is ‘Palindrome’, a recurrence of events, of sounds, of emotions. Quite a progressive venture that exceeds the 12 minute mark in duration. The song’s midpoint bears extensively the OPETH influence with delicate acoustic parts and laid down drum beats, then it gradually builds up to a heavier outbreak as the complex chord structures are introduced creating an epic climax that winds down yet suddenly return to the chaos soonly after.

In brief, Extance incorporates varying degrees of black metal, from little to pervasive, it is masterfully executed and represents a clear sign of progression, despite the musical norms and constrictions of the black metal genre. An amalgam of bold ideas, an avant garde constitution. Besides the band’s influences, this albums determines AENAON’S own sound, and that is a perfectly healthy musical schizophrenia as the band itself states. 2014 is offering some exceptional releases from early on, definately a must listen.

 

AGALLOCH  * The Mantle

Dissonance, over the top and complex time changes, arpeggioing galore and dull atmosphere is everything this album is NOT about. In the face of continuous depletion of ideas, many bands try to serve their listeners a crazy cocktail of a billion genres and do not care about an actual musical and atmospherical concept. It is hence with great joy that I listened to the bands debut Pale Folklore, an astonishingly dense piece of work with an atmosphere so thick you thought you’d need a chainsaw to keep the trees growing out of your speakers at bay!

Most bands would have played it safe while recording the follow up to a critically aclaimed album but Agalloch stepped up their game and served us this amazing album known to us humans under the name of The Mantle. I use this formulation because I find it hard to believe that this piece of genius could have been written without any sort of supernatural intervention and indeed, if one considers nature as a divinity itself it all makes much more sense as to where the inspiration for these amazing tunes dwells from. It is hard to explain because the thing about this album is that its range of atmospheres can set the listener in many different moods and feelings. They all seem to surround the theme of movement, with or without destination (the lyrics suggest that the destination might be consolation from failed love) though. Hints to this are found for example in the walking sounds of “The Lodge”. The slow pace of the song suggests that progress is moderate though. In addition, the songs are all characterized by a general drive that is mainly created by the acoustic or distorted guitar chords and gentle drums supported by the lofty and sublime vocals of John Haughm who is using his clean vocals a lot more now which is another strong point of this album. His voice carries the songs on a completely new level and I feel that the timing for the harsh vocals is not as unfortunate as it was the case on some songs on Pale Folklore.

Agalloch created a masterpiece. The spectrum of emotions it can unlock within you is just too vast and no review in this world could do it justice. But trust me when I say that this unique mix of doom/rock riffs, acoustic guitars, beautiful vocal and instrumental melodies, delightful usage of bells and horns and many other devices, create a sonic journey you are not likely to forget anytime soon!

 

AGALLOCH * Ashes Against The Grain

 

With four years since their last release (not to include a few hard to get EP’s) this album sees them return reinvigorated and moving forward almost as if no time had passed. To a certain extent this album picks up where their previous efforts left off. By taking the blackened folk-metal from their first full length “Pale Folklore” and mixing it with the more acoustic oriented “The Mantle” this album is a perfect illustration of what exactly Agalloch is musically.

The greatest disparity between this release and its predecessors lay in the mixing and mastering of the album. The guitars continue, as before, their interplay creating the musical foundation of the album, both mournful and uplifting. With the distorted guitars coming across slightly heavier and more omnipresent in the mix, while the acoustics intertwine within and without to make up an overall full and fluid sound. However, the real strength of this recording derives from the driving power of the bass and drums that carry each song forward with a forcefulness of purpose (instrumental interludes excluded, of course). The bass being very low in frequency, but well mixed, provides this album with its heaviness and wall of sound, not completely found on the two previous full length releases.

The black metal vocals are brought to the fore on much of this album, their raspy style giving it forcefulness and a smattering of angst while still keeping the overall mood of melancholia in its entirety. The clean vocals are again used to great effect, interweaving emotional emphasis into each sorrowful and exultant piece that one finds throughout this tapestry .

This is an example of a band maturing without a loss of identity. A band who possesses an individualistic identity in an industry and world which is becoming more a vacuum for musical individuality and personality every day.

If you have not yet heard this band (one wonders why) then this would be a great place to start. For those of you who have heard their previous efforts and do not yet own this, then by all means what are you waiting for, you will not be disappointed.AGALLOCH * Pale Folklore

When the gentle strike upon a guitar chord sounds more like a gentle brise of air, that caresses the branches of naked trees, and images of man-forsaken woods and lakes are projected in your mind, then there is only one album we can talk about: Agallochs masterpiece of musical escapism Pale Folklore!

The journey into natural paradises of undescribable and miraculous beauty already begins when you lie your sight upon the album cover which shows nothing more but the surface of a plank of wood with the band name written on it by using trees, branches and roots. The tracklist is also held in a quite ornamental style of writing. Upon holding your copy in your hands, the smell of wood resin on a warm and sunny day in autumn will crawl into your nose and awake a sense of addiction that can only be satisfied through thorough consumption of the music. However that consumption shall be one of all your senses at the same time. Sure your ears will be pleased by the gentle, discrete and effective drum patterns and the catchy acoustic melodies and chords but it is only when you involve all your senses that listening to this album will be like a holiday for you which you spent with taking long walks through enchanted forests and up and down some little hills whose assimilations of mist is taken off by a swiftly rising sun.

It is only by involving all your senses that you will feel an uplifting sensation of calm and peace as the etheral melodies and monumental arrangements of “The Misshapen Steed” will cast their spells of enchantment upon your stressed body and soul, that the fast paced “Hallmans Of Enchanted Ebony” will make you want to discover yet unexplored territories, while the lofty and angelic vocals in “As Embers Dress The Sky” will create a sensation of just letting go for a while from all that could be a heavy weight upon your shoulders. Relax, and do not sob and get into “The Melancholy Spirit” since you can always press the play button as often as you wish to send your soul on this wonderful journey over and over again… isn’t life great?

 

 

AGE OF SILENCE  * Acceleration

Back in 2005 life was absent within avantgarde metal. DHG and KorovaKill missing in action, Arcturus and Solefald were turning repetitious and dull, and Carl-Michael was in a coma. Along to save the day came the recently formed super-group Age of Silence (I despise that term, but with members from Solefald/Borknagar, Tulus, Winds and Arcturus, you have to live with it), releasing their debut Acceleration to resurrect the defiance of the Norwegian Avantgarde. I hoped. Did they live up to these unrealistic expectations? Well, no. Not really. Not at all, actually. At first, I was rather disappointed and disillusioned (this is important stuff to me, you know), but soon I came to realise what this album and band was really about: a nice little one-off (two-off, they later released the EP Complications – Trilogy of Intricacy) thematic sideproject, to let off some creative steam.

Seven of these ten tracks are crafted by keyboard equilibrist Andy Winter, whom we know from Winds. As always when he is around, the keys are in focus. Many classical influences abound; Griegesque romanticism, modernistic dissonance and more traditional symphonics crowded with some thrown in proggy solos, circus tunes, and fancy brass & reed-sections. All on a fat carpet of mid-paced, rocky metal; surprisingly groovy, definitely to work in a live setting. I particularly enjoy the sweet hints of folk music in the riffs, which feel quite rare when the lyrics concern such modern topics. However, this is as close to a formulaic AGM release you can get, without completely watering out the sound and approach of the great not-so-dissonant Norwegians we love (i.e., the bands mentioned above). But it’s OK if they just do it once. Like this.

The lyrics are written and sung by Lazare (except the neofolky track 8). Well-written and lengthy pieces about a civilisation where materialism, bureaucracy, and the quest for little green bills have overrun emotions, humanity and generally positive stuff. There is always another floor to reach on our rush up the structures of concrete and glass. In the middle there is an invisible company, D. Inc, a sinister entity whom we owe nothing less than our lives (it’s not yours! you lease it!). It’s labyrinthine, inhuman and unreachable management owes much to Franz Kafka’s urban nightmares (read “The Castle”). All hope is lost, as even the resistance movement sells out (kids in a cathedral, dancing to the DJ Nick-A; an analogy to the extreme metal movement, led by Old Nick, the Devil Himself?). A simple and used theme, but very striking, at times touching deep. Lazare’s vocal capabilities are not used efficiently at all, keeping the melodies disappointingly simple and repetitive, but that actually suites the narrative nature of the lyrics.

Acceleration is not the revolution I was, and still am, waiting for, but all in all a nice little piece of metal and plastic. By the way, did I mention that Hellhammer plays here? Well, he does.

 

 

 

 

AGHORA * Aghora

For some odd reason, my brain could never conceive why the principles of far eastern philosophy have never, or rarely, been the source of inspiration of some of the greatest metal albums ever released. I always found it surprising since some of rock ‘n rolls greatest rooted in the 60s hippie scene who took great interest in the wisdom of taoism, buddhism, and especially hinduism.

I suppose that many artists found it easier to find inspiration in the realms of drug consumption which is totally ok since it provided many precious moments in music history. They tend to have the negative externality of taking their toll on the musicians we love though.

And then there are persons like Santiago Dobles, a Berklee School of Music graduate, practicioner of body and soul balancing exercises ranging from qi gong to yoga and mastermind behind Florida based jazz metal prodigy Aghora. Those of you who know about the Aghori know that there can’t be a better name for a metal band that seem to find part of its inspiration in the ancient sanskrits, since the Aghori are also refered of being religious anarchists.

The Aghori are a hindu sect which worships Lord Shiva, the ultimate deity in Hinduism. The Aghori distinct themselves by an unusual approach to the theme of duality, which for them, doesn’t exist. In essence, their beliefs boil down to two points: First, the gods are perfect. Second, the gods are responsible for everything. Hence, everything that exists is perfect. The Aghori even find beauty and perfection in such actions as consuming excrements, cannibalism and other things which the common occidental inhabitant would consider being disturbing and sick.

I have no idea how hard or easy it is to digest any sort of backdoor releases but as far as the band is concerned: the only thing I find hard to come by here is to select the right words that will make you understand that you need to order this album right now!

It is with a crushing in-your-face style riff that “Immortal Bliss” kicks in the door to a domain of yet unheard soundscapes. The nine songs containing tracklist will take you on a journey through neckbreaking complex, syncapated rythmic riffs (“Immortal Bliss”, “Satya”), driven by a powerful and epic bass lines, up to exalted jazzy parts (“Frames”, “Jivatma”) consisting of wonderful guitar melodies, some oriental folk instrumentation, subtle pianos and Danishta Rivero’s beautiful vocal lines that underline a yearning for the answers to our most fundamental philosophical questions. I must stress here that I am glad to hear a women on the microphone that manages to give her vocals a sopranic injection without sounding gothic. Her voice also joins in the numerous oriental intervals which is an appliance I am particularly fond of.

This album lives of everything it is built up upon. Every element has a prominent spot in the sound. I wish more bands would understand that each instrument is part of the whole and that only a balanced equilibrium between all of them will provide the listener with the most pleasant sonic experience possible. It might be far fetched but it wouldn’t surprise me if Dobles said that this is one of the goals he wishes to put into effect with this band since he knows that only a balance between the energies flowing in our body leave us in good health. He sure found a good balance in the production of this album.

I can only pronounce my deep respect for this complete work of art. And those of you who are not interested in the whole concept: if you want to know what Sean Malone and Sean Reinert where up to, among others, before reuniting Cynic, then this is for you too. Namaste.

 

 

AGHORA  * Formless

 

The first time that “Formless” collided with my ear drums I can’t say I was impressed. As I listened the first time through the album I even reached the state of occasional disappointment and thought to myself: “There it is, the first negative review I’ll have to write for avantgarde-metal.com.” But by the time I listened to all the songs I began wondering: Did the band have a creative drain by replacing the rhythmic section? Did Santiago Dobles invest so much creativity in “Aghora” that he had no more to offer? How come that seven long years aren’t enough to replenish your ressources? And how does that work with all the mind and body balancing activities he goes after with great dedication? Aren’t those supposed to bring out more and more creativity? I concluded for myself that the answers lie in front of me and that I have to listen to this quite a few times before making my final personal judgement about it.

My perseverance was well rewarded! How the songs differ from the debut album can be best read in my interview with Santiago Dobles himself.

I was quite surprised to hear that the metal dose has been noticably raised on this one! Don’t let the Intro make a fool of you. “Aghora” started with a crunchy riff while “Formless” initiates its listener to the beating that is to come by gentle psychedelic, indian tunes that will give you a truly wrong impression of the pace of the upcoming journey. It’s not like the songs are now completely built around the concept of acoustic mass destruction but there is so much more of it now that I wondered where the calm interludes went to and when I will be allowed to breath. Well there are just better hidden and distributed in a manner that gives the song a stronger live edge.

I mainly liked “Aghora” fort the epic blasting like in “Satya”. Now I got a whole lot more of it, but at first it sounded simpler to my ears which has unsettled me a bit. That impression was quickly dissipated by the time I lent the harmonies more attention and enjoyed the fact that the vocals were given more room to expand and carry the song in a more angelic manner.

All in all I advise anyone who doesn’t enjoy this album by its first listening to spend some time on it. Otherwise you are on your way to prive yourself of a truly enjoyable and fascinating album. Let’s hope that it won’t take another seven years for the band in order to assemble the next, hopefully just as great, album.

 

AKERCOCKE  * Choronzon

What distinguishes Akercocke from other bands in the mystery region of blending enemy-metal-genres is the highly meticulous and detailed aesthetics of their music. A successful combination of black metal riffs with death metal guitars, for instance. No other band combining two foreign worlds, has managed to create a whole new approach: a well-designed aesthetic scroll of their very own.
This aesthetic charter defined from the surface to the deep bottom – start from the visual side, the sight of men in black suits, their hot-red eyes lurking behind sun-glasses. Oh-so-elegant those men are. The ultimate proof that even Satan-worshipers can have a style that your grandmother would like. I must admit that even when they shove naked women to highlight the booklet, it looked somehow classy, though I reject that chauvinistic attitude, not to mention that I rather overlook the satanic manner that governs their ethos, just to treat it as a research of the dark side of mankind.

Back to aesthetics, lesson two – the production is so clear, so clean, that one can hear every string attached, every bit on the drums, even Jason Mendonca’s throat getting ready for another vocal bombing. Much like Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt, Mendonca have a star down his mouth – infernal growls, high shrieks and crystal-like clean vocals. David Gray’s drumming is quite stunning – intense and complicated, combining naturally death metal techniques and black metal velocity and feel. All true regarding the guitar work, which is innovative through this delicate turf of borders that cannot easily be crossed. There’s even a slight touch of keyboards, which give the majestic feeling, but not on the account of the aggression and brutality.
Many bands have tried their share of the peace-talks between death metal and black metal. Few of them succeeded. But it seems that Akercocke brought it to another level and signed the peace treaty. In just one song, there appears a vary of fast passages between death metal to black metal and the outcome is so natural, that one might believe that the rivalry between the genres has never existed. The guitars can sounds at one part like lying on the Florida- or even Brighton beach. In the next part, they can talk like walking the snow fields of Norway. In between, appears haunting ethereal solos, carving chills and oriental samples, bringing yet again the east to the United Kingdom. Moreover, the band’s melodic sense is just wonderful. During the listening I could easily bear the name of some riffs to be the absolute manifestation of metal, and what I love in it.

The album lacks one main root, as it’s consisting on the verge of changing again and again the moods of aggression and ambience, all rather black and dark. Hence, the musicianship is varied, presenting the band as vast-rooted, but with explicit vision of create something new from the existing material. Though the chosen ethos, the album delivers a strong spiritual feeling, in the well-written lyrics and in the general atmosphere, hacking and tackling.
The song which represents itself in the best manner in the Akercocke repertoire is “Leviathan”, a wicked mix of aggression and magic: a blend of clean, brutal and blurred guitars, all shine to the point of perfect sound, wrapped in clever and complex arrangements and tight performing, leads to the pure enjoyment from the ecstasy of music, when a malicious smile rule your face. Satan has won.

 

AKERCOCKE  * Antichrist

 still remember that fateful day in 2003 when I stumbled on Cannibal Corpse’s “Shredded Humans.” My uninitiated ears now experienced music that debunked the facade of the “extreme” and “frightening” nu-metal music I was into. THIS was scary music. Forget about Disturbed, Cannibal Corpse was actually disturbing. Though not an initial convert, I eventually came to understand and embrace the world of extreme metal. Although, being the fine-standing Catholic boy that I was, I still found myself staying away from the heavily anti-Christian bands. No inverted crosses on the cover or in the band’s logo! That was my rule. It was during this era of my music taste that I happened upon British musical extremists Akercocke. Let me tell you, it was like “Shredded Humans” all over again…it freaked me the hell out.

Well, 15 year old Catholics aren’t necessarily Akercocke’s target demographic. But even at the time, I knew there was something interesting just below the possessed shrieks and disturbing atmosphere. Maybe it was the sincerity with which they presented their ideologies. A profound embrace of earthly pleasures with the simultaneous defiance of God’s existence, heavy shit for me at the time. Well-dressed and groomed, the band members just seemed to have a presence and an authority about them. They didn’t have to scream in your face to grab your attention (although they had no qualms in doing so!).

Good music is good music though and I could only avert my god-fearing eyes for so long. Antichrist had just been released, so I decided to check that out. My return to Akercocke ended up being a crucial step in crafting my taste in music. Not only had I discovered what would become one of my favorite bands but also ended up broadening my musical horizons in the process. The experimentation throughout the work at once proved the true versatility of heavy metal. Literally every sound on the album is unique. The decidedly ritualistic and Middle-Eastern music offerings like “Distant Fires Reflect In The Eyes Of Satan” and “The Promise” and the brilliant pairing of acoustic guitar with blast beats in “Axiom” are really only the tip of the iceberg with Antichrist. Akercocke has that depth only few bands can ever hope to achieve. After two years of spinning this album, I still pick up on fantastic sounds that were hidden from me.

I’ve tried to label them. A death metal Rush. A more sinister and experimental Opeth. They really have no peers in the music they create. To generalize them as death/black metal, as I’ve seen done many times, is truly a disservice to Akercocke. Their unique sound along with their continued ability and expressed belief in experimentation from album to album really sets them apart as one of the few true progressive metal bands around today. Though I failed to understand as a 15 year old, I’ve now been baptized in the beauty of their music. Have you? Heed the orders within “The Promise”: “Draw near. Partake of this altar.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HAXANS “Party Monsters ” GOTHIC POP / HARD ROCK — TENATIVE —

Infernäl Majesty “NO GOD” 2017 HEAVY METAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR — INTERNATIONAL

Torture Squad “Far Beyond Existence” Brazil National ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Edge of Paradise “Alive” HARD ROCK / HEAVY METAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Margarita Monet 2017 KICK ASS METAL PERSON OF THE YEAR INTERNATIONAL

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Internet made its debut on April 15th, 1995 , considering how bad of a joke the webZines have been for 22 years with Metal-Archives being the worst….1980’s Metal traditional metal fans know to read only fanzines from the specialized press of each subgenre. I always get asked how I obtained my album collection of the last 50 years classical music collecting in 1967 as I inherited my Grandparents and Parents classical music collection and my heavy metal collection since August 1st, 1978. ….I was the readership of the following publications. …..KICK ASS Magazine….a journalist poser holocaust (He really called it that) …Then when it folded I went to …Metal Forces from 1987 until Ill-literature Magazine happened in 1988, but became a 1990’s metal magazine in 1991 @ the same time I became a reader of Sounds of Death which later became Anvil Magazine, back to Sounds of Death now Death Metal on Arrival magazine. In 1997 the Godly Snakepit Heavy Metal France Publication, was born in Germany in 1997 but I was issues # 6, where Laurent Ramadier took over, there was a print Magazine in 1995 called Metal Maidens and that is a excellent publication they have a webzine only these days. With all the pioneering work done by Ill-Literature, this paved the way for 3 publications who are highly influenced by that legendary publication, Sonic Cathedral debuting in 2001, which filled the void left by Ill-Literature and KICK ASS METAL and Avant-Garde Metal Print Edition’s which I joined on July 27th, 2007, that publication is the real successor to Ill-Literature, and I rated Avant-Garde Metal webzine and print edition as the greatest metal publication of all-time!!  20 of the greatest journalist writing in the same direction as writers…..they have been inactive since 2015 but for 10 years they did more for heavy metal than the other 7000 fanzines combined. Ill-Literature was a thrash metal magazine staring in 1988 but as that genre was about to die, a violent death, via bands selling out by 1985/1987 and finally all except a handful by 1991, the writing was on the wall of the upcoming Gothic Metal-age —  Death Metal-age —- Avant-Garde Metal-age and Ill Literature pioneered the way for ever one from Metal Maidens/Sonic Cathedral/Avant Garde Metal to KICK ASS METAL, and many more….that publication is the core the main glue that holds all the Golden Ages of Heavy Metal together

 

I have below a interview from a metal webzine, that deals with Ill-literature and since this webZine deals with the top 100 artist and top 100 albums of each year/decade/quarter century/century and I have a hall of fame for each album, and the artist in our case the World-Class Vocalist….we similar to Metal Maidens and Sonic Cathedral in that we are a female fronted metal publication, but since this is a gothic /Avant-Garde publication I focus on the legendary beauty and the beast configurations, and since each article are like chapters of a book, we qualify to save articles for posterity, in the interest of heavy metal history on a educational basis…so all the articles save here are for educational purposes I have been a heavy metal fan since 1978 for 40 years , and I will survive 99.0 of the publications who’s articles are saved for posterity, just like what happened from April 15th, 1995 to July 27th, 2007 I have outlasted NorskSvartMetall webzine, and tons of others….so below is the interview of the middle part of the history of the death metal-age/ gothic metal-age/ avant-garde metal -age, keep in mind Ill-literature is the original, KICK ASS METAL and AVANT GARDE METAL webZine and Print Editions, are the successor publications to Ill Literature, because this is where KICK ASS METAL and Avant Garde Metal got the idea to have a Coal Chamber review next to a Deicide write up next to a Nightwish CD review.

 

Like Marco….  I lived in Las Vegas from birth/ 1967 to 1987…… (I have 3 residences, so I live in Las Vegas in the summertime during the odd years 1991,1993…)…..he got his first taste of metal @ the Underground Record Store on Twain Road….see interview…, and I got my first taste of metal only record stores @ Molten Metal Records, because he went to Bishop Gorman High School at its original location,  and I lived a 3 minute walk from Molten Metal Records on West Sahara and South Valley View, which was the area for James Cashman Junior High School,  Torrey Pines Junior High School, Bonanza High School, Clark High School and Las Vegas Western High School. But The Greatest Record Shoppe in Heavy Metal Only was the Record Gallery which had two locations the main one being on Maryland Parkway….. which was strictly a metal only record shoppe and everything was screened for originality and quality control, the best record shopped in America from the late 1970’s to its demise in the 1990’s, I ran in punk rock and EPIC METAL circles, so I went to different concerts in the Las Vegas Area, and I might of walked passed him a few times at the Record Gallery, which I shopped there religiously through all of high school since the owner was up on Bay Area Thrash and wayyyyyyyyyyy smarter that the dudes who work at Molten Metal Records, who were metal experts on the NWOBHM/ Power Metal side of things !!!!

 

The Indelible mark of Ill-literature is stamped allover this page and my other main influence Avant-Garde Metal WebZine and Print Editions….the Gothic Age-age/ Avant Garde Metal-age/ Death Metal -age publication-era started with Ill-literature and make its trajectory towards Avant-Garde Metal, and the whole vibe, idea, and concept of KICK ASS METAL is equal parts Ill-Literature / Avant-Garde Metal WebZine and Print Editions, and a secret ingredient of THE EPIC METAL magazine called Steel Conjuring…and the GODLY Sounds of Death !!!!!!!!!!!! I read the best of the best in the specialized presses, skim the top for the upper 1%, and always find the successors to the most important predeccessors of each ground-breaking albums and legendary artist !!!!! For the internet I only read Sonic Cathedaral/ MetalMaidens/ AvantGarde Metal webZine and Print Editions, and time to time VoicesFromTheDarkside webZine, only because they had a print edition, during the golden age of death metal !!!!

 

I wrote to and saw Marco Barbieri a lot way back in the print days of my zine and would see him in CA when we would go to the Concrete Foundations Conventions and he also did No Glam Fags and ILL Literature zines and then moved on to Metal Blade Records and then Century Media Records and now is he doing his own label and managing bands. This man will never stop. I re connected with him on Facebook and hooked up with him with a simply amazing interview so sit down and pop in a double CD and read this awesome interview:
 I know you lived in CA when we were writing each other back and forth in the stone age. Did you grow up in CA when you were younger and what do you remember about your days as a child? Were you a good little boy he he?
MB: I was actually born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. I left Vegas in 1987 to go to college in California. I had a good childhood, and yes I was actually quite a good boy. I’m an only child and my parents are from Europe, so my upbringing was a bit different but in hindsight I liked being exposed to the different cultures. Las Vegas was much smaller then, a mix between a gambling town, a cowboy town and a small town. I actually miss those simpler times.
Did you have many friends when you were young or more of a loner? What kind of student were you in school and did you ever go to college?
MB: I had a few good friends, and ironically still know most of them, but I’d say I was a loner. Being an only child you have to sort of entertain yourself and be imaginative. I loved to read, draw and listen to music growing up. I was actually pretty good at school, and when I was in high school I realized I didn’t have the patience or talent to learn an instrument, and I’m a bit shy too, so I realized being good academically I could maybe help those more gifted and outgoing by helping promote their bands.
 When did you start to get into music? Who introduced you into music and what were some of the first bands that you listened to?
MB: My mom always had music playing in the house and she had a record collection that I used to marvel at, despite it being but a yard wide. Granted, her musical tastes were different with a lot of classical, opera, crooners, European folk music but I still liked to pull the albums out and look at them. When I was in the second grade (1977) I was discussing comic books with a friend of mine and he told me about KISS. He said they were like super heroes that also played music and the next day he brought in a picture of the band. Shortly after I made my mom take me to the store and we picked up Alive II and my life changed overnight. It was all about KISS for awhile, but in the couple years that followed I also got albums from Aerosmith, Ted Nugent, Angel, Rush, Black Sabbath and the Bee Gees.
At what point did you discover the wonderful world of metal. What were some bands that your ears heard early on and you were into it right away or did that sort of music have to grow on you? Now some of the early bands that you listened to and became a fan of are you still into those bands today?
MB: Continuing on from the answer to the previous questions those
bands took me through the late ‘70s. When I was in 6th grade, John Lennon was shot and then I really got into The Beatles. Also, a friend of mine’s older cousin relocated from Minnesota and was staying with his family. He turned us onto a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s classic rock, like The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult, David Bowie, etc. so I was really into that for about a year. When I was in Junior High School I noticed the concert tees some of the older kids were wearing like Judas Priest, Ozzy, so I started getting into all those early ’80s bands and picking up Circus and Hit Parader magazine and hitting the record store on a weekly basis getting records from the above plus Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard, Van Halen, Saxon, etc. I was just all over the heavy metal genre basically trying to pick up every album possible. And yes, I’m into all of the same stuff to this day, even the Bee Gees (ha,ha).
 Now how did you end up discovering the underground side of metal. What were some of the first bands that you heard and was it like a dug that you wanted more and more of?
MB: Naturally I began to get ravenous about each and every band and finding out about the next ones on the horizon and craving more information and more obscure, indie stuff. I started writing bands, getting fanzines and living close to Los Angeles my family would go out there a few times a year and I would pick up the weekly entertainment papers and there would be all these smaller bands playing the clubs and being advertised – some made it, some didn’t. Also going to Europe to visit family allowed for picking up European metal magazines and more obscure, heavy metal titles or comps that featured bands like Anvil, Metallica, Venom, Raven, Mercyful Fate, etc. and it just grew from there.
MC: Did you go to see many concerts at all at this point? Did you like seeing bands live a lot? What were some of the venues you went to and were you more into seeing bands in a big arena or did you prefer club settings?
MB: Growing up in Las Vegas didn’t provide a lot of opportunities. The clubs were 21+ and I went to my first arena show on April 1, 1983 seeing my favorite band KISS on the Creatures of the Night tour, with Motley Crue (Too Fast For Love-era). Amazing! I also saw bands like Black Sabbath, Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden, Ozzy in those high school years. My first local club show was seeing Hirax. I tried to see Slayer and Dark Angel on their first albums when they came out to Vegas but the all-ages club was called Dirty Mama’s so (ha) my mom wouldn’t let me go, plus I was a bit young. Obviously after I moved to California I saw a ton of shows.
 Now Mtv began exploding the early 80’s. Were you a big fan of the channel at all and what did you think of Headbanger’s Ball ha ha and did you ever watch it?
MB: We didn’t have cable tv growing up so I had to go to a friend’s to see any of the metal videos that were played during that time. When Headbangers Ball started I’d ask friends to tape it for me so I could borrow the video tape and check out the videos. Naturally I preferred the heavier stuff they randomly played like Nuclear Assault, Sacred Reich, Sepultura. Yeah, I liked it. I was happy, also, when they brought it back a few years ago but yet again it’s gone.
 Did you ever think of being a musician and if you did what instrument would you have played?
MB: Naturally I fantasized about that and considered singing for a band or learning to play guitar or drums but I never put in the time necessary and it just didn’t seem like I had that gift. As I stated earlier, though, I was good at school and felt I could have a career helping those more gifted than I was so I pursued that direction, working behind the curtains so to say. I’m actually thankful for the direction I took as I’ve been able to enjoy multiple careers and genre shifts, which musicians often times can’t weather.
MC: When you hear a song for the 1st time what do you listen for?
I guess I like to get an emotional connection to a song. Naturally if it’s catchy and infectious or has some cool parts it’ll also stand out. Maybe some unbelievable playing.
MC: Was there any local bands around the early 80’s that you became a fan of and started going to their shows? What were some of the clubs that you went to see live bands?
MB: Living in Las Vegas the scene was small but yes, there were some bands I liked in high school. As I mentioned before most club shows were 21+ so I missed a lot of bands perform here but that doesn’t stop young kids from throwing their own gigs in the desert with a generator, which is how I saw most of the underground bands and locals. Some of the local bands I liked were Papsmear, Pestilence (LV, later The Horde of Torment), Fallacy, 5150, The Atomic Gods, Lethal Injection, Little Sister, Xcursion, Substance D and Area 51.
Was there any cool local stores that stocked metal releases? If so are any of the stores still open? Are you a fan of vinyl and cassettes or do you prefer cds? What do you think of MP3 files as well?
MB: Yes, thankfully we had a couple good stores here. First there was The Underground, which was just up the street from my junior high. It was essentially a used record store that had a good punk section and some metal. When I was in high school there was The Record Gallery, which was a specialty metal store and I would go every week and pick up the latest releases and imports. They also hosted a weekly metal radio show on the university station, KUNV, that I would listen to and that would turn me on to new bands. Unfortunately, both stores closed long ago. Nowadays in Las Vegas your best bet is Zia Records that have two locations and stock new and used and have a pretty good metal section. Traditionally I preferred vinyl, but nowadays I buy CDs – just cheaper and easier to take with you and play in the car, which is where most of my listening happens. MP3s are great and easy to access versus waiting for a package in the mail but I don’t illegally download MP3 files. I want the actual physical product and still spend about $100 a week at Zia, Amazon, or an underground metal distro to fill my habit. I also understand how this supports the bands, stores/distros, labels and will ensure the continued availability of music.
 Did you ever manage to travel up to the Bay Area and see some shows? If so what were some of the bands that you saw and were the shows as wild as I have heard? What did you think of bands like Metallica, Motorhead and Exodus the first time you saw them? Did you ever get a chance to visit The Record Vault in SF, CA?
MB: I lived just outside the Bay Area between Aug. 1987 – Dec. 1990, as I attended the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California for college studying music business. I used to go to Bay Area shows all the time and became friends with a lot of bands. I was there during some of the best years of that scene and highly value that time and those memories. That’s also where I started managing bands (The Horde of Torment and Epidemic), booking shows, and started my fanzine. I used to always go to The Stone and The Omni, as well as some other spots like Gilman Street, The Berkeley Square and One Step Beyond. I saw a ton of shows in those years, and as far as locals I witnessed Vio-lence, Forbidden, Exodus, Mordred, Heathen, Autopsy, Sadus, Hexx, Testament, Laaz Rockit, Ulysses Siren, Bacchus, Demented, Kaos, Annihilation, Slambodians, and so many other great bands. The first time I saw Metallica was in Las Vegas when they opened for Ozzy on their Master of Puppets tour. No one there really knew who they were and me and my best friend were freaking out, headbanging and thrashing about going crazy. I first got turned on to them via a European compilations album with the track “Motorbreath”. I saw Motorhead for the first time on the Orgasmatron tour when they opened for Alice Cooper. That show was ironically at my university and I worked for the concert crew that day and helped build the stage, carry in all the lighting and gear for that show and then later enjoyed the concert. And the first time I saw Exodus was at the Fillmore in San Francisco on the Pleasures of the Flesh tour. I was so excited and bought tickets the morning they went on sale so we got first row center. Within minutes of Exodus’ set the first few rows of seats had been demolished. Finally, yes, I did get to go to The Record Vault in SF a few times.
When did you discover the wonderful world of demo tapes? Did you buy your first demo directly from a band at a show or did you order through the mail or get it at a record store? Do you remember the name of the band?
MB: I got turned onto demos probably from Metal Forces magazine. I started writing bands while in high school and ordering their demo tapes. I can’t recall exactly which was my first but some early ones I got were Legacy (later Testament), Annihilation and Quickchange. I mainly got my demos through the mail, I only picked up a couple through stores.
MC: Did you tape trade much at all? If you did around how many people did you trade with and did you end up discovering many bands that you liked that you would not have heard of otherwise?
MB: I did get into tape trading when I was in college. I was getting quite a collection of demos and was living around the Bay Area and doing my zine and wanted to share and get more tapes, especially from Europe or other parts of the US. I loved tape trading and writing letters to people and bands, even though it was all very time-consuming. I got a lot of great trades in those years. I mainly traded with about 4-5 guys. I sought out bands I heard good things about or early or live recordings of signed, recognized bands. Sometimes someone would include something they wanted to share as a bonus and try and turn me onto a band. I would naturally do the same.
 Now how did you end up discovering the world of fanzines? Did you buy one directly from an editor or did you order one or get one at a store? Do you remember the name of the first zine that you brought?
MB: I think the first true zine I picked up, not a Metal Forces, Metal Hammer or Kerrang!, was World Metal Report and Sledgehammer Press from The Record Gallery store.
 What made you decide to start up your own fanzine? Did you do any writing for other zines before you started your own? Looking back do you think you were a pretty good writer? What were some early zines that you read that you really liked?
MB: I loved magazines/fanzines and reading about metal. When I was in college and managing Pestilnce (LV, later The Horde of Torment) I sent their demo out to a lot of zines to get reviews and zines would hit me up requesting a demo. My whole world opened up and one night in my dorm room I was thinking, I could do this, this could be fun and that was the start of No Glam Fags. The only thing I had done prior was I wrote a piece about the Las Vegas scene for Creem Metal magazine. Every issue they would focus on one local scene so I wrote asking if I could do one on Vegas with some writing samples from school and they commissioned me to do the article, which I wrote and turned in. Unfortunately, the mag went under before my piece ran. I did think I was a pretty decent writer and felt I had a wealth of knowledge and an opinion on metal that I wanted to share with the readers. Later I got asked by other zines if they could reprint some of the interviews I did, which I always agreed to, as well as writing for mags like Metal Maniacs, Raygun, Screamer, Rox, and Huh. I liked a bunch of zines in its heyday, in addition to Metal-core, I liked Metal Meltdown, Morbid, Ripping Headaches, Curious Goods, Metal Curse, Eclipse, Comedy of Errors, Atmosfear, Doomhauled, Manic Reaction, Isten, Feh, Stay Ugly, Grey Matter, Necropolis, Midwest Metal, Requiem, Thornado… there were so many good ones.
MC: How did you come up with the name “No Glam Fags” and did you ever get any shit over it? How long did it take before coming with the idea to do a zine until it actually came out? How many copies did you print up and around how much did it cost you and did you sell out of the issue pretty quickly?
MB:I did get some shit over it and I lot of people didn’t understand the concept, especially in the San Francisco area (ha,ha) but I chose it because it was bold, funny and I felt that glam bands received enough attention in the supermarket mags like Metal Edge, Rip, Circus, and Hit Parader and I wanted to focus on bands unlike that. A lot of people assume that I didn’t like glam but I’ll be honest – I do like a lot of that stuff but it was doing well without any further attention from me and I wanted to do interviews and reviews on underground, heavier bands. The first issue came together pretty quickly. It was only like 12 pages and I sold it for $1 at shows. I reviewed stuff from my personal collection and did some interviews with bands like Sacred Reich, that I knew. I photocopied 30 and when I sold through them, I made another 30, and another 30 until it was time to release issue #2. Each issue got thicker and the font got smaller as I had more and more to cover as more bands and labels would send me their stuff for review and ask me to do interviews. I think I printed a little over 100 of issue #1 and maybe a few hundred of issue #2, and it continued to increase. Ultimately it was too many to photocopy and by issue 4 I went to a printer for 2000 copies and some of the biggest issues had a print run of 20,000 issues. I did shorten the name to NGF along the way (issue #6), as it was no longer as funny with glam dying down and in order to get it stocked in more stores and newsstands I ultimately changed the name to Ill Literature for issue #8 and adopted the full color glossy cover and more pro look.
 What was in the first issue? Was it pretty much a few band interviews and some demo and record reviews?
MB: Yes, that’s exactly what is was. I think there was 3 interviews – Sacred Reich, Pestilence (LV) and maybe Hexx? Then there were just CD and demo reviews from my personal collection and some live reviews. Unfortunately I can’t find a copy. I know I have one around here somewhere. It came together quickly.
MC: How many issues did you end up putting out? Did you circulation grow with each issue? Were labels starting to send you promos after the first issue and also were bands sending you demos to get reviewed as well? How did you try to promote the zine?
MB: I put out 22 issues. I ultimately stopped as it was becoming such a burden to do, remember I had a full-time job too, and the Internet was beginning to come into play and magazines sales were decreasing. When my wife got pregnant I ultimately decided to trade one baby for the other. I promoted the zine by trading ads, lots of underground flyers, reviews, and just getting good distribution via a bunch of newsstands, bookstores, music stores and metal distros.
MC: Did you make up flyers for the zine and have them passed around the underground like every other fanzine and band was doing at the time? Did any bands from overseas send you stuff?
MB: I did make up flyers advertising the zine and included them in zine orders, demo orders and to my tape trading buddies. I also traded ad space with other zines. Yes, I definitely received a lot of music in the mail from overseas. The first was Thanatos (Netherlands), Headcrasher (Italy) or Poltergeist (Switzerland) as they’re all reviewed in issue #2. Speaking of the second issue it already jumped up to 40 pages from 12.
MC: I know at some point you managed a band and they were called The Horde of Torment if I am not mistaken. How did you come to manage them and did you know what you were doing as far as managing a band? How long did this last with them for and how much music did they end up putting out and did they just break up or did you at some point terminate your relationship with them and do you still have contact with them and do you still have their material tucked away somewhere?
MB: I was going to college for music business. When I came home to Las Vegas for the holidays I went over to The Record Gallery and they had this demo there from a local Vegas band, Pestilence. I had just read a good review a week prior in Kerrang! for the demo so I bought a copy. I loved it! I thought it was great, so I reached out to the band and expressed my enthusiasm and told them a bit about myself and how I was in the Bay Area and studying music business and was hoping to work for labels when I got out of school. I said maybe I could help them get a show in SF or Oakland and that I could spread their demos out to some other bands and fans there. It just sort of rolled from there and before long I was managing the band and doing their promotion. Eventually the guys moved up to The Bay Area, changed their name to The Horde of Torment (due to the Dutch band getting signed to Roadrunner) and they played a ton of shows all over the Bay Area and released a couple more demos, Product of a Sick Mind and Inherit the Sin. They had their demos pressed onto vinyl in Europe by a couple small labels, but we never got that elusive record deal. The Horde of Torment had some interest from Roadrunner and Combat and we had some discussions with each but never got offered a deal. Eventually the band began to fall apart, the scene was changing and I had moved to Los Angeles. I’ve kept in contact with the guys ever since and we’re still friends. A couple of them moved back to Vegas so we see each other now and then. We talk about issuing their demos onto CD so I hope that will happen by the end of the year.
MC: Did you manage any other bands besides them? Why do you think they never got signed by a label and what were some of the bands that they played with any would you ever like to see their stuff re-issued on CD?
MB: By managing The Horde of Torment I was able to apply some of the things I was learning in college and I was able to network with club promoters, bands, labels, zines, radio shows, etc. Despite being unsigned The Horde of Torment did very well in the underground and we sold a lot of demos, got a lot of underground zine press and played a ton of high-profile shows. A few other Bay Area demo acts asked for my help and ultimately I began working with Epidemic. They had sent me their first demo, Immortal Minority, for review and I really liked it. I got friendlier with the band and saw their explosive live show. After recording Demo ’89 I started to also manage them. I did the same things – booked shows, did promotions, sent demos to zines and radio shows and tried to secure a record label. Epidemic recorded a demo in ’91, called Extremities. By this time they were more active than The Horde of Torment and they had a more aggressive sound, which is the direction the scene was going with death metal gaining more interest. Metal Blade offered the band a deal and they recorded two albums, Decameron and Exit Paradise, and did some tours with Suffocation, Malevolent Creation and Unleashed. It was a difficult time, though, as the scene was completely death metal by then and a band from the bay area that still had some thrashy elements was not in vogue and they ultimately decided to throw in the towel. Just like The Horde of Torment, I am still friends with most of the members and we keep in touch. We just worked on a demo reissue package, Pandemic, released on Dive Bomb Records. It contains all 3 demos remastered by Jamie King and includes a nice booklet with lyrics, photos and show flyers. Since returning to Las Vegas 5 years ago I have started managing bands again and in that time I’ve worked with Warbringer (Century Media), Bonded by Blood (Earache), Pathology (Victory), Abigail Williams (Candlelight) and Decrepit Birth (Nuclear Blast).
MC: How many issues of No Glam Fags did you end up putting out? What were some of your favorite interviews that you did? Did you do any horrible interviews where the bands wasn’t into it all?
MB: I did 22 issues in about 11 years. Not the timeliest magazine, but it’s difficult when you’re doing it all yourself – that includes most of the writing, as well as I did the layouts for most of the issues and all of the correspondence, shipping, business, accounting, promotion, etc. Some of my favorite interviews were Autopsy, Death, Sepultura, Vio-lence, Celtic Frost, Morbid Angel, Dark Tranquillity, Paradise Lost, Cemetary, Entombed, Black Sabbath, Cathedral, Kreator, Cannibal Corpse, Iron Maiden, COC, Broken Hope, Thought Industry, My Dying Bride, Emperor, Judas Priest, Dio, Slayer, Marduk, and Impaled Nazarene to name a few. It was always cool to spend some time with your heroes and to do some interviews in-person like I got to attend a Slayer rehearsal and interview the whole band beforehand, I did the interview with Bruce Dickinson over breakfast at a small, private airport and Rob Halford was one-on-one in his hotel room. All were very special. It’s also cool to be early on championing certain bands and help get the word spread. I usually tried to cover some standout demos bands in some of the earlier issues like Sindrome, Kinetic Dissent, Confessor, Dark Tranquillity, for example.
MC: Now at some point you changed the name of the zine and went with a color cover, etc. What led to you coming up with this decision? How did you come up with the name Ill Literature? What was your circulation with this new zine? Where did you get the mag printed and around how much was each issue costing you to print? Around how much time were you putting into putting each issue out and how many other writers did you have helping you put together an issue? Were you still doing the flyer thing through the mail still?
MB: Yeah, I touched on some of this earlier. I was enjoying doing the zine, there was a demand and each issue was selling more and more copies and I was getting better and better distribution. I decided a name change was necessary to take the next step. Like I said, the name was shortened to NGF for two issues and glam was dead and the statement behind the original name was just no longer funny and relevant for the time and I wanted the zine to be taken more seriously. I considered a ton of names and looked at a bunch of song titles but in the end I decided on Ill Literature. I wanted something that was a play on words but wasn’t so cliché and wasn’t genre-defined (which was probably a mistake in hindsight). With the name change I also went to a color cover and newsprint interior. I got that idea from Flipside, maybe even Maximum Rock ‘n Roll. I printed them in Los Angeles; newsprint was cheap so I could jump up to 5,000-10,000 copies without spending much more. I think I was paying about $1 per issue. I tried to be more aggressive and got some national bookstore and record store chains to carry it, and got a newsstand distributor (versus me just going to local newsstands). As circulation grew to 15,000-20,000 I tried to be more aggressive getting advertising and eventually traded in the newsprint for glossy paper and more and more color inside. That got expensive and also made the mags heavier but I was trying to compete with some of the bigger mags but I was unable to do so with my sporadic print schedule. It was also getting too big to just do as a hobby on the side, as I was working full-time at Century Media, and a bit of a conflict of interest. I was sinking a lot of money into it and I started to see my sales decline and my distribution decrease and distributors and advertisers were having trouble paying. I was ultimately happy to let it go and pleased that mags like Decibel, Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles, Unrestrained, Terrorizer were all doing a great job covering the scene and getting the word out. Sadly a couple of those no longer exist, but their back issues still rule.
MC: How many issues did you end up releasing and what led to you deciding to stop doing the zine? When you put out your last issue did you know that it was going to be your last issue? Are there any extra copies lying around somewhere of either zine? When you look back what are some of your favorite memories as far as doing a zine?
MB: I really questioned doing the last couple issues and I knew going into the last that was it, especially with our baby on the way. I do miss it at times, as it’s cool to give your opinion on things or to really champion a new band you like and aim to get more people turned onto them. I also enjoyed speaking to band members and picking their brains for interviews. I have toyed with the idea of starting a small zine again just for the spirit and to cover bands I personally really like and am interested to know more about and to help spread the awareness but it just seems like there is so little interest nowadays with so much available for free on the Internet. I do have some back issues that I’d love to sell off so if anyone is interested please email me – salemrosemusic@aol.com
MC: How much mail were you getting every day? Did at some point were you amazed at how much mail you were getting and how much stuff you were getting to review?
MB: I received mail every day, either orders, or music for review. It was great in the beginning, especially when labels started sending stuff and when packages and orders arrived from overseas. After a while it was a burden as I just couldn’t keep up.
MC: What great shows were you getting to see at this time? Did you go to any or most of those Concrete Marketing Conventions out in CA? Did you manage to get to go see any of the Milwaukee Metalfests?
MB: I saw a lot of great shows in the Bay Area while going to college and even more when I moved to Los Angeles. I did attend the Concrete Marketing Foundations Forum events. Those were great in the beginning. The first couple I attended while in school, and later went as a Metal Blade or Century Media representative. It was cool how everyone traveled in and hung out for 3 days over the weekend listening to the panels during the day and seeing bands showcase and perform, as well as a fair share of partying going on. Those were very good times indeed. I also attended several Milwaukee Metalfests. Those were great too in the beginning as it was the mecca of metal and people would travel in from all over the country. As more fests sprouted up it watered down the impact Milwaukee made but I still have good memories of attending those. I was also able to attend some European festivals too while working at Century Media, such as Dynamo, Wacken and Keep It True Fests.
MC: Who is your favorite band and why are they your favorite band? What is your favorite release by a band and why is it your favorite release?
MB: My favorite band would have to be KISS. They were the first band I was really exposed to and I just loved them and they’ve had such an impact on me. Some other standouts include Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Dio, Led Zeppelin, Rush, Scorpions, Def Leppard, Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax, Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Vio-lence, Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, Death, Morbid Angel, Entombed, Carcass, Obituary, I could go on and on…
Favorite release is tough to narrow down, and I doubt I can take the chump way and say Alive II or We Sold Our Souls for Rock ‘n Roll (ha,ha).
MC: OK now onto another phase of your story ha ha. How did you end up getting a job at Metal Blade Records? Now were you still doing the zine when you worked there? Did putting the zine out help you land a job there? Did you contact them or did they contact you? Did the thought of working at a label intrigue you?
MB: My goal was always to work for labels. I grew up on Metal Blade and worshipped the label, and was also a fan of Combat, Noise, Megaforce at the time. Anything with one of those logos was purchased without question. I was finishing up my college degree, doing the zine and managing the two bands. I was speaking to labels, like Metal Blade, about promo stuff, as well as trying to get The Horde of Torment or Epidemic signed. The senior publicist at Metal Blade was offered a job from a major label at one of the Foundation Forum conventions. Jim Filiault was her assistant and he told me she might be leaving and hoping he might move up. I expressed my interest in being his assistant and to keep me in mind. At the time he was unsure if she would accept and what impact it would have on his job. In the end, Metal Blade decided to make Jim the new national publicity guy and was seeking a new assistant so I officially threw my hat into the ring for consideration and was given the chance to interview with Metal Blade President, Mike Faley, while I was off from school during Thanksgiving break. I was so excited and so nervous. It took awhile for them to make a decision but ultimately I was offered the job and started on Jan. 3, 1991. The only issue was I still had a semester of college to do but luckily it was just GE classes so I worked at Metal Blade and went to UC Northridge at night and on the weekends to complete my requirements and graduate with my UOP class that spring. It was great, and I learned a ton and met a lot of people. I stayed at Metal Blade for 5 years and worked my way through the ranks adding A+R to my title about 6 months in, and when Jim left the company to go to Law School in 1994 I was made the National Publicity guy, and was able to hire my own assistant, Matt Bower.
MC: What was your first job there and what was it like walking into their offices for the first time? What was it like meeting Brian Slagel and Mike Varney for the 1st time? About how big was their office and how many people were working their at the time?
MB: It was amazing, especially being such a big fan. At the time they had a nice office on Ventura Blvd in Sherman Oaks and you’d take the elevator up and there was a reception area and then a long hallway to get to the actual offices. I started in a shared cubicle clipping press and talking to fanzines but in time I had the cube to myself and eventually my own office. I remember the first time I met Brian I was overwhelmed. I remember I’d have a question a day about a classic album or band he released. I think at first he liked my excitement but after a bit it became annoying. (Ha, ha). Brian wasn’t always there and didn’t work closely with the staff. He more presented the idea, goals, bands and we’d have to come up with the plans and details on how to develop the group, gain opportunities and exposure and sell records. I was there is some tough years as the glory ‘80s was gone and metal became a bad word in the ‘90s so sales and interest dried up and everyone was a bit lost as to the direction of things. When I started there was over 20 people working there but as the scene diminished a lot of the extra staff were let go and not replaced so we had about a dozen. We worked some cool bands in those years, such as Cannibal Corpse, Gwar, Atheist, Fates Warning, Armored Saint, Paradise Lost, Anacrusis, Mercyful Fate, Grip Inc. and the Goo Goo Dolls. I did meet Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records fame a few times, mainly at Foundations Forum and I recall we had a meeting of some label reps that he was there. Seemed like a good, fun character.
MC: How long did you end up working there any what are some of your favorite memories of working their? Around how many hours were you putting in there at any given week? When you weren’t there did you just want to get away from metal music at all?
MB: I worked at Metal Blade for 5 years. At the end it just wasn’t as much fun and I didn’t see any further room for growth. I was at a loss as to what new ideas to bring to another Gwar, Cannibal Corpse, Fates Warning album cycle. I worked full-time 5 days a week and usually put in about an hour or 2 of unpaid overtime, in addition to all the shows I had to attend. I never wanted to get away from metal – I loved it and if I didn’t go to a show I’d usually go home to work on the zine or to listen to and read about metal. I was fortunate, I saw a lot of my co-workers completely burnout on metal but despite all my years in the business I have retained my love for the style.
MC: Now if I am not mistaken you were doing publicity there at one point. Now how hard was it for you to have to work and promote a band that you weren’t into at all? What were some of the bands that you did publicity for?
MB: I did do publicity for my entire tenure at Metal Blade. I liked to talk about the bands and get people excited to check them out and hopefully cover them via a review or interview. I think I was very good at my job. Generally I liked most of the stuff we released, but I also understood I had a job to do and sometimes you needed to hype or champion bands that I may not have liked so much. You just try to find the redeeming quality each release had and try and promote those points. I worked a lot of records in those years that were hard to work and different from what Metal Blade was known for, some examples include Ignorance, Johnny Law, Scat Opera, Mouth, Beats The Hell Out of Me, Libido Boyz, Rapscallion, Junk Monkeys, not all were bad bands just harder to work.
MC: How did you end up going from publicity to doing some A/R work there? What bands did you have a hand in signing? Was there any bands that you liked and brought to the label’s attention, but got turned down and they were on to become big? Takes me through the steps of what it is to be an A/R guy and how a band would end up getting signed to Metal Blade? Are you at all surprised that Metal Blade is still around?
MB: About 6 months in, Brian asked me to help listen to the demos that were being sent in. I think he saw my passion and my knowledge about metal and knew of my opinions through the zine. I listened to everything and passed along the tapes that stood out. As time went on I started reaching out to bands to get their material, meeting up with bands, as well as initial negotiations if we were interested in doing a deal. I also had to take care of the day-to-day for several smaller bands and help them make the albums, pick producers, studios, artwork, get a booking agent, land tours, etc. That felt natural as it was an extension of my management days, and I could use what I learned in college. I signed a number of acts to Metal Blade, such as Broken Hope, Desultory, Decoryah, Skrew, Ancient, and Paradise Lost. There were several I brought to the label that Brian just didn’t care for or we couldn’t work out the deal, including Morbid Angel, Non-Fiction, Biohazard, Autopsy, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Moonspell, Immortal, and Enslaved. Usually the process would begin with a demo submission, or more likely by the time a band is ready to be signed there would be a lot of underground zine press or a strong regional buzz due to their live performances and local promotion. Back then we had bands on tour looking for bands, promoters, record store employees as people we could get opinions about a local area band. There was no Internet, no youtube, no easy way to send music or video files aside from the mail. We’d express interest and start conversations and if still interested we’d send a short one-page deal memo outlining the basic deal points. If agreed we’d have our lawyer send out a formal longform contract for further review/negotiation and ultimately signature. I’m not surprised Metal Blade is still around. They had some tough times again after I left but they’ve been able to make a strong comeback, especially when they went after and released newer bands like As I Lay Dying, Black Dahlia Murder, Unearth, as well as develop European bands like Amon Amarth and have continued to develop bands and branch out musically. They continue to be a powerhouse and I am glad that I was a part of the company’s history.
MC: Give me your thoughts and opinions on the following labels: Combat, Noise, Roadracer, Megaforce, Earache, Wild Rags, New Renaissance.
MB: Combat – One of the labels that I really admired when I was in high school. Anything with a Combat logo was an essential purpose — Exodus, Megadeth, Nuclear Assault, Death, Dark Angel, Possessed, Agnostic Front, Crumbsuckers, Agent Steel, Heathen, Blind Illusion, Forced Entry, etc. I loved thrash metal and Combat was pretty much specializing in that. I was sad to see the label falter in the early ‘90s when they distanced themselves for the style they were known for and branched out too far as Relativity Records. The resurrection of the Combat brand a few years back was a joke, with lackluster bands of a wrong style.
Noise – Another classic. Noise was there early on and had some of the greatest signings and really helped expose the world to a lot of quality German/Swiss metal – Kreator, Helloween, Celtic Frost, Coroner, Rage, Grave Digger, Tankard, Running Wild, Deathrow and even international bands like Finland’s Stratovarius, Canada’s Voivod, England’s Sabbat and from the US Watchtower, Mordred and Virgin Steele. It was great while I was working at Century Media that we were able to take on the Noise catalog and we worked that label and reissue a lot of great albums and work the company. Its owner Karl Walterbach is a really cool guy, although I’m surprised meeting him that he was into and able to sign such cutting edge heavy stuff as it’s totally not his persona (at least not now). They too lost their direction in the ‘90s and ‘00s and lost some of the greats and in the US focused on trying to get into the nu metal game with a run of non-exciting domestic signings (Mind Heavy Mustard, Face of Anger, Pissing Razors, Manhole/Tura Satana, etc). We were encouraged by Karl to work that stuff as he wanted to compete with what was happening at the major label heavy acts but ultimately we were able to convince him that the true fans of metal and Noise Records wanted real metal so the pendulum swung back that way towards the end and he saw the renewed interest in his catalog but ultimately he sold off the company to Sanctuary Records.
Roadracer. Roadrunner has been established in Europe for some time and distributed/licensed a lot of stuff in the early- to mid-eighties but didn’t open up shop here until about 1987 with the release of King Diamond, Whiplash and Carnivore. I dug all of those records and became a supporter of the label. Obviously they really took control of the scene in the ‘90s especially with death metal and such greats as Sepultura, Obituary, Malevolent Creation, Suffocation, Decide. I was surprised they turned their back on that style and really adopted a more potentially mainstream direction, but unlike most of the other metal labels it worked for them and there were a lot of standouts (Last Crack, Life of Agony, Type O Negative, Biohazard, Fear Factory, Machine Head, Slipknot, Nickelback, etc) and Roadrunner’s success helped other labels like Metal Blade and Century Media.
Megaforce – another great one in the mid-eighties that could barely do no wrong and issued classics from Anthrax, Metallica, Raven, Exciter, Overkill. They had more of the northeast vibe versus the west coast labels. Unfortunately, success brought the aim for commercialism and they turned their backs too on the more thrashy stuff in favor of something more commercially appealing but nothing really broke through (Hotel Hunger, Frehley’s Comet, Prophet) ultimately leading to the demise of the label.
Earache – made a huge impact in the early ‘90s and changed the scene. Earache was unstoppable in those early days and there is no denying great records from Napalm Death, Entombed, Carcass, Confessor, Godflesh, Morbid Angel, Cathedral, Nocturnus, etc. Again, the same problem, with major label connections and the necessity to broaden their scope the label lost direction by moving into techno, nu metal, etc. They also screwed over a lot of key, cornerstone bands who didn’t want to re-sign to the label and opted to go elsewhere. While they still have problems promoting and distributing bands they have gone back to being a pure metal label and have good A+R. I like how they were integral in bringing back thrash with their Thrashing Like a Maniac comp and the signing of Municipal Waste and Bonded By Blood, as well as promoting traditional heavy metal with bands like White Wizzard, Cauldron. Or just other cool shit like Hour of 13, Woods of Ypres. I like their bluesy rock band, Rival Sons too.
Wild Rags – I liked Richard and enjoyed making the trip down to his store. He didn’t have the best business practices but he was doing his part to help the local and underground scene. Not really a fan of his releases but it was an outlet for some bands to get further recognition for the demos and self-financed recordings.
New Renaissance – Fairly hit and miss label run by Hellion vocalist Ann Boleyn. This was pretty second-rate compared to the premiere metal labels and the art and production was inferior. I believe all of the releases the bands paid for themselves but New Renaissance would market and distribute. There were a few cool records to note, Dream Death, Blood Feast, Post Mortem, Executioner, Medieval, Deadly Blessing, At War, Anvil Bitch being some. I know she tried a couple times to make another go of it but it’s never really gotten out of the gate again.
MC: Did you have anything to do with Death Records, which was a part of Metal Blade?
MB: Death Records was done by the time I got to Metal Blade in ’91. Ironically Death Records was a hardcore/crossover imprint and early releases by DRI, COC, Beyond Possession, Ugly Americans, School of Violence, Angkor Wat was on the Death sub-label. We continued to get a lot of questions about the label and when death metal became the new “in” thing discussion was made about using that as a sub-label again, I think the Death logo may have been on a couple releases in the mid-90s?
MC: What are some bands that you are surprised that never “made it” or that never got signed by a label?
MB: I loved the old way of developing a band. It allowed time for the band to make a story for themselves and pay some dues before issuing an album. There were a lot of great demos that showed a lot of promise and I would have expected greater things from Sindrome, Stygian, Aftermath, Kinetic Dissent, Confessor, Potential Threat, Exmortis…
MC: So after you left Metal Blade what did you end up doing with yourself? Did you get out of the music business for awhile?
MB: Ha, ha… no. I left Metal Blade on a Friday and Monday started at Century Media. I began there as a publicist in Sept. 1995 and a few months later started running the label. I did that for 12 years. It was an amazing time and it was fantastic to take a step back, a lot of people thought I was crazy to leave Metal Blade to go to a smaller, developing label like Century Media. I wondered too, but I believed in the roster and the ideas and ambitions of the owners and I thought there were some great people on staff. It took a year or two to sort out a lot of things as they were in a bad spot financially and didn’t have the know-how to develop bands here but with my leadership and experience we really get the label on the right direction and it just grew and grew, we started a massive mail-order business, and developed some great bands that did some great things and sold a lot of records along the way. We also began working with labels like Noise, Nuclear Blast, Inside Out, Olympic and taking them under our umbrella and started to work and make those label profitable. Unfortunately my last couple years were no longer as much fun. The label got so big and I had to deal with a lot of H.R. and legal/business issues and not so much on the creative, marketing, music development side. Also, the business was changing and I was sad to see chains like Tower, Virgin, Warehouse, etc closing down. I felt the writing was on the wall so I decided to leave the business. Things also changed after my son was born in 2002 and he was going to start Kindergarten in 2007 and L.A. wasn’t the best place to raise a kid so we decided to move back to Las Vegas, be closer to my parents and have him start school here. I decided to get into something I believed to be more logical and got into real estate, property management, commercial development, investing, the stock market. (Ha, ha.) Talk about the writing on the wall. Shortly after moving to Vegas in 2007 the whole economy crashed and it’s been a struggle dealing in that business the past 5 years. I was hoping it would be gravy but it’s been tough, especially in Nevada with the highest unemployment and rate of foreclosures but I’ve been forced to learn a lot dealing with the challenges and appreciate that it’s all worked out. In the meantime, it’s difficult to give up the metal as it’s what I’ve known, loved and done for so long. I wanted to go cold turkey and just be a fan but Century Media kept me onboard for awhile and helped with some reissues, greatest hits and DVD packages. Also a lot of bands and labels approached for help so I’ve done some management, publishing, shopping, consulting deals so I still feel involved in the scene.
MC: Now recently we have re-connected so to speak and you are now managing or working with a band called Blessed Curse, who I am a big fan of. How did you end working with them and tell me about this label your working for or with now? How bands are on the label now? How do you plan on going out and promoting the band?
MB: After returning to Las Vegas I met up with a lot of old friends, including some of the guys who used to be in Papsmear, which was a local thrash metal demo band I loved when I was in high school. We discussed the idea of reissuing their demos so I started up M-Theory Audio as an imprint to help them get that collection of remastered demos, along with a bonus DVD of 3 live shows out. A couple years went by and I was working with Blessed Curse (formerly Devastator) from Northern California on the music publishing side of things. The guys had recorded a full-length that I thought was killer and it was being issued outside of North America through Cyclone Empire. We couldn’t find a good home for it here so I decided to help them out and release it through M-Theory. I hope to reissue The Horde of Torment demos, and we’ll see what else the future holds. As far as the promotion, I’ve sent review copies to press, metal radio to help spread the word on the band and the guys are doing dates regionally all over the west coast. They’ve already done a couple west coast tours, one with Sacrificial Slaughter and the other with Apothesary. It’s understood it’s a small d.i.y. label and I’m just getting some distro through some underground mail-order distros and doing some consignment deals with shops in CA, NV and AZ. It’s also available to legally download at sites like itunes, amazon, rhapsody, emusic, etc.
MC: How did you come up with the name of the label and are you looking to sign other bands and is the label a full time thing for you?
MB: A friend of mine, Lance Swain, actually came up with it. He was talking about the theory of how the universe began, with the big bang – the m-theory. I liked the ring of it, and I liked the meaning behind the name and considering my first name begins with an M was also cool. No the label is far from a full-time thing and I have no intention in making it so. I enjoy doing it but it’s just a hobby. I’ve been asked many times over the years about starting a label and coming from companies like Metal Blade and Century Media it’s difficult to start something that can compete with those companies and the history and manpower they have. I’m just doing a one-man d.i.y. bedroom, underground label, which I’ve always liked as a fan.
MC: If you could sign any 5 bands which would they be, but 2 have to be underground type bands.
MB: Bearing what I stated above about my perspective on the label I will just go all-out fantasy for this question with no regards to money, time, etc and sign KISS, Metallica, Black Sabbath and since 2 have to be underground – Demon Lung and Desecrate (I’m assuming underground here means currently unsigned?).
MC: Now the music business has changed big time since the 80’s. How do you go about promoting this band? Do you feel like yours truly, that there is way too many bands and labels thus it makes it harder for a good or great band to get noticed?
MB: There are too many bands, too many labels, too many genres, too much history of recorded music to compete. It also takes a lot of time, money, leverage, connections, staff to properly promote an artist. Distribution is another essential, as is advertising. Like I said, at this time I am periodically on old demos reissues and maybe some developing acts that need a little more push to ideally get the attention of the bigger labels.
MC: What are some things you like to do when not doing music related things? Have you ever had a chance to go overseas and if you have where did you end up going and how did you see?
MB: Outside of all my music interests, I do have a regular day job in the Property Management field and I oversee over 500 apartments, in addition to some other investment opportunities. I also have a family – a wife and a 10-year-old son so I try and spend as much free time with each of them hanging out, working on homework, watching him play basketball, playing videogames. I like to watch TV, go to movies, read comic books. I do enjoy travelling and have driven all over the US and Canada. I have travelled outside the country and been to Mexico, Bahamas, Jamaica, Caribbean islands, all over Europe several times, Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, and I’ve toured Asia (Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines). While I’ve seen a bunch, there is still a lot more to see. I really like different cultures, religions, food, history and traveling brings all that together.
MC: What goals do you have with this new label you are working with and do you see yourself being involved with music one way or another for a long time to come?
MB: The label is not a priority for me. Of all the related music things I do the management and the working with Warbringer is my priority. I’ve worked with the guys for the last 5 years, we’ve done 5 records together and the band tours most of the year all around the world so coordinating making the albums (producer, studio, artist, photographer, video director, etc) to the promotions and all of the merch and touring is my most consuming music-related task nowadays. I can’t imagine music never being a part of my day. It’s what I love most and at the core is who I am and I have been a fanatic since 2nd grade – that’s 35 years ago. I hope there are always opportunities for me to be somehow active in the scene. I wouldn’t be surprised if I might someday go back to Los Angeles and work for a label again.
MC: Do you miss the day of fanzines and are you a fan or webzines?
MB: Yes, I definitely miss the days of the fanzines. I know it was a lot of work and money for the editors but I liked the honest commitment zines made to the scene and the network of development for a band. Sure this is a lot online but it’s easy for bands to manufacture hype. Naturally I like the price and immediacy of online news and reviews. I think people search now and only read about things they are already interested in, whereas with zines you’d read them cover to cover and learn about a lot of bands you’d never normally come across.
MC: Are you a big fan of social networking sites and how many people have you reconnected with many bands or people from back in the day? What do you think of You Tube?
MB: I do spend a good amount of time online daily and it’s a great way to get information quickly but I’m not a huge fan personally of all the social networking and b.s. comments that comes with all that. Naturally things like Facebook are great for immediate news and to find and reconnect with old friends and to easily keep family and friends aware of things going on in your life and vice versa. For a band these social media sites allow for a more personal connection with fans and it’s much easier and cheaper than mailing out bulk newsletters and personally writing back everyone a letter.
MC: What is your opinion on the following: thrash metal, death metal, black metal, hardcore, nu metal, and glam metal ha ha?
MB: Oh, I’m a big fan of metal across the board. Maybe of the above thrash would be my favorite of the sub-genres listed. I just like the pure speed and intensity, the aggression and the emotion, the crispness and crunch of the sound. Thrash also developed as I was getting into the underground scene so I really feel a part of that movement with bands like Metallica, Raven, Anvil, Exciter, Exodus and then as it blossomed with all the California, New York and German thrash bands and so on. I also lived in the Bay Area and went to a lot of thrash metal shows and witnessed that scene firsthand as bands like Vio-lence, Forbidden, Defiance, Mordred, etc were getting signed. I was sad to see the lack of interest in thrash metal as fans moved on but I understand everything is cyclical. I was excited by the young retro thrash bands that came into existence around 2006, especially in LA with Warbringer, Fueled By Fire, Merciless Death, Bonded By Blood and others like Municipal Waste on the east coast. I believe each brought their own take but the nostalgia, tongue-in-cheekiness of it waned thin after a bit and the more serious, like Warbringer, that have that influence but add in other inspirations is more exciting than just retreading the sound, even though it’s a good sound. I was also happy to see a resurgence of interest in some of the classic bands and some reformations. Obviously a few too many have joined that band wagon that didn’t even do well saleswise or weren’t musically appreciated the first time around but everyone wants to re-live their youth and hope for a second chance at success.
I liked a lot of the early death metal, like Sodom, Possessed, Impetigo, that sort of crossed over and then a bit later the band Death was the most pure and spawned followers like Autopsy and so many others in Florida, NY and Sweden. Death Metal was very exciting in the early nineties, especially with a lot of European influence from labels like Earache, Nuclear Blast, Peaceville. My top bands were Entombed, Obituary and Morbid Angel. Like every genre the danger of it got watered down and too many followed the trend and it lost its impact but some of that has since been weeded out. Again I like a lot of the retro, old-school death metal, especially out of Scandinavia or even Cali bands like Fatalist and Dethevokation that play that style.
Black metal, again I was into the originators at the time – Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer so it was cool when it circled back around in the mid-nineties and the way the international scene became exposed to it via the murders and church burnings was sensationalism at its best. While some of the uber necro or nationalist stuff is not my bag as I do like some good production, playing and full bands that can perform live I still like the genre. Naturally it hit a wall and I appreciated that some black metal bands took a chance and really pushed the limits and created some new terrain for themselves.
I do like a lot of hardcore and I enjoy the energy of the shows and the positivity of a lot of the music. My faves would be the NY bands Agnostic Front, Sick Of It All and Madball. I have a lot of hardcore in my collection but I don’t tend to reach for that as much as the metal. I also find that scene a bit shallow sometimes and I don’t like the overly tough guy angle and immensity of breakdowns that plagued the scene the past decade which replaced a lot of the songs of the classic bands listed simply for impact.
Nu metal would be by far by sub-genre of least interest. I enjoyed some of the crossover/alternative sounds of bands like Jane’s Addiction and Faith No More but how metal became so negative in the early nineties and so many turned their backs on the genre was tough and it all seemed to happen overnight with Nirvana. Again I liked some of the Seattle stuff like Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone, Soundgarden, Temple of the Dog and I like Stone Temple Pilots. I just hated how all thrash and classic metal was abandoned. I know the above aren’t true nu metal bands but these bands and that alternative mentality and the influence of rap ushered in bands like Korn, Deftones, Rage Against the Machine, System of a Down, Linkin Park, etc. Some of it I liked, some of it I can’t stand. I didn’t like the look and the attitude but I was happy that there was some heavy music being released at the time on a more mainstream level that attracted the attention of a new generation of fans and a lot of these bands were a gateway for these kids to get into more music and find out about heavier, underground bands or to explore the history and for that nu metal was good as it helped replenish the interest and give metal another boost. In hindsight musically I can’t stand a lot of this stuff, again so little depth to it and the whole dysfunctional, woe is me, negativity and ugliness of the lyrics and themes wasn’t my thing.
And finally you want my thoughts on glam. I explained earlier the ideology behind the name No Glam Fags but truth be told I personally liked a lot of it. I always liked the theatricality of hard rock/metal – the image, the stageshow and bands like Kiss, Alice Cooper and then later groups like Motley Crue, Wasp, Lizzy Borden was easy to appreciate. By being a fan of a lot of classic hard rock it was very logical that I would follow bands like Van Halen, Ozzy, Sabbath, Priest, and Maiden into LA bands like Ratt, Dokken, Great White, Poison, Guns ‘n Roses, Warrant, and so on. You also have to remember my close proximity to Los Angeles. I’ll come out and say I’m a big fan of a lot of that commercial glam/hard rock/hair metal – then and even very much today. Naturally I lost interest in that scene through the nineties as it was overdone and manufactured by major labels, MTV and rock radio and once grunge hit bands were dropped, broke up or completely lost their way making dark, down-tuned, grungy hard rock albums of which most were not very good. But as some of these bands realized they couldn’t compete and just went back to being nostalgia bands and embraced their roots it became fun again, especially as everything else was so negative, depressed and downtrodden with little to no image or show. For the most part none of the classic bands of the style have been able to make anything competitive with their early hits but I still like to go back and listen to those albums, as well as the more obscure ones like Pretty Boy Floyd, Icon, Heavy Pettin’, Wrathchild UK, Sweet Pain, Wildside, and so many more. I also like tracking down some of the demo bands from the time that didn’t get the chance to record proper albums. There have been some good new bands doing the style some justice, such as Reckless Love, Crucified Barbara, Crashdiet, Wildstreet and Mama Kin.