Monday, December 31, 2012

20 Best Concerts of 2012

Radical Discharge - Photo M. Spiro
Going back through my Google Calendar and my events list on Facebook caused so many concert memories to come rushing back from 2012. It looks as though I attended well over 60 music-related events this year—from large multi-day festivals to little bar shows. I even left the country for one show, something I have never done before. For another one, I took off from work in the middle of the week. Random.

Defining what qualifies as the "best" shows was difficult. Sometimes best meant that the show itself was great. Sometimes best meant that the venue or company I kept at the show was great. There were a few shows that were actually kind of bad for one reason but good for another. I tried to only list the ones that were both great musical events and also good times. I left out some very good ones, though.

Primitive Weapons - Photo by M. Spiro
Venue-wise I saw my first shows at Golden West and Rams Head OnStage and one of the last shows at Sonar before it imploded in upon itself. I spent the majority of my concert cash at shows at The Ottobar and Sonar. Hopefully the season pass I purchased to The Ottobar will be worth it. I also pray something decent is resurrected on the site of the old Sonar location. The Sidebar has added new lighting and I believe is in the process of upgrading their sound system, which together makes shows there more pleasurable. Some venues I did not visit at all this year. I did not see any shows at The Recher, Charm City Art Space, The Rock and Roll Hotel, The Howard Theatre or the 9:30 Club. Usually I go to the 9:30 Club a few times a year, but I was surprised to realize that I didn’t see a single show there in 2012! I hope to check out some new venues in 2013.

Here we go:

1. January 15 – Graveyard, Radio Moscow and Daniel Davies at Golden West, Baltimore. First show that I had seen at this restaurant that turns into a venue after 10 p.m. While the opener was nothing special, Radio Moscow and Graveyard were stellar. Also made some great new friends from the band Witch Hazel. Read previous write up here.

2. March 28 – Alcest, Deafheaven and Arbouretum at Golden West, Baltimore. Another great show at Golden West. Seeing Alcest was like witnessing some kind of black metal fairy tale unfold. More details on this show here.
Martyrdöd - Photo by M. Spiro

3. May 5 – Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude and Evoken at Rams Head Live, Baltimore. Every single one of these bands is amazing. Plus, I had a photo pass so was able to get up close for each band. Happy birthday to me.

Nergal (Behemoth) - Photo by M. Spiro
4. May 12 – All That Is Heavy 2 Fest at Mavericks Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with Blood Ceremony, Iron Man, Blizaro, Monobrow, Loviatar and Revelation. Since my husband is the drummer in Iron Man, it was kind of required that I tag along for this one. Hosted by Jennifer and Derek Bradshaw of the show Crossing Boredom on Ottawa’s radio station CKCU, this fest featured some of the best in Canadian and American doom. I fell in love with Blood Ceremony and Loviatar especially and I got to see some friends who live in the area who actually came out to the show! All around wonderful, it was a great time.

Young And In The Way - Photo by M. Spiro
5. May 22 – Meshuggah, Baroness and Decapitated at The Fillmore, Silver Spring. Meshuggah is always a life-changing experience. Pre-bus accident Baroness and Decapitated made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

6. May 24 to 27 – Maryland Deathfest X at Sonar, Baltimore. Highlights from this endurance festival of heavy metal included Agalloch, Absu, Negura Bunget, Hellbastard, the Devil’s Blood, Dragged Into Sunlight, Tsjuder, YOB, Demonical, Godflesh, Church of Misery and Ulcerate. What made this fest even more interesting was the fact that Hellbastard stayed with me for five days. FIVE DAYS! Friends for life.

7. June 2 – Marduk, 1349, Withered, Weapon and others at Sonar. There were a bunch of bands playing but I was most happy to see the ones I’ve listed here. Withered was a wonderful discovery, and I have never seen an entire room turn into mosh pit. Nowhere to run! Someone stomped on my foot and an attractive young man bought me a beer. Win!

The Temper Trap - Photo by M. Spiro
8. June 5 – The Temper Trap at Terminal 5 in New York City. This show was more for my daughter who loves this band but overall it remains one of my favorite concert memories of 2012. The Temper Trap are an intelligent pop band with great skills and a lot of energy. Opening bands were kind of funny and unmemorable but The Temper Trap erased all thoughts of them. Terminal 5 is a cool, spacious venue and you can see from everywhere, although we were right in the front. We had no problem walking back to our super cheap hotel on Times Square at 1 a.m. (about 1.3 miles) stopping halfway to eat a late meal at a diner. NYC is a pain in the ass to get to (we took the Megabus), but once you are there, it would be very VERY easy to never, ever leave.

9. July 4 – Black Breath, Martyrdöd, Enabler, Heaviness of the Load and others at Sonar. This show constituted my bachelorette party. (I got married July 7). I am aware that this is a very nontraditional event for a bachelorette party, but it was exactly what I wanted to do. I only had had two other official party members with me, but hearing the four bands I have listed above made for a perfect night. Someone even bought me a beer. Imagine that.
Dick Dale - Photo by M. Spiro

10. July 26 – Dick Dale at Rams Head on Stage, Annapolis, MD. Aside from the MDF four-day pass, this show was my most expensive. Why? I don’t know, because it was surf guitar legend Dick Dale and he might die soon? Maybe. He’s a wonderful performer, a bit of an egomaniac and definitely cranky when it gets past his bedtime, but I am glad I made the trip midweek to see him. I went alone (as I so often do) and sat at a table with strangers. Rams Head On Stage is an odd venue like that; they expect you to buy dinner, which I did. But I won’t regret seeing the man who perfected the tremolo guitar picking sound purloined by so many black metallers.

11. August 5 – Pilgrim, Primitive Weapons, Mares of Thrace at Ottobar (upstairs). Seeing bands upstairs at The Ottobar is a little weird. There is no stage and the bands are essentially in front of your face. But that just made the intensity of these three groups all the more visceral. Good times.

12. August 11–Ringworm, The Infamous ... Gehenna, Young And In the Way, Oathbreaker ILSA and Eddie Brock at The Ottobar. No year is complete without a significant hardcore show. I had only previously seen YAITW (in Raleigh NC at the DIVE bar in January), but I had listened to them all. Hardcore is so much better live and on recording.

Tyr - Photo by M. Spiro
13. September 21 – Korpiklaani, Tyr, Moonsorrow, Metsatöll and others at Empire. I hate traveling to Northern Virginia for a show but gladly did so for this line up. I even took off from work. Just an amazing collection of Viking folk metal and superior musicianship. Good friends in tow were icing on the cake.

14. Sept 22 – Iron Man, Wrath of Typhon, Witch Hazel and Jason Barker at Wilcoms Inn, Ijamsville, MD. Wilcoms Inn is like a roadhouse. It’s a little honkytonk. But the chemistry between these bands performing live together is undeniable. Pure energy and heavy metal love fest.

15. October 19 – Pig Destroyer, Ilsa, Necropsy, Royal Thunder and Wargames at The Ottobar. Royal Thunder was an odd addition to this show, but I fell in love with them. Ilsa sounded better than I’d ever heard them before and Pig Destroyer’s performance featured lots of interesting guest appearances. My heart was warmed.

16. October 20 – Sus Domesticus, Sloth Herder and Horde of the Eclipse at Fat Cat Tattoo, Chambersburg, PA. Would you care for some black metal in the cold, unheated basement of a tattoo studio in south central Pennsylvania? Yes, please.

Sus Domesticus - Photo M.Spiro
17. November 6 – Deicide, Strong Intention, Extermination Angel, Existentium (Alhazred), Visceral Violation, March to Victory, and True Unholy Death at The Ottobar. I could think of no better way to spend my night of avoiding election results. And I developed a wee crush on Steve Asheim. Drummers: why do I love them so much?

18. November 14 – Torche, Radical Discharge, Iron Man, and Passage Between at The Ottobar, Baltimore. People warned me that Torche put on a great live show. It was so great, in fact, that I had the wind knocked out of me as I was thrown to the ground in the mosh pit. But it’s all good, all very, very good.
Steve Asheim (Deicide) - Photo by M. Spiro

19. November 20 – Atriarch, Wolfnuke, Night Sins and Ophidian at The Sidebar, Baltimore. I am not sure what Night Sins was doing but the other three groups on this bill were speaking my language. I loved Wolfnuke already, was just getting into Atriarch and am looking forward to hearing more from Ophidian in the future.

20. December 15 – Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest at El Oasis, Baltimore. This was a great way to end 2012. See my full review of this show here.
Black Witchery and me. Happy New Year. Photo by some friendly guy who was standing there! 

Friday, December 28, 2012

20 Maryland Bands You Ought to Know

Radamanthys support! (Photo by Mary Spiro)
I am feeling pretty lazy today what with it being the end of the year and I am on vacation and not feeling 100 % metal for the last five weeks. However, I thought it would be a good thing to encourage you to get out there in 2013 and check out some of the talent we have here in the merry metal state of Maryland. Oh, I know it’s not all metal, but still, it should be.

I was going to write a nice little description of each band, you know, talk about the members and where they are from and what style they play. But again >lazy< so instead, I gave each group a semi-descriptive, sometimes sarcastic, categorization. I figure you can just click the link and check them out your own damn self. You will probably hate them.

But if you don’t hate them, go see these groups live because there really is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you did something to support your local music scene. Well maybe a nice plate of spaghetti is also satisfying. I think it’s lunch time.

Anyway, give a listen and give me some feedback. There are only 20 bands on this list, but there are many more groups out there. These are just some of the ones I saw and/or listened to this year that left an impression. Or in case of some of the live shows, they left a bruise.

1. We Lost the Map and are Now Being Threatened by Blackened Western Maryland Goatmen: Wolfnuke

2. Teased-up Blackened Death Thrash with Sunglasses Inside At Night: Extermination Angel 

3. The Band Formerly Known as Alhazred That Still Plays Technical Death Metal: Existentium

4. Completely (Un)Intentionally Instrumental: Balor’s Eye

5. Sir, You are a Scholar and A Gentleman: Radamanthys

6. I Can’t Believe Adam Jarvis Could Play This Slowly: Asthma Castle

7. Indie/Alterna-Rock Something-er-other That Mother Might Not Approve Of: On Standby 

8. Psyche-Doomy/Experimentally/ Jazz Rock That’s Way Too Cool For You: Whoarfrost

9. Too Young to Use Their Free Drink Tickets: Necropsy

10. Sludge Was Never Meant to Be This Hardcore: Sloth Herder

11. I’m Going to Slit My Wrists. No Wait. I’m Fine: Barbelith

12. Post Rock Sludge with That Fat (b)Ass: At The Graves 

13. Whee! I Took Too Much Meth: Witchhat

14. Our Beards Are Way Better Than Your Last Boyfriend’s: Arbouretum

15. All Death? No, just...: Part Death

16. We Like (the) Melvins and We Also Have Two Drummers: Heaviness of the Load

17. Robots, Aliens, Vikings and A Shared Fez: Admiral Browning 

18. Don’t Make Me Try to Explain This Djent Thing to You Again: To The Ark 

19. Somebody Get This Heavy Metal Up Off of Me, It’s Crushing My Soul!: Butcher’s Hill 

20. I am Married to the Drummer, But Don’t Let That Influence You: Iron Man

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The 2012 HOLY SHIT List, my favorite albums for the year

I have been reading a lot of year-end best of album lists, so I suppose I should make my own list. Metallomusikum is nearly a year old; it’s due for that kind of thing.

Some of the "best of" lists I have found are ludicrous; like really, what were the writers thinking? I knew that Village Voice list was going to be a joke when it actually started with the sentence “It’s that time of year again.” That writer was phoning it in.

Some lists remind me about albums I missed that I should go back and listen to. I thought Pitchfork’s top 40 metal albums list was pretty good, albeit filled with bands all but the most astute (read: hipster) metal heads would be aware of. It was a good laundry list for me since it was longer than most out there.

With some of the lists, I wondered if the writer was just trying to stroke an ego or be charitable. You see a lot of people listing the same albums—the usual suspects. SPIN’s Top 20 list was a little bit like that, although the inclusion of bands like Enabler and Eagle Twin made me take it more seriously.

Who knows what, if any, pressure these writers are under when they compile these lists? Everyone has a right to an opinion, even if it is wrong.

Well I have no one to answer to and no one to appease. I just calls it likes I sees it. So in the spirit of “it’s-that-time-of-year-again” and “as-if-my-opinion-mattered,” this is Metallomusikum’s first ever “HOLY SHIT” list for 2012. The criteria for an album to make this list are simple:
  • It must be an album of new music, not a reissue, compilation or best of and not an EP or a demo. Sorry kids, come at me next year with your full length. (I reserve the right to make an exception to this rule especially in a lean year.) 
  • It must have been released between January 1-December 31 of the given year. Duh. 
  • It must cause me to declare “HOLY SHIT” at least three separate times during the course of listening to it. I will count them. One hit wonders will not get on this list. 
  • It must make my pupils dilate, my heart to race and the hairs on the back of my neck to stand up to create a physiological effect I like to call an “eargasm”. 
Any genre is eligible. But y’all know what I mostly listen to. Still you might be surprised. There are some obvious items missing from this list. I did not want to repeat what everyone else was saying. There were a lot of really good albums put out this year, but I really wanted to bring you something different. The HOLY SHIT list items are special to my heart.

In compiling this list, I learned a little bit about myself. For one thing, I chose no “light hearted” music. Most of this stuff is pretty intense and serious. I would not characterize anything here as fun or rollicking. Heck, there’s not even any thrash in this list. But I think the list reflects me, at least where my head is at this point in my life. So here we go in no particular order: 

1. Dragged Into Sunlight – Widowmaker 

This new effort from DIS has a completely different vibe from the group’s earlier Hatred for Mankind. In three movements, I think this album more deeply explores DIS repertoire of emotions better than their previous work did. There are many HOLY SHIT moments in Widowmaker, but I recommend listening to this recording in its entirety. I wrote a more complete review here.

2. Enslaved – RIITIIR 

RIITIIR charges forth from the pit of Hades and slowly transformed into a collection of hymns. The lovely clean vocals of keyboardist Herbrand Larsen are featured in near duets now with the growls of Grutle Kjellson. Melody has overtaken the buzz of the tremolo riff. Some people have really criticized Enslaved for the way their sound has evolved and softened over time. I think they are moving closer and closer to their inspirations: Pink Floyd, King Crimson and Led Zeppelin, and I don’t see this as a bad thing. I love this group’s entire body of work and RIITIIR is just another chapter in that unfinished tome. Frankly, Enslaved could record a collection of their belches, and I would probably at least listen to it.

3. Abigail Williams – Becoming 

This album came out at the beginning of the year eventually met with tons of critical acclaim. Did you forget about it? I didn’t. I reviewed it back in January here. It is still one of my favorite albums of the year and will probably be among my favorite albums of all time. This album represented a severe departure from the sound that Abigail Williams developed up to that point. If fact it was so different, I think there was pushback from some long-time fans of the group who did not know quite what to make of it. Yet others, like me, were completely delighted. Then the band broke up. Or maybe they didn’t ,and they will be back in 2013. Who cares really? Just listen to it.

4. Lord Mantis – Pervertor

Lord Mantis shares members with Nachtmystium, and both groups were touring together this fall. A live performance of Lord Mantis will turn your head around like an icy wind coming in off of Lake Michigan. There’s a lot of rage in this music, and I suppose there must be a lot of rage inside of me because I cannot stop listening to this record. Maybe this is the sound you get when you let the drummer from one band become the front man for another – it’s pure unadulterated venom and totally beautiful. I would go see them again in a second. Also, the cover art is delightfully disturbing.

5. Carach Angren – Where the Corpses Sink 

Carach Angren makes concept albums that could (and should) be turned into movies or better yet, theatrical stage productions. I never tire of their gruesome stories set to the most grandiose symphonic black metal you could imagine. They are also one of the few bands I don’t mind wearing corpse paint. I can listen to individual songs, but mostly I want to just start the thing from the beginning and geek out like my friends who bliss out listening to the soundtrack of Cats. Carach Angren write “musicals” fit for the king of underworld, which makes them infinitely better than anything Andrew Lloyd Webber could come up with.

6. Nile – At the Gate of Sethu

Why do these guys keep making Egyptian-themed technical death metal? Why do I keep listening to it? Why is that even a thing? I don’t know, but I love it despite the fact that being fascinated by pyramids and hieroglyphics and sarcophagi fell out of fashion decades ago. I am pretty sure that my love of Nile is grounded in my admiration for guitarist Karl Sanders, whom I would probably fall to my knees and worship in an embarrassing Wayne’s World kind of way if I ever met in person. I would probably act foolishly in front of George Kollias as well.

7. Car Bomb – w^w^^w^w

I first encountered Car Bomb through their documentary “Why You Do This,” a self produced documentary about the band touring across the country in a broken down van and getting ripped off by venues and promoters. I didn’t get a good sense of the band’s music from the movie, just that life of a touring musician was hard and mostly not worth it. I had not actually thought much about Car Bomb until I saw they had not given up but had persevered and released a new album that even featured the vocals of Gojira’s Joe Duplantier. Car Bomb probably classifies a “core-something” band. The music is extremely experimental and makes it onto my HOLY SHIT list mostly for its intoxicatingly innovative approach and extreme honesty. I chose Car Bomb over more obvious top choices like Pig Destroyer’s Book Burner and Meshuggah’s Koloss. I love both of those aforementioned albums, but Car Bomb pushed boundaries that made me sit down and question what music even was. It’s not an easy album to listen to but definitely has its eargasm inducing moments

8. God Seed – I Begin

From start to finish, there is nothing I do not love about this studio recording from God Seed, a band comprised of former Gorgorothians Gaahl and King ov Hell and a rotating crew of other super star performers such as Enslaved’s Ice Dale and Dimmu Borgir’s keyboardist Geir Bratland. In some ways, God Seed probably sounds like what Gaahl might have wanted to do with Gorgoroth had things with Infernus panned out differently. But all’s well that end’s well I say. God Seed imbues everything with epic melody, soaring vocals, wondrous keyboards and enough malevolence to make this an album worth numerous HOLY SHITs. I think critics are skipping it for no reason but this thing rocks.

9. A Forest of Stars – Shadowplay for Yesterdays 

Another entry into the realm of the excessively theatrical, A Forest of Stars takes all the edgy rawness that I love about black metal, and mixes in storytelling, prog-rock complexity and maybe some Jethro Tull-like folk elements to create a masterpiece. Each mesmerizing song is composed with layers of richness and melancholy. This group not only deserves recognition, I say they ought to command it. I feel they are being overlooked because they cross so many boundaries and can’t be neatly categorized. Pop this recording on the next time you have a long car trip and don’t be surprised if you find yourself completely unaware of your surroundings.

10. Darsombra – Climax Community 

I have not done any drugs in a long time. Back in the day, however, I dropped some acid and smoked a little weed. I could understand why one might feel compelled to partake in such things to enhance the experience of avant-garde psych rock guitarist Darsombra/Brian Daniloski. With Climax Community, I see no need—the music alone is capable of moving you into a transcendent plane of existence. A soloist, Brian’s compositions are masterful and beautifully executed, drawing upon metal, jazz, post-rock and with exotic scales and rhythms. Add to these aural hallucinations Ann Everton’s cinematic visualizations, which you can access with a password on Vimeo, and you have 75 minutes worth of drug-free HOLY SHITs guaranteed to keep you mentally high for a long time.

OK, that’s it for this year. I invite your comments and feedback below. Tell me about your favorite albums.



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

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

Saturday, Dec. 15, I went to a black metal festival hosted by Maryland Infernal Horde at El Oasis in Baltimore, Md. Metal shows are not that hard to find in the mid-Atlantic from month to month, but ones devoted to metal's most extreme and controversial subgenre are a rarity. If you follow Metallomusikum at all, you know I am all about black metal, so I could not miss “Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest.”

Black metal, by definition, is grim and hopeless. Its themes are dark, malevolent and unholy. But among this subgenre, there are sub-subgenres that focus on pagan ideas, metaphysics and nature. I like all kinds of black metal. I also like to have a good time, so I was really hoping this show would deliver everything I was looking for. I was not disappointed.

Before I get into the particulars of what went down at the festival, I want to commend and congratulate the main promoters -- Chucky Malignant, Manuel Lopez and Hondurator (and many other unseen people) -- for executing what turned out to be an amazing event. The diverse and international mix of bands  as well as the size and location of the venue, the reasonable cost ($20 at the door for 12 bands) and the addition of add-ons like a nice vendor area and proximity to restaurants and other conveniences made this day really enjoyable. It was a long, LONG day to be sure, but overall I had many more compliments than complaints.

I arrived at El Oasis at 3913 Eastern Ave (in the Highlandtown neighborhood of Baltimore) a little bit after 1 p.m. A few weeks ago, the organizers had to move this event from a smaller location in Silver Spring, and I am really glad they did. El Oasis is generally a Latin disco, so they have a decent sound system and lots of lighting. The long bar has seating and there are tables and chairs and bar stools all around, so if you get tired of head banging, you can find a comfy place to perch and still see and hear everything.

I parked my car right next to the venue in a lot. I don’t know if that is El Oasis’ lot or not, but no one seemed to be bothered that people were parking there. There was also plenty of street parking. This stretch of Eastern Ave has a lot of retail so there are public lots and street parking. The area is well lit also and busy. I felt safe.

I was under the impression that music was going to start at by 2 p.m. It didn’t, but I was not hugely concerned. I was meeting up with an old friend, and we walked up the street to grab a bite to eat (sandwiches at G&A, YUM!). When we ambled back to the venue after 2 p.m., there was still not much going on. People were slowly arriving, but many of the bands had not arrived yet. Oh well, I could hang out and chat indefinitely.

At this point, I should mention that photographer Joe Giordano had set up a backdrop and lights along the wall opposite the bar so he could capture images for his project “Killer Angels: Faces of Death (Metal).” Joe, who is a professional photographer for Baltimore’s Urbanite magazine, hopes to capture as many fans and band members as he can that represent the diversity among metal heads—a taxonomy of the death metal community, if you will. He was busy snapping anyone willing to step onto the backdrop.

The fact that he was at a black metal show and not a death metal show didn’t seem to bother him. I kept thinking about the fact that he wasn’t actually capturing death metal fans. Some people don’t see a difference in metallers “style,” but I do. I know, I know, I am being a black metal elitist. Besides, what does a black metal fan look like? I don’t know… me? I look like someone’s mom, which I am. Frankly, I claim Gaahl as my fashion inspiration: monochromatic color scheme (i.e., black) and limited accessories (inverted cross). Dressing up more than that, and I feel start to feel conspicuous. But I digress….

I spent some more time hanging with friends, watching Joe shoot photos and browsing the merch tables. Shortly before 4 p.m. one of the organizers shooed everyone not in one of the bands out the front door and started collecting money. This thing was getting started!

First up was Damnatum, a tight little trio from Queens. Damnatum set their stage with skulls, candles and incense—a nice way to kick off an evening of what some would call ritual. Songs were riff driven and a bit doomy with great drumming. From what I could tell, some of the lyrics were in Spanish. There is not a lot of published work on this group, just a couple of songs on YouTube, but they do have a demo. I liked them.

Haethen, from Philadelphia, followed up with some pagan-inspired ambient metal. If you like older Darkthrone and/or late Abigail Williams, you’ll probably appreciate them. That may sound like I am casting a wide net—but Haethen had a very old, old school black metal feel interpreted through the lens of newer school black metal coming out of the Pacific Northwest. Definitely melodic. Definitely epic. Definitely worth checking out. They make it easy because they have a free download on bandcamp.

During Haethen’s set, someone attempted to turn on the stage lights, which had not been on during Damnatum. The problem, though, is that El Oasis is a disco equipped with a ridiculously colorful lighting system. Sparkly lights are not conducive to the proper enjoyment of grim and unholy black metal, so at once several people set to work trying to disable some of lights. This meant climbing around the above stage area individually disconnecting the unwanted lights. Haethen took it in stride and continued their set, sparkly lights and all. Eventually the lighting was brought under control, though it still could have been somewhat less than it was. I am sure some of the subsequent performers would have preferred to play by candlelight or even in complete darkness, but that wasn’t going to happen.

Moving on, Baltimore’s Extermination Angel took the stage and got the growing crowd revved up. More a blackened death metal band, this trio performs precise and energetic songs and are a lot of fun to watch. Although it was still early, vocalist Shawn Wright built a strong rapport with the audience and got the mosh pit officially started.

Next up was Unholy Spirits from New York, who, like one of my favorite bands Inquisition, only has two members, a guitarist/vocalist and a drummer. Amazingly though, they produce a mighty wall of sound. They were also the first band of the to use war paint and throw on some chains and spiked gauntlets. The music was simple but satisfying.

Speaking of satisfying, let me pause for a second to talk about booze. I think after Unholy Spirits played, I attempted to buy my second beer of the evening. Unfortunately, El Oasis has raised the price of a can of Modelo that had been $3 to $5. That was the last beer I bought from the bar that night. I guess that’s one way to keep people from drinking too much. My next drink of the night was a cola from the Walgreens across the street.

OK, back to the music.

Another group from New York was the five-piece Discordia. What can I say? This band blew my mind with their unholy fucking brutal sound. Their super evil shrill vocals, the raw riffs and the relentless rhythm section made this group a real stand out of for me. Everything they did was kvlt. Definitely check them out if they come around again.

Now I have to make a public apology to Sacristy, because I only caught the tail end of their set and did not get any photos of them at all. I got caught up talking to the members of Black Witchery outside. But there is a very nice video of them on VIMEO. They have a thrashy, black metal sound, which is something I particularly favor. Hopefully they will come around again, maybe with some new stuff they say they will be working on.

When Perversion from Michigan took the stage, I got really confused because they sounded so differently than any of the groups that had come before. I don’t know anything about guitar effects, but what I was hearing was like something out of a time machine. Who was I listening to? Surf-punk Venom? This trio was incredibly tight, thrashy and great to watch. Lots of old fashioned black metal riffage here.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like Hellgoat live, but once again, their live performance outshined the quality of anything I was able to find of them online. Hellgoat, from Atlanta, plays straight up black metal (like Horna or Sargeist) with some doomy qualities here and there to slow down the blast beats so you can better appreciate what they are doing. Their lead singer was dynamic. They performed a true ritual with all the requisite candles, skulls and blood. I heart Hellgoat.

For some reason I kept getting texts messages and phone calls from my family during Satanik Goat Ritual (what time was it now???). I only watched part of this Texas group's set, but what I did see was interesting. Their impressive drummer seemed to know how to use ALL the parts of the drum kit graciously provided by the next band, Nocturnal Fear.

A friend from Pennsylvania who could not make this show said he was sad to be missing Nocturnal Fear. Now I understand why. Most of the other bands had stirred up a bit of a mosh pit. But when Michigan's Nocturnal Fear started playing many people simply stood to witness guitarist Rev. Chris Slavehunter (PhD), who was a joy to watch. Nocturnal Fear play blackened technical death metal. Each note, each beat is expertly executed.  These songs were less riff-driven and more solo driven, but it was a nice change. I also dug watching their drummer finally get to use his fantastic drum kit. (Side note here: the drum kit was equipped with triggers. When you stood in front of the bands, you could hear them clearly. At the side of the stage you could not. I kept moving around during each set to get a good sense of how things sounded.)

OK, two more bands to go!

Morbosidad traveled all the way from Mexico to bring everyone back to the “ritual” atmosphere set by Hellgoat earlier on. Their lead singer doused himself with “blood” at the start of their set and it was on. The crowd was probably largest (promoters say they had about 200 paid entrants) during this band’s performance. This was brutal, satanic black metal. I think this was the band many people had come to see.

Finally it was time for Black Witchery from Florida to take the stage. I have written about Black Witchery before (here) in anticipation of the Maryland Deathfest. A conflict with another band forced me to miss seeing their set at MDF, so I wanted to make sure I did not miss them this time around. They took the stage at about 12:20. Their drummer took some time to disable the drum triggers to achieve the barbaric “swarm of angry bees” sound this band goes for. The stripped down sound of Black Witchery was a great way to end the evening. I actually find them meditative, kind of Zen. I don’t know what is, something about their music must be stroking my reptilian brain.

The audience, on the other hand, was ready to explode for Black Witchery. I saw many people growling the lyrics along with vocalist/bassist Impurath. Their drummer Vaz is like a machine, and I am not sure how he keeps up the constant rhythm. He mixes it up though so that it does not become monotonous. Black Witchery’s guitarist is big fan of doom metal bands like Iron Man, and it is evident in his playing. He breaks out the flashy shredding now and again. Mostly though it is all about the power of the riff—played extremely fast! They had the pit going for most of their set, especially during songs like “Desecration of the Holy Kingdom.”

Over the course of the evening, a few scuffles broke out. There was one catfight earlier in the night and then later, during Black Witchery, some aggression involving a large white cowboy hat (I actually don’t know what the fight was about, but somehow the hat was involved.) Security hustled the offending parties out quickly. Afterward, I noticed someone had a bloodied lip and nose, but I am not sure when that happened.

In general though, camaraderie was high, people were getting along, enjoying each other’s company, digging the bands, and helping people up off the floor of the mosh pit. The Headbangin’ Hot Dog guy showed up and was slinging vegan dogs most of the night. Shortly before Morbosidad started playing, security stopped letting people go in and out. While this was probably miserable for the smokers, most people didn’t seem to care. Outside, I did notice a few people wander by wondering why on earth El Oasis was filled with people wearing all black, and one couple looking to dance seemed disappointed. But I don’t think a few metal heads standing around on the corner of Eastern Ave and Grundy St. in Highlandtown actually caused much of a stir.

I think Black Witchery played until after 1:30 a.m. I was exhausted and headed home as quickly as possible. “Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest” completely made up for me missing so many shows in November due to a sickness that would not go away. It is evident the promoters worked really hard to put this show on. I hope they do it again sometime soon at this location.

My photos from the fest are posted below:

Damnatum

Discordia

Extermination Angel

Extermination Angel

Extermination Angel

Haethen

Impurath-Black Witchery

Impurath-Black Witchery

Impurath-Black Witchery

Morbosidad

Nocturnal Fear

Nocturnal Fear


Satanik Goat Ritual

Tregenda-Black Witchery

Unholy Spirits

Unholy Spirits

Vaz -Black Witchery

Discordia

Hellgoat


Hellgoat

Perversion


















Tuesday, December 11, 2012

REVIEW: Carthage - Salt of the Earth

Carthage of Baltimore
Math-core, metal-core, djent, technical death metal. All these subgenres of heavy metal have one important thing in common—complexity. The new album by Baltimore’s Carthage is rife with challenging complexity and notable musical virtuosity. But do I like it?

Well, yes, but not for the reasons you might like it. Or hate it. Salt of the Earth does not fit neatly into my typical musical palate, which by choice is filled with a lot of fairly dark and evil black metal. One simply does not listen to blast beats and tremolo riffs all the time. I am also a fan of much more technical metal bands like Obscura (and their inspiration Gorguts), the math metal geniuses Meshuggah, djent groups like Vildhjarta; and straight up tech death groups like Decapitated and Atheist. And, of course, my secret guilty pleasure—The Acacia Strain.

The subtle rhythmic complexities of whatever it is you want to label Carthage as playing are mentally and intellectually simulating. This is not background music; it commands your attention from start to finish throughout 12 tracks and about 40 minutes of music. A standout track for me includes “The Furthest Thing” that blends some lovely harmonics and melodies with some insanely challenging riffs. Lovely harmonies mixed with death metal-like growls and screams can be heard throughout the album. This dichotomy is sometimes why I don’t like bands in these subgenres.

Another standout feature of the record is the fat bass and precision percussion. These two instruments alone lead listeners into another standout track called “Pushing Forward.” The vocals here start much cleaner at the beginning but then move into the familiar growl. Vocally, I like the middle part of this song better than the “call to action” at the beginning (and which returns in the end). But hey, the melody is nice and rather proggy.

As with many groups today, the vocals can kill the songs for me. It’s not that the vocals here are bad—not at all, these guys are very talented vocally. And there are many guest vocals (**see note below). It is just that there are too many different KINDS of vocals—some clean, some death growls, some guttural, some pretty. This is really a kind of a taste thing. Many groups use this technique with great success, and there is a fan base that thinks this style is awesome. I am just not one of those people.

Musically, however, Carthage’s Salt of the Earth presents a masterful collection of thought out, finely tuned compositions. And I don’t mean that like their instruments are “in tune;” I mean that like the music is well written, sharply honed and expertly executed (and recorded). Guitarist and vocalist Tre Watson says these songs have been around since 2010, so apparently Carthage has had time to perfect them.

Other favorite tracks on the album include “ To Return” and “Green.” Both tunes have memorable, melodic riffs and cool sections. The album closes out with the quite beautiful “Continuous,” which happens to be the longest track on the record. Frankly, I think some of the songs leading up to this encore piece could have been a little longer.

And yes, like many groups in this category, Carthage songs have “breakdowns,” but it’s not like the breakdown section is the only heavy part of these songs. Carthage provides aural assault from the first chord to the last note.

In the final analysis, Carthage seems to be carving out a unique enough niche that should break away from the pack. I don’t think Carthage sounds like anyone else—I think they sound like themselves, and that is a good thing. It is the worst thing for a band to be an obvious derivative of another group.
I would not be surprised if Salt of the Earth is part of the plan that puts Carthage on the world’s musical map and gets them noticed for tours with more well-established groups or airplay on stations like Liquid Metal. That would be a good thing for Baltimore, because as the cliché goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

The members of Carthage include:
Eric Hendricks - Vocals
Tre Watson- Guitar/Vocals
Ian Starks- Guitar
Noyan Tokgozoglu - Guitar
Robby Gossweiler- Bass
Billy Berger - Drums/Vocals

**According to Tre, there are many guest vocals on the album as well, “including members of our friends in In Dying Arms, Forgive The Fallen, VELA and Sky Came Burning! and of course, you! A lot of you submitted your vocals to be on the song "1984/4" and everyone who submitted was used. I hope you're really excited.”

You can listen to Carthage – Salt of the Earth below.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Music I have purchased on Bandcamp

Sometimes instant gratification wins out and I need to obtain a musical recording as soon as possible. Many people turn to iTunes and Amazon, and I have purchased my fair share of music from those outlets--mostly with gift cards from friends or family. 

However, I prefer to buy music hosted on Bandcamp. I love the Bandcamp interface and I feel like the performers are probably getting a better deal in terms of compensation. 

The music industry is rife with greed and musicians are constantly looking for ways to pay the bills. When I can, I buy music directly from the artist when I see them live. I also sometimes buy t-shirts and other related items. So far this year, I have attended 47 live music shows. I will probably see a couple more before we ring in the New Year. Suffice it to say I support the local music scene.

Check out my purchases on Bandcamp this year here http://bandcamp.com/metalmaven

What music did you buy in 2012?



Friday, December 7, 2012

Start a mosh pit in your living room with StageIt


The other day, a friend on Facebook used the term “couch gravity” to describe the reason why he didn’t attend as many live musical performances as he’d like.  But what if you could attend a live performance and support the musicians you love from your couch? You could even start a mosh pit in your living room.

Washington, DC area pianist Al Baes knows the challenges of the gigging musician.  He has been playing classical music since he was five, studied jazz at the University of Maryland College Park,  has played around the DC area for more than two decades and is the keyboardist for the R&B jazz group Soul-Rhythm.

“One of my most memorable performance on stage that I had the pleasure to jam with was the group, Heatwave. This was back in 1997 in Virginia. We did their popular tune “Always and Forever.” They had happened to drop by a nightclub where I was performing with my band,” Baes recalls.

This holiday season, Baes is trying something new.

On Sunday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. Baes will play on a virtual performance platform called StageIt. With StageIt, performers set a date and time for their show and sell tickets to a one-time-only event. All a fan needs to do is buy a ticket and log on at the appointed time. Performances are not archived; they happen once, just like a show you would travel to attend. StageIt also allows concert viewers to tip the performers during the show, using a credit card or PayPal account. Any type of musical genre is welcome.

“I only discovered StageIt a couple of weeks ago and thought of just trying it out,” said Baes. “Actually this first performance is just an experiment. I am just trying to see how it goes.”

Baes says his show “A Paradise Experience” will be short-- just 30 minutes --  and “will consist of some of my own original material which I use in piano lounge settings. I am also bringing some cover tunes as well.”

In the spirit of the holidays, Baes has decided to donate any proceeds from Saturday night’s performance.

“Since the StageIt broadcast service requires payment from viewers, and since my objective is not to make money from this, I decided to forward the funds to a charitable entity, DC Central Kitchen. Viewers can pay what they can using a credit card or debit card.”

What does he think about a virtual concert venue?

“I think this online broadcast service is a great idea especially since it’s really hard for musicians to find venues to perform their music, and also (it gives you) the opportunity to gain exposure and to promote (your) material.”

Some of Baes’ favorite musicians include Al Jarreau, Joe Sample, Bobby Caldwell, Anita Baker, Quincy Jones, and Grover Washington Jr. They are likely to influence his performance on Sunday.

To attend “A Paradise Experience” on Sunday night, follow this link.

To view Baes’ profile in StageIt go to this link.

The Facebook event page for this show is at this link.


Monday, December 3, 2012

New melodic-doom Kowloon Walled City streaming

If you like your post-metal doom on the softer, more melodic side, you might like Kowloon Walled City. Their album Container Ships  from Brutal Panda Records can be heard on Lambgoat.com at the link below. KWC hail from San Francisco and will make you think of the best of hardcore's desperation mixed with the pondering heaviness of something like Mastodon or Yob.

It's a satisfying bass-driven ride. Chewy is kind of how I would describe it. Or maybe I just need to eat lunch. Let me know what you think! 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Days of the Doom 3 tickets on sale Dec. 1

Unless you are planning a wedding, June 2013 might seem pretty far off. But for the organizers of Days of the Doomed 3 (or III if you like your numerals Roman), June can't get here soon enough.

Billed as the biggest doom fest in the midwest, DOTD3 will take place on June 21 and 22 at the Blue Pig in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tickets for this two day celebration of the riff and distortion go on sale December 1, 2012 and are expect to move swiftly! A two day pass is $50 and single day tickets are $30.

The lineup so far includes Penance, Victor Griffin's new group In-Graved, Dream Death, Iron Man, Pale Divine, The Gates of Slumber, Chowder, Kings Destroy, Orodruin, Earthen Grave, Argus, King Giant, Whaler, Beelzefuzz, Venomous Maximus, Moon Curse, Hollow Leg, and Gorgantherron. According to organizer Mercyful Mike Smith, one more band will be announced sometime in January. You will just have to trust him that whoever it is will be killer.

I can't think of a better holiday gift for the doom metal aficionado in your life or yourself than some tickets to this event. Besides, Milwaukee in June is reportedly quite lovely. Check out a preview of some of the bands playing in the video below. And then go over to this link and grab a ticket for yourself and a 21+ sexy loved one.

By the way, I wrote about DOTD2 last year. This thing is legit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

REVIEW: Dragged Into Sunlight's Widowmaker

Dragged Into Sunlight sounds like that thing you do to kill a vampire. The sound of the band, Dragged Into Sunlight (or DIS) could probably kill as well. It would kill complacency, mediocrity and ennui.

Today, DIS released Widowmaker. This new concept recording retains all the intensity and horror of their 2009 debut album, Hatred for Mankind, but the mood has shifted.  Hatred was full of venom and bile, as the name might suggest. Widowmaker starts out with a melancholy and almost suicidal movement. There's a violin; what a nice surprise. But will this recording crush me like their debut effort?

Dragged Into Sunlight: Not here to rob you. 
By the second movement of the recording, DIS reprises a bit of the brutality that reminds me of Hatred. This time, however, the composition seems refined, more restrained and much more structured, with recognizable hooks and phrasing. Again, I loved Hatred, but I am also loving Widowmaker, for completely different reasons. It still sounds like DIS, it just sounds a little less like noise rock. OK, what else do you have for me?

The final movement of the recording is a full return to the asphyxiating doomage of Dragged Into Sunlight's first record. Shrill vocals (to make it black metally) slice through the cacophony of guitar distortion and droning bass. It's almost as if DIS has tempted you with some bitter sweet candy, lured you into the woods for a "picnic" and here in the final movement of the recording, they will molest and strangle you, looking you straight the eye while you gasp for air under the crushing riffs.  The drums are your heart struggling to keep beating as life fades away into the quietus and resignation of the recordings final measures.  Your body will be found in a shallow grave covered by autumn leaves, while the murderer exits thoughtfully contemplating his next kill.

Widomaker, with its three distinct movements, should be consumed in one sitting. It is a thoroughly satisfying, if not disturbing, representation of this subgenre of metal.

Decide for yourself whether you like the new Dragged Into Sunlight recording. Widomaker is streaming here for your aural pleasure.

I first encountered DIS when I was writing up profiles on every band slated to perform at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. A member of the band agreed to answer some of my questions. Even from the minimal interaction derived from an email q & a, I could tell that this British blackened doom outfit, who remain anonymous, maintained a good sense of humor about themselves--a morbid, blackened sense of humor--but a sense of humor nonetheless. They did not take themselves overly seriously, except as far as they wanted to be superior musicians and excellent songwriters. That's a fine way to be and probably part of the reason they try to remain anonymous and lead normal lives outside of band life.

You can read my interview with DIS here. It is among the most popular blog posts I have done. I hope DIS comes back to the US again sometime soon. I honestly tried to watch as much of their set as possible at MDF, but I had to leave the room because of the heat and the smoke machines they like to use. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

REVIEW: Early Graves' Red Horse

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

Early Graves @Ottobar 2012. Photo by M. Spiro
At the time of the show, Early Graves only had two albums in their discography, We: The Guillotine and Goner. So I listened to a few tracks from those albums. I liked it alright; they kind of had a blackened thrash-core thing going on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 29, 2012

Graveyard's bassist heads to rehab

Graveyard, that beautiful Swedish concoction of blues, metal and fuzzy guitar distortion, have decided to give their bandmate, bassist Rikard Edlund, the time he needs to get clean from addiction. The group just posted the statement below on their Facebook page

Rikard Edlund of Graveyard. Photo by M. Spiro
I saw Graveyard here in Baltimore back in January at Golden West Cafe. It was among the best shows I have seen this year. You can read a little about that show here

Graveyard also just released a new album, Lights Out, and as you will read, they fully intend to tour in support of their record with a temporary replacement for Edlund. I hope Rikard gets the help he needs so he can get back to making music. I love Graveyard a lot so I wish him and the band the best as they power through this tough time. What follows is the Graveyard statement on this matter.
It's not only rock ‘n’ roll.
Sometimes in life you have to make decisions that are neither simple or easy to make. Graveyard have - after a time filled with difficulties and a search for solutions - been forced to make such a decision. Due to personal problems with addiction, it has come to the point where Rikard, to get the proper help, will have to take a break from touring with the band. Rikard is without a doubt still a member of Graveyard, but as things are at the moment it just doesn't work and something has to be done. The other members give Rikard their full support and the time off needed to try to beat this. 
How this will affect the band - it is agreed upon by all four members that the show will go on and to do so the band will tour with a stand in bass player. This has been a far from easy decision to make and the timing isn't the best. But Graveyard as a band has it's mind set on being around for a long time to come. And looking at it from that perspective and Rikard's personal health this is the only option. 
This is all the band have got to say about this somewhat personal matter and we'll give the final words to Rikard himself:
"After living the hard life for most of my life. It has come to the point that I have to take a break from playing the music that I love.'

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Play guitar for Pentagram. No, really.

Bobby Liebling with Victor Griffin. Photo M. Spiro/ 2011
Victor Griffin is moving on to other things, and Pentagram needs a guitarist. I don't know about you, but I think for the right person this is the opportunity of a lifetime. The band just posted this statement on their Facebook page so there's no need to rewrite it. Read on...

Agoura Hills, CA - October 25, 2012 – Legendary heavy metal pioneers and doom metal innovators PENTAGRAM are auditioning new guitar players. As previously announced, the revered guitarist Victor Griffin is performing his farewell shows during the Oct/Nov European Relentless Tour. He'll be focusing on his solo career from this point on and the band and fans wish him all the best. Victor will forever be an important part of the "Ram Family." 
PENTAGRAM is now searching for the perfect player who can easily play the blazing, early blues-based, hard rock, proto-metal of the late Vincent McAllister as well as the doom metal mastery of the one and only Victor Griffin. Tone, chops, appearance, tour experience & availability (US and abroad so a passport is required), song writing skills, and sobriety are all important factors. The band will be writing/recording their follow up to the acclaimed Metal Blade release, Last Rites this coming December and January.

Someone who is close to the Washington, DC area is preferred but exceptions will be made for the perfect player.

For songs and video of the band, visit: www.reverbnation.com/pentagramofficial
Please submit a short bio, a photo, and audio or video of you playing. PENTAGRAM song covers are preferred and the following songs are suggested:
"Wolf's Blood"
"All Your Sins"
"Treat Me Right"
"When the Screams Come"
"Forever My Queen"
"20 Buck Spin"

Please send submissions to: PentagramAuditions@gmail.com 
In other news, PENTAGRAM is gearing up to tour Europe and the dates will commence with the band's first ever UK tour. In a celebration of Victor Griffin's time with the band, PENTAGRAM will be playing the Decibel Magazine Hall of Fame album, Relentless, in it's entirety. After the doom pioneers first-ever UK show in London in 2011, Bobby Leibling and the boys return for four shows with Gentlemans Pistols as support, kicking off in Bristol at The Fleece.

PENTAGRAM UK Tour Dates
Tour w/ Gentlemans Pistols
10/31 Bristol, UK The Fleece
11/01 London, UK Garage
11/02 Manchester, UK Academy 3
11/04 Glasgow, UK Ivory Black End Tour
11/06 Kopenhagen, DK Loppen
11/07 Gothenburg, SE Truckstop Alaska
11/08 Oslo, NO John Dee
11/09 Stockholm, SE Slakthuset
11/10 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom Festival

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Doomantia benefit compilation drops today. Get it!

Earlier this month I wrote about Doomantia.com's founder Ed Barnard and how he had fallen on financial hard times due to medical expenses. Today the 39 song Doomantia Vol. 1 compilation was released and man, I am only four songs in to listening, but it totally crushes.

Bands appearing on this compilation are from across the country and across the globe. Some of the songs featured are available elsewhere on the respective band's previous recordings. Some though, such as Iron Man's acoustic version of Choices, were recorded expressly for this project.

The compilation is available only as a digital download from Bandcamp. But for $7 you get more than four hours of music. All the bands donated their time and recordings and all the proceeds go to Ed. Genres range from stoner to sludge to drone to psychedelic. But if you are a fan of Doomantia or even if you are not, the price is well worth the music featured!

Get it here

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Misery Index choosing quality over quantity

Misery Index, Baltimore's death/grindcore heroes, have been bludgeoning eardrums with their own homegrown brutality since 2001. And while I don't imagine they will be slowing down any time soon, they also have earned the right to pick and choose when, where and with whom they to play.

Next month, Misery Index heads out on tour with Cannibal Corpse (for the second time this year) and Hour of Penance (a band some have called the Italian Behemoth). On December 1, this tour comes to Washington, DC's Rock and Roll Hotel.

From Aug. 19, 2012 Ottobar show.
Misery Index has had an exciting 2012 with successful tours abroad in places like Brazil and across Europe and even Tel Aviv! They also had to construct a DIY tour when this summer's inaugural Shockwave Festival tour, which was supposed to go across North America, fell apart in a matter of days. I was able to catch up with bassist Jason Netherton and guitarist Mark  Kloeppel via email.

Here's a quick Q & A.

This was an eventful and confusing summer for you guys? What happened with the Shockwave Festival? And how did the mini tour go?

The Shockwave experience was certainly interesting to say the least. Nothing like that has ever happened to us before, but it does happen. Gojira had to pull some dates together after Randy Blythe went to jail in Czech, for example. Luckily, we know those Fear Factory guys. So, we got a call from them saying it was canned before we travelled too far out. Our guitar player, Mark Kloeppel, on the other hand, was filling in on bass on the Canadian dates for Cattle Decapitation. Their bass player couldn't do those dates for whatever reason, and Mark had been flown out to the west coast to jam with them. They ended up flying him back home. As of right now, we have a mountain of merch we have to sell online and on tour. It was a bad situation, but it could have been a whole lot worse. Special thanks goes out to our fans that made our last East Coast run a blast. Without you, we can't do what we do. Keep grinding!

You mentioned a live album in your email. What date range of live shows will that include?

The live album is from one show in Munich from the European tour we did in February with Cannibal Corpse and Behemoth. A friend of ours, who happens to be an engineer, recorded the set from the board and with room mics. We thought it came out great. and so did the label. So, we are releasing it. We really love that something so spontaneous came out that well. Hearing it really made us feel good about our playing ability in adverse conditions. Because, let me tell you, monitors were completely non-existent on that tour. The hired crew for that tour were great, but just weren't experienced enough with gear they were given to use.

Will that album be released on your own label or through Season of Mist?

Yes, Season of Mist will be releasing the live album and our next full-length.

What other plans do you have for the rest of the year? How about 2013?

Misery Index will be direct support for Cannibal Corpse this November with Hour of Penance on the bill. This includes a "boat-show" up in NYC, and a stop at Rock and Roll Hotel down in DC. Later next summer, we may be included in some festivals that are yet to be announced. In the meantime, we are preparing to record the next record.

Your drummer Adam Jarvis plays in a gazillion other bands. I have seen him in Pig Destroyer, Strong Intention, Asthma Castle and now read that he is also in a band called FulgoraHow do you manage that? 

Misery Index has reserved itself to only do worthwhile events. Let me explain that further so people don't get feelings hurt. We've been heavily pounding the pavement since the inception of the band. We used to play 180 shows a year, which is taxing on your body and your home-life. We simply don't want to do that anymore. We love what we do and the music, and we just don't want to get burnt out. We want Misery Index to last.

Misery Index being more selective about its events freed up a lot of time to pursue other interests. Adam loves drumming, and people love Adam's drumming. He is an amazing drummer, and he only takes on projects he is genuinely interested in. To answer the question, I'd say we all just prioritize and communicate about our engagements.

What other projects are the other members of Misery Index involved in?

Asthma Castle, Strong Intention, Quills, Cast the Stone, Clenched Fist (tribute to Sepultura), Pig Destroyer, various guest vocal spots, etc. One of us is writing a book, but details about that cannot be released at this time.

I love the limited edition Baltimore T-shirt design on your merch page.  (I ordered one!) How important has Baltimore been to your existence and/or success?

Baltimore is our home-base. It's rough-around-the-edges character has an impact on all the music that comes out of that area. There's a genre-wide singularity about it you can't put you're finger on. You don't really notice regional auditory cross-pollination in your and your peers' music until you begin to travel a lot. Bands like us, Dying Fetus, Next Step Up, Bet the Devil, Visceral Disgorge, etc. have a distinct Baltimore style of sound. It's slightly different from bands of the the same ilk from different places.

Aside from that, the scene there has really supported us through the years; all the people with Maryland Deathfest, Ottobar, Sidebar, Orion (Sound Studios), Wrightway Studios, etc. have had a major impact on the way the band has evolved, and has been allowed to evolve. It's a big city with a small town vibe, and they seem to like us there. We certainly like them.

Anything else you want people to know about Misery Index?

Jason Netherton started Misery Index in 2001 with Kevin Talley and Mike Harrison. In 2005, Mark Kloeppel got Misery Index a full endorsement by ESP Guitars before actually knowing if he was in the band. Darin Morris is also a skilled sound-engineer and has played a part in some major label releases.
And according to Blake Harrison of Pig Destroyer, Adam Jarvis is afraid of ghosts!

****Well, know we all know how to scare Adam on Halloween.
_________

Here's a track from the last Misery Index full-length recording:



This track is a little slower but one of my personal favorites: