Friday, April 13, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: EYEHATEGOD

I meant to write about Eyehategod about a week ago, but somehow I got sidetracked, and I know exactly how this happend. When I started to research for the write up on New Orleans sludge rock legends Eyehategod and their appearance Thursday, May 24 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, I totally became fascinated with the personality of their frontman Mike "IX" Williams. It's not hard to do. So, Mike Nine, I apologize profusely. I spent so much time reading about you and your band that I actually thought I wrote the band's profile, too.

My blogging oversight though, would be the least of Eyehategod's worries. This band, and Williams, have persevered through drug addiction, Hurricane Katrina, temporary breakups, and now, most recently, a shunning by Scion A/V metal for who-knows-what. Drama, drama, drama. None of that really matters though because Eyehategod engenders the kind of ravenous and hardcore fan devotion that most bands can only drink themselves into believing they have.

And why is that? Well, just listen to them. Taking the best from bands like Black Sabbath, The Melvins and even some punk bands like Black Flag, Eyehategod grinds out distorted riffs and slamming rhythms that hypnotise the audience into a slow stoner sway. Unlike some stoner doom or sludge bands who use clean or traditional vocals, Eyehategod opts for the grindcore like screams and rants of lead vocalist Williams. And they don't always keep the tempo at a snails pace, but will bust out a punk-inspired bridge in the middle of the slowest drone. Lyrically intelligent, Eyehategod explores violence, social unrest and personal emotional turmoil.

At one time a prolific "tweaker," Williams now is a prolific tweeter. So if you are into Twitter, you can follow his commentary on society and all things related to Eyehategod and his side projects here. He has written a book called Cancer As a Social Activity. It's powerful stuff that should be heard, so I have included a link to him reading from it below.

This stoner metal band was reportedly founded on the auspicious date of April 20, in 1988. Along with Williams, the current line up includes Jimmy Bower (guitars), Brian Patton (guitars), Gary Mader (bass) and Joey LaCaze (drums).  According to the running order on the MDF X website, they play after Absu and before Agalloch.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (39) Bloody Phoenix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remembering Anthrax, Testament and Death Angel (sigh)

Currently, I am ahead in my Maryland Deathfest band profile postings by a few days. Also I want to wait to see if Jerry Flores from Bloody Phoenix will reply to my email. So, I thought I would take a moment to share something fun I made last fall.

For my fiancé's birthday, we traveled to The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland. The venue is lovely and beautiful (and expensive).  We caught the first leg of the Anthrax, Testament, Death Angel show on November 6, 2011. It was a fantastic show and among the best concerts we saw last year.

To celebrate this great event, I headed over to and made a little commemorative slideshow from some photos and film I took. Animoto is great fun if you don't know how to make videos. If you sort of know what sort of shots you are looking for in advance, it works out pretty well, which I think that this project did.

If you did not see this  particular tour, shame upon you!  Death Angel is currently on tour with Sepultura; Testament is heading to Europe; and of course, Anthrax can be seen at the Mayhem Festivals this summer.

I don't plan to make it to any of those tours so I just watch this slideshow over and over. I know. Pathetic. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (40) Godflesh

Recently re-formed post-metal industrial, noise band Godflesh provides an unusual ending to the Friday night festivities of the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. I, for one, will be excited to see them live. Founded in Birmingham, UK in 1986 under the name of the Killing Joke song, Fall of Because, Godflesh gained ground throughout the 1990s among fans of more hard-edged industrial/electronic metal. The frequent use of drum machines and programmed soundscapes defines Godflesh as children of the technology explosion going on around them at the time.

Godflesh has certainly derived inspiration from Killing Joke, which at least for a while was one of the darker bands of the 80s. Unfortunately, as they slipped further into disco-y beats and plaintive vocals, Killing Joke lost the grit of their first self-titled album. Godflesh’s songs recorded more than 20 years ago, however, somehow remain fresh and almost progressive today. Godflesh’s penchant for slowing down the tempo and for sound experimentation has probably helped them maintain their edge. They also credit bands such as Black Sabbath, Swans and Throbbing Gristle for their inspiration.

There has not been a new Godflesh recording since 2001, and in 2002, the band parted ways. The two original members, Justin Broadrick (vocals, guitars) and G.C. Green (bass), along with Ted Parsons (the occasional human drummer since 1996) reunited in late 2009 to begin playing some festivals and short tours. There have been rumors of new material. but nothing yet. They do have several free mp3s available for download from their lovingly maintained since 1995 website, aptly named Crumbling Flesh. Everything you ever wanted to know about Godflesh, and then some, can be found there. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (41) Napalm Death

Since none of the founding members of Napalm Death remain in the band, you could view this seminal grindcore band in several ways. For example, you could perceive them as an ideology, with each member who came afterward as perpetuating and developing that philosophy. Or you could see them like a brand, changing and evolving to reflect the times, but maintaining an identity that somehow continues to resonate with their audience.

While bands are frequently linked to strong personalities and identities, such is not the case with Napalm Death. And perhaps for this bastard child of post-punk anarchy, that is fitting.  The band first came into existence in 1981 in Birmingham, England (the so-called birthplace of heavy metal). Today Napalm Death members include Shane Embury (bass since 1987), Mark "Barney" Greenway (vocals since 1990), Mitch Harris (guitarist since 1989), Danny Herrera (drums since 1991).

What should you listen to get ready for their performance on Friday night, May 25 at the Maryland Deathfest? Certainly something from their new release, Utilitarian. Then of course, something very old too, like from the group's very first recording, Scum. What about something slow and doomy from The Code is Red....Long Live the Code. Here songs from those three albums. Enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (42) Nasum

When someone dies suddenly, it often leaves those left behind with a sense that things were left unfinished. This is how Sweden's Nasum on their website described their state of mind for the last seven years since the tragic death of their frontman Mieszko Talarczyk in the 2004 tsunami in Thailand.

This year, however, the remaining members of the grindcore group have decided to reform one last time with Keijo Niinimaa  from Rotten Sound on vocals and complete the work their late friend had started. So the band's performance Friday, May 25 at the Maryland Deathfest will be bittersweet. The MDF X appearance falls right in the middle of  about 27 confirmed dates of their Farewell Tour throughout Europe and North America. Their final show will be at Wacken in August.

Nasum formed in 1992.  The song in the video here, "Wrath," was taken from the 2004 album Shift and is reportedly the band's only music video.

Here's the line-up for Nasum 2012: Anders Jakobson - drums, Jesper Liveröd - bass and low vocals , Jon Lindqvist - guitars and low vocals, Urban Skytt - guitars, and Keijo Niinimaa - vocals.

Photo by Terése Andersson

Countdown to MDF X: (43) Artillery

Danish thrash metal godfathers Artillery will surely open up the pit Friday night at the Maryland Deathfest. Contagious riffs, fist pumping refrains and sing-a-long choruses are what this pure high energy rock and roll band are all about.

Founded in 1982 in Denmark, the band has experienced many personnel changes and breakups  over the years. Today the core of Artillery are the brothers Morten and Michael Stützer on guitars, Carsten Nielsen on drums, vocals by Søren "Nico" Adamsen and bass by Peter Thorslund.

If you are a fan of thrash, there really is nothing about Artillery that you won't love. They should capture everyone from the very first chord. Distinct and memorable riffs, blistering solos and Søren's powerful, soaring vocals really launch Artillery into the stratosphere, even beyond more well known acts like Testament and Death Angel. Søren's vocal style approaches that of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson, but he throws in a few death growls from time to time. Lyrically, many of their songs have an anti-war or political theme.

Artillery has never played in the US before, so see them while you can. If you have never heard them, blame it on the fact that they are from Denmark. In addition to MDF X, Artillery is scheduled to play on the inaugural Barge to Hell cruise, the extreme metal cruise set for December 2012, from the inventors of 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Negru of Negură Bunget talks about Maryland Deathfest, first US tour

Among the most mysterious acts performing Friday night at the Maryland Deathfest is Romania's pagan black metal collective Negură Bunget. I first heard of this band just two years ago on MySpace (yes, I still maintain a profile there), when they reached out to friend me, randomly of course, probably trying to increase their fan base. I thought, what in the world is this? Romanian folk black metal? One listen to their song, Dacia Hiperboreana, and I was hooked.

Negură Bunget plays music that resonates with something inside me that is primitive, pure, and eternal. Using traditional instruments such as panpipes and wooden blocks alongside modern guitars and keyboards, they create music that evokes a physical response in me,  a visceral yearning that is hard for me to describe with words. My ancestors come from Greece and Gaul, so perhaps, Negură Bunget is speaking to some kind of ancestral understanding that lives in my genes.

I would encourage anyone interested in the origins of Negură Bunget or the meaning behind their songs to read the "About" section on their Facebook page closely. Superficially, the band formed in the mid 1990s in Timișoara, Romania. The group focuses its music heavily on the myths, traditions, natural and spiritual realms of their region of the world. Instrumentation creates a rich, dark, ambient atmosphere, punctuated by some traditional black metal riffs, vocals and drumming.

Since encountering Negură Bunget, I have have the honor to have had occasional email contact with their percussionist Negru. The group's appearance at MDF X was one of the first North American dates they put on their calendar for 2012, and they worked to build an entire US and Canadian tour around it. This tour, called Transylvanian Legacy, marks the 15th year of the bands existence. Negru was kind enough to reply to some of my questions via email following performances in the European version of Paganfest.

What band members are touring with you now and who is playing what?
The line-up for the US tour is: Chakravartin - vocals,Negru - drums / percussions, Inia Dinia - keyboards / horns, Gadinet - bass / panpipe, Urzit - guitars, Oq - guitars.Only Oq is a bit new into this. Although he has been one of our live and studio engineers since 2005, it's the first time he plays live with us, covering the place of our member Fulmineos, who can't do the US tour for personal reasons.

Is this the first time you have played in North America or the US? What do you hope to achieve with the Transylvanian Legacy tour?

Yes, this will be the first time we play in the US. The whole point of the Transilvanian Legacy tour is to expand out presence to such places we haven't been played before. Doing more than 30 dates in US and Canada in amazing opportunity Asia and Australia is our next goal after US.

What will your set list of Maryland Deathfest look like? What albums will be featured prominently?

We'll focus a bit more on the recent albums of the band, like Virstele pamintului, OM and 'N crugu bradului, but we'll also perform the very first track from the very first Negură Bunget album, just as a symbolic gesture.

How did you connect with the other bands on your tour: Wolven Ancestry, Eclipse Eternal, and The Way of Purity?

We've planned the whole tour along Wolven Ancestry, who although we haven't meet yet, seem already like old friends. They connected us also with Eclipse Eternal, who are on the label or WA singer Mark. We toured a lot with The Way of Purity, but unfortunately they just announced they can't make it to the US.

Will you have any special or unique items for sale at MDF?

Unfortunately we can't bring some of the exotic releases we did, either because most are sold out for years, or for logistical nightmares. But we'll do our best to have as many items as possible.

Is there anything you would like people to know or understand about your group and the music you perform?

I think that actually the live experience is the best way people will get a deeper idea about who we are and what we do musically. It's hard, and most of the time pointless, to describe into words a musical experience which is a individual experience. All I can say is we'll put on stage all we have within ourselves.

This was the very first song I ever heard from Negură Bunget....

Wordless Knowledge demonstrates both Negură Bunget's pagan roots and black metal aesthetic..

(This article is No. 44 in a multipart series on all the bands performing at the Maryland Deathfest.)

Countdown to MDF X: (45) Unsane

As a child of the 80s, punk has and always will hold an honored position in my musical heart. Therefore I am happy to report that defining noise rock band Unsane will perform Friday, May 25 at the Maryland Deathfest. Formed in New York in 1988 when the members were still in college, only original member Chris Spencer  (vocals, guitar) remains in the trio. Other current members include Dave Curran (bass/vocals) and Vinnie Signorelli (drums).

Presently on tour with The Melvins, Unsane is credited as being one of the pioneers of noise rock, infusing elements of punk, hardcore and even rock-a-billy and blues into their songs.  The unrelenting backbeat, in your face vocals, and often times twangy and distorted guitar riffs will set them apart from most acts at MDF X. No corpse paint and spiked gauntlets here.

Unsane swaggers through each song with impressive violence and grace. Their sound has barely changed over time. They have maintained their brutal punkish roots for nearly 25 years, unbowed to the trends in music around them. This is a good thing. They are like a rough roll in the hay* with a familiar lover, you know exactly what to expect, but you won't be bored and you'll leave thoroughly satisfied.

*that is, fuck :)

Here's something brand new from Unsane....

And something from their first self-title recording....