Friday, April 27, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (27) Morbid Saint


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

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

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

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

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

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

Gojira releases NEW song, earth pauses to listen

How long have we waited for French death metal monsters, Gojira, to release a new song? (And I am not counting that excellent "Of Blood and Salt" song that was part of the Sea Shepherd EP that never really got off the ground because most of the recordings were lost.) It's been four years! FOUR YEARS!!! That's like, forever and ever in music entertainment time. Today on Pitchfork they have posted a new track, "L'Enfant Sauvage," from an album set to be released on Roadrunner June 26.

My love for Gojira is deep and wide and incredibly hard to explain. Somehow Gojira engenders the kind of love and devotion and pure fucking metal mania from their fans, the likes of which you will not see for many death metal bands. One simply does not listen to Gojira  and say, "Meh."

The first exposure I had to this group was from their last album, The Way of All Flesh.  The power and anticipation that built with every track there is evident in this new song, too. This group does not rush its composing and recording schedule, they take their time and it shows.

Listen to the new track here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (28) Black Witchery

Somehow in the sunny, Disney-fied, land of Florida (or perhaps because of it), one of the most wretched, satanic, and brutal black metal bands in existence has been spawned. Listen to Black Witchery and you'll be convinced that they have crept directly from the pit of hell. I think this is the effect they are going for. But of course, this is no effect. Black Witchery means business.

Originally founded in 1991 as the band Irreverent by singer and bassist Impurath, the group became Witchery for a short while. Later, due to confusion with another band, the group changed their name to Black Witchery in 1999.  Along with Impurath, the current line up includes drummer Vaz and guitarist Tregenda. The mission of Black Witchery, as stated by their founder Impurath in an interview on their website, is simple: to spread death and terror. Fair enough. I think they will succeed.

Ok. But how do they sound? What about the songs? Somehow, in the 21st century, Black Witchery has managed to capture that massive brutality and raw evilness that originated with their "trve kvlt" brethren across the pond decades earlier. Musically, this is straightforward black metal in its most stripped down form: rapid tremolo guitar picking, practically inaudible bass, blastbeat drumming, growled vocals. Lyrically, Black Witchery is all about "vicious desecration upon the feeble, broken flock of Jesus Christ" and similar.

Black Witchery plays Saturday evening, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.
Here's a taste from the studio and live. Not for the weak.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My DNA-tree-rrific tattoo design

So, when I am not blogging about local, national and international bands or going to work at my "real" job (which involves science writing), I am getting into trouble and getting tattoos. Here is my latest.

The design is an original by Mr. Jason Lynn of House of Madness and Ill Humors Tattoo Emporium and Odditorium in Hampstead, Maryland. Jason is a talented artist who could take my ill-formed ideas and come up with this masterpiece interpretation. He is also the person who gave me my first tattoo and will likely be the person to give me my last.

First off, I wanted a sort of Tree of Life theme to fall in line with my murky worldview. The branches ended up looking like spreading blood vessels, but that was good, because they just reinforced the medical/science/biological look I was going for. I definitely wanted something science-y so I could send it to Carl Zimmer, author of Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed. That's why it has the DNA double helix as the tree trunk. And just for fun, we decided to add the wee Newton's apple (my first color!), which was not in the original design but drawn in freehand when the main work was completed.

I suggest that if you are in the market for real tattoo art and not just some pick-a-picture-off-the-wall place, then you should see Jason at House of Madness. It may take you a while to get an appointment, but it will be worth it. Plus he is a nice guy and loves metal, too.

I am exceedingly pleased with this new piece. Please admire it. Ok, that's enough. Now, get back to work!! There are articles to be written and photos to be taken. \m/

Countdown to MDF X: (29) Archgoat

The satanic black metal band, Archgoat, hails from Finland and has been performing their blasphemous rituals since about 1989. They will perform Saturday evening, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

The trio that is Archgoat plays fairly straightforward, traditional black metal, but with more death metal vocals and certainly better recording techniques. Expect serious blastbeats from their drummer Sinisterror and distorted, rapid riffs from their guitarist Ritual Butcherer. Bassist Lord Angelslayer provides the death growl.

Extremely "trve kvlt" and definitely underground, Archgoat disbanded briefly from 1993 until 2004, or as they put it on their website, "decided to vanish from (the) now so commercial Black metal scene." They certainly don't participate in Facebook although it looks like they or someone close to the band maintains a MySpace.

Prior to their break up, the group had only released a few demos and EPs. Since their reunion, however, Archgoat has produced two full-length albums and an EP and appeared on a split with the like-minded group, Black Witchery.

UPDATE: I reached Ritual Butcherer via email and he said they will be playing music from all their recordings and will "bring merchandise that is pretty hard to find in the US" to MDF.  He added that no other shows are planned in the US before or after Deathfest.

Here's a song from their 2011 EP and a live performance from last summer.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (30) Noothgrush

The best thing about a band called Noothgrush is that you are not going to get a lot of irrelevant links in your search engine results for them. Well, except for that one weird thing that sits atop a toothbrush in the Dr. Seuss book, There's a Wocket in My Pocket.

This band plays crushingly heavy, misanthropic sludge that rolls over you like a Panzer VIII tank. If they actually follow The Devil's Blood on Saturday afternoon, May 26, of the 2012 Maryland Deathfest, as the running order indicates, then I will view them as a welcomed relief.

Noothgrush's music is incredibly powerful, cathartic, melodic, trudging and emotive. And frankly sometimes that just feels really good. Why sweat to all the rush, rush of thrash metal? Why scowl and grimace to all the "serious business" and blast beats of  black metal? Take a break. Catch your breath. Clutch some "invisible oranges" and enjoy a little Noothgrush with me. They released an album, Noothgrush, in the fall of 201l, and I love the album cover (shown right), which is apparently their take on the Seussian toothbrush menace.

Formed in 1994 in Oakland, California, the group's current line-up includes Gary Niederhoff - bass/vocals, Russ Kent - guitars, and Chiyo Nukaga - drums. The group split up back in 2001 but have since reunited and are playing gigs here and there.  Right before MDF X, Noothgrush will be on tour with Alderbaran in Europe. Check out their Facebook page.

The following song includes my favorite Richard Nixon quote ever.

Countdown to MDF X: (31) The Devil's Blood

So here's the deal. The Devil's Blood does not want to be perceived as just a  typical rock group. Rather they might wish to be viewed as some sort of performance art meant to ignite your hellish awareness. They exist to perform "rituals" (not concerts) in honor of their dark lord. They call their songs incantations and their merchandise, weapons. They are demonic minstrels of Old Scratch.  OK, whatever. I don't believe in devils, spirits or gods, so their message is somewhat lost on me.

To give you a better idea of their philosophy, here is a paragraph I plucked directly from their Facebook page:  “The Devil’s Blood is a dedication to principles and principals more ancient than Time, a branch of a tree greater than the World, an exclamation of both the profound and the profane. The Devil’s Blood has always been one of the many vessels through which the Light of the Devil shines upon the darkness of the world and shall always be the possible entrance to a path walked alone. But only for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear. This path starts not in understanding but in confusion."

The fact remains, however, that The Devil's Blood IS a musical group, and a pretty damn good one. Borrowing from the 60s psychedelia and the 70s guitar riffs, they have created, for a new generation, an interpretation of something like the grit of the Jefferson Airplane mixed with demonic overtones of Coven. The melodies are memorable and complex; the female lead vocalist is bold but not sweet.

The band was founded in The Netherlands by guitarist Selim Lemouchi and his sister, vocalist Farida Lemouchi.  Aside from them, other band member names were hard to confirm. I have read that this is because the band members are of no importance, only the art is important. The Devil's Blood performs at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Saturday afternoon. Their sound is a mighty departure from most of what you will hear over those four days.

TDB is currently on tour with Behemoth, Watain, and In Solitude. Here are some songs from their earlier and most recent recordings.

Interview: Dragged Into Sunlight tells all (no, just kidding)

The UK's best merchants of noise and negativity, Dragged Into Sunlight, will be performing Saturday, May 26 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. You can read my band profile of DIS here, which is part of an on-going MDF X series. After deathfest, DIS plans to spend the following two weeks touring the US, performing a limited number of gigs. This little holiday, steeped in American culture PLUS a trip to Texas, ought to provide the band with enough rage for several more soul-crushing recordings. 

I wanted to find out a little more about this enigmatic collection of mysterious misanthropes. So like a good little reporter, I asked if I could interview them. And they must not have complete "hatred for mankind" because they said yes. Today was a pretty crappy day for me overall, so to find their replies in my email inbox certainly turned my frown upsidedown, you know, in a "Dragged Into Sunlight" kind of way. Here is what they had to say. (And by "they," I mean the all-consuming, force-of-nature that is Dragged Into Sunlight.) 
How did DIS evolve? 

Dragged Into Sunlight evolved from our shared vision and bitter outlook. One expression of this is putting aside our individuality in a bid to further a holistic approach to our sound. There are no personal agendas, we stare from the inside out with one face, vision and ethic. Dragged Into Sunlight continues to evolve and is very much a beast of its own creation now.

What would you say are the lyrical themes of the songs?
In summary, our themes encompass those emotives you'd otherwise repress. Each track carries a new barrage of awkward and unsettling negativity.

There are no political or religious themes to Dragged Into Sunlight. We stand alone, and that is a position very much reflected throughout the words, blending obscurity with disgust and isolation. Twisting, turning, meandering, a downward spiral into self-destruction.

How did you develop your performance style? (That is, why do you perform with your backs to the audience, conceal your identities, and what are you trying to convey with that?)
Our performance 'style' continues to develop, however, our initial venture was almost pre-determined. We're anti-social individuals and our approach is of an anti-social nature.

Beyond concealing identities, we present a blank canvas for our listeners, it really doesn't matter who we are. Dragged Into Sunlight is a growing collective of like minded individuals sharing a similar outlook towards everything. We aspire towards new levels of extreme, our personal identities are completely separate to the identity which Dragged Into Sunlight holds as a collective manifesto.

What has been your most memorable live performance so far and why? 
Every performance is an honour for us and we view each as a separate highlight. We've experienced some killer shows.

For some of us, Dragged Into Sunlight is a final endeavour, so every moment is appreciated. For the most part, however, we hope that we make our next performance and that the sheer weight of our tone tears flesh from bone.

What type of music do you like to listen to, and which groups/musicians would you name as inspiration for your sound?
Our tastes are diverse and vast. Incantation, Bossk, Lazarus Blackstar, Rwake, Deathspell Omega and Austere recently. Dragged Into Sunlight draws on elements of the latter as a sold foundation. Our inspiration is very much a natural creation, spurred from months, if not years, of frustrated murderous intent. Imagine each micro-social interaction stuffed into one massive wrecking ball. Every time someone pissed you off and you wanted to tear their jaw off, concealed, building and ready to burst at any moment.

What sort of items will you have for sale at the Maryland Deathfest?
We'll have shirts and rolling trays. Maybe some records.

Anything else you think people ought to know about DIS?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Countdown to MDF X: (32) Hellbastard

The moment I first listened to Hellbastard, my heart began to race, and I had that eerie feeling as though I was hearing the voice of a departed loved one. That "departed loved one" was evidently my youth, misspent listening to crap. I felt sick and ashamed that I had never known of this UK band until now.

Founded in the mid 80s, Hellbastard set out from the beginning to merge the lyrical, integrity of 70s era punk with the balls-to-the-wall aggression of non-industry-approved heavy metal. Their earliest demo, Ripper Crust, possesses that deliciously fuzzy heavy metal guitar distortion, the frenetic drumming, some occasional feedback, and that forgivably low-fidelity audio production. The vocals, unlike black metal or "traditional" punk, are much more clear and shouted in your face. They are pissed off, and they want you to know why.

Later albums, such as the unbelievably Slayer-esque EP They Brought Death, reveal the fact that someone has thrown more cash into production, but the punk and metal spirits never wane. Hellbastard stay true to their prime directive: to rock you into submission. One source even described their sound as Crass's political lyrics plus Slayer's music, and I would say that's spot on. Unlike a typical punk tune, which might be over and done with in about a minute, Hellbastard take their time with each song, enjoying the riff, building the rage, and letting the listeners experience full-on, head banging catharsis.

The current members of Hellbastard include founder Malcolm "Scruff" Lewty (Vocals/Guitars) with Tom McCombe (Guitars), Paul O'Shea (Bass), and Josh "Buda" Harris (Drums). The group's history is bi-modal with one active era from about 1985 to about 1992 and then another from 2008 until now. Interest in Hellbastard was sustained in the interim by their inclusion on numerous complications representing the crust and grindcore genres.

Hellbastard has produced a 12" vinyl split with American crust band Dresden and are slated to have a new EP, Sons of Bitches, out sometime by the end of 2012 or early 2013.  The song, "Arcadia," below, appears on both. Hellbastard plays the 2012 Maryland Deathfest on Saturday afternoon, May 26. I'll be up front, weeping and apologizing.