Friday, July 27, 2012

Fresh news about ORCHID through an in-depth Interview with Mark Thomas Baker !!!

In about three years, with just an Ep and their incredible debut album "Capricorn", ORCHID have revealed themselves as one of the most attractive bands in the overcrowded retro-doom/hard rock genre... After two successfull tours in Europe, including memorable performances at London's Desert Fest and the legendary Roadburn in Tilburg, between recording sessions for the new album and rumours about a deal with NB, I felt it was time to get some fresh news, this time with guitarist Mark Thomas Baker (after Theo Mindell, almost exactly one year ago)...
Of course Mark speaks about this new deal but mostly about the new songs, recording process, tours, friends and some more personnal things too... It's also cool to read that there'll be something released by the end of the year before (one of) the most anticipated albums of 2013 (possibly under the form of an Ep ?)...
After a nice interview with Joshua Adam Hart two days ago, I'm pretty happy with that one too ;) Huge thanx to Mark for being so humble and interesting, and all the best to ORCHID for the future !!!

Hi Mark, thanks for answering this interview… You recently celebrated your birthday, often people think the forties is the golden period in a life (you know generally life is easier, there’s more serenity towards money, children, work, sex, etc…), what’s your opinion on that? (From what I see you seem to be at least pretty much flourished on a family point and with Orchid of course!)
All phases of life have rewards that keep you moving to the next one. I don’t think things are any easier by any means, but at the same time, having a family and all the stress and constant motion that comes along with it offers a different kind of happiness or satisfaction. There are many days when I wish this sort of success in music happened earlier in my life, and other days when I understand that I may not have known what to do with it if it did. I suppose better late than never…carpe diem.

Earlier this month you went into the studio for the 2nd time working on the new album, was the 1st time dedicated to pre-production or did you effectively get to record the album in 2 parts ? It seems to have been intense work during a rather short time, are you satisfied with it? What’s the next working phase now planned?
We recorded the basics in 2 different sessions. We tracked for 7 songs the first time and 7 songs this most recent time, plus there are a few other things that have been created in the studio since them. We’re planning on a 9 song album, so that gives us a lot to choose from. I think it’s going to be great. I think it’s a natural progression to a new level. The goal when we record the basics is to get a good live drum track. Sometimes we get a good live bass track to go along as well, but the focus is really to get the drums. There are a few live guitars that survive now and then, but almost always, the guitars come out better under a controlled ‘overdub’ sort of environment. Hopefully everything will be wrapped up before September. I don’t think we’ll see a release until early 2013 although there should be some new Orchid stuff out before then, just not a full length.

Both new songs played at last Roadburn tend to prove that new album will definitely won’t just sound like Black Sabbath, something that some people deplored about “Capricorn” (sometimes easily and abusively too), is that something you particularly had in mind when composing new stuff? The heart of your influences is larger than what we could think, of course mainly rooted in the 70’s heavy rock but does it also include more recent/actual bands?
I think the new material will show that we are capable of much more than sounding just like Black Sabbath. I don’t know if it’s intentional or unintentional. It’s just growing really. Most of material on Capricorn was written years ago at the genesis of the band or even before the band existed. Songs are written now with more confidence; tours have happened, reviews have been written, fans have been made. All of these things soak into your thoughts and give different perspective on what you think you can achieve.

The 2nd European tour came in between these both phases of studio recording, did it allow to test new songs (you played 2 at Roadburn but maybe more on the period)? Were the songs from the new album all composed before this new tour, maybe you found new ideas in the particular environment of such a tour with your friends of Lord Vicar and Sigiriya?
Well, we could have played more new songs for sure, but with the way things are today with video and the internet, we really wanted to keep some things under wraps and not spoil any surprises. A few songs were composed and tracked after the tour. I’m not sure if the tour influenced any of it, but at the same time, each day you live influences the next one.

Last year when I asked Theo if Orchid felt attached to the occult doom scene, he said that you guys never set out to be a part of a scene but if now I ask you the same question, I guess you could say something like “Orchid is not a part of a scene but a part of a family “The Church Within family”? It seems there’s a very deep friendship which is born between you and the guys in Serpent Venom, Lord Vicar and Sigiriya…
I feel pretty lucky to have been part of 2 tours now that were both really fun and memorable. All the bands that we’ve gone out with have been really great to us and I feel like I’ve made friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s just really flattering when someone like Jussi or Kimi tell you that the tour you just finished was the best tour and best time that they’ve ever had. I mean, those dudes have been around the scene a bit and to hear that from them just makes you feel good about it. I’ll absolutely never forget as long as I live all the fun and laughs that I shared with the Serpent Venom guys. Those guys are some of the best people that you could ever hang out and have a few beers and tour with. I miss them dearly and look forward to the next time I get to see them. The whole Church Within family and starting our journey with that label has been a truly great experience.

Theo already knew rather well some parts of Europe before touring with Orchid, was it also your case? How did you enjoy both tours towards the material and cultural aspects? Did you learn things from the 1st tour that helped you being more at ease for the 2nd?
I had been to Europe twice before we toured. Both times as a tourist though. I love the old world and all the culture. I love seeing new places and thinking about all the history there. The main thing I learned from the 1st tour to the 2nd was that it’s really nice to get some rest and not be hung-over every morning. I think we all took care of ourselves much better the 2nd time. No one got sick. The first tour, everyone got sick at some point.

If I’m not wrong you have a regular job, how do you deal with your boss when there’s a tour scheduled, is that taken on holiday’s time or …? Can you imagine you leaving this job for just playing in Orchid or do you feel it’s yet too late considering your age and responsibilities? (I don’t mean at all you’re too old for this!!!)
Well, lucky for me I have a great job at a place where my bosses are very cool people who are happy to let me chase my dreams as long as it doesn’t become a hassle for them, so far, so good. It hasn’t reached a point where I’ve needed to leave beyond whatever vacation or personal time that I have saved up. I’ve been here for over 10 years, so I’m pretty well known and liked where I work. I can see how this might all change in the future, but I’ve always just thought I’d wait until life forces my hand on that issue. Yeah, I do indeed feel like it’s too late in life to gamble with my future when I have a wife and kids along for the ride with me. I’m not sure how everything will work out, but I’m willing to entertain the idea of music for a living if it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved. I just have to go along for the ride and see what happens with it. 

When arriving at Roadburn, one of the 1st thing I heard from different sources was a rumor about Orchid being signed by Nuclear Blast, something not confirmed since then, is there a part of truth in that? did they approach you during a date in Germany or … ? Will the new album be released by Church Within?
There’s been a lot of interest in the band from larger labels for well over a year now, so after many months of negotiations and making sure we had the right deal for us, we have indeed signed with Nuclear Blast. I still find it a bit funny that some people seem to think that this will somehow change what we are doing. They signed us because they love what we did on Capricorn and they just want to expose our sound and style to a much bigger audience and see what happens. It’s a chance for a bigger level of success, but in the end, the public will decide what kind of level the band can operate on.

How do you feel the fact that you already toured (a part of) Europe twice but never did a real tour in the States so far? Does it concretely reflect more interest from Europe than from your homeland for Orchid or it’s maybe just logical considering your label is German? Do you have live dates planed for the 2nd part of 2012 in the US?
It’s really just a function of being on a German label. I think we’ll play around the US at some point, but there’s nothing planned right now. Any offers that we’ve ever had for US touring haven’t been possible either financially or time wise. Someday something will probably line up right though. I don’t think there is any doubt that the European audience is way more into what we do than the US audiences.

The hall where you played (Het Patronaat) at Roadburn was pretty singular which made your performance even more memorable… I suppose this gig was one of your best memories with the band so far, how did you get into and enjoy it?
Without a doubt, Roadburn is one of my favorite musical memories. It was just so cool and we were treated so well by everyone involved. It’s really a great festival and well organized. When we arrived in Tilburg, one of the first people I ran into was my friend Aesop who plays drums in Agalloch. He’s from San Francisco as well, so I felt a little less foreign right away. Soon after we ran into our friend Boris, who put on the show we played in Nuremburg last year. He told us he was the stage manager for Het Patronaat and that he’d brought me his old Laney for me to play through. So right away, we unexpectedly had a friend on our side helping out. That really eased my mind a bit. I was actually a bit more nervous than usual throughout the day, but once we went onstage to get set up, all that faded away. Stuff like that is still kind of a surreal experience for me. I haven’t done this enough to be jaded yet.

You seem interested in always improving your sound, looking for new vintage amps, what about that Laney Supergroup that you got before the tour for example? Are you generally faithful to the same guitar over the years?
As weird as it may sound, Theo is the total gear nerd in the band. He’s really the one who is always working for me on getting a great sound and having the right equipment. None of this would be happening without his involvement. I really don’t think that much about gear or guitars. I generally just like to plug in and play as odd as that might sound. There’s a reason that the Gibson SG is so prevalent in this genre. It just works and is nice to play.

Margarita is a word that comes back regularly in your FB posts (!), is that your fave drink? I suppose that having played consistently in Germany and Poland helped you discovering great beers and vodka too?
Ha! I do love some good tequila and margaritas are a really enjoyable drink. There is a very large Mexican population where we live and I will admit that the food and drink of that culture is definitely among my favorites. I really overdid it last week on our independence day (July 4th), so I’m off the margaritas for the time being. I get freaked out when I wake up and don’t know what happened the night before.

Well, thanx a lot Mark, what can we wish you for the 2nd part of 2012? Can you tell us briefly if all ORCHID merchandising is still available (vinyl especially)?
Wish us good luck I suppose. I expect that a lot of things are going to happen to Orchid over the next few years. I expect some chaos, so hopefully it all works out well. I’ve heard from Church Within that the 1st vinyl pressing sold out a while ago. I expect he’ll repress at some point, but I don’t know when. Huge thanks to the people for buying it all. Keep a lookout for news of our first Nuclear Blast release as well. We’re really excited about the new material that we’ve finished and can’t wait for people to be able to hear it.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

INTERVIEW with Josh Hart's killer prog' Doom project : CHOWDER

A bit more than 3 weeks without any interview in T.O.P. (last one was with The Disease Concept), this is the 1st time this happens since its creation in April 2011 !!! For a little while, I have several bands in mind that I'd like to do like Elder and Sigiriya but I must admit that I didn't feel motivated and/or inspired lately, until I got two weeks ago the fantastic debut album of CHOWDER "passion rift"... a true sudden impulse like you've only 2 or 3 per year !!!
Lasting about 50 minutes and revealing hidden treasures at each listening, this instrumental affair is filled with everything a TRUE Doom addict would expect, could it be in terms of heaviness, melodies, tempo-changes, tightness, creepy moods... all envelopped in a progressive and propulsive manner that is pretty unique for the genre and  believe me (if -like me- Instrumental stuff is usually not particularly awakening your enthusiasm) there's really not a single second where the lack of vocals is felt.
If not done yet through my previous post on the band which was announcing this release, I recommend you to read the overview by Revelation's John Brenner (here) which is far more consistent, fair and precise than mine. Let me just add that this album will be assuredly in my top ten of 2012; of course judge by yourselves but I honestly think that CHOWDER deserves your immediate attention.
Now let's go with the long experimented Joshua Adam Hart, founder and compositor of the band (actually in Earthride too, but also ex-member of Maryland pioneers Revelation and Unorthodox) a very interesting and sincere guy who made this one, one of my fave interviews ever published here for the blog... thanx man for your good words and attitude \m/

- It’s a bit surprising to read that you’ve been writing material for CHOWDER for about 20 years, does it correspond with the time when you left REVELATION ? you recorded demos in the 90’s but what did decide you to push things further after so many years with an ep in 2007 and then the album (while you were still active with Earthride) ?
I started writing material for myself before I joined Revelation and it constantly evolved over the years. I remember John and I messing around with some of the riffs that ended up on the demos Chowder released later on. I've always written my own material even if it didn't correspond with whatever project I've been in at the time. If I was to write music with Revelation or Earthride or whoever I'd certainly keep their sound in mind when doing so. In Chowder I write for myself. When John and I started to discuss what became the Doom Or Be Doomed festival in Baltimore in 2007 he suggested that Chowder play even though we hadn't jammed together for almost 6 years. I contacted Chad about giving it another run and he was interested. I also contacted Doug who I was playing in a hardcore band with called Stout. I knew he had really eclectic tastes like we did and is a monster of a bass player. When he agreed we started rehearsing old songs and it just snowballed from there.

 - This is a question that you certainly have to answer often, but why did it take almost 4 years to “passion rift” to come out ? I see a few similarities with War Injun’s history about that, a 1st album which took a very long time to come out and finally released by an obscure European label, yours being Italian, theirs being Portuguese… how did you find the deal with I-Voidhanger rds ?
 I'll be candid here. There are a lot of reasons it took so long to release. First, I was extremely OCD about a lot of things in the recording process. The rhythm guitars, drums, bass and some keyboards were done in only 2 days. But a lot of the extra recording and mixing took forever to get right. Also, Chad moved to Oregon in late 2008 and that kind of took the wind out of my sails about the whole project to be honest. Things were steamrolling along and that just kind of halted my ambition. To make matters worse I was in the process of moving back to my hometown of Frederick from Baltimore and got entrenched in a nasty custody battle for my son which consumed almost all my time and energy until late 2010. Around that time John Brenner and I began remixing the album and finally got it to the point that we were both happy with the result (John deserves a medal for dealing with me on this project). Then I started sending mixes to some labels to see if anyone was interested. Black Widow from Italy were the only one who responded and I thought we were almost there but it turned out they weren't interested in a completely instrumental album. Fair enough. Coincidentally, War Injun and Chowder both owe a great debt to Chris Barnes and his Hellride Music forum. In late 2011 John Brenner made a thread on there discussing his frustration that Chowder, Cyrus and Blizaro weren't receiving the attention he thought the three of our bands deserved and soon after I received an email from a poster there named Len from the Netherlands who contacted Luciano of I, Voidhanger Records and suggested us to him. Luciano was interested right away and made it very easy to get the ball rolling. I believe War Injun's story is very similar to ours in that someone posted on Hellride asking about what happened to them and next thing you know...results! Long live!

 - The booklet mentions that the album was recorded in summer 2008 by Mike Potter but also that there’s been some additional recording, mixing and production done by you and John Brenner (from Revelation)… was it for some complementary arrangements, how did that exactly happen ?
 John produced Passion Rift with me from the beginning and was invaluable in his assistance and guidance through the entire recording process. After we recorded the basic tracks with Mike Potter we reconvened at John's home studio in Baltimore and did many overdubs including lead guitars, acoustic guitars, Moog Prodigy, digital synthesizers, theremin and percussion. I had expressed interest in using a real Mellotron to record those parts on the album so when the other overdubs were complete Mike Potter put me in touch with a local musician named Jim Rezek from the long running progressive band Iluvatar. Jim has the largest collection of vintage synthesizers, Mellotrons and organs I've ever seen and he was very friendly and open to the idea of us coming to his house to record some additional overdubs. That might have been one of the coolest experiences I've had musically, it was like a museum in there. Anything and everything was at our fingertips and it was very hard to not go overboard and clutter the album up with synths. I stuck to using an original Mellotron M400 and a 70s Model D Minimoog. I completed a few other things on my own at home on my computer like the introduction and closing sample mashups of "Custody". That was all done in Audacity. The song "Mazuku" was recorded by me at home as well with the exception of the acoustic guitar, Moog and bells done at John's. So all in all it was a very convoluted recording process but I couldn't be happier with the results and am in a great debt to everyone who took time out of their lives to help this record get made.

- The cover has been done by Scott Simpson from UK, one could consider it as representative and harmonious with your music : aesthetic, tentacular, tortured, beautiful, mystic… what was the idea behind it, was it related to a precise theme ? This is pretty rare but it has the particularity to not mention the band’s name and album’s title (ok it would have been pretty hard to place them !), was it a precise recommendation made to Scott S. ?
Scott rules. He's a very good friend and one of the few people who knew exactly where my head was at when I wrote some of these songs so that made it very easy for us to work together on the concept art. If there is a theme to the art or the album it's of innocence that descends into darkness. I think my only idea was the fetus to be the central idea and for it to be surrounded by chaos and Scott ran with the rest and did a bang up job. The logo would have distracted from the symmetry of the artwork. That was Luciano's call and he was right to release it that way. I think it adds a kind of mystery to the entire package.

- I know you’re yourself a tattoer, did you ask him to take care of the cover cause you loved particularly one or some of his works as a tattoer/drawer ?
I've been a fan of Scott's art for years and he was my first choice when Voidhanger and I started to discuss the booklet design. Luciano was also very into what Scott does and we both agreed his art would be the perfect visual style to fit the music. I'm very pleased to see Scott getting the recognition he well deserves as an artist and also now as a tattooer. Tattooing is such a strange art form where everyone is constantly running around trying to copy what each other is doing based on public demand instead of trying to develop their own strengths. Scott's very lucky that his art is immediately recognizable and that so many people are open to letting him do what he does best on them. It's hard for me to imagine just how intense his tattooing is going to be in ten years.

 - I’ve seen on your FB page that you recently tattoed a woman’ ass, is that a pretty delicate and unusual demand ? does it make some important difference to you to tattoe for exemple the hairy arm of a guy or some more sensual parts of women bodies ?
Haha, well yeah it's not something you do everyday. I assume you're referring to the Japanese bodysuit I'm working on. In the tattoo business you're pretty much stuck working with the canvas you're given. I mean I'm able to refuse anything I'm not comfortable with but that's almost always a case of it being on a part of the body that the pigment won't hold during the healing process or when someone very young wants a ridiculous tattoo on their neck or hands or something. My job is to put on the best tattoo I can and it matters very little if it's on some hairy biker's chest or on an attractive female client. I have to maintain my professionalism at all times but I will say that some days are better than others!

- The overview from John Brenner about the album is totally faultless (precise, sincere, authentic) but there’s one point that I feel debatable when he says some songs are a mix part HC, part Lovecraft and part autobiography … I know you guys also have an HC background but I would not totally agree about that HC reference, except maybe the roughness of the drums/bass section at times, how do you feel that it’s materialized in Chowder’s music ? Another thing that also surprised me is the reference to Godlfesh on your FB page !?
I think the kind of hardcore John is referring to is more of the heavy metal influenced style that Chad, Doug and I have a background in. Not so much Discharge or Minor Threat as maybe Sheer Terror or Breakdown from New York although I love all kinds of punk and hardcore. Negative Approach, Poison Idea and Bad Brains to Dag Nasty, The Damned and Agnostic Front. I love it all! While I'm not sure how much of that kind of stuff makes it's way into Chowder's music a song like "Head Full Of Rats" is certainly heavily influenced by the Santa Cruz, California band Bl'ast! and I guess in turn, Black Flag. Mike Neider and Greg Ginn's guitar playing is as much an influence on mine as anyone else's and similarly the NY band Crawlpappy was an obsession of mine for years. What Guy and Ian were doing on the later Fugazi albums too and of course Quicksand. Doug and I both spent 10 years in a Baltimore hardcore band called Stout. Doug still plays in Stout in fact. A lot of what we wrote in that band has a lot in common with metal bands like Celtic Frost and Obituary. Godflesh is one of my absolute favorite bands and have also influenced just about everything I've done. Justin Broaderick is to heavy metal what HP Lovecraft was to literature. I think you can probably make parallels to them in a song like "Custody" or "The Innsmouth Look" or so I've been told. The lines get blurred a lot when you're influenced by so many different kinds of sounds over the years.

- Back to the “autobiography” part, logically this would be felt in the 2 longest songs “passion rift” and “custody” which are the most deep, epic and introduce lots of different moods from peace and melancholy to tense and fright… how could you explain that specifical part which is moreover only perceptible through the music and not through any lyrics ? Do you think that in some way your music reflects your feelings towards “life with passion” expressed on the first pages of the booklet ?
Well again, like Scott, John knew what kind of place I was in emotionally when I wrote those songs and what was going on in my life and my desire to attempt to capture that in the music. I'm not sure if it was successful or not because it's just music and it's going to feel different to anyone who hears it. The song "Passion Rift" is most likely what he's referring to. Without going into too much depth on the subject and boring potential readers to death, I was going through a really hard time with being separated and an impending divorce which I knew would lead to hardships for my son. The quotes in the CD booklet reflect that loosely. Utlimatley, when you strip away all the pretense from the title track it's just another cliche, broken hearted love song. Hopefully the only one I'll ever write. "Custody" on the other hand had nothing to do with the custody case I went through as the song and title were made over a year before that happened. The thought of it was certainly always present though and if you're one of "those" people I suppose you could read into it as some sort of portent or warning. It did turn out to be 11 minutes exactly and according to Chris Barnes 11 is a Thelemic number for "Magick" but I'm not really into all that hocus pocus unless it's by Focus. I wrote the song and the title after Scott Simpson and I visited the National Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC in late 2007. He was over for a holiday and wanted to see some sights in DC. I suggested that museum as I'd never been. It was a life changing experience for me. All the years of learning about it in school and seeing the films didn't prepare me for the reality there. I became borderline obsessed with The Holocaust and read and watched everything I could find the time to for almost a year. I think the song was my way of getting that shit out of my system somehow. The title came from the idea of being owned and not only that but being the despised property of such a malevolent entity like the Third Reich was. Writing about oppression in culture is hardly anything new but I guess "Custody" is just my spin on it. It's hard to imagine not having the freedoms that I probably take for granted more often than I should. Man, I bet you're sorry you asked this question now.

 - While being pretty different from the “usual” local sound, your music still reveals some nice Maryland DOOM caracters, is it something that you feel irremediably rooted in your heart and soul ?
I don't know, I definitely know what you mean by "local sound" but I think to put all the bands from Maryland in one box is doing them a disservice. I think there's a great diversity between bands like Asylum, Internal Void, Revelation, The Obsessed and Pentagram and I don't think there's much in common between bands like Earthride and Admiral Browning and Wretched. They're all heavy and write with melody but I think that's a common thread that goes back to being influenced by music from the 60s and 70s as well as each other. I mean two of my very favorite bands Penance and Blood Farmers share these same things but are from Pittsburgh and New York. I can hear what you're describing in bands like Torche and Elder too. I think it's just the juxtaposition of melody with dark riffs. I think it's a romantic notion to accredit a certain sound to one place but realistically it's just another way to classify and contain. Either way that kind of sound has had a profound influence on what Chowder does. My playing in Revelation and Unorthodox taught me whatever chops I have, that's for sure. Spending time in any band, you're going to take something away from it and being a huge fan of both of those before I joined just strengthens that.

 - About the progressive aspects of your sound, John makes a comparison with Rush in his overview which I can’t deny but my knowledge in progressive stuff is very limited, is there any other significant references that count for you ? Are long titles necessarily more conducive to the introduction of progressive elements ?
Yeah the Rush influence is heavy throughout I suppose. I think it was more apparent on our EP though. Rush and Jethro Tull were the gateway drugs to progressive rock for me. When I was writing the material for Passion Rift I was really into the Italian scene of the 1970s, especially bands like Museo Rosenbach, Il Balletto Di Bronzo and Semiramis. Those guys were on their own plane of existence over there. It's a shame some of them aren't given the respect the UK bands have gotten. I'm sure it's easy to hear King Crimson and Genesis on the record too. My love for them is no secret either. I'm a total fanboy. Camel and Gentle Giant! Oh and Radim Hladik's guitar playing. He was in a Czech band called Modry Efekt who released 3 Yes meets fusion albums that just cook. I wish I could play guitar like him. So fluid and unrelenting. Like Al Dimeola with a soul. The early Anekdoten, Anglagard and Landberk records. Trettioariga Kriget, also from Sweden! Frank Zappa is my all time favorite musician though and even though it's impossible to be audibly influenced by someone so prolific and inimitable it's in there somewhere. I could go on and on and on about prog but I hope to have sex with a live woman at some point in the future so I'll quit while there's still time. I'm not sure titles have anything to do with music but I guess it can help to paint a picture for people in the way that genres do.

What do you think about people who pretext the absence of vocals to justify the fact that they don’t get much into your style ?
I'm absolutely ok with any reaction to our music. I make a lot of jokes about negative reviews and stuff but really it's fine. If you had more bandwidth I could go on and on about all the bands I dislike for whatever psychotic reasons I have, so I get it. If there are people who prefer music with vocals then that's fair play. They'll listen to something else. I get it all the time and it's held us back in some ways I suppose but that's life. I made the decision to do it this way and I'm sticking to it. I like the freedom to experiment with song structure and to write anyway I want without having to think about room for vocal lines even though some of it would probably sound cool with the right singer. Bottom line is some people will like it and some won't. I prefer to spend my energy thinking about the ones who do and why instead of the opposite.

- This would of course imply some technical adaptations but is there any possibilities to see CHOWDER on stage in the future ? Sure you’re playing live with Earthride, but aren’t you sometimes tempted to share a bill with some other local bands friends (which I presume are pretty numerous!) and would be delighted at the idea to play with Chowder ?
It's always possible. It's been tough since Chad moved to think about continuing on with a new drummer as he was the only person I ever played these songs with over all the years. We had such a strong connection and it's going to be tough to rebuild that again with someone else. I have been jamming a little with Ronnie Kalimon from Asylum/Unorthodox/Internal Void and he's a fan of the album and wants to work on Chowder with me. I think that between us and hopefully Doug if the stars are right, we can produce some interesting music together and maybe get it out there live. It's going to take some hard work but we're not in any hurry. I'm currently more focused on writing new material to be honest and I think if we do manage to perform then a large portion of our sets will be new material with a couple of older pieces mixed in. That's my vision anyway. We'll see where it goes from here. The "Passion Rift" lineup actually played out quite a bit between 2007-2008 and we did the entire EP, plus the songs "Passion Rift" and "Custody" in their entirety complete with keys and samples. "Salt Creep" and "The Innsmouth Look" were almost always in the set as well. Playing live with Chowder is pretty hard work for me though with all the changes and synths and samples that need to be triggered. It's not a walk in the park and that takes some of the fun out of it. When we have a good set it's very rewarding but if there are a lot of mistakes on my part (and there usually are) I get very frustrated and depressed about it. Maybe we'll do Ramones covers next time.

 - Do you feel excited with this release of “passion rift” and consider this is a kind of new beginning for the band and more personally for yourself ? or is it a kind of conclusion of all those years composing for yourself aside your other bands ?
It could go either way at this point Steph. I'm absolutely excited to see this album come out after all the hard work and periods of doubt and despondency. I think it's a really good album and probably the best I can do. If this was my swan song I could live with that happily. But again maybe there's more to come that will shadow what we've done here. I just don't know what to expect and have no expectations. I know I'm stoked to have this out to help exorcise some of the demons from the past. It really became like an albatross at times too so now I can just relax and move on to whatever happens next.

 - Thanx a million Josh, add something you feel important that I may have forgotten and please give your last words to “la jolie France” !!!
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak about these things Steph, very kind of you. People, do your homework, dig in and find something obscure. Everything you could ever want musically is out there. Don't settle for what the big labels are jamming into your ears. Stop copycatting other bands. Don't believe everything you read in Terrorizer Magazine. Blood Farmers, Penance, Revelation...listen to them. Doom culture. Do the right thing. Bernie Wrightson. Frank Frazetta. Richard Corben. Lovecraft and Howard. Robert Moog. Sherman Hemsley. Merci la France pour me donner le Magma!

Nashville is Doomed : "devourer of worlds" BROTHER ARES

Out from Nashville (TN), BROTHER ARES consist in Blake (guit/voc) and Gore (drums/voc), another duo formula who present here a very solid 4 songs affair with their debut ep "Devourer of Worlds".
This could sound at first sight like a daring description but their label of "psychedelic Sludge" is quite adapted to their least most essentially for the excellent opener "the apocalypse we deserve", an instrumental with noisy spacey guitars ! There's also some quiet accoustic parts and soloing that can bring in higher than the average spheres like in "hands like salt" but I would keep just "Sludge" in mind because basically they're playing very downtuned and fuzzy stuff with a ruthless and dissonant approach.
As I said, 1st song is an instrumental while there's just a few vocals in the long 2nd song, in fact they're becoming progressively more and more present in time, reinforcing the increasing tension. They alternate between filthy shrieks, despaired screams and tortured growls (last song), there's even somekind of haunting complaints ("hands like salt"), a very good adaptation to the various moods present.
This "Devourer of Worlds" ends with the excellent "already dead" (no chance to find something psyche in this one !), a blackened closer that will make you smell the stench of apocalypse !
Assuredly BROTHER ARES covers a large spectre of crushing sounds through a slow descent to hell, that's a cool journey which in some of its massive and doomy at the same time aspects could remind a bit Ramesses :) I'm impatient to hear their new Ep due to be released in a couple of months; as for now go on their bandcamp page and let them devour your guts !!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

"Red Desert Orgy" by MUDBATH (free) Ep review

From the city of the popes, Avignon, this is MUDBATH with their 1st ep "Red Desert Orgy", another solid newcomer in the French Sludge scene, more and more active but still looking for some leader...
I don't know what's exactly their reflexion behind this, maybe just as a precaution, but these past months new French Sludge bands like to materialize their 1st recording through eps rather than full-length (debut) album (think about Crown, Valve, Verdun...) ; MUDBATH adheres to this rule... with success !!! just 3 songs, but about 22 minutes which are fairly enough to size up their promising potencial.
Fat, raw and heady, the music of this young quintet takes influences in a couple of wellknown bands like E.W. and KYLESA but also mainly in a very underground Swedish Sludge band that some of you may know - in the name of GLOOMY SUNDAY who released a totally underrated album called "Beyond Good and Evil" about 5 years ago... maybe not the sexiest reference you would expect but a guarantee of something rather different from your usual piece of Sludge/Doom ! This implies some HC overtones not just through harsh vocals, but also with a rather straight and corrosive approach. The SLUDGE caracters consist more logically in some alternatively blackened and weedy heaviness, heady wizardian type of riffing and  groovy soloing, which is perfect for me !!!
The wicked vocals increase the impression of brutality, whereas  all three songs are based on crushing mid-tempos; this is not a rush to hyperviolence though it could easily grind ears of trendy wimps but more of an accompaniement in their gloomy and tortured realm which I encourage you to join quickly... Taste the MUDBATH, it has lots of recommandable virtues for your mental health ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

from Galway - Ireland- : RITES

Here's RITES coming from Ireland (Galway, same area as Weed Priest) with their 1st ep released a few months ago, downloadable for free via bandcamp and physically as a limited 12''... 
I won't say that they are a true revelation to my ears but more  a nice surprise, a little bit curious. I indeed hear quite many good and different sources of influences in here, very aptly blended to finally give a real sense to the connection between SLUDGE and DOOM. That's a performance in itself and means that we haven't got here another copy of Electric Wizard or Sleep, neither of american Sludge bands, which is quickly a distinctive force nowadays... From what I see, the bands name doesn't seem to imply any occult or related conceptual approach, but there's actually not many infos available on the web and the link to their FB is not active at the moment !
Vocals are typically Sludge, you know kinda HC like, raw and gnarly;  while the music is far more eyeing on Doom. That's what is pretty special then, that Sludge thickness is nicely envelopped in a gloomy mood,  raw and doomy which in several moments reminds me the very particular atmosphere of "the wretch" - the last jewel from The Gates Of Slumber.
Heady and crushing  like on "plastic lung" and "forging", or more groovy with slightly metallized mid-tempos like on "vessel" and "iron shrimp", of course I can't say this sounds like Trad' Doom, it's just maybe the shared effects of the weather and Guiness (Karl Simon and his buddies recorded this album in England) that enhanced this common roughness and crushing despair.
This 1st recording is honestly very promising and I'm quite impatient to hear their new songs to be featured on the Hell Comes Home compilation vol 1 and a split ep with Dukalaton... Check out this godly ep and keep on eye on them in the future !

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Going Home" by TRIPPY WICKED and The Cosmic Children of Knight

"Going Home" is the 3rd and new album of TRIPPY WICKED and THE COSMIC CHILDREN OF KNIGHT, another brillant  protégé of Superhot rds along with Stubb... Damn, this label has an obvious taste to reveal the hottest from the 70's Hard Rock type of bands coming out from the UK!
In a rather short time admittedly, but I can hardly believe that this is already their 3rd album; indeed, this name should have been far more exposed than what it did so far, let's hope that this "going home" will help them to get some more (well deserved) consistent attention.
The band has a very distinctive SLEAZY sound, thick and heavy... It's fuzzy at times but not as Stonerish as their colleagues of STUBB for exemple, their rolling grooviness  would remind more the latest period of  DANAVA... which is more than a good point for me !
This is infectiously rockin' and can seriously interest various types of heavy sounds  fans. Melodic, bluesy and consistently heady, songs like the long starter "going home","up the stakes" or "change your mind" are some of the highlights of this solid album which ends too quickly, the too short length of "going home" would be my only complain about it !!! 
What I enjoy with this kind of band is the quality of "simple" but great arrangements, filled with warm melodies, authenticity, passion and catchiness... a pleasure I willingly encourage you to share :)

a Worthy reedition : "world of myths" by CRYPT OF KERBEROS

There's nothing wrong in my opinion with re-editions ,as long as there's no discussable financial intentions behind them; it's essential that young people get the possibility to discover bands that have counted in the legacy of a style but have sadly too quickly disappeared and/or not been distributed in good conditions for ages (when it's not never)... We can particularly underline the great work of Razorback rds on that point and now if Pulverised rds come also to this (they recently re-released Altar -sweden- along with this one), that's pretty good news :)
This "World of Myths" by the swedish band CRYPT OF KERBEROS originally came out in 1993, a rather strange period in the history of DM : it was the beginning of the 3rd wave, the market was completely  flooded by dozens and dozens of releases and almost everything had already been "created"... More personally it's about at that time that I felt the 1st signs of lassitude towards this style which I was so deeply into for about 6 or 7 years.
C.O.K. came out to the scene about two years before with an ep (like this full lenght - through Adipocere rds) that had a very confused production and let's say it honestly a style that was taking too much in Bolt Thrower and Asphyx. When we did an article on them for my old zine In My Veins back in late 1991, the conclusion was more about disappointment than excitement, especially considering those guys were coming from great bands like MACRODEX, HOUSE OF USHER (one of my fave swedish bands ever) and OBSCENE (I know there were also other bands mentioned but to me those were the most significent); they were kinda just another band from that 3rd wave !!!
A demo quickly followed and then a 2nd ep which little by little were revealing a rising catchiness, a lot more melodies and tightness, thanx to the coming of Jonas Strandell from another mighty local band called ETERNAL DARKNESS... Something that was perfectly matured through this 1st album "world of myths", this time noticeably with a better quality in terms of production and mixing. Sure, other Death Metal bands had already taken that more technical, melodic way of playing, think about ATHEIST or PESTILENCE especially. But more than any jazzy  influences and type of structures, C.O.K. nicely liked here to mix some powerful and crushing death metal with technical Heavy Metal through sharp and twirling soloing, revealing a very rich, atmospheric and slightly progressive orchestration that really matched most other new bands from this hyperactive period. 
It's fucking good to get back into "the canticle", "cyclone of insanity", "stormbringer" (vocals on this one really remind the Macrodex early days, argh that's excellent) or "ancient war", I could cite them all , as in my opinion there's no filler here, at least on the original version of the album ! Indeed, including old demos versions is a good idea in itself, it definitely shows the impressive band's evolution over the years but I don't feel it was necessary to inlude so many extra (demo) tracks... Not that important, the purchase can still be justified for old fans, with that killer new cover and artwork and he most essential is that we've got here a Swedish release from 1993 that sounds pretty unique, no Entombed or Grave copying, no Sunlight formated production, just powerful heaviness and refined melodies... Check this out !
I doubt that C.O.K. were too adventurous or avant-gardiste for their time, I just think they didn't manage their affairs pretty well before that album which kinda forced them to stay in business with Adipocere that was having a too gargantuesque appetite at that time and never allowed them to get the attention they deserved. So, thanx to Pulverised rds to make  justice now to this excellent "world of myths" !

           (this video is extracted from the original version, expect a thicker sound on the Pulverised one...)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Atmospheric Swamp Doom from S.C. : COMPEL

From Summervile -South Carolina-, here is an instrumental duo named COMPEL consisting in Joe Horne (guit) and drummer Tim Davis. Their 3 songs ep captured by Jay Matheson (Baroness, Kylesa, Fight Amp) at the Jam Room Studio in Columbia SC is a cool massive piece of Sludge/Doom you'll easily get into .
Extremely downtuned, fat and heady, both "(the capture) hag" and "let it be the devil" are crushing stuff that can fulfill all fans of Sleep and The Melvins; being instrumental in such amounts of power and  heaviness is NOT a problem at all a single second ! 
The 3rd song "Giants (the escape)" is clearly more refined with a more obscure but also melodic mood, it's not just the song title but more the fact that Joe told me that his "riffs are inspired by legenday creatures and myths" and definitely the song itself that make me feel a more progressive and epic tone. This shows interesting perspectives towards something more varied, consistent and personnal. This song is their most accomplished, more atmospheric while being maybe the heaviest and most percussive, there's several great parts of headbanging to expect from it too !
Once again, this is just my feelings but this duo formula has something special to my ears when it's playing such obscure and massive Sludge/Doom, just like Denver's awesome band In The Company of Serpents, they are not exactly the same but both bands have that special  texture, kinda groovy and hammering at the same time which I fuckin' enjoy :)
This is another worthy new download that awaits you for the week-end ;) "a name your price" affair that of course needs preferably bucks, assuredly immediately invested for future stuff, remember it, just 1 or 2 dollars is yet important and well-deserved...

Parched With Thirst Am I And Dying - GOAT RIVER "s/t" album review

GOAT RIVER "s/t" (self release)

When it comes to the french doom scene, you have to say that it's located mostly in the northern side of the country. This, of course, can be explained by the closeness of the capital city Paris, as well as the fact that it's easier to find gigs in Doom friendly like Belgium, the UK or the Netherlands when you live not that far from their borders. Incidentally, the fact that these borders are rather easy to cross by tour bus helps a lot any band that want to play there. The southern side of France is not devoid of bands (the recently deceased and excellent band Super Timor were from Marseille), but they have difficulties in finding gigs : Italy is kinda far and have their own way of playing Doom (which, so far, hasn't taken roots in any french band), and to play in Spain you have to cross the natural bareer that are the Pyrénées mountains (leaving you with few choices apart Catalunya and spanish Basque country). No wonder then that most of the few southern french Doom bands are rather unknown outside their county, and enjoy mostly a local success. Such is the case with Goat River.
Hailing from Toulouse, a city mostly known for its long historical links with Spain and the fact that it was home to some of the bloodiest battles of the Albigensi crusade, Goat River displays a huge mix between early Sleep and the Melvins. Their brand of mostly (but not always) instrumental music is slow, brooding, suffocating and raise the heat by a good dozen of degrees. This is their first album (after a fine MCD and a split EP with Dispenser The Dispenser, another good local Stoner Rock band in the vein of Fu Manchu), and they show a good deal in term of musical maturity.
What strikes me first is the use of vocals. You have to know that Goat River used to be a strictly instrumental band before, and while this is still the main portion of this self-titled release, the use of vocals (mostly dreamy ones, not unlike something that could have been done by a band like Slowdive for example) helps a lot in setting the mood for the rest of the tracks. Goat River are indeed a pure Stoner Doom band, full of psychedelic heaviness, but they never let this psychedelia take the most part of their music. Instead, I would call their sound somewhat 'dry' : you feel litteraly your skin being parched by the desert heat, your mind being crushed by the sun. This is especially true on the 15 minutes long and very aptly named 'Weight Of Guilt', a clear showcase of the evolution Goat River have been through, and one of their best songs.
While being desperantly long, brooding and crushing, the album is never boring. The many gigs in which most of the songs here have been tested have been of tremendous help in shaping them, and that is something that can be heard on the first riff. Goat River have done well, and I advice every fan of Stoned music or of oppressive Doom to check them. Not only is the music great, the package is also awesome, as you'll get a double LP+the album in CD version for just 15 € by contacting directly the band through their bandcamp. Do it quickly, for the album is strictly limited to 150 copies.

by Laurent Lignon

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Minneapolis Sludge/Post Metal : EARTHRISE "Eras Lost"

 From Minneapolis, EARTHRISE have recently unleashed their debut album called "Eras Lost"... This 11 tracks affair is for the moment available digitally on Bandcamp as a "name your price" download, while physical pressings and record label are soon to be announced (watch out for updates on Facebook) ....If sometimes an album cover can yet give you some serious indications on a band's musical style, this is not really the case here at first sight, unless my imagination or sense of interpretation are too limited !!! But if you consider it in terms of contrast and evolution, then certainly a parallel could be made with their musical moods, where the black anger is blended subtly with  the blue refinement and progressiveness... but always prevails over it !!!                                                                                 
Basically EARTHRISE is a Sludge/Post Metal quatuor that plays extremely loud and raw stuff, reminding Converge in their dramatical and excessively powerful and heavy tone; but regularly (though not systematically and artificially) their strong taste for emotional and atmospheric breaks is nicely appeasing the brutality and revealing some tightful progressiveness à la Isis or Cult of Luna...
Most of the songs last between 3 and 5 minutes, relentless, hard-hitting and catching you by the balls - but without preventing you from headbanging ;) -  while rather logically the longest are the ones who bring more diverse moods ("former worlds", "eighteen hundred") offering some more breathing moments...
What I feel is enjoyable in those Earthrise's aesthetic moments is that the palpable sultry tension never completely disappears and despite light and colours, it lets you remind this is just a world of hate and fear... Fuck,  we're all listening and/or playing that shit before all for our own entertainment but in the meantime we should never forget that  this is to escape from this world of shit, partly because we're at various degrees all responsible in the upcoming apocalypse  and I feel that EARTHRISE retranscribes this in an awesome way !!!
Now give it a try, it's tasty :)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Lost In The Woods : BOTANIST "III : Doom In Bloom/Allies"

BOTANIST "III : Doom In Bloom/Allies" (Totalrust Music)

I've listened to many albums over the years, some of them being in the subgenre vaguely defined as 'Avant Garde Doom' (for what it's worth or suppsoed to mean), and I've been accustomed to being surprised by some of the music bands are capable to create. Ever since I've discovered how far Metal music could go by listening to the classic 'Dawn Of Dreams' by Pan-Thy-Mo-Nium when it was first released in the early 90's, I've always looked for albums and bands capable of transcending the classic Metal canvas to create...something else. Which brings us to Botanist, a one-man band from San Francisco whose goal is to create music based on botanical science, plants and nature. At least, the thematic is original but is it the same with the music? For Botanist has already released before a double album which was clearly influenced by the Depressive Black Metal displayed by more known bands from its town (Xasthur, Leviathan), albeit with a twist : for there are no guitars in Botanist's music, there are instead replace by a hammered dulcimer.
And this precise trick is what makes Botanist music much enjoyable : it brings a lot of dream-like elements and an atmosphere of 'reverie', which goes well with the Black Metal elements and the Nature themes (after all, Nature and forests have been a staple in Black Metal ever since the early days of Darkthrone and Satyricon). But now, we're talking about the first double album and I'm supposed to review the new one, which is labelled as Funeral Doom; And this is where it goes wrong for me. You see, I do think that Doom Metal is much more than just slow and heavy music : if Doom Metal was just that, then I suppose that 'Still Loving You' or 'Mama I'm Coming Home' could be called Doom Metal. But, through its lyrical content and thematics, Doom is supposed to brings feeling of despair, sadness, loneliness, sorrow, fear, dread, sometimes even a bit of anger and hatred. And there's nothing here that correspond to that in any way : on this record, Botanist music is more like some slowly played Black Metal, with lyrics about plants, fungi and the like. Nothing wrong in itself, and I can understand that in some twisted ways you can find that a descriptive of the Amanita Virosa and its effects are Doom...but to me, it's just not personal : you never actually FEEL the despair and sadness of a man dying for having eaten the fungus, for example. It's just a descriptive of how the fungus can be deadly.
The hammered dulcimer is a great idea, and it brings a lot to the music but nevertheless not heaviness. The song structure is still lacking something. Some songs just change of pace without any valid reason, and there are all long ones (10 minutes+), which gives more the impression of listening to a long improvisation on a musical theme. It's typically the kind of album that'll be more enjoyed in some very precise circumstances, like wandering through a forest...There is a lot of positive elements, like athmosphere and musical originality, but it's still far from being Doom Metal : a friend of mine, after having listened to two tracks, descibed it as “AIR in their 'Virgin Suicides' era playing Black Metal”, and I do think that it's the most appropriate description to summarize the music displayed here by Botanist. It is music that will appeal to some Doom Metal fans, but I wouldn't call it Doom metal anyway.
Which brings us to the second CD of this album, aptly named 'Allies'. It is an interesting one for many reasons, the first being the way it was done : the intro and outro are some electronic music variation on the song 'Vriesa' from the 1st CD, the other ones are entirely new songs performed by friendly bands but they use EXACTLY the drums that were recorded for the Botanist part of the album, and are botanically themed. And there, we have a wide variety of music : classic Black Metal with Ophidian Forest, dreamy Post-Doom/Rock with Lotus Thief (one of the best tracks here), slow ritual Doom/Death with Cult Of Linnaeus, gothically inclined Doom with Bestiary and Doom-infused Folk with Arborist... The idea is good, the result is great. I've discovered 5 new interesting bands, some of them I'll gladly recommand and will support (mostly Lotus Thief : I didn't even knew the existence of the band before).
All in all (and I know this has been a long review, but after all it's 2 long albums), and after more than just a few spins, I consider this album to be a good release. Albeit not a Doom Metal album in my book, but you'll probably think otherwise (and I'll be damn interested in reading some different opinion than mine on this topic). Still, despite that, it has everything an open-minded Doom Metal fan may like and I'll suggest you take some close listening to it before deciding if it's your stuff or no. The concept is interesting, and I'm looking forward to hear more music from Botanist and its allies.

by Laurent Lignon

Leo Stivala (FORSAKEN) recording guest vocals for ARKHAM WITCH

Leo Stivala, the vocalist of the Maltese doom metal veterans FORSAKEN, has recently recorded additional vocals for the title track of the upcoming ARKHAM WITCH album "Legions Of The Deep" (to be out on October 1st on Metal On Metal Records). The recording took place in the home studio of Chris Grech (guitarist of NOMAD SON) in Mellieha, Malta. Present at this event were also Simon, Emily and Aldo of ARKHAM WITCH, as well as Jowita and Simone of Metal On Metal Records.

Leo Stivala commented:
"After the awesome time passed last year at the third edition of the Malta Doom Metal fest, I was contacted by Aldo from Arkham Witch to see if I was interested in performing in one of their songs for their new album. My answer was an immediate YES... taking into consideration the great sense of friendship I have with band and the fact that I like their music so much. So after a few months we talked again, agreed about the song "Legions of the Deep", and that the recordings will be done at Chris Grech’s studio in Mellieha, Malta. We met in Mellieha a day after I got back from Hellfest and went straight to the studio... Bammm, there we go... first take was already awesome!!! I really had a great time singing this song, as I felt that I really gave it a live feeling... we were all headbanging and having a good time... things sounded so great!!! Simon also gave a very solid performance re-recording his vocal parts. Some touches from Chris on the desk to get everything together and it was ready. It is an honor for me to be part of this album from Arkham Witch and I want to thank the band, Jowita and Simone from Metal on Metal Records for showing trust in my vocal capabilities and for showing such a great sense of friendship for so many years and through this recording!!! YOU RULE!!! Metal till the End!!!"

Simon Iff, ARKHAM WITCH vocalist, added:
"We just wanted Leo to sing on our album because he is a true doom metal legend! Aldo "Dodo" Doom has a long history and friendship with Forsaken and Leo, and it is an honour for us that a vocalist from a band that has been a big inspiration to Arkham Witch, both in terms of their music and the passion with which they go about delivering it, should consent to sharing a mic with us! Singing with Leo was a blast and I really hope that someday we get to perform this song together live! The man's molecular structure is composed from particles of pure heavy metal!"

Metal On Metal Records filmed and put together a short video report from this special recording session - the metal madness that took place on that very day, June 23rd, can be viewed on YouTube:

Sunday, July 8, 2012

masterful Trad' Doom w/ DEMON LUNG "pareidolia"

It's often when you expect something the less that it suddenly comes and strikes you without warning... I recently had the reflection that it's been quite a long time since I didn't speak here about some great Traditional DOOM Metal band, especially a new one. 
Indeed the first months of 2012 had been pretty rich with great new releases from Rituals of the Oak, Pilgrim, Pallbearer, Balam, Spirit Descen, until the new St Vitus but nothing very exciting came to my ears since then... lots of Sludge and Stoner but a rather quiet actuality concerning true Doom Metal. 
Until DEMON LUNG out from Las Vegas entered my sphere a few days ago with their awesome debut ep "Pareidolia"...!!! Formed around frontwoman Shanda (vocals), the quatuor likes it  slow and rumbling, while her vocals are impressively mournful, mesmerizing and could remind Sharey from The Wounded Kings and Sabine from Rituals of The Oak... bands that evolute in the same Trad' category and prefer to catch your soul with moods than a technical approach ! On this aspect, musically, there's also something common with both of them... but basically the style of DEMON LUNG reminds Candlemass without any special aftertaste of Heavy Metal : soulful, solid, haunting, melodic, even epic at times ; with no effects, no scary samples or evil imagery (despite a real interest for the Occult from Shanda). 
In just a bit more than one year of existence, DEMON LUNG already played locally with Pentagram, Jucifer, High on Fire and some friends bands; but I'm sure that this ep will quickly open them a lot of more and more distant doors ! This is a true revelation and absolutely not just another female fronted Doom band, this is top notch Trad' DOOM and proove that the style still generates regularly some valorous descendants to perpetuate the faith in the slowest, darkest and most soulful form of Metal.... love it :)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Album review : "Distortion Empire" - DUST (ger)

Out from Bielefled (Germany) DUST released this spring their new album "distortion empire" through Grind Attack rds... Don't worry we're not speaking here about GC stuff, even if this is damn crushing !!! 
One thing I particularly enjoy with DUST is that they are the rare kind of band that blend nicely the heaviness of Doom, the power of Metal and the anger of Sludge (mainly vocally wise but also with some ponderous bass lines) in a very tightful manner with soul, harmony and a real thick climate, kind of menacing and semi-obscure with psyche hints.
This is certainly the result of numerous years of experience, unfairly not really rewarded so far, indeed DUST formed in 1998 and already released two albums in 2006 and 2008 !!! I recently discovered them, so honestly I just gave a quick listen to their previous albums for the moment,  but it seems that this "distortion empire" is their doomiest effort, the bluesiest and grooviest too... 
The mood is still generally dark and full of atmospheres but a closer taste of psychedelism floats in the air. Something more mastered and not as angered, extremely downtuned  like on the title-track or weedy as fuck ("my addiction", "smell the burning")  but still with a hammering impact brought by Olli's vocals that could sound like a LG Petrov (Entombed) playing in a Sludge band - which is pretty impressive believe me !   
Just as the music gained in tightness and thickness, his voice gets better and better, the song "dying to be" representing the best possible DUST in its evolution : Olli almost sings in a Trad' doom way on the first part which is a good development, then there's maybe the best solo of the album that brings you pretty high and it ends in a pretty furious way that reminds some of their earlier material... nice, solid and very complete ! 
A rather strange particularity of this album is that they like to start songs quietly with  soaring melodies, subtle introductions to their amazing form of massive DOOM, the best exemple comes from "contact" which bluesy and psychedelic taste is simply bluffing ! 
A fact is that Germany is the biggest Country of the EEC, so naturally (or not) the biggest in terms of fans for METAL but their DOOM scene is not really under the highlights (and has never been), despite great bands like the veterans of Mirror of Deception and Dawn of Winter, Seamount, Spirit Descent, Spancer (different but as Dust has a Sludge edge I wanted to cite a great german Sludge band, that's fucking all !) and a few others... I would now add DUST to that list and will follow them for sure in the future; come on, ok that's not a very original name but easy to remember and really worth to get into ;)

gazing into the abyss : MONARCH! "Omens"

MONARCH "Omens" (At A Loss Recordings )

I've been following Monarch for years, around the time when their first album '666' was released. I've seen the band plays in many curious places, from squatts to pubs and even twice in a reamenaged cellar! And every time I've been crushed by the intensity of their live prestations. But while great, their records were still missing some little thing that would have pushed the band beyond being just another of those ultra-heavy Sludge/Drone/Doom outfit wanting to do nothing more than to create the VIBE. All this changed around 2007, when Monarch released their split-album with The Grey Daturas : from now on, Monarch was including some Black Metal elements in their music, mostly crunchy riffs like what Darkthrone was doing back in the mid-90's.

They also experimented a bit more with the vocals, sweet Emilie Eurogirl starting to do something more than just sick screams (which, incidentally, she does well better than many corpse-painted male vocalists). This started when she was part of the very short-lived electronic act (only one gig in 2008, opening for Boris) Sugar Blood Kult, with Sunshine Parker and fellow Monarch member MicHell : this is during this performance that we discovered that Emilie was also capable of doing some dreamy kind of singing, something that then took a place on the 'Mer Morte' album in 2008. And from this album on, Monarch have started to change and to bring into their music something more. Which finally bring us to their 2012 release, 'Omens'.
In some ways, 'Omens' can be seen as the final transformation of the old Monarch into something more mature. Sure, you won't be disappointed in the fact that there is still here that ominous dark vibe for which the band has been known. But the idea to bring elements of Black Metal inside the Doom that is Monarch has never been so well done. In some ways, 'Omens' sounds like the album that Black Sabbath would have recorded if they had been born in Bergen and had started recording music in 1992. This is dark and brooding ritualistic music, bringing to mind vivid images of black masses in forgotten crypts and lone witches performing unholy rituals in the deepest parts of a shunned forest. The three songs are entwined so much that you could really think you're listening to the three different parts of a single track.

But more than the crunchy riffs and the crumbling mausoleum atmosphere, what sets apart 'Omens' from the previous Monarch releases is the huge step forward taken by Emilie's voice : now, she actually sings, and she does it with style, being fully interpreting the personna of each track. She is indeed the 'Blood Seeress' of the first song, peering into a bowl of freshly drawn red liquid of life to discover the secrets of the universe, she is mumbling the 'Transylvanian Incantations' and through her dirge then the sun becomes black...The powerful ritual machine that is Monarch live has been able to retranscript that live vibe fully into an album. 'Omens' isn't influenced by Khanate or whatever other band you can think of, it's finally the album that'll put Monarch as the leaders of their genre. And considering the high quality of this release, they bloody deserve it.

by Laurent Lignon