You shoulda been there: Baroness at Fritz Club, Berlin

•October 12, 2013 • Leave a Comment


In the spirit of “I hate writing reviews and no one reads them anyway” I am now trialing short and completely biased “heartfelt recommendations” (thanks to @alanbaxter for coming up with the term). I have already given Adelaide’s Imminent Psychosis a “Good shit heads up” and here I’m trying the same thing with a live review, under the moniker “You shoulda been there”. Am I on the right track? Let me know in the comments.

Last year in the middle of winter I dragged my arse across town in the snow to go see The Sword at Magnet Club, on a last minute whim, only to find out at the door that all tickets had been sold. The blow was particularly stinging because I’m not even a huge fan of the band. The general concensus amongst my Facebook friends as I lamented my luck was that Berlin just loves anything even remotely stoner.

I am therefore incredulous that Baroness, a far superior band, did not sell out Fritz Club, a much smaller venue, at a much less brutally cold time of year. It may have something to do with the fact that I didn’t see a single poster around town advertising the show in the months leading up to it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. A few hours earlier the following online conversation transpired.

Biodagar: You heard Royal Thunder? You’d dig it.
Goatlady: They are supporting Baroness tonight. I’ve not heard them though.
Biodagar: FUCK. Hate you. What are the chances of that?

So with that recommendation, we set off early to make sure we saw the support act. Our tickets said that doors opened at 7pm and the show started at 8pm. We arrived at 8pm, checked out coats, visited the bar and picked out a good spot to wait. And wait we did, for almost an hour, until… Baroness came on stage. I still don’t know if Royal Thunder didn’t play, or if they played their entire set before we got there. But either way, it was a bit disappointing. If we had not intended to see the support act and shown up later, we might have missed part of the headline set as well.

Anyway, onto the main event.

Yeah, FUCK YEAH. Baroness.

I’ve not seen them headlining before – only in cruelly short festival sets and once supporting Metallica (hey, did I ever tell you about the time I got roped in to see Metallica and nearly got in a fight? No? Maybe another time). So it was a great thing to see them given the sound and lighting guys’ full attention and time to play a complete set. The sound guy did an amazing job, by the way, and the lighting was pretty special too, entirely colour coded – green and yellow for the new stuff, blue for songs from the Blue Record and red red red for the very last song, Isak, the only track to make it in from the Red Album.

The set was heavy with new material, and it worked really well live. The harmonies were hauntingly beautiful and spot on. It’s refreshing to see a band – a metal band no less – where the vocals do not suffer in a live setting. The heavy bits were… well, heavy. We jumped around for an hour and a half or however long it was and got insanely overheated but loved every second of it.

Love love love Baroness. You shoulda been there.

Crowdfunding the underground

•August 17, 2013 • 1 Comment


Two crowd-funded campaigns came to my attention this last week, and both were interesting enough to convince me to part with some hard-earned cash.

The first is Metal Evolution: Extreme Metal – The Final Round which is an effort by Sam Dunn of Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey documentary fame to add an additional episode to the Metal Evolution documentary series, about extreme metal. If, like many other people, you find it impossible to believe that extreme metal was left out of the original series, then here’s your chance to help do something about it. The lowest backer level is $6, which gets you a download of the episode as soon as it’s released. The campaign runs on Indiegogo until October 8, and still has quite some way to go to reach it’s goal of CAD $35,000.

The second is from one of my all-time favourite death metal bands Obituary. These guys have their own studio so were seeking US $10,000 for the production team costs to record a new album without the backing of a label. As it turned out they got that amount in just 24 hours, and at the time of writing have over $37,000 pledged.  They have a number of cool backer rewards including bonuses if they reach certain funding amounts, and the entry level starts at just $1 but if you want the digital album itself, your minimum is $15. And of course there are crazy extras for people with way too much money (the snare drum used in the recording of the End Complete autographed by the band can be yours for $2,500). The campaign runs on Kickstarter until September 16. It will be very interesting to see how much they end up with.


The thing about crowd-funded campaigns is that it takes artists that people already know about to be successful – no one is going to fund your garage band’s debut when no one has ever heard of it. But for artists with an established name that want to be independent of labels and work directly with the fans, it’s a great concept. Personally I’m very much looking forward to seeing the results of both of these campaigns.

A Pale Horse Named Death

•May 14, 2013 • 4 Comments


When Sal Abruscato started his own thang in the form of A Pale Horse Named Death back in 2010, I was on board early. Invisible Oranges was, I believe, the first place I heard about the former Type O Negative and Life Of Agony drummer’s foray into the frontman spot and I have a signed copy of the debut album And Hell Will Follow Me, ordered direct from the band before they received a US distribution deal, to show for it. It’s soulful, harrowing, heavy shit and I loved it. Everyone keeps coming up with the “Type O Negative crossed with Alice In Chains” comparison and it sticks because it’s true – but APHND can stand on it’s own four hooves, no doubt about that.

This month – in just a week, in fact, the new album Lay My Soul To Waste will be released. I interviewed Sal for Metal Underground about the new album last week and based on his responses and the three tracks I have heard so far I think it’s going to be really good. Two are embedded below, and the third premiered today on that bastion of metal hipsterism MetalSucks.

It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited about experiencing something that I know will be slit-your-wrists depressing.

Killer By Night:

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Shallow Grave:

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Can MySpace’s stinking corpse be resurrected?

•October 6, 2012 • 1 Comment

when there's no more room in hell...

Image credit: Kelly Bailey

I’ve built web sites for a couple of my favourite independent metal bands – namely, Cauldron Black Ram and Nails of Imposition. When talking about their requirements in terms of social media, both bands were quick to stress that they wanted to be done with MySpace (MySpaz, MySuck, etc) once and for all, were reluctantly using Facebook even though the tools available for bands were limited, and were embracing Bandcamp – which, although great for streaming music and allowing digital purchases, is no replacement for a full web site.

Being a web developer by trade, it’s always been my position that every band/business/individual should have their own web site that they fully control, instead of relying on a profile on a third party site which almost certainly has company profit and not the user’s best interest at heart. This was borne out when MySpace turned to MySuck, and again every time Facebook changes some minor aspect of how the site operates resulting in tiresome panicked status updates pointlessly urging mass user exodus or hollow threats of “facebook suicide”. Yeah, we all have those “friends”.

That’s not to say that profiles on social media sites are not useful – in most cases fantastic, and in some even essential – for bands. At the moment I would not recommend that a band didn’t have at least a Bandcamp and Facebook profile, and quite possibly profiles on Twitter, YouTube, LastFM, ReverbNation, and yes, even MySpaz, in addition to their own dedicated web site and mailing list.

And just like you never know when a service is going to go south, there’s also the possibility that one that has been discounted will rise, zombie-like, from the grave. It looks like this might – maybe, possibly, hopefully? – be the case with MySpace. The service’s history is interesting – it started out small, got stupidly popular, sold for a gazillion US $580 million to one of the largest media companies inthe world, who managed to completely destroy all credibility it ever had before offloading it for a mere US $35 million just five years later. I don’t know about you, but those numbers are so stupidly staggeringly huge that they have almost no meaning at all to me. There must have been some serious incompetence going on there.

But it turns out that the new owners – one of whom is pop pretty boy Justin Timberlake – have a plan, man. A completely new MySpace is in private beta and the video that they have released looks pretty interesting, if you can imagine replacing all the crap music with appropriately brutal alternatives (maybe turn the sound down before watching). Check it out below:

There’s also a vaguely interesting interview in Wired with “TV music supervisor Scott Vener” who is the “curator” of the new MySpace, whatever that actually means.

While it’s tempting to dismiss anything they do as “too little, too late” I think that as yet, there is still no great platform for bands to promote their music, and so a definite opportunity exists. Facebook sometimes tries but being so singlemindedly focused on profit and annoyingly changeable, historically, means it just doesn’t do a good job. Bandcamp does one thing really well – streaming and sale of digital music – but it does only that one thing, and bands really need more. The other sites have their uses but there is no all-in-one solution.

Could MySpace pull it off? They certainly have nothing to lose. It will be interesting to watch.

Essential music geekiness: Songkick

•March 27, 2012 • 1 Comment

A friend introduced me to Songkick recently. I know, I know, I’m late to the party, everyone who is anyone has been using it forever.

If you’re also not clued in, Songkick is a web site (duh). Sign up and, enter the locations you are interested in and the artists you are interested in, and Songkick will email you when the stars have aligned and your favourite band is playing in your home city – or at least somewhere you can get to. Or you can cry at the gigs that you can’t go to. The concept is simple but it’s (almost) all that is needed.

The hardest part about the entire thing is finding all the bands that you’re interested in tracking. Over the past few months I’ve added 216, largely by entering a band I like, then clicking through to all the “related bands” that show up in the search results. It’s kind of addictive. Over the course of writing this post I clicked around the site and added another 8. That’s still a kinda low number though – a REAL geek would probably go through their music collection alphabetically and get systematic about it (I’ve pencilled that in for tomorrow). And for people who might be concerned that the more obscure and/or underground metal bands are not included, I’ve actually found it’s pretty good in that respect. The official line on the origin of the data is that “we currently index over 100 different sources including all the major ticket vendors, a plethora of smaller vendors, local listings, ArtistData and a whole bunch of others”. I understand that artists/managers can add their own gigs too.

Songkick has quite a few other features, like the ability to check off shows that you are going to or that you might go to. These dates are then assembled into a calendar for you, and you can feed this into Google Calendar or other ical-compatible apps. You can check off past gigs that you went to, and there are some fledgling social features, like the ability to see which other Songkick users are going to (or if it’s in the past, went to) particular shows.  It doesn’t go very far with the social integration however – it doesn’t let you “friend” other users or be notified when they’ve checked off shows, which seems like an obvious feature and surely one that is on the cards. I had a look through their FAQs and it seems that there were some more involved social features in the past, but Songkick has had to “simplify the site so that we can build things up again with a stronger foundation” so those features will presumably be coming back at some time in the future.

Top of my wish list, however, is an Android app. Sure, I can log into the web application on my phone but a full-featured mobile app would be very cool. There is an iPhone app but not being in that particular cult, I haven’t seen it and cannot comment on it. Good news again from Songkick support: as of four days ago, they assure users that they’re “working on it”.

So there you have it. Want to know what I’m up to? Songkick will tell you:

Tried Songkick? Like it? Hate it? Leave a comment 🙂

Hellfest 2012: I don’t believe this

•February 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hellfest 2011 - Mainstage 1
Photo by Stéfan

In the previous few years France’s Hellfest has pulled out some pretty amazing lineups. Last year was the first time I was able to go and I was very impressed with the experience overall : good organisation, pretty good location, campsite was a bit disorganised and showering facilities woefully inadequate but on the whole, very enjoyable. Of course I missed half the bands I wanted to see because I was dying of the flu, but that’s a whole other story.

 This year, however, things were looking quite dull. First announcement, second announcement… meh. The friends that I went with last time organised a villa with a private pool in Crete for a week instead. I eagerly booked in, imagining a week of ouzo and luxury, lying by the pool eating dolmades, long afternoon siestas. Also appalling NWOBHM music, but you can’t have everything.

But then, they went and did it again. The Hellfest organisers have released a final lineup that blows away most other festivals this year. They’ve added a whole other stage with just stoner and doom metal bands. Pulled out a death metal lineup and a black metal lineup that are both worthy of individual festivals. Megadeth as a headlining act. A dozen or so random bands that make me squeal in delight and a few more that make me groan and shake my head in disbelief and disgust.

Hellfest 2012 Lineup

In other words, I have to go.

I wasn’t going to. But now I don’t have any choice. I am a slave to the metal. Viva la Hellfest!

Germany’s thirst for power metal strikes again

•October 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Everything old in rock and metal is coming back, or at least that’s how it seems. The latest band to reform after a big final farewell event is Running Wild, who called it a day to much fanfare at Wacken 2009. They’re even recording a new album in April 2012, titled Shadowmaker.

Most people of non-European origin or residency probably won’t care at all about this. I’m not a fan myself (I can only tolerate small doses of that kind of music) but I think this shows just how massive and absolutely insatiable the German appetite for power metal is. Look at Accept – 30 years on and even without their original and much-loved singer they’re bigger and more popular than ever. Most non-German metalheads or those who have never witnessed a mainstream metal festival like Wacken would have trouble believing just how important the genre is to the Teutonic populace.

These guys are metal superstars, and most of the rest of the world doesn’t even know they exist.

Monster Magnet vinyl and rock star mystique

•October 19, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last year I interviewed Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet. It was the second time I’d interviewed him, but for various reasons this interview has not yet seen the light of day. I will finish transcribing it and maybe even post it one day, but the most interesting part of the interview was when we discussed the issue of “rock star mystique” and the difficult that rock gods like Wyndorf now face in maintaining their god-like aura in this age of Facebook and Twitter and everyone wanting to know every last mundane detail about everything.

Dave has his own label with Monster Magnet guitarist Phil Caivano, focusing on short run limited edition vinyl releases. They’re releasing a limited edition vinyl EP with three reworked and re-imagined Monster Magnet tunes from Dopes To Infinity, their 1995 album.

Here’s the kicker though, and where I think Wyndorf and Co are working to make rock music a mystical, special experience again:  the Dopes EP goes on sale in November, but for the first month, you will only be able to buy a copy at a Monster Magnet show in Europe. Take that, internet!

I’m sure they would probably make more money if they released these songs on iTunes or sold the EP on CD and through their online store right away. But making it scarce makes it more coveted by obsessive compulsive collector fan. These kinds of releases will be popping up on eBay for years to come. This is how cult-like status builds.

The coolest part is that I will be going to at least one of those shows. Right now, I don’t even have a record player – but that’s not going to stop me from picking one up. I want to own a piece of the legend that is Monster Magnet.

Immolation and sponsored metal releases

•October 17, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Last year I reviewed Immolation’s Majesty and Decay release for Metal As Fuck. I liked it very, very much. The album gives me chills when I listen to it in the dark.

If ‘decay’ describes the subject matter of Majesty and Decay, the eighth full-length studio album and Nuclear Blast debut from New York’s Immolation, then ‘majesty’ describes their sound: immense, sweeping, thundering and ground shaking. It’s death metal to bring the mighty to their knees.

This month Scion A/V have released a new Immolation 5-track EP, Providence, for free download. Some people are unsure about the concept of “sponsored metal”, and I don’t know the exact arrangements between the band and Scion, but if the band gets an opportunity to record and release without it costing them money and the fans get to download it for free, it seems like a win-win situation. Scion look like good guys – hell, they don’t even want your email address to download the album – and the music gets promoted to a potentially wider audience. Immolation have said themselves that they are not able to support their families with just music (see this interview from late last year).

There’s also a video for the track Illumination. I love the raw string sound in the first 10 seconds.


As for the album, it’s just what you’d expect from Immolation – pounding, boulder-rattling, gritty mid-tempo death metal. Highly recommended.

Download and enjoy.

Now it’s time to say farewell… to Cosmo Lee

•September 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Photo: Cannibal Corpse demonstrating the clutching of invisible oranges

Let’s not make it goodbye, as I’m sure it’s not. But the day has finally come. Cosmo Lee will no longer be writing regularly for Invisible Oranges.

We all knew it was coming, of course. He announced that he was finding people to take over the site in March of this year, and listed some specific positions he was still trying to fill at the end of August. But still, it’s a sad day. Cosmo is probably the best metal writer in the business, and I’ll miss my regular dose of his intelligent articles.

I completely understand his decision. Even when you love doing something, being successful at it can mean that you find yourself trapped by the obligation to keep doing that thing – something I know all too well can happen (it’s part of the reason why I now live in Poland instead of in Australia running a web development business). By his own estimation, Cosmo put a minimum of three hours ofwork into each post, and in March had published 1400 articles on the blog. That’s a serious investment of time and energy for something that doesn’t earn huge wads of cash.

So this post is to say thank you to Cosmo, who inspired me to strive to write better. He also inspired me not to write unless I had something meaningful and insightful to add – and while that doesn’t help the metal sites I used to write for with their publishing schedules, I think it makes the internet a better place.

Another important lesson I learned from Cosmo is that it’s ok to only write about things that you actually like. In the spirit of that ideal, here are some of my favourite posts from Invisible Oranges over the years.




 So thanks and good luck, Cosmo. I hope that whatever you do with your new found spare time is rewarding and fulfilling.