Oh Tori Amos, you have disappointed me

•September 23, 2011 • 5 Comments

It’s been all over the metal news sites in the last couple of days – Tori Amos said some dumb shit about heavy metal and all the metal people are getting all worked up about it.

I was going to ignore it, as jumping on controversial issues is not really my style. But, I think that some of the metal sites and blogs are saying even dumber shit about what Tori said and that’s kinda annoying me. So what the hell, here’s my two groszy (hey, I live in Poland now, that’s the local currency).

Firstly, a lot of metal people are huffing and puffing about “who is she anyway”. The best way I can think of to describe Tori Amos is as an alternative music icon. It’s ok for metal people to have never heard of her (I’m sure she’s never heard of Gojira) but I don’t think it’s ok to dismiss her as “some unknown pop singer”. She’s not popular and she’s certainly not a pop singer. She is a bit avante garde (Blabbermouth described her as eccentric) and she’s been at music-making for a very long time so she deserves some respect. I always thought of her as someone who was intelligent and educated about music, as well as someone who held views and attitudes outside of the mainstream, even if I’m not a big fan of all her work myself.

So, I am genuinely surprised by the comments that she made, that seem to imply that she thinks there’s no emotion in heavy metal music. From Blabbermouth, your source for all news controversial or banal:

Amos said, “Sometimes you don’t know how music affects people. I embrace that because I don’t think that just because I talk about emotional stuff that it’s not motherfucker stuff. I’ll stand next to the hardest fucking heavy metal band on any stage in the world and take them down, alone, by myself. Gauntlet laid down, see who steps up. See who steps up!”

She continued, “I’ll take them down at 48. And they know I will. Because emotion has power that the metal guys know is just you can’t touch it. Insanity can’t touch the soul. It’s going to win every fucking time.”

So there you go. Even someone you thought was musically educated and intelligent can spout dumb-arse mainstream stereotypes to grab a few headlines. I actually feel sorry for her more than anything if her musical experience is so cocooned that she thinks an entire style of music exists without emotion. Its actually kind of laughable, which makes me wonder if it’s just a publicity stunt.

A weird one if it is! What do you think? Dumb shit, right?

New Krisiun track: yep, it’s definitely Krisiun

•September 22, 2011 • 2 Comments

A band that doesn’t get anywhere near as much kudos as they should: Krisiun. 2008’s Southern Storm was as bone-crunchingly painful a death metal assault as you could ask for, and a new track with video from their forthcoming album The Great Execution has just been released (hat tip to Metal Underground).

You never know what a band is going to do when they release a new album but I’m pleased to report that this track is most definitely the Krisiun we know and love. It might sound a little cleaner, to my ears – the drums in particular seem a bit more clinical than we’ve heard on previous releases – but if the album is comprised of music in this vein, no one should have anything to be upset about.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Krisiun live, at Hellfest in France. They played one of the tent stages in the middle of the afternoon. A while before they played, we spotted frontman Alex Camargo wandering around the metal market, buying pins for his jacket – just like an ordinary punter, which was cool to see. Their set was pretty tight and the only real thing I can say negatively about them was that they thanked the crowd a real lot. After every song. Multiple times. I get that they’re happy to be there, and maybe it’s the South American way, but jeeze guys, chill out!

The Great Execution is being released on Halloween.


Kvelertak: a band that you just HAVE to see live

•September 21, 2011 • 2 Comments

For a while I’d been hearing people rave about Norwegian band Kvelertak. I listened to them a little and thought they were pretty good, but as always I was distracted by other things and never really gave the album a proper in-depth listen.

Then I saw them live at Wacken 2011, on the Bullhead City tent stage, and holy crap, they were amazing. So much energy. The tent was packed – despite arriving in plenty of time, the band was well into their second song by the time I got through security. Trying to explain their sound later, I told a friend they were like Baroness (the John Baizley artwork enforces the connection), only about twice as fast and 40 times more intense. That’s no discredit to Baroness either, because they’re a band I really get into.

Then I saw them a second time, at Summer Breeze, also inside on a tent stage, and again I was blown away. Vocalist Erlend Hjelvik runs round like he’s unhinged, climbing the lighting stacks and diving into the crowd. Having three guitarists in addition to a bass player, there’s a lot going on all the time on-stage. Outstanding entertainment.

There’s a special edition of their debut album coming soon, with bonus tracks, live recordings, a documentary etc – and also extended artwork. If you want to see some of the track-specific images that John Baizley did for this re-release, check out his blog – they look awesome.

And just in case that’s not enough Kvelertak-worship for today, they also have a new video, for the track  Blodtørst (which translates as “Bloodthirsty” according to my sources, aka the internet). It features some lovely disembowelling and other violence – of the animated variety, that is. The embed won’t work here for some reason, but you can check it out on the Metal Hammer site.


So anyway, Kvelertak – check them out. And if you can’t see them live, go watch some YouTube, because it’s their live energy got me in.

Don’t like the new Morbid Angel album? Here’s some excellent advice I was given.

•August 29, 2011 • 10 Comments

Morbid Angel, purveyors of fine death metal since 1984. Then came 2011’s confusing Illud Divinum Insanus, comprised of mediocre death metal tracks interspersed with ill-conceived industrial-inspired tracks and at least one awkward attempt at a sing-along anthem. Based on the reactions of both professional and backyards reviewers and by countless trash-talkers across the internet (have I just joined their ranks?), this may be their least critically acclaimed album to date.

Personally, I don’t enjoy listening to it at all – and I’ve given it more than one chance, truly I have. I even like industrial music – but I think that Trent Reznor, Al Jorgensen, Fear Factory et al do it much better. So when I found myself in the company of Morbid Angel frontman David Vincent as well as a few members of their touring party drinking outside at a small nightclub in Hamburg the night after Wacken Open Air, well, what was I supposed to do? Holding back has never been my strength. Add a few Jack and cokes into the mix…

It all started when I overheard someone say “that’s David Vincent, in the hat”. I scanned around but the only person I could see wearing a hat was a dude who did NOT look at all like the Morbid Angel singer. “Is that really David Vincent?” I asked a guy who happened to be standing to the left of me. “No – that’s David over there,” he said, pointing behind me.

I turned around for a quick peek and sure enough, that looked more like the dude I remembered. I joked to someone else that I should go ask him about that latest album. The first guy immediately pounced with “Ask him what? Ask me, I’m the sound engineer.”

Uh-oh. Well, once you put your foot in there’s no turning back… so I unloaded on this guy, starting with “are they serious” and going through everything else I didn’t like about Illud Divinum Insanus.

As it turns out, I was talking to Juan ‘Punchy’ Gonzalez, sound engineer and all round death metal dude, who has worked with a number of great artists, most notably (after Morbid Angel, of course) Nile. He was an absolutely lovely guy and opinions about the latest Morbid Angel disc aside, we got on great. I got him a fresh Jack and coke and he started into what I think of as the Morbid Angel standard party line – the album is innovative, breaking with expectations, etc. etc. along with a dozen other reasonings I’ve read it in a dozen press releases already.

But then he said something that stopped me in my tracks. “It’s just an album,” he said. “Don’t worry – you’ll get over it. You’ll be ok.”

And that, my friends, is the crux of it. Like Morbid Angel? One bad album is no reason to stop liking them. Give it a chance, and if it still doesn’t sit well rip into some Domination or put on Covenant. You’ll feel better. If there was a Nobel Peace Prize for metal, Juan “Punchy” Gonzalez should be it’s first recipient.

All in all, it turned out to be a ripper night because as well as meeting Punchy, I also met Trey Azagthoth’s guitar tech Phil, who has worked with Danzig. I showed him my Danzig tattoo and demanded to know all about the great man, naturally, and he told me some great stories. We also met a couple of Polish guys on the Morbid Angel crew who Dave got along great with (in Polish, of course, so I don’t know what they were talking about).

I did eventually have a chat with David Vincent himself. As we were leaving I said it was nice meeting him and that his man Punchy had set me straight on the album and I was ok with it now. Of course that was a dumbarse thing to say (I’d had quite a few Jacks at this point) as he demanded to know what I didn’t like, and then he started in on the innovation line, saying many of the same press release things that Punchy had said. All in all I’m sure he had a few less than complimentary things to say about me after we left but he was getting plenty of rock star god worship from the other people who were there, so it’s all checks and balances, right?

Just remember Punchy’s advice: It’s just an album. You’ll be ok.

We all will.

Vinyl reissues: are you getting what you think you’re getting?

•August 28, 2011 • 1 Comment

Earache Records have a blog – Ask Earache – and on it label staff are brutally no-bullshit honest in answering the queries they get sent. From reading it you can get a good idea of what being a metal label this millennium actually means. It’s highly recommended reading.

A post today got me thinking. The question was:

What is the audio on Earache’s vinyl re-issues cut from? Is it re-mastered from the original tape or is it the same lacquer used on the original pressing?

The answer may surprise you – it certainly surprised me.

We recently re-issued the first 4 Morbid Angel albums on gatefold LP wax, and the audio for them simply comes from the CD.

They go on to explain – on old recordings, mastering from the original tapes isn’t practical (presumably economical) for producing new vinyl. Additionally, unless the same type of player is available and all the EQ settings etc are identical, the recording may sound very different from what people are used to hearing on CD. New recordings don’t suffer from the same problem so the vinyl version IS the analogue version of what was recorded.

Still – when I see a reissue of a classic album on vinyl, the assumption I have is that it comes from the analogue originals and it will sound superior to the digital version. As much as the fancy packaging, that’s what I think I’m paying for. But as it turns out that’s not the case. Given the reasoning supplied in the post, I would assume that would be the same for other labels as well, not just Earache.

I think I’d better start reading the fine print and scouring second hand shops for my vinyl. Am I the only one surprised by this?

The new music industry: City of Fire

•August 1, 2011 • 2 Comments


Note: this post was written in a hotel in Hamburg, ahead of Wacken Open Air. I don’t know why, but I seem to be able to hammer out posts when I’m away from home. Don’t question it, just run with it…

It’s well established that when it comes to Fear Factory I’m a major nerd. Just love ‘em. I’ve interviewed Dino no less than three times for Metal As Fuck, including once on video with Burton. Dave and I are in the video for Cyberwaste which was filmed in Fremantle, Western Australia, near where we lived at the time. I’ve seen them live at least four or five times – I keep losing count.

Of course, City of Fire’s music is about as far from Fear Factory material as you can get. But I only heard of them because of Burton’s involvement, and as it turns out they’re pretty awesome too. We listened to their debut self-titled disc a lot in 2010 – given that it was a lot “lighter” than some of the stuff we listen to, it was a good candidate for “office music” where non-metalheads were present. I saw them live in Perth when they supported Soulfly – an odd pairing, and although I do have a soft spot for Max Cavalera I’ve seen Soulfly like a million times and it was only a few days after getting back from Europe so I probably wouldn’t have gone had it not been for City of Fire’s inclusion in the lineup.

So, it was with some interest that I read that the band wanted to record a second album, and were using PledgeMusic to finance it. Essentially fans pre-purchase the album, merch packages etc and the money for these purchases is only taken if the band reaches their funding goal. It’s a novel idea and the principle is good, so I ponied up for the album, a tshirt and a handwritten lyric sheet.

I was going to post about it sooner to encourage more people to throw some cash in, but before I got the opportunity I was notified that the goal had been reached. I just checked out the site and it’s actually at 113%, with 44 people chipping in, and presumably more still coming on board to pick up some of the rather unique packages (including dinner with the band, the opportunity to come to a rehearsal or have City of Fire play your house party).

This is the new music industry – bands finding ways to connect with fans directly and fund the cost of recording in different ways. To all those people who say that the internet is killing music – you’re looking at it wrong. The internet has changed the way people think and how they spend their money. The old music industry model doesn’t work anymore. Stop bitching and find a new way.

Rant over. Now I just have to wait until 2012 to hear the new City of Fire material that I helped finance. Can’t wait!

Fleshgod Apocalypse and my irrational hatred of (all other) keyboard metal

•August 1, 2011 • Comments Off on Fleshgod Apocalypse and my irrational hatred of (all other) keyboard metal

Fleshgod Apocalypse

Note: this post was written in a hotel in Hamburg, overlooking the notorious red-light Reeperbahn on a quiet Sunday night whilst digesting jagerschnitzel and Weihenstephaner. Hell’s Pleasure and Headbanger’s Open Air have occupied the last two weeks and we’re off to Wacken on Wednesday to complete the festival trifecta.

Symphonic metal is not my cup of tea. In fact, pretty much anything with keyboards is rarely my cup of tea. Case in point: I saw Dimmu Borgir live and really enjoyed them. Turns out it was because the keyboards were virtually inaudible in the live mix. Unfortunately I can’t get into their recorded material at all (I gave it a shot).

From where does this dislike of keyboards stem? My mother really wanted me to play the piano and I had a couple of years of lessons as a kid, although I never got very far and didn’t really enjoy it (the music-reading skills I picked up were very handy, however). I did half of a degree in “classical” music and there are particular periods and composers I very much enjoy, but the intersection of metal and the classical- or romantic-era symphony orchestra sound just doesn’t mesh well in my mind. Perhaps it’s that the keyboard/piano seems to be the absolute least “metal” instrument there is. Whatever.

But Fleshgod Apocalypse are the exception to the rule. I really dig this band. Their 2009 album Oracles and 2010 EP Mafia are outstanding and on my frequent rotation list. Being very in-your-face, these albums were also effective weapons against the neighbour-who-would-not-stop-with-the-john-farnham-at-8am as well. Yet Fleshgod Apocalypse’s sound is without a doubt both keyboard-oriented and symphonic, my two least-liked metal elements.

So what is it about these crazy Italians that makes them the exception to my “keep your electronic orchestra away from my metal” rule? Maybe it’s that the keyboards and operatic tenor are overlaid on foundations that are about as brutal and dizzyingly virtuosic as technical death metal gets. I don’t know for sure – all I know is that I like it a lot. Check out Thru Our Scars from Mafia (the stuff I shouldn’t like but somehow does kicks in at about 1:44):


So. It’s 2011 and there’s new material on the way in the form of a second full length studio album, Agony, due August 9th. The first song released to the public ahead of the album release was The Violation. Uh-oh… I don’t really like it. Have a listen:


What don’t I like? I think it’s the “borrowing” of half the main hook from Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G minor. It’s a nod and hat tip to the master of 18th century riff-writing but it just grates. Perhaps because this song starts out symphonic, and adds death metal almost as an afterthought. Whereas most of the other Fleshgod Apocalypse songs are the other way around. Again, I don’t know. A lot of questions are being raised in this post that I don’t have satisfactory answers for. Sorry about that.

Fortunately, the second song released from Agony is more like the Fleshgod I know and love. A bit of “sorry old goat, is this more what you’re after?”. It’s called The Egoism and you can listen to it on their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/fleshgodapocalypse?sk=app_178091127385. I couldn’t find a YouTube link of the recorded version to embed but they have performed it live before:


There are previews of each song from Agony available on iTunes already according to No Clean Singing, but as I’m not an iSlave, don’t live in a Spotify-friendly country and Nuclear Blast are not down with Bandcamp, I’ll have to wait until I can get my hands on the official hard-copy release. Bummer.

Fleshgod Apocalypse on MySpace
Fleshgod Apocalypse on Facebook
Fleshgod Apocalypse on YouTube
Fleshgod Apocalypse on Twitter

Wimps, Posers, Hipsters and Haters – leave the hall!

•July 8, 2011 • 2 Comments


My very excellent friend Leticia runs a blog where she muses on metal, writing and life in general. Occasionally she has guest posters and yesterday she featured a post from Tom Valcanis, an Australian freelance journalist. I have the utmost respect for Tom – he’s a fantastic writer and obviously a very smart guy – but this time, I think he’s got it all wrong.

The article in question is "Wimps, Posers and Hipsters – leave the hall!". Before I get too much further, click through to Tish’s blog and have a read of the article.

The crux of Tom’s argument is that in this mad, mad, internet-driven world, where web sites battle to the death for every eyeball and precious advertising dollar, certain high profile publications are taking the approach of deliberately baiting their audience, and of writing with contempt, to the detriment of metal in general. According to Tom, these writers are "hipsters armed with BFAs, copies of Bukowski and Joy Division t-shirts, and they’re laughing at you."

Now, I hate hipsters as much as the next metalhead. But the two publications Tom holds up as examples of this trend are, I believe, being unfairly categorised.

Firstly, US print and online magazine Decibel. Decibel is reasonably new, having started in 2004 – certainly it doesn’t have the decades-long pedigree of Kerrang or Metal Hammer. But to my mind, Decibel is the only intelligent print publication for metal that’s around today. It does not stoop to damaging and stupid gimmicks like "10 hottest chicks in metal" to sell copies. It features intelligent and interesting articles – not just reviews and interviews . The vinyl "flexi-disc" offer to subscribers – each issue containing tracks that are unique, previously unreleased, and not available anywhere else – is a great example of adding actual value to the physical magazine in an age where print is struggling to stay relevant. And yes, Decibel has some fun columns.

The column highlighted as particularly troublesome is a relatively new one called "Disposable Heroes", where a guest writer will discuss why, in their opinion, an album universally hailed as a classic is actually a turd. Tom says "you’re paying $10 or more to be laughed at by the metal equivalent of your schoolyard tormentors." What he doesn’t point out is that this column is a complement to the longer-running "Justify your shitty taste" column, where a guest writer defends an album that was universally panned. No one’s laughing at you, Tom – these kinds of columns show that metal is diverse, and opinions are indeed like the oft-quoted arseholes. They say to readers "hey – If you hated the Blue Record or actually liked St Anger, maybe you’re not the only one".

The second publication under fire for allegedly harbouring hipster tendencies is the metal blog, MetalSucks. Tom goes all out on the offensive, positioning the site and founders "at the vanguard of the hipster metal journalist revolution, soaking in all the pompous art school posturing they could muster from their $20,000 a year degrees in fine arts that their parents most likely paid for". Ouch. I don’t think who allegedly paid for anyone’s alleged education has any bearing on how good a writer they are.

I’ve been reading MetalSucks for a couple of years now, from when it was a much smaller operation than it is today, and watching it grow has been an exercise in watching someone mostly get things right. Rather than a metal news site in the vein of MetalUnderground.com or MetalAsFuck.net – sites that post news and play it mostly straight – MetalSucks is a metal blog. Blogs, whether they remain personal blogs or grow to 16 regular contributors (as MetalSucks has), are where writers can feel free to post whatever they want and vent opinions in a much less formal manner than a traditional magazine, on a more rapid timeline, with the ability to respond to audience interaction, and usually without the editorial overhead. Sure, some magazines may be becoming more blog-like and some blogs are taking on roles traditionally belonging to formal publications – but the fact remains that a blog operates under a different set of rules.

MetalSucks embodies the blog by having a diverse stable of contributors that give their (often wildly differing) opinions. As a regular reader, I think I’m qualified to defend MetalSucks against the charge "they figured in order to cut through to a seemingly vapid and punch-drunk metal crowd […] you have to actively and almost passionately loathe the genre you cover". Follow the blog for a week and it’s easy to see that all of the contributors truly love metal – different kinds of metal. It’s not uncommon for one writer to bag one particular band or release only to have it defended by another writer in a subsequent post. They’re not shy about unbiased heapings of praise and vitriol, and the immense success that MetalSucks has enjoyed – both in attracting regular, loyal readership and advertising – indicates there is a large and eager audience for that style of writing.

Tom has torn down two very different metal publications because of one thing they have in common: doing something different. In both cases it’s something different that is helping them succeed where countless others are failing. The world is moving on and yearning for the "good old days" doesn’t do anyone any good. We should be looking to these kinds of publications as examples of what IS capturing eyeballs and attention.

And we don’t need to worry about metal – it’s survived a long time all by itself. Metalheads are more intelligent than they’re being given credit for.

The best metal drummer?

•July 6, 2011 • Leave a Comment


I wasn’t going to post this… but after yesterday’s drummer confession session I thought why the hell not.

From that source of all things metal and often all things stupid, Blabbermouth, comes the revelation that Chris Adler of Lamb of God has been named #1 in Modern Drummer Reader’s Poll for the metal category.

The top five results were:

01. Chris Adler (LAMB OF GOD)
02. Joey Jordison (SLIPKNOT)
03. Morgan Rose (SEVENDUST)
05. Brann Dailor (MASTODON)

I don’t know if Modern Drummer readers were able to nominate individuals or if the survey had a fixed number of options, but whenever I think “greatest metal drummer” the first name that pops into my mind is Dave Lombardo of Slayer. Sure, Chris Adler is no slouch, and neither are any of the others in that top 5 listing, but Dave Lombardo is just phenomenal full stop. He’s one of the best drummers I can think of in ANY genre. The fact that he wasn’t even mentioned is crazy.

Also I think the Atomic Clock, Mr Gene Hoglan, ought to have featured higher. There’s others that no doubt deserve mention as much as those in the list: Gojira skinman Mario Duplantier,the recently freelance Mike Portnoy, Igor Cavalera… man, there’s hundreds. Then there’s all the extreme metal drummers that have just insane skills – George Kollias? Kevin Talley? Derek Roddy? But I guess reader’s polls are more of a popularity contest than a real indication of merit, and extreme metal drummers are probably off the radar of mainstream publications like Modern Drummer.

So weigh in, comment below: who’s the best heavy metal drummer in the world in 2011?

Sick Drummer Camp sounds sick

•July 4, 2011 • 1 Comment

A little known fact: in a past life (that is, a long time ago, not an *actual* past life, because I don’t believe in that shit) I was a classical percussionist/drummer. Due to various injuries and general pigheadedness, I changed direction and didn’t drum for over 10 years, although I was always interested in what was going on in the drumming world.

A couple of years ago, Dave surprised me with a drum kit for Christmas – an awesome present for this little goatlady. I played around a little, but due to the stresses of running our business I never really had the time to devote to practicing seriously. Before we moved to Poland, I sadly sold my kit to a young bloke, for his daughter. I did feel slightly better that it was going to a chick.

Anyway, that little bit of background is to help you understand my fascination with drums and drummers, and why I think this upcoming event is pretty fucking cool. Sick Drummer Magazine (an online magazine that I subscribe to, because yes I am still fascinated) is running a 5 day “camp” in Northern California in September. As well as workshops, masterclasses and jam sessions with extreme metal legends like George Kollias and Derek Roddy, they have a bunch of recreational activities as well like go karting, a casino night, and wine tasting. It’s on a 5 acre retreat and the idea is that participants will get to hang out with the instructors over the five days as well as learn from them/gape at their talent. It’s like a drum groupie thing.

I think it sounds awesome. If I was a real drummer and not just a sad wannabe I would definitely want to go. Who knows, maybe now I’m semi-retired I’ll find some time to start playing again. I think I’d need an electronic kit this time, seeing as we live in an inner-city apartment now.

More information: Sick Drummer Camp 2011