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.

Interviews

Reviews

Opinion

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

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

image

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