Storming out of the Akron/Kent music scene, Red Water Tragedy front a new breed riff-heavy Rock and Roll. Their particular blend of bluesy modern rock and grinding sludge, offer an equally powerful blend of soul and angst. The band take on the aesthetics of acts like Clutch and Corrosion of Conformity, with a modern twist that’s interestingly both radio-friendly and slamming heavy. On their latest output, The Beast A Part of Me, the band have clearly defined a path for which their exciting brand of heavy rock will take listeners on a relentless, wild ride.
Initially formed over a decade ago, Red Water Tragedy have undergone a handful of lineup changes and fresh starts before solidifying themselves in 2013. Now, after slaying audiences across the region with high-profile performances throughout the Akron, Cleveland, Kent and Youngstown areas, Red Water Tragedy are set to unleash their first major statement on the face on the regional scene.
The Beast A Part of Me comes out swinging with the slamming opener, “Lest You Forget.” The track immediately announces its presence, and offers a nastiness in the vein of Clutch or Red Fang, with soulful angst-ridden vocals of lead singer Paul Galloway in full effect providing a unique edge. From there, a blast of riffage hits hard via “Storm the Castle,” which to many fans, has become Red Water Tragedy’s signature song thus far. The track particularly highlights most of the band’s best qualities; tight-yet-pounding rhythms, massive riffs and searing vocals.
The tracks “Concede” and “The Struggle” both feature and Alice in Chains-esque dynamic of hard riffs and moody atmospheres. They contain a certain quality of darkness that is immediately and refreshingly reminiscent of Layne Staley in the mid-90s.
Red Water Tragedy
After a brief “Intermission,” Side B of The Beast A Part of Me sees the band taking their songwriting up a notch with more diverse subject matter and musical complexity. “The Reckoning” displays a tense build-up before an epic crescendo, finding Galloway screaming “Go fuck your ego,” with true conviction. Although political overtones are subtlety and tastefully weaved through the album, the following track, “False Fangs,” places them front-and-center. “Contradict and leave us in the dark,” sings Galloway, while making a strong point, and leaving just enough to the listener’s own interpretation.
Closing out the album is the ripping “Far Too Long,” featuring some flavorful wah-heavy guitar, slick bass lines and cowbell! Finally, the album concludes with “Darkness Inside,” a brooding, atmospheric and vulnerable acoustic track, that still puts high emphasis on what’s quite possible Red Water Tragedy’s true knack; moodiness.
All in all, The Beast A Part of Me serves as a great introduction to what Red Water Tragedy is all about. There’s power, angst, soul, groove, heaviness, moodiness and well-formulated songs. The production quality is very high, leaving just enough grit for the average Sludge/Stoner Rock fan to enjoy, but just enough polish for a radio-friendly audience to grab. That is no easy feat, as some acts who walk the line of underground and mass acceptance run the risk of insincerity. Luckily, this is not the case for Red Water Tragedy, as each individual track stands out in one unique way or another. The Beast A Part of Me is perfect for fans of regional acts like Resinaut, Mississippi Gun Club and Rule of Two, or national acts such as Clutch, Red Fang, Floodgate or Alice in Chains.
By the late 90s, the promising musical landscape that was “Alternative Rock” took a dramatic turn into strange, unsettling territory. And there was none more unsettling than that of Nu Metal.
This hybrid genre, comprised of post-Thrash groove metal, alternative rock and rap/hip-hop, left a very bad taste in the mouth of 90s alternative audiences. The decade that saw the rise and mainstream success of acts as influential and diverse as Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Kyuss, Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana to name a few, fizzled out into an instantly nostalgic radio-rock wasteland.
Enter Nu Metal: A bastardized version of alternative metal which filled the gap between Electronica and third generation post-grunge.
Looking back, rock music was almost just as much an integral part of rap and hip-hop at its inception as anything else. DJs lifted just as many samples from 70s hard rock as they did from funk and soul. The idea of a slick, repetitive guitar riff under and funky beat was undeniably infectious, as proven on Run DMC’s rendition of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way:” The first major hybrid hit. Also, in the late 70s, punk and hip-hop were akin to one another, speaking socio-political truths to disenfranchised youth.
By the early 90s alternative scene, acts like Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine had emerged. With their aggressive heavy metal guitar overtop deep grooves and rap-like vocals, new audiences flocked. With the former taking it to experimental and avant-garde territories and the latter taking on a punk rock-esque political platform, the musical marriage undeniably made sense. By the mid-90s, angst-driven metal-ish acts like KoRn, Deftones and Limp Bizkit ushered in and solidified the sound of Nu Metal, taking the groove and hip-hop influence even further, with downtuned, bass-like riffs, screamed/growled vocals and later introduced a Turntable-spinning DJ as a predominant instrumentalist.
In its humble beginnings, the genre seemed just as promising as any of Lollapalooza-era offshoots. However, by the time of its peak mainstream accessibility, it failed to capture the admiration of either heavy metal or rap audiences. It instead found it’s niche in (predominantly) white suburban teen angst. The fashion choices of this scene are perhaps cringe-worthy enough (baggy clothes, overly-abundant accessories, poorly spiked hair), but what about the music itself? Here is a look at some of the best and worst the Nu Metal scene had to offer…
Incubus – Make Yourself 1999
Of all the acts from this scene, Incubus may have been the most musically diverse, and certainly had the best vocalist; Brandon Boyd. The album features signature scratching and rapped vocals, however, they are used sparingly and actually add quite a bit of flavor in contrast to Boyd’s impressive vocal range. Lyrically, the album isn’t as angst-y as most of its contemporaries either, and instead takes turns into the philosophical and ethereal. The album as a whole has more in common with post-grunge than KoRn. One could argue that if the scratches and raps weren’t present, it’d work as a decent Stone Temple Pilots record. The band would eventually abandon the signature Nu Metal sounds all together on future releases and explore more alt-rock territory on later releases. Overall, Make Yourself holds up rather well almost two decades later.
Slipknot – Slipknot 1999
Perhaps the most aggressive and extreme of their contemporaries, Slipknot drove deeper and darker than your average teen angst Nu Metal act. The fact that they wore unique masks and dressed in post-dystopian-like jumpsuits worked as both a gimmick and the most initially intriguing aspect of the band. The music was ugly, and sounded just a bit more demented than the rest of the crop. Slipknot incorporated elements of Industrial, Thrash and Death Metal, along with distorted turntables, horror film samples and hard-edge rapped vocals (possible influence on Tech N9ne?). Their chugging guitars were not far off from those of Ministry. They would eventually go darker and heavier on their follow-up Iowa, before teaming with Rick Rubin for more crossover appeal on 2004’s Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses. Still, their debut stands out like a severed head in a period of mostly dormant heavy metal.
Sepultura – Roots 1996
Is it fair to label Sepultura a Nu Metal band? Absolutely not. The Brazilian quartet took Thrash metal into exciting new places in the early 90s with albums like Chaos A.D., and also made a name for themselves as an early Death Metal act in the late 80s. So what happened? Finding influence in their native Brazilian and African percussion-heavy “roots,” and looking to emerging acts like KoRn and Deftones, they teamed with producer Ross Robinson for something new and heavy. Robinson’s signature sound saw the band eliminating almost all high-end from their guitar sound, trading leads and guitar solos for low, downtuned riffage. For what it was, and when it was, its the perfect marriage of old and new school heavy metal. Both new and old fans embraced this momentary direction. Frontman Mx Cavalera would eventually abandon Sepultura entirely to go in a complete Nu Metal direction with his next, and currently still-running band, Soulfly.
KoRn – KoRn 1994
It’s almost hard to believe this album came out at a time when Nirvana, Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins were dominating the rock landscape. The sound was at least three or four years ahead of its time, and no one sounded like KoRn before KoRn. Their decision to utilize (then-cutting edge) seven-string guitars and tune them a whole step lower, was something unheard of even in the deepest corners of extreme metal. Their riffs steered far away from traditional heavy metal by sounding more percussive, with all instruments locked into a tight, heavy groove. In ’94, Death Metal was still a very underground phenomenon, and this was the heaviest thing to alt-rock audiences since Pantera. As a result, it spawned a new approach to metal which would come to the forefront in the late 90s and early 00s.
Deftones – Around the Fur 1997
With their sophomore release, Deftones took the rough edges of their debut, 1995’s , smoothed out some, and sharpened others. The vocals, although still mostly screamed, had just enough accessibility to lift the song to higher levels when needed, without losing any edge. The riffs were still very grove-heavy, but stronger. The main difference between Around the Fur and Adrenaline was that the band learned when to hold back before exploding, giving these tracks a truly powerful impact. There are hints, albeit few and far between, of the Post-Punk and Shoegaze avenues the band would eventually take. However, Around the Fur is probably the most artistic record of the Nu Metal era.
System of a Down – Toxicity 2001
Toxictiy was undobtedly a powerful nail in the coffin of Nu Metal. Sure, the band played low-tuned groove-riffs with the occasional growled vocal. But of any of their contemporaries, System of a Down took note from the genre’s most high-profile inspirations; Faith No More and Rage Against the Machine. The spastic outbursts and odd time signatures clearly harkens back to the best days of Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, while their socio-political overtone is of the strongest since the heyday of Rage. The middle-eastern influences and overall quirkiness also set the band light years apart. Toxicity is often referred to as an essential metal record.
Soulfly – Soulfly
KoRn – Follow the Leader
Stuck Mojo – Stuck Mojo
System of a Down – System of a Down
KoRn – Take A Look In the Mirror 2003
By 2003, KoRn were basically the lone survivors, smoldering in the rubble of Nu Metal. And they weren’t in the best of shape either. After failing to find a groove or produce anything new or interesting for several years, Take A Look In the Mirror sounded like a tired reflection of the innovative sound the band became known for, only worse. The lyrics are angry for the sake of being angry, and cheesy to the point of no return. The riffs sound like uninspired rehashes of earlier work. The inclusion of rapper Nas on a track sounds like a failed attempt to recapture the magic of earlier collaborations with Ice Cube. Although the band would try their hand at more electronic and Industrial sounds on future releases to mixed results, this album will forever serve as a glimpse at the end of an era.
Evanescence – Fallen 2003
Evanescence attempted to trick many a young pre-teen and teen girl that their generic, commercial brand of post-grunge Nu Metal was hip and Goth. Shame on them! Although singer Amy Lee has an impressive vocal range, the overuse her high-pitched soprano overtop cheesy, formulaic riffs doesn’t do much other than tire the listener. The fact that Fallen saw much mainstream success at the beginning of the decline of the music industry is also a testament of what the record industry was pushing on the masses during its last breaths. The band declined after this release.
Papa Roach – Infest 2000
Not sure what’s worse: The fact that Papa Roach rose to fame with generic rap-rock anthems of angst at the height of the genre’s reign or that they morphed into some awkward cock rock band who still saw success after its demise. One thing is for sure: The undeniable irony. And it makes perfect sense. Infest was as whiny, angst-y, and lyrically idiotic as it got in terms of frat boy Nu Metal. With the rise of bands like Limp Bizkit, Nu Metal saw success in pop territory, and Papa Roach did well to exploit that. And, unfortunately, they still do.
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory 2000
By the time of Linkin Park’s debut, Nu Metal was down to a science. Find a group of angry suburbanites who lived through the grunge years, were exposed to punk and Industrial but never quite got it, and who had a deep appreciation for aggro-Gangsta Rap and BAM! You have a successful Nu Metal band. Linkin Park did little, if nothing, to further the genre. Instead embodied literally all of its tacky cliches. Hybrid Theory, a massively successful record, serves as their crowning achievement. And understandably, as it represents this genre at its mainstream peak. It was possibly the biggest crossover hit, having just enough edge (in terms of Nu Metal) for the hardcore fans but enough fluff for rock and pop radio. Linkin Park would go on to attempt Electronica and more traditional radio-friendly alt-rock to moderate success, however the scars of Hybrid Theory are too deep not to notice.
Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water 2000
Initially, Limp Bizkit seemed like a silly joke. Kind of a far-inferior version of Primus; wrought with redneck humor, but overall lacking in artistic integrity. And it was okay. They sounded like douchey frat boys and they owned it. Take into consideration some stellar musicianship, especially from guitarist Wes Borland and bassist Sam Rivers, LB might not seem so bad. It wasn’t until their third album, 2000’s Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, that the real moronic nature of vocalist Fred Durst hit it’s all time high, or low. With jabs at pop starlets, alt-rock titans like Trent Reznor, and whoever else he didn’t like, Durst put it all on tape, ultimately embarrassing only himself. Musically, it sucks. That’s about it. Lyrically, your dog’s farts might be more profound. There are no redeeming factors here (Sorry Wes). You’re best off to just move along.
Torche. Photo courtesy of the band’s official Facebook page.
By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)
Most bands strive to get better with each album and tour, but few achieve this. Miami based Sludge Metal outfit, Torche, however, has.
Now four LP’s deep, the quartet, consisting of Steve Brooks (guitars, vocals), Jonathan Nuñez (bass), Rick Smith (drums) and Andrew Elstner (guitar, vocals), continues to evolve with each new album.
Nuñez said that every record is a snapshot of where the band was during that particular time period.
“I think every album showcases where we were during that two or three week period that we recorded the specific album, or what we were doing at that time,” said Nuñez.
Torche’s new album, Restarter, is just as sludgy as it’s predecessors, but shows the band maturing with poppy hooks and a broader sound. Though the album, which Nuñez said got its name because it connected well with the songs on the album, was released in February, the band laid the groundwork for it a year ago.
“This album is a little over a year old to us,” added Nuñez. “I feel this represents us very well and is a bit more sludgy than our other records. Our last record (Harmonicraft) was more up-tempo… A big reason why our records sound the way they do is because of our straight forward approach to song writing, we focus more on the power of each song.”
Anyone who is a fan of the band will instantly love songs like “Bishop in Arms” and “Minions” as both are prime examples of Torche’s well-oiled rhythm section of Nuñez and Smith.
The duo has been playing together for more than 10 years and Nuñez said this is why the two are so tight musically.
“On the records our playing is more straight forward, but when we are on tour we open up our playing a little bit,” he said. “When we are playing live, we like to jam on a lot of the parts and leave room to embellish a bit.”
The jams will continue to roll as Torche is currently on tour (The band played Cleveland Height’s Grog Shop on March 17) through March. The group will then head to Europe for the entire month of May.
Though touring can sometimes be a drag, filled with little sleep and constant traveling, Nuñez and his band mates enjoy being out on the road and seeing friends, both new and old.
“We all love to tour, it’s great getting out and seeing old friends. From touring so many years we literally have friends all over the United States and overseas,” the bass player said. “It’s also great to hit up certain restaurants in different city’s and eat some great food and search around for some used gear.”
Playing shows in Europe though, is a whole different experience, from the culture to the food. But it’s something Nuñez said he always looks forward too doing, ever since he first played overseas back in 2006.
“It’s so exciting playing in Europe, it’s like a different world between the culture and the way people act. The food is amazing and it’s a great place to go exploring. What’s also neat is how we often will cross paths with a lot of different bands while over there and we try to check out their shows. We have had a ton of great experiences,” Nuñez said.
Checking out and listening to a wide variety of bands is nothing new for the men of Torche.
Their influences range from Sublime to African beats and classic rock to metal. Nuñez said that each member likes different kinds of music, but in the end it all blends together to make the bands signature sound.
Nuñez and company also happen to be a productive band; in fact, they are already three or four songs deep into their next record. Though they have no clue when the next album will happen, they are pleased with the head start.
“We started around January and have three, maybe four songs nailed down with some other jams we are playing around with,” said Nuñez. “A lot of our songs come together from jam sessions, we are a very productive band and are always writing and looking forward to the next stage.”
One of the main reasons the band keeps pushing forward is because of their fans, which have stuck with them from the start.
Perhaps the biggest show of support came after lead singer Steve Brooks came out as one of the few gay musicians in the “Metal” scene.
Brooks had no fear of any backlash, as he was certain he would have the support from his fans and band mates.
“Steve, along with the rest of the band, never received any kind of negativity over that. Obviously we all support him and so did our fans and people around the whole ‘metal scene’ or whatever you want to call it. We have a lot of great fans and open-minded people,” Nuñez stated.
“We have a lot of chill, liberal fans that come to our shows, at the end of the day, they don’t care about our sexuality or anything like that, they just care about the music and want to have a good time at the show.”
Restarter was released via Relapse Records and fans can visit their website torchemusic.com and play an exclusive 16-bit video game called Torche vs Robots: Annihilation Affair that features the band fighting robots.
Cvtvnmvvth performing at Cedars in Youngstown, OH. Left to right: Sam Bowlin, Kenny Halbert and Eric Thrap.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
It’s been quite a busy 12 months for Youngstown-based Doom Metal juggernauts, Cvttcnmvvth. Following the release of their debut EP, Toughsnake, in 2013, the band have been hard at work solidifying their lineup and making a splash on the local scene. With explosive performances across the area alongside top-notch acts like Album and Resinaut, as well as a handful of high-profile performances lined up, Cvttvnmvvth have firmly established themselves as the must-see ticket in the area in 2015.
The Raw Alternative recently spoke to the band’s founding members, guitarist Sam (Javier) Bowlin and drummer Kenny Halbert to discuss a number of topics including the band’s creative influences, their thoughts on the local scene, dividing their time between side-project Wild Wings and their upcoming performance opening for Columbus, Ohio Sludge legends Lo-Pan on Jan. 17.
Give us a brief history of the band from it’s formation up to now. Have you been involved with any past projects or worked with anyone previously which led to Cvttvnmvvth? How did the current lineup come together?
Sam: Kenny and I had originally began our musical collaboration when we met in high school, some 20-plus years ago. Ken had rented a practice space out in the middle of a crumbling junkyard on the outskirts of New Springfield, (Ohio) and it was there that we started version 1.0 of Cvttvnmvvth (then spelled Cottonmouth, without all the V’s, those came later). We strived to create unpleasant, virulent music that reflected our grim surroundings. Things eventually fell apart, as things often do, and after high school we went our separate ways for nearly two decades; I headed out east, while Kenny continued his adventures, musical and otherwise, between here and the west coast. I moved back to Youngstown in 2012 and reconnected with my old friend. It didn’t take long before we found ourselves in a new musical collaboration, the band Railings. Things ran their course with that act, and with some downtime on our hands we had the urge to resurrect our first band, a new version where Ken switched from bass to drums, but with all of the original intentions in place: To create something ugly. We recorded our debut, Toughsnake, in mid 2013. We tried a few select heads out on bass before Eric Tharp joined up with us in early 2014.
You made a pretty big splash on the scene last year. What are your plans for 2015?
Sam: We plan on recording material for our follow-up, working title Total Possession (Soundtrack to the Blackest of Masses), but Kenny’s not crazy about parentheses in album titles, so we’ll see how that one flies. Also, we will play cool shows and weird out squares.
Kenny: What do you think about the title? When you set a precedent like that it brings a lot of crazies out of the woodwork…plus, with the clandestine nature of these affairs, it’s hard to know for sure if it’s really the “blackest.” Someone will have to come up with a Scoville Unit-type ranking system, or something.
What’s your take on the current local scene right now? What do you like most about it? How can it improve?
Sam: I see both good and bad in the local scene. There’s a seeming trend of “acoustic” nights, which doesn’t do much for me personally, but it must be popular because you get so much of it around here. I like a bit of a spectacle if I’m going to see a band, I want something loud and different and if it can catch me off my guard then I’m into it. If I wanted to be bored and content I’d sit at home watching Criminal Minds reruns. If I know I’m going to have my mind blown, I’m much more likely to leave the house.
Kenny: It’s reflective of itself. If people start more relevant bands, there will be a scene with more bands that are relevant. If people want to go to art shows they can go support those things, and then there will be a boon there. Organic food stuff trading will be on the rise.
How can fans, and other musicians perhaps, benefit from getting out and diving into the local scene?
Sam: Well, it’s certainly something to do in a city where you don’t always have a ton of options for entertainment that doesn’t involve something illegal or immoral. Sometimes seeing a terrible band can be just a fulfilling as seeing one that rages, depending on your mood. Apathy tends to be the general consensus about town, which pairs well with the blight and despair, and while you might not have the ability to make someone care, at the very least you can try and make them uncomfortable.
Kenny: While watching a band, if you’re thinking, “This band is shit,” start a band. It might sound like a pile of shit, but it will be yours.
What’s your opinion of the current state of the music industry? Do you think it’s easier or more difficult to reach a mass audience? Are tactics like U2 giving away their entire album for free a good thing, or a sign of the end of old business model? How do you distribute your music?
Sam: There might as well not even be a music industry. There’s no money in putting out challenging or innovative music on a grand scale like it may have been in days past. Everything is subject to entropy, and when dinosaurs like U2 attempt such marketing schemes, one realizes the whole business model is dead on the table. Bono can afford to give his work away for free because he’s already made millions from the machine. It’s become a prerequisite that one distributes music in some digital format; there’s no escaping it. But it sure helps to get your work out there to a growing populace who may not own a CD player or tape deck or turntable.
Kenny: The music industry is a pile of shit. And Bono got paid for that. So did Thom Yorke. And don’t get me started on this new $1,000 Neil Young Walkman—what shit. We distribute at shows, online, and through physical distributors.
There seems to be a strong resurgence in the Doom/Stoner/Sludge scene. How does Cvttvnmvvth fit into that? What sets you apart?
Sam: Doom Metal has always seemed to work in odd cycles of obscurity and relevance. It’s a genre I have been a fan of since childhood, whether it was coveting my older brother’s Black Sabbath records, or going out and discovering bands like Saint Vitus and Candlemass as a teenager. For me, the best doom has a deep emotional resonance, which I hope translates in Cvttvnmvvth, whether it be abject desolation or world-weary pessimism. What sets us apart, I think, is approaching the material with a wider palate of ideas and approximations in regards to sounding the way we want, rather than a pastiche of our influences, which is hardly interesting.
Kenny: I don’t necessarily agree. It’s always around. If there was a recent peak, the peak happened a while back when Josh Homme was hanging out with Anthony Bourdain, nationally anyway. Metal itself is always there, but the various sub-genre flavors that are in vogue at the time change. But if any bands are into tube amplification and fuzz and a “give ‘em hell” attitude, we can fit in. No wimps. What sets us aside is that we have never set out to sound like _____________, nor set any rules governing the shaping of our sound. Although it should be noted Javier would probably play every song solo on the organ if left to his own devices. We try to encourage him away from “the Devil’s Showtunes”.
Songs like “Hideous Witness,” although heavy, seem to maintain a strange balance between Goth and psychedelic rock. Elaborate on your sound as much as you can (or are willing to). Why do you think it is important to show diversity and stand out?
Sam: Gothic and psychedelic music are a definite influence on our work, almost as much as punk or metal in the mix. I like thick, lumbering sounds; anything that comes across as suffocating or oppressive pleases me. At the end of the day, standing out or seeming diverse isn’t as important as it is to tweak some sort of emotional reaction out of the listener, even if its discomfort or disgust.
Kenny: The “psychedelic” part must come from Stoner Rock. The “Goth” part comes to Javier late at night after teasing his hair, while drinking iced tea and playing Bananagrams by the glow of a space heater.
What kinds of artists are you listening to currently? Have they or will they influence your sound? Any influences that fans may not expect?
Sam: I listen to a lot of older metal, stuff like Hellhammer, Bathory, and Beherit, 70’s hard rock, a lot of contemporary black metal; I’m pretty obsessive over certain region and era specific styles and genres of metal, but I fancy quite a bit of the 80’s gothic and post-punk racket as well. I think everything one likes ends up an influence, whether or not the influence is immediately apparent.
Kenny: Mainliner, Rakta, Coneheads, EYEHATEGOD, Greenleaf, Horn Of The Rhino. Absolutely. I love Steely Dan.
You have a pretty high-profile gig with Lo-Pan coming up; are you guys excited to be opening for them? Do you think having them perform in Youngstown is good for the local scene?
Sam: We are very delighted to be opening for Lo-Pan. It’s a great opportunity to expose our work to music fans who may have not had the pleasure to see our live show or hear our music before. I left Ohio in the mid-90’s so I missed the halcyon days of the Nyabinghi when heavier bands made Youngstown a regular stop on their touring circuits, but if the stories are to be believed, there are people who reside in our fair city who enjoy aggressive music but might not be aware that there are still bands who play in that style. We’ll see how the 17th goes. At the very minimum, we’ll have a good time and get to watch those guys devastate.
Kenny: Yes, I hope people come to the show. If not, that can become a bummer, and then what’s the point? A lot of those “glory dayz” memories people have about Nya, Cedar’s, Penguin Pub, etc., were often shows attended by eight people. The numbers in attendance swell as time passes. But that’s all gone now, so why not come out now and make some fantastic memories you can embellish later? And create something new instead of trying to become what things were. And you’ll be able to say you saw us “back in the day” when we were young; like, in our 30’s.
What’s in store for future recordings/releases? How can fans get a hold of your music?
Sam: We plan on doing some recording at some point this year. Ken and I split our time between Cvttvnmvvth and our other band, Wild Wings, so amidst playing out with both bands we’ll eventually get some work done in the Animal Dojo and have something new to offer before the year’s over. Expect more songs about sex and death. We have work by both bands available on our website www.lionscarerecordings.com as well as our Bandcamp page, cvttvnmvvth.bandcamp.com.
In terms of Thrash Metal, what comes to mind for many are undoubtedly the “Big 4” which includes genre pioneers Metallica, Megadeth, Anthrax and Slayer. However, the San Francisco Bay Area scene of the early-to-mid-80’s certainly wasn’t limited to just a handful of acts, nor was it short of boundary-pushing pioneers.
Among the many acts to emerge from that scene was Exodus. Noteworthy for featuring a young Kirk Hammett in their early incarnation, Exodus was just as innovative and trailblazing as any of the Big 4 acts, if not more so. Their style has always pushed the limits, even into extreme metal territory, with early Death Metal acts like Possessed and Morbid Angel, as well as Black Metal act Emperor citing them as a major influence.
30 years later, the Thrash legends return with a brand new neck-braking record, sure to pump some life into a genre that has grown stale in recent years. Blood In Blood Out, their latest effort, released via Nuclear Blast Records, is probably the best release in the genre since Anthrax’s massive 2011 comeback effort, Worship Music.
Exodus waste no time in getting right to the point on Blood In Blood Out, with non-stop brutal riffage, speedy solos, and socio-politically-charged lyrics that touch base on everything from organized religion to the current state of national affairs.
Leading off Blood In Blood Out in the Industrial-tinged “Black 13,” a ripping album opener featuring over-the-top aggressive riffs and lyrics that hook the listener immediately. From there the pummeling only continues with the catchy title track and political awareness of “Collateral Damage.” “Salt the Wound” features an unmistakable guest appearance by Kirk Hammett in the form of a tight, wah-drenched guitar solo and “BTK” features some brutal guest vocals from Testament’s Chuck Billy.
The second half of Blood In Blood Out takes the intensity even further with angsty tracks like “Wrapped in the Arms of Rage” and “My Last Nerve.” “Numb,” one of the album’s several highlights, features vocalist Steve Souza screaming “I’m sick of what I’ve become, but this world has rendered me so fucking numb!”
Closing out the album are a pair of slammers; “Honor Killings and “Food for the Worms,” leaving the listener adrenalized and ready to take on anything! A true metal record through and through, the album closes with a special bonus track, a cover of Angel Witch’s “Angel of Death.”
Despite several lineup changes and guitarist Gary Holt’s stints with Slayer, Exodus have prevailed a force to be reckoned with in Thrash Metal. Contemporaries such as Lamb of God, Machine Head and Trivium will fall to their knees, as these godfathers of Thrash show the metal community yet again, just how it’s done.
All in all, Blood In Blood Out is a very tight riff-heavy, consistent and truly brutal album that highlights the best the heavy metal genre has to off. Highlights include “Black 13,” “Blood In Blood Out,” “Salt the Wound,” “Numb” and “Honor Killings.” The bonus track is pretty stellar as well, breathing new life into an old NWOBHM gem. For fans of pure, gut-wrenching, no gimmicks heavy metal, Blood In Blood Out is a perfect record.
By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)
As many bands throughout Europe began to be more and more influence by Scandinavian Black Metal one of those pocket regions that rose to this movement was the Slavic regions.
Indeed there was an almost camaraderie between the two regions at least musically and they often respected and acknowledged each other’s influence on each other. Fenriz, the drummer for Norwegian black metal band Darkthrone, said on the band’s MySpace that the Master’s Hammer debut LP Ritual from 1991 “is actually the first Norwegian black metal album, even though they are from Czechoslovakia.”
Although the Slavic bands would general employ a quality that would eventually be known as yet another subgenre that is still flourishing to this day: Blackened Death. It was perhaps a combination of Czech Republic’s Torr (http://www.metal-archives.com/bands/T%C3%B6rr/4399) formed in the 80’s and Poland’s Vader and the original elements of Scandinavian black metal’s originators that influenced the early influential bands such as Master’s Hammer and Root.
Both Master’s Hammer and Root said Bathory heavily influenced them. In addition, Master’s Hammer was also influenced the by the extremely technical aspects which Carl Czerny and Giuseppe Verdi which employed in their compositional styles. Master’s Hammer enjoys a reputation among of the most respected metal acts as composers. Such influences among these early bands would lead to the orchestral metal influences in this region just as it did in Scandinavia.
Artwork on records became quite distinctive (and often unusual) in this region. One of the first contributions in this scene actually came from Master’s Hammer vocalist František Štorm, who did the artwork for Root’s first single, “7 černých jezdců / 666,” and their first full length, Zjevení. These and their later albums reached to other parts of Europe, namely to Portugal where the very successful Moonspell is from. They were greatly influenced by them. Root was indeed an early prominent band and was active until only about a few years ago.
In fact, many bands from this region enjoyed a longevity that unfortunately the Scandinavian black metal scene did not. Many are still currently active. One example that also has a great fan base to this day and who also solidified in 1991, is Behemoth from Poland. Their early works were demos on the small Polish label, Pagan Records but later came full length, Sventevith (Storming Near the Baltic) in 1995.
A year later, they recorded their second album Grom: A stellar example of Black Metal in its starkest form, it is often the most overlooked Behemoth record. The album hits upon themes not dissimilar to Viking Metal with titles such as, “The Dark Forest (Cast Me Your Spell)” and “Spellcraft and Heathendom,” lead singer Nergal seems to be tapping into his own interest in paganism as Quorthon of Bathory did before him. There are decided Black and Viking Metal influences and the record (from 1996) sounds much older but the influences they took from all those elements and what Vader started in the 80’s, Master’s Hammer and Root in the early 90’s is how Slavic Blackened Death would become completely developed.
Grom as well as other early Behemoth records were unique and ethereal, but Grom was especially important, as it was a pivot between applying what they knew black metal as and the band’s starting to experiment with their own takes of it. Tracks with very madrigal style female and children’s vocals and purely Polish lyrics became something of an archaic harkening to Slavic lands in Ancient and Medieval times.
As Behemoth went on to be the most notable band from the Slavic region to refine the blackened death genre, we must not forget the bands a long the way from other regions that were influential such as Akercocke, Belphegor, and Sacramentum. However, Behemoth became more political and critical of Catholicism in their native Poland just as Quorthon was in Sweden and they are still going strong with many of these sentiments as well as thought provoking lyrical themes of many kinds in addition to exploring different subgenres of metal. On their new album, The Satanist (that we reviewed in March) they seem going back in time by using older methods and songwriting styles just as the bands of the early Slavic scene had done before them. It is good to know your musical history.
All of the aforementioned bands as well as some of the lesser known independent acts (which I unfortunately cannot decipher enough of the languages to adequately add to this article with accuracy.) But they all seem to all be going strong – Many since the 80’s. Which is an interesting contrast compared to much of the Scandinavian Metal scene where tragedy abounds. Maybe they applied their own cultural takes on Black Metal and instead of “praising Satan” they embraced Vampirism or perhaps they found a better balance with religious assimilations of their Slavic paganism and Christianity that the some of the Scandinavians did not. (At least not among the hype of the crowds.)
All in all, I find the music of these regions and the blackened death subgenre, genuine and both dark and ethereal… Very interesting music. Please check it out.
In addition to my Picks of the Week (from June 2014) leading to this article Here is a list of picks (as chronological as possible) for your enjoyment!
Black Sabbath circa 1974. Photo courtesy of vh1.com.
By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)
From the heavier progressive music of the 70’s came what we now we know as Heavy Metal in its most pure form. Traditional Metal, Doom Metal and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal all had their beginnings in England. Grandfathers of all Metal with a specialty in Doom, Black Sabbath, defined the darkness, thickness and heaviness that was with obvious roots in blues and psychedelic rock. Other bands that helped forge heavy metal showcased these elements as well as proficient guitar skills and extended soloing that many of the experimental genres artists before them engaged in.
The first proto-heavy metal bands such as Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple attracted arena-sized shows similar to the previously examined prog rockers and arena rockers. However, the grandiosity was more focused within the size and scope of the riffs more so than the technicality of the musicians. As such artists began to rise in popularity and Black Sabbath really began to set the “tone” for darkness with Tony Iommi’s sound and slow heavy sound and Ozzy Osbourne’s lyrics provided a blueprint for overall themes in much of early metal. By the mid 70’s, Judas Priest helped the genre evolve a bit past where the forefathers derived most of the heaviness, the blues. It was more “straight up” like what many would describe as “hard rock” today. Around the same period, Motörhead reintroduced the speed in rock not dissimilar to some of the early punk rock.
However, Iron Maiden continued on to become extremely progressive, and other places in the world picked up on this music especially into the 80’s. As the English movements lead up to what would become the first to call themselves other subgenres in other countries, one remained the same to this day. Doom, which is where Metal came forth after stewing in blues and experimental rock, such as psychedelic and prog, and will remain undead in Tony Iommi.
Doom is the root of Metal just as Blues is the root of Rock. Pagan Altar, Witchfinder General and of course, the previously examined My Dying Bride are great British Doom acts. Of course other countries went on to produce some great doom, in United States, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Trouble and in Sweden, Candlemass and Count Raven, all acknowledge a reverence for doom and traditional metal the sub-genres that they are known for now (US – Thrash, and Sweden – Black Metal) both of which will be examined as geographical phenomena later in this series.
Indeed with Metal in general, Doom and NWOBHM, several sub and sub-sub-genres evolved and will be discussed as phenomena in specific geographical regions. Though England’s Venom brought us the term Black Metal at roughly the end of the NWOBNM movement, we’re going to see how it became a phenomenon in the Scandanavian lands next.
For now, enjoy these essential tracks spanning many Traditional Metal/Doom and NWOBHM and check out the previous Picks of the Week which I played on the radio.
Orwellian left to right: guitarist Seth Kesinger, drummer James Shaw, vocalist Ian Pethtel, bassist Mark Moats and guitarist Rickie Palmer. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief
Imagine George Orwell’s nightmare vision of a totalitarian state. Human thought and emotion have been eradicated in order to make way for a mechanized, mundane existence. Then, suddenly, mankind’s natural individuality begins to spread like a virus. A bloody revolt ensues, and the power of the human soul, ideas and expression, are all raging against the system.
Now, imagine a soundtrack to this conquest: The brutality; the struggle; the rage. Northeast Ohio’s aptly named Orwellian comes to mind in doing so.
Orwellian is an extreme metal outfit comprised of some the of the area’s HEAVIEST hitters. Lead by Kitchen Knife Conspiracy frontman Ian Pethtel on vocals, the band features guitarists Seth Kesinger (ex-IO) and Rickie Palmer (Postpwn3d), bassist Mark Moats (ex-Dawn Abandoned) and drummer James Shaw (ex-Paradym). Their fusion of death metal, black metal and grindcore, along with the unique influence of the members’ various projects, offer a distinctive sound spanning nearly the entire spectrum of extreme heavy metal.
“We kind of take a little bit of everyone’s influences and throw them into one style,” said Moats.
Orwellian has been in the works for several years. After the demise of IO, Kesinger began writing music with a handful of others before solidifying the final lineup. With the final addition of his former bandmate, Pethtel, Orwellian had come full circle and began focusing their creative energy on something new and distinct.
“It’s really just about bringing something to the table,” said Kesinger. “Then whoever’s there or not there can really just start expanding upon it. It’s really free, anybody can bring an idea to the table. If it sucks we’ll tell you, if it’s awesome we’ll keep it.”
“We’re not trying to stick to a certain genre or sub-genre. If it works, it works. We’re very critical, but it works. We’re not afraid to tell each other if something’s not working,” added Pethtel.
The raw emotion and range of influence is certainly present in the band’s music. The chugging riffs of “Novel of Despair” and the slamming-yet-melodic “The Gift” offer a look into what Orwellian does best; the thinking man’s death metal. These tracks perfectly surmise the rage of an individual whose been stripped of their being through a hierarchy of power. Pethtel’s signature growl offers an unbridled sense of brutality, matched flawlessly by the band’s very intense, yet very musical style. Tracks like the Fear Factory-esque “Tyrant” and “Abandoned (in Flames)” also indicate the band’s socio-political quip, living fully up to their name.
Orwellian debuted live at the Crawlspace Concert Club in Girard, Ohio in March of this past year. Since then, they have brought their brand of metallic brutality to dominance with explosive performances at the Outpost in Kent, Ohio. According to the band’s official Facebook page, this is only a taste of what’s to come:
“Here the story only begins for Orwellian. Where they’re going and what they do is left in their own hands. All we know is… it won’t be pretty.”
Orwellian is set to play Wedgewood Ramps in Austintown, Ohio alongside Youngstown-based thrash outfit Chaos Reigns, Warren metalcore masters Among the Fallen and post-hardcore punks Them Bastards on May 10. They will also be returning to the Outpost on May 31 for a headlining set with support from Chaos in the Sky and Cherry Poppins.
Swedish doom-metallers Ghost B.C. first hit the international scene just a few short years ago. With over-the-top theatrics and horrifying Satanic imagery including mock bishop costumes, the back gave modern shock rock a well-needed kick in the balls. They have single-handedly slayed audiences across the globe, included a top 100 debut in the U.S. with their last album, Infestissumam, and have proven to scare the shit out of parents who have grew up on the likes of Marilyn Manson and Insane Clown Posse. And for their next trick, they cover the likes of pop music icons ABBA!
Yes, on their recently released covers EP, If You Have Ghost, produced by none other than Dave Grohl, the Satanic shock rockers choose to remake some very unlikely numbers from a range of diverse artists. Forget the obvious Slayer or typical dark and brutal heavy metal band. The aforementioned ABBA, along with Depeche Mode, and garage rock pioneer Roky Erickson are just a few of the brilliantly peculiar artists Ghost B.C. have chosen to convert to the dark side.
If You Have Ghost continentally begins with an upbeat rendition of Erickson’s “If You Have Ghost.” The band’s trademark dual lead guitar and soaring vocals are present, yet not much else is very doom-metal about this track. However, it hits on the mark and serves as a very pleasant listen. Next, a cover of ABBA’s “The Marionette.” What do “Dancing Queens” and inverted crucifixes have in common? Not much. But the quirky choice doesn’t necessarily fall completely flat; the falsetto vocals rival the original.
The EP begins to gain some serious steam by the third track, a version of Army of Lovers’ “Crucified.” A touch of darkness is brought to the reimagining of this pop hit, and their natural theatricality proves fitting for the track. Finally, their take on Depeche Mode’s “Waiting For the Night” serves ultimately climatic, taking the somber track to new sonic heights without leaving it’s original vibe in the dust, successfully bridging any gap between DM and doom metal.
Closing the EP is a live cut of a highlight track off Infestissumam, “Secular Haze.” For those who haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing the band live, this little cut hints at what one can expect.
All in all, If You Have Ghost is a well-produced (kudos Mr. Grohl) and interesting listen. Not all will get it, but for those who will, it’s pretty cool. Perhaps a larger collection of covers, leaning closer to a full album’s worth, might help these tracks not feel so sparse. Still, their take on all of the songs is worth a listen. The EP is definitely not the right record to introduce one to the band. Perhaps Infestissumam, or their equally entertaining debut, Opus Eponymus, should be required listens before checking out If You Have Ghost.
Melvins. Left to right, singer/guitarist Buzz “King Buzzo” Osbourne, bassist Dale Crover and drummer Mike Dillard.
By Rick Pollo (Editor-in-Chief)
In the early 1980s, not many could have predicted that Seattle would be Generation X’s Liverpool in terms of a rock and roll renaissance. Sure, groups like the late-60s garage rockers The Sonics and 70s arena champions Heart call the city home, but a collective scene was yet to put Seattle on the rock and roll map.
By 1984, hardcore punk outfit Black Flag released there slowed down, Black Sabbath-inspired album, My War. The same year, bands like Swans and Flipper began to emerge, also introducing a slower and chunkier approach to aggressive angst-ridden punk rock. This sound was clearly ahead of its time, but left a considerable impression on the likes of Seattle outfits Green River, Soundgarden and the Melvins.
Originally formed as a hardcore punk band, the Melvins quickly emerged as one of Seattle’s most influential and ambitious acts by the mid 80s. Their unique blend of punk rock ethos, sludging heavy riffs and experimental tendencies helped spark a musical movement that would come to be known as “grunge.” Lead singer and guitarist Buzz Osbourne once stated that the band’s sound was “Black Sabbath-meets-Captain Beefheart.” Undoubtedly a perfect summation of Seattle’s perhaps most unsung and influential grunge act.
By the late 80s, the Melvins’ influence among the Seattle scene was blatantly obvious. Groups like Tad, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains, Mother Love Bone and Nirvana all were experimenting with drop tuning and searching for the heaviest and muddiest guitar tones they could find. For a moment, Seattle provided a renaissance in rock and roll, and the paradigm shifted. Over produced balladry was out, and noisy, angry punk and alternative was in. With the success of Nirvana’s Nevermind and several of the Seattle bands finding major label deals and mainstream success, the Melvins were at an epicenter of a movement. However, there break wasn’t easy.
As Seattle bands were getting signed left and right, the Melvins further pursued their musical ambition, shifting deeper into left field and away from what grunge had came to be known as, in the mainstream at least. They went heavier and sludgier, proving to have more in common with doom metal than Lollapalooza. Still, predecessors like Kurt Cobain continued to site their influence and eventually, the mainstream took notice. By 1993, at the height of the grunge scene, the Melvins signed their first major label record deal with Atlantic Records, and recorded their masterpiece, Houdini.
Houdini was unique in several ways. Much to the band’s dismay, it will probably always serve as the go-to starting point for the band. Sure, earlier albums like Bullhead and Lysol are classics in their own right. But Houdini is the first creative peak in an ever-climbing career of innovation.
Originally set to be produced by Kurt Cobain, Houdini is one of the most primal and raw, sophisticated and heavy and underrated alternative releases of the 90’s. Kicking off with droning doom riff of “Hooch,” it is immediately evident that the Melvins were not going for the sounds of Nevermind or Ten, but something more along the lines of the first records from Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. Signature sludge tracks like “Night Goat,” “Lizzy” and “Honey Bucket” serve as templates for nearly every doom, sludge and stoner rock act that followed, making even Kyuss sound like The Spin Doctors.
Houdini also has it’s share of quark. An unlikely cover of Kiss’ “Goin’ Blind” sounds nothing like the original, yet ultimately caught the eye of Gene Simmons, who often performed the track with the band during the time of its release. Tracks like “Sky Pup,” “Hag Me” and “Copache” are well representations of the band’s experimental side, an aspect of their sound they would also later explore and expand upon.
Commercially, the Melvins were never quite able to top the success of Houdini. Artistically, it was only a launching pad.
As fellow Seattle acts spend the later half of the 90’s and early 00’s dominating rock radio, the Melvins dug deeper into the underground, earning a very loyal following. Despite their lack of commercial exposure, critically acclaimed records like Stoner Witch and Honky resonating hard with their dedicated fan base.
By the late-90’s they were dropped from Atlantic Records but eventually signed to Mike Patton’s Ipecac Recordings. From there, a golden age of experimentation ensued. In 2003, they collaborated with ambient artist Lustmord for the Pigs of the Roman Empire LP and in 2004-05, they collaborated with Dead Kenndys frontman Jello Biafra and Tool guitarist Adam Jones for the LPs Never Breathe What You Can’t See and Seig Howdy! After a successful period of collaboration, they returned to their roots for the sludgy and trippy Senile Animal in 2007.
This year, the Melvins celebrate two milestones: The 20th anniversary of their landmark Houdini and 30th anniversary together. They chose to celebrate in true Melvins fashion by releasing two artistic achievements within the same year. Earlier this year, they dropped a collection of covers titled Everybody Loves Sausages featuring reworkings of tracks by artists as diverse as Queen, Venom, Throbbing Gristle, The Kinks, David Bowie and Lead Belly. Their latest jaw-dropper, Tres Cabrones, was released in October.
As the Melvins enter their fourth decade, they show no signs of slowing their innovative sound. That innovation has proven very influential, with sound that is impossible to properly categorize. Not only has Kurt Cobain and members of Tool announced their love for the trio, but contemporary players like Mastodon, Crowbar, EYEHATEGOD and The Dillienger Escape Plan have all sworn by the Melvins.
As trends came and went, artists risen and fallen, they continue forward, in a linear but upward direction, blowing minds and provoking thoughts at every peak.