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By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

Faith_No_More_-_Sol_Invictus_Album_Cover

Artist: Faith No More

Album: Sol Invictus

Release Date: 5/19/15

Rating: 9.5/10

Back in early 2000, at the age of 14, I remember being in an Internet chat room (remember those?) for Mike Patton’s record label Ipecac.

The versatile singers company was still in its infancy as was his new band Fantômas.

Still in love with both Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, I asked a question that I doubted would be picked amongst the thousands of questions being submitted.

To my surprise, however, it was.

The question: Will Mr. Patton ever reunite with Faith No more to make another great record?

The answer: Hell no, never!

At least that’s what the moderator, via Patton, said to me and the other faithful fans, much to my chagrin.

Never say never.

Back “From the Dead” 15 years after that moment, Faith No More has released it’s seventh studio album, Sol Invictus.

What can you expect from a band that hasn’t put a record out in 18 years?

When it’s Faith No More, an album that stands shoulder to shoulder with anything they put out in the past.

This effort ranks somewhere above Album of the Year and the two pre-Patton records. And somewhere between King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime and The Real Thing.

Faith No More circa 2015. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

Faith No More circa 2015. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

The record starts out with the title track and kind of eases you into the album, with its soft piano and Patton’s unique vocals.

When “Superhero” kicks in, it’s like a swift kick to the gut as Patton and keyboardist Roddy Bottum alternate screams in a track that meshes new and old together perfectly. A track that could have easily have been on 1992’s Angel Dust.

Up next is “Sunny Side Up” one of those songs that kind of sneaks up on you and can quickly become your favorite, with its contagious chorus.

“Separation Anxiety” is an ode to classic faith no more, with Billy Gould’s heavy bass and Mike Bordin’s signature drumming patterns. It’s very reminiscent to their heavy, funky grooves off of The Real Thing.

The songs heavy finish is enough to keep any long time fan happy.

Other highlights of this album include, “Cone of Shame’ and the album finishes off fantasticly with it’s final three songs.

“Motherfucker,” “Matador” and “From the Dead” are the perfect ending to a near perfect album.

The lead single, “Motherfucker” was a bit of a surprise, since it features Bottum’s vocals on lead.

But after a few listens, it was well deserved, as his quiet vocals (which he nearly raps) are the perfect leeway for Patton’s strong voice.

“Matador” is a song that has been around for a while, since the first time Faith No more got back together in 2009, and it sounds even better on the record.

Patton’s vocal chops are on full display in this one, hitting unconceivable notes and proving why he is one of the best singers of our time.

The band proves that they are still weird and willing to try new things on the closing track “From the Dead.”

It doesn’t sound like anything they have ever done, an ode to the 60s hippie revolution.

“Homecoming parade/welcome home my friend,” Patton croons on the opening line all while shaking a tambourine.

“We come back to history in present times/Watch your watch unwind/We’ve been turning miseries to nursery rhymes,” Patton sings, almost ironically, at the end of the song.

Indeed Faith No More is back from their long slumber, taking us back to a time when music was good and with Sol Invictus, it’s as if they never left.

I have listened to this album over and over, trying to find fault with one of my favorite bands, but I can only find one; that there are only 10 songs.

Black Francis of Pixies live in 2015.

Black Francis of Pixies live in 2015. Photo courtesy of facebook.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

The auditorium was nearly pitch black as soon as college alt-rock heroes Pixies took the stage on Sunday evening.

Joey Santiago’s guitar let out an eerie whale as the music slowly crept in, the atmosphere almost like something out of a David Lynch film.

Fittingly, Black Francis begun to sing “In Heaven, everything is fine” from the song “In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator Song)” written by Peter Ivers for Lynch’s 1977 horror-head trip movie, Eraserhead

After the opener, things went hard and fast as the quartet smashed through 34 songs with quickness and reckless abandon.

“Andro Queen” and the classics “Wave of Mutilation (UK surf edition)” and “Ana” followed in frantic style.

David Lovering’s booming drums led the way on 2014’s Indy Cindy and 1989’s Crackity Jones, proving just how underrated his drumming skills is.

Pixies performing live in 2015.

Pixies performing live in 2015. Photo courtesy of rollingstone.com.

Though many long time Pixies fans were undoubtedly missing co-founder and bass player Kim Deal, touring bassist Paz Lenchantin did a fantastic job of taking her place.

The versatile musician, who has played in countless bands such as, A Perfect Circle and Zwan, has developed a great stage presence over the years.

Her laid back, summer-time fun personality counteracts Francis’s intense insanity perfectly and her sweet melodic vocals almost made hardcore fans forget about Deal.

Classics such as, “Gouge Away,” “Debaser” and “Bone Machine” sounded as fresh as ever and Lenchantin’s vocals on the later two were spot on.

The band noticeably left out a couple of songs that Deal had lead vocals on, most notably “Gigantic” off of 1988’s Surfer Rosa.

As the band chugged along during the humid Cleveland night, there was no crowd interaction at all, after one song ended the next quickly begun.

The crowd, with its mix of Gen-X’ers and young adults, had no quips, as they seemed transfixed on the rejuvenated rockers, particularly on the somewhat mysterious Francis.

“Hey, been trying to meet you/Hey, must be a devil between us or whores in my head,” Francis fittingly belted out during “Hey” with sweat pouring off his face.

When the quartet returned for an encore, they fired through a great performance of “Here Comes Your Man” and “La La Love You” much to the crowds delight, but soon vanished off into the night.

As almost mysterious as the show was, there was one thing certain.

This is a band, which not only influenced almost every grunge band, but also continues to influence a new generation today.

 

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By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

On the eve of the release of their debut album, Orwellian vocalist Ian Pethtel and guitarist Seth Kensinger have much to be excited about. After nearly two years and some personnel changes, the band’s massive debut, Visions of the Future, has been cut, printed and already made available for online streaming. If that we’re enough, the Northeast Ohio metal titans will be opening for modern metal giants All That Remains at the Agora in Cleveland on May 17 and are set to headline the indoor stage at one of the summer’s biggest local festivals, SYLM’s Local Kickback in Austintown, Ohio on June 13.

After captivating audiences across the NE Ohio scene with a unique brand of heavy, melodic and technical heavy metal, as well as opening for a slew of national acts along the way, Orwellian have quickly established themselves as the act to watch. With Visions of the Future, Kensinger described the importance of pin-pointing the energy of the group with their first release.

“It’s just capturing that moment in time, as the band is forming,” said Kensinger. “I think our debut album is going to be interesting because you may hear things on this album you may never hear again. We’re going to just continue to grow as musicians from here.”

Despite the release of Orwellian’s debut, Kensinger and Pethtel are no strangers to the scene. Several years ago, they performed together in the band IO several years back. Pethtel has also kept busy serving as the vocalist for area legends Kitchen Knife Conspiracy, who also released a highly anticipated new record back in March.

“I’ve been working with them (KKC) on the new record since I joined in 2010. We just now in the last year really hit the studio to lay down the new tracks. So if anything, I’d say by the time I went in to do the Orwellian album, I was already in studio mode,” said Pethtel.

Visions of the Future certainly does capture Orwellian at a significant time in their career. As the creative fires are burn bright and hot, the band seize a rare opportunity to capture lightning in a bottle. Similar to debut albums from greats like Black Sabbath and Metallica or Carcass and Celtic Frost, Visions of the Future boasts Orwellian’s signature, timeless sound, while moving the genre further ahead at the same time. Tracks like the blistering closer “Kodiak” and concert favorite “Novel of Despair” showcase both the band’s raw intensity and knack for technicality and musicianship. Because of this, Orwellian balances two extremes of underground and slightly more accessible heavy music.

“We’re not a technical death metal band per se, but we’re not like All That Remains or In Flames’ later, more radio-geared material. I think we have a good mix of a bit of technicality, some groove, and some catchy shit. A little something for everyone, hopefully,” said Kensinger.”

They also discussed the state of the current local music scene of which they are a part of and the importance of helping to build that scene, while not over-saturating their own hometown and fan base.

“I think if we were to play Youngtown too much, eventually nobody’s going to come,” said Pethtel. “Because they know that if they go next week they can see us, or possibly wait for a free show.”

Pethtel continued that because Youngstown is a smaller scene compared to other markets such as Cleveland, there is more opportunity for success in a “less is more” approach.

“When we play out of town, the response is better. Youngstown, to me, is still rebuilding its scene. Whereas when we play out of town, we get a lot more random drifters through the door. We like to play less hometown shows with more of an impact. That way, when we play to our friends in town, it gives us the confidence boost to win over audiences in other big cities,” Pethtel said.

“Networking is a plus,” added Kensinger. “We get new fans and make new connections at every show.”

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One issue many local bands face in trying to play larger shows and venues outside of their hometown is ticket sales. Promoters or venue managers often require bands to participate a pre-sale in order to determine an accurate number of attendees and to pay the bands based on their pull. This is a controversial method however, as many local acts argue that the very reason they’re attempting to book these venues is for greater exposure, and the idea of a pre-sale can make it difficult to do so. Orwellian have an interesting take on the matter, not shying away from ticket sales, but carefully choosing their involvement.

“We got lucky and got hooked up with a guy at the Agora that’s no bullshit. And we don’t bullshit him. We don’t say we’ll sell 50 tickets and show up with 10. We’re honest with him and we work hard to do it,” said Kensinger.

“It’s not easy, but you’re never going to get the show opportunities if you don’t do it. Because there’s always 10 other bands that will do it,” added Pethtel.

Regarding the growing number of local summer music festivals, Pethtel and Kensinger said they believe it’s a great opportunity to grow the scene, play to different crowds and experience a unique limelight.

“You get to see how many people are really about supporting local music, how many people really care about it. Why would you not want to have a festival? Why would you not want as many chances as you can to put local bands in their best light?” said Kensinger.

As for the future of Orwellian, they are still ecstatic to release the record, which has been a long-time-coming for fans and the band alike.

“I can’t wait for everyone to hear this, mainly because of Ian’s vocals. I think he’s really going to surprise a lot of people with what he’s done on this record,” said Kensinger.

“I am incredibly happy with it. I think this is the first time I’ve recorded where I’ve gone back over it a hundred times and thought, ‘wow, there’s not much if anything I’d want to change,'” finished Pethtel.

Orwellian are planning a major hometown release for Visions of the Future by the end of this summer. In the meantime, it is available for streaming via the band’s official Reverb Nation page and physical copies will be available at their upcoming performances at the Agora in Cleveland on May 17 and the SYLM Local Kickback at Chipper’s Sports Bar in Austintown on June 13.

Torche. Photo courtesy of the band's official Facebook page.

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.”

Restarter

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.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

Seven Deadly Sins

Artist: Kitchen Knife Conspiracy

Album: Seven Deadly Sins

Release Date: 3/7/15

Rating: 9/10

For music fans in the Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania region, it’s very likely that Kitchen Knife Conspiracy are a household name. For nearly two decades, the self-proclaimed “Stompcore” act have offered an endless onslaught of battering rhythms, chugging guitars and horror-themed lyrics to the masses. But to write KKC off as just another act is the seemingly endless pool of death metal bands should be considered a “deadly sin.” The regional mainstays have transcended a multitude of fads and genres, balanced personal careers and side-projects, experimented sonically while only continuing to intensify and have influenced countless local acts over the years. Their lyrics, although violent, contain a stabbing social-awareness and razor-sharp wit, often sprinkled with a Cannibal Corpse-esque sense of humor. Like it or not, Kitchen Knife Conspiracy are the original “pimp daddies” of the Youngstown music scene.

It has been nine long years since KKC released their last album, 2006’s A Friend in Need… Is a Friend to Kill. Since then, a lineup shift saw the departure of guitarist Kevin Lewis and original vocalist John Prosenjak. Enter new frontman, Ian Pethtel (ex-IO, Secondhand Suicide, and currently of Orwellian). The local metal veteran joined KKC now several years ago, and is recently featured on their long-awaited new album, Seven Deadly Sins.

Seven Deadly Sins features Kitchen Knife Conspiracy on their most ambitious musical escapade yet. As the band examines each of the actual seven deadly sins, an emotional, often piano-driven instrumental serves as the calm-before-the-storm before all of the hellish fury of each individual sin is to be unleashed. With these instrumentals, largely composed by drummer Fred Whitacre, a stage is set allowing each of the following tracks an opportunity to stand out in a unique way.

The album opens with “The Wrath,” an instrumental leading into the blistering and soon-to-be concert favorite, “Buried By the Hatchet.” Another anger-fueled rouser, “Violent Eclipse,” follows before leading into “The Greed” and “Triple Six Fix,” another stomper with Pethtel bellowing, “Openly plan your fame, deceivingly win it all, now that you’re on the run, is the risk worth the reward? You’ll burn as they overcome.”

The middle section of Seven Deadly Sins begins to emphasize the band’s growth as songwriters.

“The Sloth” leads into “Acedia,” another standout track featuring the ruthless grind of guitarist Jeremy Cibella with some of his most clever riffs to date. The following track, “Red Ghost,” is also a highlight from the album. From the haunting yet soulful backing vocals and equally haunting piano lines provided by Whitacre, to the ingenious melodic bass lines from Johnny Kihm, this track is like no other in KKC’s repertoire. Off all tracks, “Red Ghost,” in many ways, feels like a band coming together on all creative fronts, with the whole truly greater than the sum of its parts.

Kitchen Knife Conspiracy. Left to right, guitarist Jeremy Cibella, bassist Johnny Kihm, vocalist Ian Pethtel and drummer Fred Whitacre.

Kitchen Knife Conspiracy. Left to right, guitarist Jeremy Cibella, bassist Johnny Kihm, vocalist Ian Pethtel and drummer Fred Whitacre.

“The Pride” enters into “Doomcult,” led by a (somewhat) slowed down, melodic Doom riff. “The Lust” brings us “Desire For the Dead,” another perfect example of KKC’s lyrical ability to balance both grotesque and thought-provoking imagery. “The Envy” gives us the slammers “They’re All Dead in There” and “I Don’t Have Anything,” with more brutal riffage and technical prowess.

Finally, Seven Deadly Sins concludes with “The Gluttony,” giving us another track most likely to become a fan-favorite; “A Vile Sense of Taste.” With a straight-forward attack, it’s reminiscent of the band’s earlier material. Final track “The Seven Deadly Sins” closes the album on a similar note, with yet another haunting melodic piano performance from Whitacre.

In many ways, Seven Deadly Sins indicates how extreme metal can stimulate both the primal and intellectual components of the mind. KKC never fails to energize and get the blood pumping (or squirting). However, they also have used their intensity to paint a much bigger picture and there is much appeal to this new record. Musically, the band are not only just as ambitious as they were on earlier work such as 2000’s Sin Pathetic and 2002’s Handicapitated,” but their hunger has only intensified. The influence of individual side ventures is apparent as well. Last year, Whitacre released a solo album spanning a multitude of genres. His confidence as a songwriter shows, especially in the excerpts credited to him. Pethtel, having been working with Orwellian for the past year-and-a-half, has also seemed to keep him sharp, as anyone who as seen that band live would attest to.

All in all, Seven Deadly Sins is an ambitious piece musical mastery. Nine years worth the wait, as the album successfully keeps Kitchen Knife Conspiracy true to themselves, while offering a whole lot more. Stand out tracks include “Triple Six Fix,” “Acedia,” “Red Ghost” and “Doomcult.” Although, the endless brutality of “Buried By the Hatchet,” Desire For the Dead,” “A Vile Sense of Taste” and the title track are not to be counted out either. Although not for everyone, this record will secure the band’s legacy among die-hard fans and undoubtedly usher in a new generation of fans. If you like your music heavy, mean and thought-provoking, then Seven Deadly Sins is a must-have!

 

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

The Gaslight Anthem circa 2014. Photo courtesy of buffablog.com.

By Brandon Judeh (Music Reporter)

After putting out five albums in 10 years, most bands would probably feel like they’ve “made it.”

Though they have accomplished a lot in the past decade, The Gaslight Anthem feel they still have a lot to do in order to cement their place in Rock ‘N’ Roll history.

“I feel like, bands that think they have settled into some sort of groove, or that they have mastered this whole music thing are the ones that usually become stale pretty quick,” said drummer Benny Horowitz in a recent interview with The Raw Alternative.

“Being complacent can be an artistic curse, not just in music, but with pretty much anything from a painter to a film director. We are critical of our own work and we push ourselves to do better with every album and every performance.”

The quartet did indeed push themselves on their latest effort, Get Hurt, which was released in August and peaked at number four on the US billboard 200 chart.

Their fifth album is perhaps their best to date as it displays the bands growth and maturity more than anything else they have released in the past.

Recently, lead singer Brian Fallon said that Pearl Jam’s No Code was a huge influence on this album and after giving it a listen, you can see why.

It’s no wonder, as Pearl Jam is one of those rare bands that continue to change and evolve.

“Brian sometimes pulls influences into his songwriting and we all kind of pull from Pearl Jam,” Horowitz said. “Pearl Jam has a lot of records and they have changed and taken chances throughout their career. No Code represented a change for them, just like Get Hurt does for us, we need to keep expanding.”

Eddie Vedder and company is not the only band that Horowitz is into. He also stated that he likes bands such as the openers on the tour, the Northcote and the Scandals, as well as some hip-hop. Another well-documented influence has been Bruce Springsteen, but gone are the days of fans chanting “Bruuuuuuuce” at the band, expecting to hear a cover of the fellow New Jersey native.

Finally fans and critics alike are starting to see the band for what they are: Themselves.

“Sure, it got old hearing those chants and we struggled a bit creating separation, but it turned into something that we took as a compliment. To be lumped in with one of the greatest musicians of all-time really isn’t a bad thing,” said Horowitz.

The Gaslight Anthem's fifth album, "Get Hurt," is out now via Island Records.

The Gaslight Anthem’s fifth album, “Get Hurt,” is out now via Island Records.

New Jersey has a rich tradition of great music. From Springsteen to the Misfits and Frank Sinatra to Ricky Nelson. The question is: Will the Gaslight Anthem ever be mentioned amongst those greats?

“If we’re lucky, yes,” Horowitz added. “It’s cool to think about, especially growing up a Rock ‘N’ Roll fan. Actually one of the coolest experiences for me, so far, was after we released our third record (American Slang) we officially started being cataloged at record stores.

“It doesn’t seem like much, but I use to work at a record store and I remember the rule of thumb is, once a band has three full-length albums they get their own tag with the band name on it. It was a feeling like ‘hey, we made it,'” said Horowitz.

Though the band is happy with the way Get Hurt turned out, Horowitz said they are still hungry and want to expand their music in ways they have not done yet. Though it’s tough, for any band, to predict how the future will turn out, or even if they will still be a group, Horowitz also indicated that he doesn’t focus too much on the future.

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that you can only control what you can control. The stuff I can’t control I don’t even worry about. Right now we are focusing on touring and the whole creative process,” said Horowitz. “In a perfect world, I would hope that 10 years from now we would still be relevant and making albums and it would be the same four members in the band.”

Currently on tour, the band will make a stop at Cleveland’s House of Blues on Wednesday for what will undoubtedly be an energetic show. Canadian band, the Northcote, as well as fellow New Jersey punk rockers the Scandals will be opening as mentioned earlier. The Gaslight Anthem will be switching up the set list every night and sprinkling in new songs, with all of the classics to keep things fresh.

Horowitz added that the entire band loves playing in front of their fans and hope that all that come can enjoy themselves and leave all of their troubles at the door and just have a good time.

Tickets for the Cleveland show are $36.00 and $42.50.

Cvtvnmvvth performing at Cedars in Youngstown, OH. Left to right: Sam Bowlin, Kenny Halbert and Eric Thrap.

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”.

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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.

Amy Zerner and Monte Farber

Amy Zerner and Monte Farber

By Jennifer Elizabeth Rose (Social/Cultural Writer and Music/Arts Historian)

For over 30 years, Amy Zerner and Monte Farber have been creative forces in the arts and New Age worlds. Visual and fashion artist, Zerner and writer, Farber joined forces and began creating artistic spiritual items with their company, “The Enchanted World of Amy Zerner and Monte Farber.”
The husband and wife team forged their start with several artistic and fashion inspired tarot and divination systems. With Zerner at the helm of art and art direction, and Farber the wise words man, writing the council for their decks’ books they have become a well recognized and sought after team to not only collect from but to obtain readings from as well. Many people can benefit from their wisdom and insight. In terms of the way Farber words the systems, he speaks as someone who has indeed felt the full gambit of the human condition and he applies this insight into each interpretation of every corresponding tarot or oracle card.
Farber’s Karma Cards, published in 1988, feature astrological insights into a person’s natal birth chart and can also be read as divination by pulling cards to form sentences which give cosmic advice about how to manifest destiny.
1990’s Enchanted Tarot features traditional tarot card images and meanings. The surreal symbolism was done with embroidery/tapestries… something that had not yet been one in other systems. It was also the first effort in their line, which set the tone for the rest of their products.
In 1997, their Zerner-Farber deck was published and while it also used the embroidery/tapestries format, the symbolism delved into a wider cultural and visual perspective, especially with the use of more fantastical and whimsical interpretations that would still further their trademark of surreal and otherworldliness for which their company is aptly named.
2006 brought another such deck from the couple but with a specific theme: Love. In The True Love Tarot, Farber asks the reader such questions as, “what is love in a broad sense? What is self love?” etc. With Farber’s guidance the reader can begin to answer these questions, which must be asked and meditated upon before finding true love with another person.
Still other oracle decks such as The Relationship Deck (for all kinds of relationships) and The Healing Deck, dig even further into such topics and are meant mostly for both meditation and inspiration. As Farber states on the packs they are “little reminders” for a spiritual season or place a person might be in at that time.
Those still interested in deeper experiences can order private readings as well, private tarot/divination or astrological such as birth charts and relationships analyses are available through Farber’s website, http://montefarber.com/. There are a number of specific types of readings to choose from each emphasizing a particular aspect in a person’s life journey. In addition, they often conduct live readings, such as at conventions with their own systems.
So many people have found some amazing spiritual tidbits from these two and not surprisingly they have become a widely recognized name in the new age sections of bookstores and metaphysical shops over the last few decades. In addition to their website where they have been selling art, decks and readings, they are recently also now presenting their new storefront in East Hampton, NY. They have indeed found a true mode of living their lives through both the deeper meaning and everyday mundane lives of their business.
In fact, Farber’s motto is: “Make your life a work of art and your art a work of life.”
This past year, Zerner has also become an even more accomplished fashion designer in New York. Her spiritually inspired couture, jewelry and fashion pieces are now for sale at Bergdorf’s New York and on her website,http://amyzerner.com/, while Farber also maintains their blog on their website, http://www.theenchantedworld.com. They both continue their journey making their art to inspire and uplift in uncertain times.
An inspiring couple, Zerner and Farber live a rich life as artists both separately and together. Do visit their websites this holiday and fine some truly unique gifts of insight and inspiration this holiday season!
“Karma Cards,” c. 1988
Art by Amy Zerner, Words by Monte Farber
“The Enchanted Tarot,” c. 1990
Art/Embroidery by Amy Zerner, Words by Monte Farber
“The Zerner-Farber Tarot,” c. 1997
Art/Sewing/Embroidery by Amy Zerner, Words by Monte Farber
“The True Love Tarot,” c. 2006
Art/Sewing/Embroidery by Amy Zerner, Words by Monte Farber
Amy Zerner’s Zodiac Jewelry Collection at Bergdorf’s, c. 2014
Designs by Amy Zerner
Amy Zerner’s Jacket Collection at Amy Zerner Couture, c. 2014
Designs/Sewing/Embroidery by Amy Zerner

 

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

220px-Monuments_to_an_Elegy_album_cover_from_Smashing_Pumpkins

Artist: The Smashing Pumpkins

Album: Monuments To An Elegy

Release Date: 12/9/14

Rating: 7/10

It’s almost rare to hear news of Billy Corgan and music in the same equation. However, when he’s not posing with cats, starting a wrestling franchise, taking stabs at Soundgarden and Dave Grohl, or just generally bashing every other musician from the heyday of the 90’s alternative scene, he’s still making music under the Smashing Pumpkins name.

This is all rather unfortunate, because since their semi-reunion in 2007, the Smashing Pumpkins have put out two really good records. 2007’s guitar-driven Zeitgeist and 2012’s post-punk/space rock-oriented Oceania both feature the two sonic elements that made the Pumpkins great. However, neither really hit their mark or struck a chord with the mass audience of their glory days. Corgan, the sole original member, has also come under heavy criticism for everything from his selection of lineup members to riding the wave of 90’s nostalgia for an easy cash grab.

Despite not seeing the same success enjoyed by former peers such as Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails, the Smashing Pumpkins have soldiered on and have released some good music over the years.

Monuments to An Elegy, the band’s latest offering, continues even further with the depth and exploration of who The Smashing Pumpkins are and what they could ultimately be. The album combines elements of the band’s past with ripping, fuzz-heavy guitars, and meets them with a more synthesizer-driven sound heard on newer releases. For the most part, the two components seem to find a pretty good balance, and sonically, Monuments to An Elegy flows rather well, making for a very interesting and natural progression in the band’s catalog.

Billy Corgan posing for the cover of "Paws Chicago" magazine in 2014.

Billy Corgan posing for the cover of “Paws Chicago” magazine in 2014.

Leading off with the track “Tiberius,” the album flashes hints of the band’s classic, dirty guitar-rock sound, with subtle synths that complement the riffage well. Tracks like “Being Beige” and “One and All,” featuring none other than Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, continue with an up-beat, hard rock feel that speaks to fans of Siamese Dream and Gish.

From there, more synthpop sounding tracks like “Run2me” and “Drum + Fife” take hold, veering away from the vibe and losing the listener somewhat. The standout “Monuments” boasts another hard rocker before descending into the ill-conceived, Depeche Mode-esque “Dorian,” and finally climaxing with the decent rocker, “Anti-Hero.”

As a whole, Monuments to An Elegy is a really interesting chapter in the Smashing Pumpkins’ history. The band began implementing synthesizers as early as 1995’s breakthrough hit, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, before completely embracing the late 90’s electronica phase with 1998’s Adore. Monuments sounds like a good fit between Mellon Collie and Adore, featuring both high-energy rockers and driving synth-rock.

Overall, Monuments to An Elegy is a very good and relevant release from a band that’s over a quarter-century into their career. The biggest issue however, is whether a not you can call the Smashing Pumpkins a band at this point. The music feels very similar to Corgan’s 2005 solo album, Walking Shades. And without the dynamic of the powerhouse drumming of Jimmy Chamberlin and guitar wizardry of James Iha from the band’s classic lineup, it feels very much like another solo Corgan record. If one can set that fact aside and take the music at face value, than Monuments is a pretty decent album.

El-P and Killer Mike, AKA Run the Jewels.

El-P and Killer Mike, AKA Run the Jewels.

By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)

And so, another year has come to pass. 2014 offered up a number of exceptional music festivals, buzz worthy releases and reunions that most fans never saw coming. Yes, who would have thought both Wu-Tang Clan and Pink Floyd would deliver new music? And that is just the very tip of the iceberg. Alternative rock and metal artists enjoyed the most chart success in years, while underground rap and hip-hop were right behind them. Some of the biggest contenders in classic rock also proved their staying power and overall relevance by knocking today’s contemporary acts right out of the top spot. And let’s not for U2’s ultimate troll, providing Apple consumers with a largely unwanted product.

2014 was definitely a great year for indie and alternative rock. Iconic artists like Morrissey, J Mascis, Beck, Johnny Marr and the Swans all dropped well-received new records this year. But it’s the relative new-comers who have made quite possibly the biggest impression. Acts like alt-j, St. Vincent, Iceage, Perfect Pussy and The War on Drugs all made quite a splash, topping the bill at many major festivals and influencing a next generation of young alternative garage acts. Post-punk acts Death From Above 1979 and Interpol also marked their return, releasing two great albums respectively.

Classic alternative acts saw their share of success as well. The Foo Fighters’ new album, Sonic Highways, went right to the top of the charts, and successful tours from bands like Pearl Jam and the co-headlining jaunt from Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden drew in fans by the millions. Plus, high-profile reunions from Primus and Faith No More prove that this ear of rock bands still have a lot to say, and the fans want to hear it!

The dynamic duo of rappers El-P and Killer Mike (AKA Run the Jewels), also took the underground by storm with their sophomore collaboration disc, RTJ2. The record featured many high profile guests including Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha and Blink-182 drummer-extraordinaire Travis Barker, and took no prisoners. Dropping alongside the massive reunions of Outkast and Wu-Tang Clan, hip-hop is seeing a new golden age, where classic and contemporary alternative acts of the genre are lining up, providing a much needed breath of fresh air among its massive commercialized market.

Punk rock had it’s share dominance this year. The successful Punk Rock Summer Nationals tour brought together big names like The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise and the Vandals all on one bill. Punk acts as diverse as OFF!, The Gaslight Anthem, The Damned and Against Me! released gritty, brutal records that show maturity and loyalty to the genre’s ethos.

Metal fans had to much to rejoice in 2014. Big contemporary players like Slipknot, Machine Head, In Flames and Mastodon took to the top of the charts, along with genre staples like Judas Priest and Exodus, who experienced the highest first-week sales and chart positions of their entire career. A standout release was Behemoth’s massive opus, The Satanist. The controversial Polish Blackened Death Metal act released both a chart topper and a game changer, bringing wide attention to the act in America, who had previous only seen moderate success.

Fans of Doom and Sludge metal had arguably an even better year in 2014. Heavy hitters Crowbar and Electric Wizard kept it, well, heavy! Not to mention Sludge pioneers the Melvins and the Columbus, Ohio underground sensation Lo-Pan dropping two massive records, keeping fans more than pleased. The bands Floor and Sleep also released new music, proving the sub-genre as relevant and powerful as ever.

Classic Rock artists like David Bowie, Nel Young, Paul McCartney and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released new music, with the latter seeing their first number one album ever. But perhaps the biggest surprise of 2014 was the return of Pink Floyd. The members have been very active in recent years, with the act’s notable leaders, David Gilmour and Roger Waters, both touring worldwide and occasionally making guest appearances at each other’s shows. However, most fans had dropped the idea of a full-fledged reunion, after a one-off 20-minute set at Live 8 in 2005 and the death of founding member and keyboardist Rick Wright in 2008. But by late summer, surviving members Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason announced a (somewhat) new Pink Floyd album was in the works. The Endless River was released in November, featuring unreleased material featuring Wright, re-recorded with a few new additions. Waters, who officially left the band in 1984, was not involved in the project. The album went straight to the top of the charts, knocking contemporary pop princess Taylor Swift off her fluffy throne.

Many of music’s mega-stars also pulled some noteworthy stunts. Taylor Swift, or most likely her label reps, pulled her latest release off Spotify and other popular music streaming services, forcing fans to purchase the physical copy. U2, took the opposite approach, and gave their new album, Songs of Innocence, away for free via Apple products. Both stunts garnered the acts equal publicity and equal dismay from the public. While Swift seemingly took a stance for the current value of music, U2 received a lot of heat for the ostensibly generous move, with high-profile acts like Pink Floyd and Foo Fighters criticizing them for “devaluing” music. This only goes to show that 15 years after the explosion of Napster, the music industry, as well as some of today’s top artists, are still on unstable ground. As of 2014, the future of the music industry was murky at best.

Let’s not forget who we lost in 2014. Iconic folk singer and activist Pete Seeger left us early in the year, while legendary blues guitarist Johnny Winter and punk icon Tommy Ramone of the Ramones passed in the summer. Ohio rock legend Denis T. Menass of classic rockers Left End also passed away in the summer, before his former band was honored at the Youngstown Music Awards later in the year. Bass virtuoso and Cream founder Jack Bruce left us in October, while the heavy metal community lost former Static-X frontman Wayne Static and Black Tusk bassist Jonathan Athon both in November. Later in the year, Jack White’s touring keyboardist Isaiah “Ikey” Owens and Small Faces Ian McLagan had passed away. For a complete tribute of 2014’s fallen musicians, visit here.

Although rock music, in all of it’s various sub-genre’s and identities, is not the dominant force in music that it once was, it is no where near out of the equation. While pop and country largely dominate the charts, and reality television continues to pump out one manufactured one-hit wonder after another, the real music fans have spoken the loudest. In 2014, rock, alternative, and especially metal acts, have pushed the highest number of physical album sales, proving their loyalty to their art. And as we move further into the digital age, where the value of music is constantly being questioned, it is the fans, all of you, who’ll ultimately deliver the final answer!

Cheers to 2015! Go out to shows, support local/regional/independent music, and keep buying records!!