Friday, July 19, 2024

Full Length Review: Twisted Sister "Stay Hungry" (Atlantic) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Twisted Sister
Location: Long Island, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Shock rock, metal
Full length: Stay Hungry
Format: Vinyl. cassette, CD
Label: Atlantic
Release date: May 10, 1984
After a walk between 4 and 5 k at the track I decided to come home and write a review. As the last album I was listening to (and am listening to again while writing this) was Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry”—I think it is obvious that this is the album I should choose to speak about!
Featuring nine classically blasting tracks this is a great record for fans of both rock and classic metal alike. Furthermore, this is an excellent album to listen to for those that are just learning to play the guitar! The rhythm guitar, although notoriously catchy is exceedingly simplistic and I’d put it up there with some of the early albums from Green Day for “easy learning”.
Although “We’re Not Gonna Take it” and “I Wanna Rock” are clearly vibrant winners, every song on this record is well worth giving a listen or three. Some of the songs like Burn in Hell and Horror-Teria (Captain Howdy/Street Justice) have a darker vibe and would be good to blare through your speakers when you are looking to indulge in a “mild” spookfest!
To close out my rambling I will just say give this album a listen. Twisted Sister has other records, but this one always stood out to me as a solid listen. As I was inspired to purchase a physical copy I think that says it all. And if you don’t wish to do the same—I’m sure you can rock it on YouTube or Spotify or places similar! -Devin J. Meaney

Lineup:
Dee Snider: Vocals
Jay Jay French: Guitars, backing vocals
Eddie "Fingers" Ojeda: Guitars, backing vocals
Mark "The Animal" Mendoza: Bass, backing vocals
A. J. Pero: Drums, backing vocals

Track list:
1. Stay Hungry
2. We're Not Gonna Take It
3. Burn in Hell
4. Horror-Teria (The Beginning) a) Captain Howdy b) Street Justice
5. I Wanna Rock
6. The Price
7. Don't Let Me Down
8. The Beast
9. S.M.F.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

Full Length Review: Metallica "Ride the Lightning" (Megaforce, Elektra) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Metallica
Location: San Francisco, California
Country: USA
Genre: Thrash metal, metal, rock
Full length: Ride the Lightning
Format: Vinyl, cassette, CD
Label: Megaforce Records, Elektra Records
Release date: July 27, 1984
A few days before writing this text I reviewed Metallica’s “Kill ‘em All”. Once again while listening to thrash metal in the sweltering heat I have decided to review an album. While listening to “Ride the Lightning” I do question if anyone really needs me to talk about Metallica. Still, this is what I have been listening to so I’m sure the zinesters “might” thank me for my waste of words.
Overall this is a great album and it makes use of much more melodics and acoustics than Kill ‘em All did. It can be nice to listen to, though as I said in an earlier writing when I get in “thrash mode” I tend to prefer Kill ‘em All. With that said, there really isn’t a bad song on this album and it is obvious why this was (and still is) a very popular record.
To not ramble too much I will just state that earlier Metallica (and some of the “newer” stuff) is still well worth a listen in 2024 and it can be enjoyed by both new and old fans of metal worldwide. Again, you probably don’t need me to talk about Metallica, and besides—I still think St. Anger is a great album (I love that trash can ping snare). So why are you concerned about my opinion anyway? Just listen to some thrash metal yo! -Devin J. Meaney

Lineup:
James Hetfield: Vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett: Lead guitar
Cliff Burton: Bass
Lars Ulrich: Drums

Track list:
1. Fight Fire with Fire
2. Ride the Lightning
3. For Whom the Bell Tolls
4. Fade to Black
5. Trapped Under Ice
6. Escape
7. Creeping Death
8. The Call of Ktulu

Monday, July 15, 2024

Full Length Review: Chopping Mall "Mauled By A Magical Bear..." (Dripfeed Records) by Dave Wolff

Project: Chopping Mall
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Country: USA
Genre: Deathgrind
Format: Vinyl, digital
Release date: May 3, 2024
According to one listener checking Chopping Mall out at Bandcamp, it’s the kind of album that should have been released on Razorback Records in the early 2000s. Besides that it’s a heavy, brutal slab of grindcore and deathgrind, I can also see the listener’s point because of the attitude that went into the songwriting, the wry humor behind the lyrics, the semi 80s’s-slasher-film vibe surrounding the musicianship and most importantly the professionalism that went into it.
Comprised of their 2020 debut “Mauled by a Magical Bear with Scalding Hot Liquid Cheese Spraying from Its Eyesockets” and a new collection of songs titled “Torn Apart By Raccoons While Being Eaten By A Gargantuan Cane Toad”, this double album is as notable for its lyrics, which are more integral to grindcore and deathgrind than usual, as its crushing music, which is delivered in a way that shuts down naysayers who judge extreme music as unstructured cacophony.
Founding member Koth Dolgomoru (also of Panda Kingdom and a few other bands) describes the lyrics as being “educational” while claiming each lyric was penned in less than five minutes. Naturally I took this as a joke, but he also claims to be a park ranger, naturalist and nature guide so who knows? Adding somewhat to the comedy, the project’s bio says the lyrics could save your life by educating you about food, occupational hazards, and forest animal fatalities (and yes, the lyrics are included track by track at Bandcamp, so reading along with them shouldn't be a problem).
Songs like "Gored by a Dinosaur Skeleton at the Museum", "Gurgling Vomit from the Mouth of an Engorged Walrus", "Gored by a Mammoth" and "Mangled by a Snowy Owl Who Is Magical Friends with a Snowshoe Hare," clearly display whimsical jest and an inventive, imaginative writing style. You normally wouldn't expect events as outlandish to occur on a camping trip, so the subject matter keeps reminding you it’s all meant to put a smile on your face. Something like a slasher comedy.
Regarding the quote above, the delivery is as precise and meticulous as it is primal and noncivilized. There’s a classic grind vibe recalling when grind first began inspiring death metal between the 80s and the 90s. There are also many hints of early/old school death metal giving weight to the savage nature of the lyrics. The remastering of the older songs and skilled production overall further validates the efforts of Terrorizer, Brujeria, Brutal Truth and Pig Destroyer to be taken seriously as instrumentalists.
I should mention the country/western parody of “Barbecue” is particularly worth checking out. –Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Koth Dolgomoru: Vocals, all instruments

Track list:
1. Mashed Into An Unrecognizeable Pulp
2. Forced To Eat Moldy Granola
3. Rapid Formation Of Mold
4. Burned By Hot Popcorn Steam
5. Gored By A Dinosaur Skeleton That Came To Life At The Museum
6. Impaled By Elephant Tusks
7. Shitting In Joel Oalsteens Mouth
8. Choking On Unchewed Food
9. Pushed Down An Elevator Shaft
10. Rotten Curdled Milk Spraying From The Mouth Of A Wizard
11. Bubbling Liquefied Innards Simmering In A Cast Iron Cauldron
12. Plastered In Unicorn Feces
13. Ruined Food
14. Mauled By A Magical Bear With Scalding Hot Liquid Cheese Spraying From Its Eyesockets
15. Shut Your Kid Up
16. Gurgling Vomit From The Mouth Of An Engorged Walrus
17. Dismembered By Mossy Elk Antlers
18. Shove Christmas Up Your Ass
19. Torn To Shreds By Eagle Talons
20. Formed Into Meatloaf
21. Barbecue
22. Gored By A Mammoth
23. Torn Apart By Raccoons While Being Eaten By A Gargantuan Cane Toad
24. Mangled By A Snowy Owl That Is Magical Friends With A Snowshoe Hare
25. Beaten Up By Al Capone
26. Falling Down The Stairs With A Tray Of Food
27. Trampled By Bison
28. Pushed Into A Wood Chipper By A Big Gangly Moose
29. Ripped To Shreds By River Otters
30. Smoking The Dust Of Ancient Mummies
31. Slowly Turning Into Mush

Sunday, July 14, 2024

Interview with KByro of Itaca by Dave Wolff


Interview with KByro of Itaca by Dave Wolff

Itaca is in the process of developing their sound, which is a mix of alternative metal, progressive rock and a hardcore attitude. How far has this development progressed, and what steps are you taking to make this sound unique in the Italian music industry?
Right now we are developing some track pre-productions, trying different directions, especially for guitar gear. Our guitar sound was totally lacking personality in our first EP, and that we are trying to fix. Our next work will probably consist of just one track - a single then - and we very much hope to and want it to sound not too metal. See, the overdriven guitar always tends to be too boxy, we need something more rooty, garage and rusty.

Describe the debut EP you recorded, and the factors that led to the guitars lacking the personality you would have wanted for them.
When we recorded our EP, “Ep-tagramma”, the band was six months old. Despite having a lot of ready material, we didn't manage to prepare it the right way. We didn't have a straight, clear idea about our sound, so we chose what others (so-called engineers) suggested (more like forced us to do). After the recording, that took a while, we needed to close the project as soon as possible to concentrate on gigs, so we searched for a compromise. Of course our guitars are not as aggressive as we would like them to be, but it was a good start and what the EP turned out to be has an alchemy no one has, for sure.

There are compromises because some engineers believe they know what is best for a band. How many ways did you find this a limitation? What was it that convinced you to work independently after the EP's release and gave you a clearer picture of what you wanted to accomplish?
This is a limitation mostly because many people think they can override your work with their ego. What a band like ours needs is a producer, but no one is gonna pop up and help us, will they. We still don't have a clear picture; music (as art in general) is a living thing that evolves and changes with just the tiniest adjustment. So we just thought to change paths and see what happens.

This may prove that engineers and producers are not always correct when it comes to bands that have a vision that is unique from that of their predecessors. In spite of what has worked for other bands, will the direction in which you wish to take your music work for you?
Sadly only time can tell. We'll discuss this later this year I hope. And no, engineers and producers are not always right, mostly because you have to pay them good money for their time. Of course for bands like ours, time and cash are too important to waste, so it's often quite a Moloch to deal with. And we're not kids anymore, we all have our jobs. Try thinking about teenagers.

In the long run, how beneficial will it be for you if the band works alone now? Is it likely to take longer than working with an engineer?
Working with no help is exhausting and needs a lot of energy, time and motivation. You cannot do it for long, especially a band with quite an amount of material as we are. We need to record the more tracks we can, because listening to our current stuff is not quite enough to understand who we are.

Does “Ep-tagramma” contain all of the compositions written by the band or are there others written that were not included?
At the moment we have fifteen tracks ready to be played (two of them being covers) and one more pretty close to the end. “Ep-tagramma” contained what at the time was our “elite”. Today our tracks moved to a more complex style, yet we kept our rage and fire alive.

Is there a particular reason why the songs you chose were selected?
The song we chose, “Danza Macabra”, sums up our style, being it social criticism, song construction and arrangement (classical method in a prog way with aggressive hardcore), in a reduced length. Also it is sort of an heir of Tempo Scaduto.

Name the songs you recorded for “Ep-tagramma” and discuss how closely the lyrics reflect the songwriting in terms of growth.
“Disegno” is about the very process of writing/creating, being it a statement about who you are. And every consequence this “choosing sides” thing triggers in others. “Dolcevita” takes its inspiration on a book by Stefano Benni, talking about oppressive society and the role of capitalism and control in ruining your life. “Eptagramma” is a hymn for anger as an engine helping you accomplish things. “Tempo Scaduto” follows the Topoi of Dolcevita, being less literary and more of a provocation.

Which songs are the band covering and why have you chosen those particular songs?
At the moment we are covering “Via con me” by Paolo Conte and “Poetica” by Cesare Cremonini. They are both quite popular in our country but good musicians. Especially Conte, who's a jazz pianist. We chose those songs because we like them and are pretty well known in our country. To arrange them in our style was challenging but fun.

How do you hope your listeners will respond to the covers of Paolo Conte and Cesare Cremonini? What about their work do you find appealing?
People like our covers, I think it's because they're respectful of the original, yet powerful and inspired. Conte is a wonderful composer, the kind of artist you would want to play in a smoky place in the basement (in a noir movie, maybe). His music I compare with Dino Buzzati's paintings or Vilella's comics. Also his piano reminds me of Erik Satie's. Cremonini is in a way similar, being a story teller, and in many ways totally different. His music is more similar to Coldplay, though less euphoric and more introspective.

Among the fifteen songs you have completed, as well as the covers, how many do you intend to work on and possibly improve in the near future? Discuss the new direction you mentioned.
We'd like to record everything. Everything. We don't know if it will be single by single or on a full length album (today it doesn't make sense anymore), but we must do it. Listening to us on Spotify you would think we are something we are not; there's so much more under our flag. Mostly our issue is the balance between the band and our personal lives: growing old means to have responsibilities and we are often busy doing something else than playing. That said, I think the next two months will show us how to do.

What makes you think that recording full length albums no longer makes sense? In your statement that there is more to the band than what is heard on Spotify, what did you mean?
Full length albums became a thing when vinyl was long enough to actually be an album. The idea of a full length being a must-to-do- thing for a band/artist had become more and more important until the early 00s, when internet download, then streaming, you know this. Today more than one single in a year is certainly a better strategy than investing all your energy in a ten track LP - meaning two or three months of hard work just for recording it. Don't get me wrong, there's no good or bad strategy here, and I love concept albums. But here's the thing: if it's not an actual concept, I don't see the meaning in putting songs together. I mean we have so much more audio material, some definitive, some in progress, that it is a shame not to record it.

How difficult has it been to maintain a balance between your professional and personal lives? What additional effort must you put forth when you have the opportunities to work in Itaca?
Sadly it is quite difficult. You have to synchronize everyone in the band and sometimes that's not enough. Work takes away most of our time, working on the Italian east coast means one of us has a total time job during summer and another is more busy now. So summer means practically no playing. Writing, arranging and rehearsing with the band means to force yourself go against stress and tiredness. Sometimes you ask yourself if it's worth the effort. And today is 40 C degrees, haha!

In what way does the song “Tempo Scaduto” draw inspiration from the Topoi of Dolcevita?
The themes from Tempo Scaduto are Universal in a capitalistic society. You can elaborate them in many possible ways. As I just said above, “Danza Macabra” also goes through a parallel direction about that. Not exactly the same stuff, but it's like pieces of the same puzzle. Literature is always a good start for our lyrics and the choice of writing in Italian is willingly a way to be more understandable for our main audience. We could (and we will) write in English sooner or later, but for now we feel the need for our listeners to be connected to us with more than just music. Our message needs to be internalized for our music to be complete. That's why there's not too much growl, that's why voice is comes always first, despite composition being so complex.

What aspects of “Ep-tagramma” do you consider a good starting point for the band in order to continue developing their sound?
We like it not sounding conventional. Despite guitars not being as present as they should, the alchemy between clean Italian singing, the technical and fast drumming and the bass sounding like a lawnmower is something that works for our ears. Also when playing live all of this works A LOT better with good guitars.

Where has the band been traveling to promote the EP? What's been the reception so far?
We didn't travel at all! Hahaha Since the start I think we had like a dozen gigs all in the nearby. Last December an opportunity to tour in the Balkans was offered to us, but it was too early and expensive. Sadly, there are not many options for bands like ours here. Although a lot of people show appreciation for our music and come see us playing.

What songs on the EP do you think could have been improved upon if you had better equipment, more time to experiment, etc?
“Tempo Scaduto”. The song was too vast to be left like that, but then again we needed to move forward. Despite all of that we chose to make a video clip of this track, which will be out July 15.

How much experimenting with different directions have you done with the new single you’re working on? In what ways has the songwriting improved since your EP?
We rehearsed a lot more and home recorded it again and again. Our equipment is improved: we now use Fractal axe FX and Neural Quadcortex, as well as more of our drummer’s determination (and a new snare, haha).

Who worked with you on “Tempo Scaduto” and what was the outcome of making the video? How does the video represent the concept and lyrics of the song?
In the “Tempo Scaduto” video clip we remained the more simple as possible (due to budget and time issues). Despite that we managed to do a good job, thanks to Acme Superproductions who filmed and directed us and our dancer, Selena. We hired her to be sort of an incarnation to Death, who's referred in the lyrics. She just dances on a rooftop, dressed in red with a seven pointed star on her back (as in Eptagramma concept). And here we close the circle with our new single to be: the dance of death is “La Danse Macabre” (French) or “Danza Macabra” in Italian.

Can you relate how much dancing and video experience Selena has? To date, how long has she been working with the band?
Selena is a long time dancer, being both modern and hip hop oriented. We hired her through our drummer, who has known her since music academy. This is the first time she collaborated with us, but we're thinking about something new.

How much time did you spend studying “La Danse Macabre” before incorporating it into your video? How closely related is it to “Tempo Scaduto”? How did Selena's adapt it for the video?
“La Danse Macabre” is a medieval concept, mostly visual. I can sum it up as a memento mori (you can find a really nice example of it in Disney's silly Symphony skeleton dance, btw). In “Tempo Scaduto” death is a presence haunting the main character and as fast and far he could run, death will eventually find him. This is a dance, where the puppet keeps pretending not to see his strings, but he's still condemned. Selena did a very good job turning words into gesture, every movement of her hands follows the lyrics.

For future video projects, do you have any other allegorical pieces from the Middle Ages in mind? As you produce more videos, will this genre play a greater role visually? Which of your songs are you working on next?
Next video will definitely be “Danza Macabra”. I'm thinking about setting it in a graveyard. Middle ages are not our topic nor our style, although I've been a sword man for an evocation company. We'll just go with the flow.

Can you describe in more detail how you hope your approach to music will have a direct impact on music as a whole, if any? Is it your goal to inspire other musicians or are you just striving to achieve your own goals?
To inspire someone else is something that happens if you're lucky enough. Our goals are just to play the more we can in front of people who enjoy our music. We do not hope to have an impact on music, our ideas have no purpose, and they just come out. We look for our path without considering a goal. Obviously we'd like to make some cash, so stopping spending money to play and reverse this trend. So that we could spend more time doing what we like. But at the step we are in we're just happy to whatever comes next. Like this interview.

-Dave Wolff

Friday, July 12, 2024

Full Length Review: Metallica "Kill ‘Em All" (Megaforce, Elektra) by Devin J. Meaney

Band: Metallica
Location: San Francisco, California
Country: USA
Genre: Thrash metal, metal, rock
Full length: Kill ‘Em All
Format: Vinyl, cassette, CD
Label: Megaforce Records, Elektra Records
Release date: July 25, 1983
For many years I steered away from Metallica. Not that they are a bad band, I have just listened to so damn much Metallica since my youth that their music became somewhat tired and overplayed in my ears. With that said, later in life I spent some time with my daughter’s boyfriend, and as a Metallica fan, he inspired me to revisit some of their earlier work. As if by chance, I walked into Walmart one day and both “Kill ‘Em All” and “Ride the Lightning” were available on CD for ten bucks each. Thinking of my daughter’s boyfriend I picked them up and took them home. The rest of this writing will be about “Kill ‘Em All”.
I have always liked this album, but after not listening to Metallica for so long it was as if this piece of work was newly implanted in my brain. It was almost as if I found this record for the first time all over again—and I had forgotten that it was just so damn good! James’s voice is punchy and youthful and filled with drive, the guitars are a thrashy blur of fret masturbation, the bass (even more so on the solo track) is well played and Lars’s drum work is exceptional. It is sometimes easy to forget that these songs are so old, but without question it is plain to see that there is a reason why Metallica is (or at least was) the most popular thrash band on the globe.
It is hard to pick a favorite track as each individual song is pure gold—and while listening it inspires head-banging and a mildly blackened eye. It helps you reminisce of your teen years—filled with fire and chock full of dreams. I never did learn how to play guitar like Kirk, and I probably never will. Still, it makes you want to pick up the axe and thrash yourself into a coma until your fingers are bleeding and blistered.
Lastly, as I spoke earlier of “Ride the Lightning”—that is a great album too, and arguably one of the most popular and inspiring metal records ever written. With that said, for me personally, “Kill ‘Em All” trumps this album hands down, and if you haven’t already listened to it—I do suggest you give it a solid spin. -Devin J. Meaney

Lineup:
James Hetfield: Vocals, rhythm guitar
Kirk Hammett: Lead guitar
Cliff Burton: Bass
Lars Ulrich: Drums

Track list:
1. Hit the Lights
2. The Four Horsemen
3. Motorbreath
4. Jump in the Fire
5. (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth
6. Whiplash
7. Phantom Lord
8. No Remorse
9. Seek & Destroy
10. Metal Militia

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Full Length Review: John Lennon and the Plastic U.F. Ono Band "Mind Games – The Ultimate Collection" (UMe) by Tony Sokol

Band: John Lennon and the Plastic U.F. Ono Band
Location: New York
Country: United States
Genre: Rock
Full length: Mind Games – The Ultimate Collection
Format: Remixed and Expanded Collection
Label: UMe
Release date: July 12, 2024
“Mind Games” (1973), John Lennon’s fourth solo album after the breakup of The Beatles, celebrated unity. The latest remixed expansion, “Mind Games – The Ultimate Collection” due to come out on July 12, is marvel of separation. This is especially true when heard in the immersive surround sound of New York City’s Dolby Screening Room, where an electric rhythm guitar on “Tight A$” seems to meander around the seats under their Dolby Atmos aural presentation. No visuals are needed. Only the album cover is projected. Lennon recorded the album in five days, sitting in on guitar and guide vocals with Record Plant’s top studio musicians. Dubbing the lineup The Plastic U.F.Ono Band, the basic tracks were laid down by Lennon, guitarist David Spinozza, pianist Ken Ascher, drummer Rick Marotta, and bassist Gordon Edwards, all of whom were in attendance for the Q&A. Jim Keltner discussed his fills via satellite.
Besides instruments which had been previously buried in the mix, the first sonic shock is the fullness of the bottom. Edwards commands every fret, lovingly and playfully cushioning the groove, and propelling the motion. After hearing the playback, Spinozza was reminded of the endless diversity of the chord changes. This rendered any blues riff borrowings impossible for the solo on “Aisumasen (I'm Sorry),” which the guitarist still considers his best.
Marotta told the audience the playback reminded him how Lennon’s lavish time signature changes often left him grasping “to find the one.” In the documentary, “John Lennon Mind Games (The Evolution Documentary),” Lennon shows he does this “for no reason other than my insanity.”
“Mind Games’” original engineer, Daniel Barbiero, came to work straight after setting the dials on the album “Innervisions.” Lennon introduced himself, saying “’I’m no Stevie Wonder, just a dammed good rhythm guitar player.” Lennon’s opening to “Out the Blue” is among his best acoustic guitar work, but he can still fuzz and funk out with the best on songs like “Bring On the Lucie (Freda People)” and “Meat City.” Barbiero confirmed that Lennon drenched his vocals in effects while he was singing, but said they were unnecessary. Lennon’s vocals are up front and unencumbered by the original production’s excessive echo, reverb, and flange. Powerful even on the softest of songs, they are just as effective naked.
The new mixes were produced by Sean Ono Lennon, off the original tapes. His father might have considered scolding him for stripping the veneer from the vocals, but it is a joy to hear the voice so clean. Sean pares the songs down to highlight each instrument chosen from the original players. Bass and drums are high in the mix. We hear a lot of individual parts which were buried, but we lose much of the saxophone Michael Brecker supplied the original album. Paul Hicks also produced and engineered along with Sam Gannon.
Of the deep cuts selected for previews, one of the greatest revelations is the pedal-steel work of “Sneaky” Pete Kleinow on “You Are Here.” A very good case could be made, after hearing the isolated performance, that the song could have gone out with no other instrumentation. It fulfills the promise Santo and Johnny’s “Sleepwalk” made so many years ago. Another surprise is the work of backing vocalists Jocelyn Brown, Christine Wiltshire, Angel Coakely and Kathy Mull, which is crystal clear in the new mix.
The cover photographer, Bob Gruen, put the album in historical context. The 1973 recording sessions at the Record Plant corresponded with Lennon’s fight to stay in the United States, specifically in New York City. He’d been getting heavy heat from the American government after his public opposition to the Vietnam War, and his “Some Time in New York City” album didn’t win him any points with President Richard Nixon. Fighting to keep his green card and followed by the FBI, the pressure caused the separation with Yoko Ono. After recording Mind Games, Lennon would move to California to form the Hollywood Vampires for his Lost Weekend period. He also made music.
There are many iterations of the Ultimate Collection, but this is the full list of purchasable tracks. -Tony Sokol

CD1 • The Ultimate Mixes
1. Mind Games
2. Tight A$
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry)
4. One Day (At A Time)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple)
6. Nutopian International Anthem
7. Intuition
8. Out The Blue
9. Only People
10. I Know (I Know)
11. You Are Here
12. Meat City

CD2 • The Elemental Mixes
1. Mind Games (Elemental Mix)
2. Tight A$ (Elemental Mix)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Elemental Mix)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Elemental Mix)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Elemental Mix)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Elemental Mix)
7. Intuition (Elemental Mix)
8. Out The Blue (Elemental Mix)
9. Only People (Elemental Mix)
10. I Know (I Know) (Elemental Mix)
11. You Are Here (Elemental Mix)
12. Meat City (Elemental Mix)

CD3 • The Elements Mixes
1. Mind Games (Elements Mixes)
2. Tight A$ (Elements Mixes)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Elements Mixes)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Elements Mixes)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Elements Mixes)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Elements Mixes)
7. Intuition (Elements Mixes)
8. Out The Blue (Elements Mixes)
9. Only People (Elements Mixes)
10. I Know (I Know) (Elements Mixes)
11. You Are Here (Elements Mixes)
12. Meat City (Elements Mixes)

CD4 • The Evolution Documentary
1. Mind Games (Evolution Documentary)
2. Tight A$ (Evolution Documentary)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Evolution Documentary)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Evolution Documentary)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Evolution Documentary)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Evolution Documentary)
7. Intuition (Evolution Documentary)
8. Out The Blue (Evolution Documentary)
9. Only People (Evolution Documentary)
10. I Know (I Know) (Evolution Documentary)
11. You Are Here (Evolution Documentary)
12. Meat City (Evolution Documentary)

CD5 • The Raw Studio Mixes
1. Mind Games (Raw Studio Mix)
2. Tight A$ (Raw Studio Mix)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Raw Studio Mix)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Raw Studio Mix)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Raw Studio Mix)
6. Nutopian International Anthem (Raw Studio Mix)
7. Intuition (Raw Studio Mix)
8. Out The Blue (Raw Studio Mix)
9. Only People (Raw Studio Mix)
10. I Know (I Know) (Raw Studio Mix)
11. You Are Here (Raw Studio Mix)
12. Meat City (Raw Studio Mix)

CD6 • The Out-takes
1. Mind Games (Out-take, Take 7)
2. Tight A$ (Out-take, Take 6)
3. Aisumasen (I’m Sorry) (Out-take, Take 2)
4. One Day (At A Time) (Out-take, Take 18)
5. Bring On The Lucie (Freeda Peeple) (Out-take, Take 15)
6. Declaration Of Nutopia (Out-take, Take 1)
7. Intuition (Out-take, Take 12)
8. Out The Blue (Out-take, Take 15)
9. Only People (Out-take, Take 12)
10. I Know (I Know) (Out-take, Take 22)
11. You Are Here (Out-take, Take 5)
12. Meat City (Out-take, Take 16)

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Article: "July 2024 Dark Moon" by HEOP Liath Sahjaza

July 2024 Dark Moon
Article by HEOP Liath Sahjaza

Welcome to July’s Dark Moon ritual. Cut cords, cleanse yourself, and get ready for the new beginnings’ energies of New Moon.
This moon finds us in Cancer, so it is a good time to commit to personal goals that express the positive energies of the sign of the Crab. These include honoring our deepest, most irrational and intimate feelings. Recognize the sense of security and safety we get from whatever it is we call home, at least, I hope we all have a secure place to call home. Allow yourself to accept support, while also offering support to others. Starting a project aimed at improving our domestic lives is a good idea for the energies in the air at this time. Concentrate on new ways to enhance family life and domestic situations, and to build up your feelings of security and safety.
With this potent Cancer energy, we have the chance to make important changes in our lives that will benefit us well beyond this Moon cycle. What do you need to talk to yourself about as you take your meditative inner journey that can help you fulfill these tasks? How is your home and domestic situation? Family does not necessarily mean biological relatives, but sometimes we have chosen family. Even if you are estranged from anyone or your loved ones have passed on, enjoy the family you have.
It is time to set your intentions for the coming month. This Dark Moon energy helps reset any doubts and insecurities you might have. With this maternal energy of Cancer on your side, the spiritual meaning is about nurturing your hopes and honoring your feelings as you open the door to the second half of the year. Submerge yourself in the emotional waves of this Dark Moon.
The energy is especially comforting and protective, creating a safe and cozy bubble within so you can safely explore your emotional desires and set intentions that are aligned with your heart. Connecting with the things that make you feel nurtured is a big part of the spiritual meaning, so allow yourself to gently roll with the ebb and flow of your true feelings. Be loving and gentle to yourself, but also honest as you dig deep into your heart and start drawing in whatever energy you need to feel safe and secure.
Know that you deserve the very best. Much love to you all.

HEOP Liath Sahjaza

Friday, July 5, 2024

Full Length Review: Arhat "Secrets of Ancient Gods" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: Arhat
Location: Kyiv
Country: Ukraine
Genre: Groove metal
Full length: Secrets of Ancient Gods
Format: Digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: May 31, 2024
Arhat is not the first band to incorporate metal with oriental and mideastern influences, but their spiritual and mythological allegories push them to new levels of awareness of the distant past. Regardless of how long ago the distant past was, it played a substantial role in shaping the world we know today.
First and foremost a groove metal band, Arhat add weight to their songwriting with elements of power metal, thrash metal, and death metal. Remember classic metal’s impact on bands like Iced Earth, Nevermore and Morgana Lafey? Not just in terms of sound, but also in terms of the mosaic conveyed through the lyrics, songwriting, and feeling? In a similar way, Arhat combines each part of their work into a cohesive whole that transcends their influences and becomes something much more immense.
Arhat began in 2017 and released an EP, a few singles, and another full-length in 2020. Even at its rawest, their material revealed indications of something aberrant from any subgenre it was drawn from. “Secrets of Ancient Gods” advances the band's autochthonous exoticism and their ability to redefine groove metal's capacity for progress.
To accompany ancient civilizations, ancient gods, ancient rituals, and ancient wisdom they celebrate, a great deal of emphasis is placed on ethnic themes. "Secrets Of Ancient Gods" incorporates symphonics and cinematic overtones, as well as anachronistic instruments such as sitar, Turkish ney, and percussion that bring those civilizations to life like a vibrant pagan ritual. It brings all that forgotten sageness into the 21st century, not only piercing the veil but opening it wide, releasing all that forgotten wisdom.
With this album, Arhat has tightened up the aggressive and avant garde, with thrash and death metal elements emerging organically from their groove. As the album opens with sounds from a distant place in space and time, traditional instruments merge with lead guitars, bringing metal into the mix without losing any of its flow with the first song. Despite the risk of introducing more comparisons, the material has a sophisticated vibe somewhat reminiscent of Iron Maiden and Amorphis with Arhat's complexity.
The sharp production enhances the fusion between metal subgenres, as well as the spiritual/ethnic/tribal journeys that are taken in the songs. The latter grows out of the former in a similar manner, and the atmosphere underlying the guitar solos and keyboard sections adds a further layer to the sound Arhat has achieved with this album. As “The Great Unknown” is near the end of the album, it makes sense that this track should be one of the most progressive as it suggests where Arhat is heading next. –Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Alex Sitkoff: Vocals
Anton Skrebov: Guitar
Anton Inov: Bass
Ivan Semenchuk: Drums

Track list:
1. Intro
2. Abyss Of Flame
3. Karnak
4. Arcana XVI
5. Nasha Khoda Nevpynna
6. Symbols (feat Oleksii Syrota of Voracity)
7. Path Eternal
8. Wheel Of Fate
9. The Great Unknown (feat Dmytro Moskalenko of Violateress)
10. Shlyakh Do Prozrinnya

Monday, July 1, 2024

Full Length Review: Conan the Accountant "Pet Waste" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Project: Conan the Accountant
Location: Brooklyn, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Experimental noise
Full length: Pet Waste
Format: Cassette, digital album
Label: Independent
Release date: June 24, 2024
Ben Fitts, who played guitar, bass, and produced for the Brooklyn indie rock band Warhoney (and is still involved with them), has written reviews, articles, and fiction for Asphyxium since 2018. In his new project, Conan the Accountant, he is playing experimental noise, adding some techno, industrial, and complete, calculated song structure. Aside from designing the cover artwork, mixing, mastering, and producing it independently, he is also plugging the album on social media as a one-man promotional team. His promotional efforts appear to be motivated by a genuine desire to hear people’s thoughts about the tracks he curated.
Fitts recently stated he was inspired to create this project after experimenting with different sounds as Warhoney's guitarist, to see how far he could take it. This past May he performed solo with a number of local bands at Caffeine Underground in Brooklyn (admission was ten dollars for those of you who don't like ridiculously high ticket prices). During this performance he got to demonstrate how he wrote and composed the album with guitar; a Fender, no less; and several effects pedals. His instrumental pieces may appear to be made with keyboards, synthesizers, and electronic percussion, but all the sounds here are created with a classic guitar model, pedals, and his imagination.
Many of the sounds he obtains seem impossible to achieve in this manner, but he manages to pull it off, proving it's still possible to adhere to tradition while expanding your musical knowledge. With only the tools at your disposal, you can still be broad minded. As well as this album, Fitts has released a debut EP and a live album recorded at The Next Chapter in Huntington early in June. A little more classic and indie rock vibes appear in the former release, while the latter shows how well he's able to reproduce at a club the nuanced, layered instrumentals he experimented with conceptually in the studio.
Take a listen to this and the other two releases if you're interested in seeing how many different tones, moods, and atmospheres can be achieved with a Stratocaster. –Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Ben Fitts: Guitar, production, mixing/mastering, album art

Track list:
1. First Date At The Cemetery
2. Mars Is The New West
3. Manson Family Values
4. Amoraphobia
5. Junkyard Android
6. Free Improvisation #DCLXVI
7. If I Was Dr. Frankenstein, I’d Totally Let You Be My Monster
8. Setting My Metronome to 666
9. Written By Lenin And McCarthy
10. Satan Rules, Jesus Drools
11. Canabyss





Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Interview with Matteo Zanella of Padus by Dave Wolff

Interview with Matteo Zanella of Padus by Dave Wolff

How did Padus come up with the idea to combine doom, dark ambient and classic jazz trio while presenting everything with a metal aesthetic?
My great desire was to experiment without borders. I know I didn't invent anything new by putting together a bass, an organ and drums, but by distorting everything and making it heavy, maybe it could work. I distorted everything in certain songs on my records, even the voice, and then interspersed it with episodes of dark and silent ambient, in order to create a notable contrast.

There was a time when you were a member of a thrash-death metal band called Hellvoid, which released two demos in 1995 and 1998. Please tell the readers about the work you put into that band and any other releases you may have made with them?
It was a long time ago, when death metal was really going strong. I was the voice and guitar in that band, I proposed riffs, wrote lyrics, designed the logo and also laid out the covers of the two demos. In the first demo from 1995 (Infernal fonds), I was the voice and the compositions were quite classic-style for the time, with a fairly deep vocal growl. Shortly after for various personal reasons I left the band, only to return in 1998 and make a second demo (Dreams of past shadows), where the bassist was the voice and I limited myself to playing only the guitar. Here the compositions were more complex and technical and the style was very close to that of Carcass' “Heartwork”. But all this is now part of a distant past.

Are either Hellvoid demos still available on streaming websites or were they released on a limited basis? What efforts did Hellvoid make to evolve death metal? Did the development of Hellvoid influence the growth of your current project in any way, or is Padus a separate entity?
Hellvoid was a short but intense youth experience of mine. At the time, in the 90s, we rarely played live but we didn't have much of an audience. The project didn't evolve much to be relevant, it was a debut group like many others. Padus was born from many musical experiences in my life, metal and non-metal

Can you say how much distortion plays a role in your songwriting? Does the amount of distortion vary from song to song when you compose?
Distortion, especially of the bass, is fundamental in my compositions, it regulates the mood of my songs. If the atmosphere is quite calm, soft, I could limit myself to a very light crunch sound, characterized by a simple overdrive. If the rhythm is important and with a heavy cadence, a nice powerful and metallic distortion is perfect. I do not exclude that the voice and the organ are distorted too, so as to create tension and panic. Lately I created a sound that I called “Abarth” that recalls the roar of rally cars, obtained with several distortions put together and used in the compositions where I wanted to create total chaos! Aaaaaahhhh!!!

There are some people who complain that underground music lyrics are difficult to understand. When you record your vocals, how much distortion do you use, and do you take care to make your lyrics as clear as possible?
Poor people, who do not know how to interpret art, ha, ha, ha, ha! I “sing” in grammelot, that is: a theatrical language, an emission of sounds without sense but similar to real words or speeches in order to obtain a comic or farcical effect. I add distortion in the voice when I want to create tension and anxiety, then if the lyrics are not understood it is because either I used grammelot, or I always attach the text written on the internet, when this exists.

Explain in more detail what grammelot is and how it functions as a vocal style. In what way does Padus' formula utilize this approach to singing?
Grammelot is a theatrical language, an emission of meaningless sounds but similar to real words or speeches with the aim of obtaining a comic or farcical effect, used in my musical project to communicate in an alternative way, giving the same color to the lyrics, while not saying anything or babbling a few words to make the listener more or less understand the topic being discussed.

What effect does the addition of dark ambience have on the balance between Padus’ heaviness and atmosphere?
A dark atmosphere always creates a disturbing situation: anxiety, melancholy, desperation, depression and it is made mostly of very low notes especially of a piano. So basically it is sad, then it gives the coup de grace with a heavy rhythm beaten in a violent way. Do you know how much fun I have?

Are anxiety, melancholy, desperation, and depression the emotions you intend to convey through incorporating distortion and ambiance? Does this project share similarities with ambient and noise projects such as Mortiis, Vond, Aghast, and Abruptum for example, or does it come from an entirely different mindset?
Of course: atmospheres and amounts of distortion depending on the mood of the song I'm composing. I haven't listened to the bands mentioned much, so if there are similarities with these projects it's completely coincidental. My Padus project was born without very specific references, it is something very intimate and personal, songwriting which very much reflects my character, my personality.

Tell us about some of the musical experiences Padus was born from after Hellvoid.
Well, I can tell you that my musical experiences have been many and varied, but none of them, including Hellvoid, have had any influence on the creation of the Padus project. This one man band of mine was born from my infinite desire to experiment with different sounds.

Are you writing material for Padus to exorcise personal demons, or is it an affirmation of aspects of your psyche most people would rather not acknowledge? Is Padus a mirror to your listeners or an opportunity to display aspects of yourself you wouldn't otherwise be able to?
Padus is a project that reflects my personality very much. I am like this, like my music, like all my albums. What I cannot express publicly, I do through sounds and artistic expression. I express all my moods with the songs of Padus, as well as my way of thinking or seeing things.

Do you have a private studio or prefer to work in a professional studio with engineers and producers? How much of your chaotic style and unique vocals can you maintain when you're making the transition between composing songs for Padus and recording them?
I have a private studio at my home, where I can easily self-manage, where as soon as inspiration comes, I can record it immediately. Between composing and recording, there is not much difference: how I conceive I record. Of course, by recording new ideas can arise to enrich the song or new sound solutions.

For how long had you been collecting recording and mixing material for your private studio? In order to achieve Padus' desired sound, was it a lengthy process to find appropriate material?
Every time I'm about to make an album, I compose songs that will be part of it, but sometimes it happens that some songs don't convince me so much and so I put them in the archive for future works. Currently I have an archive with several songs collected in recent years. When I started with this project it wasn't easy at all to create a distorted bass sound that worked for my songs. I had to do several recording tests to get to a satisfactory level. It was a bit of a long process before recording the first EP.

How often do you feel inspired to write and are motivated to record in your studio? What is the frequency with which you come up with new ideas for your songs?
As soon as I find some free time from work, I immediately pick up my bass, connect to the computer and start trying out new material. Unfortunately, there aren't many free moments. The ideas for the songs, the topics, the titles to give and the covers to create, I find them by looking around and having personal experiences, so, almost every day ideas are born; it's the time to realize them that is scarce.

What is the number of songs left off of your debut EP, “Diva Sporca”, prior to its completion? Have any of those been included on subsequent recordings, or are they still on the back burner?
On that occasion I didn't archive any extra tracks. It was my first work, so I moved in small steps in a timid way. I started archiving tracks towards the third, fourth album and some of those are still in the archive.

“Diva Sporca” has a distinctly massive sound, as much in terms of atmosphere and keyboards as bass and drums. Furthermore, it has a hypnotic repetitiveness that has become something of a signature sound for Padus. As a first impression, did you intend for it to have a huge atmosphere?
I focused a lot on the atmospheric aspect, while maintaining heavy sounds that would have given that right dark contribution. However, I repeat, I was still in the start-up phase and I had to move with caution.

What's the meaning of the lyrics on “Diva Sporca” and what imagery did you want to convey through them, in addition to feelings of anxiety, melancholy, desperation, and depression?
“Diva Sporca”, as on the cover, represents the indecent exploitation of the female body with prostitution and pornography: a tortured body (symbolically) of a woman with a group of skulls that represent unscrupulous exploiters and consumers of pornography. “La Luna Nera”, where I then also shot the first video clip of Padus, speaks symbolically of an occult rite, it is not specified whether satanic or of another entity, but it wants to express the dark atmosphere of an occult rite. “La Peste” instead tells of the mysterious environment of the island of Poveglia, an abandoned island in the Venice lagoon, where in ancient times there was a hospital with plague patients and where it is said that dark phenomena now occur perhaps due to the presence of restless souls. Both for “La Lingua Nera” and for “La Peste”, I also created two paintings inspired by the two songs.

How are the characteristics of “La Lingua Nera” and “La Peste” depicted in the two paintings that you mentioned earlier?
Just as described in the related texts: in “La Luna Nera”, elements such as the moon, blood, sperm, worms and that occultist touch that underlies everything are represented. While in “La Peste”, faces are represented, almost masks. These are all the souls that are prisoners of their damned destiny that imprisons them in that abandoned context of the island of Poveglia.

Were each of your albums intended to have a different concept behind them? How would you describe the conceptual themes of the full lengths you released after “Diva Sporca”?
There doesn't necessarily have to be a concept. It can happen like for “Opera funebre”, but the songs all have a different argument and still remain linked to the dark themes typical of Doom metal.

Are there any lyrics or artwork that particularly stands out from your albums between “Diva Sporca” and “Opera funebre”? Name some of the songs that best represent the growth of Padus over the years.
Of course, in every album there is always the song that I care about the most and therefore I consider it more prominent, such as: “La luna nera” (from “Diva Sporca”), “Ballata sulla fossa” (from “Colloqui con il satana”), “La fola del mare negro” (from “La łengua del leòn”), “Maniaco” and “Ora pro nobis” (from “Amsirac”), “Blues del camposanto” (from “Modificazioni genetiche per esposizione ai raggi gamma”), “Baptisterium” (from “Oscuramenti”) and “Croce di marmo nero” (from “Opera funebre”). Songs that could very well be included in a possible live repertoire, but which for the moment I am unable to implement, even if in 2020 I had tried to put together a band for concerts, but then Covid arrived.

In what ways does your latest album “Opera funebre” differ from your previous albums in terms of how it was written and recorded?
I've wanted to make a true cemetery doom album for a long time. A dark, caracombal record, an album that deals with only one subject, in this case cemeteries, funeral rites and everything that revolves around them. I also chose to use calmer sounds and rhythms than the previous ones.

There is a sense of ancient crypts and ancient spirits lurking in the shadows throughout “Opera funebre”. It's not until the final track that your grammelot vocal style is heard. Did you design this intentionally while representing funeral rites in cemeteries?
The song “La Lingua Oscura” deals with the theme of “metaphony”, used as a phenomenon to listen to the voice of the deceased through radio waves. So the vocal part is incomprehensible just like the one that can be heard in these experiments.

Before you experimented with the vocals in “La Lingua Oscura”, how did you learn about metaphony? I’ve noticed paranormal investigators are increasingly using radio devices to communicate with spirits or entities. Did you watch video accounts and/or read online accounts as part of your research?
I was a little disturbed by this topic, watching video testimonials on social networks. However, I must confess that I am somewhat skeptical about these phenomena, but it lent itself very well to the context of the album.

Are you researching any particular subject matter for future songs and/or albums? What has been holding your interest lately? Do you have any inspiration for writing new material?
No particular topics, not even things or facts that have piqued my interest, but I can tell you in advance that the new album that will be released in October 2024 is already ready (recorded and printed) and I'm already working on the draft of the one that will be released in the spring of 2025. In case I die, I will delegate some trusted person to have it published ha, ha, ha!

Are you making any efforts to reach a wider audience? Since the beginning, you have released your music independently; do you intend to sign with an indie label in the near future or would you prefer to keep creative control over your work?
If the listeners of my music were to increase, I'd be happy, otherwise there's no problem. My greatest satisfaction is simply that of experimenting, recording my songs and making my albums. I prefer to remain independent, self-produced, and genuine to the max. My project reflects my personality a lot from the covers that I paint, to my experimental songs and therefore it is very intimate and that's how I want it to remain.

Since you choose to remain under the radar as an independent artist, how much self-promotion are you conducting to promote your work?
The usual thing I do for all the records I make: I make a very limited edition of copies that I then sell out in a short time, I put the news on Facebook and make the album downloadable for free on Bandcamp. Luckily this time I have the support of The Triad Records that gives me the opportunity to make myself known abroad too.


-Dave Wolff