Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Band Interview: ANCKORA

INTERVIEW WITH KATRIN ANTARES AND EUGENIY JONPRIEST OF ANCKORA

Describe the origins of the band and explain why you wanted to work with a female singer. How does having a female singer enhance your sound?
Katrin Antares (vocals): It happened when I met with Eugeniy during a tour of our bands (we played in different bands).
Eugeniy JonPriest (guitar): When I saw Katrin on stage for the first time, I immediately thought her potential was much bigger and it was only needed to allow her to open up. The circumstances happened after I moved from my home town to Moscow. I decided to invite Katrin to create a common project with me. Of course, it wasn’t so easy; we had a lot of work about our new material and we searched for other members and our individual sound. We spent a lot of time creating and designing our costumes and the whole concept of the show became bright and recognizable! The past years have left many pleasant memories, then began our first shows and tours; it was a real rock 'n' roll gap! The atmosphere and drive were positive; we always strive to convey that to our audience. People appreciate it!
Katrin Antares: Of course, with such vigorous activity we have had some quarrels with each other and other musicians because not everyone will be able to stand such a long busy schedule. But in the last year we have organized everything so only three of the six members of the band can make shows happen! This allows us to reduce the load on musicians and at the same time maintain constant activity.

Where in Russia is the band from and how would you describe the local scene? How long have you been metal fans?
Eugeniy: Usually we do not name our city because the band members are from different regions or even different countries. At this moment we have two members from the Ukraine. In general, our guys are from central Russia/Moscow, and I personally am from north Russia. I grew up in Kirov (the historical name is Vyatka); we have three very cold months, and the rest of the months are the winter. Metal in Kirov is quite big and some of the bands are really strong. Those bands are known not only in Kirov but all over Russia. Moscow is a very complicated city; everything is ambiguous. On the one hand, because it’s a big city there’s a lot of underground youth but on the other hand, they’re not as united as we are in Kirov. I am still a metal fan! It seems to be impossible to play metal not being a metal fan! I have great respect for bands like Primal Fear, Rammstein, Hatebreed and Judas Priest.

Which members of the band are able to perform on a regular basis?
Katrin: The main members of the group are Eugeniy and I. But in general a second guitarist, Maxim, is almost always playing with us, so the three of us can be called the main members of Anckora. We also have a permanent bassist, drummer and dancer/backing vocalist, but we realize that all of them can be busy sometimes so they perform at concerts when they have the opportunity.

Which bands were Katrin and Eugeniy playing in before Anckora? Did those bands break up before Anckora was formed?
Katrin: My band was from Moscow originally and broke up almost at the time Anckora was formed. It was an almost completely female band and Anckora was formed at the time when disagreements started in the band. I keep in touch with some of girls from the band but all of us are leading our lives.
Evgeniy: I played in a band from Kirov called HMR but at the time when I joined the band had the name Mystery. They changed the name but they did it mostly for advertising. This band still performs now and they play heavy metal. Sometimes we share the stage and I even join them to play a couple of old songs!

What was the name of the band Katrin was worked before Anckora? How active were they when Katrin was a member, and why did she leave?

Katrin: The band was called Hysterica. We played a few concerts and released some demos, which probably can be found nowhere now. Time passed and then we found one more band with the same name Hysterica from Sweden. This Swedish band was more active and members of our band thought about changing our name and style, but around this time I joined Anckora, where I felt much more interesting and creative.

How long was Eugeniy a member of HMR and how much input did he have into their material? What were the reasons he parted ways with them?
Eugeniy: I was a guitarist in HMR for four years. Because of some problems in the band I started to play bass. It’s difficult to evaluate my contribution to the band but I think it was a lot. I left the band for musical reasons. I was the guitarist, but the members enjoyed my bass playing, and didn’t wanted to listen to my opinion about this matter, so this was the main reason I left.

How long has Anckora existed until now? How many musicians did you work with until you established your own sound?
Eugeniy: We got an idea to create a band in 2006 when I moved from Kirov to Moscow. But we regard the date of our first show, which took place in the summer of 2007, to be the “official date” of creating our band. Since getting an idea about the band till the time of our first show we completely replaced all the band members. Only Katrin and I stayed. As I said before this happened not just once; we changed band members a few times and we got accustomed to it. There’s no moving forward without changes. Our guys from the very first staff gathered their own band and named it Equilibris. Sometimes we visit their shows to express our support!

How actively does Equilbris play live these days? Do they have any material out? How often do you get to attend their shows?
Eugeniy: The guys don’t play very often. Mainly they play in Moscow, and we try to visit every show.
Katrin: Their guitarist is my brother, and their drummer is his wife. So we always support them because this is our loved ones and good friends!

The band’s sound is industrial metal, with lots of keyboards. How did the band develop this style?
Katrin: It happened by itself. When we played heavy metal before, we had keyboards. Later they turned into samples. About our industrial sound, we definitely were inspired by Rammstein!

Katrin’s vocals remind me a little of Otep’s vocalist Shamaya. Would she cite Shamaya as an influence or are there other vocalists she would cite?

Katrin: Hmmm… I haven’t heard Otep before, unfortunately. But I surely will listen! I like Simone Simons the lead singer from Epica very much! But I can’t say she influenced my vocal style. Mostly I am influenced by male vocalists. Maybe it sounds a bit strange but I think it doesn’t really matter whether a man or a woman sings. When I sing, people hear and recognize me.

Does the band write all their lyrics in Russian? Who writes the lyrics and what is the subject matter?
Eugeniy: Katrin writes the lyrics. My participation is, I sometimes tell her my wishes only about the subject which comes to my mind when I'm writing music.

Katrin: It so happened that all the songs from our EP "Extreme" are dedicated to extreme sports and how people overcome their own fears and doubts. And this is the reason the EP got its name. For example, the song "Midnight" is about extreme racers, it is equally addressed to both kinds of street racing, motorcyclists and motorists. "Bluehole" is the name of the underwater cave in Egypt, not far from Dahab. This cave is infamous because of numerous deaths of divers. According to the legend one Persian princess drowned her lovers there and when her father discovered it, he drowned her there too. Since then she continues to search for new victims. The lyrics were always written in Russian but now we’re thinking about issuing some special releases which targets foreign audiences. For this purpose we plan to translate some texts in English.

What inspired you to write about extreme sports? What research did you do on the haunted cave that Bluehole is based on?
Katrin: Eugeniy and I fell in love with extreme sports. Not in a very serious degree of course, because it does require a lot of effort, but we’re trying our best. For example we studied paragliding. It's very exciting!
Eugeniy: I am a diver and the dream of any diver is to pass the arch in Bluehole. They talk a lot about this cave in the diving community. But unfortunately I had no possibility to visit Bluehole yet and even just to dive in the Red Sea. But I think that someday I certainly will go there.

Where was Extreme recorded? Has there been a response to it solely in Russia or have people from other countries heard it?
Eugeniy: Extreme was recorded at our own studio. I also worked as sound engineer and recorded our own tracks and mastered too. Our friend, the frontman of the band Xe-None helped us with mixing of the album, because with our concert schedule we just had not enough time and effort to do it. Extreme played not only for Russian audiences and we have even seen a lot of positive reviews from foreign reporters!

How long has Eugeniy had his own recording studio? Want equipment is available to record with? What differences are there between working at your own studio and renting time at a studio?
Eugeniy: My first home studio I organized about three years ago. It was not easy. I picked up the equipment very carefully and gradually. Basically, this was due to the financial side of the matter but in the end I got everything I needed to be able to work with our material effectively. Of course when we want to record with a really good quality we will still have to rent a large studio which has equipment of more high level. It happens sometimes in the final phase of editing, but it happens not often. All other things I can do quietly in my own studio, where I don’t need to watch time and can work on quality calmly and safely. Of course it’s easier to work in our own studio because I have familiar instruments and equipment. But in my home studio I don’t have the possibility to put the same amount of equipment as at rented studios.

What equipment would you most want to own in your studio, given you had the finances?
Eugeniy: If I had enough money, I would like to have a high-quality acoustic room first. Then I would like to buy near-field, far-field and mid-field monitors. At the moment, I have only near-field monitors. Of course, I would like the top tube compressors and some Neumann microphones. Perhaps that’s all. I am quite happy with the rest of my equipment.

Has Katrin started to write lyrics in English? How is she handling the transition between languages?

Katrin: I hope very much that in this delicate matter as the literal translation of our text I will get help from my friend who is a professional translator! But in the meantime the first attempts of translation are by me. Once upon a time I wrote lyrics in English, but then we decided if we sing mostly for Russian speaking audiences then we should to sing in Russian. But now the situation has changed, so we came to the conclusion that it makes sense to make the lyrics understandable for foreign audiences. We are looking for our fans around the world because the language of music is international!

Is it easier to convey your ideas in Russian or English?
Katrin: Of course it is far easier to express my thoughts in my own language; it’s logical. When I think about music and lyrics for the new song, I have different images in my mind and of course it’s easier to me to ‘translate’ those images and thoughts into my own language to make it sound beautiful and clear for people. When I try to write in English I need to search for words and can’t express all the variants and synonyms, because I am not a native English speaker. So I prefer to write in Russian.

In what countries outside Russia is the band starting to become known?
Eugeniy: I think that in our time of high technology there are no limits for the music anymore, so we can say that all over the world! We performed live in Finland, the Ukraine and Belarus, but we plan to expand the geography of our tours in the future.
Katrin: Because in this world there are so many places where we have never been!

The band has several performance videos at their Youtube address. Which of your songs were chosen to record live and on what basis? Are those videos self-produced?
Katrin: We didn't choose anything especially. When someone films a good quality video we put it on Youtube, so others see it too. There are also a couple of advertisements of our tours by a friend of the band. She montaged it from videos that already existed.

Which of your songs were recorded live for Youtube and at which venues? Were they filmed by fans or professional videographers?
Katrin: Some videos were made by our fans in different towns, some were made by professional operators. But all of the videos are filmed “live”. Professional operators were paid by organizers of different fests we were involved in, and they didn’t plan how exactly they would film us. The videos just exist as they came out. At our Youtube channel you can see videos from fests near Desnogorsk (in Smolensk), from fests in Tver’ area and of course videos from Moscow. There also two video clips. One is very old, from when we played heavy metal. The second video was filmed last summer. One operator wrote us and offered to make our videos for free. We’re not satisfied by this video but it would be rude to ask something from an operator who worked for free.

Would you consider releasing your live videos on a special edition DVD? Tell the readers about the promotional videos the band made, that can be viewed at Youtube.

Katrin: We plan to release a live DVD soon! It’s already filmed and now it’s editing. We count ourselves more as a “live” band than as a “studio” band. So this is more important for us to show to our fans how cool our live shows can be than to just do video clips. “Fear” was filmed very long time ago, when we played heavy metal. “Shadows” we filmed, as I already mentioned, at last year summer for free. In fact we filmed it in a couple hours. Sometimes we use as a promo our live video from the “Heavy Water” fest in Smolensk; it shows better us as live band. http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qVuxV57yTAE.

Does the band have ideas in mind for the next full length recording? Are you in the process of writing any new material? And would the band plan to perform in the United States sometime in the future?

Katrin: We just finished our spring tour and now we are having a small vacation. But we’ve already started work on our new album. We just decided not hurry for this time. Three songs are already ready and four are in progress. So I can say that we already have half part of tracks for the album. But this is not fast process in general, because this is not only creative work but also hard and accurate work in studio too. There are so many places in this world where we have never been and the USA is among them. We’re always excited to perform at new places and see new towns and new people. So yes, if we will find possibility to play in the USA, we will do it with pleasure!

Anckora official website
Anckora on VK
Anckora on Youtube
Anckora on Facebook
Anckora on Reverbnation

-Dave Wolff

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Band Interview: ROCKETS PARALLELS

INTERVIEW WITH YARO SMIRNOFF OF ROCKETS PARALLELS

Rockets Parallels formed early in 2014, and was founded by former members of The Lateless. What led to the disbanding of The Lateless, and which members of that band decide to found a new band?Hello everybody! I must say that initially Rockets Parallels was a side project of former members of The Lateless. My brother Nick and I have planned this project to express ideas that didn’t fit in the framework of The Lateless. The two bands existed in parallel almost a year. At the beginning of 2014 we recorded a single called "Beginning" and collected material for our debut album. In autumn of 2014 divisions and internal conflicts began in the band. My brother and I decided to close The Lateless since both of us were its driving force and the founders of the group. Immediately after that we decided to focus on Rockets Parallels and caught up with our old friend Vyacheslav, who also played in the very first cast of The Lateless. We decided to start recording a new single called "I Rock I’m A Star". Later we filmed a video for this single. Having formed the crew and accumulated materials, we started recording our first album. The recording took place in our own studio. In March 2015 we released our first album "Abstract". Tracks from the album are already played at different metal and rock radio stations of Russia and Europe. The album was ranked the 68th in the overall national Russian charts and #17 on the charts in Saint Petersburg. Now at the moment we are in a small promotional tour for the support of the album. And I present to you the members of the Rockets Parallels: Yaro on bass and vocals, Sava on guitar and Nick on drums.

Did The Lateless perform a final show before disbanding? Are the ex-members of this band keeping in touch today?
We decided not to arrange a farewell concert or tour just to gratify our ambitions and turn it into a puppet show. We don’t need it. So many stars are doing it and after a year or two, they are coming back to play again. A vivid example is the Scorpions who for the past five years used to play their “last” concerts but still release albums. It’s not respectful to themselves or their fans. In fact, when the money is gone everybody suddenly recalls that they were once successful musicians. That’s not our story. It’s necessary to respect ourselves and others. We are in contact with our former band members but very rarely. We don’t see each other although we live in the same town. We don’t know what they’re doing now.

It is rather strange how many well established bands supposedly decide to call it a day and go on “farewell” tours and suddenly make a “comeback” a couple of years down the road. It does seem like a scam and disrespectful to the fans who buy merchandise and pay three figures to see their favorite bands live.
That's right. It's disrespectful, especially to their followers and fans. Many of those bands simply don’t care and make profit. Unfortunately the world is reduced only to money and those who have more rule over it. Money makes musicians and filmmakers to be formatted and to think format. Now no one want to think after watching a film, all what they need is pure action and computer graphics. All money are used for it and nobody cares about actors’ professionalism and putting deep sense in scenario. The same situation is in music. Look at all these "new" bands that sign major labels. They are all the same, with the same scripts. That's why the groups that are really worth something are usually lost in the ruck.

On the other hand, I personally don’t think it’s worth it to pay that much to attend a concert and I see no reason I should support a system that would exploit me financially. Musicians (as well as writers and performers) see it similarly, which is why more bands are taking more creative control over their own work. Are bands doing the same in Russia?

If we talk about the so-called comebacks, yes, it happens in Russia too but not very often. And pop-artists and some rock groups in our country do it. But I must say that if they are known and popular in Russia, nobody knows them in Europe and in the United States. Most of our top performers, which are shown on our television, and have expensive video clips, they don’t have any value actually because they have only Russian audiences. Prices for the tickets are very high. In general, I must say that in Russia, even for a good foreign groups tickets are very expensive too compared with Europe. Because of this, my friends and I almost don’t go to concerts.

The independent film industry has gained ground and set new standards in moviemaking while Hollywood has run out of ideas. And more independent film review sites have appeared that analyze big name productions rather than take them at face value. The same can be said for the underground metal industry as independent labels have survived passing mainstream trends and the bands have loyal fan bases. Do you see things continuing in this direction?
Almost every month I find independent groups from Russia or Europe. It says that the underground is in progress. When your music is sincere, the audience feels it and then the audience starts to support the group, buy merchandise and go to concerts.

Was the new video for I Rock I'm A Star filmed and produced independently? Tell the readers about this video.
We got the idea of this video spontaneously; we just decided to film a simple video without problems and pathos, just for fun. We rented a cheap camera; some parts were filmed in our studio; then we added part of our rehearsal. The final scene was filmed at my house. All filming and editing was done by ourselves. We spent about six hours in total for filming, editing and processing. We sent this video to the guys from Blank TV, and they played it on their channel. This summer we plan to film another video for the song "We Are Nothing". We plan to do everything by ourselves again.

Are you satisfied with the results of filming I Rock I’m A Star with the equipment you used? How do you plan to film the promotional video for We Are Nothing and why was this song chosen for your next video?
It could be better to be honest. We have big experience at this matter but the equipment doesn’t work well, alas. But we finally were quite satisfied with the result. A lot of material was out of focus and blurred so it was necessary to edit it a lot and search for compromises. About the video for “We Are Nothing”, we plan to start filming at the beginning of July. It’s difficult to answer why we choose exactly this song. We just wanted to.

How much work did the band channel into building their own recording studio? Is this studio in a location close to the band, or is it in one of the band members’ homes?
This home studio is in our drummer’s home. We dreamed of our own studio for a long time. Almost since our band was formed. Because this is very convenient and you can always record something, in order not to forget your sketches and drafts. Also you don’t need to waste time, don’t need to spend money to go somewhere. We created this studio little by little; as we grew as musicians our studio grew. We often spend money we gathered from our shows to purchase equipment. But the result was worth it!

What is the atmosphere of working in your own studio like when the band practices or records there? Do you think more bands are going to build their own studios for the same reasons?

When you're in your own studio, you feel in full control over your work. You don’t have to worry or keep track of time; you feel complete control and peace of mind. The studio work doesn’t like fuss and panic or you will make poor-quality duplicates. Sometimes we allow ourselves to drink a little but not much. We never really get drunk at work because it's bad for the quality. I think it's very comfortable of course to have your own studio but of course it costs money. Everyone has to decide for themselves if they need it or not.

How much creative freedom does the band have recording their debut album in his own studio? What sort of equipment are you currently working with?
It is very comfortable and practical to have our own studio. It’s not necessary to adjust to the schedule, you need not to pay money to anybody, and you have freedom to do whatever you want without limiting yourself in time. You are fully free in everything. We don’t have a lot of equipment in our studio, just some amplifiers, computers, sound cards, a few guitars and microphones; this is enough for us to record. Now we bought a more powerful computer and made a small software upgrade. Of course, we do mixing and mastering of our material in the studio. It is necessary to point out that the last album of The Lateless was also recorded at our studio, and all of my solo albums were too.

What role do computers and sound cards play in your recording process? Do you notice any differences from recording with traditional analog equipment?
There’s a big difference between digital and analog music recording. I had the experience of analog recording in the late nineties. If you can’t play and aren’t prepared to record, all work is failure, and you should go and rehearse. Now digital technologies are in every movie, photo and musical release. Even the media became digital; it is progress and you can’t avoid it. I agree that now it becomes easier, and any mediocre and dull musician suddenly becomes virtuosos. But as a rule, live performances usually show who is really capable of playing. Today we can’t live without computers unfortunately. Even answering questions for this interview, I use a computer. This is our life.

As far as live performances go, will they still be a deciding factor in determining whether a band can play and has genuine talent? Bands who can’t afford new technology at present still seem to be making a name for themselves. The internet has been a help, because social media is technology that really benefits musicians and helps them promote their work.
When any band performs, it‘s obvious immediately if they are able to play or not, if they’re professionals or dilettantes. Live performances show at once what you can do. The internet certainly helps bring music to any audience in the world. Social networks also help on that. Years ago it took months or even years to make your group known in another country; now it’s much faster because of Internet technologies.

How far has social media gone toward giving bands more creative control over their own work?
In my opinion the media couldn’t give the bands more creative control or any kind of control at all. We are an absolutely independent band; we don’t have any record label and we are free in everything. We are writing and playing as we want to do. I think this is the right way for any creative process.

How many songs were recorded for Abstract? In what ways do the new songs differ from The Lateless’ material?

The entire album was recorded and produced by ourselves in our studio. Post production was also by ourselves. Nobody helped us, and we did not ask for anybody’s help. Even the cover of the album was done by ourselves. Originally we wrote about thirteen songs for the album. We played them at rehearsals and realized it was better to release less material than to release a bunch of trash. So the album includes only nine songs. I am sure that people will hear and understand the differences. Now we have male vocals and our music is different. We changed the sound, the whole concept is totally different, and so Rockets Parallels and the Lateless are not similar to each other. The Lateless is like a book that we have read and put on the shelf. Now we have opened a new book and named it Rockets Parallels.

How did you go about choosing what songs would appear on the album? Name the songs that were chosen?
They were chosen purely intuitively. If you listen to the music and something inside makes you rock and stamp your foot, you are on the right track. I want to name and shortly describe all the songs. "Alpha" is the intro to the album and preparation of the listener for the next song, called “Madman.” "Madman" tells the story of a man who sinks deep into himself and his thoughts and actions, he is angry with the world and ready to commit suicide. "Never Seek" may seem strange but it’s a love song about a man who is looking for it and waiting for it constantly. "I See The Stars" is a philosophical song that makes you think about the divine consciousness; it has a sacred meaning of choice and belief. "Abstract" is the title track of the album. It’s instrumental by its own musical structure. It’s a typical song, but the melodies which sound together don’t quite fit to couplet pieces and that is why it’s abstract. "I Rock I'm A Star" is a comic song that tells about life behind the scenes of music and touring, about concert business. "Falling Down" is another philosophical song which tells the story of the inner spiritual growth and human progress. It’s about how people are starving for knowledge and how it burns them quickly. Everything should be paid. "Beginning And Progress" is also instrumental. It consists of two parts, some musical sketches and a flight of ideas. "We Are Nothing" is the most pessimistic song in the album. It’s meaning is quite simple. The man comes to the end of his life and asks himself what’s gonna happen in the afterlife, what did he live for and what will come after. "Omega" is the final song of the album. It’s made in an electronic way and there are a lot of different melodies mixed with each other. I really like it. It’s one of my favorite songs that I wrote.

Who conceptualized and designed the cover of Abstract? What does the cover depict and what is it intended to mean?
I created the cover. This is the result of my experiments with Photoshop and other graphic programs. And the cover of the album came out spontaneously. I showed it to the guys from the group; they also liked it and they decided it fit our album. If you take a look at the cover and think more deeply, then one can see the circle is like our world, the planet where we live. And the structures which are depicted in the circle mean everything else that this world contains including humans.

Since Abstract was released, has the feedback from independent press and social been favorable?
I am pleased to say that the independent press and social networks gave really good reviews for “Abstract”. We got a lot of positive reviews (mostly at Russian sites of course). We haven’t seen any bad reviews at all and this makes us proud of our work.

When did you begin to experiment with Photoshop, and what made you decide to use Photoshop to design the album cover? Are there any magazines or webzines of note that you can mention gave you favorable reviews?

I am a long time user of this program. I use it mostly for photo editing. I always liked the pictures that were created using this program. In fact, it may seem strange but I'm not really good at using all of Photoshop’s features. But I always wanted to do something for the band by using this program. But independent artists ask too much money for their work, so that’s why I decided to do album cover by myself. And all band members liked the result of my work. Are there any magazines or webzines of note that you can mention gave you favorable reviews? We haven’t sent our promo to Europe; mostly we sent our material to different webzines and Russian music sites. When we finished our album we had a promo-tour to support the release of “Abstract” and we decided to tour only in Russia yet. About articles and feedback we had a lot and here’s only a few (all of them are in Russian):
http://muzoic.com/n/rocket-parallels-abstract
http://metalnation.ru/news/rockets-parallels-abstract-newalbum
http://vk.com/ro_ckets?w=wall-66421686_141/all

Is your area in Russia home to independent labels you would consider signing to? Or do you plan to continue releasing your work independently?

I don’t know any unfortunately, but maybe this is even better. Here there are no independent labels to support metal or rock music, no labels who could help any rock band with an album or tour. Our industry died before it was born. Here some people or groups of people try to help musicians by themselves. Some big independent rock sites also exist but that’s all we have.

Has the band played in neighboring countries since releasing your debut recording? Would you plan on playing the US one day?
We don’t have any show in nearby countries yet, but we have plans to in the near future. We plan to visit Baltic countries for example. We also got invitations to play in Germany and Croatia. About the USA, I think we won’t play there because we don’t like the outer politics of that country. USA interferes into the inner politics of other countries all over the world and tries to teach other nations how to live, by imposing their ideals and “democracy”. We have our own retaliatory sanctions against the country; we won’t play there. Though it should be noted that people in the US have become hostages to the policy of Obama. We don’t blame ordinary people who live there – only politics.

Rockets Parallels on Facebook
Rockets Parallels on Youtube
Rockets Parallels on VK
Rockets Parallels official website

-Dave Wolff

CD Review: NOTHGARD Age Of Pandora

NOTHGARD
Age Of Pandora
Trollzorn Records
http://www.facebook.com/Nothgard
Age Of Pandora is Nothgard’s second full length, released in September 2014. Their debut CD Warhorns Of Midgard was released in 2011. I didn’t get a chance to hear it yet but Nothgard’s bio says it received favorable press following its release. The band aren’t Rhapsody, but Age Of Pandora is a full length of orchestral brilliance made all the more impressive since the lineup that worked on it includes three guitarists as well as a keyboardist. The band bio I received from Markus of Metalmessage promotions doesn’t make it clear who in the band is playing keyboards or if a session musician is working with them. But whoever the mystery keyboardist is, he helps to demonstrate how the band’s approach to orchestral/classical metal is maturing and growing on its own terms. There also seems to have been a female vocalist involved in the recording of Age Of Pandora; if so the bio doesn’t indicate who she is either. The liner notes would have the information as to all who had a hand in recording the material. The guitars are most prominent here, especially in the parts requiring speed and precision. Those sections are as important as the harmonies enhancing each song. And with three guitarists developing the song structure there are many opportunities for expansion in that department. One example is Black Witch Venture which starts with the theme of an 80s horror movie and contains some engaging leads. The keyboards exist to enhance the guitar progressions, giving them additional push when most needed (In Blood Remained is another song that comes to mind). What made the biggest impression on me as I listened to this album is how the guitars handled classical metal, symphonic metal, melodic death metal, folk metal, thrash tempos and blast beats with equal enthusiasm and determination to push the material forward. The band has shown much potential to expand their range in a relatively brief amount of time. -Dave Wolff

CD Review: NORTHLAND Downfall And Rebirth

NORTHLAND
Downfall And Rebirth
Independent
http://northlandmetal.bandcamp.com
I just started listening to this moments ago and I like it already. I haven’t heard folk/black metal this impressive since Borknagar and Primordial years ago. With the opening strains of When Nature Awakes, you immediately feel that you’ve entered into another world. What’s strange is that Northland aren’t from Scandinavia, but Spain. But folk metal is no longer restricted to Norway and Sweden. I remember when I first heard the epic job France’s Bran Barr did with it. Northland likewise goes a long way toward convincing you of the genre’s global appeal and how it has entrenched itself into the consciousness of metalheads the world over. The theme bringing the songs they recorded for this album reflects the modern industrial age and the negative impact it has had on nature. The band tell a tale of mankind’s folly in playing god with existence and thinking nature could be prevented from getting the last word, after all. It’s a concept that has been explored many times to be certain, however Northland manages to deliver their interpretation and make it sound as if something new is being brought to the table. The material sounds as diverse and fresh as folk metal did from ‘96 to 2000 while the pervading sense of nature and folk characteristics are more prevalent. The acoustic and electric guitars work well together with the violins; each instrument complements one another naturally, and keyboards add atmosphere from the background on more than one occasion. Bloodred Sunrise is another fine example of where Northland are taking folk metal. The female vocals and vocal harmonies in Moonlight Spell have the potential to lead the band into new and uncharted territory. The album as a whole sounds like a conceptual piece of gigantic proportions with more genuine feeling than you would have expected. -Dave Wolff

CD Review: ROCKETS PARALLELS Abstract

ROCKETS PARALLELS
Abstract
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/parallelsrock
An industrial metal band comprised of ex-members of Lateless, Russia’s Rockets Parallels released this full length recording and a few promotional videos for it in 2014 and 2015. These can be viewed along with tour diaries and performance clips at Lateless’ old Youtube addy, youtube.com/lateless09. One thing to say is there is a thorough collection of material to watch there. If you’ve heard both bands, you’ll see there are major differences between them. This band has a male vocalist as opposed to the Lateless lineup whose vocalist was female, and where Lateless were straightforward RP write more electronic/industrial effects into their material. In these tracks there are more layers and futuristic themes. The album starts with atmospheric guitars joined by a wind effect sounding like wind generated artificially by some vast machine that exists many years from now. The future envisioned by these first moments is nightmarish in scope and while there is emphasis on traditional instruments, the lines between acoustics and electronics are often blurred to the point where they become one. Rockets Parallels has gone a long way toward perfecting this approach to their music. The implications of what you hear on this recording leaves things open to progress in an infinite number of directions, if people take the time to consider how it can be achieved. -Dave Wolff

Thursday, June 11, 2015

CD review: CEPHEIDE De silence et de Suie

CEPHEIDE
De silence et de Suie
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/cepheide
Well, well, what do we have here? This is another impressive atmospheric black metal band, delivering a high quality demo full of depressive guitars, doomed melodies and melancholic auras. France is been the cradle of many black entities lately and I think that the genre has found new cold breath here. These guys formed the band in 2013 and recorded a four track demo in July 2014. If you ask me, I must say I heard the entire demo three times by now, and I'm still finding more dark elements inside layers and layers of open-chord guitars, as well as aggressive structures. I liked how they create violent passages like a trip into inner thoughts. Many sections are 100% atmospheric, and almost hypnotic. But you will not lose the line as everything is tied with a dark and expressive shadow of melancholy. Also, I barely can hear vocal lines, which definitely is not to be antagonist. Beyond that, the guitar riffs and drums form a poisonous abyss with grey walls of intense black metal. This is pure emotional black metal. Recommended for those who are looking for new names in the genre and for those who like to close their eyes and let the soul flow in sharp and holocaustic guitar chords. It’s a gem from French underground metal. -Victor Varas  

CD review: ASPHYXIATOR 2014 Promo (Inhaling Fluids of Thoracentesis)

ASPHYXIATOR
2014 Promo (Inhaling Fluids of Thoracentesis)
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/AsphyxiatorSlam
For those who follow the most brutal and gory side of death metal, this is a great promo from Chicago, Illinois. These guys formed the band under the name “Gods Of Gore” in 2003 and released a full length album in 2005. Seems like they had a lot of free time since then, and had many lineup changes until now, as a trio they finally released a two tracks promo. Music sounds great, as everything is inspired in death metal and grind metal. Everything sounds aggressive, corrosive and quite technical. In spite of programmed drums, the band sounds direct to the bone and delivers an excellent cannibalistic miasma (if you know what I mean) in both tracks. Guitars are thick and fast enough to bite your brain from the first note. Of course there are many influences, mainly from American death/grind metal like Terrorizer, Cannibal Corpse, Devourment, etc, as well as Polish bands like Dead Infection, Decapitated, etc. I can’t say that these guys want to innovate in the genre. But, who fucking cares about innovation, if these two tracks spit blood from your speakers? Hopefully I will hear more material from them in a short time. Keep an eye on the band’s name and don’t confuse. -Victor Varas

CD review: ERIK DISMEMBERED Darkness Within

ERIK DISMEMBERED
Darkness Within
Bluntface Records
http://erikdismembered.bandcamp.com
Darkness Within is a solo project from Erik Martin of the internet death metal band Critical Dismemberment. For clarification of what an internet band is, you’ll have to read Critical Dismemberment’s interview on this blog. Having devoted said band to death metal he is expanding his range of influence with this endeavor. The route he takes here is rife with remixes and industrial effects. While he is not the first extreme metal artist to experiment with those sounds, it doesn’t take much to convince you it comes from within. There’s a seemingly bottomless wellspring of conflicting emotions and frames of mind on this recording. It’s like a soundtrack of someone’s internal conflict who has been deeply traumatized by events beyond his control. Most of the songs are no longer than three minutes, however so much is funneled into those confined spaces their limited time frames enhance the almost overwhelming themes of loss, betrayal, mad desire for revenge and near psychosis. As this progresses they seem to bore into your consciousness, progressively deeper with each moment, until you reach the same level as the storyteller. By this time his demons truly are your demons and there is little if any hope of turning back. You could say it’s the musical equivalent of an account of losing one’s mind. If you’re curious to safely experience what it must be like to plunge headlong into insanity, you should check this project out. -Dave Wolff

CD review: WADGE Screaming For Tiki

WADGE
Screaming For Tiki
Mortville Noise
http://mortvillenoise.bandcamp.com/album/screaming-for-tiki
Wadge is a Canadian grindcore band that releases albums with humorous themes like partying in Hawaii. I discovered the band by accident; what first struck me was Screaming For Tiki sounded like Uniform Choice gone grind. This was especially so in the vocals which reminded me of Screaming For Change. What struck me next was they parody extreme metal a great deal in their songs. I did some research of Wadge on Youtube and discovered they have several releases out. The Hawaiian parodies and the extreme metal parodies are common themes though the sound varies on each CD. On another of their full lengths they poke fun at Napalm Death and Carcass frequently, on another they do power-violence and surf, on yet another they make consistent satiric references to Don Knotts as well as one to Sore Throat on Disgrace To The Corpse Of Sid, one to the old sitcom Three’s Company and one to Elvis. From this the band has an imaginative range and something different to offer. Nothing gets too played out so the listener remains interested in guessing what they’ll have in mind next. Wadge aren’t Anal Cunt, but this release makes for a listening experience that puts a constant smile on your face. And yeah, the percussion is a drum machine, as many grindcore bands used those from the 90s to the present. My personal favorites here were Say You Love Tiki and Are You Ready For Summer. -Dave Wolff

CD review: THE BLACKCLOUD SYNDICATE Rage In Common

THE BLACKCLOUD SYNDICATE
Rage In Common
Independent
http://theblackcloudsyndicate.bandcamp.com/
Toronto, Ontario’s The Blackcloud Syndicate have a singularly unique release to speak for, a conglomeration of thrash, death metal, punk, and Rage Against The Machine-style metal-hop with jazz and classical guitar thrown in for good measure. Rage In Common is their debut released in November of 2013; their musical crossover is the soundtrack to lyrics channeling the collective angst of our new generation of metalheads and bring it to anyone and everyone who could not or would not understand. This attitude is apparent from the first verse of Clenched: “Irritation leaks through pores that barely contain rage/Wandering through fools who can't see life is just a cage/Hypocrites so quick to switch, they must be double-jointed/Idiots all I expect and I am rarely disappointed.” Hey, we are aware reality is not The Brady Bunch. We’re angry at the world for a reason. If these lyrics offend you, ask yourself if you have been blind to what’s irked them all along. Or if you only paid attention to them just long enough to show them how wrong they are. It’s not pleasant, but at least it’s honest. Corrosion Of Conformity told you so in Mad World: “People today ask fewer questions/Accepting the excuses on TV.” And the Sex Pistols called the anarchy that existed in the UK even before they formed to your attention. Look outside your window and you’ll see their lyrics are still timely today. They are reflected in Fault Lines, Vice Grips, Protest The Riot and Gift Of Design. These songs show the band is angry for different reasons from their youth, but the fact that they are angry at all is what enables them to connect with the next generation of fans. -Dave Wolff

CD review: DEATH CURSE Death Curse

DEATH CURSE
Death Curse
Razorback Recordings
http://www.facebook.com/deathcursemetal
I can strongly imagine this is an album I wouldn’t have hesitated to pick up in the 80s, given my love for thrash metal and horror/gore flicks. If you’re a speed metal veteran, Missouri’s Death Curse will take you back to when thrash was new, exciting and cutting edge, and horror movies were not oversaturated with CGI. For the advancements computers have led to in filmmaking, and the popularity the horror and splatter genres gained since Scream and Blair Witch were released, Friday The 13th, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Carrie and other 70s classics retain a certain appeal for people who saw them in theaters. Even if they turned out cheesy, flicks from the following decade are remembered for laying the groundwork. More obscure movies like Suspiria, Cannibal Holocaust and Gates Of Hell are appreciated for that special atmosphere that’s difficult to duplicate even with the most sophisticated modern equipment. I myself am a child of that era so of course this CD will have a nostalgic appeal for me. 70s horror is given the band’s treatment with a clear impression that the band were cryogenically frozen like that guy in Faces Of Death and revived a couple years ago. The movie samples were chosen by guitarist Assassin and he apparently has good taste and a knowledge of cinema history. The music is as old school as the subject matter, appealing to fans of Metallica, D.R.I. and Misfits. I heard some Megadeth influence in these songs as well; definitely an early 80s Bay Area feel. The production is mostly clean, especially where the guitars are concerned. They don’t seem to need much distortion to contribute to this album though the drum production could admittedly use some work. The cover art of Jason Voorhees is by Mario Lopez who has designed covers for other Razorback bands. Death Curse cover Venom’s Nightmare which is another plus for this album. -Dave Wolff

CD review: UPON SHADOWS 7 Stages Of Grief

UPON SHADOWS
7 Stages Of Grief
Independent
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Upon-Shadows/128947133826217
Upon Shadows is a dark metal band from Montevideo, Uruguay consisting of Tamara Picardo (keyboards, guitar, programming, vocals) and Natalia Arocena (bass). The band has been around since 2002 and have recorded some memorably experimental and creative full lengths, all of which can be downloaded at their Facebook community page (see above). The two ladies have mastered their instruments in a way that each album is a new journey into a new world of darkness where some strange wonder awaits you. In AEA (issue 18 to be exact) you can read an informative interview and reviews of their work have shown up on occasion. 2014 saw a different direction for the and with 7 Stages Of Grief, a collection of ambient tracks arranged and recorded by Picardo and Arocena. I haven’t listened to as many ambient recordings as metal, but from those I did hear (straightforward ambient by Mortiis and Aghast or more thought out ambience from bands on the Death Odors and Karmanik Collection comps) recording an ambient album is more of a task since fresh ideas have to constantly be thought up so as to keep the recording itself fresh and keep things from becoming too monotonous and boring. Picardo and Arocena manage to carry this seven-track recording from beginning to conclusion by providing different themes for each stage of grief representing the turmoil people experience from a life-changing event. The effects in some of these songs are multi-layered similarly to Celtic Frost’s approach to ambience in Danse Macabre and Tears In A Prophet’s Dream while other tracks include classical themes hearkening to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, musically and figuratively. Denial and songs like it incorporate both themes, having them flow into one another unexpectedly and naturally. All these elements make for an album with a sense of mystery as to the direction it will take next. The band’s profile on Bandcamp is also streaming the new single Andromeda. -Dave Wolff

Thursday, June 4, 2015

CD review: THE INSEKTLIFE CYCLE Purple Gaze

THE INSEKTLIFE CYCLE
Purple Gaze
Independent
http://theinsektlifecycle.bandcamp.com
Purple Gaze, by seems to be just another instrumental compilation until you begin to listen to Tristful Ecstasy. Here you get the psychedelic output I believe was the intention behind this compilation. Good listening music and great for those who prefer the spacier computer generated sounds accompanying the talent that lies on the cusp of insightful music and the unusual blend of electronic sound. Purple Drank in a contradiction. It teases with mellow meditative notes and then becomes anxious and unnerving. The whole of the piece is a reflection of a day in the life... however, I would prefer to have one or the other. The bi-polar melody is not something I could listen to. The second song on the album, Purple Gaze, is a continuation of the first. It is the third song on the album that makes the difference. Tristful Ecstasy is quite a pleasant surprise after listening to the first two melodies. It is every bit the nostalgic inklings of the early 1970's psychedelics combined with the electronic era. It remains constant and true throughout - there are not hidden surprises, the listener can relax and enjoy the oddities that make this piece unique and mind-alteringly brilliant. -Teresa Clayton