Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Video Review: WEAPONS OF ANEW Killshot

Photo: Frank White
WEAPONS OF ANEW
Killshot
It's nice to see older guys still trying to rock it out and these guys are definitely in their late 30s early 40s and they're still trying to make that last ditch attempt. Admirable. You can tell that at one point this outfit was a real metal band. Or they individually started out that way. They dig metal, they really enjoy it but, somewhere down the line an A and R guy got hold of Weapons of Anew and told them, "You got to pop this up, you got to make this more palatable if you want to sell." Hence the male Evanescence quality to this band's sound. You got it all going on here: high harmonies, smooth as glass production, pretty boy lead singer and it all leads to a kind of vapid, empty candy floss sound that leaves you wanting a Thanksgiving dinner to fill you up.
I get it, I get what you guys are trying to do, and it's understandable the music business being what it is in 2016. It's full of cookie cutter silky production numbers masking as hardcore rock music whether it be punk or metal in their various genres. But you all are old enough to know better; seriously. For starters, the jarring insertion of a Punisher T-shirt on guitarist Freddy Ordine. This is a video, your identity is all out in the line here - it's your calling card. Define yourselves. Don't let their stylist dress you, you're not a 14-year-goth girl. Wear your own clothes you're like a 40-year-old dude. And by the way that's cool and that's seriously metal to be an elder statesman of rock. You're a veteran of the road, you've been through some deep shit, own it - tell us about that stuff. Hell, look at Slayer, listen to the last Motörhead album. Watch the guys that are out there playing it now - they've been through the wars. There's some kind of sonic gravitas in being an older metal band; don't try to make yourself something that you are not to please others because you just don't fit the demographic. Let it go, let it be loose and be yourself because I really think that this is not you.
Don't get me wrong; it's a really good song and I like the idea, I like the video 'Killshot'. You put a woman in a physically powerful position even if she is showing our hero 'no mercy' and he's begging to be put out his misery. Weapons Of Anew really put themselves out there; a lot of older guys wouldn't want to show themselves so much in a video but your good looking you still are rocking the slight figure of the hungry musician. I get it, it makes sense, but at the same time I would have preferred to see something from WOA that's a little bit more dirty and deep. And what are we trying to say here? That some girl cut you to the bone? You do understand this is a 22-year-old guy song. This is the song a guy sings he's just starting to branch out into the world of love. You guys have been around the block a bit and I'm thinking a girl cutting you off at the knees is not gonna have the same affect on you as a young dude. So maybe you handle this subject matter a bit differently and frankly in a more worldly and interesting way.
The musicianship is there - Chris Manfre on drums is particularly outstanding. And I see where this could sort of spill over into an Avenged Sevenfold pop metal, but the iron just isn't there. And your man Ray West with the gravel scream - dude it's STILL IN YOU - clearly!! Don't let someone tell you that you need to clean it up to make a record. I am frankly appalled at the production, the sound is so cold - I can't attach to this song in any way.
Look, I'm in my late 40s I'm not saying that, you know, older people shouldn't be out there rocking it, but you should be authentic and true to yourself and not true to some ANR guy’s idea. That being said, keep going you guys are great musicians and I love the meat of what you have here. But make it steak not sushi. Take a step back, reevaluate and come back out there with something that's filthy because that's what's in your souls - I can feel it. -Heather Dawson


Monday, November 28, 2016

Demo Review: DUCH CZERNI Reality Of Black Spirits

DUCH CZERNI
Reality Of Black Spirits
War Productions
Poland’s Duch Czerni have released a series of cassette demos, splits and EPs under different labels and distros since their formation in 2013. 2016 saw the release of two demos entitled Reality Of Black Spirits and Bezdnia. I discovered this band through War Faust of War Productions and while I was researching them I found Reality Of Black Spirits is a collection of their past two EPs: 2015's Cienie Wiecznego Zmierzchu and 2016's Widma Czarnych Dusz. The band is two core members: guitarist Maciej "Azazoth" Szewczyk who plays guitar for the Polish black metal band Cthulhu Rites (inspired by the writings of Lovecraft) and drummer/vocalist Wened Wilk Sławibor who is involved in Cthulhu Rites, Blood Stronghold, Ravenmoon Sanctuary, Nocturnal Werewolf and many other Polish acts. This is Depressive Suicidal Black Metal at its most depressive and suicidal with somber, melancholy guitars, heavily distorted, hypnotic guitars and excruciatingly tortured vocals. Violin and keyboards added for additional drive. You can only imagine how fathomless and down reaching the chasm from where this demo originated is. If you dare to search and you’re not faint hearted this atramentous band will appeal to you with this invocation to all things lightless and doleful. My sole grievance about these four recordings s that the drums tend to be mixed too loud, but thankfully they don’t overshadow all else going on and there are some moving mood turns within each song. Take the transition from distorted guitars to forlorn strings in “Cienie wiecznego zmierzchu” for example and the unremittingly trance-inducing theme of “Powrót świata umarłego” which slowly fades out at its conclusion. This and more shows a lot of innovatory punch on the band’s part, that I hope they raise the bar on when work begins on their next release. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Cienie wiecznego zmierzchu
2. Ponura noc wieczności
3. Aura melancholii posępna
4. Powrót świata umarłego

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Band Interview: GRAVEHUFFER

GRAVEHUFFER
Interview with Ritchie Randall, Mike Jilge and James Hiser

The first incarnation of Gravehuffer in 2008 was Krom. What is the history behind it? How did the band get together and where were they musically and lyrically?
Ritchie Randall (guitar): Me, the bass player Mike and the drummer Larry were in a band together in 1997 called Initial Detonation. We were a crust punk band with hints of metal. We had dual male/female vocals and another guitar player. We were together until early 2000. There was a period of inactivity musically for several years. Larry and Mike got back together in 2007 and formed Aether Bunny, with Mike switching to guitar, our current singer James joined them, and they had a different bass player named Caleb. Their style was a bit different from Krom, more straightforward punk and not really much metal sounds. Caleb left in mid-2008, Mike switched back to bass and they gave me a call. They started teaching me a few of the songs they had and immediately the old chemistry was still there! I believe they had about four or five songs so we jammed on those for about a month and then started writing new stuff. We wrote eight or nine new songs in the span of a few months. The newer songs had a good mix of the metal and punk mix that we are now known for. The punk riffs are more of our bass player Mike's sound and the metal influences come mainly from me. Our drummer Larry tends to be a little more punk as well, playing strictly a single kick drum, but also throwing in some blast beats that give it some death metal and grind influence. Our singer James tends to have a good mix of punk and metal inflections in his voice. Lyrically at that time, he tended to write about the ills of organized religion, military involvement, outlandish Nazi history, pop culture, some personal issues, to comedic things like Dungeons and Dragons and fictional accounts like the song Dumpster Baby. We definitely are all over the place but we try to have the music and lyrics fit together so it makes sense. It's all about having fun and playing what we want to hear.

What was your local punk scene like before you started working in bands, and how did you watch it grow over the years?
Mike Jilge (bass): Seems like most bands were bar bands around here. Some amazing musicians but not many punk shows. Around 1987 more punk bands were popping up. And we started renting these local halls for shows. Seems like the scene here just exploded really fast. We were playing every weekend. Now with casinos all around, most bands are doing that whole thing. We love Joplin; it’s a small town with cool culture. There are some great bands, and great people living here.

What crust punk bands were you listening to when Initial Detonation started? What was its appeal in those days?
MJ: Oh man, there’s a ton of bands: Discharge, Amebix, Nausea NYC, Misery, Doom, AntiSchism, the list goes on. Mangel style music has influenced Mike mostly, Mob 47 being his favorite band in the whole world. It was the pissed off attitude towards playing that we liked. That whole "play every note like it’s your last", just playing with that soul power. Getting on stage and letting loose the fucking Kraken. That’s the appeal for us. It’s great therapy to let it all hang out. Pounding your instrument and being tight in the pocket. Everything slows down in the eye of the storm. It’s beyond description. Better than sex or any drug. I promise.

What would you divulge about the cultural history of Joplin and how it reflects on you and the band?
RR: For my part, the culture in this area does influence the music and lyrics. A lot of the times, it's in a negative light unfortunately. Religious upbringing is a huge part of the town so that does play a large part in shaping how we filter and process what goes on around us. I will say that the working class roots and forested landscapes also subliminally influence us. We have that southern sludge vibe creeping into our riffs to counter the fast, angry, and rebellious playing that is a big part of what we do.

Was there a sizable punk scene in Joplin, MO when Initial Detonation was performing and releasing material? Did you know one another from the scene before starting to play together?
MJ: There was a damn good scene here for such a small town. There still is. Mike was in bands around the scene since the 80's. Being a smaller scene everyone knows everyone. Especially back then when the scene was smaller, it was more cohesive, less cliques. Shows had heshers, punkers, jocks, goths, and weirdos. And no one worried about impressing anyone or if they looked stupid dancing. There were a bunch of great bands around that time here in Joplin.

The thrash scene in Long Island was more or less the same around that time. Toward the end of the 80s it was starting to become more elitist as several bands were copying other bands instead of doing something original. How did the scene in Joplin change or not change through the 80s?
MJ: There were "those" bands that just tried to copy popular stuff. But there was also a steady stream of bands doing their own thing, looking for their own sound. They are still around. Just go to The Cesspool here in town (a local venue for ten years, free all ages shows, run by Gene Cesspool). We need to go see more local shows. There will always be the bands that think their shit smells like roses. And the fans who buy into it. But you can watch a band play and see for yourself, if they are up there posing to look good or if they are putting heart and soul in it. Power from the soul on an instrument out does gymnastical-like-guitar-acrobatics every time. See Ramones or Celtic Frost or Sabbath. The list goes on...

How well known has The Cesspool become since it opened ten years ago? Is it mostly local bands who perform there?
MJ: The Cesspool is very big in the underground. Over a thousand bands have played there. It’s on Youtube under Cesspoolcastle and also on Facebook. Gene works with touring bands more than local bands. The shows are free, so he doesn't pay but you get a place to play, sell merch, eat, and sleep. It’s in a big basement, where Gene and Mike built a stage and put a huge sound system in there. During the summer there are a few shows a week. Bands from all over the world have played there, and some "big" bands.

What touring bands of note have appeared at The Cesspool last year? Is the club’s page on Youtube updated regularly?
RR: We haven't played Cesspool this year, so I’m not too sure what's been rolling through there. Bands of note that I can think of are The Mentors, Cemetery Rapist (both of who we opened for), Anal Blast, Satan's God, Stitched Up Heart (weird, but it happened), etc. Gene updates their YouTube page a few days after every show.

Describe the general atmosphere of The Cesspool and the kind of fans who usually attend shows there.
MJ: The Cesspool is a laid back attitude. It’s a good mix of genres there so each show has different fans going. There is a core group of fans that go to most of the shows. Cesspool fans are there for the music and they seem to "get it" more than the bar crowd. Someone should make a documentary about Gene and the Cesspool.

Do you know anyone who would consider producing a documentary about the club?
MJ: I know Gene and have asked him a few times if I could film him and talk to him on camera, but he's not into it at all. Maybe if I catch him in the right mood he will say yes sometime.

What led to the formation of Aether Bunny? Did Krom grow out of this band after Caleb left and they contacted you?
MJ: Mike and Larry continued to play together after ID, in an experimental band called Freakflag (with Gene Cespool). That kept them busy a few years til they started Aether Bunny with an old friend who played bass. Mike switched to guitar for fun, it didn't last long. After Caleb left Mike jumped back to bass and called Ritchie.

Was Freakflag a local band or was there any intention on their part to be serious musicians? Did they release anything?
MJ: Freakflag was an experimental band. They would surround the band with a huge screen and show slides, movie loops, and a video. It was a serious band, but no touring. Several releases since 1996. Even a boxset. The new incarnation of Freakflag has a new name. They make music videos and commercials. They do full movie soundtracks now. Metropolis, Phantom of the Opera, and the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. They show the silent movie and play from behind the screen. That band is Skunkwerx Audio Unit. You can check them and Freakflag out, on Soundcloud or Youtube.

Which of Freakflag’s older releases are most worth checking out? Do you have links where they and Skunkwerx Audio Unit are being streamed? How does their material differ from most bands in your area?
MJ: The first Freakflag releases were on cassette in the mid to late 90's. You can get most of their releases from Stan at Reality Impaired Recordings here: 1265 E. Sunset Ct. Springfield, MO 65804. Send him a few bucks and he will send you some stuff. He refuses to do the internet, so he is still ultra-underground. Gotta respect that. The release that got the best reviews was Experiments In Evolution. Skunkwerx Audio Unit has the same circle of guys, but different main members now. You can check both of those bands out on Soundcloud or Youtube. There are quite a few noise/weird bands around this area, maybe something is in the water? If you check out Reality Impaired Records you will see most of the bands from this area that are being released. It’s a wide range of weirdness, haha, but there is a deep pool of great musicians here. Some have ventured out and have played all over the world, while most are content staying here. If you are ever near Joplin, go find a show; it doesn't matter who is playing. If they are from this area, you are gonna see some music from the heart, in most cases haha.

What are the reasons Stan of Reality Impaired Recordings prefers not to use the internet? Is he doing well regardless?
RR: We haven't had much contact with Stan in years, other than guesting on the new album and texting back and forth a bit about the CD/cassette release of the new album. He lived in Salt Lake City, Utah for the last four years and only recently moved closer to us in Springfield, Missouri. Stan has never been into technology much on a personal level so that may be part of why he doesn't want to go the internet route. As far as how well his label is doing, it seems to be doing well, as they were able to help us financially a bit more with this record than previous ones.

How much financial help has Stan helped the band with? Also, do you think the internet or snail mail and physical fliers are better for the underground in the U.S. as a whole?
MJ: Stan also does amazing Distro. He has been doing underground distro since the mid 80's. There is still a hardcore underground going that the internet has yet to dig up. We still put up real flyers as relying on social media for band promotion is a bad idea. It helps, but don't use it as the main source. I miss the days of collecting flyers for shows. Remember the days of having old flyers plastered on your walls? I guess we can save them on our cellphones now? Haha.

How many fliers have you collected from the old days/classic era? Are most of them still in good shape?
MJ: I have a box full of old flyers, I used to have them plastering my walls. My son has made off with most of them, records too haha. Most of the flyers are from local shows, just for memories. I would have to go look through them again to see what was left in there.

How long were you collecting filers made to advertise shows? Do you see as many being made today as back then?
MJ: From the mid-eighties to now. I don't see as many flyers around anymore. Some bands post them. Some rely on social media.

How many hardcore bands have managed to thrive without the benefit of the internet in the past few years?
RR: I would imagine they're out there but we're a bit out of the loop on the physical print zine scene. Personally I think it's wise to use both print and internet. We try to do both, especially with promoting shows. We always print flyers and hang them up all over town as well as plaster it all over social media.

At what point did Krom evolve into Gravehuffer? What were the reasons for the change and who thought up Gravehuffer?
MJ: Krom was just a working name really. Larry said it one day at practice, we all laughed and decided on Krom til we could find something better. Our good friend Dozer came up with Gravehuffer. He was gonna use the name for a rockabilly band. But it never happened. So we asked him if we could have it. A good band name is very hard to come up with these days.

Why do you think it’s difficult for bands to think of a name to represent themselves?
MJ: Finding a band name that hasn't been used is one challenge, but trying to get all members on board with a name is another. I bet we wrote down 50 names that we couldn't all agree on. You don't want to be fast and heavy and have a name like Michael Lilac and the Fluffy Boys, haha. Or maybe you do, no harm in that. But try to get four or five band members to agree on it.

How does Gravehuffer incorporate the southern sludge sound into their approach to crust punk and metal?
RR: I think a lot of the slower elements in our music come for our love of Black Sabbath. In our eyes, Sabbath were some of the original punk rockers, more with their attitude and approach to playing than their music style of course. Some of the southern sludge bands, particularly in the New Orleans area, definitely have a punk and even metal edge to their playing and approach as well. We enjoy a fair amount of those bands as well and it rubs off on us for sure. We like to have a variety in tempos, more like the classic bands from the 70's and 80's. Sometimes it's nice to have a slower song to break up the fast ones, especially live. To us, it gets to be boring and repetitive to play the same styles and tempos, so I think we mix it up just to keep things interesting for ourselves first and foremost. Plus it's so much fun to jam on a big fat heavy riff! Haha.

What sludge bands from New Orleans have you been listening to these days? Any you would recommend to the readers?
RR: Most of the bands that we listen to from there are older, like Acid Bath, Eyehategod, Soylent Green, etc. We do enjoy some recent bands from there like our new friends in A Hanging. Their bass player is a DJ on Metal Devastation Radio and has a show on Tuesday nights called Out Of Bounds. He plays a block of New Orleans bands every show and they're all killer!

I am familiar with Metal Devastation Radio as I interviewed people connected with them for this zine. How did you become acquainted with them and how much support have they shown?
RR: I can't remember exactly how I got aquatinted with Metal Devastation Radio, but I'm almost positive it was seeing their site on Facebook through mutual musician friends. I then looked into their station and decided to submit music to them. They have always been extremely supportive of us and have gone as far as buying a huge amount of our merchandise! Their DJs have bought more stuff from us than any other station by far! They do a great job of promoting all the bands as well, either on social media or on their website, particularly in their chat room. We've networked and made some great connections through them!

How well do you know the members of A Hanging? Have you or would you share a bill and perform with them?
RR: I only know Bobby Bergeron the bass player. I got to know him from checking out his show on Metal Devastation Radio. We talk on Facebook and chat during his show on http://www.mdr.rocks. They have actually asked us to come do a show with them in New Orleans. We would most definitely like to jam with them.

Has the band been to New Orleans previously or would your show with A Hanging be the first time? Have you heard anything from Bobby about the scene there?
RR: We've never been there so it would be our first time if we make it to NOLA. Bobby champions the New Orleans scene quite a bit so it sounds like a great scene there. He plays blocks of strictly New Orleans bands on his show and they're all really good. Definitely bands we'd like to play shows with.

What NOLA bands aired on Bobby’s show are you presently interested in? Did you hear of any clubs down there you would most like to check out?
RR: I'm usually chatting on the station's website with other people during his show and sometimes band names escape me. He's not mentioned particular venues on his show but his band does post where they play fairly often.

Have you read the print zine Bobby publishes? Did the band and he ever discuss doing an interview for that zine?
RR: I've read a little bit of the current issue online. He has them in PDF format as well as physical print. We ordered a couple of copies recently and are stoked to check them out. Our new album is reviewed in there and there's an interview with Saint Vitus among many other things. We haven't discussed an interview but hopefully it will happen soon.

How many personal topics in relation to your themes are written into song lyrics? How do these lyrics fit the band?
RR: The personal topics are something we try and keep vague, so that they're more relatable to the listener. In relation to the other songs, they are much fewer than the topical or even the humorous songs. We just write about whatever we're thinking about at the time the music is written. It seems to fit better that way as well. Occasionally one of us will suggest a topic and James will run with it, but for the most part he writes his lyrics on his own time or will even scratch a few lines and ideas as the song is being formed and arranged.
James Hiser (vocals): I try to stay clear of actual events in my life for lyrics. They wouldn’t make sense to anyone else and I like for people to be able to interpret lyrics the way they like. I like to write about stories I’ve read and historical events that interest me. Especially ones not too many people know about. I feel we’ve done a good job covering a wide variety of topics for songs.

Discuss the recording of your earliest demo or demos and how these represented Gravehuffer when they were released.
RR: When we were Krom, we recorded a five song demo to analog 4-track that was never physically released. We did however convert it to digital and put it up on our Myspace page and it got thousands of plays there. It was a great introduction for us to a new online crowd, which we never had prior. Three of the songs were Aether Bunny tunes but we did write two new tracks for inclusion on there that represented a little more of our current sound.

How much of a buzz did this demo generate in zine communities when it was circulating? Do you remember quotes from any reviews you read?
RR: The demo was not reviewed to my knowledge as it was only available to stream on Myspace at the time. Our first official CD release as Krom was the Chaotic Evil album and it was reviewed several times. I remember a couple of quotes like 'this sounds like Usain Bolt running to capture the last steroid supply' and 'the death metal cavalry of Krom are sabring all the gaping peacemakers in their succession'. Haha!!

How many copies of Krom’s debut CD were made for distribution among zines? Were the songs from the demo reworked for inclusion on it or were new songs recorded?
RR: We had 200 copies pressed total and sent out ten or so to zines. Stan sent out about the same amount. We re-recorded the songs from the demo for inclusion on the album, including new songs we had written in the time between the demo and the recording sessions for the new album.

Are the re-recordings of Krom’s demo material improvements over the first recordings? How many new songs were written and recorded?
RR: They were a vast improvement as they were recorded on an 8-track digital recorder. There were seven new songs recorded for the album, as well as a cover of Celtic Frost's Into The Crypts Of Rays.

What led to your covering Into The Crypts Of Rays by Celtic Frost? How many other covers did you consider for inclusion?
RR: We initially covered Into The Crypts Of Rays in the Initial Detonation days. We thought it would be fun to do again to help fill out the set list that we played at shows. At the time we only had twenty minutes or so of original material so we did the Celtic Frost cover as well as Black Sabbath's 'Hand Of Doom' and Venom's 'In League With Satan'. We only recorded the Celtic Frost song as it felt like it fit better with our original tunes on the rest of the album.

You also recorded a Ramones cover for Krom’s CD. What song was covered and why was this song chosen?
RR: We ended up choosing Commando. If I remember right, I was messing around with the riff at band practice one day, everyone else joined in and we just ended up learning it that day. We thought it sounded good plus it's a really fun song to play. Our singer is a huge Ramones fan so it was great for him!

What was the first material you recorded and released as Gravehuffer? Was the same amount of copies made as the previous release?
RR: The first tracks Gravehuffer recorded were initially six songs that were going to be released as an EP. We were going to call it 'Krom's Last Stand' and we had artwork for it. Stan convinced us that since we changed our name we should reintroduce the Krom material on the Gravehuffer album. We had a title for the album that Mike came up with called 'Blasphemusic', and we decided to have a different artist design the cover, as the previous art didn't fit this particular title. We used Karl Dahmer of Dahmer Art and he came up with a great album cover. We had 200 of these pressed initially but they sold out and we had another 100 pressed this summer.

How did you come up with the album title Blasphemusic for your debut? How well does the title fit the tracks you recorded?
RR: Mike came up with that title. We thought it fit the image we were looking for and the songs. There are quite a few songs that would be considered blasphemous in this part of the country, due to the outspoken views on organized religion and some of the explicit subject matter in the lyrics. Even our light-hearted song about Dungeons and Dragons would be considered taboo around the area in which we live.

Which songs on Blasphemusic were most considered offensive and for want reasons?
RR: Probably Dumpster Baby because it's about finding an abandoned infant in the trash. People are pretty messed up and truth is stranger than fiction a lot of times. Gutsick has lots of cursing and is about hating a person so much that it makes you sick to your stomach. Reacharound Rambo is another song we have received a little flak for as well, obviously because of the title and the lyrics deal with North America's desire to police the globe.

How did you get in contact with Karl Dahmer for cover art? Where can people view his work if they’re interested?
RR: We met Karl through mutual friends in a band called The Coventry Sacrifice. He was always coming to shows we played with them. He started his artwork business not long after that and we took notice of his pieces. He's prolific and active on social media so it's easy to get a feel for his style. We thought it would fit perfectly for us. He's also done a couple of our shirt designs as well as a hoodie design. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram by searching for Dahmer Art.

Blasphemusic was released in 2012. Is the band still promoting it as actively as when it came out four years ago?
RR: We don't promote it as much as when it was released, but we are using it to help sell other merchandise. We have hoodies and shirts that we sell and we throw in a copy of Blasphemusic for free with each purchase.

Did Karl Dahmer design your shirt and hoodie art as well as your album art?
RR: Karl did design the Blasphemusic cover and all of our merchandise designs. The current merch designs were drawn by Karl. In total, he's designed 2 shirts, a hoodie, an album cover, stickers, and an album insert for us.

Are you currently working on material for another full length recording? How soon would you expect it to come out? Will you be hiring Karl Dahmer for the next album’s cover art?
RR: We are actually done with recording, mixing and mastering of our new album. It is called 'Your Fault' and will be released on vinyl in March of 2017 on vinyl/download via Swamp Metal Records, and CD/cassette/download via Reality Impaired Recordings. The album cover was a painting this time, done by our great old friend Eric Sweet. He also did the back cover as well, which happens to be a comic book parody of the Black Flag album cover for 'Family Man'. Really funny! Karl Dahmer did do the art for the inlay and lyric sheet as well as the CD disc art and side B of the vinyl label art.

What songs are to appear on Your Fault and what inspired them? How do you plan to promote the release when it’s out?
RR: There are eleven total songs and I'll walk you through them in sequence. First song is Gravehuffer and we thought it would be fun to have a song named after the band, kind of like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden. Next is Of Fish And Men and is an Aquaman parody song. Haha! We were basically dared to write a song about Aquaman. Then Kill For Sport follows and is loosely based on the killings of Henry Lee Lucas. Dead Peace follows and is a song by our bass player's old band Squirm. The drummer in that band wrote the lyrics. His name was Shane Chapman and he unfortunately passed away last year, so we recorded it as a tribute to him. Shut Up And Skate is a fun tune that our bass player came up with. He's a huge skateboard fanatic. Powers That Be was a song our singer wrote the lyrics for while he was on house arrest. Destroyer Of Worlds, which starts side B on the vinyl and cassette editions, is our most metal sounding song and it's about Oppenheimer and his involvement in the creation of the atomic bomb. Dead Peace is based on the Washington DC beltway sniper attacks. Worms Of God, as well as the last song Chains Around You, are again about the ills of organized religion. Prince With A Thousand Enemies is another song our bass player recommended lyrics for and it's inspired by the book/movie Watership Down. As far as promotion, our label, Swamp Metal Records will be heavily promoting the vinyl and download and we will self-promote the CD/cassette/download release on all of our social media as well as buy some well-placed adds in zines and online. We've sent the album out for review to lots of zines and blogs and are in the middle of doing lots of press for it. We're also planning on setting up a special album release show here in our hometown that will have us playing two sets: the first will be the album in its entirety, followed by a short set of tunes from our first album and a cover or two.


-Dave Wolff

Demo Review: VULTUR Vulture’s Beak

VULTUR
Vulture’s Beak
War Productions
Vulture’s Beak is the debut demo from this Athens based death metal band. Released three years following their 2013 inception, it effortlessly demonstrates how the metal underground in Greece is still capable of spawning quality music. The four selections gathered for this demo refreshed my memories of old Pyrexia and Suffocation in their demo days. The guitar, bass and drum tracks were all recorded in the band’s home studio (the lead vocals were recorded at Vocals recorded at Underground Studio of Kyriakos Pagoulatos) so the similarities probably stem from the professional self-production heard on this demo. The D.I.Y. leaning ingrained in the material is revitalizing as Vultur hold clear dominion over their songs, channeling their energy into the density and consistency they compose with. The Pyrexia/Suffocation parallels are most apparent in the first track Entangled In The Webs Of Fear, but from there Vultur travel to other shores so to speak. The predilection here is of the 90s persuasion, with all its doom, gloom and foreboding untouched. I liked how this innervation seems to steadily grow until the end of the demo when it seems to almost become self-aware in a sense, signaling the end of all things as we know them. With this in mind I most appreciate the final track Incubation Of Grimness with its agonizingly slow tempo and imposing fadeout suggesting darker times ahead. This fits the potential the band has and shows promise for them. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. Entangled In The Webs Of Fear
2. Vulture's Beak
3. Murder Castle
4. Incubation Of Grimness

The Ship by David Smith: Part Four

THE SHIP
Fiction by David Smith
From his compilation Peek-A-Boo
Also included in the Sinister Saints anthology Strange Vacations.
http://davidsmithbooks.co.uk
Part Four

The raiders ravaged the remaining food and water stored in the safe haven, the storage lockers in the galley stripped of every tin, every packet, every box of food, every bottle of water. Anything edible was taken. Nothing was left for the other survivors by the time the marauders had finished searching the galley. Their leader had ordered his men to tie some of the crew and other survivors together to form one long human chain of about twenty souls, the Captain at the front.
‘You’re mad if you think you can bargain with those creatures,’ said the Captain to the gang’s leader.
‘Why wouldn’t they? I know what they want. I’ve watched them. They want human flesh. Well, guess what? I’ve got a long chain of it as a small gift for them, with plenty more to follow if they let us go.’
‘You are mad,’ said the Captain, ‘Let you go where? And how are you going to communicate with them to let them know what you want?’
‘The universal language of signs and gestures,’ said the leader, a smirk on his face, ‘I shoot a flare into your head to get their attention then take it from there.’
He grabbed the Captain by his hair and hissed in his face, ‘Now, get on your feet, it’s time for a little fresh air.’

*****

Kent and Luke crept silently onto deck 12. They were lucky. There were no creatures to be seen, and the decks and walkways were clear of the white goo. To get to the next flight of stairs upwards to deck 13 they had to edge about twenty yards along the outside wall of the gymnasium. It was a long, exposed section and they knew they would be taking an enormous risk, but there was no other way to get to it. The two men crouched as they sprinted along the deck towards the steps. All clear. They had made it. They had reached the stairs to the next deck.
‘That was…’
‘Shhh,’ hissed Luke, interrupting Kent, holding his hand up for him to be quiet. There it was in the distance, the whap-whap of the Chinooks. They were still hovering out there, but why so far away? Surely they should have been overhead by now, crack troops dropping onto the deck armed to the teeth, and ready to destroy the damned creatures. Luke strained his eyes to the horizon but there were no helicopters to be seen this side of the ship. He scoured the skyline. There was smoke, black and thick, belching into the air. Something was burning away in the distance. They needed to be the other side of the ship to see what it was.
Kent had spotted the smoke at the same time, so he understood Luke’s hand signals when he gestured to cut back to the gym. They could cross through it to get through to the other side of the ship quicker and safer than edging around the deck. The Gym’s windows were covered in reflective film so the two men couldn’t see inside. There was an access door into the gym half way back the way along the outer wall on deck, and the two men headed for it. Luke opened the gym door as quietly as he could to check it was safe. As soon as he had seen inside he closed the door as fast as he could without making a noise, at the same time fighting hard to keep down the contents of his stomach. What he had glimpsed in those few moments was horrific.
There were no creatures in the room, thanks God, but some had been very recently. The creatures were using the gymnasium as some kind of store room. Human bodies, hundreds of them, were lying on the gym floor. The heads had been severed off, the remaining bodies butchered to separate the arms, legs and torsos. These were stacked in neat, separate piles against every wall. There were metal tables in the middle of the room with part dismembered bodies lying on them, their entrails in a pile between the tables. The floor was awash with dark red sticky blood inches deep. The room stank of death, putrid and sickening.
‘Let’s keep moving,’ said Luke as they headed for the staircase.

*****

‘Quickly!’ shouted Lisa, as she started grabbing at the rungs and climbing as fast as she could. Libby didn’t need any instruction, she was climbing right behind her, desperate to get as far up the vent as she could, away from the shrieking monster below. The beast suddenly lunged up at me and nearly caught my ankle with its sharp teeth. I snatched my leg away. But it jumped again, gripping one of the rungs below me with its talons to get nearer. I was caught! It had me by the heel of my shoe. It bit hard, cutting through the shoe as easily as cutting through a peeled banana. Luckily it hadn’t bitten into my flesh. It spat out the rubber as it grabbed hold of another rung just below me. I saw its ugly, razor sharp teeth gnashing at my feet as I climbed, praying my hands would find the rungs above me in the dark.
But it stopped. It could go no further into the duct. The Captain had been right. The shape of the creature, its long back legs, prevented it from getting further inside the narrow vent. It snarled and spat saliva at me as I climbed with all my strength as fast as I could to escape. The ghastly beast let out a deafening howl of frustration as we disappeared round the corner of the vent and to safety.
But where was safe? If these creatures now had access to the inner section of the ship wouldn’t they eventually find us all? Then the truth of our situation hit me. They could enter any part of the ship they wanted to. That horrific milky goo could melt the very fabric of the ship. Hadn’t it done so when the creatures attacked the theatre? They would eventually catch us all. It was just a matter of time unless we were rescued.

*****

The leader of the rabble pressed his flare gun into the face of the Captain as he walked his captives out of the ship onto deck ten. Twenty people were tied in a chain, twenty gifts to be sacrificed to the beasts as a trade for sanctuary for the gang of thugs. Their leader and two of his followers would negotiate the trade. The thugs pushed their offering out of the ship and lined them up along the rail.
‘I’ve seen them up here, just round the corner near the stern deck,’ said the leader to the Captain, ‘There’s a column of that white stuff there. They just go in and out of it like it was the entrance to a station. I think we’ll start negotiations there, eh Captain?’
Both men noticed the smoke at the same time, three distinct columns of thick, black smoke pouring into the air from the surface of the white goo about a mile away.
‘What the fuck…’ said the gang leader, distracted by what he’d seen.
There was wreckage strewn around the base from where each column of smoke started. The Captain said nothing but he knew what it meant. Three aircraft, probably Chinooks carrying troops, must have crashed as soon as they entered the air space above the white goo, their electricity neutralised, their engines cutting out. The wreckage from the aircraft would have sunk into the goo leaving only debris light enough to sit on the rock hard surface. The Captain’s heart sank. There would be no rescue. But the sky was still dotted with aircraft, all just outside the surface covered by the goo. Rescue was so close, but how could they get to the ship? Would he and the other prisoners of the gang even survive the next few minutes?
The sudden low growling from the balcony above them brought their focus right back to their situation on the deck. They all looked up to see the horror of four creatures with clubs in their hands climbing over the edge of the deck above heading towards them.

*****

‘Stop,’ hissed Lisa back down the vent to Libby and me. We froze. We had reached the top of the vents, the point the main shaft exited onto the top deck. I was worn out. It had been a hard climb, hand to hand up the thin, metal rungs that lined the inside of the vents. I looked up and could see daylight, but it was the wrong colour!
‘There’s something covering the vent,’ Lisa hissed down to us, ‘Hold on…I can touch it.’
‘Be careful,’ whispered Libby, ‘It might be that goo.’
‘It’s not,’ said Lisa, ‘It’s some sort of material…there are ropes attached…My God! It’s a parachute.’
Lisa pushed open the grille covering the exit of the vent and scrambled out onto the top deck. It was a parachute, and she had to crawl under it to get out of the hatch. Her head emerged from the edge of the parachute straight into the barrel of a Sig Sauer P226 pistol.
‘Where the hell did you spring from?’
The voice belonged to a muscular wiry man in combat uniform. He took hold of Lisa’s arm and helped her to her feet. She pulled the parachute away from the vent to reveal Libby and me as we scrambled out into the sunshine.
‘Thank God!’ said Lisa, hugging the man briefly, relieved that help had arrived, ‘We thought we’d all die on this ship.’
‘I hate to disappoint you,’ said the man, ‘but I’m as stuck here as you are. Our plane just ditched on us as soon as we were above the plasma. The engines cut out. We managed to bail out and steer our chutes onto the ship.’
‘How many of you are there?’ asked Lisa.
‘Thirty bailed but there are only six of us left alive. A few landed on that stuff out there. It dragged them under in minutes. Those creatures got the rest, picked them off as they landed. We got a few with our handguns on the way down but it was a slaughter, our guys were overrun as they hit the decks.’
‘Are we safe out here?’ I asked.
I think so, for now anyway. I’ve checked around and there’s no sign of those things.’
‘Where are the other men?’ asked Libby.
‘On a scouting party. They’ll be back here soon. They’ve gone to see if they can recover some of our weapons. I’ve only got this revolver. A couple of the guys that died had weapons packs. We need those if we’re to stand a chance of surviving. There’s one by the pool but I can’t get to it.’
‘Creatures?’ I asked.
‘No, the plasma. There’s a line of it I can’t cross.’
‘Show us,’ said Libby.
He led us to the top deck pool area. He checked that it was clear of any creatures then took us across to where a parachute hung off a ship’s mast, the body of one of his compatriots dangling from the ropes like a grotesque marionette. The corpse’s feet were just touching the floor, stuck in a pool of goo that covered the deck area. On the dead man’s back was the rucksack that contained the weapons.
‘I can get it,’ said Libby. Before anyone could stop her she stepped onto the goo.

*****

Kent and Luke climbed the staircase towards the top deck. They were half way up when they heard the growling. Both men turned to look back down and saw one of the beasts stood at the bottom of the stairs, a large knife in its claw. Luke raised his flare gun and aimed it at the beast. Before he had a chance to pull the trigger a huge blow struck him on his back. The creature that was hidden at the top of the staircase exploded, the force of the blast sending both men tumbling down the staircase. They landed at the feet of the beast waiting there. In a flash it raised its knife ready to strike at the men.
BLAM!
A bullet zipped through the air and smacked into the belly of the creature and in an instant it disintegrated into a shower of white sickly goo soaking the two men lying helpless on the floor.
‘You guys alright?’ asked the soldier as he popped his head from under the lifeboat cover, his revolver still smoking from his two kills.

*****

The gang leader stepped forward towards the creatures lining the balcony above the line of prisoners. He didn’t seem in the least afraid.
‘Look what I’ve brought you, guys!’ he yelled to them. The creatures climbing down stopped in their tracks, eyeing him with curiosity.
‘Do you speak English? Abla Espanol?’ he bellowed at the beasts, then quietly to himself he said, ‘Stupid monkey fuckers.’
He made a broad gesture with his arms, sweeping them from his chest back towards the line of prisoners behind him.
‘I give you these…then you let me and my men go, yes!?’
The beasts watched him but didn’t move.
‘I know where there’s many more!’
One of the creatures moved slowly from the balcony above, still eyeing the man curiously. It didn’t leap on him, it walked down the wall and stepped towards the leader.
‘See,’ said the leader to the Captain, ‘I can deal with these fuckers. Just think, when you die at least it’ll be for a reason now, to save me and my…’
He never finished his sentence. In a flash the creature was on him, tearing into his head with its razor sharp teeth, ripping lumps of flesh from his face in a crazed frenzy. He didn’t even have time to scream. The other creatures leapt from the balcony down towards the prisoners, wielding their knives and clubs and shrieking as they fell. The Captain and the others braced themselves for what they hoped would be a swift and painless death.
The beasts never landed alive. A sudden burst of machine gun fire strafed the creatures when they were in mid air. Their bodies exploded in a sickly blast of the white putrescence, spattering the walls and deck as their shattered remains rained down.
Two soldiers appeared from behind a booth on the deck near the rail.
‘Let’s get moving before their buddies arrive,’ said one of the men to the Captain as they started cutting the prisoners free.

*****

As Libby stepped on to the surface of the goo my heart nearly stopped. But she was okay! She didn’t get stuck. She could walk on it as if it was a concrete path. The Captain had been right again. She walked slowly over to the dead soldier. She could just about reach the clips that held the rucksack to the body. She unclipped the catches and the rucksack slid off the dead man’s back onto the floor.
‘Don’t carry it back,’ I hissed at her, ‘You’ll be too heavy.’
I turned to the soldier and said, ‘Any weight above ten stone sticks to it.’
The soldier took out a dagger from his belt and slid it across the goo to Libby.
‘Cut a length of cord from the parachute and tie it to the sack, then throw me the end.’
In moments Libby had completed the task and threw the end of the rope back to the soldier. He gently pulled the rucksack across the goo till it was safely in his hands. Libby walked slowly back to us, and I grabbed and hugged her when she was safely back with us.
The soldier rummaged through the sack taking out grenades, an automatic rifle and ammunition, then closed the rucksack before slipping it on his back.
‘Use this,’ he said to Lisa, giving her his pistol.
‘We’ve got weapons,’ she said, just as we heard a loud howl from a creature on the stairway nearby.
‘Sounds like we’ll need them soon,’ said the soldier.

*****

‘What can you tell us about these animals?’ asked the soldiers releasing the Captain.
‘They eat flesh. They butcher those they catch as if they were sheep or cattle. I think they’re harvesting people. I’ve only seen them use clubs and knives so far. They can move in and out of that slimy goo as easy as you or I could slip in and out of a swimming pool. They seem to be able to live and breathe in it like we can air.’
‘How many people dead so far?’
‘I’ve no idea. I only know how many were still in my care an hour or so ago, about two hundred.’
‘Jesus!’ said the soldier, ‘There were over five thousand people on board.’
‘What do you know about these creatures?’ asked the Captain.
‘Not much. That white plasma, it emits radiation.’
‘Are we contaminated?’
To go through all this, survive and then die of radiation poisoning would be worse than cruel. The soldier read his face and reacted straight away.
‘It’s okay, nothing dangerous. But it does allow us to see what’s going on. We can measure the size and shape of the plasma, your so called goo. There is a mass of it stuck to the bottom of the ship, directly underneath it. It changes shape, but it’s a finite quantity, so it gets thinner or thicker depending on what’s happening. Last we knew it was torpedo shaped, and directly beneath the hull of the ship, but with a thin, saucer shaped disc covering the surface of the sea for about two miles. It puts thick columns up through the ship’s hull in various places. When it does, the disc gets smaller. It must be drawing it in to use for the columns. This thing, spacecraft or whatever it is, is huge. It has a total mass about 50% bigger than this ship.’
Before the Captain could speak a sudden violent shudder ran through the ship. It was over in seconds but it shook the ship with a massive force, a force sufficient to make huge cracks appear in the walls and the deck. The ship was coming apart, splitting into pieces.

*****

The sound of the gunfire had attracted more creatures. Luke, Kent and the soldier ran up the stairs towards the top deck as fast as they could but they could hear the howling of the creatures as they bounded out from the inside of the ship, heading in their direction. Kent suddenly stopped in his tracks. Above them he saw the heads of two creatures bounding along the top deck towards where they were.
‘We’re trapped!’ he shouted.
BLAM! BLAM!
The soldier fired two shots at the creatures running up the staircase towards them. Both were direct hits and the beasts burst with force, spreading their sickening innards across the stairs. But behind them six more of the beasts suddenly appeared, above them two more. They were trapped! One of the creatures reached the top of the stairs above them. It raised its head to the sky and shrieked, a cry to its fellow creatures, there was a meal to be had.
But the cry was cut short by the sudden blast from a grenade detonated behind it, shattering the creatures to smithereens. Luke spotted another grenade, lobbed over the top deck towards the creatures massing at the bottom of the staircase. It landed in the middle of them.
‘Down!!’ he yelled and the three of them crouched flat, making themselves as small as they could.
‘CRUMP!!
The blast from the grenade was made worse by the exploding bodies of all the creatures. The men were lucky. None of the white hot shrapnel from the grenade hit any of them.
Lisa’s head appeared over the balcony above the men, followed shortly by mine, Libby’s and that of the soldier who had lobbed the grenades.
‘You all okay?’ said Lisa.
As the words left her lips another shudder struck the ship and a huge crack appeared near the bow. It slowly ran the length of the ship’s deck, cracking and grinding, ripping the deck in two.
‘Look!’ I shouted, ‘The sea!’
The sea, blue, choppy, as it should be. The milky goo was receding before our eyes, drawing inwards towards the ship. The upward rim at the edge had disappeared and we could see the gathering of craft that had been there all the time but blocked from our vision. There were dozens of ships, all navy vessels, the largest an aircraft carrier with Chinooks airborne, hovering just outside the edge of the goo.
‘The creatures,’ I said, ‘They must be leaving!’
I felt jubilant. We had survived. I started to cheer, jump up and down, and hug Libby and Lisa, but Luke looked more afraid that I’d seen him, even when facing the creatures.
‘The ship’s disintegrating,’ he said, ‘Quick!’ he shouted, ‘We need get to a deck at sea level or we’ll drown.’
We dashed down the staircase oblivious to the danger from the creatures.
As we flew down we passed the gym. Luke spotted that the door was now open, cracked off it’s hinges when the split had ran the length of the ship. Luke glanced inside as he passed. He stopped dead.
It was empty! All the dead bodies and body parts were gone! There was a huge circular hole in the middle of the gym floor about five yards wide. He saw the last of the white goo as it receded downwards through the floor heading towards the creature’s craft clinging like a limpet to the bottom of our ship.
I was right, they were leaving now. They were taking what they had come for, a stock of human flesh. They had harvested what they could and, with forces massing nearby, must have decided it was time to cut and run.

*****

The Captain and the remains of his crew ran through the ship to get to the crew’s dining room, desperate to get those still alive down there up on deck. The door to the room was wide open when he arrived. The last of the rabble fleeing when the cracks started to appear in the walls of the ship. They had fled, God knows where, leaving their prisoners tied up. The Captain and his men worked furiously to cut through the ropes. As each was released the crew hurried them to the nearest deck where they could jump into a lifeboat.
The last passenger left in the room was Carol. The noise of the ship twisting and disintegrating was by now horrendous. He was so desperate to free her that he never heard the low growl of the creature that suddenly appeared in the doorway, a knife clenched in its claw. It was the last of the beasts to leave, scavenging for what extra bootee it could find before joining its compatriots.

*****

The goo had retracted as quickly and as suddenly as it had arrived. The sea was now lapping around the hull of the ship. I was in a navy lifeboat with the others but Libby wouldn’t come. She stood on the deck, resolute.
‘I can’t leave without Carol. I’m going back to find her,’ she shouted. To my horror she ran back inside the ship. I jumped back onto the deck and ran after her. I knew exactly where she was heading and was right behind her as she ran through the passages and gantries inside the ship towards the crew’s dining room.
The whole ship seemed to be shuddering and shaking, splits and cracks appearing in the walls, ceilings and floors around us as we ran. Libby heard the beast’s growl as we ran towards the room. Despite the darkness in the depths of the ship she saw it, the back of the hideous creature, standing ready to pounce in the doorway of the room where she hoped Carol would be.
‘Libby!’ I screamed.
The creature didn’t pounce on the Captain. It stopped. My scream had caught its attention. It turned its head slowly towards us, saliva dribbling from its lips.
In an instant it was airborne, a huge leap, the knife high in the air ready to plunge into Libby’s neck. But she was lightening quick. The flare she fired hit the creature smack in its chest, and blasted it into white pulp in a fraction of a second, the knife clattering harmlessly to the floor.

*****

It was a race, us against the disintegration and sinking of the ship. It was literally crumbling around us as Carol, Libby, the Captain and I scrambled through the corridors to make it to the outside of the ship before it disappeared to the bottom of the sea. We knew we needed to be well away from the vessel when it sank, otherwise we’d be dragged down in its wake. My lungs were bursting and every muscle in my body ached with the exertion, but somehow we made it.
Water was rushing over the deck as we crashed through the door from inside the ship. It nearly swept Libby and me away, but the Captain and Carol held on to us as we worked our way up the deck. Suddenly a wall of water hit us as the stern snapped away from the rest of the ship with an almighty crack and headed for the ocean bed. We were all in water up to our necks, the deck slipping away from under our feet. I felt the strong pull of the downward flow of water. The stern was sucking us down with it. Was this to be our end, surviving the horror of the creatures’ attack only to drown when the ship sank?
I looked towards the surface and saw a dark shadow just above the water.
SPLASH!
Soldiers! Diving into the water from a helicopter, swimming down to catch us before we disappeared into the deep forever. One grabbed my wrist and in seconds I was back at the surface, the winch above us grinding hard to lift us clear of the turbulence and floating wreckage.
I saw Libby clinging to one of the soldiers, then Carol appeared, and finally the Captain. When we were all safely clear of the water and on board, the helicopter swung away from the sinking ship and headed for the aircraft carrier.
From the helicopter window I saw the vapour trails of the bank of missiles as they plunged into the sea about two miles away from us. There was an enormous explosion and the sea seemed to leap into the sky in a massive cloud of spray.
Had these missiles hit their target? Had the fleeing monsters inside their milky white plasma craft been destroyed? Where there more on their way from some distant planet, or already here, hidden in the deepest, darkest valleys of our oceans?
I still had to tell Libby about Dad and Mel, but that could wait. All I cared about then was that against all odds my sister and I had survived. That was good enough for now.

Epilogue

Only 178 people survived the attack on the ship, 157 passengers and 21 crew. The total loss of live was 5,371 souls of which no remains were ever found.
None of the survivors were ever charged with any maritime crimes, such as mutiny, despite several being identified as being amongst the rabble that attacked the safe haven.
Where the missiles struck no evidence was found of any creatures, plasma or human remains. The creatures, their vessel and the bodies they plundered had simply disappeared without trace.
The US military are spearheading through the UN joint international development of marine protection devices. These include mass water displacement detectors and low level radiation alarms to be fitted to the hulls of all shipping.
‘Panic room’ style cubicles are being retro-fitted to all cruise liners and passenger carrying vessels. All shipping is now required by law to carry a significant arsenal of weaponry.
Since news of the attack hit the media cruise companies have struggled to fill their ships despite heavy discounting, even for lake and inland waterway vessels.
Carol adopted Jake and Libby. They all moved to re-settle in Langdon, North Dakota, the furthest point inland in the USA.

*****

Stop Press: 23:42pm today- Cruise ship Titan Of The Sea – Bound for Miami - Location – 44 Miles Off Coast Of Florida – 5,277 Souls on Board - All contact lost...

The End