Thursday, January 31, 2019

Demo Review: LÏXØ Demo 2018 (Independent) by Devin Joseph Meaney

Band: LÏXØ
Place of origin: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Genre: Gore dance music/goregrind
Demo: Demo 2018
Label: Independent
Release date: March 13, 2018
Once again, while scrolling through the underbelly of Youtube, I happened to come upon this release. Demo 2018 by LÏXØ is a quick little blast of gore-grinding fun, and I can honestly say that I am glad I found it. This is a one man outfit, but everything pulls together as if it was a full band. The production quality is not perfect, but hey... this is goregrind. The majority of one man bands from this genre record their own music. With spastic grunts and gurgles backed by a drum machine and a chugging guitar, this demo takes me back to the early Myspace days of goregrind revelry. One thing that I will note, is that this stuff reminds me of my old band Proctophobic, back when it was solely a goregrind band. This demo reminds me of our earliest releases, ''Cannibalistic Roadside Massacre'' and ''Revel in the Gore''. These shitty/awesome goregrind demos were released back in 2006, and the only place where you can still find any of these tracks is on an old abandoned Myspace account. Once again I will note that this release is not perfect, but it makes me feel nostalgic for the days where my friends and I would sip beers, smoke weed, and sit in my old kitchen recording low quality goregrind tracks just for the hell of it. I could probably go out on a limb and say that most people who have not been introduced to goregrind may not enjoy this, but for those of us who are fond of the gore... we understand. Shitty gore for life. Keep it up, LÏXØ! -Devin Joseph Meaney

Lineup:
Rovane Rodriguez: All instruments

Track list:
1. Teco Santa Cruz
2. Lolo Santos
3. Cracketano Veloso

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Interview with Jon Gullett of BLACK SHROUD by Dave Wolff

Interview with Jon Gullett of BLACK SHROUD

Black Shroud from northwest Ohio is described as “blue collar American rogue black metal.” What exactly does this title mean? Is it intended to name a new subgenre of black metal, or specifically to represent the band?
It’s a representation of us, our sound and where we come from musically. We’re four dudes from northwest Ohio surrounded by cornfields who set out to make our own brand of black metal. We didn’t want to sound like another second wave cookie cutter band or a clone band from across the pond. We wanted to do something fresh. We don’t believe in gimmicks that you typically see in the genre such as “corpse paint,” leather jackets with spikes, or all the Hail Satan Occult drivel. We feel that stuff is overplayed and laughable. That’s what we mean by blue collar; it’s straight forward and who we are. Anything else would be farce.

Black Shroud formed fairly recently. Who founded the band and where did the inspiration come from? Does everyone in the band have similar tastes or do they differ in one way or the other?
Black Shroud was created from the ashes of a failed death metal project. After lineup changes, musical differences and our guitarist putting his guitar down for three years we decided to give it up. Around the end of 2017 our guitarist and drummer hooked up and went to a show in Cleveland. They realized how much they missed playing and decided to start jamming again. A few phones calls were made, some Busch Lite was consumed and the rest was history. Black Shroud was born.
We all are really inspired by black metal; we feel it’s the pinnacle of metal. We also feel in this genre you have complete freedom. We all have very different backgrounds when it comes to how we got involved playing music but we all love the black metal style. Bands like Dissection, Dawn and Immortal just to name a few were really eye openers for us. They inspired us to play this style of metal. Of course after listening to Death Culture you can see how we wanted to separate ourselves from acts like that, but that’s only because we didn't want to be a carbon copy of the forefathers and truly wanted to do something rogue and American. Blue Collar if you will.

How gimmicky does the band feel black metal has gotten in the U.S. and other countries? Does this have to do with its mainstream acceptance in the 2000s or are too many underground black metal bands becoming too image conscious? How much do you expect Black Shroud will change that, if in your view it can be changed?
We feel black metal has lost its individualism. The forefathers of the scene started the genre to be an opposing force against death metal. What made the genre special and different has now started to tarnish it. The elitist black metal fans or 'Trv Kvlt' crowd if you will, will dismiss bands if they don't have a low fi recording or have a certain look or the lyrical content does not have some sort of satanic element. People are more involved with an image than actually writing good songs unfortunately. All show and no go. We wanted to create our own path with our release Death Culture. We don't expect to change anything. We just wanted to write solid songs and leave no stone unturned in our attempt.

Though the black metal bands in Norway and Sweden meant for the genre to oppose death metal, bands from the U.S. and elsewhere began crossing the two genres over. Did this dilute the vision shared by the early Scandinavian bands? Was the ‘Kvlt’ idea meant to oppose the black/death crossover? How do you tell the bands who are sincere from those who are just assuming a ‘Kvlt’ image?
I wouldn't really say it diluted the genre, it gave way to another. Personally we believe that if you’re not from Scandinavia you are not 'trv', and have no business portraying something you are not. Trv black metal from Detroit ya know? It just doesn't add up if you get my drift. We believe the boys from across the pond are genuine and have a right to portray that image because that’s who they are with their imagery and lyrical content. I've never heard of any Americans burning churches in the name of black metal or pagan beliefs. Hell man, even American deathcore acts don corpse paint now. At the end of the day bands can do what they want, to each their own I guess. We just don't practice anything like that in our camp. It’s just not us, if were in the woods weren't walking around with skulls in our hands and posing. We have bows and are trying to harvest whitetail deer.

What is the band’s definition of black metal, and how does it reflect the environment you live in, if at all? Is there an underground scene in your part of Ohio, and if there is how would you rate it in comparison to other locations in the US?
Our definition of black metal can be heard through Death Culture. Aside from having your staples such as tremolo guitar, blast beats and heavy vocals these songs have some substance and take you somewhere. We definitely went against the grain on this release. We kept the guitar and bass tones low and not scooped like traditional recordings. Our vocalist uses more of a lower register in his sound rather than the high pitched vocals people are used to, and the drums are perfectly placed giving each song the rhythmic groove they needed. Our sound is definitely derived from where we come from and reflects who we are. It doesn't sound like it came from any Scandinavian country.
Ohio's black metal is scene is pretty solid. We have a lot of bands from various parts of the state. Bands such as Well Of Night, Burial Oath, Plaguewielder and Succorbenoth just to name a few. They all jam and have certain elements that make them who they are. Some of the bands have a black n roll sound, while others are more melodic. We all have a blackened element to us, and that is pretty exciting.

Which bands are you most often in contact with? Do you often share bills locally, spread word for each other and so on? How are the usual turnouts at a local show?
We are a new band in the scene. We have spent the last year working on Death Culture so we really haven't had the opportunity to get out and gig. We've been in contact with the guys from Burial Oath from Cleveland and have enjoyed going to their shows there. They are a great band and really cool people. We've talked with members of Well Of Night from Dayton, Ohio; they’re another awesome band. We are set to play a show March 9 in Kent, Ohio with Plaguewielder a blackened sludge band from southern Ohio. Blasphemous Blessing and Mammon will also be on the bill.

Having worked on Death Culture for that long, do you feel the time is right to perform in support of it? Do you think your shows will go over well at this point?
We are very excited to show this album off live. That’s what it’s all about. We're sure some people will dismiss us right off the bat but people tend to hate things they don't understand. Like I said before, we really went against the grain on how black metal bands are usually perceived musically and in imagery. It could work out in our favor or be a bust. For the most part I think people will enjoy us. Time will tell.

Are there any local fanzines, in print or on the web, that cover the scene in Ohio? How many zines from other states or other countries are you in contact with that help support Black Shroud?
Unfortunately we don’t have any fanzines in our area that I am aware of. Shameless self-promotion on social media is what we have. It's nice that we have that tool nowadays. Black Shroud has been contacted by many different people from different countries in just a short period of time since we have released Death Culture. Brazil, Portugal and Germany just to name a few. Stateside we have had people from Texas, California and New York message us about our album and send support. It's pretty awesome knowing our music has left a basement in Northwest Ohio and now can be heard all over. We get emails and messages daily and we greatly appreciate the kind words and support.

How much has social media helped get exposure for Black Shroud and other Ohio bands? What sites does the band currently use?
Our guitarist runs a Facebook page called Buckeye Black Metal. The page is dedicated to the Ohio scene and a place where people can promote shows or any upcoming news related to Ohio black metal bands. The crowds at local shows are actually pretty good when considering the style of metal we play. Social media is definitely a useful tool to get info out. Pages like Facebook and Bandcamp are essential for exposure.

Where on Facebook can people find Buckeye Black Metal? How much does this page help bands, zine editors, distros and fans connect with each other?
People can find Buckeye Black Metal on Facebook just by doing a simple search. I'm not really sure how much it helps bands, it is nice to see what everyone is up to on one page. If people want to see what Ohio black metal has to offer, I encourage them to check the page out.

How would you describe the way your music reflects your environment? What mental images are the low tones of your guitars and bass meant to evoke. Do the lower pitched vocals give your material as much weight as your instruments do?
We come from a place that is mostly industrial and agriculture based. The people from around our rural area are straightforward, generally get to the point and don't beat around the bush. Our music is the same. You won't hear long acoustic intros or any pretty symphonic segments in our music. Heavy caveman straightforward riffs with the occasional doom downer parts, which we consider to be our blue collar sound.

Describe the rhythmic groove written into your material. How does it generally enhance your songs? Does the percussion establish a backbone for this groove, or is the groove created collectively?
The lower tones in our music were placed to separate us from traditional acts or what one might have preconceived while listening to black metal. We really wanted to make our own path sonically and with our song structure. The vocals definitely add weight to our sound. We wanted to write riffs that accompanied our vocalist's style so collectively we would have one massive low heavy wall coming at the listener. The drums are definitely our backbone and heartbeat to the songs. Our drummer didn't just do an all-out drag race like you will hear in a lot of acts. He was able to create space and tension in our sound with his beats. It gives a sarcastic element honestly.

If the band doesn’t have occult or satanic topics in their lyrics, what do you choose to write about? How are your lyrics unique within the black metal genre?
Death Culture's lyrics are about the different ways that cultures around the world dispose of their dead. We did some research on how people honor their fallen and some of it is pretty brutal. We didn't want to take the satanic route because we are not satanists. That alone make us different and unique as far as lyrics go in the genre.

How many different cultures did the band study while doing research for the lyrics? Were all the lyrics written first, or were they written to fit the song structure? Does the album have subject matter you don’t read about from other bands?
Death Culture is a five track album. Each song is a description of a culture and their various burial methods and rituals. We researched five different cultures to come up with the tracks. The lyrics were written after the music was. It was the first time we had wrote like this. The band just focused on creating our sound and what we wanted musically. It was pretty awesome after hearing what our vocalist did to give our songs a voice. Especially after rehearsing them for weeks without any vocals. It made us really tight as a band.
The opening track ‘Tower of Silence’ pertains to the Dakhmas (towers) in Iran and how they are used to hold bodies above the ground to eaten by vultures. The bones are then left to be bleached by the sun. ‘Mellified Man’ is about a ritual where the person who is about to die changes their diet to all honey, that’s all they consume. Which will preserve the body when they die. They are then buried in honey and are later exhumed to be used as a confection to heal certain illnesses. ‘Inhumation’ describes modern day techniques used in western civilization. Bands have more than likely talked about burial rituals in the past but, maybe not to this extent. The lyrics are more descriptive of the rituals.

Who in the band wrote the lyrics of Death Culture? Did the lyricist get most of his information from books or the internet or both? What books or web outlets offered the most information?
Our vocalist and guitarist had a hand in writing the lyrics for Death Culture. The internet was probably the biggest outlet of information about the topics. Watching documentaries on Youtube you tend to slip down the rabbit hole into more information. Wikipedia was also a big help.

Who designed the cover artwork of Death Culture? How does his work reflect your release as a whole?
The album’s cover art was done by Somluck Sapeanthong from Somluck Art, who resides in Bangkok, Thailand. It's a depiction of a Himalayan Sky Burial. It's a practice of excarnation or stripping the body of its flesh by animals. They believe the body is just an empty vessel after death and leaving it to the scavengers is a generous way of decomposition. The ground is also too rocky to dig graves in that region.

How did you come into contact with Somluck Sapeanthong, and what interested him in doing your cover art? Was his work based on a specific idea you had, or was it from his own imagination? Where on the net can his other work be viewed?
We actually got in contact with Somluck through Daniel Collabolletta (Succorbenoth and other various projects) who put us in contact with Todwanderer Design from Poland who eventually hooked us up with Somluck. We told Somluck about Sky Burial and he already knew about them. We pretty much gave him the reins and he came up with the cover and our logo actually. The way we look at it, we play music, he's an artist. We have no business really telling a guy what we want. Apparently he just listened to our music and was able to give our album a face with little input from us. We think he did one hell of a job. Somluck can be found on Facebook under Somluck Art.

The band has started writing the follow up release, and plan to release it around the end of the year. How many songs have been completed so far? Are they improvements from the material on Death Culture?
We have music completed for four songs for our follow up. We really want to hone our sound on the next offering. We want to focus on that blue collar sound. More dynamics and tension and more of that lower tone that has become part of us. Honestly these songs have wrote themselves so far, once we got the mindset of how we achieved Death Culture the hard part was out of the way. We definitely don't want to make a copy of the first release and so far that isn't happening. We achieved a sound on Death Culture or identity as we like to think of it. Now it’s time just to tell another story.


-Dave Wolff

Full Length Review: ONDFØDT Dödsrikets Kallelse (Immortal Frost Productions) by Serafima Okuneva

Band: ONDFØDT
Place of origin: Pietarsaari, Finland
Genre: Raw black metal
Full Length: Dödsrikets Kallelse
Release date: January 25, 2019
The most beautiful thing is you can feel energy and inspiration without superfluous prejudices and speculations of popularity. It’s the sincerity of the genre. So, the misanthropes and adherents of Satan Ondfødt make me happy precisely in this vein. You can feel the deadly animal energy of their primitive, evil, assertive black metal. The second full-length of the Finnish maniacs is a new step in their story.
Ondfødt released Dödsrikets Kallelse on Immortal Frost Productions in January. This is the label’s tenth year of existence, and it’s great that from year to year they release albums by Belgian and European black metal musicians, supporting the genre. This material is imbued with the spirit of Evil on the Chaos Throne. The band play without complicated concepts or difficult transitions, clearly and confidently. Black metal above all is expression of hatred, pride and a specific spirit, and I feel it on this release. I especially fell in love with ‘Tidin e Komi’ because of its fierce pitch, evil tremolo, crushing blast beats and reckless screams. Brilliant black metal! ‘Nerdreji i Morkri’ is one of the most explosive and violent tracks. It makes your blood seethe with desire to send this damn civilization to hell, dance on the bones of pathetic humans and go your own path.
The acoustic piece ‘Dödens Dröm’ is interspersed with epic-romantic solos and rolling, harmonious motifs. It would have been good if the track was an interlude. But for some reason the band included it at the end, with a sad note. The cover of Hamys’ Kun Minä Kuolen made me apathetic, feeling like sadness with a bottle of strong alcohol. This was not the energy of the previous songs. But the rest of Dodstrikets Kallelse resonated with animalistic spite, unbelievable power, hate, and inexhaustible Darkness, and were deadly fine. Recommended for fans of epic, canonical and honest black metal. -Serafima Okuneva

Lineup:
Owe Inborr: Drums, bass, vocals
Juuso Englund: Guitars

Track list:
1. Intro
2. Den Sanna
3. Fri Från Slaveri
4. Tidin e Komi
5. No ere jo Satan
6. Nerdreji i Mörkri
7. Den Sista Färden
8. Födömd i Evihejt
9. Midnatt
10. Dödens Dröm
11. Kun Minä Kuolen (Hämys Cover)

Full Length Review: TRAGEDY Vengeance (Tragedy Records) by Devin Joseph Meaney

Band: TRAGEDY
Place of origin: Memphis, Tennessee (early), Portland, Oregon (later), USA
Genre: Crust Punk, Sludge/Doom Metal
Full Length: Vengeance
Label: Tragedy Records
Release date: 2002
While scrolling through Youtube, I happened to come upon the release ''Vengeance'' by Tragedy. I was on a punk-rock kick, and had been listening to Gloss, A Global Threat and Limp Wrist. After Limp Wrist, I was linked to this band. I am very glad that I was! Although I cannot pin-point a specific genre, I can hear a few different styles within the mix. I can pick out punk influences, but the depressive tone during the majority of this release reminds me old old-school depressive black metal. Not to say that this is ''black metal,'' but it is dreary in a way that reflects certain aspects of the genre. The vocals are forward and aggressive, filled with obvious emotion. The guitar is heavy (to say the least) and the drums are played on time with a violent force. Clocking in at over thirty eight minutes, this release proves that this band is not only skilled, but they can really rip a mean tune. In places, this band reminds me of modern-era Malignant Tumour. Tragedy has the ability to cater to the needs of music listeners from various different genres. This is how I take it, at least. I don't have much more to say about this except that it was a happy find for me, and I will most likely look further into releases and tracks from this talented musical onslaught. Check it out, share it with your friends, and if you are feeling generous, buy an album! Every little bit counts in the end. Great stuff, Tragedy! -Devin Joseph Meaney

Lineup:
Todd Burdette: Guitars, vocals
Billy Davis: Bass, vocals
Yannick Lorrain: Guitars
Paul Burdette: Drums

Track list:
1. Conflicting Ideas
2. Call to Arms
3. Vengeance
4. Recurring Nightmare
5. Beginning of the End
6. The Lure
7. Night Falls
8. The Day After
9. War Within Us
10. Revengeance
11. To the Dogs
12. No Words

Monday, January 28, 2019

EP Review: LONEHUNTER 'Beyond the Portals of Death' (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Band: LONEHUNTER
Place of origin: Franca, São Paulo, Brazil
Genre: Symphonic Death Metal
EP: Beyond the Portals of Death
Label: Independent
Release date: October 22, 2018
Imagine what would be spawned of a collaboration between Megadeth, Death and Emperor and you have ‘Beyond the Portals of Death.’ I just heard of LoneHunter a few days ago and this is their debut EP, but it has already made that much of an impression. The technical and dramatic presentation of their songs further legitimizes underground metal from Brazil, a country long reputed for bands like Sepultura who overcame US fandom by unyielding force and went on to surmount world fandom. ‘Beyond the Portals of Death’ is essential listening for devotees of technical thrash, technical death metal and progressive black metal. The skill and expertise this band embodies, their grasp of what is most appealing about all those genres, and their grasp of the conceptual opus, is going to take you by surprise. An extraordinary amount of application went into crossing over those three subgenres, fitting them together with subtle interplay. Maintaining an abundantly imposing atmospheric scenery, this EP is like a short film that will leave your jaw dropping. The musicianship of the two songs and three instrumental pieces and their production is almost completely without shortcoming as ‘Preludium - What the Moon Brings’ prepares you for this brief passage through the outer chthonian regions and ‘Under the Raven's Shadows’ takes its time to build anticipation, treating you to a few catchy riffs before the vocals suddenly kick in and the song carries you headlong into those regions. Solid percussion and carnivalesque keyboards enhance the hook filled verses and choruses in such a way, you feel you’re listening to a band that took years to perfect their songwriting. ‘Eternal Time’ and the outro ‘Postludium - Beyond the Portals of Death’ gives you more of this calculated riffage, propelling the EP well into classical metal territory, while the shorter ambient piece ‘Interludium - Face Your Fears’ reminds you how darkened your journey is. LoneHunter seems to have mastered the art of the time change here. The transitions from one riff to the next run more smoothly than can be expected from a band who just came out with their first EP. The drums are tighter than I’ve heard from Brazilian metal bands, followed meticulously by the other instruments. A satisfying listening experience, and this is just the beginning. -Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Marcos Junior: Guitars, vocals
Juliano Bonacini: Keyboards

Track list:
1. Preludium - What the Moon Brings
2. Under the Raven's Shadows
3. Interludium - Face Your Fears
4. Eternal Time
5. Postludium - Beyond the Portals of Death

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Film Review: Unfriended: Dark Web (Universal Pictures) by Dave Wolff

Unfriended: Dark Web (2018)
Director: Stephen Susco
Writer: Stephen Susco
With Colin Woodell, Stephanie Nogueras, Betty Gabriel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Andrew Lees, Connor Del Rio and Savira Windyani
Bazelevs Production, Blumhouse Productions, Universal Pictures
In 2015 a movie called Unfriended was released to theaters and greeted with mixed reviews. Some critics thought it was a horrible waste of celluloid, others thought it was a new, effective approach to horror filmmaking. You might call it ‘internet horror’ or something similar, as its storyline is about the spirit of a teenage girl haunting her friends through the internet. I personally liked Unfriended since it addressed anonymous cyberbullying with a supernatural theme. I found the movie to be inventive without trying too hard to be, since it drew from a real life issue that has been debated on for years.
I debated on whether or not to consider the similarities between this movie and The Blair Witch Project. The found footage/first person perspective has been imitated countless times since TBWP came out in 1999, and has become one of the longest running trends in Hollywood with no end in sight. Unfriended made an effort to break this mold. The first person perspective is still there, with ‘real time’ reactions from the central characters. But the arena of the internet is an obvious choice that was made full use of.
While Unfriended: Dark Web takes this approach to the next level, the theme is a little more realistic. This time the story draws from real life accounts of net surfers who visited what is called the ‘dark web’ or the ‘deep web’, sections of the internet where you can surf while remaining completely anonymous, concealing your identity from average surfers. According to urban legend, these parts of the internet are breeding grounds to many forms of unsavory activity, including the rumored ‘red rooms’ which you can read about on your own time if you’re so inclined. Youtube and Google crawl with tales of what goes on inside the dark web. Some may be true and some may not be. In any case, basing a sequel to Unfriended on these tales seemed a logical progression.
While Unfriended: Dark Web is based on a similar setting to Unfriended, It tells a different story that kept me paying close attention to the characters and what they experience. I don’t want to reveal too much besides the premise, as the character and plot developments are quite engaging and there are several unexpected twists. What sets the story in motion is one character stealing a used laptop and apparently falls foul of a shady organization known as ‘the Circle.’ If you decide to watch this movie (it’s available on DVD) you should keep in mind that nothing is as it seems, and even if you’re prepared the ending may well surprise you.
One thing I should note is that the theatrical release of Unfriended: Dark Web was released with two different endings, both of which were shown at different theaters. From what I read, the DVD release also has two more endings filmed for the movie. There are a few occult references worth mentioning as they were a nice touch for the storyline; members of ‘the Circle’ are referred to as Charons (the name is from the Greek mythological figure who ferries the recently deceased across the rivers Styx and Acheron. There is a reference to the practice of trephination which may appeal to fans of death metal and goregrind.
On a conventional note, Unfriended: Dark Web shows web surfers of different lifestyles interacting together, presenting them as equals and as people without shoving their lifestyles down your throat. It also suggests (and this is a personal perspective) that people spend far too much time on the net, connecting with each other through several outlets at once. -Dave Wolff

Single Review: WHITECHAPEL Third Depth by James K. Blaylock

Band: WHITECHAPEL
Place of origin: Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
Genre: Metal, deathcore
Single: Third Depth
Taken from their full length The Valley, to be released on Metal Blade March 29
Release date: January 25, 2019
Whitechapel’s new single Third Depth from their seventh album The Valley, is powerfully breathtaking. The lyrics seethe with unimaginable pain. Which of course could be expected. As Phil Bozeman’s bandmates have always proven to be very supportive. This release is no exception, except, they decided to let him make the entire album based on surviving a harsh upbringing. “Phil has been upfront in in his lyrics in the past about hardships he endured as a child, and I believe with this record we tried to paint a better picture of that” says guitarist Alex Wade. He also said “I feel our music is Phil’s release from his past, being able to get it out and speak about it, and hopefully anyone who hears it that may have gone through similar experiences can find some release in it,” They stand behind him. But even if you’ve never lived through such things the album promises to be hard-hitting! I know, I look forward to hearing it in its entirety. Especially since I grew up under similar circumstances; naturally this song spoke to me. There you have it the good, the bad and the ugly -James K. Blaylock

Lineup:
Phill Bozeman: Vocals
Ben Savage: Guitar
Zach Householder: Guitar
Alex Wade: Guitar
Gabe Crisp: Bass
Ben Harclerode: Drums

Promotional Video Review: THREE SIXES Unit 731 [2019 Version] by Dave Wolff

Band: THREE SIXES
Place of origin: Westminster, California, USA
Genre: Industrial thrash metal
Promotional Video: Unit 731 [2019 Version]
Label: Universal Sign Records
Release date: January 15, 2019
Three Sixes’ latest promotional video is a re-recording of Unit 731, which originally appeared on their 2014 album Know God, No Peace. The song was remixed from the original vocal, guitar and bass tracks and features a new drum track recorded by John Cross who joined the band in 2015. When I reviewed Know God, No Peace I touched on the band’s ability to mix goth, thrash, black metal, techno, industrial, hardcore and rap. The potential I saw in the band, as musicians and professionals, is more apparent with the release of the new video. It’s been a long time since I listened to Know God, No Peace, so I looked up the band’s site to compare the original version with the remix. In the remixed version the sound is generally louder and rawer. To be more specific, the guitar and bass tracks are sharper and the vocal tracks are more prominent. This gives the crunch and groove laden riffs greater emphasis, and pushes the song with renewed clarity. Frontman Damien LaVey describes the drum tracks by John Cross as busier and more aggressive. I know what he means as Cross plays with generous energy, revitalizing the song with more double bass and fills. Cross also had a hand in directing and filming the video with LaVey and Lord Zane; the visual quality is flawless and the closeups of each band member show comparable professionalism to that of an affluent film crew. Many closeups are extremely close, calling attention to specific moments in the song. The lyrics are on the Youtube link as well as the band’s site so you can refer to either if the need arises to read along. -Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Damien: Vocals
Killswitch: Guitar
Johnny C: Bass
John Cross: Drums

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Interview with Arelys Jimenez of MATIANAK by Dave Wolff

Interview with Arelys Jimenez of MATIANAK

Matianak is taken from an Indonesian folk tale/Malaysian mythological tale about a vampiric ghost, also known as a pontianak or kuntilanak, said to be the spirit of a stillborn child. What about this legend inspired you to choose this name for the band?
As it can have different interpretations, it is also a woman who died from being pregnant. I have always been into folklore and mythology. Doing research of and possibly aiming for a single-word band name was tricky. I had a few listed but most were taken. Matianak really stood out to me. It sounds evil, the meaning behind it sounds creepy and I wanted to represent my vision of a matianak as an evil native witch queen that looks like it came from some evil cult. I wanted a unique creative name but anyone can interpret their own version of what it means to them. There is no wrong or right way to view Matianak.

How is the band’s concept visually represented? Aesthetically the band is taking the imagery of black metal several steps further. Is it to give your performances a cult like atmosphere, or just for shock value, or a means of representing the folk tale?
My view of how I look on stage is to look like a powerful, evil, creepy witch like queen that has risen from a bad past, filled with much darkness and out to seek revenge. I’m inspired to give the audience a full show of visuals and storytelling in a disturbing and hypnotic way. The band is evolving little by little in our overall feel and look. It will take much time and work but Matianak will never be on the exact look; we aim to look disturbing and to tweak and improve our look. Having an artistic background as a child, my art consisted of much hate and anger, and what better way but to twist it into the genre. My goal is to give an overall view of experience. I want the audience to feel, see, and hear the art of the band. Every element has a meaning and a purpose. We aim to be an artistically creative, disturbing black metal band. We are a band that will give you a show, not just musicians playing instruments. Our music and shows will possess you.

How much has black metal come musically since the early 90s? Is there still room for the genre to continue progressing and growing on its own terms?
There are many underground bands but I don't think many are as good now. I am sure the genre has room for growth, but it seems it is dying and losing its touch. The bands well known from the 90's might be as good as it got and some of the great ones are not around anymore. "Black metal" has been changing and incorporating other styles. There are so many crossover genres and subgenres, and variety that interests me. Many bands sound the same but when the genres are mixed I think it makes an interesting concept. Such as blackened death metal, grindcore mixed with death and black metal, symphonic black metal, crust black metal etc. It is evolving, but as far as raw 90's black metal not many new bands I know of have that same touch. I am into a variety of music and styles; black metal is only one.

What other genres have you been listening to of late? Many bands naturally expand their influences but many other bands try to force it and it comes out sounding fake. How do you make an effort to tell the difference?
I like creative music. I listen to also acid jazz and trip hop like Portishead and CocoRosie. I listen to a lot of orchestra, classical, opera, Latin music, native music… I also am into Wardruna and really love their creative ways of using Nordic instruments. I love music that is inspired by art and passion. You can tell from the way they sound and perform that they actually spend time with and are true to the music. Examples are being spot on and in tune. Few to no errors when playing live. Giving good energy and audience interactions. The chemistry you get when you tell them "they did a good show." Creativity in their music and/or stage persona. Fake bands will be very egotistical and are not pleasant to be around. They try too hard to the point of annoyance and have such a horrible stage presence make several errors and are completely off tune. They do not take it seriously and are just merely a joke. They make the profession seem like nothing but just fun and games and not take it seriously.

How much research did you undertake while you were searching for a fitting band name? How many folk tales did you research before finally settling on Matianak?
I was always into mythology, especially mythology from Greece. I have a background in art and studied art history as well. Looking for a good name that rings a bell, and portraying some sort of mean woman figure was rough. Most names didn’t sound good enough for a band. It didn’t take too long, but it took a few weeks to discover countries with their own folklore stories. I didn’t think of trying to pick a name by my liking. Curiously looking around, the name Matianak came to me naturally. It really attracted me and I knew this was going to be the name for us.

What is the extent of your background in art, and where did you study art history? How far into the past did your studies take you? Are there any artists whose work particularly enamored you?
I am attracted to different cultures. I am mixed of Puerto Rican, Mexican, Native American, Spanish and Nigerian. I find culture beautiful. I loved art as a young child. I drew, paint, did crafts, graphic design, web design, flyers, business cards, made some cartoons and 3D character designs. I went to the Illinois Institute Of Art and transferred to finish my Fine Arts degree in Flashpoint Academy for 3D character design for video games. I only use my art for my band and just a hobby for flyers for now. My favorite artists are Guillermo Del Toro and H.R. Giger, I'm a huge survival horror game fan and Silent Hill is a huge influence.

Can you provide examples of Del Toro’s and Giger’s work that were inspirational to you?
Giger’s alien design in the Alien movies, and Species. The majority of his work is mechanical and abstract. The work of Del Toro on the character designs for the movies Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth was just gorgeous. Creatures, dragons, demons and dinosaurs always fascinated me as a young child.

Were you studying Greek mythology where you studied art? Is Greek folklore incorporated into the band’s concept, visually or lyrically?
Greek mythology only interested me. I love characters and creatures of all sorts. I find the back stories for each character interesting. As far as concepts based on Greek mythology, none are in the band. The lyrics are all about the insane events that have occurred and gave me inspiration to tell them onstage.

Besides Greek mythology, do you read the mythology of other cultures (Roman, Norse, Native American etc)?
I know of them but haven’t recently read any. I randomly see films and video games with these cultures in to get a visual feel of the look and style. 

It has taken a long time for female artists to be taken seriously, especially alternative models and any models who express themselves in a non-mainstream friendly way. In your view, how much have women taken control of themselves in the art world? How important do you consider alternative expressions of beauty?
I don't look up to a lot of female artists as most seem fake and just attention seekers who use their sex as an advantage to succeed. I wanted to break the cycle of how women are viewed, not being viewed as sex objects onstage. I like to keep audiences guessing; no one really knows it is me doing the vocals which I admire greatly. They are judgmental at first, but then they hear my witch like chanting and screams and their jaws drop. Instead of looking like everyone else I wanted to look disturbing and creepy, and hypnotize people. Not with my looks but the art, hard work and thought I put into the visuals. Women should be equal to men, but in the music world it is hit or miss. In reality most women will attract more men or be judged as not having talent. Sadly! I have a good balance of women and men that admire what I do and that means a lot. Whether others like what I do or not I respect people's opinions. I haven’t got many negative followers.

How long did it take you to develop your onstage persona for your performances? Do the other members of the band have their own stage personas?
It took me only few weeks to make mine. I do change and tweak it as time goes by. I am still working on how I want the rest of the band to look and I am taking my time on that. I do want them to match me; I am looking for a style similar to Shao Kahn from Mortal Kombat. So far it is getting there but it will still take time and funds to pull off. All the stage gear is made with real animal bones and mixed with other fabrics. I am aiming for them to be creepy part of my cult on stage.

Being that the band is based in Chicago, Illinois, how active do you see the local metal scene these days? Has it been growing band and club wise the last ten years or so?
I honestly don't plan to play shows often. We play once to twice a year here due to people getting bored and ending up not caring if you play too often in your local city. We don't have many black metal bands here. I love to keep people waiting, as they will be much more eager to come see and support you. I like to change things every show so the audience doesn't expect what’s next unless they show up. The scene is dying and seems to be all about popularity and who you know. I have supported many bands and shows for many years. It looks like no one likes going to shows nowadays and supporting bands. They pick their favorites and their friends. The younger bands struggle the most. Many I have seen for many years suddenly do not do well playing shows now next to ten years ago. I think people just need a show, and not just to see musicians play onstage. This is why I wanted to form my band. Every show will be a performance. I try to always change something.

What do you think can be done to improve the underground scene in Chicago? How many print zine and webzine editors have active publications there?
It’s hard to say. I’m not sure if every state is like this. I do not think there's much you can do but promote hard, pass flyers, connect with and support the local bands, promoters and networks. I don't really know many Chicago zines. All the ones that have reached out are from outside my city.

Describe a typical Matianak show. Are you mostly playing the Chicago club circuit or have you made any local fest appearances? Has there been zine coverage since you started performing?
We have only played locally and, as explained previously, just once or twice a year. We have not done any shows out of state or any festivals yet. I am asked often to play other states and countries, but we got much to prepare before going on the road. Since our first performance about four years ago we have had great support. We have been in online magazines, news articles, blogs, and several other pages made by fans.
A Matianak show starts off with creepy sampler intro. The microphone stand candles are lit. I slowly crawl up stage and stare at everyone with a death like stare, without blinking, and then we all start. There is full eye contact and audience interactions. Sometimes I drag people randomly by their shirt and yell lyrics at them. Sometimes I crawl and move very creepily. I let the music take over me. I don't practice what I do; I just go with what I feel in my soul and gut and give everyone a hell of a show with great energy and passion.

Are your intro samples borrowed from movies, or was an instrumental piece composed as an intro by the band?
The instrumental piece was made by sound design guys I hired from Mind Exchange Music. I told them the lyrics and wanted intros for each of the six from our album and a hint of the Silent Hill feel and a creepy ambience.

Were you in contact with Mind Exchange Music before contacting them for the instrumental piece? How easy are they to work with?
I wanted samplers to go in between songs for our live set, so I posted an ad looking for sound designers. They were pretty easygoing guys. I was the picky one and they had to redo a lot until I approved. They were patient and finished the samplers quicker than I thought, within a couple weeks before our third show.

In which online magazines and blogs has Matianak been featured? Are reviews of your music mostly favorable? How much material has the band released to date?
We are reviewed and featured in several areas on the internet. If you Google our name you will see them. We are in Metal Archives, Chicago Reader, Metal Messiah Radio, Narcoleptica Productions, Busokchronicles, The Metal Experience, Youtube, Adrenaline-Armory, Metalarea, Realmofmetal, CMF, Spotify, Bandcamp, and several metal Blogspot and discography pages. The reviews are very informative and favorable. I got no negative feedback on my end. Very little reviews were by people not digging the style, but they seemed they were not metal fans. I know the music isn't for anyone and I respect that.
Non Compos Mentis is our first album. You can listen to it on Bandcamp and Spotify. We are currently working on our new album. We will hopefully ready to record between 2019 and 2020.

Are you the band’s lyricist? Describe the songs appearing on Non Compos Mentis, what they’re written about, and what inspired them. How much input does the other band members have writing and recording for the album?
I am the lyricist and everything else for the band; basically manager too. I write all the lyrics, all the titles, and do all the creative visuals and crafts, costume and make up design, all by hand. I am in charge of shows and promotions. The band mates have freedom to create songs; I approve or not and point out where they needs to be tweaked. So we all work together as a team.
As far as lyrical content, it is based on real events and real people. Our first song ever “The Last Cry” is about my old neighbor that killed her seven month old granddaughter by cutting her with a power saw across her throat to stop her from crying. “Domesticated Sacrifice” is about an African American lady that walked in my job carrying a bag with a dead cat wrapped in plastic and lace inside. She kept saying Satan killed her cat; and white witches from the Roman Catholic Church beat it and killed it. She refused to give it up, and left.
“Hypnotic Torture” is about the serial killer David Parker Ray and the disturbing tape recording he played for his victims. “Touch Of Silence” is about a lady that sold a deep freezer on Craigslist with her dead mom’s remains inside of it. “Non Compos Mentis” is about the mental disorders de-realization/depersonalization. “The Woman In A White Dress” is about the matianak. We have two new songs not yet released. "Tumba Noxus" it is about another U.S. black metal band that spread rumors of us and had us booted off a show we were supposed to play. I do not know why they have issues with me. I don't even know them at all. So I mocked them and showed my statement that nothing will stop me from moving forward. "Black River Falls" is about a city in Wisconsin where in the late 1800's to the 1910s there were disturbing murders, suicides, and other disturbing events.

Where did you research the serial murders and the other disturbing events covered in your songs? How do you convey those incidents so they’re felt by your audience?
I knew three of the events since I dealt with them. Randomly browsing online for disturbing incidents and occurrences I looked for disturbing stories to use as inspiration. The intro samplers for each song give the audience a feel for what the songs will be about. I use hand and body language expressing the action and emotion of the lyrics. I have a range on vocal patterns and reenact the stories on stage. Eventually I want creepy videos to be played, along with more stage acting with live actors.

Is Non Compos Mentis exclusively available in streaming format? Has it been released on compact disc for people who prefer physical copies? Do you collect CDs and vinyl as a hobby?
Non Compos Mentis is available as a physical CD. We only have thirty copies left at the time of this writing. They may be purchased through our Russian distributor Narcoleptic Productions. They will be very rare CDs to own, as they will not be made again once they are gone. The label has less than 300 copies at this time. It will also be released on vinyl. We are talking with an underground label at the moment so the vinyl release will be available possibly this year. I collect some CD's and some vinyl, usually from bands I enjoy at shows or traded with bands I connected with. I don't have much of a collection but I’ll possibly want to collect more in the future.

How much of a listenership has Narcoleptic Productions helped generate for Matianak in Russia? Can you disclose the label that may be releasing Non Compos Mentis on vinyl?
They have really promoted us online and fans spread our music through blogs. Anything we post they will share on social media. The label we are talking with to release the album on vinyl is Suicidal Melancholy Records. They are a fairly new underground label. They mainly have a lot of DSBM bands and unsigned underground black metal bands. We haven't decided yet if we want to be officially signed to the label.

How many bands have you been trading CDs with? Do you prefer trading for well-known underground releases or rarities from obscure bands?
I'm friends with a lot of bands here. I have not traded with many of them, just some I'm close to here. I have given some away to those that helped me or my band in some sort of way. Also promoters or anyone that it might be a good idea to connect with and let them have a CD. I don't care to make a profit I just want Matianak to be exposed out there, and slowly be discovered. So I sometimes give merch away.

Did you design the cover artwork and packaging for the CD release of Non Compos Mentis? If so, does the artwork represent the songs appearing on it?
I designed the album artwork. It was all photography and I edited it by Photoshop. The pieces in the booklet are all photographed at live shows. Our distributor put it together. I actually plan to make a lyric magazine and have photography done to match the lyrics. I’ll possibly get that started this year or next year. 

Do you have anyone in mind to hire as a stage actor for your performances? Are you partly inspired by any theatrical live bands such as Alice Cooper, Misfits or King Diamond?
I am friends with all sorts of artists, and I'm sure they wouldn't mind helping out. I am actually a big King Diamond fan and do enjoy their live shows. I respect when bands put out an amazing stage show. I am inspired by different cultures, styles and looks. A mix of all the music I like and movies based on different looks and costumes will inspire me as well. 

Frank Garcia of Blood Of The Wolf has filmed some of your shows for posting on Youtube. How good of a job did he do capturing the essence of your performances?
He is a dear close friend to me and a master behind the camera. We have known each other for about four years. He captured well on not only the expressions but the live video vibe and feel but still keeping it natural. We work well together so he totally understand what I look for. I respect him and admire him greatly.

Where can Garcia’s uploads of your live shows be viewed, and how many hits have they received up to now?
If you Youtube search Matianak you will see several live videos. The more professionally made videos are his. Looks like total views are about 2,000 for the older videos and about 1,400 for recent videos from two years ago. 

You and Garcia recently worked on a photo shoot; the photos can be viewed on Facebook and Youtube. How did they go? Are any future collaborations planed for the near future?
I did a model photoshoot in the summer of 2018. He has never photographed a model in his career; he asked me and I agreed to help him fulfill his dream and passion, and to experiment with natural lighting, shadows and camera lenses. You will find the shoot on Facebook, Youtube and Instagram along with the rest of his work and music career. It was really fun and we both had a great time. He spends most of his time downtown looking for great locations to shoot; we went to those areas and found beautiful spots for pictures. We plan to do more photography work. Several ideas have been mentioned, such as the magazine that will display my lyrics and have disturbing photography to tell the story from Non Compost Mentis. I also got creepy photography of me and some photo shoots of me and my dog. Kind of experimenting and helping to expand his portfolio with different ideas.

Do you have any ideas in mind for another full length album? Or perhaps a live release of some kind? How soon would you expect to start working on something new?
We are working on our new album this year. We want to record and release it this year but only time will tell. I want the images to match my lyrics on the booklet, to aim with nothing but photography and continue using realism. I do not want drawn artwork as it’s much easier to accomplished and overdone. I want to go into more of an interesting, creative way to express art. I have a few friends to collaborate on this type of project to be accomplished. I’ll hopefully get it started this year 2019 and be ready for 2020.

Anything you want to reveal about this new art project before it gets started? What sort of statement do you intend to make with it?
They are based on the same concept of real events and stories and capturing the overall feel of the psychotic and the insane. No statement is given besides showing and expressing of the corrupted, insane, psychotic people that have committed the most disturbing and creepy events. I will continue my search on the most disturbing stories I am able to find or witness.

How many songs are you currently working on for the next album? Will they be more intense and creepy compared to the last one?
We plan to have about six songs for the next album. So far we have three new ones. We always plan to step up our game and continue to be even more intense and creepy. It will be a slow progress but little by little Matianak will take its full form.


-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Full Length Review: FORSAKEN Thrash N' Burn (Independent) by Devin Joseph Meaney

Band: FORSAKEN
Place of origin: Cape Breton, Canada
Genre: Thrash metal
Label: Independent
Release date: 2003
Dedicated to the memory of Nichole Meaney
As it says in their Bandcamp bio, this album ''was recorded in the Sydney Academy High School music class room in just a few hours over two days in 2003.'' Most of this release was recorded in a one-take fashion or live off the floor, and I must say, for the way it was recorded the album is well done and quite enjoyable to listen to. This band was around for only a brief period. They played a few shows, played a few house parties, and from the few shows I saw them play I can say they did so very well. I was only about thirteen/fourteen years old when these guys were active, and one of my very first local concerts I ever experienced was this band. The only two local events I attended before Forsaken were a few shows featuring the band Face Downe, a punk-rock band from my area featuring a family member of mine. I was introduced to Forsaken in the same way. The lead singer is a cousin of mine and he took me on a few outings with this band. I was at two shows (If I remember correctly) and one rehearsal, at least. I remember being bummed out after the first time I saw them play because there was an after party and I was too young to partake in any of the drinking-fueled festivities. I had school the next morning and was home before any of that happened. I don't remember fully what other bands played that night, but I do remember that Forsaken had pretty much stolen the show. I'm not sure where they are, but somewhere I have a few rehearsal cassettes filled with live tape-deck style recordings of Forsaken. I remember hearing these cassettes before they put out the Thrash N' Burn EP and I was very excited to listen to the final product. It is hard to think that this release is sixteen years old, but every time I listen to it I am reminded of fond memories, and a local band that helped shape my taste in music for years to come. Featuring only five tracks, the Thrash N' Burn EP is still enjoyable today and I suggest that anyone reading this checks it out and gives it a listen for themselves. Thrash is great, but Cape Breton thrash from my teen years will always spike my mood in a positive way. Will these guys ever have a comeback? I really don't know. But I know for sure... if they ever do, I will be there. Forsaken rules. -Devin Joseph Meaney

Lineup:
Mike Meaney: vocals
Keigan Morrison: rhythm guitar
Kai Petzold: lead guitar
Travis Morrison: drums
Glenn MacDonald: bass

Track list:
1. Forsaken
2. Awakened
3. Unleashed
4. Vengeance
5. A Soldier's Fall

Promotional Video Review: GASH Live at Gotham Grindhouse, Tammany Hall, NYC by Heather Dawson

Band: GASH
Place of origin: South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Genre: S&M punk rock
Video: Live at Gotham Grindhouse, Tammany Hall, NYC
Filmed and edited by Kevin Vonesper (Vonesper Studios)
Release date: September 22, 2014
When I first started singing again in 2008 I came out guns a blazing - I had recently lost a bunch of weight had change my hair and everything. I had a cool new job and was making a decent salary and I wanted to join a band - so I did. When we did Bowie once, I came out in a sexy nighty thing with like garters and what not, like Cheri Curry used to wear in The Runaways. There was one problem with that... I was 40. And we were playing at a small bar in Massapequa Park.... ahem. I had other ideas... cause I was such a spitfire on stage I wanted the guys to blindfold me and handcuff me and like sort of unwrap me on stage and let me go... again... ahem... get real... you’re a middle aged mom playing in a bar on LI.... get ahold of yourself.
Point I’m trying to make here is I adore stage craft theatrics. I love costumes and I love antics. The problem is it’s hard to carry off properly when you are on the small stage and suspend the audiences’ belief that they are just at a small bar or club. I would rack my brain thinking about these things. How did Lady GaGa do her show at Desmond’s? Maybe she didn’t... but then how did she build up that show? Same with Alice Cooper - when did he pull out the guillotine? When did he say I have an idea? Same Bowie and Kiss - how do you put on a big show in a small place... let me tell you GASH figured it out...
I click on the link to their video for the song ‘Ritual’ and blammo, like a Batman punch hitting me smack in the mouth, I’m knocked out. This band has everything... handcuffs, leather, chains and blindfolds - back ground dancers and fabulous hedonistic costumes. Right from the start I was like ‘ooooooo mommy like...’ Play some dirty, low down rock and roll and pair it with intense scenes of leather boys in chains having a rip roaring time, baby I’m sold.
There is a passion here a show you don’t often get to see in my neck of the woods. This is a rock show mashed with a leather burlesque. So gorgeously performed and lovingly given to the audience. The exchange between the band and dancers and the audience is exquisite. Everyone is having a good time and experiencing the explosion of sight and sound. I wish I was at this show.
It takes nerve and incredible confidence to say ‘let’s do something really different’ without thoughts of ‘is an audience going to dig what we have going on here?’ When you do your work well, with passion, people are emotionally affected. I remember hearing about when Frank Zappa saw Alice Cooper the first time. The band mostly cleared the room but the people who stayed were entranced. Frank signed the band to his Bizarre label immediately saying and I’m paraphrasing that Alice Cooper made an impression, love them or hate them, they made you feel, and Frank wanted that. Bands that evoked an emotional response from an audience. The Alice Cooper band made people stand up and take notice and so does gash. They can’t be ignored.
And it’s not just the show that provokes emotion. The band has a pure rock sound without being overblown or a caricature of what shock rock is or was. They take the music as seriously as the performance. The sound and tone of the music is dead on; it’s well thought out and heavily crafted. But when it all comes together, the show and the music, it seems spontaneous and explosive. To put this kind of act over in an authentic way with no pretense, no irony nor tongue in cheek, you need to love it and respect it. All this preparation Gash puts into their sound, makes the fun they create seem explosive and uncontrollable. Yet if it were truly as haphazard as the band may want you to believe, it could never be as good as it is. One of my goals for 2019 will be to see this band live. Because I could use a little spontaneous, raucous, sexy rock ‘n’ roll these days. -Heather Dawson

Lineup:
Tibbie X-Kamikaze: Vocals
Hit Cunningham: Guitar
AJ Delinqiuent: Guitar
Travis Travesty: Bass
Kevin Knuckles: Drums

(Note: Tibbie X-Kamikaze is now the bass player for Reagan Youth. -DW)

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Full Length Review: AUTUMN TEARS Colors Hidden Within The Gray (The Crypt/Dark Symphonies) by Dave Wolff

Band: AUTUMN TEARS
Place of origin: Billerica, Massachusetts, USA
Genre: Neo-Classical, World
Label: The Crypt/Dark Symphonies
Release date: January 14, 2019
Colors Hidden Within The Gray is an ambitious project, already one of the most ambitious of the year. Released a week ago, it features over thirty musicians and one of the most gifted vocalists in neo-classical, ethereal, darkwave and world music industries. I used to think Elend was undisputed when it came to transcending musical boundaries for the monumental albums they have released in their career. I used to think few artists if any could touch them, but listening to Autumn Tears naturally convinced me they belong in the same neighborhood. Colors Hidden Within The Gray is an album of such range and vision I wonder why they were on an extended eleven year hiatus and I wonder how far they would have gotten if during that time they continued releasing a new album every few years. It’s much like what would come of a collaboration between Elend, Dead Can Dance and Diamanda Galas, if they ever decided to work together, with Cradle Of Filth stopping by to offer occasional suggestions. This project is far too sizable to even be considered a band; at the risk of making this sound too exaggerated I’d say it’s closer to a small ensemble. By all accounts all the musicians involved in this album take their work as seriously as any full symphony orchestra. No expense is spared to push the envelope; we get a wide range of instruments including classical guitars, drums, piano, violin, viola, cello, harps, horns, trumpets, bansuri, medieval bagpipes and medieval percussion. The fourteen tracks involving these instruments are arranged with care and thoroughness, relying on their diverse talent without the need to attitudinize. I consider it a crime that Dawn Desiree Smith and Brona McVittie are not as well-known as the likes of Cristina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil), Sharon den Adel (Within Temptation) and Liv Kristine (Leaves Eyes, Midnattsol). As two of the principal vocalists of Autumn Tears they certify that looks only get female vocalists so far and legitimate staying power is determined by talent. Backed by Nathan Nasby, Beraud and Jennifer Judd, they give this album the enchanting essence it needs to create something that’s less of an album and more of a pictorial design. Rarely if ever was the end of all things presented with so much artistry, elegance and refinement. The vocals and instruments are like creation itself emerging from this apocalypse, filling what was once an empty void with indescribable beauty. You have to have vocals like this not only to enhance the music but also the lyrics, which are just as integral a part of said design. The lines "Together we sing/Hymns to the chosen/Transcendent voices/Unravelling the stitches of time/We welcome our daughter of the universe/Behold... a goddess is born" from the third track "A Pulse In the Celestial Sphere Part 3 - A Birth In the Aether" are all you need to read in this review for a taste of the majesty of this album. The rebirth from death, and death from rebirth, personified here is a long process, proving the endless cycle of nature with feelings you don’t get to experience very often. If you’ve been made curious by these words, you really should acquire this release to experience it fully. -Dave Wolff

Lineup:
Ted Tringo: Composition, arrangements, lyrics, piano
Brona McVittie: Lead and backing vocals, vocal and lyric arrangements
Dawn Desiree Smith: Lead and backing vocals, vocal and lyric arrangements
Nathan Nasby: Lead and backing vocals, vocal and lyric arrangements
Beraud: Lead and backing vocals, vocal and lyric arrangements
Jennifer Judd: Lead and backing vocals, vocal arrangements
Brian Schmidt: Lead violin and string arrangements:
Julian Spiro: Lead violin and string arrangements:
Kelly Ralston: Viola
Luke Payne: Cello
Molly Leigh Jones: Cello
Terran Olson: Flute, Clarinet
MaryBeth Kern: Clarinet
John Clark: French Horn
Chad Bell: Trumpet
Victor Fuenmayor: Trombone
Tom Moth: Harp
George Ball: Snare drums
Germàn Domador: Timpani
Amir Mofrat: Kamancheh on "A Pulse in the Celestial Sphere"
Petar Milanovic: Trombone on "The Grieving" and "The Day of Wrath"
Chris Abeel: Cello on "Colors Hidden Within the Gray", "The Grieving", and "Another Day"
Christine Hardigan: Cello on "In Remembrance"
Charlot Rivero: Spiccato Cello on "Rainlight ascension"
Isobel Alsup: Spiccato Cello on "Colors Hidden Within The Gray"
Oleg Maximov: Classical Guitar on "The Impressionist"
Josh Plotner: Bansuri on "Drift"
Carolina Teruel: Spiccato cello on "In Remembrance"
Simon Blum: Medieval bagpipes on "In Remembrance"
Steeven Didier: Medieval bagpipes on "In Remembrance"
Charlotte Reckinger: Medieval bass drum on "In Remembrance"
Benjamin Wanschoor: Floor toms on "In Remembrance"
Mattias Borgh: Snare drum on "In Remembrance"

Track list:
1. A Pulse In the Celestial Sphere Part 1 - Astral Murmur
2. A Pulse In the Celestial Sphere Part 2 - A Stream of Higher Consciousness
3. A Pulse In the Celestial Sphere Part 3 - A Birth In the Aether
4. The Day of Wrath
5. The Grieving
6. Rainlight Ascension
7. The Impressionist
8. Prodigy
9. Drift
10. In Remebrance
11. The Earth Song
12. Colors Hidden Within The Gray
13. What We Have Become
14. Another Day