Sunday, March 29, 2015

Interview with Matthew Langley and James Watts of BLIND SPITE by Dave Wolff

Interview with Matthew Langley and James Watts of BLIND SPITE

Lady Kat Chaos of Obscure Chaos zine is a mutual friend and we began corresponding through her. How long have you known her and did she suggest you contact me?
Matthew Langley: Kat messaged me after coming across Blind Spite's music. She asked if I would be interested in an interview some time and I asked if there were any review opportunities. Kat sent me your zine's page with Geoff McGraw's. I have known her a few weeks online.

Explain the reasons you chose Blind Spite to represent your band, and what connotations it is intended to convey.
Matthew Langley: The name Blind Spite comes from some lyrics in an early song called Human Blindness written by our first vocalist Ian Maxwell. The name has various useful interpretations so the first lineup was united in this being the name. Over time the ethics and attitude within the band have never changed and the name remains. It sums our fearless approach to what we speak and think and what we represent in the uncaring world we inhabit.

Do you remember the verses in Human Blindness and anything specific Ian Maxwell addressed when he wrote the lyrics?
Matthew Langley: I was not in the band when the song was written but the lyrics include the verses "Hateful scum, blinded by spite. The milk of human blindness." Ian's style was quite philosophical and spoke the depressing truth.

Was Ian Maxwell one of the band’s founding members? Who comprised Blind Spite’s first lineup?
Matthew Langley: Ian was in the first lineup, recruited by Anthony Gate. I joined three years after the band's formation. The first lineup was Ian Maxwell (vocals), Anthony Gate (drums), Steve Whatman (bass) and Ian Donaldson (guitar).

The band had several lineup changes since forming in 1996. Is the new lineup on good terms with former members?
Matthew Langley: Mostly yes as time has gone on, but obviously members don't leave if they are performing well and content at the time. The stories associated with the departures aren't interesting enough to talk about in great detail; people re-located or didn't have the commitment required. In recent years we have been mostly troubled with people joining the band for the status of 'being in a band', then when the work ethic is required for writing and recording they can't step up. Going forward if people leave for whatever reason we would rather not rush into replacing and prioritize recorded output over live performances.

How long have you been a musician and what interested you in playing underground metal?
Matthew Langley: I began playing the guitar when I was 16, I am 31 now. It was easily the best thing I did in my life. I went to guitar lessons for a year to begin with where I covered a range of styles and learned basics in music theory. The theory part was important. When I write songs I try to marry the theory and practice of music, I follow the established scales and modes while trying to bring in notes and techniques which 'shouldn't' work, this is how I contribute to the identity and aesthetic of the overall picture. I was strongly inspired by the musicianship in underground metal, seeing Vader/Nile/Cryptopsy was important back then as it came across as expert technique without any kind of arrogance. The guitar styles were just relentless, powerful and required incredible precision and stamina. I hadn't seen anything like it and was determined to follow it. Of course, hearing Master Of Puppets through my guitar tutor was the most important thing back in the first stages, like many metal guitarists I just worked on imitating Kirk Hammett. Then I discovered Slayer and Deicide in a local record shop.

Did you see Vader, Nile and Cryptopsy at the same venue as the other shows you mentioned having attended?
Matthew Langley: Nile was a separate gig, Cathouse Glasgow 2001 on Black Seeds of Vengeance tour. Powerful performance. Vader/Cryptopsy and Dying Fetus in 2001 was at the same venue in Bradford as Immortal/Hypocrisy in 2002. Good times.

In what ways did hearing Slayer and Deicide for the first time change your musical direction?
Matthew Langley: Straightforward refusal of organized religion in the message I express. Guitar-wise: more speed, aggression, technicality and discordant phrases. The first Deicide album I bought was the later release Serpents Of The Light with the track 'I Am No One' making a big impression on me, bringing the idea one's irrelevance in the universe and the powers of believing truly in oneself when this is realized.

For all their perceived negativity, lyrics written by death metal bands have a way of strengthening an individual’s belief in oneself. In what ways did Deicide’s song help in clarifying your sense of individuality?
Matthew Langley: “I am no one, without me he’s unknown.” Any deity exists because mankind has the power and willingness to believe it to be. We are as equal and capable as any omnipresence in creating a presence. We have no more right to be on this earth than any other organism. All self-importance, paranoia, anxiety is lost when I obtained this clarity, largely from taking note of lyrics such as this.

Are there other lyrics from Deicide or other death metal bands that give you similar clarity as “I Am No One”?
Matthew Langley: Malevolent Creation's 'Coronation Of Our Domain'. The lyrics are about self-realization; a powerful attack on society and the inevitable corruption within. Empowering in my adolescence as I saw decadence around me. Morals and loyalty can easily be bought. A song about the real world.
"Crowning of this sovereign can wait no longer
Inner hostilities force the surfacing
Violent traditions altered beyond fate
Your crumbling society denied, escape"
Plus anything Chuck Schuldiner wrote. My favorite Death album has always been Individual Thought Patterns. Especially the opening track 'Overactive Imagination.'

What resonates with you about the lyrics in Death’s Overactive Imagination? Which areas of society do you see it addressing?
Matthew Langley: "Directing and premeditating every move
That creates the act of manipulation
Mastering the art of deception"
You are strongest when you are alone, free from manipulation and judgement. Similar philosophy to the previous songs about becoming a stronger self.

What other black metal bands were you listening to around this time? Are there other subgenres of metal you appreciate?
Matthew Langley: The first black metal album I owned was Enthroned's 'Towards The Skullthrone Of Satan'. Upon joining the band I was mainly into the giants of the genre; Dimmu Borgir's 'Spiritual Black Dimensions' was popular within the band. Now I go for originality above anything; bands who express their true identity through an original sound. Some bands which Blind Spite collectively admire are Hate Forest, Altar Of Plagues, Agalloch and latter-day Mayhem-as much as the early masterpieces. I and singer James Watts have started a Depressive Black Metal side project known at the moment as Recusant DSBM but it is in early changes. We contributed a Darkthrone cover track, 'As Desertshadows' from the Goatlord album, to a tribute album released online by Speed Slaughter Productions. A side to us that is more atmospheric with simple rhythms for a different emotive response.

How many songs did the band have written and composed when you became a full time member?
Matthew Langley: When I joined there were two demos released with eleven songs in total. I only learned the six 'Grievolution' tracks as the style had changed a lot after the first demo, meaning more European death metal influences like Hypocrisy, early Arch Enemy and Dismember. Upon joining I contributed music quickly and we came up with 'Forgotten Dark' and 'Carry No Cross' which were recorded on our Sermon Of Despisal demo in 2004. We had been listening to Vital Remains, Vader and Cryptopsy a lot back then and our sound was arguably more death metal although the dark relentless guitar riffs would always have a black metal side to them through listening to a lot of Marduk and Immortal. Immortal played an awesome show in Bradford 2002 on the Sons Of Northern Darkness tour I was lucky enough to see plus Vader/Cryptopsy/Dying Fetus in the same venue a year earlier.

Just one demo was released by the band before Grievolution? In what ways did its influence in European death metal make it differ from the band’s previous demo?
Matthew Langley: The guitar style on Grievolution is a lot more diverse and has elements you can associate with the Swedish classic bands: the speed picking, tone and production. A range of songs within a release was captured similar to what the Swedish bands were doing in the early 90's. Dark Tranquillity's 'The Gallery' was popular within the band then as well as Arch Enemy's 'Stigmata'.

How much influence do you think European death metal has had on American death metal from the 90s to the present?
Matthew Langley: I got into death metal around 2000 so I can only evaluate things from that point forward. It would seem the European melodic riffing style became infused with some American bands' style soon after the 90's. I can't pick out any bands before then that I'm aware of. The Black Dahlia Murder, although fairly mainstream, worked a lot of that into their sound successfully. There are always DM bands making reference to the Entombed, Dismember and Carnage guitar sounds which will never cease. America has ample Death Metal torch bearers to develop their own sounds and identities.

How would you more closely describe the musical and lyrical content of Grievolution, from the point of view of a fan?
Matthew Langley: I believe the tracks 'Phoenix' and 'The Olden Horde' from Grievolution are atmospheric tracks bridging black and death metal styles, they came out strongest in the eventual production mix. 'Purge' and 'Hope Shatters' are more aggressive death metal offerings but they didn't have the same strength and tone as the first two I mentioned from that release in terms of the production and how they were captured. The lyrics and tone of Grievolution brought about an olden feeling where the first demo What Is Past Is Prologue had the contemporary feel, both of which aimed for creating an uplifting feeling from understanding the depressing realities around us. We have left those songs available on our old Myspace page.

How well did your own musical influences fit the band’s direction when you recorded the 2004 Sermon Of Despisal demo?
Matthew Langley: I was very much into the thrash/death metal side of things then; mostly American bands. I contributed the track 'Forgotten Dark' first which is found on our Sermon Of Despisal release, this is a thrash/death track with sizeable amounts of the relentless Blind Spite speed picking I adopted from the guitarist in the band at the time Ian Donaldson. I did adapt my style in line with the two demos already released, bearing this in mind I felt I combined my input with reference to the direction of the band at the time. The drop A tuning we used was new to me upon joining so with this came adaptation to my style. Sermon of Despisal was a more death metal release and still feels brutal in the true sense of metal, very bleak and aggressive lyrics came from a difficult time in all of our lives. We were doing regular gigs back then mainly in the north east of England and a scene was created for contemporary death and black metal bands, one of which was Wodensthrone.

Is James Watts the main lyricist for Blind Spite, or do some of the other band members have a hand in lyric writing?
Matthew Langley: For the last two releases, Matt (guitars) contributed lyrics on the Dethrone The Earth track 'Oblivion Embraced'. Watts puts a lot of attention into the message and aesthetic of the band through artwork as well so it works best when he has full control of the vocals he delivers. The respective musical contributors to each song will convey ideas of what the track means to them and what ideas are going around our heads at the time of writing the music. In a rehearsal situation we discuss life and ideas as much as focus on developing our sounds. Some ideas theoretical, inspired by text from the macro world while others are from personal thoughts and experiences. The tracks Dethrone The Earth and Lemniscate were developed by our drummer Anthony and James Watts about the infinite universe, inspired by some science fiction and news articles around the time about manipulating Earth's magnetic field. The title track of our last release 'Extinction Event' was entirely James Watts' ideas inspired by images and articles from the NASA website while 'Doubt' and 'Construct' are philosophical lyrics about the weakness of the human condition.

Describe your transition to the drop A tuning you adapted when joining the band?
Matthew Langley: Less of the tight, palm muted thrash style. More inventive chord shapes across the neck, faster speed picking and down picking on the bottom strings. With the 52-12 gauge I use there is scope to create dissonant tones as the strings are a bit slacker, some guitarists don't like this but I feel it adds an element I can manipulate into some riffs; the track 'Doubt' on Extinction Event especially. I was listening to Vader and Malevolent Creation a lot when I first joined, stalwart death metal standards to jam along with.

The band’s approach to death/black metal crossover combines brutal technicality with an abrasive sound. There are also some hints of influence in Voivod I heard in your songs. How is the band actively developing this style?
Matthew Langley: Much appreciated comparison to that band. I try and come up with new sounds and shapes on the guitar similar to what I have read in old interviews and articles with Piggy. My favourite album of theirs is Killing Technology. It’s the songwriting style we actively develop, seizing what we visualize. We are always seeking for something different on the guitar. This can come from a momentary bit of feedback from a note a riff is built around. We go by instinct with what sounds strong to us collectively; no one is afraid to suggest an idea they have visualised.

Are there songs from Killing Technology that especially speak to you? Are there moments when you’ll find something to enhance your songwriting by accident?
Matthew Langley: 'Order Of The Blackguards' inspires me most, it brings across the conspiracy theory of clandestine forces behind our governments. What I like about the X Files. I tend to write my strongest riffs when I am with the band, I can see their genuine reaction to it. I play a lot as I find it quite cathartic; I feel a lot better on a night if I play for some amount and achieve something new, creating something out of nothing is a better way to spend the evening than watching shit on TV. Yeah I do stumble across things on the guitar when I'm not particularly looking, the whole intro section to 'Doubt' was just a mess around I came up with pretty quickly whilst playing alone and would never have imagined it as a large section of a track in the past. When practicing alone I find it's about what I'm thinking as I am playing as much as what I'm playing itself; music can give me clarity with just that sensation I'm being constructive. I can reflect upon life and find the natural answers to anything troubling my mind at the time.

In what year was Dethrone The Earth released? How many songs are included on that demo in total and how does it show the band progressing as a unit?
Matthew Langley: In 2012 it came out. There are five songs on that all in our blackened death style, generally more black metal feeling than the previous Sermon of Despisal demo. It was the first recording to feature our current vocalist James Watts so with it his influence brought a whole new feel to the band. Similar death metal style to his predecessor Ian Maxwell's vocals but a much more convincing vocal delivery we felt. It also featured some synth playing from Watts' younger brother Phil for the first time on a Blind Spite release. Phil went on to study music at a college in Leeds and never played live with the band. The music on the recording was the same tempo and ferocity to the previous demo but again more diverse styles coming in on songs like 'Epoch Of Despondency' and 'Deus'. The track 'This Is Our Abomination' is still played live.

The band seems to have an inventive approach to lyric writing. What feedback have you received from your listeners for combining extreme metal with science fiction?
Matthew Langley: I think our major theme which comes forward is the human condition; the science fiction side just complemented our 'insignificance of man' theme when looking at the universe's infinite depths. Everybody has their own interpretations they draw from music whether or not the band agrees with the comparisons or impressions created. Our fan base has a range of listeners; there has been a science fiction artistic strand in recent years who are all positive about the new material while some people just like the maelstrom sounds created in the black/death metal area we dwell. In live scenarios we have seen literally all kinds of people.

How does Blind Spite go about presenting their concept of man’s insignificance in the universe within your lyrics?
James Watts: The lyrics tend to be based around themes taken from philosophy and elements of physics theory, though less along the standard lines of the ‘nebulous and the void’ and more on the basis of the human experience of that. ∞ (lemniscate) is based loosely around the idea of parallel universes and multiple dimensions, but more towards how difficult that concept is to grasp and how threatening that is to our own sense of superiority. A similar theme runs through ‘Doubt’ which is based around the concept of hyperbolic doubt, and how impossible it is to prove that anything we experience via our own senses is actually real. ‘Extinction Event’ is based around the self-destructive nature of our species, from the perspective that it is something we are perhaps hard wired to, in the same sense as any species taking advantage of survival opportunities in the short term can end up exhausting what their habitat can offer. ‘Construct’ refers to the gods that we create in an attempt to cope with unanswerable questions, and how they become a sort of ruling dogma. The aim is to work with uncomfortable concepts that we don’t understand, or notions about the human condition that we can’t explain, or can’t help, and heighten that knowing aspect – the horrible helplessness of it.

About your intended meaning of Extinction Event, I have seen examples of this in everything from popular media to exploitation of the environment. Where do you see it rings true?
James Watts: The basis of it sits around resource exploitation more than anything. That can key into environmental issues and global warming, but in this case it’s much more grounded in the earthy concept that as a species, we are rapidly exhausting the resources we need to continue to exist. There is also the geological concept of the Anthropocene that bears relevance. This is based around the idea that we are exerting enough change on the planet as a whole that it warrants a new geological epoch. It pulls us outside of ourselves in that it highlights that we are potentially as much of an environmental factor as events like ice ages or even the inclusion of invasive species in other habitats that collapse eco-systems. Particularly in relation to that, the theory has been extended in some cases to the idea that humanity is acting as an extinction event itself. Less of a self-aware ‘developed’ society and more of a species that has destructive habits like any other, but on a larger scale.

Concerning Doubt, I am reminded of a quote George Orwell wrote in his novel 1984 that reality is not external but exists inside the human mind. How is the song based on the theory of hyperbolic doubt?
James Watts: It certainly fits with that notion; hyperbolic doubt or Cartesian doubt is a concept used by Descartes to ascertain ‘truths’. The idea is that you refuse to believe anything that cannot be proved beyond all doubt. Once the notion of dreams and illusion, or even basic misconception is applied to this, it becomes impossible to verify anything is true, as all of our senses can be in error. To this end, there are no certainties other than the ‘I think therefore I am’ argument, and even that can potentially be argued into oblivion. The song sits after that process within that blankness of finding that you are essentially nothing more than your own thoughts. In a similar way to ∞ looks at the feeling of insignificance of man in the face of an incomprehensible and threatening universe, Doubt looks at it somewhat more introspectively’ what if there is not even a terrifying universe? What if there is nothing but blankness outside of oneself?

The idea that nothing exists outside of consciousness can be frightening to some and empowering to others. To the band is the idea more of a scare or a source of inner strength?
James Watts: I don’t think it’s a scare in the sense of it being a ’shock tactic’. It just happens to be a potentially quite bleak concept to digest. The notion that there is nothing beyond the self conjures up a sense of futility as opposed to an empowerment over ones reality. The idea that everything is a self-generated veil or some kind of deceit of the psyche has a degree of ineffable hopelessness to it, particularly with the fact that due to the nature of the theory, there isn’t really a way to prove it either way.

When you were writing Construct, did anything come to mind about how people are willing to go to war over different religious beliefs?
James Watts: Not so much. I think the concept of religious wars has been done to death already, and I also think these situations are never as black and white as that. There are usually social situations and motives that religion is used as an excuse or cover for. Belief is one thing, whereas religion is so much more often a political effort. The Construct referenced in the song is more of a cultural one - the need to find an easy answer to explain that which we cannot. What I find interesting in that, is that these entities are made by human minds, but then paradoxically come to rule over them. The idea that a moment of revelation in which some group ‘discovers’ their god slowly develops into sets of rules and regulations, often based in the control of that society, that imbue the god with more administrative powers over the thoughts that brought it into being. The thing becomes self-perpetuating as it shapes the thoughts of those that created it, like some kind of group consciousness. This could lead to war like situations or not, but it’s the idea of this ruler shaped by its creators and feeding back to itself that is the theme in this case. Interestingly, Descartes ended up arguing a god into his hyperbolic doubt.

What other theories has Descartes written that you discovered had some sense to it?
James Watts: The hyperbolic doubt was the one that particularly struck me, and I need to make some time to read his Meditations properly. I find it interesting that he argued a god into his hyperbolic doubt, as for me that’s something that doesn’t fit. I haven’t read enough of meditations to know the full argument on that theory, but I think it’s probably worth looking at, even if I disagree. That is the point of philosophy in a lot of respects, to generate some form of debate on ideas posited.

Has the band studied the topics they explore in the lyrics as described in the previous answer? Are there any authors you would recommend whose books you have read?
James Watts: I dabble in a lot of philosophical texts, though I am by no means an expert, it often tends to be that a concept will appear that I’m looking at, that seems to fit organically with the stuff we’re coming up with. There is a book called ‘The Ritual Process’ by Victor Witter-Turner, that I found really interesting, as well as a lot of anthropological texts in general (There are some really excellent lectures on iTunes you can get at with a quick Google search). Looking at things from other angles and cultures gives an interesting take on perspectives and ‘big’ issues. Construct came out from reading about communities in the idea of loose groups (In this case to do with beliefs/rites) and structure (when these become formalized and part of society) that is described in Witter-Turner’s book. Descartes is an obvious reference as is a lot of philosophy in general, though it takes a while to digest. I’m beginning to get into Deleuze at the moment and I’m also trying to decipher Henry Flynt. Again, there’s a vast wealth of lectures on these online. A lot of these pertain to art theory as well as philosophy, but it is often a case of a word or phrase pops out from a text that I can then run with and pursue along an avenue that fits our stuff. The same applies to a lot of cultural geography (a lot of which ties into the Anthropocene).

Can Witter-Turner’s book The Ritual Process still be purchased in bookstores today? Is this a book you recommend?
James Watts: I certainly found it interesting, though it’s more of an anthropological text than anything else. It generated worthwhile ideas for me. I picked it up in my university library, but I imagine it’s available to buy online somewhere.

What other ideas have you gotten from reading The Ritual Process?
James Watts: It’s a look at how other cultures (the term primitive is used a lot but I think that's probably the wrong way to describe it) do things, and divergent takes on what is significant within different societies. That’s what’s interesting about a lot of anthropology in general - there are elements of the book that just descriptions of events and rituals happening and why those things are important. There is a section somewhere which details how a particular tribe holds the liver in the same regard as western society holds the heart - those clashes and shifts in meaning are really interesting. As well as notions of Auto-cthonic people, who are from an indigenous or conquered group, how continue to exist in such a way as to develop some kind of priestly quality due to their older connection with the land etc. There’s also the basic aspect of communitas and the ritual and the notion of the live moment that exists beyond societal structure, that obviously links to the live or gig environment.

Which of Deleuze’s writings have you perused? Who was Henry Flynt and what did he have to say that’s worthwhile?
James Watts: Not a great deal as of yet: snippets of various things that people have recommended to me. 1000 Plateaus is something I really want to read. From what I’ve been told it’s about sporadic generation of thought and ‘nodes’ of ideas being interconnected. Henry Flynt is someone I’ve only come across recently; he is linked to fluxus movement that I’ve got a great deal of interest in (though he doesn’t like to be linked to it apparently) and has since been involved in a lot of other things, including a great deal of difficult philosophy and anti-art activism. I haven’t got a great deal into his theories at all as of yet, but there seems to be a lot of language undermining itself, and the notion of meta technology as a title alone is something I really like. He’s also put out some really excellent ‘avant-garde Hillbilly and Blues music’. Which is a great deal better than the name suggests.

What is fluxus movement and how has Flynt been linked to it?
James Watts: Flynt apparently doesn’t like to be linked to it, but has been involved in various things and actions that they did, and had lectures at event held by prominent members. In essence, Fluxus was based around a fluidity of what art could be - it sat on and blurred the boundaries between music and art in a lot of cases. People Like La Monte Young, and Yoshi Wada were involved, particularly in the creation of drone and experimental compositions that worked with the space they were performed in and acted as events more than musical gigs in a lot of senses. Some of Flynt’s early talks were held in conjunction with La Monte Young’s events. There was a great deal of experimentation with the qualities of sound itself and how atmosphere can be generated or the audience can be made to pay attention to certain things. Some of Flynt’s theories chimed with that - but he later distanced himself from a lot of ‘art’ in the strict sense, though as I have mentioned I haven’t read a great deal on him yet.

How would you describe the avant-garde/hillbilly/blues that Flynt has released in greater detail?
James Watts: It’s quite hard to describe - very rich and there are a lot of drone based elements and textures in there - some of which come from Indian raga music, but then there are elements of jazz and the aforementioned genres that appear on top. It’s probably easier to listen to some than to try and explain it, though Flynt has an essay on the subject on his site:

What are your views on religion as it is interpreted by man these days?
Matthew Langley: It certainly feels different to around twenty years ago in the world as seen through my eyes. I believe people are freer to express the doubt and inconsistencies they find within dogmatic religious thought and this has accelerated over the last twenty years in my opinion. From an early age I was very much cynical about religion while going through the standard rites of passage as an English citizen; my father was keen I understood Darwinian theory and nature. With the empirical evidence and constant conflict in some parts we have been forced to evaluate the unseen influence upon us for millennia.

What speaks to you about Darwinian theory and how does it fit your world view?
Matthew Langley: I look outside of human society and in the long term; new species developing through natural selection. Within our micro-world I feel we seek residual ‘differences’ in ourselves and others and this governs our paths, philosophies and company we keep. Residual differences means that which divides us. I am using the term to describe how I feel people generally make decisions about the company they keep. Residual differences is what you are left with which you can't remove or reconcile.

What new material is Blind Spite planning to release in the near future? How do you intend to progress musically?
Matthew Langley: We have four songs written for the next release. Two are my own in a similar vein to Extinction Event as I feel we have found our identity and it's unwise to change anything too dramatically, but progression on the guitar has occurred with both tracks. One of the other tracks was written by our newer guitarist Jake Bielby who brings a whole new influence to the band having never contributed to recorded material in the past, the other written by our drummer who can also write guitar parts quite effectively. We are unsure what format the next release will be as it depends on the development of these new tracks and what we write between now and our studio booking most likely next year.

At what studio do you plan to record your next release? Has the band considered building their own studio to have more creative control over your work?
Matthew Langley: It will more than likely be recorded at First Avenue Studios in Newcastle upon Tyne, the engineer Dave Curle just did an outstanding job for us on Extinction Event. We are looking at re-recording a couple of much older songs on the next release as they still stand up with current material. We all do a bit of home and personal home recording projects so we have certainly considered our own studio but time, opportunity and expertise are major barriers.

How long has Jake Bielby been working with the band, and what new and different ideas has he contributed?
Matthew Langley: Jake joined just under one year ago and comes from a tech death/thrash background with his other band Plague Rider, James Watts in also. Jake has contributed one song already and in terms of black metal he does favour the Krallice, later Mayhem and currently Voices styles. Non-orthodox black metal with plenty of parts where guitars deviate from each other.

Would you incorporate your interpretation of Darwinian theory into the band’s lyrics?
Matthew Langley: Most certainly, it is the basis of how I see the world. With the vast amount of modern metal now you have to search much harder and develop themes to hold any message that is truly original.

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A Funeral Moon in the Northern Sky​-​Darkthrone tribute

-Dave Wolff

CD review: THIRTY SILVER Popidols by Dave Wolff

More shades of the 90s from an album that represents what alternative music should have been, as opposed to the trend it became after Nirvana changed popular music. Thirty Silver’s Popidols boasts a grittiness and dissonance hearkening to a time before post-punk’s breakthrough aboveground. A time before L7 recorded “Pretend We’re Dead” and potential to provoke thought was replaced with stereotypically inane lyrics as flannel shirts became a fashion statement. The result of this maistreamization was the demise of alternative by 2000, much as hair metal fell victim to oversaturation a decade earlier. Though cookie cutter pop replaced it from then on, some apparently remember how things should have been. This is not a polished office at MTV, but the gritty streets of Seattle, Manhattan, or any city where music like this still thrives. The production is not so that you can’t tell one aspect of this album from the other, but don’t expect something family friendly or you’d do better to search elsewhere. The material here reflects the best qualities of L7, Nirvana and Soundgarden, with all the pretentiousness I described earlier cut and cauterized out, leaving only the base angst and rebellion laid bare. As virtually every track shows (especially Pariah, Toybox, So Cool and Nevermore), thin hope is better than none. As long as there are bands like this (and less like The Offspring), true alternative music will always live on. Recommended. -Dave Wolff

Thursday, March 26, 2015

CD review: HEAVEN HOLOCAUST Kings Of Genocide by Dave Wolff

Kings Of Genocide
Heaven Holocaust is a Texas black metal band that formed in 2005. Besides releasing a self-produced demo in October 2005, they released their EP Kings Of Genocide in 2014. Following an intro are six tracks with downtuned guitars and double bass percussion presenting a decent marriage of black and death metal. Think of The Abyss and early Marduk. Not to say there’s an oversaturation of the Swedish melodic death sound but there are definite shades of it. In contrast to some of the cult themed black metal releases circulating out there, all the instruments are mixed well; abrasive guitars accompany the brutal death elements, the bass is audible providing appropriate bottom and the drums are sufficiently tight to propel this release. As the band name suggests, the lyrics center on blasphemy against organized religion, liberation from suppression and return to pre-inquisition values. The symbolic destruction of pretense to piety in favor of the physical life force that pushes mankind on. Repeated listens might hypnotically fuel and transform said life force into something tangible. I can see myself getting into this if released twenty years earlier for just that reason. It was a time when extreme metal’s potential for growth and maturity had yet to be tapped into. From the gritty yet clean song structure and a sample here and there it will be interesting to see how Heaven Holocaust choose to progress next time they enter the studio. Songs that stood out for me include “Desecrate The Temple,” “Incantation” and “Virtues of Sodomy” for the qualities described above. -Dave Wolff

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

CD review: SÉANCE Where The Gigolos Roam by Dave Wolff

Where The Gigolos Roam
Yet another impressive demo recording courtesy of Lucy Poems. This ten-track CD is the first release of Séance in some time and a significant improvement from past releases, both musicianship and production-wise. I’ve been checking out his work for longer than a decade and It was a pleasant surprise how much things have gotten better this time around. The improved production allows for a clearer sound and more atmosphere to represent the melancholy of these songs, complete with somber guitars and mournful piano. The bass and drums are clearer and there are even varying sound levels, samples, effects and background female choruses. I think the lead vocals can still do with some improvement but this is minor considering how far Poems has come otherwise. His lyrics are moving beyond familiar themes of dark longing, lost love, emptiness and regret. Those are still there and all the more convincing but with them are a few verses about the current state of world affairs. Poems and Omen who writes and composes the music created what could be on a full length promoted and distributed by a prominent indie goth label given the needed backing and publicity. Here there is potential to grow from the traditional goth influences, not away from them. To progress from the root darkness and prove this style can mature without compromise. Much like black metal expanded its horizons in that crucial period of development from the early 90s to late 90s. All that’s needed is for those feelings to be genuine and not converted into something mainstream friendly. -Dave Wolff

CD review: VENOM From The Very Depths by Reggae

From The Very Depths
Well a new Venom album has dropped…. Usual questions like “Does it compare to Welcome to Hell/Black Metal?” will be asked….. No…. No it does not. It’s not 1981 anymore. Venom created something magical in the early 80’s, in turn giving birth to the entire extreme metal scene, be it death, black or thrash metal. Unfortunately moments in time cannot be recreated and this release needs to be judged on its own merits.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should admit Venom shaped a very large part of my childhood/teenage years they are much of the reason I play metal today, the reason for my lifelong interest in the occult, the reason why we almost always play “In League With Satan” whenever we hit the stage, On occasions I even get my band to play exclusively Venom set lists…. such is my reverence for the almighty trinity.
It is with great relief, and the first time in many years Venom have created an album that is not just passable, It’s actually quite good. Just don’t compare it to their earlier releases. It’s a much tighter affair, a much cleaner studio sound and a more modern sound, which has progressed nicely with the times, I would say infinitely more pummeling than their earlier releases of 30+ years ago. Unfortunately, maybe therein lies the problem, maybe people want to hear something more malevolent or spontaneous in nature. More off the cuff so to speak. I honestly don’t know. Old school venom fans I know have been dumping on this release already. I really like it, more than anything they’ve put out since 1985’s “Possessed” and on par with their 1995 record “cast in stone” record.
Over all it’s a great record and featured tune “Long Haired Punks” is an absolute ass-kicker. If you’re an old school metalhead… just give it a fair listen, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. If you’re a younger metal head, listen to how some true masters of the trade do it… and more importantly lay down your souls for the gods’ rock and roll! This could be one of the most important metal releases of the year. It signals a return to the one true faith of heavy fuckin’ metal. -Reggae

Thursday, March 19, 2015

CD review: THE REIGN The Long Wait by Dave Wolff

Since I listened to some alternative as well as extreme metal in the mid-90s I probably would have gotten into this if it was released around this time. I heard similar records writing for the Long Island paper Good Times and made contacts in the local rock scene. I was reminded more strongly of New York City alternative checking out the bands in question. I hear similar inspiration in alternative here, and subtle inspiration from the Beatles and Rolling Stones (particularly the vocal harmonies and sometimes psychedelic guitar progressions. Occasionally I hear hints of Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains and even Black Sabbath. These days the mainstream industry is incredibly narrow minded (unless you’re dealing with well-established artists) with too much being immediately written off because it’s not “popular” or doesn’t rehash the same tired pop formula. But at least this band makes an effort to be inventive while appealing to aboveground listeners (Nothing Comes Around and Forever Leads To Nothing are examples of this). All the sixteen tracks of The Reign’s The Long Wait are tightly arranged resonating with a potent sense of what founding member/Flushing native Joe Caravella seeks to accomplish in the studio. The lyrics center on relationship issues and the drama that usually accompanies them. Together with the musical backdrops described above I perceive an atmosphere of a club where people are hearing and appreciating a group of hopefuls waiting for their break to arrive at the proper time. Worth the effort for fans of alternative and classic rock. -Dave Wolff

Monday, March 16, 2015

EP review: POST MORTAL POSSESSION Possessing Entity by Dave Wolff

Possessing Entity
Pennsylvania death metal is still thriving as Pittsburgh’s Post Mortal Possession demonstrates effortlessly. Not since Insatanity have I heard a DM band from Philly with this much potential. If your playlist has lacked enough to feed your boundless hunger for all things blasphemous and evil, Post Mortal Possession is a band to reintroduce you to the genre. At five tracks, Possessing Entity shreds your consciousness to ribbons and leaves you wanting to experience more. Even more impressive is that the band have existed for a relatively brief time (since the fall of 2013) and already they’re churning out material worthy of the most prominent underground labels keeping the flame alive. For their debut, this EP shows they don’t have long to go to compare with Incantation and Cryptopsy. Each band member has had experience working with local bands, which clearly shows in the professionalism displayed in these five songs. The drums serve as a relentless backbone for the accompanying music, often reaching near-impossible velocity. So much so that you’ll find yourself wondering how they can keep it up for several minutes and remain that precise. Also noteworthy are the slightly groove laden tempo sections done with Egyptian/Powerslave (Iron Maiden) vibes that appear from song to song. The interaction between this theme and the triplet crunch (plus the classically tinged fretboard gymnastics) in songs like The Arrival makes for some intriguing time changes. The band recently filmed a promotional video for Visceral Butchery that can be viewed on Blank TV’s Youtube profile. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. The Harvest
2. Suspended By Nails
3. Death March
4. The Arrival
5. Visceral Butchery

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

CD review: BLIND SPITE Extinction Event by Dave Wolff

Extinction Event
Legion Blotan
Extinction Event is a four song EP released by Blind Spite in September of 2014. Overall I can say it’s among the better crossovers between brutal death metal and cult black metal I have experienced in some time. The band tune their string instruments down to A so the material contains its depth and heaviness; in addition much of the song structure and production resonates with bands like Fimbulwinter and Belketre in terms of the abrasiveness and shredding vocals on the table. The result is an EP that demonstrates what death/black crossover should have been in the 1990s, sans the mainstream friendliness that would attract bandwagon jumpers who think they are sticking it to the man but supporting the man’s exploitation of the genre. At a time when fans of extreme music were still fighting over which subgenre is truer, those fans were missing the potential of exploring the aspects of both that fit well and create something new and inventive. Musically Blind Spite makes no secret of their position in the grand scheme; this is apparent from how the title song assaults you with almost no preliminaries. Within this chaos is a sci-fi element that vaguely reminded me of Voivod in some cases. Generally speaking this element fits the crossover described above and adds to the band’s original formula. All this is intended as a backdrop for their lyrical diatribes of the human condition, and the progressions in the four tracks reflect their message in a way that will remain with you long after the EP concludes. -Dave Wolff

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

CD review: THREE SIXES Know God, No Peace by Dave Wolff

Know God, No Peace
Universal Sign Records
Even if you've never heard of Three Sixes, The packaging of their full length Know God, No Peace would be enough to interest you in them. The promotional copy mailed to me by frontman Damien LaVey (who I interviewed earlier for this blog) is packaged in a mockup of the bible, comes with a poster and lyric sheet and includes a biography describing the making of the album, their influences, bands they've performed with et cetera. Plus another surprise or two. If you expect an album with the same sound in every song, what you get is an album of eclectic influences from goth to thrash metal to black metal to techno to industrial to hardcore to rap. The fifteen tracks justify the careful thought and planning that went into the packaging, and there's a professionalism that's self-evident from the first track onward. From the printed lyrics appearing on the liner notes, it becomes obvious the band isn’t spewing blasphemy for its own sake, but presenting well considered allegories of how religion is used as a weapon and has been throughout history. Look at the hatred the Westboro Baptist Church spews and the increasing number of Catholic priests offering less than favorable methods of spreading their beliefs in the media. There is admittedly a certain amount of anger directed at this. But there are valid reasons for it, as opposed to the stereotypical sacrilege often associated with metal. The best part of this CD is its sense of mystery, as you wonder what direction it will take next. A cover of AC/DC’s Thunderstruck is included here with effects giving it an entirely new dimension. -Dave Wolff