Sunday, January 20, 2019

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

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

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

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Lyric Video Review: VARNA 'The Craving' by Heather Dawson

Place of origin: Los Angeles, California, USA
Genre: Hard rock, pop rock
Lyric Video: The Craving
Produced by: Erik Ron
Release date: January 8, 2019
This morning the air is heavy with anticipation as I tear through my house cleaning and planning for being trapped here for at least 48 hours with a reported ‘snowpocolypse’ poised to wreak havoc on my small, seaside enclave. So to distract and entertain myself, I flip through FB messenger to check out a video Dave Wolff sent me a few days ago. It’s an offering called ‘The Craving’ by Varna, a three piece group from LA. It’s one of those ‘Lyric’ videos, you know the deal, just creatively flashing the lyrics over some jazzy background while the song plays. The song’s not half bad for a hard rock albeit pop tune, but if I’m basing my comments on the video and not the song itself I have to say ‘meh’.
The lyrics while evocative they don’t really stand on their own and the driving music begs for something more interesting to watch. As I’m watching I think ‘well maybe this is an older person (such as myself) who may not want to put themselves out there as the star of a sexy video’. I go to check out their website. I learn Varna not only sounds good, hell, they look good too. Huh.
So what gives here? The song is recorded at fevered pitch and there’s no really break in the energy. It seems to me like it’s all pinned to the red. Which is a thing these days; I understand. There’s a machine gun quality to the drums which, if you know me, you know I love that. I want everything to sound like a freight train going off a cliff. Mind you, I said ‘freight train’. A low, fast, chugging, behemoth in a sure and steady acceleration towards certain annihilation. Not a monorail on a thin track racing people at 300 mph to most likely get them to work. This isn’t a dig, really, cause I get what’s going on. This is a good tight band, they have a lot of buzz and have been getting a lot of accolades, rightfully so. And that’s awesome. Also they are palatable - making hard rock acceptable for the buying public. Again kudos. I just like a little more metal in my metal. There’s a facade here that I want to break through. But there’s no real payoff here - the train ambles into the station and we are left feeling - is that it? Was that the ride?
Now the good stuff. Lead singer Tiana Woods lists and eclectic group of influences - and right on. Cause we all have people other than Phil Anselmo in our stable of reasons why. (I just watched Miley Cyrus do her thing at that Chris Cornell tribute - holy baby Jesus that was a little bit of alright). To my ear she’s a modern day Pat Benatar - who, you will remember way back when, played as hard of rock as pop music got back in the 80s. Ms. Woods is smooootthhh and powerful - two attributes hard to come by these days. She’s a total pro. There’s no BS here. Also, she’s singing about her own sexual desire, unashamedly and unabashed and as well she should. I know I’m late to the game in this - but women have wants and desires and for too long have masked them in the ‘I want him to love me I want him to be my guy’ thing when really it’s more about lust than love. In the Dead Weather song ‘Gasoline’ Alison Mosshart sang ‘I don’t want a sweetheart, sweetheart. I want a machine’. She’s a woman singing the single entendre as good as Bon Scott... Ms Woods gleefully does the same here.
However I feel this provocative and empowering message gets lost in this song. As I said the fever pitch, lack of nuance, pop sensitivity along with a track void of musical deviation wears the listener out. Especially when there’s no awesome band to watch kick it out - just the lyrics. Had they coupled the lyric style with a performance and/or storyline video you could have an attention and ball grabbing film here. But as it stands - it’s lacking.
All this being said, I’m dying to see these guys live. Many times producers and engineers want to ‘clean up’ a song - get rid of the growl and anything that might be seen as not marketable when tracking songs. I prefer my music to be not so pretty and for some reason I think on stage Ms Woods and her companions in rock are a collective, sexy beast to be reckoned with. -Heather Dawson

Tiana Woods: Vocals
Eddie Haddad: Guitar
Sean Moriarty: Drums

Single Review: ZWAREMACHINE Remain Unseen (Independent) by James K. Blaylock

Place of origin: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Genre: Industrial, EBM, Darkwave, Cyber, Electronic
Single: Remain Unseen
Label: Independent
Release date: December 10, 2018
Zwaremachine sounds like what you might get if Skinny Puppy, Ministry, KMFDM, Rammstein, Front 242, Pigface and My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult had an illegitimate child together. With a little bit of Nine Inch Nails and Front Line Assembly thrown in for good measure. Indeed this would be, and is, a many headed industrial beast. Perhaps they would have ruled the 80s and 90s, but that’s neither here nor there. One thing is clear, they obviously took time to cut their teeth on some of their peers’ choicest cuts. So, of course, Remains Unseen fits right in. Really, I guess, I should say He, because the band is essentially one mastermind. Mach Fox is his, stage, name. He uses a variety of different musicians to perform his music live. Oh, honestly, I thought this one man show must be from somewhere far and away, but I was surprisingly wrong. He’s from right here, in the United States of America. Minnesota to be exact. So, if you have a hankering for some new industrial/electro music, here is your opportunity. Trust me, you won’t regret it. There you have it the good, the bad and the ugly. -James K. Blaylock

Mach Fox: Vocals, programming
Dbot: Bass guitar
MakattaK: Electronic drums

Friday, January 18, 2019

Single Review: SAMADHI SITARAM Pantera (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Place of origin: Moscow, Russia
Genre: Conceptual metal
Single: Pantera
Label: Independent
Release date: January 1, 2019
Pantera is the first single I’ve heard from Samadhi Sitaram since I reviewed their brilliant full length KaliYuga Babalon, which Sliptrick Records released in 2017. I was forwarded a link to the Youtube stream of this single by Samadhi Sitaram’s manager Iofavn Demonid. When asked for some info about the stream he concisely explained the band’s intent was to write a sincere homage to the late Vinnie Paul and Darrell Abbott of Pantera, and the profound impact the band had on them. Being a Pantera fan I can relate to this simple sentiment, knowing how they became nationally renowned and re-established metal as a force in the mainstream practically overnight, in the middle of grunge’s emergence into the spotlight. This led to Pantera sustaining a cult following long after they disbanded, since it proved encouraging to underground musicians who were discontented with the lack of aboveground recognition, or constant charges that the genre is dead. Being a band that defies categorization (as my review of KaliYuga Babalon indicated) and seek to be recognized and appreciated for it, Samadhi Sitaram express their admiration for a band that was rewarded for going against the grain, and proved there are many people who relate to the genre. Their influences on KaliYuga Babalon range from djent to groovecore to deathcore to mathcore, and they made thorough efforts to arrange them differently. On the Pantera single they make a departure from the direction of that album, sounding closer to the heaviness of Pantera and the tribal rhythm of Sepultura. These themes are instantly recognizable as they’re interpreted in this song, and Samadhi Sitaram play with a primal simplicity that is incessant, hypnotic and infectious. Toward the end they bring in something of an industrial theme, followed by a guitar line with low sliding notes that grows more intense. Samadhi Sitaram’s early January release of Pantera has been generating a buzz on the web so if you’re a Pantera fan do yourself a favor and give it a chance. -Dave Wolff

BrutalRA: Strings
IOFavn: Vocals
SharkАкулыч: Bass

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Promotional Video Review: BAD BONES 'American Days' by Heather Dawson

Place of origin: Mondovì, Italy
Genre: Rock, metal
Promotional video: American Days
From: High Rollers, full length released on Sliptrick Records October 23, 2018
Release date: September 30, 2018
As an adult in these here United States, dealing with work, kids, home, family etc, the ‘sandwich generation’ is feeling the heat from every angle. Then we are told we are not good enough, strong enough, attractive enough or wealthy enough to be relevant. On top of that we are afraid of crime, unemployment, environmental disaster and pandemic diseases that the media keep telling us about and the government keeps pushing on us. It’s enough to make you want to just hide under the covers and never see the light of day again....
So I want to thank the Universe for being so kind to put Bad Bones’ newest video ‘American Days’ in front of my peepers this cold morning.
The song itself is a raucous, fun fest akin to an 80s Twisted Sister or early Mötley Crüe offering. (why did Apple see fit to putting the umlaut in Motörhead but not Mötley Crüe? Although, in fairness, Motörhead is an infinitely superior band, and more deserving of the coveted “metal umlaut”, I get that). The song is a ‘wait till your folks are asleep, push the car out of the driveway, drink Boone’s Farm wine and make it with your girl in the beach parking lot on a Friday night’ anthem. And who doesn’t need a little throwback fantasy of teenage irresponsibility and freedom right now. I mean yea, in the days of my youth the US and USSR had nukes pointed at one another every day, and a dithering old man had his finger on THE BUTTON, but sooooo whattt... we were young wild and free (in the words of that old Triumph song) so who cared. It’s this kind of wild freedom that Bad Bones pulls from our collective memory and has us feeling like we are right back there.
Yet, in the video, it’s not young, skinny, heshers running around on stage and demonstrating acts of joy filled vandalism; it’s dudes my age. Which is inspiring. Bad Bones is telling us ‘YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! YOUR FEARS AND CONCERNS ARE UNIVERSAL AND JESUS, WE ALL JUST NEED A GOD DAMN BREAK FROM THE EVER PRESENT DOOM. ‘And so we can live vicariously and at the same time live in our glorious pasts as we watch these guys rip it up and tear it up. ‘Gotta loose yourself to find your way...’ amen brothers AMEN.
To be sure, this isn’t glossy hair metal... these dudes know what they are doing... yea the production may be as slick as a pair of CC Deville’s spandex pants... but these guys can play. It’s a - excuse the hackneyed expression - tasty track. In all its fanfare it’s not over done and in all its precision not self-reverential or precious. In the video the band shamelessly lip-syncs and plays air guitar, bass and even air drums with a fun loving, self-deprecating sense of humor. Oh? A band with a sense of humor in music today? What a freaking breath of fresh air. Other bands that don’t take themselves overly serious, let’s see there’s... Foo Fighters annndddd... these guys and... that’s it. (Hey! Everyone else! It’s rock and roll, it’s supposed to be fun... crack a smile every once in a while, Jesus...)
In the end what we get is a spirit raising kick in the pants. Sort of saying ‘hey you big, dumb, metalhead! Remember who you are! Remember what fun was! And use that energy and spirt to get through the tough days...’ It’s an inspiring message and one I hope to take with me through these strange new American Days... -Heather Dawson

Max Bone: Vocals
SerJoe Bone: Guitar, backing vocals
Steve Bone: Bass, backing vocals
Lele Bone: drums

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Interview with Steve Balocco of BADBONES by Dave Wolff

Interview with Steve Balocco of BADBONES

You recently released a promotional video for your song American Days, which can be viewed at the band’s official website and Sliptrick Records’ Youtube channel. What is the song about and who was involved in the making of the video?
Hi! Thank you very much for this interview, so let’s answer the question! American Days is the first single taken from our new album “High Rollers”. The lyrics talk about the beginning of our American adventure back in 2008 when we left our families, houses and jobs in Italy to move to Los Angeles, California and try to survive playing our music. It was an amazing journey that gave us strength and deep friendships, through highs and lows, learning the hard law of the streets we built the backbone of our musical integrity and our artistic vision. We need to come back to California almost every year to find ourselves again! The video has been shot part in Ventura County and part during our live concert at the Whisky a Go Go in November 2017 by the amazing cinematographer Krista Le’ Kefauver, and directed by the talented Andrea Gianotti and produced by our brother Roy Sotelo.

For what reasons did the band choose American Days as the first video from the new full length?
We chose “American Days” because it’s a song full of energy and the lyrics bring the listener straight to the center of Bad Bones world, our music is a journey and California is always a good starting point.

Were you already acquainted by the people who worked on the video with you, or were their talents sought out?
Roy Sotelo my best friend and manager introduced us to the talented cinematographer Krista Le’ Kefauver who did an amazing job during the shooting in the USA. Andrea Gianotti is a dear friend who works for Sky TV Italy. We are really happy with the final result.

In what ways does the American Days video represent the band’s experiences from the beginning?
At the very beginning of the video you see the band pushing a destroyed car and that’s full of meanings for us! We pushed broken vans and cars several times in our career and sometimes a broken van can help you to find new people and turn a tragedy in to something amazing. It happened ten years ago in California when we met our brother and manager Roy Sotelo. The whole video is a tribute to the idea of the touring band!

As you describe it, American Days is not a typical rock video. It’s more based in reality, presenting the idea that playing in bands is not all fun and games. Is this what you set out to put across?
Our music is based on reality. Being in a rock band is not easy; you have to work hard and do sacrifices but at the same time you are following your passion. You travel and meet people around the world, so in the end every effort leads you to something positive. We are honest to ourselves and to the fans. Our music comes from real life; each song is a picture of the things we were living in that moment. And American Days is a frame of a ten years journey.

Has the band made promotional videos to promote your albums, besides the one you made for American Days?
We released our new video two weeks ago. We shot Midnight Rider in Rome during our show at Let It Beer. The screenplay was by Christian Tipaldi who worked Vasco Rossi and Maurizio Solieri, who are really huge in Italy. 

Describe the recording process of High Rollers. Did you attend a professional recording studio or use your own studio as more bands are doing these days?
High Rollers was recorded mixed and mastered at Domination Studio in San Marino by Simone Mularoni (DGM). The vocals were produced and recorded by Roberto Tiranti (Labyrinth - Wonderworld) in his personal studio in Genoa. We have worked with Roberto and Simone since Demolition Derby. They are great musicians and there is a great feeling among us. There are always great vibes in the studio; we have clear ideas of the final result and there is a great chemistry among us. I think that this team will endure for a long time.

How much of a feel for the band does Roberto and Simone have since you’ve worked together for this long?
When we started working on our previous album Demolition Derby we decided to work with Simone as a producer. At the time we were managed by Aldo Lo Nobile from Secret Sphere and he suggested us to find someone to produce vocals. We immediately asked Roberto since he knew the band already. He was excited to work with us and Max was a great fan of Roberto since he was a teenager, so everything clicked between us. The same happened with Simone, everybody knows he is one of the top producers in Italy, we love his band DGM and the amazing work he made with Hell In The Club. To work with those guys was so natural and funny, we were really happy of the final results we decided to confirm this team even for the new album.

Tell the readers some more about those two bands DGM and Hell In The Club, and Simone’s work with them.
Simone is DGM’s guitar player and producer. He was known as a great Metal producer. We were really impressed with his work but we thought our music was too rock’n’roll for him. After we listened to the second HITC album, which is really good and 100% rock, we decided to ask him to produce Demolition Derby. Everything clicked from the beginning and I think we will work with Simone for long time.

Does Simone have an approach to producing that is all his own? How does his experience as a guitarist help Badbones?
Simone knows our sound very well. During those years we worked hard to find our way and Simone really loves our music. He worked with me and Sergio and it was a real exchange of knowledge. We use our amps when recording to have the same sound we have live. That’s the great challenge, to have the same live vibe on the tracks.

How did you hook up with Sliptrick Records to release High Rollers? Was this the first label you came into contact with? How has Sliptrick been treating the band so far?
Our first three albums were released by different labels. At a certain point it seemed we couldn’t find the right situation, then in 2016 we received a proposal by Sliptrick Records for the release of our fourth album Demolition Derby. Things went very well with them and we decided to go on releasing High Rollers. With Sliptrick we found a great balance between the constraints of being under contract with a label and the freedom of take decisions as a band. I have to thank Carlo Muselli and all the staff of our label for the love and respect they have for our music.

What are the labels your previous albums were released on? How many labels did you seek out before Sliptrick finally contacted you?
Our first album “Smalltown Brawlers” was self-produced in 2008 and then released by Red Pony Records in 2009 with bonus tracks. Our second “A Family Affair” has been released by Nadir Music, our third “Snakes And Bones” by Bagana Records in 2012 and then in 2014 with a deluxe edition with bonus tracks. When we recorded “Demolition Derby” we didn’t have any deal. We contacted a few labels sending our new music and two labels were interested. We choose the one that seemed more motivated in a long term partnership.

How much publicity did Sliptrick help Demolition Derby receive once it came out? How much did it help the album?
Sliptrick did a great job. “Demolition Derby” had tons of reviews around the world and has been supported by a real world tour. We played for the first time in Russia, then back to Europe and in the end the USA with our final show in Los Angeles at the Whisky a Go Go. Of course there were things to improve but we are really satisfied.

Is High Rollers receiving the same amount of praise from fanzines and magazines? Are there any examples you want to cite?
High Rollers has really good reviews around the globe, from the US to Spain, Germany and the UK. The most important rock/metal website in Italy,, put our album in the ten best albums of the year and that’s a great thing for us.

Has the band been interviewed in major publications from the countries where High Rollers has been favorably received?
We’ve been interviewed by Americans, Russian and European webzines and magazines, I think also some from Japan will come soon, High Rollers received a great response from journalists, we are really glad to have such good reviews around the world.

Which magazines from those countries gave High Rollers the most favorable reviews?
We are grateful to all the magazines who spent amazing words on our music, from Spain to USA to Germany UK, Japan and Russia, too many to remember, I have to thank Metal Hammer Italy who believed in us from the beginning, Jamsphere USA/UK, Classic Rock Germany, Loud And Proud and Rock Hard Italy, and you for this interview.

How much exposure have those interviews gotten the band in the countries where they were published?
When magazines ask you for an interview after reviewing your album is a good thing, it means that the band has a good appeal and it is a great opportunity for us, it is good to tell the story behind the music

Where has the band traveled since they started? Are there any tales you want to share with the readers?
We have been so lucky to perform in many different country from the USA to Russia and through Europe from Germany to the Baltics and of course Italy and France. I remember in Ventura back in the days we were supporting Youth Brigade at Mai’s cafe, our van died thirty miles before the arrival so we been towed to the venue, when we arrived next to the club there were all of the Youth Brigade waiting to enter the club and as soon we were close to them the Mexican truck driver who was towing us started screaming “Entrada Triunfal” to the people!!! Everybody laughed a lot! It was a tragic - comic situation!

What was it like to play in Russia for the first time? In what ways are the audiences different from those in the US? How do the clubs over there treat the bands?
We had great time in Russia, a beautiful country. We played in Moscow, Jaroslav, Vologda, Kaluga and Ryazan. We found true rockers and beautiful women, friendly and welcoming people, Moscow is astonishing; it surprised me as a modern and clean city. The clubs had good PA systems and professional sound engineers. The bands who supported us were really good and we are still in contact with most of them! There is not a big difference between Russian, American or European audiences. Of course there are different cultures but rock’n’roll unites people and that is amazing.

What bands who you met in Russia are you staying in contact with?
Cat House from Moscow supported us during the tour. They are really good musicians and nice people; we had great time with those guys! Actually their guitar player Jerry Lenin is releasing his solo album, It’s a really good work, so if you are interested in Russian rock music give them a chance.

How much of Russia’s cultural history did you and the band take in while you toured there?
Russian culture is very patriotic and you see flags everywhere. They are proud people, but very welcoming and open. They love Italians because during the Soviet Union era, Italian music was the only western music permitted to be listened to legally. The national television broadcast the San Remo Festival so people well know the traditional Italian “Musica Leggera.” So it was funny to listen people sing in Italian when they knew we come from Belpaese.

Do you have tales to share from your tour through Germany? What clubs in that country are well known and how were you received?
Germany is the best country for rock music in Europe. We had a great time there. We always play in a club in Kostanz for lots of friends and bikers. One night we played three full sets; people wanted us to play again and again and we couldn’t finish the show. I think we made the longest version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” ever made. Five minutes or it was just the guitar solo!

What was the name of the club you appeared at in Koztanz? Did you appear at any other clubs of note while you were in Germany?
We have a solid fan base at Rockbar in Konstanz. We are always happy to come back to Germany; our booking agency in Hamburg is planning a full tour there.

How well was Badbones received in the Baltics, Italy and France? What clubs from those countries are well known?
In Liepaja, Latvia there is Fontaine Palace. We played there on New Year’s Eve and it was amazing. Lithuania at Klubas Lemmy is another cool place. In France we played with bands like Saxon and Wasp at Le Splendid in Lille.

You mentioned the exposure the band received in Spain and Germany. Do you plan to perform in those countries in the future?
We will play in Kostanz, Germany on January 26. We also have contacts in Spain and I hope to book some shows there soon. I don’t know where the band will perform in the next future, we have proposals from the UK, Spain, Czech Republic, France but we don’t know what is going to happen.

How many ideas has the band thought up for the next studio album? When you start working on it, will you be working with the same people?
We will start working on new songs in 2020 and I am pretty sure we will work again with Simone Mularoni and Roberto Tiranti, it’s a great team and they are a part of the family.

Video "American Days":
Video "Midnight Rider":

-Dave Wolff

Friday, January 11, 2019

Full Length Review: AZAGHAL Valo pohjoisesta (Immortal Frost Productions) by Dave Wolff

Place of origin: Finland
Genre: Black metal
Availability: CD, digipack and 12″ vinyl formats
Release date: September 24, 2018
Azaghal started out as Belfegor in 1995; in ‘97 they changed their name to avoid being confused with Austria’s Belphegor. The years between 1998 and 2018 saw many full lengths and even more splits. One of the ways by which Azaghal refined their method, according to their Facebook biography was to release colder and more inhuman sounding albums than the last. The band also made a point of infusing more diversity and prolific musicianship to their songs. Both goals are achieved on ‘Valo pohjoisesta,’ their latest album which was released last September. They are after all from a Scandinavian country and by now the rawness, coldness and atmosphere the bands from that area create has long been a demonic lusus natural, with tentacles reaching every part of our terrestrial sphere. The art of composing intros that suggest what is to come is not lost on Azaghal. I often compared intros to gateways into other worlds; the intro here (VLE) is like a piece of an otherworldly plane that somehow managed to manifest itself in our world. There was something about that brief instrumental that persuaded me to listen to ‘Valo pohjoisesta’ more than once, to take in the evil themes penetrating my thoughts. VLE starts with keyboard notes, fiendish voices and other sounds, becoming a menacing prelude with piano, keyboards and percussion. Slowly builds in volume and magnitude, it concludes with a sudden flourish that is followed by a moment of silence. I was sufficiently prepared for Mato Joka Sinut Turmelee, a song that emulates the best of Norwegian and Swedish black metal, adding its own impression of frostiness. It’s like the awakening of an abomination from those vast expanses of snow and ice that threatens to transform the world into a huge glacier. This song and those that come after are played with a fearsome contained forcefulness. There is also an aptness to the musicianship carrying the songs far beyond the bludgeoning of raw black metal. You have to hear the songs (including the title cut, Ruumistie, Sielujen Yössä and Taivaan Käärme Nielee Auringon) firsthand but Azaghal manage to validate the inventiveness of black metal in its own way. ‘Valo pohjoisesta’ is well worth the money spent on it. -Dave Wolff

Niflungr: Vocals, bass
Narqath: Guitars, bass, keyboards
Lima: Drums

1. VLE (Intro)
2. Mato Joka Sinut Turmelee
3. Valo Pohjoisesta
4. Ajaton
5. Ruumistie
6. Argenteum Astrum
8. Sielujen Yössä
9. Ylistys
10. Taivaan Käärme Nielee Auringon

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Full Length Review: CONDOR El Valle del Cóndor (La Caverna Records) by Sarah McKellar

Place of origin: Bogota, Colombia
Genre: Doom/death/heavy metal
Full length: El Valle del Cóndor
Label: La Caverna Records
Release date: November 28, 2018
Cóndor is a five piece doom/death project hailing from Bogota, Colombia. Signed under Colombian underground label, La Caverna Records, “El Valle del Cóndor” is their 2018 full length release. A classic heavy metal style riff opens this release, in stark contrast to the more doom and death aspects making an interesting start to “El Valle del Cóndor.” It creates a contrast which genuinely melodically works and shows off the musical diversity Cóndor are capable of. Heavy use of distortion feature frequently throughout this release, as well as the use of samples displaying versatility and an experimental streak. The frequent use of heavy metal riffs create either a rocking or mournful tone to the tracks- which is musically very engaging and lends itself to a real sense of diversity to this release. The growling vocals against the harmonious riffs add a layer of brutal contrast and rawness. Cóndor have successfully merged doom, death and heavy metal in a really interesting and creative manner which I personally really enjoyed. Cóndor’s dedication to this release shows in how technically tight they work as a band to create the diversity within “El Valle del Cóndor” and their unique sound. This is a musically diverse, experimental and genuinely interesting release and I look forward to hearing more of Cóndor’s material. -Sarah McKellar

Antonio Espinosa Holguín: Guitars, vocals
Francisco Fernández López: Guitars
Jorge Eduardo Canal Corredor: Guitars, additional vocals
Alejandro Solano Acosta MadiedoL Bass
Andrés Felipe López Vergara: Drums, additional vocals

Track list:
1. Obertura
2. El Páramo de Pisba
3. La Cuchilla del Tambo
4. Santa Rosa de Osos
5. Aw´tha
6. Gudrún
7. Cabeza de Buitre
8. Raudo es el Cauca
9. El Valle del Cóndor

EP Review: SANGUINARY TRANCE Wine, Song and Sacrifice (Independent) by Sarah McKellar

Place of origin: Austria
Genre: Black metal
Label: Independent
Release date: June 14, 2018
Sanguinary Trance is a black metal band from Austria. “Wine, Song and Sacrifice” is their first EP release. A dramatic, chaotic and mournful start catches the listener’s attention immediately. Technically strong musically, combined with brutal vocals provides a level of chaotic energy that is actually very pleasing to listen to. Clashing vocal styles over the consistently chaotic feel provides another really favourable musical element. “Wine, Song and Sacrifice” continues to be consistently oddly melodic throughout this release while a raw feel adds another almost depressive aspect. Sanguinary Trance is technically tight as a whole; their dedication to their music is reflected in the continual technical aspects they display consistently. I enjoyed the melodic, old school yet chaotic approach taken by Sanguinary Trance and look forward to more of their material in the future. -Sarah McKellar

Track list:
1. Wine, Song and Sacrifice
2. Carvings
3. The Dionysos Whip

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Interview with Funeral Grave of GRAVEWURM by Dave Wolff

Interview with Funeral Grave of GRAVEWURM

Before Gravewurm started in 1993 they were a doom-death metal band named Dominion, influenced by Black Sabbath, St, Vitus, Benediction and Unleashed. How active was this incarnation of the band and why the transition to black metal with Gravewurm?
The change was made from Dominion to Gravewurm to reflect the change in writing style. Albeit a subtle change, but I usually never liked when bands would change their style or sound and remain the same name, in a way, misleading the listeners. Dominion was just a learning phase really. Learning how to play and write. The whole concept of being 'a band' actually started before any of us even played. Lyric concepts and (loose) song structures were made before we bought any instruments. So it was a weird time and an unusual / unconventional way to start a band to say the least, haha.

Who did you found Dominion with? Had you known one another before starting a band? Are the members of Dominion also involved in Gravewurm, or were there lineup changes with the name change?
Dominion was originally founded by Blood on vocals and bass and Funeral Grave on guitar. We used a drum machine. We met in college through a mutual friend who was to be our drummer, but he backed out early on, hence using the drum machine to get the creation process started. After a few initial songs / concepts were recorded, our other friend wanted to join as vocalist and became known as Tyrant.
We started to write songs for another demo soon after he joined and changed the name to Born from Fear for a few months. The 'Morbid Decomposure Of Mankind' demo was recorded under that moniker, but then the band name changed to Gravewurm. An indie label called Vonzo Entertainment ran by the drummer of Nunslaughter at that time, showed interest in re-releasing that demo tape in 1993, but under the name Gravewurm since that was the official name by that time. Those tapes were limited to 100 copies with thick green card stock.
Vocalist Tyrant joined shortly before the name change to Born From Fear (which was really just a place holder of a name) and then to Gravewurm a few months later.

In what way was working in Dominion a learning experience, and how did you apply what you learned to working in Gravewurm?
We didn't know how to play at all when the band was created. So we learned how to play and how to write songs all at the same time. It was very 'trial and error'. The unusual way of doing things for us led to some unconventional ways of learning and creating.

How much of your lyrical concepts and loose songwriting you envisioned before starting a band became part of Dominion’s style?
The lyrical concepts and song styles were directly immersed in the Dominion creation. Primitive doom metal with some death metal flavor. Unfortunately our song writing wasn't very good back then so not too many songs were written. The general style carried over to Gravewurm in 1993, but with less doom and more black metal.

Was anything released by Dominion when they were active, such as rehearsal tapes or demos? If so, are any of them still available for trade or purchase?
We had a rehearsal tape in 1991 and a demo in 1992. They are no longer available through the band. Hard to say if any tape traders still have copies in circulation.

Do you remember how much distribution there was of your 1991 rehearsal and ’92 demo? Did the songs on your rehearsal tape appear on your debut demo, or did the demo feature different compositions?
I’m not sure; maybe fifty copies. They were just DIY tape dubs which went to trades and some zines. The Dominion songs ended with the name change.
Gravewurm’s Bestial Wrath rehearsal was re-recorded for the Possessed By Darkness demo. The demos Ancient Storms Of War and Nocturnal Spells were combined for the debut album (along with an intro created by Blakk of Angelkill). A few other demo songs over the years appeared on other releases.

How soon did you begin releasing new material after becoming Gravewurm?
Gravewurm has continuously written, recorded and released CD albums, split CDs, split 7" vinyls, cassettes and vinyl LPs for the past twenty five years. Through various lineup and label changes, we are currently near the time of releasing our fifteenth full length album entitled 'Dread Night' on my own label called Funeral Empire Records. January 4, 2019 is the official release date. Our full discography can be found on the Metal Archives website and many available releases (not all) can be found on our Bandcamp page. Physical CDs, vinyl, shirts etc are available through the band directly and through longtime friends, supporters Hells Headbangers Records and other distros.

Why did the band decide to continue releasing vinyl recordings in their career? Do you and the other members still collect vinyl albums when the opportunity arises?
I liked to do split releases with various bands, so doing split 7" vinyl was great for that at one time. With the rising cost of vinyl and lowering cost of CDs, it just became financially sound for labels to want to press CDs from around the mid 2000s and on. I'm not a huge vinyl collector, but I have releases that I find special to me and releases of my close friends’ bands.

What albums do you have on vinyl that you consider personally special, and albums from bands you’re friends with?
Only three of our full length albums have been released on vinyl thus far. The debut, ANCIENT STORMS OF WAR, the 2010 release, BLOOD OF THE PENTAGRAM and the 2015 release, DOOMED TO ETERNITY. Each of them (and all of the releases, when all is said and done) are special to me as they are a snapshot of time, a look into where the band was at in a specific period of time. The vinyl I have from friends’ bands include Grand Belial's Key, After Death, Sathanas, Nunslaughter and Druid Lord.

Are there mom and pop record stores near you that sell vinyl releases? How much of a comeback have you seen vinyl make in the last five years or so?
There are some independent stores in the Cleveland area which sell vinyl. It really never went away (from what I saw in the underground and special interests genres). I see vinyl now at Target stores of pop and/or rap music. I think it's silly, but if there's a market for something, then I can understand why companies are doing it from a financial point of view.

What was the first label Gravewurm signed to? How long were you seeking labels before you hooked up with them, and how many releases were handled and distributed by the first label to sign Gravewurm? How was the fan response to each of them?
Gravewurm was first signed to Vonzo Entertainment in 1993. We weren't looking for labels at all at that time, since we were still a demo band. Von was cool and it was nice that he took an interest in the band. He only made 100 copies of the 'Morbid Decomposure Of Mankind' cassette. I'm not sure how the response was since the band members had graduated from college shortly thereafter, and we did not see Von again for many years to even inquire about such. By the time we ran into each other again, about twenty years had passed so I wasn't concerned with the distribution of that tape anymore.

What independent label were you signed to after Vonzo Entertainment released Morbid Decomposure Of Mankind?
After Vonzo Entertainment, we signed to Barbarian Wrath in 1999 to release our debut album. They released the first four full length CD albums.

How did you hook up with Barbarian Wrath and how well did they do advertising and distributing your four albums? In what countries did they give you the most publicity? To your knowledge, is Barbarian Wrath still active today?
Barbarian Wrath contacted me in the late 90s after hearing a demo tape (not sure which one). He said he was ending his then current label, Nazguls Eerie Productions and starting a new label. Megiddo, Nunslaughter, Grand Belial's Key and Gravewurm were to be among the first pressed for that label to my recollection. At that time, there was little advertising going on with the label and he was not selling wholesale or doing trades from what I remember. I think that changed shortly thereafter. The status of the label now is uncertain due to the health issues of Opyrus.

How many split releases has Gravewurm appeared on since 1993? Are you still in touch with the bands you shared these splits with?
We have fifteen split releases to date. I am still in touch with some of the bands, like Sathanas, Nunslaughter and Derketa, but many of the bands have since broken up.

Was Gravewurm involved in further collaborations with Sathanas, Nunslaughter and Derketa after your split releases with them, live appearances and the like?
After the various split releases, the only other collaborative efforts with the bands has been a small tour with Sathanas in 2015 and a fest with Arduous Task in Connecticut a few years ago. Necrowolf from Arduous Task played bass for us in a few live shows as well. We are still in contact with those bands.

I read a common misconception is that Gelal Necrosodomy of Grand Belial's Key is a member of Gravewurm, because you and he used the same P.O. Box address. Is there any truth to this? Or what is the story behind it?
We shared a post office box when I lived in Virginia. The increased cost of living in the early 2000s resulted in me moving around the northern Virginia area a lot so I asked Gelal if I could get my mail through his p.o. box for a while. The GBK guys were friends and I hung out with Gelal and Vomit from Doomstone quite a bit back then. Gelal filled in on drums for a few shows around the mid-2000s, but he was never an official member.

Who is the band’s chief lyricist, or have the lyrics always been a collaborative effort between the band members?
I, Funeral Grave, am the chief lyricist. Tyrant wrote a few in the early days, Blood wrote and sang on the song Abbadon's Gate (which is on the Arcane Archives Vol. 2 collection) and Zyklon and I collaborated on a few songs in the mid-2000s.

How much has the band progressed musically and lyrically from 1993 to the present, with all the lineup changes during that time?
The band has not changed much since the early days. I wrote most of the music since the beginning and there was a singular vision for the band. Dark mysticism, ancient realms, sorcery, battles and eternity are among the main topics.

Which Gravewurm albums and/or EPs represent the most radical progressions for the band and why?
The only real "progressions" were made gradually and specifically on certain releases. Our 'Infernal Minions' album had keyboards on a few songs and there has been occasional lead guitar on a few songs in recent years. For the most part, the main music and lyric writing style has remained untainted by modern fads, trends and popularity. We never have had the desire to be in the mainstream. We remain in the underground... in the shadows.

Would the band consider adding strings or female vocals in your songs, or would you rather continue with traditional bass, guitars and drums?
The keyboards on our 2013 album 'Infernal Minions' have a violin type sound. We wanted a guest female vocal for a song a few years ago, but had a scheduling conflict and were unable to make that happen. We are mostly a simplistic band and can create what we need with just guitar, bass, drums and vocals... but on occasion we like the addition of something out of the ordinary for us.

Why do you and the band prefer to remain under the radar so to speak, instead of seeking aboveground recognition?
Our love of metal bands had always seem to come to a halt when bands reach a certain level of 'fame' because that usually signified a (significant) change in writing or even just style of music played. Very few bands have made such significant changes in sound and outlook and continued to hold my interest.

How well has the band generally been received by fanzines and major publications devoted to underground music?
The band overall has not received much praise nor even interest by the metal media over the years. There were increases upon certain releases, but mostly it's just hit-or-miss. Most people are thinking too much about it. In simplest terms, Gravewurm is metal for the fans by the fans. Most pro / semi-pro musicians which have heard our music hate it. They believe it's too simplistic for what most deem as what is needed for a 'proper' song. But we take note from the underdogs of metal, Goatlord and Hellhammer for example. Most people didn't understand them either, and that is a good thing.

What speaks to you about the material recorded by Goatlord and Hellhammer in their time?
Hellhammer and Goatlord captured the essence of pure anguish and power in their music. The tormented vocals, doomy yet aggressive riffs and pounding drums all created an atmosphere that was unique. Many bands were influenced by such sounds whether they know it or not. To me, they were like the Black Sabbath of extreme music. Pioneers who helped create a defining sound that has carried on for decades.

Since the band hasn’t been noticed in print as much, have you had to rely on endless self-promotion and endless live performances to make a name for yourselves? How much has the band been performing lately?
Endless promotion is the only way to survive in the underground. We have not played many live shows due to continuous line-up changes through the years, but we've done some good shows and fests. The current members of Gravewurm are in several other bands and live several states away so doing live shows is tough. In 2017 and 2018, we've only managed to play two shows. We are hopeful to return with more shows next year.

How much promotion has gone into your releases and live appearances? Does mailing fliers or advertising online help spread word more for the band?
Most of modern promotion is done online. There are physical flyers made for shows and on occasion for releases.

What other bands are members of Gravewurm involved in at present? Have any of those bands shared the stage with you?
The drummer plays in Twisted Tower Dire and Division. The bassist plays in Blasphemous and Gross. Gravewurm has not played with any of these bands.

At what fests in what countries has the band appeared in recent years? Were any of them major metal fests or local gatherings?
In recent times, the fests we have played were Prey For Death 2 in Connecticut, Something Bloody Fest in Rhode Island and Hells Headbash 2 in Ohio. All three were massive fests and successful in their own right, but HHB 2 was a huge label fest for Hells Headbangers Records.

Was HHB 2 the first Hells Headbangers fest you appeared at? How long have you been acquainted with them? Has the label released any of your material?
HHB 2 was the most recent fest we had played. Hells Headbangers had pressed four of our releases thus far. 2007 split 7" with Nunslaughter, 2010 CD / Lp of 'Blood of the Pentagram', 2013 CD 'Infernal Minions' and 2015 CD / Lp 'Doomed to Eternity'. I got to know those guys in the mid 2000s and had worked in their warehouse a few years ago.

Have you seen a greater number of metal fests emerging in the US these days? Are the turnouts the same or larger than they were in the 1990s? Are there fests overseas where you would like to appear?
I've noticed more fests here in recent years than ever before. I don’t get to attend many so I can't attest to the attendance. It would be great to return to Europe and even play in South America, but not sure how possible that would be with the current line-up.

What is the band’s present lineup and how long have you been working together?
Snjóhlébarði joined the band around 2011 to do live shows. Since then he's also recorded drums on some of our releases. Josh has been our session bassist since 2017 and recorded on our tribute to Goatlord song 'Primordial Goatlord' (on Arcane Archives Vol. 2).

How many tribute albums has Gravewurm appeared on? Are any of those tributes still available today?
We have not appeared on any tribute albums. The Goatlord tribute song was supposed to be on a four way split 7" but the status of that is unknown.

Does the band have a Youtube profile with videos of your fest appearances? Where on the internet can it be found?
Youtube has various clips of some of our shows over recent years. I believe there is a full set of us opening for Witchtrap in Maryland.

Talk about the making of your latest full length and how well it has done since it was released. In how many formats is it available and how can people acquire a copy?
The latest album Dread Night was written and recorded in the summer months of 2018 and mixed in the fall. The release date was January 4, 2019. Those who did the pre-order have received their copies and it has been very well received by those fans. Dread Night is available on my own label, Funeral Night Records. It is on our Bandcamp page as a digital download and a limited CD. This is the only official way to obtain it. The CDs are selling rather quickly.

How long has Funeral Night Records been active since you started it? Are other bands besides Gravewurm signed to the label? Where online can it be found?
All of the Gravewurm "self-released" products are under that umbrella. There is currently no plans for other releases to be on that label. It's been around for about ten years. Its only online presence is through our releases and Bandcamp page.

Where was Dread Night recorded and mixed? How much input into the sound and production did the band have?
Snjóhlébarði recorded the drums in Woodbridge, Virginia and I recorded in Lakewood, Ohio. Snjóhlébarði did the drum production and I handled the other instruments and final mix.

Was Dread Night produced independently by the band? Do you prefer producing your albums independently as opposed to working with a professional producer?
I have 'produced' all of the Gravewurm recordings. At times, there have been collaboration with certain engineers on some releases, but for the most part, it boils down to me. We're an underground band so I don't feel the need to be 'produced' by anyone who has not had a hand in creating the music.

What equipment do you usually use for recording, mixing, and mastering, etc?
I use a Korg multi-channel digital recorder and mixer.

What were the songs appearing on Dread Night written about and inspired by?
The inspiration for our songs has not changed much over the years, but this album focuses on ancient mysticism and talismans of night time, nocturnal powers from beyond, life, death and warriors long since turned to dust. Lyrics for the 'Dread Night' album are mostly fantasy. But as with a lot of our albums, some songs could be considered 'historical fiction' as well.

Where is the band planning to perform to promote the new album? Will you mostly be playing in the US or going overseas also?
Plans to play a few select shows on the east coast in the states are in the works, but nothing at this time is officially scheduled.

How soon do you imagine you‘ll start writing and composing songs for the next album?
There are beginnings of some new songs recorded for an MCD that may come out by the end of this year or early next year, depending on how we are with playing shows.

-Dave Wolff