Friday, June 28, 2019

Serialization: "The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice" by Roberta Downing: Chapter Eleven

The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice
Novel by Roberta Downing
Cover artwork designed by Jerry Langdon

Chapter Eleven

Clef and Satyr were four years into their training at Katana’s Home. The place was hidden by enchantments and unless you knew exactly where it was, there would be no way anyone would find it. Katana’s Home was like an empire unto itself and ran independently from any of the rules and laws set forth by any King or Emperor. Lady Katana herself was in fact the Empress and she alone set the way it would run.
It was a very hard life for a Katana. The combat training and testing were the most strenuous for the recruits. The recruits only had one weekend free per month in order to unwind, catch up on rest and read and send mail and have portraits or drawings made to send home.
From the time the recruits arrive, Katana’s Home holds a war every year and new recruits are expected to participate. It was not uncommon for novices to die and as a matter of fact, it didn’t matter what grade or rank one was in, life was never guaranteed. Death was something that all of them had to learn to accept.
Clef and Satyr would work on their battle plan to lay siege to the city of the dead on their weekend off and this was often the dream of every young Katana. For thousands of years every combatant from around the world had at some point in their life contemplated waging war on the unholy place.
Satyr spent time going over the letters that Bell had sent during the month. She had a tendency to write him at least twice a week. One letter was helping him with his common and the second letter was keeping him informed of her training and of course professing her love for him. She was good about sending two portraits to him each year while she only sent one to her brother a year.
The Katanas were now entering into their classes on war, even though they had all participated in many of them before. They were now learning all the intricate ins and outs, how to lead, how to identify the dead, how to use siege weapons, how to use their stealth to enter and exit with information that would help the side that they would be assigned to. They learned how to lead, how to follow and how to command.
These classes only fueled the two blood brothers in their resolve to one day lay waste to the damned city but it also raised suspicions that with the war waging in Windmere that they may be called to participate in that war as the Duke was just not willing to give up lands he unjustly stole from a Marque.
Upon mail call and Satyr opening up his mail, Clef became aware that there must be something going on between his best friend and his sister. He snatched the letter from his hand and read it. Clef was enraged and punched his blood brother. Satyr did not defend himself and took the full blow and then laughed.
“What are you laughing about? That’s my sister!” Clef said.
“You always were the slow one between us. I thought it would take you a little longer to figure it out.” Satyr replied.
“Just how long has this been going on?” Clef asked.
“The last two and a half years” Satyr replied as he laughed. “Like I said, you are the slow one.”
The two of them were brothers, not just in arms but blood brothers. It had been that way since the first day they met and now it seemed Clef almost let a rift come between them over his sister.
“I don’t know why you are angry. You are after all the one who pushed me to write to her to help me learn the common tongue instead of me losing my one weekend a month for a tutor. Now you get all pissed off because I am in love with your sister. What is it? You don’t think I’m good enough for her? Is that it?” Satyr said.
“I…I didn’t mean it that way.” Clef said.
Crossing his arms he said, “Then just how did you mean it jackass?”
Clef contemplated his actions and the reaction of his best friend. He didn’t respond because he knew Satyr was right; he was a jackass. He had been to hell and back with his blood brother and knew that his friend was loyal to a fault, lived and breathed a code of honor, was first in the division and saved his ass and life more than once. If there was anyone in this world who was worthy of his sister it was him.
“What? No snarky come back? Not going to try to assonate me while I’m sleeping or put poison in my food?” Satyr asked.
Clef laughed. Part of their training was assassination and counter assassination and one of their current classes was in herbology. The two decided to go to the gym for a work out.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Interview with The Raz of GRAVEYARD by Dave Wolff

Interview with The Raz of GRAVEYARD

When Graveyard formed in Long Island in 1991 grindcore was gaining in popularity and the local death metal scene was getting started. What do you remember from that point in time; the bands you knew, the clubs you attended etc?
Around 1991 grindcore was really starting to kick in with all the stuff that was released on Earache, Necrosis, and Vinyl Solution.
Here in the US there was not much label support for this kind of new sound. Back then Wild Rags Records had Impetigo, Nuclear Death and other extreme bands, but it was all still pretty very much underground.
I remember playing these bands on my radio show, and while part of the audience was into it, the others were like “WTF???”
We played a wide range of metal that you really couldn't place into a specific genre. Demos from local bands like Suffocation, Immolation, Ripping Headaches, Mortician, Prime Evil, Teste Fungus, Apparition, The Unsane, Winter. I mean they really covered a wide style of metal that eventually branched out into the many different styles we have today. We also played the heaviest stuff from all over America and around the world. It was all just really heavy, extreme metal; but universal, which made it all so interesting.
The main metal stages in New York back then of course were Sundance in Long Island. In Brooklyn and NYC you had L'Amour, The Ritz, and others. If I can recall correctly, these demo bands would only be allowed to play small bars and high schools at the start. That was before they got signed to a label. Once in a while they'd all manage to gather together and arrange a festival as say what was done with the Day Of Death fest at the Country Club Skyroom in Buffalo, New York in 1990.
That was also the time when I got to know Custodian Killer and we started GRAVEYARD. Later that year I left radio. I think if I had continued doing the show it would have gotten very interesting to see local bands like Suffocation and Immolation gain in popularity. I left the show off to Kevin "PARM" Page who actually gets credit for pushing and supporting the bands and grindcore acts of the 90’s on the radio.

With Eric Cutler of Autopsy
In Long Island and New York City there was also February’s, Right Track Inn, CBGB, Zone DK and Irving Plaza. Do you have memories of seeing bands at those venues?
Now that you mention, I forgot a lot of these places. We’re going back 30+ years here. CBGB’s was definitely the biggest venue to play if you were underground. I recall seeing Possessed / Dark Angel at Rum Runners in Oyster Bay, that was the day after Possessed had a record signing for their new release ‘Beyond the Gates’ at Sam Ash. I think that was in 1987, but in checking the internet I could not find a listing of such a show. That’s kind of scary. Also caught Coroner on their No More Color Tour in 1990; I think they played with Forced Entry at this place I called the ‘whipping parlor’ because there were some S&M acts on stage before and after the show. I can’t find that concert listed either. I vaguely recall Irving Plaza, but certainly saw some bands do shows there. You have to remember the consumption of inane amounts of alcohol and other illicit substances was the metal way back then (at least for me), so everything is kind of like in a haze. 

I knew and corresponded with several bands in their beginnings and played in a few local bands… Did you have a feeling the bands you were in touch with were onto something new?
You have to believe it’s all a natural evolutionary process. Out there is a sound, or a scene you want to be a part of. Ideas are conceived, kids get together and try to make it - in the case of metal; louder, faster and sicker. They can imitate the bands they love to get in good practice, but eventually everyone wants to be unique and stand out. That’s where the new ideas and styles come from. Record, get it out. From there it all comes down to commitment, talent, funding, contacts, and a bit of luck. The bands you mentioned had this enthusiasm to make it, just as you can still find this exact energy and occurrence happening in different areas of the world today.
Obviously they were all onto something. It eventually became part of the metal we have today. There are so many sub-genres now, you really have to follow the lineage. Unfortunately not everyone gets to win in this game. That’s just a law of life. Judas Priest says it in the line from “Screaming for Vengeance”: “Everyone who wins in the great escape, leaves a thousand more who suffer in their wake.”

Some people think there are too many subgenres in underground music these days.
Sub-genres for me are just labels, some bands create them to be unique. As an example, we call GRAVEYARD ‘Mindless Political Death Noise’. Now if that’s a recognized sub-genre or not, I don’t really give a fuck, but since we hold a very dark view of the contemporary world and society, that’s why it’s ‘political’. Most of our music is created spontaneously hence ‘mindless’. Our sound is a mix of everything, extreme, and metal that feels like the end, so that’s where ‘death noise’ comes from.
Since everyone wants to either ‘stand apart’ or ‘fit’ into some category, naturally, over time, you are going to develop new forms of musical sub-genres. As long as you respect your roots, know where your sound comes from, and stay true to the scene; then why not? It’s just difficult to keep up with all these different names.
When people who have no idea about what metal is, actually start labeling and promoting their music as heavy metal, or some sub-genre of heavy metal, I think that’s where we have a problem. A lot of record companies and smart PR people are responsible for these types of viruses in metal today; and are the reason why we remain committed exclusively to the underground.

With Samoth of Emperor
How many bands did you have the opportunity to interview for your radio program? Was leaving radio to become a musician an easy transition for you?
I’d have to go back to count, but it was a lot. On our final show on-air, I recall running the entire tape of station ID’s made with the bands interviewed over the four years I was there. I believe the tape ran for something like eight minutes; so that must be like more than thirty bands.
I don’t really consider myself a musician, although I’ve always loved creating noise and music since childhood. Being at the radio station really helped me listen to and meet many bands, and also learn a lot about how the industry works. I guess more-so than say I would if I was only going to start a band after listening to a bunch of records. I left the radio because it was starting to get really difficult for me to go every weekend from Nassau to Suffolk County to do a show. Considering I didn’t want to just lose touch with the scene and all the time I had invested in it; I believed starting a band would be a great way for me to keep involved with both the music and scene.

Offhand do you remember any memorable interviews you aired with a band? Are your interviews preserved on tape? Would you consider releasing a CD of those programs?
Wow, people like the late Keith Deen, Snake, Lipps, Schmier, Milli, Tom Arnold, Messiah Marcolin, Tony Portaro, Jeff Becerra…. the list goes on. Most of them were pretty insightful and open to discussion. I usually avoided the mundane questions while interviewing, and got to the heart of what drove the bands to make music. Try to find out what the real reasons were for their liking of the metal genre. Some of the most memorable happened live on-air, right at the radio station.
I had Sepultura visit the studio when they first came to the US. A friend in military had access to low cost Jack Daniel’s, and brought a bunch of bottles down to the show. That JD really brought out the best in heavy Portuguese bad English accents. It’s hard to imagine any of the audience quite understanding what exactly was going on at the radio station that evening. Pure chaos!
One other really fun time was when Ludichrist came down to the station. Glenn Cummings brought a balalaika or some weird stringed instrument to the show, just around the time when Metallica released ‘And Justice for All’. These guys did renditions of some of the songs on that album, I laughed so hard I almost pissed my pants. They were spot on about its lameness. Many people might disagree, but for me, the soul of that band left when they lost Cliff Burton. I honestly tried to find some redeeming value to their material after Master of Puppets, but like with an interview with Celtic Frost when they released Cold Lake, it just wasn’t on the same frequency that we supported.
A lot of these shows were recorded on cassette tapes by Custodian Killer. He has like a case of them. Maybe I’ll make like a POWERSURGE tribute CD. Filled with station ID's made by musicians, and zany skits we did during the show as well. It might be a pretty fun thing to bring back.

With Fenris of Darkthrone
Did you get to attend the 1990 Day Of Death fest when it was held? Who were the bands that appeared at that festival and how much publicity did it get? Was Day Of Death a yearly fest for some time or a one-shot deal?
Suffocation came to the radio station one Saturday night, grinning ear to ear, so psyched to tell me about this show that was supposed to be happening. They started rattling off the band names like: Deceased, Incantation, Mortician, Baphomet, Radiation Sickness, Lucifer's Hammer, Goreaphobia, Cannibal Corpse, Immolation, Disharmonic Orchestra, Repulsion, Autopsy. Suffocation also were to be a part of that lineup. It really all sounded too good to be true. Think about it. All those bands together with Autopsy headlining?!!!
So what does a diehard DJ do upon hearing this? Naturally, we announce about it on air and do a ticket give away to the Day of Death with hotel and transport included. Only a few selected die hard listeners of THE POWERSURGE (my show) could come with me on the 430 mile drive from Long Island to Buffalo to see the DAY OF DEATH. In order to understand their diehard dedication and commitment to the scene, I mailed out a questionnaire to the people that called in. Contestants returned the questionnaire back to me, and the ones with the best responses won. I still have the original questionnaire from one of the winners. I’d be really amazed if that guy is still living.
This was a special one-time event I believe. The Skyroom hosted many concerts in those days, but nothing like this. The publicity was mainly done by word of mouth. Word spread virulently and over 600 metal kids attended. Shows went on all day up to like 5am. People were completely exhausted from moshing, stage diving, and partying all day. Custodian Killer and I had the pleasure of hanging back stage with Autopsy. Funny thing, I saw Eric Cutler at Lord of Lands festival in Glasgow in 2017. We recalled the show and just laughed on and on about it. It was so cool to cross paths like that some 30 year later. I believe on the way home from The Day of Death Custodian Killer and I decided to really work on putting something out there as GRAVEYARD. I know that DOD served as a big inspiration to many of the bands there to continue, and for kids who wanted to start their own band and be a part of the scene.

At how many metal festivals has Graveyard appeared since they started? How memorable have your fest experiences been?
Graveyard does not play live, but we did play one gig in Ivanhoe back in 1994. No official Graveyard material was played; we just jammed heavy, radical sick shit for twenty minutes. Besides, no one there knew who we were, and everyone was tripping on acid anyway. We’re considering releasing the recording of that show, since now it looks to be a key part in the way make our music and how it sounds today.
When I was living in Europe I had the opportunity to hit several really nice festivals, the last being DYNAMO in 1998. Aside from the shows, I think it’s just so cool to hang out with people from other countries and share common feelings about metal and the history of the scene. It’s a beautiful thing to see how connected we all really are.

What do you remember from the 1998 Dynamo festival? How many fests have you gotten to see overseas, and who have you had the opportunity to meet?
I’ve seen a few, but when I think 1998 Dynamo, I get a really good feeling. I remember I met Chuck form Death backstage there. Funny thing is that my first ever radio interview was with Chuck backstage at Sundance in 1988. So, I just walked up to him and said, “Hail Chuck! The year 1988 Scream Bloody Gore tour, your first show in NY, backstage Sundance, we did an interview.”
He turned, gave me a perplexed look, then, slowly the event dawned on him. “Sundance…???! Shit, I remember that place. What the fuck are you doing here man?” We hung for a while and talked about his decade long journey. Great soul, may he rest in Peace.
That morning, I went to town in Eindhoven with some friends for breakfast. After, I picked up some ‘shrooms, threw ‘em down, jumped in the car and headed back to the event. They started to kick in just when I got back to Black Stage, and right when EMPEROR comes on. EMPEROR! That was truly an ethereal experience, words can never describe.
And again, it was May, spring, so the vibes were good. I ran into Anneke from The Gathering, Udo from Accept, was with a friend when he interviewed Billy Milano. I can’t really remember all the others. I just remember I wandered around, sat down, and chatted with metal kids from all over the world. This nonstop bombardment of meeting all these amazing people, with the same love for metal music, really made it a tremendous experience.
That was like the pinnacle for me, and felt that since I could never top it, haven’t been to an outdoor festival since. I take a similar view with stage diving. My final stage diving experience done at a Pungent Stench show that got so out of hand the police came in and stopped it. There is just no way this happens again in this lifetime.

Why did Graveyard make the decision not to perform live, and only release material instead? Does this give the band more time to write and compose?
There are a lot of complex things going on in our last release OPUS V, and even now in our upcoming release THE 6TH EXTINCTION. I think it would take a lot of technological prowess to pull it all off. But with Custodian Killer being in New York and I in Florida, we’re just going to keep making extreme underground music as we can. Playing live, maybe in the future, but we’re sticking to writing and creating mindless music for now. It is only going to get better, and we’re happy to be able to do it.

Where would you want to perform if you decided to start? Would smaller or larger venues be more beneficial to the band?
Naturally, I think smaller venues would be in our best interest to start with. Once we work out the kinks, move on to larger venues or festivals. If we ever did do a show, I would love to open as a supporting act for Hanzel unt Gretl. Der Ort muss zerstört werden! They understand.

Would playing out be a good idea for the band, to physically connect with fans of extreme music? Do you think there should be more of that with so many people on social media?
It can’t hurt to provide a live performance for the people who appreciate your music. Generally, fans of extreme music are scarce, as well as secluded. Fans of GRAVEYARD are even more scarce and secluded. Due to our marginalized cult fanbase of serial killers, sociopaths, and vagrants, a GRAVEYARD performance probably wouldn’t be the safest of events to attend. Who knows if anyone would even come out, let alone be able to afford a show. One fan I know invited us to be on the dark web. We’ll pass on that for now, but who knows for the future.
But realize that all this virtual shit is not real. It has to be physical. You own and hold an album. You take time and spend effort to go to a concert. You get blown away by the performance. Social media does not offer, and never will offer physical or real contact with a band. Youth growing up now in this environment may never realize this, and even scarier, may never be able to comprehend that such a thing is possible.
Concerning your second point, social media definitely provides fans with an easier platform to reach artists, however, we’re not going to waste our time for the sole purpose of reaching people for likes and clicks, as basically that shit is determined by some for-profit corporation anyway. The truest way to reach and communicate with the band you love is to write them at their PO box. It’s how it all started, and how it will be in the end once it all comes crashing down. 

You mentioned once, while we were discussing social media activity, one of your band’s pages doesn’t generate as much feedback as you would like to see. How much more of it would you like to see?
When we have the time we’ll post what we are going to post. If people like the music and are interested, they’ll eventually find us. We’re not about gaining an internet audience and tweeting every time we begin a fucking seance; that’s all ego shit. Like I was eluding to earlier, fuck for-profit social media. I mean the ‘game’ is quite obvious when you get an ad on your page that says “Reach 30,000 more people for just $5.” Die-hard fans can find all the best bands out there though underground sources like this webzine and others. The ones who are dedicated will remain, and the ones who stay true, NEVER sell out!

So you still feel that grassroots promotion is best for a band to make a name for themselves, as much as playing live would be?
Playing live and ‘wowing’ your audience is the best way to promote your music. If you are not going to tour (like GRAVEYARD), then of course you have to find ways to get the material out in the market. We do that ourselves. I wouldn’t recommend the way we do it unless you want to die unknown, ireful, and penniless. But honestly, I am quite content with what we're doing, and how we're doing it.

Many bands broke into the mainstream and built cult followings that lasted thirty-plus years by building from the grassroots. Also the internet helps obscure and unsigned bands promote their work, through net radio as well as streaming sites. Is this the route you are taking with Graveyard? How far do you intend to get through self-promotion?
GRAVEYARD is not about promotion, since none of it matters anyway. We are unattached to idealistic desires of success and fame. We produce our music with a message. The messages we bear are disturbing for many people. They are especially disturbing to people who embrace this system (whether knowingly or unknowingly). Since we are against THAT system and all who run it, we acknowledge the reality that our music may never be accepted by people in our lifetime. If by chance someone plays our record many years in the future (the reason we press vinyl); they will see things differently. We are purely vehicles for creation to create. We create a reflection of what is occurring in our world now. Whatever happens thenceforth is beyond our control.

What inspired the lyrics of your full length Opus V? Did you research the subject matter presented on it? In what ways is the music intended to represent the concept?
I just happened to be with Custodian Killer in Frozen Corpse Studios at the end of December of 2015. I can’t remember why I was there, but that evening while we were talking about old times, the news that Lemmy had just left the realm of the living hit hard. Something came over us, and it was just like: ‘let’s just pick-up the instruments again, and go off’; exactly the way we used do it, back in the early days of GRAVEYARD. Custodian Killer was also fresh out of recovery from carpal tunnel surgery at the time as well.
So that single session of immense forlorn basically laid the musical foundation for OPUS V. We also felt at the time, that the Donald Trump thing was going to get serious. This country was, and still is being run by special interest and doublespeak bullshit political advocacy groups like Citizens United. To think this will ever, ever change without all out-and-out bloodshed is pure nescience.
So yea, all this happening at once, brought out the real inspiration behind the lyrics of the album. Of course I did extensive research to back up the claims that are made. We’re not going to sing about religion, gore, or other BS horror fantasy. What we write about is all real for us, it’s also real for the innocent people dying all over the world because of it.
But these concepts are not new to GRAVEYARD. If you go back, even to our first demo, you will see we have very similar themes. Political figures of the time, puppets, and how DEMOCRACY is just a nice tag word to justify the exploitation and extortion of other countries and cultures. If your perception is keen, just look back and you’ll be able to see that essentially NOTHING has changed in the past thirty years.
Musically speaking, it has to be really raw and angry; almost rabid. We make “mindless political death noise”, so it’s this hatred of those who purport “freedom and liberty” that is the moving force behind our music. None of it is planned, none of it is composed, we just surrender to a force greater than us, and let the music be created.

What were your research points while writing the lyrics? Any printed material you referred to? Besides Orwell’s 1984, what works of fiction are still relevant today? A few that come to mind are Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange, Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s Animal Farm.
These are all great literary works that we run similar themes with lines with. I don’t use their plots or concepts. Most of my stuff is material related to economics, and based on different perspectives of other countries and cultures.

How much of your new full length The 6th Extinction has been competed at this point? How soon do you expect to release it?
Our upcoming release will be called “The 6th Extinction”; again, we’re taking about a serious injustice which is happening in the world today, and a perfect topic for GRAVEYARD. The catch here: we’re writing about total extinction and annihilation of the planet. It’s over! And by over, we’re not just saying fauna or humanity dies. EVERYTHING within and on, including the living planet itself dies. So while these assholes rake in their billions on whatever their stint is, and pay out billions to cover up the lies they’ve been feeding the world for the last century, they will come to know that their existence will soon be finished. Nothing, nothing, nothing is going to save them, or can stop “The 6th Extinction”. Theirs is going to be a harrowing last moment before ultimate extinction. The album is really written at these fuckers who, at the expense of improving the lives of all humanity, persist on corruption and pollution of the planet for personal gain.
The music is complete and are we’re working on the small details. You realize, a topic such as this demands some really appalling music; so we’re not going to stop working, until we get it right. It’s material that no record company would ever dare put their hands on. Hence the beauty of us not having to make music to please some bottom line executive shit head whose tastes are guided by profit and not art. In the end, it will not matter anyway.
The 6th Extinction will be released by the fall or year’s end; whenever it forms into exactly the message we want to serve our audience.

What plans are the band devising to promote The 6th Extinction before and after its release date? Wil you be using the postal service along with some internet resources?
You know, promote is a funny word here. I had some foreigner tell me many moons ago that America was the greatest place in the world to make money. He said if he pissed in a bottle, and hit the American market with a fancy name and solid promotional strategy; lied to everybody how healthy and refreshing it was, he could make millions. Perhaps a little extreme, but can you see how the vast majority of people believe and buy everything they see on TV?
We’ll get the album into the hands of people who value what we do and the message we bring. If you like sick, twisted, and unique music, then GRAVEYARD is your cup of tea. We write about DEATH - the ultimate REALITY. Conceivably we could get a funeral director to promote our music (laughs).
As for promotion, we’ll put out the word to our loyal fans and get in touch with magazines true to the underground. Send cash or money orders to the GRAVEYARD PO BOX to purchase our material. No checks, we HATE BANKS!

Is the band going to go old school and spread physical fliers through the postal service and at shows? Are fliers still viable for bands?
You have to love the old black and white 3x4 flyers from bands of the past with the SASE tag line. Again, we are not into promotion but, we’d make fliers. As time goes on and people pass them on as they should, you find them winding up in the strangest places. I don’t see a better way to get information on your band out to listeners who purchase physical material.

Do you want to be reviewed exclusively in print zines or are you also considering webzine reviews? How well do you expect the new album to do distributing it independently?
We’ve done several webzine interviews so you have to look at the situation honestly. The internet is the fastest, easiest, and most cost effective way to attain information. For us to say we only do interviews with print zines would be pretty radical. Like, we only advertise our concerts by posting flyers on telephone poles in the neighborhood.
It’s the musical aspect where we would like to remain physical. Albums, cassettes, maybe CD’s. Of course, it will eventually wind up on the internet one way or another, but GRAVEYARD will never be sold as download on some 3rd party music site. We’d rather our material perish into the earth as opposed to having it vanish in thin air, or be turned off with a switch. We distribute our physical material to those who want it, and who want to know reality. HAIL!

-Dave Wolff

Full Length Review: FULCI "Tropical Sun" (Time To Kill Records) by Kelly Tee

Country: Italy
Genre: Death metal
Full Length: Tropical Sun
Label: Time To Kill Records (Italy)
Format: CD, streaming
For fans of: Cannibal Corpse, Incantation, early Nile, Devourment, Mortician and Fabio Frizzi.
Release date: May 31, 2019
Fulci is an Italian death metal band who have been smashing the metal scene since 2013 with their heavy sense of extreme often old school style death metal.
In 2015, this brutal bunch gave us Opening The Hell Gates, their first full-length album, which was full of heavy vocals, persistent blast beats, old school death metal guitar patterns, with thrashing style highlights, making their first album release a fantastic debut.
2019 sees Fulci come thumping back across the pit toward us, with an amplified sound within their 2019 release Tropical Sun.
Please do not let the apparent nice album name fool you, because this album is full of aggression, violence and deathly themes around horror, gore, and the undead. Unlike their first album, Tropical Sun while maintaining their heaviness, takes a much slower and rhythmic death metal approach with obvious components of slam shining through, particularly in tracks such as Church Of The Undead.
We are given 14 tracks and while that sounds substantial, these tracks range from 59 seconds with the longest being 3.48 minutes. Tropical Sun was designed to be listened to in one sitting from start to finish, which is achievable, most excellent and as the band intended it, I'm sure.
An obscure and seemingly out of place intro showcases ominous synth and a voice over which feels as if it was sampled from a 1930's horror movie, candidly talking about the dead. However, the brutality commences with the title track Tropical Sun as it propels deep into a death metal surge of vicious proportions. This track is an onslaught of crushing heavy riffs, thick smouldering bass and a magnitude of deadly low gutturals.
Tropical Sun is an unrelenting and punishing album. A true neck breaker which deep dives into opaque dense territory with a doomed and dark ambiance, while offering intense and rhythmic drum tracks over blast beats.
Many moments throughout Tropical Sun have weight to the groove flow, which is impossible not to enjoy and this said flow shines in ‘Splatter Fatality'. What a pulsing and cadenced track this is with vocals that smash you fiercely like a sledgehammer.
It is hard not appreciate Tropical Sun for its sheer heavy breakdowns, slam and death style execution and hardcore groove. Vocalist Fiore is a powerhouse and one who is merciless in delivering his lows and scolds of mid-range gutturals.
Evidently, Fulci has kept old school essential components to this new album with a slight introduction to slam and groove styles. Tropical Sun is a foreboding and demanding album showing off the bands maturity and capability to subtly mix genres and progress within their sound and as a band. -Kelly Tee

Fiore: Vocals
Dome: Guitar, Synth
Klem: Bass

Track list:
1. Voodoo Gore Ritual (instrumental)
2. Tropical Sun
3. Apocalypse Zombie
4. Splatter Fatality
5. Matul Tribal Cult
6. Legion Of The Resurrected
7. Palms By The Cemetery
8. Witch Doctor (instrumental)
9. Genetic Zombification
10. Eye Full Of Maggots
11. Church Of The Undead
12. Blue Inferno
13. Immortality Virus (instrumental)
14. March Of The Living Dead (instrumental)

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Compilation Review: VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Unquiet Grave 2019" (Cleopatra Records) by Dave Wolff

Compilation: The Unquiet Grave 2019
Label: Cleopatra Records
Genre: Goth, post punk, industrial, darkwave, experimental
Format: Streaming
Release date: June 14, 2019
It’s been a long time since I last listened to a compilation of goth music. When Margot Day of Metamorph forwarded me the Bandcamp link to this one I figured now was a good time to catch up. I already have catching up to do on underground music, so one more album shouldn’t be too time consuming. Metamorph’s song “Winds Of Durga” is featured on The Unquiet Grave 2019 with twenty four bands, not just goth but also post punk, industrial, darkwave and experimental. Unquiet Grave 2019 was released by Cleopatra Records on the twentieth anniversary of The Unquiet Grave volume one. I don’t know how many volumes are available, but Cleopatra Records are doing well for themselves promoting such name bands as punk pioneers MC5 and Iggy Pop, punk veterans Reagan Youth, goth rockers Christian Death, new wavers Duran Duran, rock guitarist Todd Rundgren and alternative rockers Jane’s Addiction. The bands here seem to be in good company, and I should hand it to Cleopatra Records for causing ripples in the industry, however small, and reminding us where real alternative music came from in a day when corporate pop singers present live performances inspired by goth like imagery. Sorry but I’m still compelled to question this when Cleopatra’s bands have struggled for years. Mainstream pop mediocrity is sharply contrasted here, from the gritty bludgeoning and mournful vocals of The Ink Bats’ “No Other” to the futuristic keyboards and hypnotically desire-filled vocals of The Sedona Effect’s “I Burn” and Antidote For Annie’s “Only You” to the atmospheric darkness and early punk of The Long Losts’ “Skeleton Thief”. The Long Losts is another band I’ve listened to; when I reviewed them a couple years ago I mentioned they had grace and refinement, with a theatrical quality in their songwriting. In “Skeleton Thief” the opening keyboards sound a little like Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter” and after this the vocals sound like Debbie Harry resurrected as a vampiress. It doesn’t end there. Fear Incorporated’s “Ouija Board Apparitions” sounds like the soundtrack to a classic horror movie, The Drowning Season’s “Brighter Than A Thousand Suns” has guitars fueled by power metal, “Not A Brightly Lit” with its abrasive electronic sounds is inspired by the old TV serial “Tales From The Darkside” and the song contributed by Metamorph has a traditional middle eastern/Mediterranean theme with a variety of experimental sounds. To hear more of these bands visit the official link to the compilation. -Dave Wolff

Track list:
1. The Ink Bats - No Other
2. Social Station - Try (Cross My Heart)
3. The Sedona Effect - I Burn
4. Antidote For Annie - Only You
5. Silver Walks - Tidal (Panic Lift Mix)
6. New Zero God - Broken Halo
7. The Long Losts - Skeleton Thief
8. Schedule IV - Stray
9. Hypofixx - Electrified (Cliff Cage's Minimal Destruction Mix)
10. Lorelei Dreaming - Edge Of The World (Digital Gnosis Remix)
11. Fear Incorporated - Ouija Board Apparitions
12. Metamorph - Winds Of Durga
13. Angel Metro - Stranger Times
14. Abbey Death - Trance
15. The Drowning Season - Brighter Than A Thousand Suns
16. May May Graves - Mermaids
17. Red Lokust - Speechless V2.0
18. Acclimate - Not As Brightly Lit feat. Martin Bowes
19. Traumabond - The Collective You
20. ENGRAM - Hi Teikei No
21. Tragic Impulse - Space Force
22. Spider Lilies - The Error Is You
23. RCH IV - Blodigel
24. Dreamchild - Alone
25. Moss Garten – Wire

Friday, June 21, 2019

Full Length Review: NIGHTWISH "Oceanborn" Spinefarm Records by Devin Joseph Meaney

Country: Finland
Genre: Symphonic power metal
Full Length: Oceanborn
Label: Spinefarm Records
Format: CD
Release date: December 7, 1998
After a day filled with barbecue, yard work and various other errands, I finally managed to find some time to write a review. The album I have chosen to review is ''Oceanborn'' by Nightwish. In the past few days, I have listened to a handful of releases by Nightwish, but Oceanborn would have to be my favorite I have played so far. This album is far removed from the material I would normally listen to, but it is a highly enjoyable masterpiece and has now rekindled my interest in operatics and symphonic metal as a whole. Vocally, this reminds me of a friend from Sweden, Natasa Nikolic, who can be heard singing and playing the keyboard with the supremely talented band Tragederia. Aside from the operatics, the guitar work is intricate, ''pretty'', at times viciously heavy, and flows with the rest of the music in a breathtaking way. The drums are tight, and the bass (what I can make out) is played very well and keeps time with the rest of the music. The keys, symphonics, and orchestral parts add to the backbone of this album and brings the whole thing together with elegant ferocity. Like a genuine symphony tailored to suit metalheads and fans of classical music alike, Oceanborn pushes forward with a brilliant display of musicianship that can be loved and graciously enjoyed time and time again. I think ''talent'' is the key word I will use to close this review. This album is full to the brim with bona fide talent, which comes through your speakers like a wave of audio splendor and vibrant uniqueness. If Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were alive during the time of heavy metal, I can fathom that they would be playing in a band just like this. Oceanborn is entirely excellent, and I encourage one and all to give it a listen for themselves. If you are a fan of music in general, I can make a guess that even if you don't ''like'' this album, you will damn well respect it. Great stuff, Nightwish! 10/10 -Devin Joseph Meaney

Tarja Turunen: Vocals
Emppu Vuorinen: Guitars
Tuomas Holopainen: Keyboards, backing vocals
Sami Vänskä: Bass
Jukka Nevalainen: Drums, percussion, backing vocals

Track list:
1. Stargazers
2. Gethsemane
3. Devil & the Deep Dark Ocean
4. Sacrament of Wilderness
5. Passion and the Opera
6. Swanheart
7. Moondance
8. The Riddler
9. The Pharaoh Sails to Orion
10. Walking in the Air (Howard Blake cover)

Serialization: "The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice" by Roberta Downing: Chapter Ten

The Arcane Warrior’s Apprentice
Novel by Roberta Downing
Cover artwork designed by Jerry Langdon

Chapter Ten

As winter break approached, Bell was given permission to spend that time at her mentor’s home. The past few months had been difficult for her with the classes, combat training and periodic bouts with Tessa. Bell kept wondering what she could do to help Tessa not hate so much and to become the type of student that the academy expected.
Yuletide came and passed and with it came the presents from family. It was the usual things family would send; clothes, supplies and money. Money, that was something she had not had since she gave all hers to Jake. She opened an account at the bank because she had no real need of money since all of her time is already allotted for learning. She didn’t have permission to go to the shops and she wasn’t old enough to go to the pubs.
During her winter break when RavenDance had left her alone in the cabin, Bell would go into his study and find his spell books. Every book she had thumbed through thus far were all squiggly lines that would not form words or symbols. Finally she finds one where the lines form words. She began teaching herself how to make sense out of the words. She studied the first spell and the action it required to make it work only it didn’t work. She would need to keep practicing until it did. She knew she may be too young yet for the magic to activate within her but there was no harm in trying.
It was the night before she was due to be back at the academy to resume her classes. She had taken a nice long hot bath, something she hadn’t had since they were in Draconos. It was as if her body was screaming for that hot water. She lay there submerged. The aches and pains she had from fighter’s practice, which even over winter break continued, subsided. She dried off, cleaned the tub and went to bed.
She pulled Satyr’s portrait out and looked at him. She thought he was so handsome and she was drawn to his eyes which were filled with kindness and honesty. His eyes…they were lavender…so different than anyone else she had ever come across. She kissed his lips, told him she loved him and that someday she would marry him. She put the portrait back into her bag and blew out the candle.
She found herself walking in a grave yard. It was dark and fog was rolling in. She heard a strange sound and walked toward it. She found Darklyn skipping rope.
“Ah Ding-La!” he said with excitement “you found me!”
He was dressed in his usual ghoulish jester attire. He was skipping rope and every time he landed the little skulls hanging from his jester hat rang out a death dirge.
“Um hi Darklyn” she questionably waved. She sat down on top of a grave. She crossed her legs and bent her elbows so that her head was resting on her fists.
“Why are we in a…a grave yard Darklyn?” She asked.
“We are here to talk and play games. Wanna jump rope with me?” He asked.
She stood up and grabbed the rope. It was slimy. She looked down at it. It wasn’t a rope. No, it wasn’t a rope at all. She knew she should be afraid but the fear just wasn’t in her.
“Darklyn! This is NOT a rope.” She stated
“No” he cackled “Sure it is.”
“No. It isn’t. What is it?!” Bell asked.
“Oh Ding-La! Don’t be so squeamish. It’s just intestines. Go on! Jump! It’s fun!” he said.
Bell dropped the body parts and sat down. She receded deep into thought.
“Oh my poor Ding-La” he said as he sat down next to her and wrapped one skeletal arm around her. “What’s the matter?” he asked.
“I’m just tryin to figure out a way to help someone I want to be friends with” she said.
“Oh. Having friend issues are you. Well! I have a lot of friends” he said as his hand motioned insinuating that everyone buried here was his friend.
Bell told him all about Tessa; every fight, every slur. She didn’t know why but she felt comfortable telling him everything moreover, she wanted to tell him everything.
“I just…don’t know what to do to help her or even make her like me” she said.
“Ding-La, not everyone you meet is going to like you, hmm. There are going to be people in your life that you also will not like. She was taught to hate and you yourself have chosen to hate which is why you decided to forsake becoming a bard and now you are…pardon the pun here, hell bent on killing demons. Is she really deserving of your friendship?” he asked.
She held her head up high, “I want her to be.”
“Hmm. Alrighty then, I guess you are going to have to prove to her that you do like her and that you are worthy of being her friend.” He said
“Me? Be worthy of her?”
“Of course Ding! You also need to learn that just because you are a Singer that the world does not and will not revolve around you and that sometimes you do have to prove yourself to others. You would have had to do that as a bard yes?”
“Yeah.” She said.
“Alright then. It’s settled.” He stated.
Darklyn reached deep into his pocket and pulled out a beautiful and ornate hair comb. It was black onyx with gold painted design and had three diamonds on it. He handed it to Bell.
“Give this to your Tessa. It’s an ancient royal Niteri hair comb. There are not many of these left now. The wars have destroyed a lot of their artifacts. This is something that will prove you worthy of her friendship, her love and her trust. Now, it is time you wake up and get back to school.” He concluded as he snapped his bony fingers.
Bell woke up holding the hair comb in her hands. She knew she was dreaming but she had no idea how she actually had it in her hands. She got up, put the hair piece in her bags, got dressed and went out to eat breakfast. The half elven apprentice was finally starting to feel settled in the life she chose.
She returned to her dorm room and put the things away. Tessa was in the room and was staring at Bell like a hunter watches his prey. Bell could feel the change in the room; it was like waves of hate rolling into an army on a battlefield.
Bell picked up the hair comb and slowly walked over toward Tessa making sure not to make eye contact with her. She stopped three steps before Tessa’s bed and then she knelt as she held out the hair comb in both her hands. She kept her head down and she waited.
The student who had been so mean and cruel to apprentice Bell gingerly picked up the hair comb. She didn’t udder a word and Bell didn’t move. Tessa stared at the gift she had been presented with. For Bell, it felt like an eternity before Tessa spoke.
“Where did you get this” Tessa demanded.
“A friend” she replied.
“Do you know what this is girl?”
“Yes.” Bell kept her answers short.
It was quiet for a few minutes and then Tessa thanked her for the gift and declared a truce between them. She would now allow Bell to be her friend.
Bell was much relieved.
“You can get up now, Bell” she said in a friendly tone.
“We shall be friends from this moment on. Thank you for this gift. It shall not be forgotten.”
The rest of the year went by without any further incidents between them. They were now even sparing partners. Their masters were shocked that that two of them somehow managed to get over their differences and thought that was nothing more than miraculous.
The rest of the school year passed once again without any issues and summer break was just two weeks away. Bell one again received birthday presents and turned seven. She was first in her class in all of her studies and combat training. The magic that was lying dormant within her was not quite ready to emerge however the words on the pages of the book she took from RavenDance’s home were starting to make much more sense to her.