Sunday, September 25, 2022

Full Length Review: Amon Amarth "Berserker" (Metal Blade Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Amon Amarth
Country: Sweden
Genre: Melodic death metal
Full Length: Berserker
Format: Digital, CD
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release date: May 3, 2019
Reviewing Marduk has increased my urge to look up bands I admired in the 1990s but lost touch with. Named after the Mordor volcano where Sauron forged the Ring in Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings” saga, Amon Amarth, released their debut full length “Once Sent from the Golden Hall” in 1998. Homaging Scandinavian culture and mythology for the next two decades they forged a place in history as one of melodic death metal’s premier bands with Hypocrisy, Unleashed and At The Gates.
“Berserker” suggests their search for new musical and lyrical ground is far from slowing despite the mixed reactions their recent albums have garnered from fans. Whether Amon Amarth’s basic adherence to formula is a positive or negative depends on your preferred subgenres of metal, and how much growth you generally expect from a band. But to write them off as being stagnant would sell them short as their evolution and growth has been a longer, more meticulous process.
The cover artwork of “Berserker”, designed by Brent Elliott White, gives the impression of where the band’s evolution has come this far. It’s somewhat similar to the artwork adorning Manowar’s “Louder Than Hell”, another band who swam against the tide of popularity and forged their own path. Braving arrows, spears and swords, a lone figure stands under a darkening sky, apparently issuing a challenge to all enemies within earshot that he’s prepared to continue the long battle.
“Berserker” sounds more polished than I remember them on “The Avenger”, “The Crusher” and “Twilight of the Thunder God”, which may be appreciated by listeners who prefer melodic death-thrash with less distortion. The clarity this produces makes room for more innovation. The acoustic guitar passage introducing “Fafner’s Gold” and the manner in which the band elaborates on it makes this impression from the start. It reminded me somewhat of Metallica’s “Battery” and Bathory’s “Twilight of the Gods” when it comes to song structure and the feeling the song is intended to evoke. There also seems to be a greater amount of riffs written into the song, creating a different kind of epic feel to accompany lyrics based on the Norse legend of Fafnir.
The band on “Crack the Sky”, “Mjolner, Hammer of Thor”, “Raven’s Flight” and “The Berserker at Stamford Bridge” hasn’t gone soft in the heaviness department. As guitarists Olavi Mikkonen and Johan Söderberg incorporate greater melody and depth Johan Hegg’s vocal fry provides much diction, making the lyrics easier to understand without a lyric sheet and capturing the essence of Peter Tägtgren (Hypocrisy), Johnny Hedliund (Unleashed), Tomi Joutsen (Amorphis) and Lars-Göran Petrov (Entombed –R.I.P.). The strengthened backbone of bassist Ted Lundström and drummer Jocke Wallgren with the increased NWOBHM impressions are likewise subtle changes that make all the difference when it comes to the big picture.
The keyboard/piano passage introducing the album’s final song “Into The Dark” gives it an orchestral feel, and again mirrors the growth Metallica underwent from 1986-89. With its war metal theme and thought out guitar progressions, the song gives meaning to the idea that this part of Amon Amarth’s journey is coming to an end. You can almost see a port in the distance where they’ll be spending the night before setting sail the next morning for parts unknown. –Dave Wolff

Johan Hegg: Vocals, lyrics
Olavi Mikkonen: Guitar
Johan Söderberg: Guitar
Ted Lundström: Bass
Jocke Wallgren: Drums

Track list:
1. Fafner's Gold
2. Crack the Sky
3. Mjölner, Hammer of Thor
4. Shield Wall
5. Valkyria
6. Raven's Flight
7. Ironside
8. The Berserker at Stamford Bridge
9. When Once Again We Can Set Our Sails
10. Skoll and Hati
11. Wings of Eagles
12. Into the Dark

This review can also be read at Relentless Reviews With Corbz. -DW

Full Length Review: Cannibal Corpse "Violence Unimagined" (Metal Blade Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Cannibal Corpse
Location: Tampa, Florida
Country: USA
Genre: Death metal
Full Length: Violence Unimagined
Format: Digital, CD
Label: Metal Blade Records
Release date: April 16, 2021
It’s a Mother’s Day Massacre, complete with brutal death metal done only as Cannibal Corpse can. This band needs no formal introduction apart from their longevity and the inspiration they’ve had for extreme metal bands the world over. The band are all in their fifties by now and still channel the energy and aptitude they put into their material on their 1990 debut “Eaten Back To Life”. I still remember hearing that album for the first time, and basically get the same feeling from “Violence Unimagined”.
I heard a lot of good things about this album so I imagine it was inevitable I’d check it out given how long I’ve been a fan. Listening for myself I wasn’t disappointed. Some might think the songs here are of the same formula since “Vile” or “Gallery of Suicide” but CC proves that bands can grow on their own terms by perfecting what they have, and are no less valid than bands that incorporate different genres into their songwriting, as long as it’s natural and honest. After all, many blues and hard rock bands gather fans while staying in well-defined genres; why not brutal death metal bands like Cannibal Corpse?
Also, I wouldn’t be so quick to judge CC as formulaic since they’ve always expanded on their core influences finding new ways to improve their musicianship. Songs like “Inhumane Harvest”, “Ritual Annihilation”, “Follow the Blood” and “Bound and Burned” show the band working together to compose good songs without overstepping their boundaries. This is precisely the attitude that has led them to consistently release ferociously barbarous albums with top-notch professional delivery that promises nothing less than pure skull-crushing savagery. Their longevity speaks for itself as they’ve never let the fans down.
The addition of lead guitarist Erik Rutan (guitarist for Hate Eternal, producer of Morbid Angel, Vital Remains, Soilent Green, Goatwhore, etc) is fitting for the direction CC takes on “Violence Unimagined”. As the newest member, he tailors his style to the rest of the band while adding new dimensions to their thrash metal roots. Especially so in his solo work in “Necrogenic Resurrection” and “Surround, Kill, Devour”. Not only that but every song has a distinctly different theme and structure, so you won’t become lost between songs, and vocalist George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher displays diction in his guttural vocal fry, with or without a lyric sheet. I hope I’ve said enough about this album but I think you get the idea. Another winner from this brutal band. –Dave Wolff

George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher: Vocals
Erik Rutan: Guitars, backing vocals, songwriting, lyrics
Rob Barrett: Guitars, songwriting, lyrics
Alex Webster: Bass, songwriting, lyrics
Paul Mazurkiewicz: Drums, lyrics

Track list:
1. Murderous Rampage
2. Necrogenic Resurrection
3. Inhumane Harvest
4. Condemnation Contagion
5. Surround, Kill, Devour
6. Ritual Annihilation
7. Follow the Blood
8. Bound and Burned
9. Slowly Sawn
10. Overtorture
11. Cerements of the Flayed

This review can also be read at Relentless Reviews With Corbz. -DW

Full Length Review: Marduk "World Funeral: Jaws of Hell MMIII" (Regain Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Marduk
Country: Sweden
Genre: Black metal
Format: Digital, vinyl, CD
Label: Regain Records
Release date: October 30, 2020
When second wave black metal was on the rise, Marduk was a constant fixture on my playlist. Founded in 1990 as a death metal band, they became one of Sweden’s premier black metal bands with Dark Funeral, The Black, The Abyss and Watain. Named after a god of Mesopotamian mythology, Marduk chose their name as a means of sacrilegious reproach and sardonicism against the light this deity represented, taking thrash and death metal’s blasphemous nature to the next level.
I lost touch with them in the 2000s but recently started catching up. Searching for new releases I discovered “World Funeral: Jaws of Hell MMIII” which was recorded during their performance at the Party San Festival in Germany back in 2003. Finding this album out of nowhere was like running into an old friend I haven’t seen in years, filling each other in on what we’ve been up to all this time. It wasn’t even necessary to get loaded in the process, haha, but new memories can still be made.
As live recordings go, the production on “World Funeral: Jaws of Hell MMIII” is decent enough, having been recorded from the soundboard. In many ways this recording method works for the material, which spans 1992’s “Dark Endless” to 2003’s “World Funeral”. Generally you can hear every instrument but the bass tends to be absent occasionally. Regardless, the unadulterated fury Marduk brings to the stage is captured quite well, as is the audience’s rabid appreciation.
Vocalist Legion, guitarist Morgan, bassist B. War and drummer Emil Dragutinović charge through their set, giving you little chance for a breather in between songs and demonstrating why the stage in their career in which Legion was lead vocalist was so pivotal to their evolution as a band. The rawness here is like listening to a show you attended and taped for yourself and for posterity. The older songs like “Wolves,” “On Darkened Wings,” “Materialized in Stone” and “The Black” have the most sentimental value for me, but more recent tracks like “Hearse,” “Azrael,” “World Funeral” and “With Satan and Victorious Weapons” show how fast, tight, dexterous and brutal the band became in later years. –Dave Wolff

Legion: Vocals
Morgan: Guitars
B. War: Bass Emil
Dragutinović: Drums

Track list:
1. Jesus Christ... Sodomized
2. Hearse
3. Slay the Nazarene
4. Wolves
5. Azrael
6. On Darkened Wings
7. World Funeral
8. Obedience
9. Bleached Bones
10. Baptism by Fire
11. Materialized in Stone
12. Christraping Black Metal
13. The Black
14. With Satan and Victorious Weapons
15. Still Fucking Dead
16. Fistfucking God's Planet

This review can also be read at Relentless Reviews With Corbz. -DW

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Interview with Death Denied by Dave Wolff

Interview with Death Denied by Dave Wolff

How much notice has Death Denied received since releasing their third full length “Through Waters, Through Flames” on Sarcophagus Records? Are more people listening to it at streaming sites or ordering the digipak CD release? How much effort has the label put into promoting it?
Jakub ‘Vincent’ Wincencjusz (bass, backing vocals): Sarcophagus was started by a colleague of ours from another band (Symbolical) and it's a fledgling label. The main support we got, was financial - to get the ball rolling on the production of the CDs and other associated merch.
As far as our “reach” goes, it's been on a very slow, but ultimately upward, trajectory. We handle the promotion ourselves and with each release, we have a better grasp on what things to do and what not - trial and error... The positive feedback from the earlier releases also translates to a wider net that we can cast now and hopefully in the future.

Death Denied is based in Poland, home to bands like Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated, Frontside and many more. How would you describe the current status of Polish extreme metal?
JVW: Well, we have the classic bands from the 80's that didn't make a big splash abroad, but are really important for the scene from a historical standpoint - Kat, Turbo, TSA. Some of them have lately been involved in ‘naming disputes' (think: Venom vs. Venom Inc.) or similar shenanigans. We also recently lost some of their original members due to illnesses and age (Roman Kostrzewski or Andrzej Nowak for instance).
Other bands you've mentioned like: Vader, Behemoth, Decapitated or Hate have been doing their thing for decades now and they continue to do so, they have a loyal following that they worked on by relentless touring, decent release schedule and so on. We even managed to rub elbows with some of the people from that neck of the woods. Vogg (Decapitated) played a guest solo on our EP; Paul (Vader, Hate etc) did a short drum solo on our debut album and we've recorded our first two LPs with Filip "Heinrich" Hałucha' (Decapitated, Vessania, Hate, Behemoth) in his studio.
When it comes to younger bands (and by younger I mean bands that popped up in the last 10-15 years) our country has always had a good black/death metal output. Bands like Mgła or Odraza have been popular here and abroad. In our hometown groups like Odium Humani Generis or Valkenrag have been growing in popularity in recent years.
Around 2010 stoner/southern/doom music had a surge in popularity. Bands like our rose from that wave. The two most prominent would be Dopelord and Belzebong.

What was the inspiration for naming the band Death Denied? Does the name have meaning or connotations your listeners should know about?
JVW: The story behind the name is kind of nerdy: When we were students, living in a dorm one of our friends had a lot of those Magic: the Gathering cards. While browsing through them Gecko stumbled on one called: 'Death Denied' and commented that this would make a pretty cool band name. He went back the idea when the band started taking shape. I think it was just 'the rule of cool'. Jokingly we can say that Death Denied refers to the fact that we haven't dissolved yet, despite the stuff we all went through along those 10 plus years of being active.

What is the band’s current lineup, and did any members previously play in other bands?
JVW: The lineup consists of Gecko (vocals and guitars), Kiemon (guitars), Wicia (drums) and myself (bass). We've been playing in this lineup since around 2014-2015 and it recorded every album after our debut. When it comes to other projects: Gecko, Kiemon and myself played in some metal bands (heavy, thrash, death, black) in the past bu
t the aforementioned groups are long gone and usually only have a couple of badly recorded demos to their name. As far as trivia go: Gecko used to play guitar with a Polish pop singer for many years. Wicia on the other hand is the only classically trained musician in our group and can play a number of instruments proficiently. He has been involved in too many diverse music projects to name here, playing everything from death metal, through punk rock to folk music. The last one he did was a Bolt Thrower-ish group called 'Chains'. Sadly, they no longer exist.

Who was the Polish pop singer Gecko played for? When he joined the band, what aspects of his experience did he bring?
JVW: That would be Natalia Szroeder. Gecko is one of the founding fathers of the band, as well as the main composer, so his style and sensibilities are the backbone of the band's music.
How did the experience affect him? I would say he has a better stage presence and gained a lot a confidence do to a huge amount of live shows he played with Natalia. He also learned a lot about how big gigs are organized and set up sound wise (the whole backstage thing). I would also point to the business aspect of running a band. Getting to watch 'the pros' do it is a valuable learning experience.

In what ways has Gecko’s experience with business and organizing gigs been beneficial to Death Denied?
Rafał 'Gecko' Powązka (vocals, guitars): Being involved in the activities outside of our music genre but still within music business allows you to see the solutions they utilize and this may be then copied onto our small-scale enterprise. Also, you are able to meet people that can help you with promo/distribution or other band's activities.

Do you typically use flyers, websites, social media, and word-of-mouth to promote your releases? Is there a particular method that works best for the band?
JVW: In this day and age, without a doubt, the Internet and Social Media. I spend countless hours sending promos via Email or traditional post, to various magazines, websites, promoters etc. It's a thankless task, but once in a while, somebody is genuinely interested and our music we reaches new people.
We do live shows of course, mostly in our homeland, but from time to time we get invited to play a gig or two in the neighboring counties. It's always fun. Lately due to the pandemic live shows were off the table for quite some time, but we managed to book some venues for this fall and winter. We also started talks with some summer festivals in Poland; we'll see how it goes.

Did the band press their own CDs and manufacture their merchandise before signing with Sarcophagus Records? Can you tell me how much material you have out and when Sarcophagus became interested in you? JVW: Like I said in my first answer, we still do. Sarcophagus took some of the costs upon themselves, but we still design and order the merch ourselves. We usually have the regular stuff: clothing, pins, stickers, baseball caps and CDs.
JVW: Physical albums are mostly a collector's item now, so with each album, we don't go overboard with the quantity (some people frankly told us, that they are buying our shirts and stuff like that, but they won't buy the CDs as they listen to us on Spotify, Deezer or some other platform). We mostly focus on the graphic aspect of the release, trying to make the booklet as nice looking as possible. Personally I can't stand when you buy a CD and the booklet is just five pages of credits and lyrics written in Times New Roman on some uninspired background.

Do the band members have professional backgrounds in graphic design? Did they self-educate or were they students of the trade?
JVW: Nah, we outsource the covers to professionals - Anna Helena Szymborska in the past and Maciej Kamuda for the recent album. The booklets are done by our ex-guitarist Jackobh, who is self-thought and 'gets it' since he's a metalhead and was a part of the band in the beginning. We usually discuss the concept and ideas for the booklet with him and then we provide comments, as the goes along and presents us with what he created so far. Gecko also makes some of the graphical work for our websites and posters, he's self-educated as well.

Who else has Anna Helena Szymborska and Maciej Kamuda designed cover art for? How did you come across their work, and how much would you say they “get it” when it comes to interpreting the band’s vision? Same for Jackobh and Gecko?
JVM: I've meet Anna at some random concert in Łódź, when we were both students, through some mutual acquaintances and we became friends. She came to be a great illustrator and comic book artist in Poland. When we started recording our first materials, she was an obvious pick. She did cover art for Devil's Sermon, Moloch Letalis or Intestinal.
As far as Maciej goes he did some artwork for various bands around our country (Las Trumien, J.D. Overdrive or Sunnata to name a few) as well as book covers (s-f, horror and so on) so we have been aware of him for some time. As we changed a lot while making this record (producer, studio and our songwriting approach to name a few) we decided to get someone new to do the cover. Both Anna and Maciej listen to metal so they knew what we were going for, without a lot of corrections and explaining. When it comes to Jackob - he used to play guitar in our band, and we have known each other for years. He understands our music, the lyrics and our vision. Usually we just grab beer and talk about what we envision for the booklet and he just makes it happen.

When sending promo releases to promoters, zines, and websites, how often do you receive interest? With so many bands around, is it harder these days?
JVW: It depends on the recipient. We have some zines, promoters and websites that we've already worked with and that know us. It accelerates the process in most cases. Some of them are a black hole and you never get an answer. In some cases you get tagged, a year or so from sending them the material, in some sort of ‘missed but recommended’ or 'hidden gem' lists of the year 20XX - it's always nice. Nevertheless you have to be diligent, hardheaded and tenacious.

Which zine editors you work and promote with are most reliable? Do you discover most of them on social media or is it even between the net and print zines?
JVW: I usually try to keep a tally of people who did right by us. Sometimes they change the zine website they write for, whatever the reason... Sometimes you simply get a heads up that a zine or a website is just a scam go get free stuff from bands. It's good to have a network of people you can rely on. When it comes to discovering new websites or zines, like I said: sometimes people jump ship from one to a new one and give me a heads up, sometimes I just check from where our peers get reviews from and contact people there.

How much more has social media helped obscure and unsigned bands be heard in the last decade? Do you still see a need for print zines today?
JVW: It helps exposure and you don't need label support to get yourself out there. Don't think we would have fans from the USA, Brazil or other counties in Europe without social media. All concerts we did outside our country, where also invitations from people, we got to know via the Internet. I think this would be impossible let's say in the 90', without some sort of label backing. As far as printed zines go I would say they are cool collector’s item for die-hards, kinda like physical media (CD's, Vinyls and so on). Maybe there'll be a resurgence or something in the upcoming years. Who knows?

Can you tell me about the shows you've booked for the fall and winter? What Polish metal festivals are you considering for live appearances?
JVW: We're going to play Warsaw, Wrocław, Łódź, Katowice, Cracow and some smaller Polish towns. When it comes to summer festivals I can't disclose anything, as in some cases we can't advertise our attendance before the organizer does and in some we're still negotiating.

How do you anticipate being received when you perform in those towns in Poland? What countries if any are you setting sights on after you’ve played there?
JVW: Ain't gonna be modest here: we're a good, energetic live act. That's why usually we get good reception, even if we play, with let's say: death or black metal bands. Sometimes we adjust our set, in order to play more of our faster songs, to get our best foot forward.
Personally I like to play in small towns, as the people there are usually hungry for live music and have fun in the pit.
As far as other countries go we would like to play Germany, Czech Republic, France or the UK. I won't lie - I would really like to do some gigs in the USA and some exotic countries, but I try to look on such things realistically - baby steps...

Do you know how well your two previous albums were received by listeners and critics? How does “Through Waters, Through Flames” differ from its predecessors?
JVW: All of our previous output was received rather positively; with review scores usually being somewhere between 7 to 9 out of ten. As of now “Through Waters, Through Flames” is getting similar scores, with a caveat, that it seems to be our most ‘mature’ and ‘diverse’ album yet. At least in the eyes of the reviewers.
From our perspective, this one has been the closest to a ‘team effort’ we've ever did. In the past Gecko would write the bulk of the music, with the rest of the band contributing, more or less, one song per member on the album, as well as a riff or two here and there. I would write most of the lyrics. This dynamic didn't change much, per se, but Kiemzo, Wicia and myself contributed more music this time. Gecko and Wicia also wrote some of the lyrics. As is usual, we worked on the arrangements in our rehearsal space together. Due to the pandemic we had a lot more time for it, than on the previous album. We've also did an honest to god pre-production before recording. So I would agree with the assessment that it's the most diverse of our output as all of us have different inspirations and ways to approach music.

Was “Through Waters, Through Flames” your first time doing pre-production or had you done it for any past albums?
JVW: First time. Not counting the times we recorded our rehearsals to practice the songs at home, write lyrics and so on. It ate up some more of our fee time but was worth it, as we could better re-work our parts and the songs themselves.

Which of your songs on the new album contain the most matured lyrics? What were said songs written about and how relevant do you consider them?
JVW: Hard to say... I'm my own worst critic when it comes to lyrics.... I like 'High Priestess of Down Low' - it's about my friends struggles with depression, but it's dressed in Lovecraftian/fantasy attire. 'Lesser Daemons' is about different thoughts that keep you at night - worries, guilt and so on. 'Concrete Cathedrals' despite the upbeat bluegrass music, deals with the topic of losing the fight with drug addiction. 'The Apostate Soul' on the other hand is about televangelists - got people like that in Poland, but they operate in a different way, than the ones in the USA.
I try to write about relatable stuff. Things that I, or people I know lived through, even if sometimes I give it a horror or fantasy spin. I try to leave my lyrics opened to interpretation - I'm not your primary school teacher to tell you what to think and how to interpret the song.
We don't do concept albums but due to the fact that I usually have to write about ten lyrics in a span of a month some of the songs can deal with similar topics ore have some sort on connective tissue between them. A good example would be 'The Plague Doctor' and 'The Prince of Crows' from the previous album.

Is there any new material the band has started working on for a future release? Do you have as much time to write as before due to the pandemic?
JVW: We usually take our time when it comes to writing music. The two main factors are:
Money - we have go get enough of it, to record and produce the album and it takes time to gather the required amount.
The second would be time - we all have day jobs, families and so on... so we usually practice once or twice a week, for a couple of hours. The process usually takes time. That's why we usually try to get our ideas to a more or less a presentable form, before showing them to the rest of the band.
Afterwards we work together on the arrangements. We add and subtract stuff; change things around the usual...
After the last writing session we got 3-4 songs left on the cutting floor. Maybe we'll get back to them, maybe not.
I've got some new riffs written but nothing finished. I know for a fact that the guys have some kernels of ideas as well.
Maybe we'll start writing something new in the Fall or Winter of 2023. Can't say for sure. We usually have a 3-4 year gap between albums - maybe it'll be shorter this time. We'll have to wait and see.

Will the band continue to write and compose as you did for “Through Waters, Through Flames”, with input provided by each member?
JVW: I would presume yes. We have more or less one rule: It has to be good; we have to like it. We don't care from whom the idea comes from or if the song is thrashier or grungier.
I usually write most of the lyrics but Gecko and Wicia wrote some for this album as well. Gecko does most of the music for example 'The Apostate Soul', High Priestess of Down Low', ' Smoke, Soot and Solitude' or 'Behind the Surreal'. Kiemon came up with 'Lesser Deamons' - if something sounds ZZ Topish - it's usually Kiemzo. Wicia, our drummer, did 'Concrete Cathedrals' and 'The Machine' - in my personal the songs couldn't be more stylistically apart, but it goes to show what rage he has. I composed 'Carnate' and 'Nocturnal'.
We work on the arrangements and add stuff together, so a lot of these songs have mixed credits. As usual working in a group can be more consuming but the songs don't get stale and sometimes a different perspective or idea can be good for the music.

-Dave Wolff

Monday, September 12, 2022

Full Length Review: KMFDM "HYËNA" (Metropolis Records) by Dave Wolff

Country: Germany
Genre: Industrial, electronica
Full Length: HYËNA
Format: Digital, CD, limited edition vinyl
Label: Metropolis Records
Release date: September 9, 2022
Thirty eight years and twenty-two studio albums since their inception and KMFDM still persists in mocking the system in as broad a spectrum as possible. The American political zeitgeist has been mired in spin and confusion, the subject of criticism and conspiracy theory, for years. And with the recent Trump presidency, world affairs seem to be heading further in that direction. Rather than getting caught up in it all, KMFDM make sport of what the media says to believe or disbelieve in to determine public opinion.
Sometimes it’s cathartic to derisively caricature media and politics, and it works to point out how disastrous an effect it’s been having. The Sex Pistols did so with “Anarchy in the U.K.” not to proselytize it but to tell people anarchy was already happening because of the political zeitgeist of the time. No matter how misunderstood their statement was, it is still timely now considering everything that’s happened since 2000. KMFDM remind you of this in a similar statement that reflects the current state of our society.
KMFDM’s new full length “HYËNA” has something for fans of rock, punk, thrash, industrial, techno, electro, country, hip hop, reggae, ska and many more genres. Eclectic to the point of extreme schizophrenia, it will have you constantly guessing what is to come next and how intense it will be when unleashed. All with the edgy attitude, forceful political slant and lyrical assaults on corporate interests of all kinds they’ve retained since Sascha Konietzko formed KMFDM as a performance art project in the early 80s.
Art imitates life in many ways. Or does life imitate art? I’m still somewhat uncertain. The contradictions and doubletalk news programs try instilling into the minds of the public is reflected in popular entertainment, as formulaic pop songs written by the same producers are thrust into your consciousness with the same insistence that you accept it at face value. As attention spans grow shorter sometimes even classic rock bands are forgotten. As such the need for bands like KMFDM who unite different genres within their own musical motif is greater than ever. Thirty years ago I sensed something special brewing here, and it hasn’t gone away.
Their energy and conviction seems to have been reinforced by mainstream banality. This is apparent from the first track “All 4 1” which is a manic hybrid of Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Voivod with hyperdriven intensity. In the rock/funk/rap of “Rock and Roll Monster”, the Motley Crue/Cult/Devo crossover of “Black Hole”, the early 80s new wave/90s techno-industrial of Hyëna and the reggae of “Déjà Vu” with sampling and yodeling, the extreme deviation in themes is propelled forward with enough speed and contrast to make your head spin. And this is but a handful of the songs to experience. Even stranger themes are yet to be revealed.
The crossing over of genres is so implausible to conceptualize you’ll be awed by how convincingly KMFDM make things work. It’s as multifaceted as the media is contradictory. The lyrics of the songs mentioned above and of “Blindface”, “Deluded Desperate Dangerous & Dumb”, “Immortally Yours” and “Liquor Fish & Cigarettes” are clear cut in their criticisms, urging you to think rather than walk around with the wool pulled firmly over your eyes. The world may be inundated with bullshit, but KMFDM can flush it away. –Dave Wolff

Sascha Konietzko: Vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, synthesizer, programming, drums, percussion
Lucia Cifarelli: Vocals, keyboards
Andee Blacksugar: Guitars
Andy Selway: Drums

Track list:
1. All 4 1
2. Rock 'N' Roll Monster
3. Black Hole
4. Hyëna
5. All Wrong - But Alright
6. Blindface
7. Déjà Vu
8. Deluded Desperate Dangerous & Dumb
9. Immortally Yours
10. Liquor Fish & Cigarettes
11. In Dub We Trust

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Interview with Kerry Merkle of The Great Lie by Dave Wolff

Interview with Kerry Merkle of The Great Lie by Dave Wolff

The Great Lie recently played a show with the Nihilistics in Brooklyn, New York. Were any songs from your planned new release previewed?
Yes, we played four of the new songs Amputee, Bumsocks and Bourbon, S.T.E., and Love and Brutality. We enjoyed being able to perform live in Brooklyn again. It had been over two years since we performed there last. It was equally great to share the stage again with The Nihilistics.

How often have you played with the Nihilistics? Do you have a long-term friendship with them? How similar is your band attitude wise?
We shared the stage with them one other time at Amityville Music Hall opening for Murphy’s Law. I am good friends with the current bass player Doug. John our drummer has been a fan since his teenage years. I wouldn’t say we share musical similarities but we definitely have the same don’t-give-a-fuck attitude.

What’s been happening with your other band John Wilkes Booth since I last interviewed you?
We broke up in 2019. It wasn't a bitter or resentful breakup, we just kind of fizzled out. We just weren't as productive as we once were and the fun was kind of gone so we just all moved on. All the Booth members are still friends and we still get together over beers from time to time. Jay and Christian the guitar player and drummer are still playing together.

How many releases besides your current EP “Burners” do you have out? How has the distribution been?
We have released three EPs prior to “Burners” The first “The Old Crow Sessions” was with a different line-up. We had Marc Lopez on bass at that time and only one guitar player. Marc left after the recording enter Scott Martin on bass and Mike Scarola on second guitar and vocals. We then wrote and recorded “All Roads Lead To Where You Stand” followed by “Defying Extinction”. “Defying Extinction” was a big growth for us and we decided to record that EP with Martin Bisi who has recorded many bands we hold in high regard as well as Scott and John’s former band Mind Over Matter. State Of Mind records decided to pick up that EP as a split with War Babies and put it out on a limited vinyl release. That sold well but moving forward we could not secure a distributor for “Burners” so we have just released it digitally ourselves.

Where was “Burners” recorded, and how were the lyrics drafted?
The title is just a reflection on how we felt about the songs. We feel they are all “burners”, meaning they kick ass, haha. Usually our writing process is music first, followed by arranging and nonsense vocal melodies then the final process is the lyric writing. Sometimes Mike comes in with a fully written song with music, lyrics and arrangements. Everyone contributes to the songwriting process. Most of the lyrics are myself and Mike. But Gerry, Scott, and Mike all write music. John is an incredible arranger. We are currently down one songwriter because Gerry has recently departed the band.

What are some topics covered on “Burners”? Name specific songs and describe their inspiration.
Most of the songs deal with personal struggles. Depression, substances, family tension and things of that nature. “Amputee” is a play off the phrase "Cut off your nose to spite your face" and is basically about people who harm themselves while trying to hurt others. “Love and Brutality” is about people who constantly chase unreachable goals all the while ignoring the real people in their lives but then realize where the truth lies. “Bumsocks and Bourbon” is about a morning of regret after a hard night of drinking. Those are the first three on “Burners”.

What are Gerry’s reasons for leaving? Was the parting amicable? How soon do you expect to find a new member?
The pandemic effected many people in different ways. Not being able to play as a band for a long amount of time took its toll on Gerry. It was an amicable split and we are still good friends. I personally have been friends with Gerry for over thirty years and still consider him one of my closest friends. Currently we are not looking for a replacement we are continuing as a four piece for now. But who knows what the future will hold.

Punk and hardcore is becoming popular in Long Island again. Is The Great Lie playing a part?
I actually feel like it has declined since the pandemic. Before Covid we were getting offered stacked punk and hardcore bills on a monthly basis. In this post Covid world the show offers have been few and far between. I do notice the majority of the bands that we play with are veterans of the scene.

How many people turn out to see you when you do get to play? What local clubs still attract people in spite of the pandemic?
We usually get a nice crowd. Most shows we are playing to anywhere from 50 to over 100 people. Seems like there aren’t many restrictions in place anymore and more people have been heading out.

Who have you played with since Covid began? How about in Queens and Manhattan?
We really haven’t played many shows since the pandemic. But some of the few shows we have played were with The Nihilistics, YDI in Brooklyn and locally with Jones Crusher, Bitchswitch, and Motorplasma among others.

Has the pandemic had an impact on the number of people wanting to form bands?
I haven’t really noticed an impact but there are some new great bands coming all the time. Off the top of my head some great new bands from Long Island are Poer Lies, The Stress, Bitchswitch and Halfearth. I think people will always make music no matter what the circumstances but Covid definitely put a damper on the live end of it. Many musicians I know were still quite active recording music because they had more time to focus on writing.

Have you played or would you like to play Tompkins Square Park? Do you know the people who book the shows there?
We would love to play Tompkins Square Park. Looks like a good time! Unfortunately we don't know any of the people that book there.

What’s the situation with recording studios? Have more bands recorded in home studios?
It does seem like more and more musicians are recording on their own but there are plenty of studios that are still up and running.

Is State Of Mind Records a local label? What interested them in “Defying Extinction” and how well do they distribute?
State Of Mind is a label run by Dave Campbell out of Huntington, New York. I believe our drummer John originally reached out to Dave about releasing our record. We actually released as a split with War Babies. State Of Mind did a great job of getting it out there. We picked up quite a few new fans from their distribution and promotion.

What were the advantages of releasing “Burners” independently, promoting and distributing rather than through a label?
I don't know if there were many advantages releasing “Burners” independently. It just the only option we had at the time. We shopped it around for a while but got frustrated and wanted to put it out there for the world to hear.

Are the difficulties you have finding a label an indication of how local labels are faring?
I think making money selling music is a tough business nowadays in general. It's just so easy to record and release your music independently nowadays that I think many bands just choose to do it themselves.

Could you have more freedom in writing lyrics and music if you had to release all your material independently?
We have total freedom whether we release our music on a label or independently. We wouldn’t compromise for a label; we kind of stick to our ideals in that way.

The band is getting rotation at Banks Radio Australia and No Echo. How much has this exposure been helping?
We definitely noticed a difference in our plays on streaming services as well as the number of followers on our social media pages since Banks Radio and No Echo have added us.

Are you pleased with the good review “Burners” received from In Effect Hardcore? I noticed the comparisons to Cro Mags, Exodus and Slayer. Who else has reviewed it this far?
We are very pleased with the review from In Effect. They have been very good to us with all of our releases. We have also been reviewed by Metal Underdogs and you guys Asphyxium zine to name a few, all reviews have been positive.

I noticed you booked a show with Carnivore AD, Year Of Confession and Sarcosuchus. Explain what led to your inclusion on the bill. What other shows do you have booked for the near future?
We had played with Baron from Carnivore A.D.'s other band Motorplasma. When they were looking for bands I reached out to the promoter and Baron said we would be a perfect fit. We also have a DOOM and Dub festival we are playing October 22nd at Ghost and Great South Bay breweries in Bayshore. Should be a fun day, great lineup, cool vendors and of course BEER!!!!!!

Are there any other special plans or projects the band has in mind for the rest of 2022?
We are currently writing new material. We have about five new songs in various stages of completion. We are hoping to finish them up by the end of the year and get us in a studio.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Single/Lyric Video review: The Amazing Demon Boy "Ezmerelda" (Independent) by Dave Wolff

Location: Long Island, New York
Country: USA
Genre: Shock rock, metal
Single/lyric video: Ezmerelda
Format: Digital
Label: Independent
Release date: August 15, 2022
The Long Island artist The Amazing Demon Boy has been on my radar for a while now, but he's as active as ever, performing, releasing EPs and full-lengths, making convention appearances, and promoting his recently launched video. Hardworking as he is, he's also one of the most accessible artists on this side of the Island and you need look no further than Youtube and Facebook to keep up with his activities. In addition, he has always been one of the most approachable, and is always pleased to share his creation.
"Ezmerelda" is a lyric video directed and edited by Edward Nyahay and Little Lost Productions, which also handles videos by Gotholic, Antron LaVey, X Fighter and Wings of Flesh. A previous collaborator of Demon Boy, poet and Asphyxium contributor Rich Orth has a hand in contributing lyrics to this new song. It's likely this will engrave itself on your consciousness for long to come if you’re familiar with DB’s past projects. In more than a decade since started out, he has continued to produce memorable work.
“Ezmerelda” follows DB’s last videos, “This Halloween” and "Hot Summer Nights" (a cover of Walter Egan's 1978 single) and shows the increasing momentum established on "Born Dead", "Pain" and "My Coffin". It has less overt gore in favor of a phantasmagorical vibe, featuring a spectral apparition haunting your dreams when the witching hour is nigh. To put it another way, the appeal of this video is less comparable to Gwar, more to King Diamond with early sequences from “Hellraiser” added for good measure.
In a recent podcast, “Ezmerelda” is a murder tale about a man who kills his girlfriend and keeps her in a box. As the imagery described above illustrates, the horror is multilayered and implies personal fear from deeper in the psyche. Maybe it’s her spirit, maybe a piece of the unnamed man’s conscience at having killed his girlfriend. Whatever this phantom is is likely too horrible to be exposed, and has to be locked away in the box shown in the video. This video is much more psychological, dark and complex than usual.
"Ezmerelda" demonstrates the extent to which The Amazing Demon Boy is transcending his past influences and developing his band's own identity. For a song written almost ten years ago, the music and video production are more professional, and the catchiness remains. We even get cover art designed by Jay Jay Jackson, former Marvel Comics artist. The band plans to release a new full-length album that will feature more recently released material along with some new songs. –Dave Wolff

The Amazing Demon Boy: Vocals
Shawn of the Dead: Guitar, bass
Lightning Lou: Drums

(Touring lineup)
The Amazing Demon Boy: Vocals
Scotty The Dead Body: Guitar
Frankie (Casanova) Irizarry: Bass, rhythm guitar
Lightning Lou: Drums
The Demon Girl – Rebecca Carnage Rampage: Dancer

Review of "My Coffin" video by Dave Wolff

Sunday, September 4, 2022

Full Length Review: Incognito Theory "The Brotherhood" (Ragebreed Records) by Dave Wolff

Location: Kearny, New Jersey
Country: USA
Genre: Southern metal
Full Length: The Brotherhood
Format: Digital album
Label: Ragebreed Records
Release date: September 2, 2022
“Gravesland” an advance track from “The Brotherhood” was released by Incognito Theory in May and reviewed by Corban Skipwith the following month. This is the first time I have heard anything else from the band in a couple months; I remember advance downloads were available, but I preferred waiting for its official release. In essence, it is turning out to be a pleasant surprise.
"Gravesland" is one of four advance tracks released to promote the band's new album, released this week. Other songs include "Sunset Moonshine", "Fired Up" which was released as an official video, and "Whiskey Fueled" which was released nearly two years ago. The southern rock and southern metal industries have long anticipated "The Brotherhood" due to this activity and Ragebreed Records' promotion. I can attest that it was worth the wait now that it's here.
Pantera have always been a favorite ever since I first heard "Vulgar Display of Power" (I won't discuss the mixed opinions regarding their reunion tour), but if you consider that album heavy you should check out "The Brotherhood". There is no other Southern metal I’ve ever listened to that is heavier, more massively produced, and more intense. Occasionally, I described bands as so heavy that I thought my chest would collapse. There is no doubt this elucidation applies here; if you appreciate this genre, judge for yourself.
As a result of being stripped down to just the right amount, "The Brotherhood" is mixed like a sledgehammer blow to your gut. The track is melodic and groove-laden without compromising the weight and density it brings. One's youth motivation to be successful performer is reflected in the delicate balance between rhythm and crunch, living on the edge of excess, just short of going over. Ironic that the band is from New Jersey and does southern metal so well. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
After years of drumming for The Undead and Samhain and playing bass for Danzig, Steve Zing has developed aptitude for executive producing albums. As it appears here the musicianship has every bit of potential for aboveground consumption, and no need to try to copy bands from other eras of rock. It is the balanced distortion and clarity in the songs, especially on the guitars, that convey a sense of unmitigated honesty that will convince you it’s sincere. It may not be “versatile” but it champions passion over image.
This is not to say that other elements aren't introduced into the band's formula. Some of the riffs hint at shades of funk, thrash metal, grunge, and traditional rock. These aren't shoe-horned into the tracks nor are they added for the sake of elitism. As the band writes what they feel, those characteristics seem natural next to their southern flavored progressions.
Among the heaviest tracks on this album are "Set It Off", which has a Sly and the Family Stone-like refrain, and "Blow It Up", which is partially influenced by AC/DC and Circus Of Power. "Whiskey Fueled" contains Metallica-inspired riffing, a chorus reminiscent of Stone Temple Pilots, a bass break reminiscent of Red Hot Chili Peppers, and blazing guitar solos. The riff on "Draw the Line" reminds us of early Van Halen; "The Cleansing" reminds us of Tony Iommi, and even Lars Johansson and Mappe Björkman from Candlemass.
Additionally, the album captures the energy the band generates onstage and presents it to the listener. They are able to project that energy with a great deal of help from John Mosco who handled production for "The Brotherhood," as if it had been recorded entirely live. So what’s keeping you? Come to the show, meet old and new friends, let the whiskey flow, let your ears bleed, live a sinful life and also watch for a guest appearance by Mike LePond (Silent Assassins, Ross the Boss, Symphony X, Them). –Dave Wolff

Dave Incognito: Vocals
Steve Bloodgood: Guitars
Jay Brachman: Bass
John Mosco: Drums

Track list:
1. Set It Off
2. Hell Bent
3. Smokin' Gun
4. Fired Up
5. Whiskey Fueled
6. Draw The Line
7. Blow It Up
8. Sunset Moonshine
9. Gravesland
10. Band Of Brothers
11. The Cleansing