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 "Fly on the Wall" video by Dave Wolff
Review of "Memories And Nightmares" full length by Rrockhopper

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

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Interview with The Ace Drops by Dave Wolff

Interview with The Ace Drops by Dave Wolff

The Ace Drops members were all involved in several bands before crossing paths and deciding to work together. Does this help the band develop a unique thrash metal sound?
Emanuele "Izzy" Bonura (guitars, drum programming, arrangement, video editing): We knew each other since our early teenage years back when we were living in Sicily and were both part of a huge local metal scene. Our sound mainly developed from the mix of thrash guitar riffs from Riccardo (bass/vocals), arranged and composed by Emanuele (guitar/drum programming). Our experience relates especially to home-recording different facets of metal, as back in the day we didn’t have access to any sort of professional studio, and using a DAW as an integral part of the creative process. From the beginning we had a solid idea of the sound we were looking for.

If The Ace Drops members have worked with any bands previously, please let the readers know if their material is still available.
Riccardo Castiglione (vocals, bass, composer): Emanuele has been very active in many bands, such as Der Geist (Death metal), Trinakrius (Doom metal), Crimson Wind (Power metal), Anthirya (Gothic metal) and Lamiera (Thrash metal). I have worked with Sexual Thing (Hard n' heavy) and Screaming Eagle (tribute to Judas Priest), but we played together for Hooks (Thrash Metal). You can find songs from all of these bands on YouTube and Spotify.

What was the length of Hooks' active career? Can you tell me how this band started and why you decided to dissolve them?
EB: We formed as a group of friends wanting to make some noise, and played together for about nine months. We were very young and naive and were thinking more about partying and playing in underground gigs than professionally playing. The premature departure of one of the band members brought a sharp halt to the band and after that everyone moved to other projects.

Is thrash metal still popular in Italy and the UK, after a comeback in the 1990s and again in the 2010s?
RC: The UK has always been at the forefront of music, and there’s still a solid scene here in London that we hope to be a part of with time and effort. As for Italy, the past couple of years haven’t been kind to the metal scene, and unfortunately from 2012 onwards, we’ve seen a steep decline in metal gigs and the number of bands, especially in Sicily where we come from.

Did The Ace Drops relocate from Italy to the UK or were they always based there? What is the extent to which the band has received more publicity since the move?
EB: The band did form in the UK as a result of many recording sessions we had during the pandemic, and although we’re still in the very early stages, we have seen a very good reception to our music and a slowly growing fan base. We truly hope we can leverage the wider London audience and better reception to extreme music to make our music heard and have as much fun as we can!

What was the amount of record sessions that resulted in the formation of the Ace Drops? Are the arrangements between Riccardo and Emanuele still the same as they were at the beginning, and how many songs have been completed?
RC: We had quite a lot of recording sessions before, during and after the first lockdown, too many to be counted. As a result, we have completed about ten songs and, although the arrangement is usually solely Emanuele's duty, from time to time I give him some suggestions and ideas to make the song sound better. I'd say the balance between the two of us is 70% Emanuele and 30% myself.

Did you intend to set The Ace Drops apart from other bands in your country when you formed? Is there a meaning behind the name?
EB: We always strive for getting our own sound, for instance using a single coil telecaster for recording all guitars instead of the usual humbucker. The name is a word play on a Sicilian joke well known in our region, saying “the ace drops” in Sicilian: “l’assu cari” sound identical to “you must suck it”, where the “ace” we refer to is the ace of clubs in traditional Sicilian cards, you’ll see it included in the logo as a reminder of our origins.

What made you decide to make The Ace Drops a two-member project rather than a full band? Is it easier to write and rehearse when there are only two members?
RC: The band started as a passion project with the purpose of recording just a couple of songs, and later evolved into a more professional band, having a small creative core of the band makes it easier to meet and brainstorm ideas.

How many songs have been released to date and where can we hear them? Do you have a digital version, a video version, or both?
EB: So far only two out of ten songs have been released. They’re both available to listen to on the major music platforms, such as Youtube and Spotify, and they both come with a video. We're aiming to release these remaining songs over the next months, still with a lyric video.

What are the titles of those two songs the band has released so far and what inspired them?
RC: The two songs we released are “Curse of the Pharaoh” and “Zombie Hoard”. The lyrics came from a very free-flowing iterative process, we had a general idea of the theme and the story we wanted to tell for each song and we started writing down words and phrases which could fit well.

What are the themes of “Curse of the Pharaoh” and “Zombie Hoard”, and how did you approach developing the storylines?
RC: “Curse of the Pharaoh” is about how this tyrant pharaoh cursed his slaves in their afterlife, I came up with this theme because of the Egyptian-like sound of the riffs. As for “Zombie Hoard”, since I was a kid I always loved zombie movies, so I thought to tell a story about this guy who went on a mission during a zombie apocalypse.

Did the lyrics of "Curse of the Pharaoh" require any historical research?
EB: Not really. At no point we were trying to be historically accurate, we just wanted to tell the story we had in our heads and fit the tone of the music.

Do you remember the zombie apocalypse movies you watched most religiously as a kid? Which movies compare with "The Walking Dead" and its spin-off series?
RC: Unfortunately as a kid I couldn't get a hold of many zombie movies. Growing up I managed to watch a lot of them, like “Night of the Living Dead”, “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later”. But in my opinion, none of them is nearly comparable to "Dawn of the Dead" by George Romero or the “Resident Evil” saga. They're definitely my favorites.

What about Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” and “Resident Evil” appealed to you enough for you to still consider them relevant?
RC: Romero's “Dawn of the Dead” is actually the first horror movie I ever watched when I was six, and I totally fell in love with Peter's character. Fearless and always up for a zombie hunt. As for “Resident Evil”, I started playing the video-game series on the PS1, which led me to watch, appreciate and carve for more “Resident Evil” movies.

Who helped you film and produce the promotional videos for your songs? Are they professional companies or freelancers? How do the videos relate to the lyrics?
EB: The videos were both produced by myself and we didn't get any external help. The first video was more focused on the play through rather than the lyrics. As for “Zombie Hoard”, we tried to recreate the horror vibe using stock footage plus the drawings we commissioned to the Sicilian comic artist Ester Cardella.

Are you planning to release your unreleased songs as a full-length album or will they only be available as videos?
RC: We plan to release a couple of more songs with the same video-first format, as soon as we’ll have enough tracks recorded we plan to get all of them into a full length.

Why did The Ace Drops choose Ocularis Infernum for publicity and how have they helped the band grow?
RC: That was totally random, as I added Andred on Facebook. After a couple of chats, she asked me if we were willing to be part of her roster. Of course we accepted and, since then, our music has been aired on many radios spread all over the world. As you can imagine, her help for us is absolutely priceless.

When Andred started helping support the band, which radio stations did she shop your material to? How many responses are you getting to each of them?
RC: First of all, a big shout out to Andred of Ocularis Infernum Booking and promotion for having us be aired on many shows and Italian radio stations: Facciamo Valere Il Metallo Italiano (, Rock On (, The Night Of The Living Dead (, Heavy Metal Wave (, Power Of Metal (, Radio Terronia Rock (, Terremoto Hard 2.0 ( For the next radio season, our songs will be aired on many stations, both Italians and worldwide. So far, internationally speaking, our music has been aired in Australia on Ozzyrockradio - La Casa Del Rock ( and in Venezuela on Hell Radio ( Currently, with both songs we have received excellent feedback from listeners, but “Zombie Hoard” got a bigger response compared to “Curse of the Pharaoh”.

Is Ozzyrockradio and Hell Radio your first exposure outside Italy or have there been other opportunities? Where else would you like to be heard?
EB: These were our very first times being aired outside of Italy. We sure hope to share our music very soon in Canada, the U.S.A. and some European countries.

Did any of the net radio stations you mentioned feature live interviews with the band?
EB: We had some nice and fun interviews with Radio Terronia Rock and Rock On - Radio Punto Milano, and we plan to have many more in the future!

What are the band’s plans for the remainder of 2020 and beyond that? How soon do you plan to start writing and recording new material?
EB: We already have a few songs ready, we are just waiting for the appropriate time to release them and having fun with our crowd in 2022 and beyond.

-Dave Wolff

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Full Length Review: Sigh "Shiki" (Peaceville Records) by Dave Wolff

Band: Sigh
Location: Tokyo
Country: Japan
Genre: Avant garde black metal
Full Length: Shiki
Format: Digital album
Label: Peaceville Records
Release date: August 26, 2022
The songwriting and musicianship of Sigh have been comparable to a celluloid nightmare crafted by an asylum inmate since the release of "Scorn Defeat" in 1993. With roots in early 90s black metal, they were progressive before the terms 'progressive' and 'black metal' were even conceived as terms that could be used together.
In the mid- to late 1990s, they spawned releases years ahead of their time, and should be considered milestones for their boundless imagination and painstaking effort. Featuring raw, unforgiving and dangerous elements close to the experimentation of the Beatles in the late 1960s, "Infidel Art", "Ghastly Funeral Theatre", "Hail Horror Hail" and "Scenario IV: Dread Dreams" were raw, unforgiving and dangerous. They personified the 'no rules' principle like no other band of their time.
It was clear from their debut album that the band already knew what they were capable of, and the soundtracks to their vision were just waiting to be created. The uninviting bite of early second wave black metal was also crucial to their self-regulated growth as it showed hints of the near-genius development they would achieve later in their recording career.
Many 'big name' underground bands are more consistent in releasing material, aiming to overwhelm the industry, but Sigh chose to take their time in the 2000s and 2010s, recording just seven full lengths that expanded their boundaries while offering a different theme for each release. Each of them showed greater emphasis on atmosphere, experimentation with prog, thrash, power, and classic metal, as well as elements that were intense, downright bizarre, and resounded of a serial killer planning his next move.
Sigh also developed a penchant for overlapping keyboard effects, arranging unexpected twists and turns, and varying themes from song to song. From beginning to end, they use jazz, classical, trip hop and especially soundtracks to create a deranged motif. "Shiki" brings this variety closer to exemplariness than ever before.
Through their long years of experimentation, Sigh maintained the heavy edge they established on their early albums. All this time the band hasn’t run out of steam and everything they’ve come out with proved successful with fans and critics. This tradition is consistent throughout "Shiki" and for that longtime fans won’t find it the slightest bit disappointing.
After twelve full lengths, Sigh continue to break the mold of extreme metal. Intensive planning, calculated songwriting, precise musicianship, catchy guitar riffs, frenetic percussion, lyrics rooted in Japanese occultism, and most importantly, a diversified genre exploration are all impressively displayed on "Shiki". In addition to having a different sound, each song also has a unique personality. The songs have the capacity to make you feel whatever emotion the band desires for you to feel. Just when you think you know what to expect the rug is pulled out from and they take you in another direction.
After a brief, decidedly creepy intro, they create a similar mood to Celtic Frost’s “Procreation (of the Wicked)” adding an equally creepy myriad of keyboards and vocals like rantings of a criminally disturbed individual. This is followed by a somber hymn to darkness and psychosis, followed in turn by similar vibes to Voivod and Amorphis, then another mood change resonating as tranquil yet foreboding. This is just the first two songs, and “Shiki” becomes progressively more experimental from there.
Throughout “Shiki” you get shades of the genres mentioned above, lyrics sung exclusively in Japanese, bass and drums as engaging and inventive as the guitars and keyboards, an emotional and psychological range from sensitive and empathetic to unbalanced and demoniacal, Middle Eastern ambiance, tribal elements, jazz, psychedelia, synthpop and quite possibly the widest range of instruments ever heard in black metal. And enough twists and turns to fascinate you and make you wonder how they pull it off.
Since Japan has contributed massive amounts of unique originality to underground music, from EZO to Masonna to Church Of Misery to Abigail to Boris and far beyond, it’s only natural that Sigh would emerge at the forefront of Japanese black metal and establish themselves as one of Japan’s committed, pioneering bands. With top notch delivery and production “Shiki” is so malicious, outlandish and erratic it will keep you coming back for more. Hands down it’s one of 2022’s finest metal albums. –Dave Wolff

Mirai Kawashima: Vocals, keyboards, flute, piccolo, clarinet, shakuhachi, hichiriki, shinobue, shamisen, taishōgoto, shruti box, vocoder, guitars
Dr. Mikannibal: Vocals, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone
Satoshi Fujinami: Bass
Frédéric Leclercq (guest musician): Guitars
Mike Heller (guest musician): Drums, bongos, bells

Track list:
1. Kuroi Inori
2. Kuroi Kage
3. Shoujahitsumetsu
4. Shikabane
5. Satsui - Geshi No Ato
6. Fuyu Ga Kuru
7. Shouku
8. Kuroi Kagami
9. Mayonaka No Kaii
10. Touji No Asa

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Interview with Dan Buckley of Year Of Confession by Dave Wolff

Interview with Dan Buckley of Year Of Confession by Dave Wolff

Your material has been uploaded to streaming sites after several years of hiatus and you have accepted an opening slot for Carnivore A.D. Can you let the readers know the details of this? Before your hiatus, how much music had you released and which songs did you upload after getting back together? Why did you decide to open for Carnivore?
We actually accepted the Carnivore show beforehand. The guys in YOC are like family. We are very close; we keep in touch in our personal lives because we have a very long history together as friends first. When I saw that the promoter was looking for another band to add to the bill, I suggested to him that I can look into getting the guys together. He was ecstatic about that, and it got me thinking, because I know our personal situations, that this could be a real possibility. We fell off the map for a while, taking care of our personal lives and whatnot. We stopped being able to play around the time we started making more of a name for ourselves. We wrote and recorded a bunch of music but released a demo, an EP, and a single, all before the “A Blood Decree” album. When we released “A Blood Decree” originally, streaming as we know it wasn’t really a thing. We needed to put a CD in somebody’s hand. So, in our opinion, it didn’t really get a fair shot to connect with people. After confirming with the others that we can make this show happen, we figured that we might as well let ABD be heard. We then put it out for streaming as a re-release with extra tracks on it. “A Blood Decree (Expanded Edition)” is available everywhere now. As far as Carnivore goes, we are absolute lovers of music in the truest sense. We have influences that are extremely vast, and we know our history. Not only are they such an important part of the hardcore music scene, but they are also a great band. Joe (our bassist) is originally from Brooklyn so it’s also kind of a cool full circle type of sentiment. This show, which is in November on Long Island, will provide us a chance to see people we haven’t in a long time. Friends, bands, and fans alike. We are looking forward to it.

At what Long Island venue is your upcoming show booked, and what do you anticipate the turnout will be like?
The upcoming show, scheduled for November 19th, 2022, is being held at Shakers in Oakdale NY. We’ll be playing with Carnivore A.D., our friends in Lockdown and The Great Lie, and the up-and-coming Sarcosuchas. I expect to see friends from the past showing up to support all of the artists that are performing and doing what they can to keep this scene alive. My hope is that it will be a mix of older and younger generations who come together as one solid force. I look forward to meeting them all and encourage everyone to be social and say hello! I anticipate a good time and I’m very happy to be involved again after being away for several years. Do you see more gatherings of older and newer fans at the shows you’ve been able to attend of late?
I actually have not been to a local show since well before the pandemic, but I have seen pictures and videos from some. It does seem to be happening to a certain degree. I hope I’m not wrong about that. I’m sure it’s not every show but I think it goes back to what you were saying about the scene picking up again. I see friends of ours that are still trucking along, playing with their respective bands, and I think that’s awesome. Summon The Plague and Monochromatic Black for example. They are very talented musicians and I’m glad to see them doing what they love to do.

Are Summon The Plague and Monochromatic Black streaming any material on the web? If so, where can their releases be found?
I know Monochromatic Black is on Spotify, I’m not sure if Summon The Plague has anything up just yet. I see videos that they post to Facebook though, they seem to be playing a lot of local shows and getting a good response. Both bands are extremely heavy sounding. If anyone is into that, I suggest looking into them.

How much has streaming helped increase your fan base since you uploaded “A Blood Decree (Expanded Edition)”? On what sites can people check it out?
In terms of increasing our fan base, it seems too early to tell. We have definitely turned some heads in our direction (which is nice) but what we are most pleased with so far is being able to reconnect with the fans we had already. A good amount of people liked our songs live but never got a chance to have the music. Right now, “A Blood Decree (Expanded Edition)” is available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, IHeartRadio, YouTube Music, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, etc. All of these links and more can be found at, our official website.

In addition to digital, what other formats has "A Blood Decree" been released on? On the same subject, do any of the band members collect vinyl records?
When “A Blood Decree” was originally released, we had pressed three song sampler CDs that were handed out and the rest of the album was available for download. We got caught up in the middle of physical media and streaming around that time. It was really annoying to have to explain to people, but we did what we could. Our bassist (Joe Micolo) collects vinyl records. He has a pretty good amount of albums. There is something to be said for being able to hold an album, as I’m sure you know, even with CDs and cassettes. I would never rule out pressing something to vinyl. I think that would be really cool to have.

How many copies of your three-song sampler was the band able to move independently? Did the band also design cover art and packaging for it?
We only pressed 1000 of those CDs. Even though it was also available for download, we wanted to preserve some of them for the future. We moved almost all of them into the hands of others. Our artwork was conceptualized by us but made possible, designed, and carried out by Troy Wilkerson. Troy is a very talented artist and a very good friend of ours.

Has Troy Wilkerson designed cover art for many bands besides YOC? When you described the cover concept to him, how well did his work reflect what you wanted?
I’m not positive which ones or how many but I believe he has worked with others, especially by now. I wouldn’t doubt it at least. We did “A Blood Decree” and “Cycles Of Man” (our prior EP) with him so far. He’s fantastic at reflecting our ideas in his art. He has even come up with suggestions. The artwork for ABD was straight forward, just like the music in our opinion. Something simple and to the point was exactly what was needed. Cycles Of Man was a project and a half. The CD has an entire fold out mural type of thing, that he painted by hand first, based off of the concepts we were throwing at him. I have to give him credit for having patience. Haha.

For a time, the popularity of underground music was waning on Long Island. More recently it has made a comeback. How much more popular is it becoming again in your view? And what do you think of the idea of Carnivore reforming after Peter Steele passed away?
Personally, I think being able to hear Carnivore songs in a live setting still is great. To my knowledge, it’s a tribute situation comprised of original members and close friends that played in the same circle as them back in the day. I have yet to see them, but I would think they probably do it justice. Peter Steele was a very talented and influential figure, for them to honor him and respect his work like this is pretty cool.
As far as the Long Island underground scene is concerned, what I’ve seen on social media lately echoes what you are saying. For sure, it seemed a little bleak for a while. To make matters worse, we had a health crisis going on. Nobody was playing live for a bit. I do sometimes wonder though, maybe that lent itself to building up the music scene even more? Based on what I’ve seen on social media so far, a lot of younger people do seem to be very involved now again. It sort of reminds me of when my friends and I started going to local shows, which was predominately in the late 90s and early 2000’s. I just hope the message of unity and support can be sustained.

Were your friendships before the band started helpful in reviving your original lineup when you reformed?
We started in high school with our original drummer, Steve. We went through a lot of growth musically speaking, and we had a couple of different vocalists back then. We met John just after high school. He had never done vocals before but was determined. He was a natural and fit right in with what we wanted to do. Brian was a friend of ours for years before he joined the band. Steve eventually felt as if he went as far as he could and didn’t want to hold us back. Brian was our first phone call. We are all friends and music was always at the center of what we were doing. No amount of time can erode our commitment to each other. YOC is mostly a matter of availability for us exactly because we are such good friends. If there’s a way for us, it happens.

Did you have similar musical tastes when Year Of Confession formed or were your tastes divergent and in need of time to incorporate?
We had a lot of common ground, but I would say it was fairly different, especially when we were younger. We just wanted to play though and welcomed the diversity. We also discovered a lot of music together, which helped shape us. After a while, especially when Brian came into the picture, we homed in on and generated a more solid sound. Some songs took a lot more time to write than others (for several reasons) but once we hit a stride it was a quick process. After a while, you sort of learn how to write with each other. I like to think of it as if we are painting a picture. Even though we may like different colors, and use different brushes, we can all paint on the same canvas. We don’t exactly know what it will look like at the end, but we know for sure that it will be ours.

What styles of music did each of the members of YOC grow up with and contribute to your formula? In what ways does this make the band stand out as having their own sound?
We grew up with a lot of different music in our lives. Between the four of us, it ranges from all types of Rock and Metal to Industrial, Film Scores, Hardcore, and tons of subgenres across several decades. Brian is very much influenced by everything having to do with drums and the amount of bands he is familiar with is honestly staggering. Joe is probably the least mainstream music oriented of the group. Not to say he doesn’t like it; he just prefers music that is obscure. We were introduced to a lot of underground music because of him. John was into the typical big name metal bands from the 80’s and 90’s, as we all were. Those bands had a big influence on the way he writes lyrics. As for myself, I can usually hear those iconic 70’s rock bands coming through when I write but it’s influenced by the metal bands of our youth. I love writing stuff that has atmosphere, is organic sounding, and is held together with the tight interlocking sound of many 90’s metal bands. When we started discovering the underground hardcore scene of our era, that is what really solidified the band’s direction. We took what we were all about beforehand and started incorporating different types of grooves and obnoxious sounding chords. We focused more on the intensity of our music instead of the flare of our instruments. We try to always do what we feel is best for the song as a whole and feel strongly about YOC being its own entity.

If you were to describe organic sounding, what would you mean? What balance should a song or album have in terms of atmosphere?
It comes down to perspective I suppose, but for me “organic sounding” means truthful and natural. Truthful in terms of originality and not purposely mimicking another artist. Not to say you shouldn’t let your influences be noticed, I just love hearing stuff that is written or arranged uniquely. By natural I mean in terms of not forcing yourself to write a certain way but to try and let whatever it is reveal itself. When it comes to atmosphere, I think it’s important to keep the sentiment of the songs in mind as they progress. When I start writing anything, I purposely leave space in order to hear what the others do and then expand on it from there. If, down the line, I feel like the song needs some breathing room, I will try to create that. Likewise, that space can always be filled if necessary. I believe the same concept can be used for the layout of an album when you keep the listening experience in mind.

Is it better for underground bands to retain their heavy and caustic elements or become more experimental as they progress and grow? Or does it depend on each band’s situation?
All of the above. I’m a big proponent for experimenting and thinking outside of the box. That doesn’t necessarily mean less heavy though. To a degree, I like to hear bands mix things up. It keeps me from being bored. I don’t particularly care for an entire album of songs that sound exactly the same but if it’s all over the place, that doesn’t work for me either. How it unfolds should come down to each band’s situation and what they set out to do from the beginning. YOC has experimented a lot over the years. Most of our songs sound different from each other but still sound like Year Of Confession. I think anything that contributes to the communication of the song is at least worth considering.

Can you tell me which albums from any decade are close enough to the qualities you want in an album?
There’s a lot of great albums that come to mind for various reasons. This is a tough question for me, my mind is racing! I will try to narrow it down a little bit and stick to heavier genres. When it comes to the more well-known stuff, it’s hard for me to not say “Cowboys From Hell” or “Vulgar Display Of Power”. Those two albums were groundbreaking on so many levels and really showed the range the band had when it came to writing. “Urban Discipline” by Biohazard shows a lot of attitude as well, attitude is good. “Chaos A.D.” by Sepultura, “Symbolic” by Death, “Low” by Testament, FNM’s “Angel Dust” and “King For A Day” albums, even “Ænema” by Tool. The self-titled album and "Imprint" by Vision Of Disorder, “Process Of Self Development” by Candiria, “Stabbing The Drama” by Soilwork, and Led Zeppelin II, III, & IV. Some of the musicians who wrote this music are the reason I even wanted to play in the first place, but these iconic albums did have a huge impact on me. When I listen to an album, I want to hear something of substance, either through the lyrics or sonically. The most important takeaway for me is inspiration. If I ever do anything the slightest bit close to what these albums did for me, it would be a dream come true.

The majority of the underground albums you cited were released in the 1990s, if I understand you correctly. Are there any albums released since the 2000s that measure up to those older releases?
The 1990s were when I started discovering music that was considered to be more underground or in the hardcore scene. We were always showing up to local shows to support bands like Skycamefalling, Neck, R22, Overthrow, and Candiria. I would say that era is when underground music had the biggest impact on me. After that, we were mostly focused on supporting bands that we befriended and doing our own thing as well. There are later albums that I really like but it’s hard for me to say if they measure up or not. I like them all for mostly independent reasons and each show qualities that I love to hear. “Jupiter” by Cave In, “Jane Doe” by Converge, “Oceanic & Panopticon” by Isis, and “Spirals” by Blood Has Been Shed to name a few. Some of the more well-known stuff I’m into include albums by Shadows Fall, Every Time I Die, Blood Simple, Sevendust, Deftones, Periphery, Soilwork, and Meshuggah.

Likewise, you mention Led Zeppelin's second, third, and fourth albums. Who else from the classic rock era inspires you on the same level as underground bands? Do you know any bands from the early punk era?
When I was a young kid, I was listening to Led-Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Beatles, Van Halen, The Allman Brothers, Black Sabbath, etc. All of these bands have inspired me a great deal. Once I started getting into Metal, I was all about the “Big 4” and bands such as Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Testament, Pantera, and Fear Factory. I have a lot of respect for and have listened to some early era Punk bands such as The Clash, The Misfits, and Black Flag but I can’t personally say I’m as familiar with them. We did play a show with Gotham Road one time though. I don’t recall how that happened exactly, but I know John (our singer) was super excited about it. He was a little more into music of that nature.

How much input did each member of the band have writing and recording the material on your releases? Which of them do you think best represents your working together?
Each release thus far has a history behind it but I would say “A Blood Decree” is our most forward and matured writing of that era. It was a result of us stripping down our approach and focusing on being forceful in the face of adversity. We went through a lot of crap during that time and that was our way of hitting back at life. As for writing input, we had a process that became the norm. Joe or I would have a spark for a song and the other would fan the flame. Once Brian heard it he would work his magic and make us rethink what is possible. Usually by the time John got to it, it was almost done. We used that to our advantage because he was like an outside set of ears. When it came to lyrical content, we took turns offering up something we each needed to have a song about. It was like group therapy. John was always a good lyricist and excelled at writing loosely based on the topic. Sometimes it was purposely not so vague though. Like the title track “A Blood Decree” for example.

What is “A Blood Decree” about and how is it intended to be relevant to the genres you work within? Discuss some of the other songs on the album you deem worth mentioning?
“A Blood Decree” is a song about a very dark moment in my life. The lyrics were written as a gift from John to me and based off of about eight pages of notes that I wrote in order to not forget what had transpired. The guitar parts were meant to express the situation as well.
I dozed off one afternoon after coming home from work but not before letting my dog outside in the yard. When I awoke a little while later it was to the sound of several gun shots. I frantically searched and called for her to no avail. It seemed like forever, but I found her trying to get back under the fence to my yard. She was just sitting there motionless and that’s when I noticed a bullet hole in her chest. I got her back into my house and locked her into her crate. There was blood everywhere, I was actually slipping in it. What had happened was, she got into my back neighbor’s yard and out to the street. Someone over there called the police asking for animal control, but they sent an office anyway. When the cop showed up, the dog was scared and running around. The officer said he felt unsafe and fired 5 or 6 shots, one of which hit my dog. Then the police were at my front door bragging about how their guy “shot that dog dead”. This dog was an absolute sweetheart and never hurt anyone. The guy who called them even said that it was not necessary. I had to rush the dog to Long Island Veterinary Hospital where she almost died. The bullet missed her heart by a half inch. I had no money, so they worked out a deal. I got a second job and hand delivered thousands over the following ten months to pay for the surgery she needed. She survived and ABD was made. Our intention was to make people realize that music, like life, can be both beautiful and brutal at the same time.
Just a quick synopsis of some of the other songs on the album. All of which are based on real life events.
“Bring Me Back” - Finding that light to pull you out of the darkest place in your life.
“Withered” - A song about suicide and the destruction it brings to one’s family.
“We Will Overcome” - Positivity. Perseverance to achieve one’s dreams and goals. This song was written as a light to focus on.

On a personal note, did you manage to sue the officer who shot your dog? Which of your unmentioned songs, if any, deals with corruption in authority? What inspired the three songs you listed above?
I did not. I was young and didn’t realize what sort of recourse I might have had. It was a whole ordeal. I was ticketed and I had to appear in court. I basically had to fight for them to release her to me too. They deemed the dog legally “dangerous” because the officer discharged his firearm. The irony in that is astonishing. However, I just wanted her home, so I did whatever I needed to do. After that took place, I dedicated a lot of my time to learning about the stigma certain dogs received and why. I also got involved in advocacy related to rescue, proper responsibility, and treatment of APBTs.
“Bring Me Back” was inspired by a depressive state that John was going through and him having certain people in his life to help claw his way out. I think we have all been there at some point, I certainly have, so these lyrics are very relatable and can apply to anybody.
“Withered” was inspired by a real-life suicide and the devastation that it caused to a family. John has said “It was written from a place of anger and hurt and reflects that in its vision of the subject matter.”
“We Will Overcome” was a song written about our own band. The struggles we had in trying to get our music heard and the process of getting out to do what we love. It was the cultivation of our collective feelings towards that strive for success that we shared. We were each going through a lot around that time and this was a much-needed positive tone for us. The music for this song came together very quickly during rehearsal one night. I think we wrote 90 percent of it in about a half an hour.
YOC does not have a song that is specific to corruption in authority.

Do you think the lyrics to those songs are written in a way people who have had similar experiences can relate to?
Yes I do. That was the intention at least. We wanted our own experiences to be written about in a way that helped each of us but could also be applied to other situations. Everybody goes through their own turmoil in life. Sometimes you need to get that off your chest or hear words of encouragement. That is something that we whole heartedly believe in. We wrote the music that we needed. If somebody else can benefit just as much, all the better.

Tell the readers about the advocacy you're involved in. Are there any activities related to it?
The advocacy I’m involved with, which pertains to APBTs, basically boils down to being a good ambassador for the breed whenever possible. It’s a hot topic and I understand that not everyone will have the same perspective I do. Some have had very bad experiences and their opinions should not be discounted. The open dialogue, and understanding of the issue, is what I hope comes to light though. It’s very easy to see one of these dogs and think you should be scared of them. However, that is not the dog's fault. That is because we live in a world where news outlets sensationalize anything that involves them. I always say, you either hear of a “Dog attack” or a “Pit bull attack” as if they are two different things. To be clear, I don’t recommend putting your guard down with any animal, especially one that you are not familiar with. These dogs are not for everybody and that’s ok. In fact, I don’t want to see just anybody with them. They are smart, physically fit, and very capable in many aspects. They also have the reputation that now comes with them. That alone means it’s an added responsibility above most other breeds. Unfortunately, heartless people will exploit them to make money or show others they are some type of badass just by having them. These dogs are tortured, starved, physically manipulated, and fought (to the death in many cases) before being discarded. Many times, these dogs escape the horrible situation they are in or are thrown away like garbage before roaming the streets or going after somebody. It’s not right and it starts by being a responsible owner. I myself didn’t realize at the time that all of this was a thing. Jade, the one whom ABD was about, was a family dog. She was a puppy when I got her and it’s not like she came with instructions. I learned the hard way that they are judged and shunned by the public eye. It’s funny how they are known for being protective but they themselves need it just as much sometimes. I blame myself the most for what had happened, which is why I chose to save her at the cost of thousands that I didn’t have. Would it have happened the way it did though if she was a different breed? I don’t really think so.
My recommendation for anybody looking to get involved, or adopt, is to educate themselves and find a local rescue to follow. Rescues usually have activities and events that can be attended. Learn for yourself what the real story is behind this breed. Above all, be honest with yourself. Do you have the time, patience, and proper situation to go the extra mile with these dogs? It’s a lot of responsibility and it does no good if you can’t do well by them. The last Year Of Confession show was billed as a Positive Pit Bull Awareness event that we put together. We had “New York Bully Crew” down there and handed out information in support of the cause.

What was the turnout at the Positive Pit Bull Awareness event when you appeared there? If Covid restrictions should be lifted, do you think you’re play more shows like it?
The turnout for that show was very different actually. We booked it ourselves and since it was sort of a reunion show at the time, we purposely put other bands on that could benefit more from the exposure provided. We had people coming down who didn’t even listen to this type of music but wanted to show support. It was a little strange but very cool in a way. We probably could have had a larger turnout overall if we went about it differently but we have no problem falling on our sword for a good cause. We would love to play more shows like that whenever it’s feasible to do. Right now, we are focused on getting back in the loop more and getting reacquainted. There’s a good amount of local bands that I’m only now discovering. There’s also a ton of music that I feel like I missed out on, I’m adding stuff to my rotation often. This may take a while.

Who are the bands you’re discovering of late and getting reacquainted with?
There are some that I heard on Sirius XM over the past couple of years that I think are really good. A few that stand out for me are Spiritbox, Moon Tooth, and Slaughter To Prevail. I just started using Spotify when we uploaded our music, but I have been able to find some of the bands I’ve been hearing about through social media. Johnny Booth & Incendiary for example. I’ve been really into what I’m hearing from them and find it interesting. I get a Snapcase vibe from Incendiary which I think is awesome. I’ve been able to catch up a little with some releases by Cave In and I also just saw that Botch released a new single. That is pretty awesome.

Do you remember what program on Sirius XM played Spiritbox, Moon Tooth, and Slaughter To Prevail? Are these underground bands or bands that started underground and grew closer to the mainstream?
The station is called Liquid Metal, I’m not sure what program it was specifically. These bands started off as underground and have since become bigger or are already part of the mainstream scene now. They each show a lot of style and have a uniqueness about them that I enjoy hearing. Moon Tooth is from Long Island, which is pretty cool.

How much will Sirius XM, net radio and streaming play a part in underground music in the future? Where will YOC fit into this, do you think? Is there new material you’re working on that you plan to shop around?
In terms of access to music, streaming is a game changer. I think whether we like it or not it plays a very big part. There’s so much music in every genre that is available at the touch of a button now. It’s potentially more exposure but as always there are two sides to every coin. The industry seems to be putting a focus now on paid promotion. The music is there, but who will be able to find it without promotion? So that’s one tough thing. Same with social media. It seems like you can post stuff until the cows come home. Nobody will see it nowadays. In essence it gives the industry a different type of control. I don’t know to what extent Sirius XM will play but I have always thought it would be nice if they had an unsigned band segment that would bring light to underground artists. They seem to be focusing on bands that are starting to get huge or are already influential from the past. That’s important as well, don’t get me wrong. It would be nice though.
When it comes to Year Of Confession, we plan on taking advantage of streaming however we can and are finally getting our music out there. We were at a disadvantage beforehand because unless a local band was touring extensively or doing a ton of internet sales for some reason, it was much more difficult to share music. Streaming opens up a lot of possibilities. On and off during our hiatus, we have written stuff that was never recorded. Most of that has never been heard by anybody. We are tossing around the idea of recording those songs and releasing them at some point. In terms of completely new material, it’s hard to say what the future holds. None of us are against the idea, like I said earlier it’s just a matter of being able to. One thing I know for sure is that since picking my guitar back up for the show in November, I find myself naturally starting to write stuff. I suppose it depends on how things unfold going forward. Something is telling me that our work is not done, so if there are any fans of ours that are reading this, I would say definitely keep following us wherever you can. You never know.

John Alaia: Vocals
Dan Buckley: Guitars
Joseph J Micolo III: Bass
Brian Calhoun: Drums

-Dave Wolff