Monday, November 17, 2008

From Issue #305

(Note - this was the final column. Want to know why? Write to MRR...)

A few weeks ago Gothenburg, Sweden’s At The Gates came storming down the West Coast. I was in the Bay Area at the time and was lucky enough to catch the show at the Fillmore. It’s easy to dismiss At The Gates as overhyped bullshit given the thousands of horrible melodic metal and metalcore bands they spawned in their wake. But to do is just as cliché as all those bands trying to cop their sound. There are several reasons for this.

First, At The Gates was around at the beginning of the death metal movement. And not just the death metal movement, but the SWEDISH death metal movement, the best and most amazing death metal scene of all. Tomas Lindberg, the band’s vocalist, was active in the scene prior to the formation of At The Gates in many ways, doing his zine Cascade, setting up shows and playing in The Grotesque who along with Nihilist, set the stage for the death metal boom in their homeland. The Bjorler twins played in the band Infestation, and original guitarist guitarist Alf Svensson played in many projects including mid 80s Swedish hardcore band Oral.

Secondly, every album At The Gates created was a masterpiece, from their debut mini-LP Gardens Of Grief, on all the way up to Slaughter Of The Soul, the album for which they are most known, and in many cases the only one people have checked out (a fucking tragedy).

Lastly to write them off for their popularity gives no credit to the fact that they are ridiculously amazing live band even today after a 12 year break. Not to mention, At The Gates became way more popular in death then they ever were life, they had no control over their own martyrdom.

When Slaughter Of The Soul was released in late ’95, I bought the cassette the day it came out. I’d already been listening to the band for several years, and was into the direction they had taken on their previous release Terminal Spirit Disease a mini-album that also contained live versions of several classic older songs. I loved the old style, but the new direction was more straight forward and direct, not giving up on the complex brutality of the earlier releases, just honing it into a razor sharp machine. Yes, they had melodies, but they always did and it was still aggressive as hell and Lindberg’s vocals were top notch.

At the time of its release the album was definitely acknowledged as being great, but no one seemed to realize it would become the most influential metal album of the 1990s. Judging by the fact that in 1996 At The Gates was touring as a support band and playing venues like the Berkeley Square (considerably smaller than the Fillmore) it was pretty clear people didn’t catch on right away.

As time went on the album was picked up on by a lot of people, but not in time for At The Gates to realize it. They broke up in 1996 after a ton of touring for the album. They knew it’d be near impossible to write an album as good again and there was starting to be “musical differences” within the band. In fact, that they broke up at their peak has over the years added to their “mystique” despite high visibility by nearly all involved (Skitsystem, Disfear, The Haunted and Cradle Of Filth) and none of their subsequent projects being anywhere near as good.

At The Gates came to be synonymous with the “Gothenburg Sound” of death metal, which is basically just melodic death metal. But aside from At The Gates almost every band ever called that has been total wimps and posers not worthy of the death metal label. Just look at In Flames for all the evidence you need; they’ve been carrying that banner ever since without a hint of the quality of At The Gates. There’s more fury in one At The Gates riff then the entire In Flames discography! The only Gothenburg band worthy to sit alongside At The Gates that had any integrity was the mighty Dissection who they toured the US with in 1996 opening for Morbid Angel.

Nowadays people call Slaughter Of The Soul the Reign In Blood of the 1990s. I don’t know about that, but there’s no doubt that it is a fan-fucking-tastic record no matter what the haters say. The problem, as noted above, is that too many people have ignored the other amazing albums they did, which was clear by the crowd in San Francisco, many of whom looked confused and bored when anything aside from Slaughter tunes were aired.
The debut Gardens Of Grief is super raw, dark and under produced, and only hints at the classy complexity of the bands first two full lengths. Lindberg’s vocals are more varied, going low at times and high others, similar to his days in Grotesque. The classic track “All Life Ends” first appeared on this mini-LP.

The first full length album The Red In The Sky As Ours is considerably different than Slaughter Of The Soul with supremely complex arrangements, tons of riffs per song, and even violins in a few places. It suffers from a shitty production, but the songs are killer nonetheless with brilliant stuff like “Claws Of Laughter Dead”, “Neverwhere” and the live favorite (at least for me) and set closer in San Francisco “Kingdom (fucking) Gone”. My vinyl version of this album remains one of the most cherished pieces of my collection.

The follow up to Red Sky (as it’s often known) was the much better-produced With Fear I Kiss The Burning Darkness. It introduced killers like “Raped By The Light Of Christ” which starts acoustically and breaks into some seemingly classical influenced riffing. Lindberg’s pained high rasps are in near perfect form, a very stark contrast to the then popular Stockholm low guttural vocal style. To ignore this album and Red Sky is an unforgivable sin of omission to anyone calling themselves a fan of this band.

Terminal Spirit Disease came next and its blistering title track clearly illustrated what was to come on the scene-changing Slaughter Of The Soul that came after it. Interestingly the band left Peaceville after Terminal and ended up on Earache who by that time were suffering from a serious lack of decent albums. It’s arguable whether they knew at the time they were about to get in on one of the most influential records of the decade, but once again Earache hit it big with Slaughter Of The Soul.

Anticipation was high when At The Gates announced earlier this year they’d reform for a final tour. Their logic was that they broke up under circumstances that left them feeling things were unfinished, so this tour was meant to close the book. No new music, no other tours (supposedly). Could they be as good as they were back when I saw them in 95 and 96?

The truth is, as good as they were back then (and they were fucking epic) they were even better in 2008. The band is acutely aware of their status as gods of the scene and the set did not spare the classics. Slaughter Of The Soul was played almost in its entirety and the entire crowd was going apeshit. They immediately ripped right into the fantastic title track, one that many count as their favorite, and proceeded throughout the night to play a few from Slaughter, then an oldie, then a few more from Slaughter, etc.

Now, despite the album’s influence, which I acknowledge absolutely, for me the earlier albums are the real jewels, and I was eager to hear which older tunes would be unleashed. Mostly it was the old tracks that also turned up as live cuts on Terminal Spirit Disease. The band probably figured most of the fans who only owned Slaughter were most likely to have Terminal if they had ventured to other albums (it being Slaughter’s closest relative both stylistically and chronologically). But the live older tracks from that album are some of the best from the earlier material like the aforementioned “Kingdom Gone”, “All Life Ends” and “The Burning Darkness”. With Fear’s “Raped By The Light Of Christ” and the Red Sky track “Windows” were also let loose. About three original’s from Terminal were also played. All in all it was about as good as it could get for a set list for both recent fans and long time ones like myself. I was especially stoked they ended with an oldie, which I think was a nod to OG fans. I awoke the next day to the worst bangover of my life, my neck completely thrashed and near broken.

Another reason I felt the need to write so much about At The Gates this month was I just finished reading the book Swedish Death Metal by Daniel Ekeroth. The book was just released domestically in the US this July, though it’s been circulating in Europe for a year two. The American version has the English cleaned up and some additional stuff absent from the Euro version.

Folks, this book is about as amazing a book as is possible for rabid Swedish death metal fanatics, of which I count myself as one. The thing is like 400 pages long with tons of interviews with members of Nihilist (Entombed), Morbid, Unleashed, Treblinka (Tiamat), Carnage, Dismember, Grave, Grotesque (At The Gates, Liers In Wait), Edge Of Sanity, Afflicted Convulsion (Afflicted), even punk dudes from Mob 47 and Asocial appear. Tons of old photos, flyers, demo covers, old zines and an exhaustive discography with knowledgeable and humorous opinions by the author.

The best part about the book is that it is written like a fanzine would be written. No over analytical bullshit or posturing on the greater meaning of it all. No intellectual ridiculousness about its artistic merit. Just killer quotes and honest death metal fanatic discourse from a guy who grew up with it and was consumed by it (like me!). No one is here looking for outside approval.

The book is published by Bazillion Points Publishing out of New York and their website is I would recommend this book not only to Swedeath maniacs but anyone into metal or hardcore, and especially anyone not yet familiar or just starting out with old death metal. This is the perfect place to get acquainted with the scene that helped create the modern metal underground.

The author also agrees with me that the best album ever produced by the scene was Entombed’s Left Hand Path. For me, not only was that the best Swedeath album ever, but the best death metal album of all time – the guitar sound, the songwriting, the production and the vocals are all picture perfect. Yes it’s better than Altars Of Madness and any album by Carcass or At The Gates.

Plus, the “where did the blastbeat originate” debate is given another twist by the author who claims the Swedish hardcore band Asocial was ripping the one beat as early as 1982, pre Siege, pre Repulsion, pre Napalm. The saga continues…!

Anyway folks, between the At The Gates show and the Swedish Death Metal book, I’ve been engulfed in the old all month and have absolutely ignored any new and obviously inferior weak metal these last weeks. I’ll be back next month to talk about some new shit again but we all know it’ll never match the power and brutality of old Swedish death!

Don’t Try, 120 State Ave NE #136, Olympia, WA 98501 USA,,

From Issue #304

Summertime in Olympia has finally arrived. Though it doesn’t typically get hot enough to reach the blistering heat of summer in the East Bay, having lived in Oly long enough to get used to the cooler temps, 85 degrees now seems the equivalent of 100 to my acclimating northern blood. I’ve always been partial to overcast weather and seeing as how it never stays sunny too long up here, for me it’s an ideal summer. With no more 120 day stretches of East Bay sun constantly shining in my face I’ve gained a new appreciation for the more infrequent sunny weather of Olympia.

Another fun reality of Olympia is that fireworks are more legal here. Independence Day weekend just passed by and there were little fireworks stands all over the place. My daughter and I hooked up some sparklers, roman candles and some other relatively non-threatening, non-dangerous shit to light up. This made for my kids favorite 4th yet, as in the Bay she’s been limited to watching fireworks shows from afar. This time we had our own show with our friends; much better.

I also recently bought a small record store in Olympia. Phantom City Records has been open for years and for a long time had been owned by Judd the screamer for Sex/Vid. Well I guess Judd burned out on doin’ the whole thing and if he couldn’t sell it he was gonna shut it down. I hate to see another record store close down so I scrounged up some cash, we made some backroom deals and when it was over, I got the store and Judd bolted to do a month long Sex/Vid tour. I’m pretty stoked to have a store even though record stores seem to drop like flys these days. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try and the timing was right for both of us. So if you’re in Oly stop by and buy shit so the store stays open for a long time to come. It’s right downtown on 4th street inside the Dumpster Values compound.

The metal pickens have been slim lately with nothing super mindblowing coming my way in a while. That said there is some decent stuff circulating that might be worth your time and effort.

When death/doom is used as a genre description it can mean a lot of different things. Japan’s Coffins always describe themselves as death/doom, which would be accurate since they sound like a death metal version of Corrupted. But typically death/doom is used to described stuff like early Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, even Asunder. In other words, it’s got a more tragic, depressing vibe to it.

It’s from that more typical meaning that the music of Mourning Beloveth draws from. Mourning Beloveth is an Irish band that’s got several albums to their credit and have been active since the 90s. The latest album is called A Disease For The Ages, released on the Grau label. They embody the sound of the death/doom genre with the heavy, sad and slow guitar riffs, the deep guttural vocals and the epic song lengths, with only one track of the five clocking in under the 10-minute mark. Having been around a while Mourning Beloveth has definitely isolated the elements of their style into the finest points and have crafted some quality tunes that are among the genre’s best. At times they contrast the death vocals with a clean Saint Vitus style croon, connecting their sound with doom’s older generation. Great record that I’ll be spinning outside the context of review writing.
The German band Dornenreich has a couple new releases out. The first, a new album, is called In Luft Gentzt and is primarily an album of mostly acoustic songs. The second is a reissue of their 2001 album Her Von Welken Nachten which is sort of symphonic black metal with lots of keyboards and a decidedly absurdist spin on the vocals. Overall, I can’t recommend either album, though the band remains relatively popular among a certain subsect of the scene.

Ascend is a new project that features members of SUNN and Iceburn. Despite the album’s project band nature, there’s actually some good interesting stuff going on here. The album, Ample Fire Within, starts with the very SUNN-esque drone of “The Obelisk Of Kolob” though the track does feature drums, and has a muddier tone than the SUNN records, sounding like an outtake from a Corrupted LP. The whole thing works more as a collection of collaborative tracks rather than a whole album with some tunes being a bit on the softer, creepy dark side rather than the crushing nature of the first track. Vocals seep into the mix on “Divine” that sound not unlike Steve Von Till’s clean vocal style for Neurosis. If you dig SUNN and its many bastard offshoots then check this one out as it’s definitely got a lot more to it then some of the others. Released by Southern Lord.

After that dose of audial Nyquil I was glad to pop in the short, sharp shock of the demo CD-R from Japan’s Dellin Muller. My Japanese buddy Ryo does the vocals in this band. Some of you may have seen him doing the occasional guest vocal with The Endless Blockade and Coffins on their recent US tour. This demo consists of 3 bursts of raw deathgrind that rarely gets below lightspeed. Bands like Phobia and Retaliation would be an apt comparison. Check em out via myspace at

Tyr is a very popular Viking metal band. Viking metal typically features metalized ethnic Scandinavian style guitar work and epic vocal delivery, sometimes black metal style, but in Tyr’s case these are clean style vocals sung mostly in their native tongue. The choruses have the vocals layered many times giving the sing-along effect common to this metal subgenre. The riffs on Land are not so Norse folk sounding as with other bands playing the style, but on the whole this album is too polished for my blood. Well played, well-executed, but mostly boring. I see many Euro festival metalheads diggin’ this and maybe US kids into bands like Finntroll and Vintersorg, but give me Isengard any day over this madness. On the Napalm label.

Aluna are a UK band with a new 3 song CD called Fall To Earth. They play bluesy Sabbath-inspired grooves in the stoner vein. What sets them apart is vocalist Soph. It’s awesome to see a female vocalist in a genre that is overwhelmingly dominated by gruff bearded dudes. Unfortunately her vocals are somewhat on the monotone side and often it feels like she’s holding back and not really letting loose. They’re too lazy, and the music follows suit as well. There’s just too many damn bands that are playing or have played this style. You really have to raise the bar if want to succeed cuz its been done to fuckin’ death. Check the first couple Fu Manchu records for reference. Check Aluna out at

Some ex-Rwake dudes comprise Arkansas ugly doom peddlers Deadbird. After a stint at Earache they’re back to the more underground At A Loss label, a label that always releases some quality heavy stuff (ie. Black Cobra). This album Twilight Ritual definitely has the vibe of their brothers in Rwake with fuzzy Crowbar-esque lost-it-all riffs and pained vocal rasps with the faster material veering into Black Cobra / Kylesa territory. Never seen these dudes live yet, but I bet they’re great. I picture lots of beards, pro tats and trucker hats. If you dig the other bands I mentioned look into Twilight Ritual.

The dudes in Northless are regrettably beating a bit of a dead horse on their self-titled demo CD. This is NeurIsis style post-doom rock with the usual elements that the subgenre entails, building heavy parts, wandering shimmery ping-ping guitar parts, tortured vox, etc. This is well done but just has too much in common with its influences to really stand out for me, a problem for most bands trudging these crowded waters. Also it comes in a DVD box, which is totally annoying. I wish bands wouldn’t do that. I don’t want my CDs mingling with my DVDs anymore than I want my precious vinyl mingling with my reading material. CDs over here, DVDs over there! Check out Northless at

The unholy beast that is Spektr has graced us with a new mini-CD titled Mescalyne. I believe this band has a member of Gorgoroth in its two person ranks though I’m not 100% on that. Aside from the guitar all Spektr music seems to be produced via programming, sampling and drum machines giving the disc a distinct electro/industrial vibe not unlike later Dodheimsgard material, but without the absurdist bent of those crazy Norsemen. Rather the atmosphere is a grim, dank torture chamber of blackened speed riffs and high BPM drums. The more ambient sides tend toward the Nordvargr space of horrific nightmare scenarios. Fairly original and dark stuff.

And now to some classic material. When people talk about Brazil’s Sepultura in terms of classic releases, there is a lot of debate. The mainstream metal press is always quick to tout later albums like Chaos A.D. and the really kind of shitty Roots album. The kultest of the kult are always talking up the early stuff like Morbid Visions and Bestial Devastation. But the truth of it is, the best Sepultura album is, was and always will be Beneath The Remains, the 1989 LP that saw them spring onto the worldwide metal stage.

The album’s dark acoustic intro, like something emitting from a deep cave, leads into the classic opening riff of the title track, a fast as fuck Slayer gone punk ripper propelling to the chorus of: “Who has won, Who has died? Beneath The Remains”. About 3:20 into the song it breaks into an amazing bridge that sounds like a thrash carnival before heading back to the final chorus and the dive bomb ending. A complete death thrash masterpiece that didn’t need any wacky-thrash gimmick shit to make its point.

“Inner Self” wouldn’t be out of place on a crusty hardcore album of the time except that it’s too well-produced and complex. But the main riff clearly belies Sepultura’s obvious punk influence with bands like Discharge and Nausea factoring into the sound here as much as Slayer and Kreator.

Andreas Kisser clearly steps up his role from the previous LP Schizophrenia, adding face-melting solos that showed an appreciation for the melodies hiding within the dark death thrash in a way the spazz out leads of Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman couldn’t really match (let’s face it, every Slayer solo is almost completely the same post Show No Mercy).

Moving on through classic tracks like “Stronger Than Hate” with its weird arpeggio ending and the hypnotic break in crowd favorite “Mass Hypnosis” Sepultura maintained their A-Game well into B-side ragers like “Slaves Of Pain” and apocalyptic album closer “Primitive Future”. Among the countless number of riffs on the LP, not one is wasted or misplaced. Total non-stop aggression, desperation and brilliance.

Michael Whelan’s classic cover art of a decayed orange skull, sprouting flowers with a creepy looking beast peering out of the cranium looks like something to be found beneath the remains of some war torn 3rd world disaster area. One of the great metal covers of the late 1980s, Whelan’s work also graced the cover of the band’s Arise LP and Obituary’s Cause Of Death LP.

Don’t let the fact that the music these guys and their off-shoots make now is crappy, if you have yet to check out Sepultura’s Beneath The Remains, find it immediately!
Next month I’ll let y’all know if At The Gates are as good live now as they were in 1996. Til death!

Don’t Try, 120 State Ave NE #136, Olympia, WA 98501 USA,,

From Issue #303 (Dedicated To Catheter)

Currently I am stuck on a flight from Chicago to Seattle. Listening to Grief by Thobbing Gristle. Chicago was just the connecting airport. I flew out from Pittsburgh on a plane that held about 50 people. I was reading Drew Daniels’ treatise on Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats. The plane was getting knocked around enough to make a few drops of piss leak into my shorts. I’m waiting on drink service so I can get my whiskey on.

I spent the last two weeks traveling to various Midwest and Eastern destinations. First week was spent visiting various friends and family. The second week was spent hanging out with, driving and guiding Japan’s Coffins at the tail end of their first US shows. I connected with Coffins and The Endless Blockade in Pittsburgh where they were playing their last show together after a week of shows in Boston, NYC, Philly, Richmond and Allentown. We met up at the house of Missy who helps run Pittsburgh’s Mr. Roboto Project, the location of that night’s show.

Blockade dudes were tired out but Coffins wanted to go out and maximize their time in the US. I took em record shopping at Brave New World (maybe it’s not called that anymore?), got em some food and then we met back at the house to caravan to the show.
Slices opened the show to an eager and enthusiastic audience packed into the small space, the incomparable Mantooth on vokills – solid fucking set by those natives. They were followed by the highly anticipated and mighty Hellnation. Insane 1000MPH devastation and anger served cold and raw. A band not to be fucked with and yet, completely humble and likeable guys, who kindly drove Coffins’ gear to Maryland, due to lack of space in my van, where both bands were to play next.

The Endless Blockade were next and by this time they’re a finally tuned machine. Nobody these days does powerviolence (sorry, neo-powerviolence) quite so well except maybe Iron Lung who are a different beast altogether. They mix in a sickly dose of noise and blaze through their set of mostly newer songs in the span of maybe 15 minutes. Coffins roadie Ryo joins them at the end on vocals during the set closing wall of noise barrage.

Coffins is set to close the show and for me it’s special having been working with the band for about two years now yet only meeting them in person and seeing them live for the first time that day. They do not disappoint, recreating their skullkrushing guitar sound through songs from the first two albums and demo including “Sacrifice To Evil Spirit”, “Slaughter Of Gods” and “Blood and Bone”. Newer track “Mortification To Ruin” manages to be even more pummeling live. The crowd of mostly punks and a few metals seem equally enthusiastic. I for one have a big smile throughout as one does seeing a favorite band for the first time.

That night Coffins and I crashed at my mom’s pad out in the Pittsburgh suburbs. The next day it was time to drive to Baltimore and spend an oppressive three days at the Maryland Deathfest. I was stoked at the chance to get to see Coffins on a bigger stage with a larger crowd, and the Fest was good enough to pay for Coffins flights to the US and make the other shows possible. But not so stoked at the prospect of 3 days of primarily 3rd generation Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus clones. Needless to say that was the majority of what occurred so I’ll just recount the highlights here.

Coffins are a three-piece but with their roadie they are four. The roadie, Ryo, is the only one who can really speak any English and his is fairly limited too but we managed to make our points when necessary and communicate them to the other members, Uchino, Koreeda and You.

We stayed at a hotel several miles from the venue in Baltimore since I made reservations kind of last minute. Apparently everyone else did too cuz there were many bands at that hotel including my old buddies in Impaled. We dropped our shit off there upon arrival and headed to the venue where things were just about to get under way. The band got free admission for all three days but Ryo and I had to pay the $90 3 day ticket. FUCK! Definitely not something I would have done had I not been escorting Coffins.

Skarp opened the show with a powerful set, Renae decked out in a white summery dress to go with the hot Baltimore weather; a far cry from the usual ragged crusty attire that made her instantly stick out in the sea of black clad fest-goers. I believe they were a last minute addition to the fest after several other bands had to drop out for various reasons. Always good to see my friends in Skarp who are on an insane two and a half month tour.
Phobia also is on tour and played Friday as well. Solid set as always and my Japanese buddies were particularly excited being long time Phobia fanatics and not having seen them in Japan for many years.

Not much else of note occurred on Friday that I can recall. I spent a lot of time outside knowing I’d likely be stuck at a merch table for much of the rest of the weekend.

Saturday we arrived at the venue by noon. Coffins was playing at 8:30 p.m. We brought all the merch they still had left but we had nowhere to set it up. No one gave us any details about selling merch or if we even could. Luckily for us this guy Mike who played in a band called Divine Eve back in the early 90s, an influential band for Coffins, let us share his table. The shirt printer he works for, Sick Seranades, prints Coffins merch so it made sense. He and I switched off doing shifts at the table so Coffins could enjoy the fest and hang out. This worked out well and we made about $700 in merch on Saturday for Coffins. The table was set up in the main room where the bands played so we were able to watch bands while working the table. Most merch tables were set up in another separate room away from the show so we lucked out, especially with the merch area being elevated about a foot off the floor giving us an obstructed stage view when on our feet.

When it was time for Coffins to play they, Ryo and I met backstage and got their gear up on stage as Disfear was getting theirs off. They tuned up, turned on and got right to pummeling the eager crowd. After so many fast as fuck bands Coffins’ Autopsy/Hellhammer pace was a welcome change, adding some direly needed variety. The crowd showed great respect to the visiting Japanese death doom lords fistpumping and headbanging like true maniacs giving a response worthy of a headliner. I was several drinks in by that point and watching from the side of the stage was brilliant. It was so fucking heavy! Doom Death Destruction Over Baltimore!

About 4 songs in Uchino walks over to me, looking at me with paranoid eyes. We can’t talk so I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong. I look at his guitar and see a string dangling from the fretboard. He’d popped one, and the look in his eyes told me he didn’t bring in any extras. OH SHIT. So I’m frantically asking people backstage for a string but no one is stepping up. Finally the guitar player from Australia’s Fuck I’m Dead steps up and offers up his guitar. He hands it to Uchino and he tunes it up (well down actually) and Coffins gets back to playing. It takes a few minutes to recapture the momentum, but by the end of the first song post-breakage things are all good again. Ryo jumps in on vocals during the second to last song adding some extra movement and aggression. I can’t speak for the crowd, but with the set ending after 35 minutes or so, I was left wanting a lot more. Thankfully we’re already working on West Coast for 2009.

Aside from Coffins, or maybe along with them, gotta give the best show of the Fest award to Ghoul. The Bay Area maniaxe pulled out all the stops with several different costumed characters adding to the theatrics of the masked executioner’s thrash attack. Although I don’t live in the Bay anymore, I’ve seen Ghoul many times in the past and they just get better and better. It was great to get a taste of home so far away, and show that as usual, the Bay Area always represents with the best shit and the best bands. They had the pit going about as crazy as I saw it the whole weekend, proving yet again that Thrash will always be the best form of metal in the live environment.

Poor Monstrosity. As far as the early 90s death metal bands go they were always sort of second class citizens, never reaching the heights of their fellow Floridians like Obituary and Deicide. Indeed their biggest claim to fame is probably that they provided Cannibal Corpse with their second vocalist George Fisher. And at Deathfest the poor bastards had to follow Ghoul. About half the crowd dispersed by that point and with the exception of the very pumped vocalist even the Monstrosity dudes seemed to be phoning it in. Kind of a bummer after such a great Ghoul set.

Saturday’s headliners were non-corpsepainted British black metallers Anaal Nathrakh, or Anal Mathrock as I prefer to call them. Back in 2000 or so when I was working for NeCRAPolis Records in Fremont I recall that Matt Harvey, Jason Balsells and I were very stoked on this band’s album they’d put up on MP3.COM. It was called The Codex Necro, and eventually saw release through some label, and remains the crowning jewel in what to my ears is an otherwise fairly average catalog of albums. The depleted crowd that remained was excited however and they ripped through songs that mostly bled together. The clean vocals were just horrid sounding like Maniac from Mayhem’s attempts at clean style, but even worse, and I found myself wishing they just stuck to the harsh stuff. Why do so many metal bands think that “evolving” means trying to sing like some emo band? Still, an OK set, but it seemed like a lot of people were too tired to be bothered after 12 fucking hours of mostly shitty death metal.

Sunday was characterized by more of the same. A lot of the time I spent not working the merch table I spent dozing in the van. Highlights of the day included Impaled’s abbreviated set, which for reasons still unknown to me was cut short by Deathfest, pissing off Ross to no end. Dead from Germany played an amazing set of Carcass inspired comedic grind intensity. Those dudes were fucking A plus guys to hang out with as well. And the weekend was closed out by the occasionally reformed Nuclear Assault whose records I was always lukewarm about but live were pretty great fun. Maybe it was the alcohol kicking in, but those 40+ year old dudes thrashed about like young dudes giving a good lesson in violence to cap the weekend.

By this time the Coffins crew and I are exhausted, so we go immediately back to the hotel and crash out. The next morning I drive them straight to the airport and we took our final pictures and said our goodbyes until they hopefully come back to the US west coast in the spring of ’09. All in all an exhausting, often tedious weekend but ultimately a successful one for my Japanese brothers in Coffins.

The Coffins tour was the culmination of a lot of work for me, but would not have been possible without the help of many people most notably Andrew Nolan (Andy Stick if you prefer) of The Endless Blockade. Andrew booked the whole tour with the exception of Deathfest and made sure Coffins didn’t need to do much besides show up and play.

Also gotta say thanks to Quinn Dillon for picking up the band at the airport and receiving all their merch at his house, Christina from Pittsburgh for driving the van around, and continuing to drive for The Endless Blockade. Mike from Sick Serenades/Divine Eve for the merch help. Brian from Watchmaker and all the other people who let the Coffins dudes crash at their place. Evan and Ryan of Maryland Deathfest, and anyone else who helped. It was a great time for all involved and the Coffins guys went home without losing any money and hopefully gained some new friends and fans.

Anyway folks after all that, I’m too tapped out on brutality to review any material for you, so I’ll get back to the normal bullshit next month. ‘Til then…

Don’t Try, 120 State Ave NE #136, Oly, WA 98501,

From Issue #302

I’m starting to have a serious election hangover and we’re still months away from a general election. Obama this, Hillary that – Reverend Dude and his what-can-only-be-described-as-comedic outburts, gas tax voter bribery, every fucking primary being make or break, John McCain’s weird arm movements, the national enquirer masquerading as cable news foolishness, people voting for a candidate because they’d be fun to hang out with, and the Bush machine continuing to plunder away while the media ignores everything else. Oh please just let it all end. King Diamond for president once and for all.

I haven’t left Olympia for over a month now. I celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago with the intention of going to see some mixed martial arts fights in Lacey, the city next to Olympia and one that is vastly different for being only a mile or two away.

Mostly you find low IQ neanderthal jock morons who are typically fans of mixed martial arts and other bloodsports, yet I nonetheless have become an avid fan of this illegal in 50 percent of America sport. Watching two guys who’ve agreed to fight each other in the octagon with specific rules seems all right to me morally. And the variety of combat styles in MMA makes it 10 times more interesting than a typical boxing match.

So 12 fights were scheduled including a championship. These were XCC league fights which are not the primo fighters of the UFC and WEC but who gives a fuck. It’s guys fighting in a cage. Ground and pound. I’m in. My friend Tenaya bought the tickets the week before at the downtrodden Hawks Prairie Casino, which is little more than a glorified card room.

Alas, it was not to be. We drove all the way out to where the fight was scheduled to be held (which was admittedly only about 10 miles but that seems far when you live here) and there was nobody there. There was no indication that the fight had been cancelled, there was just no one around and the doors were locked. Some other people showed up too. We phoned the casino and my worst fears were realized. Fight night was cancelled, refunds at the casino. Fuck. Now I guess I’ll have to trek it down to the next Rumble at the Roseland in Portland. Happy fucking birthday.

Been a pretty weak month for all things metallic but here’s a summary of some stuff that came my way and other shit I tracked down.

Todesbonden play gothic metal in a style that’s different from most European bands of that ilk on their album Sleep Now, Quiet Forest. Female fronted vocals are operatic most of the time and at others like Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance. The music occasionally has the elegance of Dead Can Dance as well, like on the piano-laced “Trianon”, and it’s those tracks that are most preferable. An otherwise tepid affair in a style I don’t particularly care for. Acoustic guitars and violin make regular appearances. Amber Asylum fans may enjoy. On the Prophecy label.

Altar Of Plagues is an Irish band with a well-packaged self-released CD titled Sol. Three epic tracks in all. Altar Of Plagues plays blackened post-metal that most closely resembles Wolves In The Throne Room when they’re blasting away, and Isis when they’re not. “Twisted Structures Against The Sun” is a song with many peaks and valleys during its 11+ minutes. “With Fire In Our Veins We Drown In Light” is the centerpiece, 14 minutes of heavy building, collapsing riffage, meditative breaks and finally furious black metal. It won’t be long before this band is well known if they can break out of the Irish ghetto that often seems to hold back metal bands from there. Check for info.

A year or two ago Moribund re-released the 1998 album Wanderings by the obscure USBM solo project I Shalt Become. Now a new album has surfaced titled simply Requiem. I hadn’t heard I Shalt Become before the re-release but was instantly into its repetitive, dark ambience. Clearly bands like Xasthur had taken influence from the sound. Now with Requiem, S. Holliman continues his loner dirge with more trance-inducing, basement dungeon, suicidal bleakness. Like Xasthur the music creates a kind of narcotic haze through repetition and the Burzum influence is obviously here too. Particularly Filosofem era Burzum, though more in its trance quality as it lacks Filosofem’s chainsaw guitar sound. In fact this album is light on distortion and at times sounds like a more bleak version of some long lost demo of discarded ideas for The Cure’s Pornography period. I Shalt Become’s music is more stripped down and discernable than Xasthur’s muddy cacophony, which makes it preferable for repeated listens. Good for those long, lonely walks through the forests in the country, or through the forests of decayed buildings in the big city.

Deadsea plays a pretty schizophrenic mash up of thrashy prog rock metal. There’s some classic metal and stoner stuff thrown in as well. It’s professionally executed by guys who seem to have been around for a while, but ultimately sounds over-indulgent and unfocused to my ears. Nothing to latch onto. I can’t get into it. Released by Chrome Leaf.

The Bay Area’s Skin Horse is named after a character in the Velveteen Rabbit but this isn’t music for little children. Most would call this doom though of the experimental variety, and it’s only heavy occasionally. I hear some Mindrot and Morgion elements on this 3 song album that stretches out to 50 minutes in length. Not particularly my cup of tea but a lot of Bay Area heads dig this sound. You can hear the whole album on their site They’re in search of a label for this Billy Anderson produced release.

Agrimonia are a Swedish band from Gothenburg that have self-released this debut CD-R. But this is more than a demo, it’s a full length album almost an hour long, very well-produced and presented. Agrimonia are playing a dark, depressive, cerebral and sometimes melodic metallic hardcore that has trace elements of Neurosis, Tragedy and their Swedish brethren all at once. Ultimately though the band transcends their influences with a sound that’s distinct. Songs such as “The Unknown Bury Me” and “Scars Make Life” are intricately woven with many peaks, valleys and tempo variations. Certain parts have a Bolt Thrower-esque epic quality. Though Agrimonia may be a relatively new name, it’s obvious from the quality the players have been around a while and spent time crafting this record into something special. Nice screenprinted cardboard artwork as well. Some label will definitely end up releasing this thing. Really great, buy it directly from the band. They’ll be playing at the Punk Illegal fest on June 28th in Sweden. The CD can be ordered for 7 Euros or $11 postpaid. Contact them at

Ugh, 5 seconds into Spitfire’s Cult Fiction I am thoroughly unstoked to hear mucho agro metalcore with wimp clean vocal choruses. I held out hope when I saw a song called “Dawn Patrol” but it’s not even a Megadeth cover. Some of the music here isn’t completely terrible (just mostly) but the horrible vocals really ruin this. Standard Dillinger Escape Plan angry guy vox. I assume this is what bands like Norma Jean and other Botch clones sound like. But I wouldn’t know. And either should you.

The weirdos in Blut Aus Nord have returned. Their last LP MoRT was like a really desolate black metal Godflesh. On Odinist: The Destruction Of Reason By Illumination there isn’t much of that mechanized aura. Meandering, churning compositions that bleed together into one black whole. Not aggressive in the least, Blut Aus Nord is more of a sinister suggestive presentation of satanic psychedelia. Blackened background music you might call this as it doesn’t require a great amount of attention, and in that regard could be seen as a success or a disappointment. Very different from where they were on previous albums like The Work Which Transforms God. On the Candlelight label.

Crucial Blast has put out a new CD by a project called Gnaw Their Tongues. The CD, An Epiphanic Vomiting Of Blood, is like a slow funereal doom album and a horror soundtrack playing at the same time. Great songtitles like “My Body Is Not A Temple, Nor A Vessel. It Is A Repulsive Pile Of Sickness” and “The Urge To Participate In Butchery” enhance the nihilistic vibe of this strange release. Good for your next haunted house to scare the children.

Cough is the name of a Richmond band that plays monstrously slow doom with a groove. Their new full length CD on the Force Field label, Sigillum Luciferi is a blunt force sludge covered behemoth in the proud tradition of Eyehategod especially and Electric Wizard. Cough’s got nothing new on the genre, but what they do they do effectively enough that it doesn’t matter. The riffs are good and memorable. Eyehategod toyed with faster songs at times but Cough keeps it slow throughout. Now that doom has largely moved on to artier pastures it’s nice to hear something raw and dirty like this more at home in the welfare line then the art gallery, a good kick in the south.

Dead Congregation is a Greek band whose LP Graves Of The Archangels has been out for a while now via the Nuclear War Now label. And as with most releases on that label, this album is a quality underground piece of work. Dead Congregation specializes in old-school death metal, a mix of the Swedish sound and American bands like Incantation and Immolation. Every song is dark, brutal no-nonsense old-school death metal with a powerful production that doesn’t rely on the modern death metal aesthetic of clinical sterility.

Also on Nuclear War Now is a new album from the Mexican Morboso Metal kings Morbosidad. Profana La Cruz Del Nazareno is another blasphemous assault on all that is holy in the fine tradition of their prior bestial black death atrocities. Beherit, Blasphemy, Profanatica and other such bands are obvious influences, but adding elements of their Mexican heritage into the mix as well sets Morbosidad apart and gives Profana a distinctive vileness of its own. Pure filth. Brilliant. I got the Diehard LP that comes with a couple posters, patch, sticker, heavy vinyl, etc. Nuclear War Now is one of the few labels that manages to deal in quantity and quality both, releasing high quality, great records seemingly on a monthly basis. Probably the best underground metal label around.

Also just released via Nuclear War Now are 2 LPs from pre Angelcorpse / Ares Kingdom death metal firebrands Order From Chaos. Order From Chaos existed in the early to mid 90s and were much revered by a select few but sadly never gained much attention at the time, perhaps due to the fact they came from Kansas City, not exactly known as a stalwart of the death metal scene. Nonetheless these ripping albums had a sound that was different than other bands of the time, a sound committed to the true underground. A keen philosophical and historical sense permeates the albums lyrically and visually which the controversial social Darwinist bandleader Pete Helmkamp would continue in Angelcorpse.

Other stuff I’ve been listening to lately worth your time to check out include Ash Pool’s World Turns On Its Hinge, quality black metal from Dom Furnow of Prurient and Hospital Productions. Speaking of which Prurient’s latest And Still, Wanting is a fierce noise record with enough variation to keep it interesting throughout, if noise be your thing. The Skull Defekts in another droning noise project of harsh power and decayed insane atmosphere whose Skkull release has left my mind in a permanent state of fear. Grey Daturas have a new release Return To Disruption out on Neurot that perhaps more than any other of their releases best represents their brainstew of improv guitar noise, post-rock and crushing doom. And for a completely weirdo outsider vibe check out Lamborghini Crystal whose 1992 Cool Runnings, Little Deuce Coupe T.V. Dinners and Dial 747-Creepozoid tapes are like a mix of 80s movie and TV soundtracks and damaged electro funk eccentricity played through a broken cassette deck left out in the sun too long. Fucking genius.

Old school records lately have consisted mainly of Liege Lord’s thrashing power metal opus Freedom’s Rise a duo of Manilla Road records Invasion and Metal, both mandatory for your next NWOBHM party, despite the fact they’re from Kansas and Morbid Saint’s old underground death thrash classic Spectrum Of Death. Much chagrined was I to learn that a dude from Morbid Saint is now a baggy panted, hair-braided dude in some cheesy going nowhere nu-metal band. Your 10 years too late brah. How the mighty do fall!

That’s it for this month folks. Next month I’ll have news to report on Maryland Deathfest and the Coffins shows with The Endless Blockade for which I’ll be traveling to the East Coast to be part of for a few days.

Contact info remains unchanged: Don’t Try, 120 State Ave NE #136, Oly, WA 98501

From Issue #301

In March I ventured away from the colorless rain-soaked forests of Olympia for a week to visit my favorite southern city, Austin, Texas. Weather-wise the differences were pretty major with Austin already having temps well into the 80s. As many of you are aware this time of year is a good time to hit Austin due to the many hundreds of shows happening as part of, and around, the South By Southwest music showcases.

I saw many great shows despite not having the required SXSW (as it’s abbreviated) wristband to get into the official shows. Some of the surrounding shows are arguably better and attract many of the same bands anyway.

I spent a lot of time at a place called the Typewriter Museum where there are two days worth of shows called Fuck By Fuck You and Fuck By Fuck Y’all, set up by the guys who run the Australian Cattle God label. One day the bands fall more into the category of country, Americana, roots style bands, and then one day it’s punk, rock and metal bands.

Both shows had many amazing bands. A few who particularly stood out were Lozen, all the way from Tacoma, Washington and This Is My Condition, from Lawrence, Kansas. Lozen is a two-piece playing a noisy, driving rock not unlike the Melvins. Great songs and presence from those ladies. They have a CD our already on Australian Cattle God and should have new material later this year. Look forward to seeing more of them at home in the Northwest.

This Is My Condition is a one-man band, a guy called Craig Comstock. Craig sets up a drum kit and then straddles a guitar across his snare and floor tom, and then unleashes the fury on both with the sticks. Miraculously not only can he pull this off, but the songs are all rad heavy noise rock that could easily pass for a full band if you weren’t watching him. But watching this dude play is half the fun. Needs to be seen to be believed.

A show was set up in the supposedly shitty part of town at a bar whose name escapes me now. This bar has a large “backyard” and out there was a show that included Sex Vid, Iron Lung, Annihilation Time and Municipal Waste. You can’t really ask for more than that.

Unfortunately we lagged in getting over there and Sex Vid had already done their thing. Iron Lung hit the stage and ruled for the entire duration of their epic 7 minute set. I think cops showed up and tried to shut the show down. Iron Lung got off the stage. I don’t know what happened in the interim but Muni Waste set up about 20 minutes later and ripped into their set.
Municipal Waste is kind of a phenomenon. They are obviously the big dogs of the whole thrash revival thing. The kids absolutely go ape shit bananas when they play. Some shirtless fat dude exits the circle pit, comes over to where I’m standing, picks up a garbage can full of empty bottles and cans, returns to the circle pit, and tosses it all over the place, only slightly raising an eyebrow by the other initiates. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I don’t know the bands material well enough to point out certain tunes but it appears all the “hits” are aired and a particularly violent response is received upon the repeated chorus of “Municipal Waste Is Gonna Fuck YOU UP!” Great set boys.

But for my money (even though it was free) the night belonged to Oakland’s heroes Annihilation Time who have perfected the twin-guitar NWOBHM meets SoCal hardcore sound they’ve been honing these last few years. New tracks played gave a taste of the forthcoming Tee Pee Records LP and the kids seemed to go almost as bonkers as they did for the Waste. Seems the larger metal and punk world will soon discover what many in the underground have known for some time, Annihilation Time are kings.

Over at Beerland the next night Iron Lung and A.T. ripped through destructive sets again, along with Brutal Knights and the Marked Men. Closing the show out that night was Easy Action, the latest incarnation of hardcore’s greatest vocalist of all-time John Fucking Brannon. The crowd thinned out during this set, but Easy Action has the class of a band that’s been around. Brannon’s vocals are still raw as shit and the band tore through songs both old and new of their filthy Detroit punk blues. More people should love this band.

During flights and layovers I had ample time to digest some of the shit I received in the mail over the last several weeks. First up, Cursed is a Canadian band whose latest album is titled simply Three. This was my first exposure to the band and it was a positive experience. An intro, “Architects Of Troubled Sleep” comprised of overlapping spoken samples and menacing noise blasts into “Night Terrors” a grind-influenced maelstrom of anger. From their Cursed distill their sonic brew with crust, grind, metallic hardcore and some Swedish hardcore. Sometimes within the confines of a single song. Songs vary in length, with most sticking below three minutes and that’s where Cursed are at their best – the short, sharp shock. The cover art on the CD looks eerily similar to Kylesa’s second LP and it’s not hard to imagine those two bands on tour together. Trap Them, Himsa and bands of that ilk seem a logical reference. Released by Canadian label Goodfellow Records.

Dudes! T he Birkenstock wearing hesher punks at Oakland’s Tank Crimes have bestowed upon our unworthy ears one of the best records of this young year. The new LP from Population Reduction Each Birth A New Disaster is a fuckin’ masterpiece! Total hardcore thrash grindin’ weed-fuelled brilliance. Not one wasted riff on the whole record. If bands like Insect Warfare, Hatred Surge and Magrudergrind are doing it for you these days, do yourselves a favor and pick up this LP, it’s right up there with the best in the muthafuckin’ game. Sweet gatefold LP and total maniac artwork by Becky Cloonan. The songtitles and lyrics are pure comedy, like “Schnauzer Autopsy” “Road Rage At The Farmers Market” and “Black Metal Beach Party”. Folks, it don’t get better than this. Go to it!

Lethe is a 5 piece from Lawrence, Kansas with a new 3 track demo in circulation. The band just completed a Midwest tour with Samothrace with whom they share a member, the bedreadlocked 6 string low ender Dylan Desmond. Nearly a half hour of music in these three tracks of all instrumental post-metal progressive doom rock. These guys are musicians. Three damn guitars and a six-string bass. I hear small doses of Floyd and Rush style influence mixed in with the heavier stuff. Musician types like this can often disappear up their own asses, but Lethe stick to the theme and keep the song at the forefront rather than their own wanking. I liked this a lot more than I thought I would. I shoulda known it’d be great with Dylan the Dude involved. Anyone into stuff as far ranging as Stinking Lizaveta to Red Sparrowes will probably get into this. See for yourself

Punks who allow some black metal meat in their vegan diets will most certainly enjoy Just Fuck Off a CD from Canadian solo black metal unit Malveillance. This is raw-stripped and fairly one-dimensional d-beat style blackness with lo-fi recording and no-fi attitude. Just face-ripping Bathory meets Discharge damaged dementia. Bone Awl, Order Of The Vulture and early Impaled Nazarene would all make good reference points. Available from New Scream Industry,

Also out on New Scream Industry is a split release between long-running SF Bass destroyers Burmese and Cadaver Eyes. Both bands mix up harsh power electronics with guitar bass destruction like a collision between Whitehouse, Man Is The Bastard, Lightning Bolt and some goregrind. Tough on the ears and the nerves. Just the way I like it.

Tractor is a UK band with a new three song demo, Cattle. Influenced by Godflesh and all things AmRep, what they’re doing isn’t new, but they’re doing it with effectiveness. The drummer Kunal runs the Superfi label. Check them out at

I had somewhat high hopes for Animus Mortis seeing that they are from Chile. The South American maniacs almost always come with something different, but raw and ugly and truer than most of their Northern hemisphere brethren. Not the case here. Atrabilis (Residues From Verb & Flesh) is too overtly European to really set it apart, and as such is a fairly by the numbers deal. The production is good, the speed is there, the acidic vocals, tons of double kicks, but ultimately this just sounds like Glorior Belli, Mortuus and other such second tier bands. Not bad, but there’s just way too much shit like this circulating right now. This is what the N.E.D. label has spawned. Released by Debemur Morti Productions.

Power Quest plays power metal not surprisingly. Every once in a while I’ll get into a power metal album – you know shit like Blind Guardian. I love me some Blind Guardian. But that band at least has some balls in their sound and a lot of thrashiness to go with their epic tales of Lord of the Rings style nerdness. Sadly Power Quest don’t deliver on that front. They sound like a weaker version of Hammerfall (who’s first few LPs I am into), or maybe a faster version of Europe if they played way too much Nintendo (big perm keyboard alert). The album is called Master Of Illusion, on the Napalm label. One for the white frilly shirt crowd. Otherwise avoid.

Clutch, Crowbar, High On Fire, Mastodon, Akimbo and even Neurosis are all digested and regurgitated on the latest album from Taint, Secrets And Lies. Every song has many riffs, time changes and tons of highly charged rock aggression. Big ass production, including a loud mix by Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel. I haven’t heard the first album by Taint but was led to believe it was more of a doom record. Those elements are definitely present here like on “Goddamn This City” but ultimately this record is aiming for a shot toward the more mainstream metal sounds of the aforementioned bands. Not my style so much but a lot of people will get into this kind of thing. Sounds like it should be on Relapse, but it’s released by Candlelight in North America and Rise Above in Europe. I do like the Napalm tribute title of low-key album closer “Mass Appeal Sadness”.
Despite the shitty name Brown Jenkins’ latest recording Angel Eyes is actually a really great mix of sounds with a blackened foundation. Take the hypnotic meanderings of Burzum, Thorns and Ved Beuns Ende, then add some less obvious Justin Broadrick sounds and you have Brown Jenkins. All the tracks sort of blend together into a seamless whole with a cumulative effect of lulling the listener into a hazy narcotic nightmare. Interesting stuff.

It’s worth mentioning that Southern Lord has reissued the Lurker Of Chalice CD as a digipak and included the bonus track that was originally on the vinyl version. For those that don’t remember Lurker is the other band of Wrest from Leviathan, and is as good, maybe even better. The CD comes in anticipation of Lurker’s long awaited follow up later this year Perverse Calculus.
In light of all the thrash hype it behooves us to look at one of the all time best thrash records ever, yet one that seems to get overlooked when talk of all the greats ensues. That is Eternal Nightmare by the Bay Area’s own Vio-lence. Released in 1988 this album came a little late in the game which may be one reason it gets overlooked, but make no mistake this is in the top 10 thrash records of all time posers. Every song is packed with riffs that are both aggressive and unforgettable. Sean Killian’s vocals take a little getting used to. Not as aggressive as Paul Baloff or early James Hetfield, he’s more of a singer, but has a good command of his voice giving a full range of personalities within the songs.

Although the first side is all hits like “Serial Killer”, “Phonophobia” and the title track, it’s really the second side for me, only three tracks, that really elevates the album into the thrash metal Valhalla. It starts with “T.D.S. Take It As You Will” and then leads into one of the all-time great mosh classics “Bodies On Bodies” which twists and turns with precision and around the two minute mark breaks into a monster mosh gallop. The mob chorus of ‘Bodies And Bodies’ evokes visions of hundreds of thrashin’ maniacs piling on top of each other to get to the stage. Nearly 5 minutes into the song, it reaches its frenzied peak once again for another round of violence. Municipal Waste, if you’re reading, COVER THIS SONG.

Another piece of thrashtastic mayhem closes the LP, “Kill On Command”. It’s full speed ahead, until about 3 minutes in and then it gets to the mid-paced mosh break and Sean Killian’s cry of “money, money, money, money, MONEY!” I recall spending a night of drunken mayhem thrashin’ around the warehouse of my old job with a few friends and causing utter damage while listening to this record. Seriously folks this ranks right alongside “Kill Em All”, “Bonded By Blood” and “The Legacy” as one of thrash’s crowning jewels. I found a copy of the vinyl at Rasputins a few years back for $3 and recently Megaforce reissued the album with a bonus CD of a full live set. Track it down chump!

OK folks that’s all the energy I have for you this time around. I’ve got a busy weekend coming up with shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of all shades and colors. Friday its Reuben’s other band Gun Outfit, Saturday it’s Wolves In The Throne Room at Hall Of The Woods and then Sunday it’s Yellow Swans and Sissy Spacek at The Phoenix House. Busy times. Seems like in Olympia good shit happens packed together, and then nothing for a while.

You can find the old columns at Don’t Try, 120 State Ave NE #136, Oly, WA 98501 USA.

From Issue #300

In 1982 when Maximum Rock N Roll first appeared in print form I was five years old. In 2008, I’m nearly 31 and MRR has reached its mindblowing 300th issue. In a time when print mags with a far shorter lifespan have fallen by the wayside, reaching #300 really is a HUGE milestone and those who do far more for the magazine then I with this one brief column (the coordinators, the shitworkers, etc) should be praised by all who value what MRR continues to do.

Not only has MRR remained viable and ethical in the age of the interweblogosphere, but has done so since those ancient days of the early 1980s, when all that connected us were Xeroxed zines and tape trading. It’s continued mission to cover punk rock (and even a little metal, shhh don’t tell anyone) from all corners of the globe remains intact. There’s been evolution, of course. It’s not the 1980s anymore. We’re nearly 20 years on from that tumultuous decade, and into our own, possibly more tumultuous time. MRR has adapted accordingly but has always kept its focus.

Punk rock isn’t just youth music anymore, 300 issues in. It’s now a truly all ages show. Parents, kids, even some grandparents count themselves as punks. A vast array of sub-genres and micro-sub-genres make the punk underground as diverse as the many countries that it calls its home. The subculture has informed the lives of its inhabitants outside the music world. Many infuse the DIY ethic that is the subculture’s backbone into every facet of their lives, from diet to child-rearing to community service. This has arguably been punk rock’s greatest and most lasting contribution to society at large and MRR has been a huge part of that.

So as one who has never called himself a punk, just a lowly headbangin’ hesher, I raise my horned chalice of metallic mead to those punks who continue to spread the gospel of DIY, both within and without the punk scene, and to MRR for documenting it all with enthusiasm along the way.

One last sentimental reflection before we move forward to death. I first started checking out MRR when I was in high school, I guess around the age of 16 or so. The people I knew that weren’t mainstream dorks were into punk mostly. The only metalheads were me and my learning disabled buddy. They were all into AFI. I thought they sucked (we’re talkin’ 93-94 here, the band did get better). I saw them open a show for Ensign and Sick Of It All and thought, “This is what everyone is so stoked on?” How embarrassing for them.

But one thing that bothered me about the metal “scene” was that it lacked that DIY sensibility and sense of community. It lacked street cred and that bummed me out. At least in my relatively sheltered world in the eastern Bay Area, that was my perception. I started checkin’ out MRR, usually bought at Tower Books in Concord, to see if there was anything I could like about underground punk. I was into the standards of course, Minor Threat, DKs, etc., but that’s as far as it went.

Well a lot of the shit in there at the time, like Boris The Sprinkler and most of the Lookout bands, the garage-y shit, I knew that wasn’t for me, to put it nicely. But I did discover invaluable information on hardcore bands like Logical Nonsense and also on powerviolence, grindcore and sludge stuff. It wasn’t a lot of coverage but MRR was instrumental in helping me discover some of those bands, which led to hundreds of further discoveries on down the line. Powerviolence was really exactly what I wanted out of music at the time, it was extremely pissed off, but wasn’t overly simplistic and it had the punk idealism that metal lacked at the time. Being at Fiesta Grande, my first trip to Gilman Street, was an intense experience and one I’ve never forgotten. So for that discovery, even an old hesher is indebted to MRR.

And now that MRR is moving to Olympia as Justin promised in the last issue, I’ll be able to contribute oh so much more (wink, wink).

Moving into springtime now, emerging from the dreary winter months that usually lack a significant amount of records being released, I’ve been well inundated with new releases this month including a shitload of new black metal fury.

I think Moribund must release like 10 records every month. It seems like every other week I get an envelope with another 3 or so releases from these people. Luckily a decent percentage of them are worth mentioning, three of which I’ll cover this time around.
First, the long anticipated new devilry from the Bay Area’s own one-man destroyer, Leviathan. As most are aware by now Leviathan is Wrest, aka Jeff Whitehead, old school skater and acclaimed tattoo artist. For many years now he’s been doing the bedroom black metal blues better than just about everyone else. He recorded a ton of demos and then started releasing records through a label including two that are in regular rotation at Don’t Try Deadquarters, those being The Tenth Sublevel Of Suicide and Tentacles Of Whorror.

The new beast is called Massive Conspiracy Against All Life and it is the final Leviathan recording apparently, as Wrest is moving on to concentrate on his other project Lurker Of Chalice.

So does it live up to the hype and expectation? Well, that would have been difficult. This is a solid album that will stand well with the prior output. “Seamless Garment As The Morning” has a swirling, murky chaos not unlike the sound Australia’s Portal cultivates. “Last Breath Of Expiation” feels like the final minutes on a respirator before they pull the plug as the song slowly fades to black. Leviathan’s sound often moves between these more introverted moments of being caught in a vacuum of solitude, and then pissed off flashes of in your face bloodshed. Vocals seem less prominent and mixed lower than usual, less harsh even. 7 tracks over the course of an hour that will mix well with the older material but there’s not a song like The Tenth Sublevel’s… “The Idiot Sun” that really stands above as a track to remember. Leviathan will undoubtedly be recalled as one of the more unique entities spawned by the USBM scene. Lurking about if you can find it is a cover he did of Black Flag’s My War that is rather ripping.

Azaghal is a Finnish black metal horde that have been around for 10 years already. They’ve released 5 or 6 records in that time but their new album Omega is the first exposure I’ve had to them. I’m glad I caught this band already well into their lifetime because this is a totally colossal, experienced and rock solid assault of kold Scandinavian jawbreakers. I mean, all bangers and no mash. Azaghal does not fuck around and from the opening seconds it’s full on hyperblast warp speed now captain and it rarely eases up. Even during the more mid-paced moments this is violent as shit. “Pirun Verta”, the second track, registers a 9.5 on the air guitar body bang richter. Like if the Swedish band Setherial had actually written with songs in mind rather than just ripping your face off, it may have sounded like what Azaghal is doing on Omega. Should such a shameless display of ferocity make one happy? Azaghal might not like to hear it but black metal this good puts a smile on my face. Despite the occasional appearance of some keyboards there’s nothing light in the loafers going on here, total iron boots. “Quetzalcoatl” is a black metal blasterpiece, quite possibly the best track here even though I’d lose the keyboard break. Overall the tracks comprising Omega stand to be some of the best black metal storm-fucking-lieders of the year creating serious fire on the poop deck of destruction. And don’t worry Azaghal dudes, I won’t tell anyone that on the unpronounceable track “Kaikkinakevan Silman Alla” you copped a riff from Cannibal Corpse’s “Hammer Smashed Face” three minutes in. Oh, I will drink this milkshake, drink it up.

So I’ve never been particularly horny for Finland’s Horna but their latest mini-LP Pimeyden Hehku might convince me to get in bed with these brutes afterall. Unlike their countrymen in Azaghal, this one has got a little more of a messy punk rawness up its blackened sleeveless. Call it primitive and filthy perhaps. Opener “Nostalgiaa” (yep one A ain’t enough for the Finns, their nostalgic enough for two) spits forth rumbling bass driven speed leading to some bangable mid-paced Horna-havoc.

Sometimes Horna is reminiscent of the ugly Norsemen in Carpathian Forest and I’m reminded of that bands roughed up and bruised Black Shining Leather LP. Indeed the guy pictured from Horna has a nailed arm gauntlet the size of which would make the Forest’s Nattefrost green with envy. How can you get anything done walking around with 15-inch nails sticking out of your arm? No wonder his face looks all cut up. The mini-LP format works well for Horna. I haven’t been able to get through an entire Horna LP, but with Pimeyden Hehku’s four diseased songs in just 20 minutes it’s perfectly snortible. Good place to start if you’ve ever been interested in this fixture of the Finnish black empire.

A new split is out between Arizona’s The Landmine Marathon and the Bay Area’s own Scarecrow. Landmine Marathon get the A-side with their three tracks. A modern aggro beast with grind-tinged metal recalling 21st century Napalm Death in places along with some Bolt Thrower dual guitar epicness. I’d guess this band destroy live and they haven’t quite captured what I imagine to be that destructive force. And they have to know that the first part of their song “Rise With The Tide” is pretty much Bolt Thrower’s “Forever Fallen” with a few changed notes. Compare the two and tell me it’s not, it’s pretty blatant. No beef, just sayin’.

Been wishing Metallica sounded like 1986 again? Problem solved. Scarecrow is my old friend Matt Harvey’s baby, he of Exhumed and Dekapitator fame. It’s unashamed Metallica worship done better than just about anybody. I’m all for lack of originality when the imitation is convincing and this makes the grade easily. I don’t think Matt would deny it either as Metallica is his all time favorite band. The songwriting skill and musicianship with which Scarecrow works will keep them from being lumped in with the million man march of the thrashmania bummer currently happening. Muni Waste this ain’t. Seeing them live last year in Oakland was pretty revelatory. Bud Burke can rip through the classiest solo with a surgical speed and precision the likes of which are rarely seen. Matt’s vocals lack the power of Puppets-era Hetfield, but this is Scarecrow in their infancy and hopefully that aspect will be fine tuned to the extent necessary. Like their partners on the A-side, Scarecrow didn’t totally capture that absolute live magic on record, but hearing the songs this way first will make those who eventually check them out live that much more amazed. Can’t wait to hear what comes next. This band needs a $100,000 budget and a Flemming Rasmussen production. The split was released by the Level Plane label.

For a self-released CD Orgone’s “The Goliath” looks and sounds a lot better than most albums with label backing. Insane guitar playing that jumps all over the place, weird rhythms and a death metal backbone. Musically this is very calculated sounding stuff. People might be tempted to use the word “math” but that’s kind of a misnomer since I wouldn’t put Orgone into that irritating genre. This is more on the extreme tech death tip with a prog vibe. Typically I never listen to this kind of thing, but this album is really fucking great actually. The harsh vocals fit perfect. There appears to be an interesting concept lyrically that combined with the tunes give this a real connection to the Prog world, but this is still firmly entrenched in modern death metal. Amazing artwork courtesy of my friend David D’Andrea who has done covers for Graves At Sea, Ulver and Witchcraft among others. I was watching David put this art together months ago when we shared an office in Emeryville but regrettably never checked out the music until now, 8 months later. Why this band is not on Willowtip, Relapse or Deathwish is beyond me. If they have the ability to tour then this band will be picked up by one of those big labels any day now. In the meantime the CD can be got directly from the band for $9 US and $12 world to Stephen Jarrett, 2828 Mckelvey Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15221. Their webpage is Go check them out.

And now we take a trip back in time, only this time it makes sense for right now in 2008 as well. That’s because Displeased Records out of Holland has re-released the first two albums by the panzergodly Chicago death metal progenitors Master. Master was formed originally around 1983-84. Before doing anything substantial the band splintered with member Bill Schmidt moving on to Mayhem (US, not Norway) and band, uh, mastermind, Paul Speckmann forming the legendary demo only proto-death legends Death Strike (a full length with the demo ‘Fuckin Death’ plus other tracks emerged later). The Death Strike demo made a big impression in the underground and soon after that Schmidt and Speckmann reunited and went back to the name Master.

Lots of drama ensued during the rest of the 1980s that I won’t get into here, but eventually in 1990 the self-titled debut Master recording was finally released. It featured all four songs from the Death Strike demo re-recorded, those being “Mangled Dehumanization”, “Pay To Die”, “Funeral Bitch” and “Re-entry and Destruction”. Six other tracks made it on as well. The album is packed to the gills with deathrashin’ greatness taking influence from Venom, Motorhead and Slayer and infusing it with the more recent (for the time) sounds of Mantas/Death and Possessed. The title track is an anthem with its punk leaning lyrical cry “Stand back all you preachers, Stop looking to the skies, We are your Masters, We need no disguise.” After a bass-solo a 100mph version of Sabbath’s “Children Of The Grave” pays tribute to the masters of reality.

The second full length album “On The Seventh Day God Created… Master” was released just a year later in 1991. A collection of mostly new songs that hadn’t been circulating in the underground tape trading trenches for years before release. Again recorded by death metal legend Scott Burns at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida the album also featured some guest vocal spots by John Tardy of Obituary on “Latitudinarian” and “Submerged In Sin”.

“Heathen” has a cruel bloodfiending Autopsy-esque death wreak in its slowed roll while “Judgment Of Will” is a personal favorite that was originally done for an album that Master recorded back in 1985 but never got released (more on that later). All in all “On The Seventh Day…” is another essential piece in the early American death metal pantheon.

One of Master’s more annoying habits was taking American patriotic songs like “The Pledge of Allegiance” and “American The Beautiful” renamed “America The Pitiful” and making them their own. The songs are interesting enough but at the same time have the effect of giving the albums a joke-ish quality that’s not appealing in an early death metal band. The songs make sense given Speckmann’s obvious, if rudimentary, lyrical leanings toward politics, war and religion.

These re-releases are the original mixes of the albums that Paul Speckmann was happier with than what was originally released by Nuclear Blast. I don’t have the originals anymore to compare with but the liner notes claim that Scott Burns triggered the drums and left off a bunch of solos unbeknownst to the band and that’s what got released. The drums still have somewhat of a machine-like quality even on these mixes however.

Displeased has also included a DVD with each release. Two live shows from the time period the albums were released are contained on each DVD. Now these DVDs are mostly of low, bootleg quality – it’s the early 90s afterall, and so they are not essential except for Master completists, but as a bonus they’re a welcome addition.

One final note on Master. In 1985 the band recorded an album for Combat Records, the label the released Death, Exodus, Possessed and a hundred other great bands. Unfortunately the band hooked up with a manager who demanded way more than Combat were willing to give and the label ripped up the contract and never released the recording. Displeased released the untitled 1985 album a few years back and it’s still available on CD. Many of the tracks ended up on the first Master full length in 1990, but these are different, and in my view rawer, uglier and hence, superior versions of many of those tracks; easily my favorite Master recording. All of these releases are worth getting but if you only seek out one, get the unreleased 1985 album. There’s a ton of Master info available at Speckmann’s website,

Finally, I want to dedicate my column in this 300th issue of Maximum Rock N Roll to my friend from Concord, California, David Plumb. David passed away on March 5th 2008 one day before his 35th birthday. Dave was a fan of punk, hardcore and metal going way back and I sat with him in his garage many times listening to and discussing some of our mutually favorite albums including Neurosis’ “Souls At Zero”, At The Gates’ “Slaughter Of The Soul” and The Cro-Mags “Age Of Quarrel”. Rest peacefully now brother. You will be missed by all that knew your one-of-a-kind character.

Dave, 120 State Ave NE #136, Olympia, WA 98501, Beware The Iron Heel.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Don't Try #11

A band whose importance cannot be understated is Throbbing Gristle. Ok they aren’t a metal band that’s true but their influence is important for bands of all underground genres. As the founders of Industrial music they pioneered a style that at the time was the antithesis of punk; which was happening concurrently (mid to late 70s), and in some ways was meant to mock it.

TG was acutely aware of punk’s repackaging of inept rock music as pop culture rebellion. They had been working for years already as a performance art group known as Coum Transmissions. TG was the members’ attempt to infiltrate pop culture and media in a rock band context while delivering music and performances that simultaneously rejected, devoured, exploited and regurgitated all mass media, holding up a very ugly mirror for the punk scene, the art world and Britian’s ruling class who deemed the band “Wreckers of Civilization”.

TG’s music was an aural collage of sampled sounds, Genesis P-Orridge’s inept bass-playing that made Sid look like a virtuoso, cornet from Cosey Fanni Tutti, primitive analog synthesizers and other homemade “instruments” from Peter Christopherson and Chris Carter.

But the music was only part of the TG concept. They started Industrial Records to release their own recordings – one of the first bands to do so. They were one of the early bands to experiment with video manipulation. They printed and sent out a newsletter and postcards containing TG news, art and manifestos. They had specially made “uniforms” that they wore at times. In Genesis they found a mouthpiece and ideological spokesperson and had a very realized and thought out “mission” that encompassed many facets of media.

The term Industrial would unfortunately be hijacked later on to describe electronic rock bands like Ministry and Skinny Puppy, and even more embarrassingly, Rammstein. A bastardization of the term that has nothing to do with Throbbing Gristle and some of their early counterparts like SPK and (early era) Cabaret Voltaire. In the present day the power electronics scene bares the closest resemblance to anything that TG embodied, although there too the differences are major.

Like the Pistols, TG played their last show in San Francisco, at Kezar Pavilion in 1981. The band’s history is inextricably linked to punk rock because of where they are from and the time period at which they came onto the scene, but musically TG couldn’t be farther away from it. And while most early punk has not aged well, TG’s music sounds as though it could be current today. Members went on to play in Psychic TV, Coil and Chris & Cosey.

Part of the reason I bring up TG now, aside from their overall importance to contemporary music, is because they’ve recently released a 7 DVD box set containing a host of early material as well as more recent stuff from the bands reformation period of the last few years. Unlike most reformed groups, TG’s 21st century incarnation has yielded a surprisingly good new album, “The Endless Not”, and live performances that are merely informed by their early period rather than imitating it.

The box set is a beautifully packaged numbered edition of 2000 copies. It comes packaged with a 60-page mini-book of photos and texts by band members. TG documented nearly everything they ever did, including every live show (released over two box sets and about 35 Cds) and now they’ve finally released a definitive visual document. The older footage, the band states, is meant for documentation and was filmed with very early handheld VHS recorders. It’s not meant as standard rock video fare, but simply for historical purposes. The set currently is only available directly through the band’s website, And while expensive it’s an essential purchase for any TG fan of which there are many, and for collectors of early punk artifacts as a document of one of the scene’s most fringe bands.

With that out of the way we can move on to some current albums making the rounds. Lots of relatively mediocre stuff this month and a few above averages. Draconian is a Swedish band whose sound most closely resembles a not-as-awesome version of Katatonia when they still had heavy vocals. Their latest album is “Turning Season Within” on the Napalm label. A major bummer about this album is the over-use, and just the use in general, of the ethereal female vocal parts. I know this is a big thing in Europe with bands like Nightwish achieving practically mainstream success but to me it ruins an otherwise totally average record. It’s got a goth downer feel throughout and so it’s not surprising it was recorded at a studio called Fascination Street and has a song called Bloodflower. I guess they like The Cure. One of the most entertaining parts of the CD was in some of the songs the music drops low and a Vampiric German voice comes on and says “You Are Listening To The New Draconian Album Turning Season Within”. The dude sounds like the governor of Kali-for-nia. That gave me a good laugh. Unfortunately that was the best part of this average record. They may sell boatloads in Europe but this shit ain’t gonna fly in the States.

Grimbane has ex-Blasphemy maestro Necrosleezer (renamed Barbarous) amongst its ranks and as you’d expect deliver raw war-tinged necro black metal. Their debut album “Let The Empires Fall” has just been released by my Port Orchard neighbors at Moribund. A mix of older Canadian and Finnish sounds in this one a la Conqeuror, old Impaled Nazarene, though not as good as either. “Cauldron Of Burning Iron” mixes some slower material and acoustic parts into the hyberblast stew, while “God Cremated” has a more melancholic vibe to start before plunging headlong back into violence. There’s a good amount of spoken samples on the album, which I’m always a fan of as long as I don’t recognize them. Vocally the dude comes from the satanic Popeye school of Immortal and Attila Csihar. File under not bad but ultimately forgettable.

For a band that’s apparently been around for well over 20 years Satan’s Host sound surprisingly modern. These dudes come from Boulder, Colorado and at one time featured the singer of Jag Panzer in their ranks. But the guys ain’t playing power metal anymore. Their horribly titled new album “Great American Scapegoat” has elements of Polish bands like Behemoth and Vader heavily informing its latter day blackened death approach. Petagno cover art on this too.

How come the demos I get are so often better than the shit actually being released on record labels? Say hello to Salome, some bludgeoning doomsludge with a Graves At Sea guitar sound that gets all gummed up in your ears. The vocalist Kat sounds a bit like the dude from Rwake and she also does some vocals for Agoraphobic Nosebleed. She’s mixed a little low and this is deeply heavy considering there’s no bassplayer in this band, which they should consider adding. 4 songs and over 40 minutes of primo doom with a groove. Contact em at and

Bastard Of The Skies from the UK have a new four song demo out. This is heavy sludgey rock that’ll sit well with those into stuff like Iron Monkey, Kyuss maybe even Laudanum. Good sound for a demo and songs like “You, Foe” and “A Traitor In The Herd” have a catchiness to them that defies the bands relatively brief life. It’s not something I’ll rock repeatedly but those into the aforementioned bands and some of the sludgier AmRep stuff will dig this. Contact em at

The death doom masters return! Sweden’s Runemagick are back again with what seems like their 100th album. Actually it’s probably the tenth or so but this band has been prolific as hell and still every album is a killer, not a turd amongst them. Runemagick is another Nicke Terror aka Nicklas Rudolfsson project and the dude has always had tons of metal glory coursing through his fingertips. Deathwitch, The Funeral Orchestra, even Sacramentum were all worthy of praise. But Runemagick has been the one that’s lasted.

Runemagick has long taken the Swedish death sound, which was always infected with a cancerous Autopsy worship, and doomified it even more making whole albums that wreak of one of Autopy’s doomest gems “In The Grip Of Winter”. The only other band really pulling weight with the doom death sound these days is Coffins, but while their sound owes as much to Hellhammer/Frost nostalgia as to the old Bay Area deathgods, you won’t find much of that with Runemagick. This is pure Swedish meatballz with little to no Swiss cheese influence.

“Voyage To Desolation”, “Chthonic Temple Smoke” and “Retaliation” continue the Runemagick tradition of hooks and more hooks of the best death doom riffage around. The album is called “Voyage To Desolation/Dawn Of The End” and this North American version is released by the newly minted Enucleation Records who also released Coffins’ “The Other Side Of Blasphemy” on 2xLP recently. What are you waiting for? It’s Runemagick. Go get it! And while you’re at it pick up some of the others like “Envenom”, “On Funeral Wings” and “Death, Doom, Destruction”.

I’ve liked well enough some of the previous material of Norway’s Audiopain so I was hoping to be blown away with a full on thrash assault on their new one “The Switch To Turn Off Mankind” released on the Vendlus label. In light of the neverending thrash revival going on right now I had hoped these guys, who’ve been doing it since the late 90s, would show the new school posers how it’s done. But alas, this is merely average and come off like a poor man’s Aura Noir. Thrashin’ riffs abound, but that’s about all these tunes are; riff collections without the songs to back it up – similar to a lot of the new wave of disposable thrash. That’s one thing all these bands miss out on. The old bands had songs! Good ones. Even the crossover bands. If you can’t get enough thrash, check out Audiopain. They are good enough, but you’d do right to first check out Aura Noir’s “Deep Tracts Of Hell” or even “Merciless” for some ugly raw thrashin’ that dwarfs this in quality and will leave any maniac with a severe morning bangover.

Another release on the Napalm label comes from Isole (pronounced ee-so-lay) and their latest fullbanger “Bliss Of Solitude”. Any guesses based on the title? It’s epic doom metal, played good and heavy on the guitar sound and with trad vocal stylings. This doom school often lives and dies by the vocals. At the top of the genre you have people like Messiah from Candlemass and Robert Lowe from Solitude Aeternus. You can’t really hope to live up to those guys unless your name is Ronnie James but the dude(s) in this band pull the job adequately enough. The vocals are layered giving the impression of multiple vocalists a lot of the time and they include some harmonies in spots. The guitar sound is clean but meaty as it should be and the riffing tends more to the sad and dramatic then catchy hooks but always keeping it heavy. Those into Warning, My Dying Bride and the ‘Mass can probably get behind this and give it a good reacharound.

Indian from Chicago return this month with a new CD that combines two limited LPs, “Slights And Abuse” and “The Sycophant”. What you’ve got with Indian is a noise rock and doom milkshake that’s got thick layered guitars mixed with a healthy dose of furious anger. If bands like (the true) Middian, Buzzoven or even Akimbo scratch that itch then Indian likely will do the same. This CD didn’t crush my skull as I hoped it would based on what I’d heard and I won’t listen to it repeatedly, but I’m eager to check them out live. Somehow I missed Indian at Emissions last year, which is unfortunate because this sounds like it will come off better live. That’s not to say that this record isn’t good, but this is live music to be sure. The band will be touring the West Coast around the time this column hits.

Looking back in time this month we’ll turn to an album by Sweden’s October Tide. “Grey Dawn” was the second and seemingly final release from this project of Katatonia’s Jonas Renske and Fredrick Normann. At one point Katatonia broke up for a while and Anders Nystrom turned to his project Diabolical Masquerade while the other dudes continued with October Tide which was pretty much a continuation of everything Jonas brought to Katatonia. Not only a continuation, but one that combined elements of Katatonia’s best album “Brave Murder Day” with the direction later Katatonia albums would take.

Opener “Grey Dawn” is probably the best track on the album and stands alongside any of the tunes on “Brave Murder Day”. The vocalist sounds so much like Mike from Opeth, who handled vocal duties on “Brave Murder Day”, it’s almost uncanny (pun intended trivia freaks). The main riff is an absolute killer and the chorus is ultra-memorable. The break in the middle of the song leads into some tasteful soloing and melancholic rhythms before going back to the main theme again one more time. This is October Tide’s hit single.

“Heart Of The Dead” is another highlight of the album with several Opeth like moments and it leads into “Floating” a song that has a sort of tragic elegance in its mournful sadness. The album ends with the acoustic downer “Dear Sun”.

The simple 4/4 drum patterns so prevalent on “Brave Murder Day” are utilized here again to underscore and highlight the riffs and melodies. The drums are just a fragile backbone. Although the term “funeral doom” is associated more with bands like Skepticism and Tyranny, even Asunder, in some sense it would seem equally appropriate in describing October Tide.

October Tide had an earlier full length called “Rain Without End” which, while not as good as “Grey Dawn” is nonetheless essential for any Katatonia fan and features Jonas’ final “harsh” vocal performance. “Grey Dawn” was originally released in 1999 by the Avantegarde label from Italy and has recently been re-released by Peaceville, Katatonia’s current label. “Rain Without End” is also set for a re-release sometime this year by its original label Vic Records. I had a copy of it at one time but mistakenly let a friend borrow it and never saw it again. Anyone into European doom should give “Grey Dawn” a listen.

That’s it for this month folks. I’ve received letters from several of you in the last few months. While I appreciate you taking the time to write letters I just don’t have time to answer them at this point in my life so don’t’ be offended if you don’t hear from me. I’ve never been good at writing letters to people. Contact info remains the same for now and the blog will be updated once this column has been on the stands for three or four weeks.