Saturday, March 27, 2010

Skull Gets Down and Dirty: Howl and Javelina at The Dojo

Bands: Howl and Javelina

Venue: The Dojo, Indianapolis

Date: March 23, 2010

By: Skull

A couple months back I wrote up Beasts Among Sheep from Philly’s Javelina, and I praised the album for its abundance of chunky riffs and power. I even surmised that Javelina must have a monstrous live presence, and mentioned that I was considering traveling to Indianapolis to check them out this month. Earsplit knocked me off the fence with an invite to attend. How could I say no to that?

I met my doll Kelly, who would be my +1, in downtown Chicago last Monday night and we headed out to Indy. Arriving well before show time we took advantage of the down time, relaxed, and had cocktails. I later checked in with Dave, who apprised me of the fact that we had entered the Eastern time zone and were now late for the event! One of these days I’m going to have to have my head surgically removed from my ass.

We proceeded to cab it (the cab ride is a story in and of itself) to The Dojo, a very small venue in the outskirts east of Indy, arriving just in time to find we missed the opening act. Sorry whoever you were. The set changeover was just beginning, so Kelly and I chilled outside to absorb the local ambience. Not much to it really with a corner tavern across the street, a wing shop next door to The Dojo, and a theater beyond the restaurant. A small group of locals, I assumed, was assembled outside smoking and conversing while Javelina sound checked. As I was lighting my second smoke I heard them rip into “You’re Gonna Hate this” and we slipped inside.

The Dojo is nothing more than a gutted corner shop, smaller even, it seems, than a semi trailer, and the band plus the 25-30 metalheads in attendance pretty much filled the place up. But Javelina was nice and loud, just as I like it, and “YGHT” blew me away. They played with all their might and at times I worried that their bass player Herb would suffer a coronary or a stroke because his skinned head turned a bright shade of pink. These guys weren’t fucking around! The crowd collectively bobbed their heads along with the sludge and gave appreciative applause in between the songs. Javelina basically stuck to Beasts Among Sheep and played “Black Blizzard” (awesome) and “Playing The Nuclear Option” among others in their maddeningly short 30 minute set. They wrapped up to more applause. Duly impressed with Javelina, Kelly and I skipped (not literally) across the street for a drink and some local color.

Returning to The Dojo shortly after, we entered in time to catch the beginning of Howl’s set. In all fairness to them, I am not familiar with their newly released EP on Relapse Records, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out how these guys (and a gal) could headline over a power quartet like Javelina, who have two full lengths under their belt. Nevertheless, Rhode Island’s Howl pulverized the small crowd with their own spin on stoner/ sludge and the mob reacted favorably. They played cuts from their EP as well as new tracks from their upcoming full length, which is to be released in May. Although I was impressed with Howl, II still left the venue after their set shaking my head at the logic of it all.

After the show, I spoke briefly with Mike of Javelina outside of the club. He informed me that they are working on new material and shopping for a label. To all of the metal labels out there with a taste for sludge: It would be in your best interests to align yourself with Javelina. They’re really just getting started. To all Indy metal fans: Please support The Dojo.

Thanks to Dave Brenner at Earsplit for the invite.

The pics...



The t-shirt haul...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Brief Blast: Kreator and Kataklysm

Bands (those that I happened to catch, anyway): Kreator and Kataklysm

Venue: HOB Sunset Strip, West Hollywood, California

Date: March 23, 2010

Here’s a brief blast show review after I traipsed out to the HOB Sunset Strip after a long day at work to catch Kreator and Kataklysm. I wasn’t able to make it out in time for any of the openers, but I was only really interested in the triumphant return of Kreator, anyway. Heading out on their second swing through North America in support of Hordes of Chaos, Kreator threw such a good show last year around this time that I had to see them again.

I arrived at the HOB just in time to catch most of Kataklysm’s set in front of a packed HOB crowd. A good set, some of which I spent wandering around (Sam Dunn was spotted in the audience). After checking out the well-stocked merch tables, I finally settled down to catch the last few songs. A good show, from what I saw, as Kataklysm finished with a rousing rendition of “Shadows And Dust”.

Anticipation grew to a crescendo as Kreator hit the stage. Opening with “The Pestilence”, Kreator were tight as Hell throughout their 90-minute set. Playing an anniversary tour of sorts, Mille informed us all early on that many past classics would be played for the first time in many years. We were treated to “Endless Pain”, “Tormentor”, “Coma of Souls”, and “Flag Of Hate”, as well as recent staples such as the title tracks of the band’s last three full-lengths. Overall, a great show.

A few phone shots of Kreator (courtesy of concert going companion Cosmo Lee). My camera phone is on the fritz (I’m living in the dark ages), and my photo pass fell through. Oh, well.

The t-shirt haul (finally replacing an old classic from my youth)...

Special thanks to Dave Brenner!!

My recently published reviews at

Landmine Marathon Sovereign Descent

Varg Blutaar

Ludicra The Tenant

Immolation Majesty And Decay

Expect to see Immolation reside near the top of this year's "best of" list.

Next up...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Live 4 Metal Lives Again!

Steve Green’s fabled webzine has been resurrected with a new look, a new format, and a new URL for that matter. The new address for Live 4 Metal is simply…

…and I encourage all to head on over and check out the new format and features. Besides my continuing gigs at The Plague and, I will continue to contribute reviews (and perhaps a few other odds and ends) to Steve and Live 4 Metal.

I want to thank Steve for hiring me on to Live 4 Metal over 5 years ago (Scott Alisoglu also deserves thanks), and I wish him every success.

I asked Steve to briefly answer a couple of questions for the following short interview.

How did you get your start in metal journalism? What led you down this path and how did Live 4 Metal get its start?

The original idea behind Live 4 Metal was that it would be an information centre. I was fed up with having to go to the Nuclear Blast site to find out about Nuclear Blast bands, then having to go to the Century Media site for my next fix of news, etc. You have to remember that this was in the year 2000 (pre-Blabbermouth, for example), and the internet wasn’t as saturated with information as it is today. There were very few Metal related websites, so this was a reasonably unique idea.

So, anyway, I wanted to create a massive tour guide and details of all the new releases and then branch out from there, including as much information as I could. The idea of including reviews never crossed my mind.

After I launched the site, in April 2001, a few friends joined the team and we branched out into CD reviews and after being approached by Donna, the PR lady at Century Media, to do some live reviews, everything kind of spiraled from there.

What metal related projects were you involved in prior to the beginning of Live 4 Metal?

I ran a small label, Unknown Territory, which released about 5 or 6 CDs (and 1 cassette compilation), and I ran a distro for about 4 or 5 years (mainly dealing in underground tapes, which shows you how long ago it was). I also did a very small amount of concert promotion, which I absolutely sucked at (and hated for that matter).

As the site continued and the years went by, what problems did you encounter in keeping the site going?

Mainly finding, and keeping, good writers. This is a hobby, no one gets paid for this shit. So, it’s only natural that, as your life changes (for good and bad) that your interest in writing diminishes. After Scott Alisoglou left in about 2006, we lost a lot of the US guys (I know you stayed – thanks Dave), and the workload started to get to be too much, and the site just slowed up from there.

The other problem was the number of review CDs coming our way. As we got more popular, the amount of CDs increased to stupid levels (plus the added time of downloading a lot of them,) and we’ve always tried to review everything that was sent to us, so it just became chaotic.

By the end of the old site, I was simply churning out review and review, and my love for the site had ended.

What made you decide to revamp the webzine, and are you reinvigorated by L4M’s new format?

It’s hard after being involved in the scene for about 15 or so years to be totally without it in your life. I still wanted to be involved in some way, so a smaller, more manageable, version of Live 4 Metal seemed the obvious way to go.

And yes, I’m totally reinvigorated by the new format. I’m 43 now and have been crazy about music since I was 7. The new format now lets me (and the other writers) to not only discover new music, but to write about bands and albums that have given us so much pleasure over the years.

I was really saddened when I heard that Ronnie James Dio had cancer. The man has been my favourite singer for about 30 years now, so when Steve Earles wrote a piece about his work with Black Sabbath and Heaven & Hell, that was the best way of saying thank you to the artists that create the music we love. And for me, that’s the best aspect of the new site.

What can we expect from L4M in the future?

Expect the unexpected. The shackles are off now. We’ll have a cap on the number of reviews we include each month, which will give us all more time to interview bands, as well as write features on the many sides of Metal, from Lost Classic albums to who has the best beard in Metal! As long as an idea works, I’m happy to run with it.

How important to metal is the webzine community, as opposed to the print community?

I think music related websites are the lifeblood of Metal these days. If you have a printed magazine, by the time you go to press, the news could be 6 weeks out of date. Magazines are still essential as far as reviews and interviews are concerned (mainly because of the influence they have over the record buying public), but, if Scott Weiland has a glass of orange juice, you know it’ll be reported on Blabbermouth within the hour, and no one else can compete with that.


As you might expect, I had a few reviews published at the first issue of the new version of Live 4 Metal (I hope to have a couple of interviews completed for the next issue). They are...

Dark Funeral Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus

Finntroll Nifelvind

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Wine with a Metal Label!

This is the second posting from Four Vines, a fabulous winery on the west 46 side of Paso Robles. Here's a lovely, highly rated (90+ points) Syrah called "Phoenix". Strong hints of strawberry with a very light touch on the palate highlight this Syrah. Minimal decanting is needed as the flavors blossom immediately.

Adding further to the mystique is the winery's proximity to Farmstand 46, a bucolic eatery nestled in some of central California's most beautiful countryside.

The label is metal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: Nekrasov/ Aderlating Split

Here’s a bit of a throwaway split, if there ever was one. The increasingly prolific Mories of Gnaw Their Tongues (GTT) and De Magia Veterum fame returns with yet another project, the subtly different Aderlating. Mories teams his new project with Nekrasov, another one man project, for a four “song” split on Chrome Leaf Records.

Nekrasov, a project from Australia, is up first on the split. Interestingly, Nekrasov is quite prolific with four full-lengths to his credit since 2007. Here, Nekrasov’s contribution to the split is “Qualities of Being Futile and Valueless”, a lone 24-minute long exercise in bizarre, unsettling ambience. Mostly consisting of atmospheric effects and bizarre vocals that cascade and fall over the track’s length, Nekrasov is treading within well worn ground, and I’m reminded somewhat of the classic “Lux Aeterna” from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Overall, though, the impact is minimal and forgettable, as there’s nothing particularly original about Nekrasov.

Aderlating, the new project from Mories, is definitely different than GTT, an exercise in out and out caterwauling, and De Magia Veterum, which is, more or less, a stab at semi-traditional black metal. Like Nekrasov, Aderlating is mostly treading the landscape of dark ambience, but, at least, there’s a bit of variation to be had on the three tracks contributed by Mories. Like GTT, there are plenty of disturbing tones and vocalizations in the background, but a deep sense of foreboding through the use of harmonics with a hint of an industrial sound is the focus, a subtle change in Mories’ choice of slide into madness.

Compared to GTT and outfits such as Diagnose: Lebensgefahr and Stalaggh, this split from Nekrasov and Aderlating is less painful to listen to and is reasonably well done for the genre, but is definitely one for a specifically niche audience. Proceed at your own risk.


Chrome Leaf

Nekrasov Official MySpace

Aderlating Official MySpace

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Nirvana 2002 Recordings 89-91

Here's an easy one. A nice side benefit of the renewed interest in OSDM is the re-release of classic, hard to find, material from important bands, especially those that you may have missed the first time around. Relapse Records is rapidly cornering the market on the re-release of said rare material, first with the monstrous, recent remastering of World Without God by Finnish band Convulse, and now with the label issuing nearly the entire catalogue of songs from seminal Swedish act Nirvana 2002 on one compilation.

Entitled Recordings 89-91, the compilation is instantly a "must have", and not just because you happened to read Swedish Death Metal cover to cover. Consisting of 15 total songs, Recordings 89-91 gives you remastered (or cleaned up) versions of the following:


1. "Mourning"
2. "Slumber"
3. "Zombiefication
4. "The Awakening Of..."
5. "Further Beyond"
6. "Snake"
7. "Physical Excursion/ Truth And Beauty"
8. "Brutality"
9. "The Awakening Of..."
10. "Watch The River Flow"
11. "In Fell Tongues"
12. "Mourning"
13. "Slumber"
14. "Zombiefication"
15. "The Awakening Of..."


Track 1: Taken from the Projections Of A Stained Mind compilation, 1990
Tracks 2-4: Disembodied Spirits demo, 1990 (2009 mix)
Tracks 5-6: Promo '91
Tracks 7-8: Excursions in the 2002nd Dimension demo, 1989
Tracks 9-10: Rehearsal, 1990
Track 11: Rehearsal, 1991
Track 12: Live at Kafè 44, Jan., 2007
Tracks 13-15: Disembodied Spirits demo, 1990 (original mix)

Nirvana 2002 played pure, old school, Sunlight Studio-era Swedish death metal with huge riffs, bursts of speed, and guttural vocals courtesy of Orvar Safstrom, who also briefly appeared with Entombed. Tons of slow to mid-paced groove permeate the songs, as well, resulting in songs that are at once both catchy and crushingly heavy.

As would be expected, the quality of the recordings varies. Certainly, the first six tracks are all clear and deep, coming from nearly modern production values. Also, a nice comparison can be made between the two versions of the Disembodied Spirits demo on either side of the compilation, with clearer drums readily noticeable in the 2009 update. Tracks 7 and 8 from the Excursions in the 2002nd Dimension demo are probably the roughest, but are still easily listenable, and the live and rehearsal tracks contain a mistake or two.

The quality of the music is top notch for the era, and easily stands toe to toe with the early output from the successful bands such as Grave, Dismember, and so on. As a part of the scene at a pivotal time, Nirvana 2002 are an important piece of the early Swedish death metal puzzle. Kudos to Relapse Records for making these recordings widely available, and it comes as no surprise that Nirvana 2002 have recently reformed and will appear at this year's Maryland Death Fest.

Very highly recommended.


Nirvana 2002 Official MySpace

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Three from Lupus Lounge/ Prophecy Productions

Here are three recent releases from the European label Lupus Lounge/ Prophecy Productions. The label’s roster sports plenty of excellent black metal, and black metal-related, projects. Recently, I was greatly impressed with the label’s issuing of Privilegivm, the last full-length from Secrets Of The Moon, so any release from the label is going to be, at the very least, worth a listen.

Negura Bunget Maiestrit

Not much has been heard from highly regarded Romanian progressive black metal band Negura Bunget since the release of the monstrous Om from 2006, largely considered to be a masterpiece. 2010 sees the band reformed with new members, and the release of a new full-length on Aural Music/ Code666. Entitled Virstele Pamintului, the album has not reached my desk as of yet. However, Negura Bunget’s classic lineup of Hupogrammos, Sol Faur, and Negru had decided to re-record and release a new version of the band’s first full-length, Maiastru Sfetnic, prior to the departure of vocalist/ guitarist Hupogrammos and guitarist/ bassist Sol Faur from the band. This reworked version of the album is entitled Maiestrit, and is the subject of this review.

Negura Bunget had been working on this revision of Maiastru Sfetnic since 2007, and had largely completed Maiestrit when the band broke apart in July, 2009. Besides reworking the original album’s six songs, Hupogrammos and Sol Faur also completed two acoustic tracks after the split, which are included on Maiestrit. These final two songs are acoustic versions of the songs “A-Vint In Abis” and “Plecaciunea Mortii”.

Maiestrit is much more precise than Maiastru Sfetnic, and is much cleaner in terms of musicianship, production, and tone. The musicianship has matured, and the pacing of the songs has changed a bit, resulting in track lengths that don’t quite match up with the original’s length. The drums are noticeably more precise and better produced, and the band’s reputation for stellar, progressive musicianship is much sharper in focus. However, the music is still as bleak and brutal as that of the original release, and the album is not a rewrite of the songs to be more in line with the moodiness of Om, for example.

As would be expected, Maiestrit has reworked packaging, and new, stellar artwork (I cannot find any information on the artist). The album comes in two formats; first, in digipack form as the regular issue and, second, with an art book filled with Negura Bunget visuals.

Maiestrit is, ultimately, a fine swan song to the original incarnation of Negura Bunget, a great band that deserves your attention if you’ve not done so before. I do wonder; however, what the future of the band will be as the creative core has departed. I’m definitely curious to see what Virstele Pamintului will offer in the new incarnation of Negura Bunget.


Negura Bunget Official MySpace

Dordeduh (new project from Hupogrammos and Sol Faur) Official MySpace

Alcest Ecailles de Lune

I must admit that post-black metal/ shoegaze is not really my thing and, although very highly regarded, I never gave the debut full-length from France’s Alcest, entitled Souvenirs d’Un Autre Monde, much of a chance. Alcest members also have connections to Amesoeurs (not familiar, although I’ve certainly heard of them), and Peste Noire (yeah, I’ve got something of that band buried somewhere). At any rate, the duo’s second full-length, Ecailles de Lune, drops into my lap.

As I expected, Ecailles de Lune is mid-paced, psychedelic-laced post-black metal with plenty of dreamy, progressive song structures, clean vocals, moments of ambience, and an overall enveloping quality. Certainly, the album is very well executed with good songwriting, stellar musicianship, and tones and textures galore. Besides the progressive styles, there are also a couple of harsh moments with an odd blast or two and rasped vocals. A couple of short ambient tracks are present, as well, and, somewhat surprising, the album feels quite short with six tracks clocking in at about 41 minutes. Frankly, I was expecting the album to be in the 70 minute plus range, and was surprised when the album restarted in my stereo after what seemed to be quite short a period of time.

Ecailles de Lune is not going to make me into a fan of post-black any time soon, but that’s just my personal preference, nothing more. There’s nothing about the album that I cannot recommend to fans of this style, though.


Alcest Official MySpace

Les Discrets Septembre Et Ses Dernières Pensée

Lastly is a non-metal album from Les Discrets, a project from French filmmaker/ artist/ musician Fursy Teyssier, who also has connections to Amesoeurs and Alcest (Les Discrets and Alcest issued a split last year).

Once again, this is not my really my thing as Les Discrets is mostly quiet, progressive rock, with plenty of acoustic guitars and nothing but clean vocals. Some riffs are present that sound straight from Alcest’s playbook a la Ecailles de Lune, and there are a few up tempo songs that sort of remind me of Opeth at their most quiet.

Once again, this is a well executed album, but Les Discrets will probably not appeal very much to most metalheads. For those interested, however, a version of the album comes with a 56-page art book.


Les Discrets Official MySpace

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Links To New Reviews...

Thanks for your readership. My "other life" has been very busy of late (I've skipped a few shows), but I've been steadily writing reviews for the magazines to which I contribute. At any rate, here are my recently published reviews...

Abscess- Dawn of Inhumanity

Aldaaron- Nous Reviendrons Immortels

Avsky- Scorn

Bestial Mockery- Christcrushing Hammerchainsaw (reissue)

Convulse- World Without God (reissue)

Dismal Lapse- Eon Fragmentation

Perversor- Demon Metal

Sectioned- Purulent Reality