Sunday, February 20, 2011

Wino Adrift

Wino Adrift

(Exile On Mainstream Records)

By: Chris Davison

Hello, my name is Chris Davison, and I am a hypocrite. This is my first meeting at Hypocrites Anonymous. I guess the anonymous bit has been blown out of the water a bit by giving my name. No matter. I am a hypocrite, and I am addicted to hypocrisy. How did it start? Oh, it was all fun at the start – professing love to heavy metal and nothing else. It was fun and exciting. But then the dark clouds started to gather. I was unable to allow myself to appreciate other kinds of music because I had adopted a dogmatic attitude to musical appreciation. Don't feel sorry for me, I've inflicted this mindset on myself, and truth be told, I don't really want to change. I tell myself little lies to keep the thoughts in their strict order. “Other kinds of music are weak,” I repeat, like a mantra. “Anyone that listens to anything other than heavy metal is a complete moron.” The liar likes to whisper this in my ear; but the liar has a friend. The hypocrite tells me that it's OK to like other kinds of music – as long as there is a tangible connection to heavy metal. So, it's perfectly acceptable to like the modern output of Anathema – despite the fact they probably haven't even walked past a metal album, let alone put out one of their own – in the last ten years or more. By the same token, it is fine to like an album of introspective, blues fuelled acoustic numbers. Only though, and this is important, if it has been written and recorded by Wino.

Wino requires no introduction, but I'm going to give him one anyway. He is basically the closest thing America has to a Lemmy (not withstanding that Lemmy lives in the US); an authentic, hard living heavy metal veteran. The man has been instrumental in the great works of so many classic bands that it's almost embarrassing to list them, but even the most grim and frostbitten underground warrior must have heard some of the works of The Obsessed, Saint Vitus or Spirit Caravan whilst on their travels.

So, when Wino sits down to record a stripped down album featuring only that voice – the voice that sounds as soulful as it does mournful, a whiskey-soaked, bad-times croon that pours liquor-soaked experience straight into your head, you have to listen. It's simultaneously a million miles away from his previous output, but at the same time in the same ball park. You see, you can strip out all of the instrumentation and electrical feedback from a doom song all you like, but spin the authentically gut-wrenching refrain of “Old And Alone,” and you'll forget that you ever needed them. That cathartic release, that confessional atmosphere of classic doom is here in spades. It's in the space between the riffs, the sound of the fingers sliding over the strings and the weariness in the voice. These bluesy, blue-collar hymns say more about the stubbornness and born-to-lose, live-to-win attitude of the man than any number of words or black and white photographs. Here, among the quiet and the shades of grey, perhaps more than other, Wino becomes the rock n' roll equivalent of Jaws' Quint character: too proud to give up, too worn to start again.

...And then just when you thought you had a handle on it, Wino pops up with a cover version of Motörhead's “Iron Horse / Born to Lose” that might just be better than the original. The fragility of the guitar, juxtaposed against the dogged defiance in his voice say more about a vanishing way of living the outlaw life than the greasy rocking original. Truly a religious experience for those who want to savour the atmosphere and sentiment over the vulgarity of the arms race to produce the fastest blast beat, or the most dissonant, fucked-up guitar tone.

So, I'm glad for being a hypocrite. I don't have time for listening to everything, and ultimately, without the background in heavy metal and such an in depth understanding of the position of the outsider that comes as part and parcel of the lifestyle just as much as the hair, the denim and the leather, this would just have been another vapid journey into the rotting corpse of the blues. When Wino sings the blues, you know he's lived it. He's lived it because living heavy metal is a fucking depressing experience. I don't need the truth, I just need metal.

Born to lose, baby, born to lose.

Wino's MySpace

Friday, February 18, 2011

Jean Jacket Phase II.I ... and the short form...

For now, I'm concentrating on the "short form" for reviews (I call 'em shorties), and have started a new weekly column at consisting of 4-6 short writeups in the neighborhood of 100+ words or so. The first two columns of Dave's Underground Laboratory have been published here and here.

Fellow Live 4 Metal alum Strawb has now joined the cast here at Metal Flows In My Veins.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hate Erebos

Hate Erebos

(Listenable Records)

By: Chris Davison

Do you like Behemoth? Good, because so do Hate. They like them so much that they've decided to make a Behemoth record with their latest, Erebos. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though having been a fan of Hate from previous albums (and, in particular, Awakening Of The Liar), it's a slightly off kilter move to progress from their previous technical, faintly symphonic direction towards one which has so many elements of Behemoth that it initially seems rather jarring.

Bleating aside, Erebos is still a bloody excellent album. There is something about the Polish branch of death metal that produces a mechanistic, precise quality to the riffing. Alongside the oddly Middle Eastern jangling guitars that pepper the album, the more typical Hate riff accuracy still impresses alongside the furious drum battery. The vocals of Adam (The First Sinner) provide a multi-layered throat mangling throughout, with some particularly ferocious delivery on “Transubstance,” a track that may have been the first true audio recording of someone ingesting their lungs.

Hate manage to pull off what many of their peers are not able to produce; memorable but brutal songs that make the hairs stand up at the back of the neck. With some incisive song writing, and hooks so vicious that they may well have come from the set of Hellraiser, they certainly know how to breed ear worms. So yes, the martial and esoteric vibes of the music are, once again for the record, heavily reminiscent of Behemoth, but well – I rather like Behemoth, and I haven't really enjoyed one of their albums as much as Erebos since 2004's Demigod.

Originality – no doubt some of you may blanch at the prospect of buying or listening to an album that sounds so much like one produced by another band. Maybe it's because I'm a doom fan (and therefore used to listening to bands from every cursed, blasted continent on Earth turning out bespoke variations on Master Of Reality) that this doesn't bother me. This is a solid, gruesome but polished slab of prime death metal, and any curmudgeons among you will miss out of a stellar listening experience.

Official Hate MySpace

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"You're Taking Me Where For Valentine's Day?!" Skull Stays Out Way Past His Bedtime Part II

Bands: A bunch of bands with unreadable logos celebrating Miguel's birthday.

Venue: Ye Olde Town Inn Pizzeria; Mt. Prospect, Illinois

Date: February 13th, 2011

By: Skull

In between shoveling his way out of the biggest blizzard to hit Hoth since he ran into that bounty hunter on Ord Mantell, and brewing beer in his lady friend's closet (Skull Snot, soon to be in fine stores everywhere), Skull managed to find time to plan the following Valentine's Day "date."

That's right! It's Miguel's Birthday yet again, celebrated by a boatload of Brutal DM/ grind bands with unreadable logos! Here are the details...

"With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, and being a little stunted in the romance department, I have been scrambling of late trying to find perfect V-Day date night activity to show my love for my woman. I was starting to sweat it out last week when fate stepped in and I received an invite to Miguel “Goregrinder” Medina’s Brutal Birthday Bash, a seven-band Death Metal Extravaganza! It was no less than a Valentine’s Day miracle!

Miguel is a Chicago area artist, show promoter, and musician, and I attended his birthday celebration last year, which featured the mighty Putrid Pile among others. This year’s event was to be held at Ye Olde Town Inn, a local pizza joint that my family frequented a lot when I was a kid. I looked forward to finding out whether or not their pizza was as spectacular as I remember it from the wayward days of my bygone childhood.

Upon entering the venue, I shook off a wave of nostalgia, and my lady friend and I found a nice corner spot right on the bar. Is anyone surprised? We grabbed a drink, ordered our food, and entrenched ourselves for the evening. Living in a cave as I do, I was unfamiliar with every act slotted to play and I looked forward to a fresh dose of metal.

Oily Anal Discharge, a local two man Death Metal outfit, kicked off the night right on time for a short 20 minute showcase. Attempting to research them earlier in the day, I found Google-searching them to be quite amusing. I also stumbled across a video of theirs for the song “Necrotic Lust.” Let’s just say that it’s not exactly family viewing material ,and it is certainly the kind of thing that can NOT be unseen after viewed.

Consisting of a vocalist, guitarist, and programmed drums, OAD plowed through a decent set of raw, Brutal DM to a mild reception from the 25-30 people in attendance. They were a bit rough around the edges but I found myself enjoying their performance. And yes, they did play songs about diarrhea. Speaking to the vocalist later in the evening, he admitted that they basically threw the set together in one day. This impressed me even more.

In between sets, we gorged on probably THE best plate of cheese fries that I have ever consumed.

After a brief changeover, Mass Murder Messiah, from Racine, Wisconsin, kicked into high gear for the second set of the night. Another two man band made up of a guitarist/vocalist, bass player, and more drum programming, MMM really overwhelmed us with a more than competent display of mid to fast paced Brutal Death Metal with plenty of Putrid Pile (also from Racine) and Defloration influences. The growing crowd was obviously familiar with these guys, and roared their approval throughout the performance. It was a killer set and WAY too short.

Our pizza arrived towards the end of the set and I was pleased to find it was just as good as it ever was, causing me to swoon with more nostalgia and déjà vu.

Up next, from the land of Goshen, Indiana, were 80,000 Dead, a five-piece act with a living, breathing drummer. 80,000 Dead fired up into a slot of mostly mid-paced, highly moshable and thrashable grooves. It seemed that their mix was a bit off at times, but they were very tight with spurts of impressive complexity scattered throughout. Their song selection suffered a bit from a bout of "sameness," but their vocalist was quite talented and the crew really got the room moving.

In between sets I had the opportunity to exchange pleasantries with and buy a drink for Miguel, our host. During the conversation I found that his band, Asphyxiator, had intended to play as well but their current drummer suffered a broken wrist just last week. Miguel laughed off their bad luck and seemed to be fully enjoying himself. Happy Birthday, Miguel!

After a curiously long set change, another duo, this one from Colombia, Missouri called Intracranial Butchery took the stage. Backed up by another virtual drummer, IB kicked off another set of Brutal DM, albeit of a slower variety. They had moments of brilliance, and I heard a lot of Iommi influence incorporated into the guitar work with solid, chunky, and catchy riffs accompanied by decent vocals, but I have to admit this set left me feeling kind of flat. Maybe they’re an acquired taste? They did put out a great effort, though, and the attending metalheads showed their appreciation accordingly.

After a quick smoke, we caught the next act finish setting and tuning up while I grabbed another cerveza. I was now hitting the tipping point and was thoroughly enjoying myself as Evansville, Indiana’s Visceral Throne cranked into an interesting performance. Backed by another biological organism behind the drum kit, VT played the most melodic form of DM of the night with some flashy and interesting guitar work to boot. A pit was now taking form despite the real lack of space for it, but the punters who wanted to mosh really adapted and overcame the hurdles. I admit that I was initially unenthused with Visceral Throne, but as their set progressed, I became more intrigued with them. After some time, Visceral Throne totally won me over as they finished strong to a rousing reception.

Now, up next was Exulcerate from San Antonio, Texas, but wait. I could hear murmurs of bafflement amongst the crowd. Something odd was happening, but I was still in the dark as to what it was. Taking advantage of my location on the bar, I conversed with the lovely barmaid as to what was going on. She informed me that Exulcerate could not attend (the reason I know not), and another local band was filling in at the last minute. She proudly added that the bassist was one of her employees, who also serves time with Jungle Rot. My interest now piqued, I anxiously awaited Reign Inferno’s set.

Now, on a moment’s notice these guys collected themselves, set up, and completely, utterly, and thoroughly decimated the room with catchy, mature, and highly moshable DM/ grind! My jaw literally hit the floor. Another pit erupted and the crowd encouraged the band with loud approval. Miguel joined them on stage to share vocal duties for one number as the attendees went apeshit. RI truly gave it their all, didn’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and really seemed to enjoy the moment and have fun up there. By the end of their performance I was totally pumped with adrenaline. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an impromptu last minute set that has had such a strong effect on me. And these guys are unsigned?!

Catching my breath, and a smoke, outside during the last changeover, I had the opportunity to congratulate RI on a great performance.

We went back inside for the final set of the night. At this point, we agreed that Sexual Atrocities had some big shoes to fill for the set we had just witnessed would be very hard to top. Sexual Atrocities (formerly Screaming Afterbirth) from Milwaukee fired up shortly after. Obviously the most seasoned and professional act of the night, SA treated us to a good set of solid DM/ grind. The crowd response was very positive as the pit continued and heads banged. Each and every song was separated by amusing banter from the gent behind the drum kit that, at times, bordered on standup comedy. The main vocalist lost his mic for a time and the drummer filled the gap with jokes, stories, and even some Packer Backer ribbing. D’oh! They played cuts such as "Maggots in Your Coffin" and the immortal "Anal Volcano." It was a good, solid performance, but I grew tired of the banter after a while, amusing as it was. Not surprisingly, the crowd gave them roaring applause.

Completely spent from a romantic evening consisting of a seven band assault and a few beers, we limped home for the night. Our love for each other had only grown deeper and richer from the experience. We were in full agreement that Reign Inferno, the band that wasn’t even scheduled to play and even had to use Sexual Atrocities’ gear, had won the night.

It was a great evening and we really enjoyed ourselves. We met a lot of great people and on the ride home I reflected on the character of those we met. In my two straight jobs, I deal with the public constantly. I find most people to be rude, inconsiderate assholes. But when I go to metal shows I meet and converse with people with a love for music that depicts brutality, violence, and perversion. Yet, in general, these folks are the most sincere, polite, and considerate people I have contact with in the course of daily life.

Just an observation.

Thanks for invite Miguel!"

The pics!

Oily Anal Discharge

Mass Murder Messiah

80,000 Dead

Intracranial Butchery

Visceral Throne

Reign Inferno (with Miguel)

Sexual Atrocities

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Withered Dualitas

Withered Dualitas

(Prosthetic Records)

By: Chris Davison

I loved Withered's debut, Memento Mori, but haven't really caught up with them since. Hence it was with considerable delight that I accepted the opportunity to review this cheeky little monkey when editor in chief, the Dragon of M87 (also known as Shnooky-lumps to friends (editor: ?)) passed this to me to review. The Atlanta, Georgia (I am assured by my trans-Atlantic chums that this is a delightfully cosmopolitan area of the North American continent) crew seem to have knocked out another atypical heavy metal record. While their lazier, slack jawed peers might seem content to follow every passing whim or trend (all while wearing an ironic side-parted hair cut and massive beard), Withered are happier treading the pass less travelled.

Those of you who remember Memento Mori may remember a mixture of be-doomed tempo and sludge attitude married with an old school Swedish death metal sense of melody and atmosphere. Withered have clearly moved on since that point, or evolved, if you will. Dualitas is an apt name for a release that sees a band almost playfully explore the boundaries of sludge metal and black metal, and have created an interesting, hypnotic introspective platter that is as visceral as it is cerebral. If the album was a wine label, it would say something like, “a dark intoxicating vintage with elements of hypnotic depressive black metal, warm Celtic Frost notes with Crowbar and Anathema after flavour”.

Luckily, it would take a massively pretentious twat to ever write anything like that; therefore, take instead my view that the huge, buzzsaw sound of the guitars, when combined with some of the rolling dissonance of the black metal movement and the hoarse, desperate roars of vocalist Dylan Kilgore have created one of the most massively impressive releases of the last couple of years. More than just successfully melding two genres which have seldom been happy bed mates, they have managed to provide quiet, almost ambient headspace within the cacophony in which the brain can truly experience the sublime beauty of the music.

A word of warning, though; this is music that demands the full attention in order to wring every last drop of musical genius from its dripping cloth. Each ringing chord, each ferocious moment of clattering, seemingly chaotic violence is like a religious calling to a truth that does not need to speak clearly or even use language. If that sounds like a load of hippy bollocks, do yourself a favour and listen to Dualitas; then, see me after class.

As close to the pinnacle of transcendental heavy metal as has ever been produced, this is clever, dumb and primal genius.

Withered MySpace

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Falkenbach Tiurida

Falkenbach Tiurida

(Napalm Records)

By: Chris Davison

Falkenbach are (or, is, depending upon on your view of the use of session musicians) a massively respected outfit in the realm of Viking-inspired, folksy, post-black, electric guitar and jingly-jangly mandolin metal. Yeah, I know it's hardly the most succinct of genre definitions, but you know that it hits the spot dead on. Falkenbach, just for the record, despite being German (and therefore in the right part of Europe) are not in any way connected to legendary deceased Austrian rap and pop genius Falco. I just wanted to make that absolutely clear before we went any further.

I was somewhat swept away by the last release, the absolutely massive Heralding The Fireblade back in 2005. Main man Vratyas Vakyas has been toiling away at his Viking forge for the last six years with Tiurida, but those seeking massive amounts of deviation or innovation from Falkenbach's trademark sound may well be slightly disappointed. For the rest of us more sane mortals, the good news is that Tiurida is a logical successor to Heralding The Fireblade. The bombastic sweep of the keyboards has been toned down (thankfully), but the epic swell of the chord progressions and the clear nods to Bathory remain. The vocals are a mix between the blackened rasp that almost seems to have become a rarity in folk metal releases, mixed with the more common choral elements. The sounds of nature – the tweets of birds in the trees, the trickle of rivers running by – remain a feature in the songs, which contrast nicely with the aggressive hum of the electric guitars.

For the most part, Tiurida manages to succeed where its peers fail; that is to say that despite the folk elements, it refrains from falling into the trap of the dolefully twee. Far too many albums are content to slap some violins into the mix, add a polka beat and a couple of “hey nonny-nonny” thigh-slapping leather-jerkin based actions, and laugh all the way to the lucrative summer metal festival circuit. Sure, there are a couple of songs that I can see being covered by pan-pipe by a busker near you, but the metal content is kept reassuringly high. To be honest, though, the pastoral atmosphere of Tiurida is a little too relaxed for my liking. I like my latter period Bathory as well as any man, but really, for that sound there is already the amazing Ereb Altor.

Honestly, while Tiurida is a solid enough release, this album isn't going to trouble either the back catalogue of Ereb Altor, or that of Falkenbach themselves. That is to say, Tiurida this isn't going to rock me. Amadeus.

Falkenbach Official MySpace