Friday, 31 July 2015

Raccoon City Police Department/Tired Minds - Split 7"


Tracklist:-

1. Raccoon City Police Department - Adults
2. Raccoon City Police Department - Children
3. Tired Minds - Funeral's Home
4. Tired Minds - TV Men

Here's a brand new split record featuring Aussie screamo/hardcore band Raccoon City Police Department, who only released their debut full-length LP in February and compatriots Tired Minds (who are completely new to me. Tired Minds have been going since 2012 and have one full-length, one EP and now this 7". It's been released by Spit The Dummy, who've been busy this year already, having released RCPD's debut LP with UK label Dog Knights Productions and also their first tape in form of the second EP from Regresser. It seems that now is most definitely the time to check out what our Australian cousins are doing to screamo and melodic hardcore, after all, there's more to the country than Parkway Drive!

RCPD kick off with a angular slab of music that’s closer to punk than that of the sound on their debut LP Nightlife. The semi-clean/grungy vocals sit alongside instrumentation that starts off technical and then spreads out into a sprawling and majestic passage, with clean guitars and a mid-paced tempo. The song’s lyrics are full of emotion and are powerfully engrossing. The cleansing emotion of Adults fades and its anger that greets you on Children. There’s actually a heady metal influences going on, which is blended into the music really effectively. I can hear it anyway, even you tell me that I’m wrong later on! However you approach RCPD’s side of this split, what’s obvious is how bright their talent is. If they carry on producing music in this vein, they’re gonna be something special. As I said at the top of this review, I know very little about Tired Minds. Their first number Funeral’s Home starts like with hefty passage of…I guess you could say emo-violence, before slowing down and becoming a lot more atmospheric. That’s something I’ve not really talked about in this review yet but something that is very really throughout the record.TV Men finishes things off on a crunching and jarring note, full of tense hardcore. Tired Minds come across as very assured and being a more established band, they should be. I like their more straightforward approach but can’t take anything away from RCPD. Both bands are excellent overall and this split it well worth picking up. 

Stream the split here and throw some money down for a download if you can:-



The 7" is limited to 150 copies on lovely clear wax with purple splatter. Grab one from Spit The Dummy Recs here - http://spitthedummyrecords.bigcartel.com

Raccoon City Police Department Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/RaccoonCityPD
Tired Minds Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TiredMinds
Spit The Dummy Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/wearespitthedummy

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Hiraeth UK Mini-tour - Final dates!


UK melodic hardcore band Hiraeth are about to round out their recent UK tour with fellow hardcore Brits, Black Polaris and Wars. The penultimate dates are below:-

July 30 - Canterbury - Maiden's Head
August 1 - Raffs Bar - Wellingborough

Hiraeth are touring to help promote their EP "The World Ends With You", which is due for release on September 28. There are no teasers up yet but keep an eye on their Facebook page here - https://www.facebook.com/HIRAETHUK and if you're in the area, get to one of the gigs above.

Black Polaris Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/blackpolarisuk
Wars Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/weareallwars

Booking Bands: A Labour Of Love

I spend a lot of time talking about bands and what they're doing, while rarely focusing on those around them. Those who provide them with opportunities to get their music out there to new people, to play new places and to build followings. I'm talking about those people who book bands for gigs, tours and even full-scale festivals.

Misconception: You may think that those who book gigs are stinking rich and pay bands shedloads to play. You're wrong! Excluding the agencies that organise shows for multi-million selling arena bands, there are people who exist below the mainstream. People who pay out of their own savings to put  bands on in their local towns or cities from the UK and abroad, who book entire tours for bands and even organise festivals. The common theme amongst all of these people is that they love what they do and they love music.

I caught up with three individuals from within the heavy music scene to find out how they got involved in live events, why they do it and to hear their experiences.

Introductions:

Adam Szewiola (Mausoleion/Ex-DSDNT) - I've known Adam for pretty much as long as this blog has been going for. I wrote about his old band DSDNT and similarly about Mausoleion more recently. As well playing in bands, Adam puts on plenty of gigs in Leeds and has had the pleasure of giving bands like Cowards, Exhaustion, Employed To Serve and many others a place to play. He's been kind enough to provide his perspective on booking DIY shows.

Edd (The Bloated Corpse Of Punk/Human Cull) - Edd plays in UK grind/crust band Human Cull and is also part of The Bloated Corpse Of Punk, who collectively put shows on in the South of England and books tours for bands from mainland Europe and further afield. Again, Edd has been kind enough to share his experiences and like Adam, how he approaches booking shows based on what he has learnt from seeing things done from the other side.

Paul Farrington (Damnation Festival) - Paul is one half of the team that each year organises one of the UK's best known underground metal festivals, Damnation. It's now a British institution attracting the biggest names from all over the world and Paul has kindly taken time out of his daily routine to talk about the festival and his experiences at the business end of it.

Adam Szewiola


TNIO: First off, describe how you got involved with booking gigs?

Adam: A few years ago me and my friend Harry (who helps out with a lot of the gigs I do) saw Let it Die support Witch Cult and wanted to bring them back to Leeds so we decided to start putting on gigs. We already played in bands so we sort of knew how to approach doing it so we just thought the next logical step would be to start bringing bands we liked to Leeds.

TNIO: What process do you go through when deciding which bands you want to put on and how do you go about arranging things? Do you deal directly with bands, do you deal with booking agents/tour managers or other?

Adam: I usually get emailed by either booking agents or bands looking to fill dates on a tour and if I like the band and think I can do a good job of promoting it I'll respond and then we'll move onto discussing the guarantee, accommodation and other requirements like food and drink and back line.

TNIO: What frustrates you the most about arranging gigs? On the flipside, what is most rewarding about it?

Adam: There isn't really anything frustrating as such, other than not necessarily knowing how well a gig will do until the night. Last minute gigs can be very frustrating to organise, but that's just because of the time frame and venues most likely already being booked up. I think getting to watch some of my favourite bands is rewarding enough but it's pretty awesome getting to meet and make friends with like-minded people from around the world. Also when the bands you have put on are made up with the gig, that's pretty cool.


TNIO: Describe a time when a gig has not gone as expected?

Adam: At the last gig I put on the backline was stuck on the motorway and then the pa broke and so that was pretty unexpected. I once put a gig on the same day as a festival and was completely blown away with how good the turnout was, but then also one or two have had disappointing turnouts.

TNIO: Living close to Leeds, I’ve been able to attend various gigs you’ve put on or have helped to put on. When you confirm a gig and start to advertise it, do you do all the promotion yourself or do you also get help from participating bands and booking agents or tour managers?

Adam: Usually everyone involved with the gig helps out in some way, be that the venue, bands, booking agents (more for pushing a tour as whole) and even people who are attending help out by sharing on social media. I usually do most of the physical promotion myself though, going round putting posters up and handing out flyers at gigs. I'll also use Facebook groups and forums to push gigs. I'm also really lucky to get massive amounts of help from friends and other promoters which is hugely appreciated and I try return the favour when and where I can!

TNIO: Following on from that previous question. How do you think gig attendance could be improved, especially at DIY/local level?

Adam: I’m not sure how it could be improved to be honest as in Leeds there's always so much going on so people can't afford to go to everything, but as long as we don't take what we have here for granted and support the bands and gig spaces when we can it should be fine and everything will naturally continue to grow.


TNIO: You’ve put on a fair few overseas bands recently, including Outline (Belgium) and Plebeian Grandstand (France). Do you think that overseas bands are tougher to cater for than domestic bands? If so, why?

Adam: Bands from overseas are really organised so if anything they're easier to cater for as everything will be sorted months in advance. Before you even agree to do the gig you will be sent the full tour itinerary which will include everything from stage setup, back line being brought/needed, lighting, size of the touring party, dietary requirements, guarantees and sometimes even recommended local support bands.

TNIO: As well as booking gigs, you’re a member of Leeds-based post-metal band Mausoleion and were previously in DSDNT? What experiences have you taken from playing gigs and dealing with promoters that you’ve applied to your own booking work?

Adam: Pretty much everything, there's no better way to learn. You get to see how everything is set up beforehand, the relationship between bands, promoter and venue and then what happens after the gig has finished.

TNIO: If you could go back to the start in gig-booking terms, what knowledge and words of caution/wisdom would you give yourself?

Adam: I would just tell myself to learn to manage time well and to tell myself not put on a 7 band bill for my first gig!

TNIO: Finally, to end on a positive note, what’s been your proudest moment since you started booking gigs?

Adam: Just being able to bring some of my favourite bands to Leeds. It really is quite a strange thing to be sat at home watching a record made by a band from another country spinning round on your turntable, to then end up bringing that band to your hometown to play those songs in your favourite bar/venue with your friends.

Also a quick thanks to Harry Corben, Mark Smith, Andrew White, David Holmes, Paul Priest, Adam Stockwell, Patrick Buggy and any one who's helped me out with anything and everything. x

The next gig Adam is involved with is taking place on August 2nd at The Packhorse Pub in Leeds. It features Employed To Serve, Old Skin, Ithaca, Lugubrious Children + More -https://www.facebook.com/events/1459994004296763/


Edd (The Bloated Corpse of Punk)

TNIO: First off, describe how The Bloated Corpse Of Punk started?

Edd: Boredom.

TNIO: What process do you go through when deciding which bands you want to put on and how do you go about arranging things? Do you deal directly with bands, do you deal with booking agents/tour managers or other?

Edd: I book DIY bands, mainly bands I'm already friends with. I do not deal with booking agents or tour managers wherever possible, and knowing that there is any kind of agency or business involved will normally dissuade me from booking a gig in the first instance. There are exceptions occasionally.

TNIO: What sort of arrangements do you have with bands ahead of gigs, e.g. contracts; guarantees; accommodation?

Edd: The obvious I would like to think. Turn up on time, food if they want/require it and somewhere to sleep (a sofa or floor), knowing what gear the bands are bringing and what needs to be shared/borrowed. Making sure I know there is a backline. When it comes to contracts I would never sign one, but I will always give bands what I say I will give them ahead of the gig.


TNIO: What frustrates you the most about arranging gigs? On the flipside, what is most rewarding about it?

Edd: I worry that no one will turn up and I will look like a useless twat. Rewards? Having fun, and being able to orchestrate that myself.

TNIO: Describe a time when a gig has not gone as expected?

Edd: London, October 2012, Kill the Client, Feastem tour. We were providing backline from a friends studio in London. Delivery of said backline was delayed until after the show was supposed to begin due to London Traffic. With a total of 6 bands including UK supports we were right up against it. Fortunately we manage to just squeeze every band in with reduced sets and KtC and Feastem got to play theirs in full. Phew.

TNIO: The live scene in UK as a whole is pretty strong at the moment, but how easy it for you to advertise your gigs or tours and what help do you receive from the bands you’re putting on?

Edd: I’m not sure how you would measure 'ease' in this sense... Basically it's all on your own back. I happen to put on gigs in two cities, one where it is quite hard to reach an audience, as gigs similar to mine are almost non-existent (Exeter) and one where there are regular extreme/heavy gigs (Bristol). In the latter instance it is very easy to spread fliers to potential attendees, as there's crust punk and metal gigs happening all the time. There's also a bunch of places to leave posters and I feel word of mouth carries gigs well in Bristol as it has a good gigging community (perhaps some Bristolians would disagree with me here, but from the perspective of someone in Exeter it is good!). In Exeter there is effectively one venue, The Cavern, at which you can put on a gig of the kind I would do. This means that it's unlikely there will be a bad clash with another show that could split your audience (this is something that requires attention when you book something in Bristol, by contrast. Proper research is always a good idea.) But it does mean that the city feels quite dead gigs-wise, and there really isn't a healthy scene in my opinion. However, the gigs I've done at the Cavern have all been great, and it is a cool venue. You do, however, have a 'captive audience' (see this was going somewhere related to the question!) at this venue, as gig-goers will be there at some point. I make sure I get posters up and go to as many punk/indie/metal shows as I can to flier. 


TNIO: As well as booking gigs and festivals in the South of England and UK tours, you’re a member of UK grind band Human Cull. What lessons have you learnt from touring with Human Cull, that you’ve been able to apply to The Bloated Corpse Of Punk?

Edd: Well, just recently we visited Ireland and the hospitality we received there was incredible and certainly made me think about how I could be a better host of gigs myself.

TNIO: From your experience, do you think there is a North/South divide when it comes to gigs and touring bands? If so, why do you think that is and what could be changed to eradicate it?

Edd: I’ve lived in Leeds as well as the South West and I don't think there exists such a divide, in terms of DIY gigging. If it does exist then I'm oblivious to it, so who cares.

TNIO: If you could go back to the start in gig-booking terms, what knowledge and words of caution/wisdom would you give yourself?

Edd: Just do your best and listen to what people tell you. I don't feel I really fucked up too much along the way. Perhaps a bit more thought towards backline on the first gig I ever did (Basement, Leeds, 2007), but as far as teething issues goes, it was minor. The mistakes you make are important though, and I'm not one for fantasising  them away.

TNIO: Finally, to end on a positive note, what’s been your proudest moment since you started booking gigs?

Edd: Probably putting on Looking for an Answer with a bunch of cool UK grindcore bands in Bristol n 2013. Was just a great show.

Visit The Bloated Corpse Of Punk on Facebook here - https://www.facebook.com/thebloatedcorpseofpunk

Listen to Human Cull here - https://humancull.bandcamp.com Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/humancull

Paul Farrington (Damnation Festival)

TNIO: First off, describe how you got involved with booking Damnation Festival? How did the idea come about?

Paul: The original idea for Damnation came about through an apathy towards the line ups that festivals like Download and Ozzfest were putting together. Like most fans you want the opportunity to see your favourite metal bands and sadly in 2004 the line up for Download just wasn't scratching the right itch.  There were so many good UK metal bands around, like Raging Speedhorn, The Inbreds, Charger and Akercocke that just weren't getting chances to perform at Download which we felt was a huge shame. Rather than just sitting around and bemoaning the lack of bands on bills that we wanted to see, Gav (Festival Director/Head Honcho) decided to do something about it. At the time, we were all regular posters on the Download Festival Forums. Gav contacted a group of people to see if we could put something together. At the time, had it just been 50 people in a bar in Glasgow watching Raging Speedhorn and a couple of other bands, we would have been pretty happy. As it happens things just escalated way beyond any of expectations, and before we knew what was happening, Entombed were booked, a date at Jilly's Rockworld in Manchester was pencilled in and we were up and running. 

TNIO: What process do you go through when deciding which bands you want to book for the festival and how do you go about arranging things? Do you deal directly with bands, do you deal with booking agents/tour managers or other?

Paul: It really depends on the bands we are booking. The bigger bands invariably will be working with booking agents. From our point of view, we will draw up a list of bands we would ideally like to appear at Damnation (Up until last year Bolt Thrower were always at the top of that list), and then begin contacting their agents to get an idea of who is available in November and which bands are viable within the overall budget for Damnation. Sometimes we will get lucky and there is a large band touring Europe/UK at the time of Damnation and we will buy up one of their UK dates. This can be quite good for us because a band may be beyond our budget if we had to say pay for flights for all the band members/crew from USA for a one off show. However if they are already in the UK at the time, this cost no longer exists for us and then they may be achievable. 
With smaller bands, either myself or Gav, will contact the band directly and see if they would like to play at Damnation. The logistics are easier at our end as they will usually be travelling from somewhere in the UK, so the costs will mainly involve contributions towards petrol etc. 

The other main way that we will book bands will be a hybrid of the two above. In many instances we will have good personal relationships with bands that have previously played Damnation. A great example of this is the guys from Raging Speedhorn. We know John (Vocals) and Gordon (Drums) pretty well. When they reunited this year with the classic John/Frank dual vocal lineup, John had contacted us directly to let us know they were getting back together and would like to make an appearance at Damnation. We of course said yes, as both Gav and I are probably two of their biggest fans, but from that point forwards, we handled the logistics through their agent.  

TNIO: What sort of arrangements do you have with bands ahead of the festival, e.g. contracts; guarantees; accommodation?

Paul: Every band is different in terms of the requirements with regards to specific arrangements. With the lower billed bands, it tends to be quite relaxed. A fee is agreed, a set length is agreed and then we will provide backline and rider for the band on the day. No formal contracts, more of a gentleman's agreement. With the headline bands/sub-headline bands, as they are generally bigger, it tends to be a more formal process with regards to official contracts. There will usually be two contracts, one that we will have for the band and one that the band will have for us as the promoter. They will essentially say the same thing, but it keeps both sides covered so that we are all singing from the same sheet. With regards to sorting accommodation for the bands, that would most likely happen if a band is being flown in for the show. In that instance, it will usually be a requirement of the performance that rooms are provided for the night of the show. Touring bands, will usually be travelling in splitter vans/tour buses that doubles up as home for them for the duration of the tour, and UK bands that are driving to the show, will mostly turn up, perform the show, and drive back home, all in the one day. 


TNIO: What frustrates you the most about arranging the festival? On the flipside, what is most rewarding about it?

Paul: Honestly there is very little that frustrates me about organising the festival. I love doing it. If I had to pick something I guess the most frustrating thing for me can be the periods when you can't book a band to save your life. It does happen from time to time; bands are touring elsewhere in the world at that time; they're in the studio recording an album; one member is getting married that weekend etc etc. There have been periods over the last 10 years, where we have gone quite a while approaching some brilliant bands and just not been able to make it happen. 

What is most rewarding is easy. For me it is being there on the day and seeing 3000 people enjoying themselves. To know that something that a psychologist (me) and a journalist (Gav) have spent 10 months of our spare time putting together, and people going crazy watching their favourite bands, is just amazing. Its the thing that drives me to keep doing this year on year. 

TNIO: Describe a time when a something has not gone as expected?

Paul: That’s every year unfortunately, that there is always something that goes awry. In 2013 our main stage started 30 minutes later than scheduled which threw the whole timetable out of wack. We tried all day to claw back as much time during the change overs, but ultimately we had to cut Godflesh's set short a bit to make sure we could get Devin Townsend's show in before our curfew. The worst incident ever to happen at Damnation had to be the "1349 incident" at 2007's edition. At the start of their set, one of the members of the band was doing some fire breathing (this was never known to us before the show. had we known it was planned we certainly wouldn't have allowed it). It went badly wrong as they ended up burning a fans face. The guy wasn't badly burned but certainly it required looking at. He was really decent about it all considering what happened to him.  But needless to say we certainly we're happy about it.

TNIO: In the early days of the festival, how easy was it to advertise and promote it? Did you have to do all of the promotion yourselves or did you get help from the participating bands and how has promoting the festival changed since the growth of social media?

Paul: Promoting Damnation has always been very DIY from our point of view. We have always produced huge numbers of flyers and will flyer any events we attend, such as Download, Temples and Bloodstock in terms of UK festivals, as well as any local gigs we attend. We also have some really great friends/fans around the UK who are happy to have batches of flyers posted to them, who help get them out in their local cities. That hasn't changed much from our first year to our most recent one. Even this year, we have already been flyering down at Temples festival and will be hitting Bloodstock with the best part of 10,000 flyers and getting them in the hands of as many people as we can. 

From a digital point of view, Facebook has been a godsend. It gives us a direct connection to our fans and we can hit all 25,000 of them in one go with our announcement. I don't see us giving up the physical flyering though because even still, I come across metal fans in the UK, who have not heard of Damnation, and sometimes it takes that moment of handing them a flyer and talking to them about the event, to turn someone into a fan of the event.


TNIO: Following on from that previous question. How do you think gig/festival attendance could be improved, especially at DIY/local level?

Paul: I think the DIY/local scene is in a real state of flux at the minute. There are more events popping up than ever before thanks to things like Facebook making promotion that bit easier. But at the same time, people are squeezed in their wallets and with more events, people can't afford to go to everything and so will pick the "best" event for them. I think that means that us as promoters have to up our game and really put together great line ups that people want to attend. That said, sometimes I worry about expectations that people can place on events. Taking Damnation for an example... we put on 27 bands for £36; so that equates to £1.33 per band. I completely understand that any Damnation line up cannot be to someone's taste, and I would not expect people to blindly turn up to our event out of loyalty if the line up isn't for them. But what worries me is when people say I like bands 1,2,3,4 & 5 on your line up, but I need more before I buy a ticket. If each of those bands charged £10 for their own shows, that's already more than you'll pay to see them at Damnation. Keeping in mind a Devin Townsend or a Carcass or an At The Gates would be more than that for their headline shows, and Damnation stacks up pretty well in terms of value. If everyone thought like that, then Damnation end events like ours would cease to exist pretty quickly. We have personal experience of this with our sister event Deathfest folding after 2 events because we couldn't get enough people to attend to cover costs. Similarly events like F.O.A.D fest in Manchester and 'kinhellfest in Leeds both call it a day this year for the same reason. If more people committed when they did like "enough" bands and not wait too long to buy their tickets, events would have the money in place, feel more confident and probably be able to make bigger and bolder bookings knowing that they have the people attending to be able to cover their costs. Damnation has never been done to make money for Gav or I. As long as it breaks even, we'll come back the next year and go again. But I do worry about the year that doesn't happen, and we have to stop doing what we love doing.

TNIO:  Aside from Damnation Festival, are you involved in any other musical projects or events?

Paul: Not really. I used to play in some truly awful bands when I was younger but I'm sure every teenager/early 20's metal head did the same. I put on the Damnation pre-show on the Friday night before Damnation which I run and organise independently to the festival itself. Gav promotes maybe a half dozen shows a year in Glasgow under the name Damnation promotions but that's it. Neither of us do this professionally and on the whole, Damnation is our main foray into music promotion each year. 

TNIO:  If you could go back to the start of Damnation Festival again, what knowledge and words of caution/wisdom would you give yourself?

Paul: Christ, what wouldn't I tell my younger self? When Damnation started we hadn't a clue. None. Zip. Zilch. None of us had ever done this before the first event and we didn't have a clue about the logistical side of putting an event on. I think we were hugely naive in the start. We thought we had to bend over backwards to please bands and agents, and certainly people saw us coming and took advantage. I remember running around Manchester during the second Damnation, trying to find an off licence because a band refused to go on stage unless we brought them a bottle of JD. These days they would get a firm no, unless it had been previously agreed and we had simply forgotten. No harm in a band trying their luck, but nowadays, they're less likely to succeed. 

In terms of practical things, I would tell my younger self to hire stage managers. It is a role that we used to do ourselves, but in the last few years we've used professional stage managers. They're much better at making sure the stages run to time, and keep the bands happy. It frees us up on the day to deal with any other issues that might arise and generally makes the day less stressful for us knowing that the bands are well looked after by these guys. They are worth their weight in gold.

TNIO: Finally, to end on a positive note, what’s been your proudest moment since you started the festival?


Paul: I’m not sure if I have one proudest moment. There are certain stand out moments. The first Carcass show in the UK in 12 years at the 2008 edition. Having Bolt Thrower play their first ever UK festival at Damnation are definitely two. But if I can be a bit cheesy about it, I'm proud of every edition we have put on. Damnation has been the best hobby to have over the last 10 years, and I love every moment involved with putting each edition together. Sure it can be stressful, but the stress only makes it feel more worthwhile once it all comes together and everyone is having a great day. Here's to the next 10!!

Damnation 2015 takes place in Leeds on November 7. Make sure you keep up to date with festival news via Facebook here - https://www.facebook.com/damnationfestival.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank Adam, Edd and Paul for taking part in this feature and I hope that it's given you an insight into the processes that bookers and event organisers go through to book and organise gigs for underground metal and punk bands. Support your local live scenes and those that are involved.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Open Tomb - Dead Weight LP


Tracklist:-

1. Blood And Flies
2. Abandoned In A Pit
3. Scraping Shit (From Beneath My Nails)

I am so behind with recent doom happenings. What better way to banish the holiday highs and usher in the real-world lows than grabbing last year's LP from Hamilton (NZ) doom doom/sludge miscreants Open Tomb. Having already reviewed their earlier Dry Cough Records tape release of "Servants Of Slow", I knew a bit of what I was letting myself in for but when I set eyes on that gloriously twisted cover art, Dead Weight was not going to be just another doom release. Dead Weight was released in August by Dry Cough Records.

Without warning, Open Tomb head straight for the throat at the start of Blood And Flies. Those initial gargled screams and bass thuds are as harrowing as they are loud. Open Tomb has never been a band that settles for straightforward groove and standard time-signatures and here, they perform at a crawl tempo-wise. Vocals are few and far between early on with the band focusing on minimal instrumentation and samples. It doesn’t take long for you to feel as though you’re being dragged to the murky depths of the sea with weights tied around your neck. Open Tomb certainly knows a thing or two about apt song-titles. Abandoned In A Pit feels as lonely as you’d feel in the same situation. Sometimes the atmosphere on Dead Weight is more akin to that of a noise release and brings to mind acts like Colossloth (UK) and Idre (US), but they do hail from the same country and Meth Drinker and later in the song you are reminded of that as the shrieks comes into the view. Closing monster Scraping Shit (From Beneath My Nails) accentuates the torture that you’ve already been put through with it’s barren riffs and haunting choral samples. There’s nothing in the way of melody or light on Dead Weight and that's the way Open Tomb always planned it. It’s hard to write enough to do this record justice as it’s one that you should really listen to properly, especially if you are a true sludge/doom fan. It’s housed on a slab of clear wax with red splatter, which looks lovely when held up to natural light. Quite fitting really!

Stream Dead Weight in full here:-



You can purchase a digital download directly from Open Tomb above and you may even be able to pick up physical LP's from then, if you live in New Zealand (if they have any left).

Alternatively, if you can grab a copy from Dry Cough Records here - http://drycoughrecords.bigcartel.com

Open Tomb Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Open-Tomb
Dry Cough Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/DryCoughRecords

Friday, 17 July 2015

Animal - Instinct


Tracklist:-

1. Dial
2. Blank
3. Sick
4. Dark Room
5. Worthless
6. Guilty

I've been pondering what metalcore sounds like in today's musical climate. Okay, so it's just a tag made up by journalists who have to categorize everything to make it sell, but it's stuck and it's not going anywhere. That pondering moment has led me to Albany, NY band Animal and their EP Instinct, which was released last year by We Are Triumphant Records. There's not a great deal of info out there about Animal, but I'm sincerely hoping they fill the gap left by The Red Chord and Shadows Fall!

Instinct begins Dial and it’s extended sample before Animal launches into some djent-friendly groove on Blank. This strain of metal is huge in America and has been for sometime now. It’s by no means bad but it’s not what I was expecting I guess. The mix of big breakdowns and atonal screams shows that Animal has studied their market hard and settled upon a sound that will gain them fans from the Rise Records crowd. They show some European flair on Sick, with some syncopated guitar riffs and a clinical approach to song-writing and production values. Animal pushes their sound in a heavier direction on Dark Room, but it doesn’t escape the fact that there is atmosphere missing here. I’m talking about the kind of atmosphere that melody and ambience creates. Thankfully as if they’ve read my mind, things begin to pick up on Worthless. There is some lead work going on and Animal seem to  stretch their influences a bit more. Guilty is their rallying cry and it’s pace does work in their favour. It’s safe to say that Instinct isn’t going to re-write the metalcore blueprint but Animal are ploughing a down -tempo furrow of their own choosing, that nobody’s going to get in the way of. I hope they find their true sound with future records.

Here's the lyric video to Worthless:-



You can grab Instinct CDs from here - http://www.victorymerch.com/merch/label/wearetriumphant

We Are Triumphant Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/wearetriumphant

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Castle - Deadhand Hexagram EP


Tracklist:-

1. Deadhand Hexagram
2. Be My Ghost (Reprise)

I have some time to write about another new band (to me anyway). While doing my research for this review, I noted that Castle have signed with Prosthetic Records. That label has been signing some brilliant bands of late, with the likes of Trap Them, Ramming Speed, North and Deathrite joining them in recent times. Tonight's review focuses on Castle's latest EP released via Van Records though. Two tracks of heavy metal, US style. Deadhand Hexagram was released as a precursor to their Van/Prosthetic full-length "Under Siege" that came out in May.

Castle are true to the heavy metal formula, featuring plenty of melody and ballsy guitar. The title-track from this EP is gloriously old-school and it’s easy to see why they’ve gained so much attention recently. The trio produce a delivery that would sit perfectly on Guitar Hero, with Elizabeth Blackwell’s vocals ringing out like those of a sultry Siren. Be My Ghost (Reprise) features a slower pace and melancholic atmosphere. The gently plucked guitars are sensitive to the feeling being portrayed and the orchestral moments belay Castle’s heavy metal leanings. It’s strangely calming after hearing Deadhand Hexagram and as it fades, so does the fire inside your soul. Castle ignite it but also extinguish it with great power and grace. While certain “washed up” rock-stars claim that rock is dead, those in the know are guided to bands like this. Long may it continue!

You can stream and download this EP (pay-what-you-want) from Castle's bandcamp page here:-



Castle Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CastleSF
Van Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/vanrecs

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Heathen Beast - The Carnage Of Godhra


Tracklist:-

1. The Carnage Of Godhra
2. Ab Ki Baar Atyachar
3. Gaurav Yatra (The Aftermath)

I had planned to take this coming week off, as well as next week but I needed some downtime from adult life. I say adult life, but I've still not reached those heady heights just yet (bare in mind that I am 29!). The pull of metal was just too strong and I find myself sitting in front of my laptop again, about to press play on the latest EP from Indian black metallers Heathen Beast. Yep, you read that right. After forming five years ago, Heathen Beast released their first EP "Ayodhya Burns" during the same year. Following it up in 2012 with "The Drowning Of The Elephant God" EP two years later. They've picked pace this year by releasing both this EP and their latest CD "Trident" via Transcending Obscurity India. It's not too often that you come across an anti-religious black metal band from the sub-continent but hey, it's a genre that's meant to break boundaries after all.

This is a completely new experience for me. I’ve not had the pleasure of listening to many metal bands from India. Heathen Beast are a great introduction to the country’s scene, as they fuse black metal with traditional instrumentation and musical textures to create something completely unexpected. The title-track that opens up the EP is full of traditional drum rhythms and caustic screams. Heathen Beast is only a trio but they make a real unholy racket, which is only punctuated by Eastern melody from the lone guitar of vocalist Carvaka. The tracks on The Carnage Of Godhra are split by native-tongue samples. Ab Ki Baar, Atyachar cuts one sample abruptly short as Heathen Beast launches into another hellish barrage of cold black/death. It’s hard to categorise them as solely a black metal band as they throw many different influences into their music. Either way though, it’s definitely extreme and very proficiently delivered. Things don’t get any easier on final song Gaurav Yatra (The Aftermath). The vocals are so loud that it’s sometimes hard to make out the riffs underneath, but that just makes them better when they’re allowed to breathe. Heathen Beast get progressively better as they move through this EP. Each song is longer than the last and they give a really good account of themselves. If this is the quality of metal that India is producing right now, sign me up!

Stream The Carnage Of Godhra here:-




Heathen Beast are offering it as a pay-what-you-want download.

The EP also appears on the CD "Trident" that's just been released via Transcending Obscurity India.

Grab a copy here - http://tometal.com

Heathen Beast Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/HeathenBeast
Transcending Obscurity Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/transcendingobscurity

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

All Out War - Dying Gods EP


Tracklist:-

1. Dying Gods
2. Vengeance Reigns Eternal 
3. Nothing Left To Bleed
4. Servants To The Obsolete
5. Choking On Indifference
6. Arise
7. God Is Dead

All Out War's near 25 year existence has seen them release five full-lengths, as well as countless singles and EPs. They were on Victory Records during it's heyday, prior to the pop-punk take over. They've taken their hardcore infused metal all over the world, including playing recent reunion shows at This Is Hardcore and the A389 Bash last year. Now they're back with a new EP that's been released  by cult US label Organized Crime Records. They're coming to Europe in August and will be playing in London as part of the tour as well as playing the mighty Ieperfest in Belgium. This EP brings together five brand new songs as well as covers of classic tracks by Amebix and Carnivore!

Dying Gods begins in true All Out War style, with the slow and crunching title-track. A sub-two minute blast of anger that builds you up for Vengeance Reigns Eternal. AOW’s crossover is all present and correct here with no pretence, just solid straight-ahead mosh. Even in 2015, AOW’s sound seems to pre-date metalcore, though you can see here where many of those bands gained their influences. Towards the end of the song, their social conscience shows itself in the form of a spine tingling sample. Nothing Left To Bleed carries that conscience on with themes of war and religion. There’s a huge heap of urgency in this song and the solo makes it a standout track. At times, it reminds of Boysetsfire too. Hearing music of this quality reminds you that bands still have passion for what they do and respect for the fans that hold them in such high regard. Sometimes, bands reunite for the money and not the fun or pass off a half-baked album as something else but All Out War are the exact opposite. Servants To The Obsolete could be a ode to the scene that was their home in their earlier years, but whatever, it’s brimming with aggression and true feeling. Who needs the current incarnation of Slayer when you’ve got songs such as Choking On Indifference. It’s raging and the pace, breakdowns and screams all work to make it even better. Most modern day “hardcore” bands don’t write hardcore like this anymore, but they should! They go from bludgeoning hardcore to their own take on the crust of Amebix with a cover of Arise. They pay tribute to Pete Steele with a cover of Carnivore’s God Is Dead as well, so you’re truly spoilt. All out War prove that they are definitely in it for the right reasons with this EP and have put out one of the best this year so far. It’s out now, so check it out!

The EP has been uploaded to Youtube by the band. Check out Vengeance Reigns Eternal below:-



LP/CD/Merch packages can be purchased directly from Organized Crime Records here - http://www.organizedcrimerecords.com.

All Out War Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/alloutwarunofficial
Organized Crime Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/organizedcrimerecs

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Vesperian Sorrow - Stormwinds Of Ages


Tracklist:-

1. Sanguis Vitam Est
2. Stormwinds Of Ages
3. An Empire To Mourn
4. Casting Dawn Into Shadow
5. Crown Of Glass
6. Legacies Befallen
7. Eye Of The Clocktower
8. Oracle From The Ashes
9. Relics Of The Impure
10. Death She Cried
11. Of Opiates And Accolades

Occasionally I like to delve deeper and listen to records that are a little bit older. Stormwinds Of Ages is one such record, having been released by Austin, TX extreme metallers Vesperian Sorrow in 2012 via The Path Less Traveled Records. It also turns out that Stormwinds Of Ages is the band's last output for a while, as they're busy focusing on other projects. After beginning life as "Unholy Descent" about a decade ago, they gained guitarist "William" and changed their name to Vesperian Sorrow in 1997. A demo and three earlier full-lengths followed before the release of this record. Their popularity in extreme metal circles has grown steadily over recent years and it will surely have been helped by their appearance on Morbid Angel's "20th Anniversary of Covenant" tour in 2013.

Vesperian Sorrow begin with a rousing intro entitled Sanguis Vitam Est, which conjures images of ancient battles before being abruptly cut short as the title-track takes over. Stormwinds of Ages fills the speakers with kick-drum driven extreme metal, with plenty of melody and rasping growls. There’s a sense of theatre in their music thanks to keyboards and choral effects. The intense blasting of An Empire To Mourn features strands of both death and black metal, fusing them together in perfect harmony. The keyboard add yet mystical melody and at times VS reminds of Scandinavian acts like Insomnuim and Dark Tranquillity. That’s not so say they are merely copying those bands though, as they certainly have their own sound. The buzzsaw riffing contained on Casting Dawn Into Shadow really gets the heart racing. The operatic clean vocals that sit within it, fit right in too. The grandeur that’s created by VS spills over here. The soloing, while sounding very clean (if a little overproduced) is breathtaking. VS go in a slightly more urgent direction on Crown Of Glass and Legacies Befallen. The former flails with evil death metal and haunting synths before giving way to sultry acoustic guitar midway through, while the frenetic pace of the latter proving almost too much at times! Their longest number comes in the form of Eye Of The Clocktower. It brims with modern metal, including the heavier end of metalcore (dare I say it!). The clean vocals are great amidst the chaos and extremity. Their back at their anthem best during Oracle From The Ashes, which again brings forth images of Nordic battles and pillaging. The strings at the beginning of Relics Of The Impure strengthens VS’s grand anthemic sound. With the growls set to that backdrop, you can’t help but be sucked in. I also forgot to mention how insanely fast the drums were! In fact, Relics Of The Impure flashes past without you realising and immediately, you’re flung into Death She Cried. It’s complete with melodrama and plenty of raw emotion, that is a feeling that often gets lost on me when listening to the more theatrical end of extreme metal. VS have truly touched me here. Their final quicker blast is Of Opiates And Accolades. It helps Stormwinds Of Ages to end on a high note. Normally, I don’t go for records like this but as I listened to it and got more into it, I realised that when an album like this is well-produced and instrumentally sound, it’s a joy to listen. It’s not my favourite strand of extreme metal but Vesperian Sorrow are a quality band and deserve the attention they’re getting.

You can stream Stormwinds Of Ages below:-



There's also digital download and physical merch options available too!

Vesperian Sorrow Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/vesperian
The Path Less Traveled Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TPLTR

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Old Soul/NIC - Split 12"


Tracklist:-

1. Old Soul - Lens
2. Old Soul - Emerald
3. NIC - V
4. NIC VI

I first got into Old Soul via their Tidal Lock LP that I picked up through Dog Knights Productions. Since then they've released two splits. One with Lentic Waters and this split 12" with NIC (or as some may know them - Wedon'thaveaname). It was released in a collaborative effort by six labels in 2014 and as always, I'll give them all mentions at the bottom of the review. Around the time of this split's release, Old Soul travelled from the US to Europe to tour with NIC and kicked it all off in their home country of the Czech Republic.

Old Soul presents jangly and jarring noise as Lens begins, before forsaking it for intense and violent screamo. This song takes me back to when I first heard Tidal Lock. Lens is brief in comparison to the their other song on here, but having that urgency in it makes it a great way to start things off. Emerald builds slowly, with plenty of ambience and gentle guitar. Having listened to Lens, you’re expecting things to break at any second, but Old Soul keep themselves controlled and build suspense. The driving wall of guitar that comes in just after the two-minute mark swirls with melody, while the percussion and those caustic screams add layers that tie it all together. Totem Skin wrote a great epic song at the end of their debut LP and I’ve been yearning for something like ever since. Old Soul have achieved a similar feat with Emerald, by making it both embracing and dramatic. I’ve not checked NIC out before, but I like bands with a bit of mystery and aura about them. V, which opens their side of this split is equally as epic and Old Soul’s Emerald. Their instrumental post-hardcore intro extends into some raging screamo, where the vocals sit deep in the mix and sometimes sound more akin to black metal. For the majority of the song, NIC allows eerie noise to wash over the listener only breaking rank near the ten-minute mark to lighten the atmosphere. Things become strangely hypnotic as they edge closer to the song’s end with repeated riffs and sequences. The screams sound like whispers and everything just seems to flow. A few screamo bands have gone the way of black metal with recent releases, like on the last We Came Out Like Tigers LP. NIC’s second song VI takes their own black metal influence a bit further, with so blistering double-bass and  metallic guitar. They intersperse it with more subtle instrumental passages, that break the atmosphere up and settle your heart rate down. Across this split, both Old Soul and NIC provide lessons in delivering emotional, passionate music. They both compliment each other really well and this split is well worth picking up if you can get it.

You can stream the whole split below:-



You can purchase from the participating labels below:-

Zegema Beach Records - http://www.zegemabeachrecords.com/zegema-beach-releases/
Maniyax Records - http://maniyax.com
Pike Records Tumblr - http://pikerecords.tumblr.com/releases
Mosh Potatoes - https://moshpotatoes.bandcamp.com
Suspended Soul Tapes & Records - http://www.storenvy.com/stores/suspended-soul-tapes-records

The other labels that were involved in this release were IFB Records (whom I think have sold out of copies) and Dingleberry Records & Distribution (who you can contact via the Facebook link below).

Old Soul Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/OldSoulband
NIC Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/
Zegema Beach Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/zegemabeachrecords
Dingleberry Records & Distribution Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dingleberry-records-and-distribution
Maniyax Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/ManiyaxRecords
Pike Records Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pikercrds
Mosh Potatoes Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/2PC4U?
Suspended Soul Tapes & Records Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/SuspendedSoulTapesRecords