Experimentalists Mamaleek poke black metal’s boundaries with mysterious ‘He Never Spoke …’

Mamaleek coverThere is no question metal has changed a lot on the past 10 years. Hell, in the last five. A lot of different things fit under this massive umbrella, and that tends to bother some of the rank-and-file, who want this to be one thing all the time, period. But it just isn’t that way, and as metal’s rolling sphere picks up new influences, Katamari style, the way extreme music sounds has changed forever.

You can hear that very thing in a band such as Deafheaven, who divided the metal crowd violently last year with their heavily acclaimed “Sunbather” album that most people either deliriously embraced or shoved away like a plague. You can hear other deviations away from the primary source in bands including Khanate, Sunn 0))), Bosse-de-Nage, and even a classic such as Godflesh. Things have been expanding, and hopefully they keep going in that direction. And while a black metal enthusiast may cry that a band isn’t keeping it KVLT or TR00 anymore, what does that really mean? And does it actually make sense to keep treading the same path over and over again? Well, a band like San Francisco black metal experimental unit Mamaleek refuse to stay in one place, and they will challenge your very idea of where metal’s barriers lie with their new record “He Never Spoke a Mumblin’ Word.”

Right off the bat, the album title sounds like it was lifted from a spiritual hymn or something of that nature, and plowing through these challenging four songs might make you wonder if this group isn’t going through some sort of deeper revelation or rusty catharsis. This pairing of two brothers, who remain anonymous, combines electronic forces to create their style of black metal, so right there you know you’re dealing with a band operating on a totally different creative plane. These tracks, as they claim, helped lift psychological and spiritual burdens from their bodies and psyches and let them express the darkness, madness, chaos, what have you that listeners will hear on this record. It’s no paint-by-numbers affair. It’s a smear-outside-of-the-lines, veer-off-the-page, splash-onto-the-table, go-wherever-they-want document, and it definitely won’t go down easy. But nothing on their other three records have either, and this one feels like a demon itching to burst out of their bodies and spread fire and torment elsewhere. It’s gripping and moving, and it will hurt to absorb.

The title track is first up, and it opens in a bed of noise that simmers and floats into harsh shouts that sound as much like bloodletting as they do storytelling. The melodies are incredibly thick and strong, enough to pick you up and sweep you away on their red waves, and a sorrowful tide forces you back to shore with a gaping wound on your soul. There are more desperate cries, cascading keys, goth-dashed colors, and a ghostly ending. “Poor Mourner’s Got a Home” is arresting from the start, with a song playing that sounds like a Middle Eastern folk number rumbling below the fuzz and smoke. It keeps looping around, forming a mesmerizing atmosphere that gives way to sonic destruction. Noise rises up and bubbles over, while sinister melodies cut their way through the piece and meet up with monstrous vocals that denote the dangerous surroundings. Later on in this 10-minute cut, there is some washed out singing, dizzying beats that make your head swim, warped loathing, and tortured wails that stab an exclamation point.

“Almost Done Toiling Here” drowns in static from the beginning, with wild howls erupting from the mire that eventually turn into deranged shrieks. There is a forceful cry of, “Wake up!” that should jar you out of any comfort you possibly could be in during this record, and then the song floats into a section that is damn-near pop-like. Well, sort of. That won’t be obvious on the surface, as those hooks and brighter lights are buried under a million wool blankets, but if you pay close attention, it’s there. Finally, the song reaches a fluid, merciful conclusion that seems to shine a lone beam of light. Closer “My Ship Is on the Ocean” is a metaphorical assault that sounds like it was mined from deep within the band members’ hearts and splattered everywhere. The vocals are pained and desperate, and there is a section of female vocals that add a sense of beauty to such disillusion. The final moments feel like a fever dream, causing you to wonder if what you’re hearing is reality or a lost soul transmitting sounds into your head.

Mamaleek don’t gently walk metal’s carefully drawn boundaries with any amount of care. They work to destroy it, leaving bits of brick and mortar everywhere as they set up their own kingdom and agenda. “He Never Spoke a Mumblin’ Word” is a revelatory experience and one of the band’s strongest efforts to date. It won’t speak to everyone’s minds, but those who connect will do so with impact and a level of understanding that might feel a little uncomfortable.

For more on the band, go here: http://mamaleek.bandcamp.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://store.theflenser.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://theflenser.com/

Protestant build fire, fury into their metallic-laced hardcore on crushing new ‘In Thy Name’

Protestant at Gilead Media Fest (photo by Adam Bubolz)

Protestant at Gilead Media Fest (photo by Adam Bubolz  www.reviler.org)

As we return from our exile following the long, wholly fulfilling pilgrimage to Gilead Media Fest 2014, we head … right back into that very event. Well, sort of. See, when I finally arrived in Oshkosh, feverishly checked into the hotel with minutes to spare, and raced to the Masonic center, when I walked into the doors of the hallowed music hall, I instantly was met by one of the great forces of that fest.

On stage, absolutely ruling, were Protestant. These metallic, hardcore-informed veterans were destroying every happy face in the place, blasting through their day-opening set with a fury and exuberance that was noteworthy and infectious. How could you not immediately get swept up in their sonic assault right away? These guys have been stomping hands, pounding chests, and spreading their punk-fed ethos across the world by way of a number of releases, and their blistering new record “In Thy Name” is so vital, it’s taking two damn labels to get this thing into people’s hands. The great Halo of Flies will handle the release domestically, while the awesome and varied Throatruiner will get this bastard out into Europe. If you’ve been along for the whole ride, or at least a good portion of it, these eight songs will hit you where it counts.

Protestant coverOne thing I noticed from seeing the band live is that their sound is even more metal-encrusted than it is on their recordings. They even have some black metal-smeared streaks running through their roughhousing style, and it’s easy to understand how they can unite people from all kinds of audiences. On this record, they sound as vital and passionate as they ever have during their 10 years together, and it’s a damn pleasure to hear. In fact, I have found it makes for great running music when I’m on the treadmill or sweating it outside in 90 degrees, as its heaviness keeps me going, and its undeniable intensity helps the adrenaline flow.

“Vengeance” tears the lid off the record, with noise ringing out and everything eventually detonating. There’s a neat spacey woosh at points during this, but for the most part it’s a heaping dose of force, crazed vocals, and utter savagery. Great way to kick off an album. “Carrion” bathes in feedback before a hardcore-style stomp takes over and some of those aforementioned black metal-laced melodies show their hands. There are authoritative shouts, chunky thrashing, and clubbing madness that brings the track to its end. “Never Forget” also has heavy influence of the madness from the Nordic second wave, but it mixes with punk power to make for a face-splitting convulsion. The growls are gravelly, and the music feels raw and scorned. “Vultures” blows up right away, with soot and filth spewing all over and a particularly forceful burst of drumming leading the way and causing more wounds.

“Blood” moves slowly, calculatingly, and with a head for doom. That pace doesn’t last, as the band heads full speed back into madness, and the howls of “Crush all!” seem a fitting directive before the song ends in a blur. “In Thy Name/Hell’s Insanity” is blinding and violent, with dark metal shades giving an even more sinister edge, and harsh barks making you feel like a finger is being poked into your chest. The final moments let drone slip in, and that buzzes right into “Forfeit,” a relentless, devastating track that tears right into the flesh. The song winds down its killing force as it reaches its end, but it never loses an ounce of heaviness. Closer “Delusions” begins with shadowy melodies that cascade down, and eventually the vocals tear open the congealing wounds. The guitars catch fire and blaze forward, noise bubbles up and crusts over, and the last moments of burning find a way to sound like they’re flying at you in an uncontrollable rage. But in reality, they know right here they’re headed. Their aim is true, and it’s coming for your throat.

Protestant keep hammering us with great, energetic music with a heart and a volcanic personality. Seeing them live really made the experience an even greater one for me, and I’m happy to have made that connection. If you haven’t done so, make sure you do. In the meantime, “In Thy Name” is one you can hear on repeat, as it goes down that easily but also leaves you nice and bruised. This band keeps rolling along and building momentum, and as long as they keep giving us great music like this, there’s no reason to expect the Protestant storm clouds to subside.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/PROTESTANTMKE

To buy the album, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/label-releases/halo73-protestant-in-thy-name-lp/

Or here: http://store.throatruinerrecords.com/products/530503-protestant-in-thy-name-12

For more on the label, go here: http://www.halooffliesrecords.com/

Or here: http://throatruinerrecords.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: Black metal warriors Bastard Sapling push universe on ‘Instinct Is Forever’

Bastard SaplingBlack metal has come a long way since its initial formation, creeping out of the forests, away from the church fires, and past the suicides and hate-filled homicides of the past. And while there are people who always will cling to those things–hey, some people are crazy—the black metal form and its metamorphosis cannot be stopped.

A great example of a band pushing the boundaries and what is possible in this form of music is Richmond, Va.-based Bastard Sapling. They’ve never been a band comfortable with running in place, and from their incredible debut record “Dragged From Our Restless Trance” to their mind-obliterating latest album “Instinct Is Forever,” these guys have done whatever they could to inject personality, creativity, and brutality into their music, but in a way few other bands are doing this successfully. In fact, “Instinct” is a serious contender for black metal album of the year, and at this point in time, with at least four months of music yet to come, it’s going to take a dramatic effort to top it. This record is a dynamic, full-bodied experience that surprises with every listen. There are layers that need peeled back, levels that require exploration, and sounds that deserve your total attention. If you are spending the proper amount of time with this music and connecting with it fully, you’ll realize this is a special release that doesn’t come around every week from a band that just keeps getting mightier.

Bastard Saling coverThe ranks of Bastard Sapling are made up of three member of the mighty Inter Arma, that being vocalist Mike Paparo, whose howl is unmistakable; guitarist Steve Russell; and bassist Trey Dalton. Along with them are guitarist Drew Goldy (he used to be in Inter Arma) and drummer Gregory “Elway” Ernst, and the band has become a weathered, road-tested, punishing alliance that is one of those that is getting a lot of attention from the internet and the metal press. That’s for good reason, and all you have to do is listen to this second album of theirs to find out why. It’s really that simple.

The record opens with “My Spine Will Be My Noose” that starts with terrifying sounds and torture-driven shrieks before the song opens in earnest. From there, it’s a hefty helping of black metal fury, piercing vocals, powerful melodies, and guttural strength that acts as a perfect demonstration of just how far this band has come. “Subterranean Rivers of Blood” has howling noises, razor-sharp melodies that slice through the song, and blinding savagery that could dump you on your side and beat you senseless. “The Opal Chamber” has a burly, thick bassline from Dalton that helps the track slither out of the gates, and dramatic melodies unfold and cause a tidal wave of emotions. The band interacts musically like they’re trying to push each other to a new level of understanding, and Paparo brings the song to raucous finish by continually shouting the song’s title over and over, with desperation dripping. “Elder” then slips in, a mostly acoustic interlude that also is dressed with syrupy side guitars and moody playing that shares some of Inter Arma’s creative DNA.

Up next is one of the best tracks on this record, and one of the most remarkable of the band’s run, in “The Killer In Us All.” It opens with menacing, violent riffs that also are rife with melody, and the song keeps beating and challenging, with Paparo taunting, “There is a killer in us all!” As the song winds toward its finish, the band even goes into near cock rock mode with a guitar section that is tasty as hell, and then everything washes out with fiery lead playing that will stun you. “Splinter of Ouroboros” is one of the shorter songs on the record at 4:45, and it is punishing and to the point. You need tracks like this to act as a bridge to the more creatively ambitious stuff, such as the astonishing “Lantern at the End of Time.” The familiar siren call of Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell opens the song, as she sings over the propulsive first few minutes, and then the band hits full throttle. The clubbing savagery carries over the next few minutes, with fires stoked and smoke rising, and then it’s back into uncomfortable calm. Cottrell returns, wondering, “Where are you now, my oldest friend?” before the band unleashes a final total assault. “Every Life Thrown to the Eclipse” is dark and smothering with some gut-busting start-stop thrashing, as imagery of the world bursting into flames comes into the picture. There is dizzying, off-kilter playing and a constantly changing vibe that keeps the song compelling and unpredictable. Closer “Forbidden Sorrow” lets the ground get soaked in rain, as some flutes settle in and help things get rustic. There are dizzying moments during this finale, with melodies that gush, the sense of an open sky drenching the world permeating, and the whole thing coming to an unexpected, yet sensible ending that lets you end your journey with both feet on the ground, headed toward solace.

Black metal doesn’t have to be about murder or Satan or debauchery anymore, and that’s an incredibly refreshing thing. Bastard Sapling is one of the bands doing the most to push the genre to greater heights of musicality and awareness, and “Instinct Is Forever” deserves to be remembered as a touchstone record in that effort. This thing gets better and bigger with every listen, and anyone being honest with themselves with realize there are greater things going on here than most records we devour these days. Bastard Sapling have had their arrival, and that’s been signaled on high with this great record. Theirs will be a highlight set at Gilead Media Fest 2014, and hopefully this record will open up more people to the possibilities black metal truly holds.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/bastardsapling

To buy the album, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

Or here: http://shop.forcefieldrecords.org/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

Or here: http://www.forcefieldrecords.org/site/

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Bastard Sapling are just one of the mighty bands that will be taking over Oshkosh, WI, this weekend. Here’s a rundown of each band you’ll see each day.

FRIDAY

OOZING WOUND: Gnarly thrash metal that’s both crushing and just a little humorous.

ANAGNORISIS: Latest addition after Inter Arma had to bow out. Brainy black and death metal.

HELL: Nightmarish doom metal that wallows in black metal and drone. A must-see.

ASH BORER: Masters of epic black metal passages. One of the best bands of the past five years.

THOU/THE BODY COLLABORATION: A terrifying team-up of two of doom’s most terrifying bands.

 SATURDAY

PROTESTANT: Passionate hardcore laced with thunderous metal. Their new record “In Thy Name” completely rips. Review coming next week!

HEXER: Unpolished, animalistic black metal buzzing.

OWLFOOD: Hypnotic drone masters. Should be one of the fest’s most interesting acts.

SEA OF BONES: Crushing doom. But, there’s a nice dose of ambiance, too. Gilead Media is putting out their “The Earth Wants Us Dead” on triple LP!

GERYON: Krallice’s rhythm section teams up for rubbery, spacey death metal.

KOWLOON WALLED CITY: Melodic, atmospheric doom. One of the most underrated metal bands there are. Period!

MUTILATION RITES: Nasty amalgamation of black metal, death, and thrash. These guys are killers.

BASTARD SAPLING: We just reviewed them. Go see them. Buy their record. Now.

THE BODY: Apocalyptic doom delivered by this duo. Easily some of the most bone-chilling vocals in all of metal.

WOLVSERPENT: Beautiful and devastating at the same time, combining folk, doom, ambiance, and black metal. This band’s last record “Perigaea Antahkarana” was our No. 2 record of 2013.

SUNDAY

NORTHLESS: One of the loudest, heaviest bands in the world, smashing together doom and hardcore.

ALRAUNE: One of the most promising new black metal bands going. Their debut “The Process of Self-Immolation” is highly recommended.

GENERATION OF VIPERS: Sludge, post-hardcore band with a nasty, dirty edge. Their last record was 2011’s killer “Howl and Filth.”

SEIDR: Atmospheric, cosmic doom and death metal. If you haven’t heard this band yet, why not? Includes Panopticon leader Austin Lunn.

FALSE: Progressive, mind-altering black metal. Lead vocalist Rachel must be witnessed to be believed, and the band backs her up with cascading madness that will warp your soul. Might we hear something new from them?

UZALA: Total road warriors, and one of the most improved bands of the past year. Their latest album “Tales of Blood & Fire” is a revelation.

LOSS: Completely depressing, despair-filled doom metal. Shoelaces and ties (ties?!) should be confiscated from all attendees before their set.

BARGHEST: Hate-filled, revenge-minded black metal that is filthy and utterly nasty.

THOU: Best doom band on the planet. The end. No arguments.

For more on the fest, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/fest/

Gilead Media Fest 2014 prepares to occupy Oshkosh with three days of metallic camaraderie

Gilead FestOshkosh, WI, might not jump out as an epicenter of extreme music. But this weekend, it will host a collection of some of the most eclectic and ambitious bands in the world at Gilead Media Fest, where black metal, doom, drone, hardcore, and so many others forms of volcanic expression will meet.

Gilead Media, one of the best, most consistent labels in metal, is driven by one man, Adam Bartlett. Over the years, he has brought the world music from forward-thinking bands such as Thou, FALSE, Mutilation Rites, Ash Borer, Barghest, Fell Voices, and so many others. And not only have people become emotionally tied to the music he releases, but Bartlett has found himself devoted to those who buy from him, talk to him about music, and record for him. He’s inviting the world back to his hometown so this tight-knit community, that is spread out all over the globe, can break bread, shake hands, and have their minds blown together. Amid his duties as shop manager at Offbeat Press, getting several vinyl releases ready for release, and putting the final touches on this year’s Fest, Bartlett took time to talk about an event that, as far as we’re concerned, is the metal weekend of the year.

I thought at one point after Gilead Fest in 2012 you said it might be a one-off. What changed your mind and made you want to do another one in 2014?

I might have mentioned something about that then, and at the time I was 100 percent serious. I was like, “No more Gilead Media Fests unless Neurosis will play.” Well, obviously Neurosis isn’t going to be playing (this year), or that could be one hell of a surprise I could unleash on everyone. Only it’s not (laughs). But I guess it was about a year after the first one, like in the middle of 2013, when I thought I might want to do another one. So I talked to my wife about it and said, “Hey, I’m not working on any films over the next year, and I want to do another fest because I didn’t have any fun the first time.” I mean, that’s despite the fact that it went well, and everyone seemed to have fun, but I was freaking out the entire time because I sucked at planning it and didn’t relegate any responsibilities to anyone else. I mean, I didn’t get to hang out with anyone the entire weekend. I saw all of these pictures from the weekend, all of these bands hanging out at all of the restaurants at places where I grew up, in my town, which was just fucking surreal, man.

Also, up until Gilead Fest 1, there basically were two Adam Bartletts. One that lived in Oshkosh, WI, and one that ran Gilead Media, and they were two different worlds that never met. In general, there’s not a huge scene except for some awesome dudes who are in bands and play locally, and they would support the label. But it’s not like I’m from Richmond, VA, or San Francisco, places where the labels there have a large local scene that supports the label and really helps it to grow. Not that I didn’t have people supporting me here, but it’s not to that capacity, so that’s why I’ve kept those two parts of my lives very separate. So seeing all of these bands be here, and my two worlds coming together, I felt like I didn’t have a chance to properly witness that. I’ll tell you right now, that’s the only reason Gilead Media Festival 2014 is even happening. There are so many people I didn’t get to see, mail order customers from all over the world, people I have communicated with only online, and I didn’t get to spend any time talking to them. This year I did things totally differently so I can see people and socialize with people and have fun and enjoy myself. That’s all due to the people who are helping me this year and supporting me and all of the volunteers who are helping me run things. If it weren’t for them, I’d be dead. They are preventing me from falling in on myself.

Well, talk about the work you’ve done putting the fest together, from the time you decided to do another festival to now as we’re days away.

I think I announced the fest almost a year to the day before Gilead Fest 2014 was going to happen, so like the middle of July 2013. Prior to that, in April or May, I reached out to a few bands and told them I was thinking about doing this again and asked if they were interested. That was the initial step, getting the primary Gilead Media bands on board. I mean, Thou has to be there, and Ash Borer as well, especially since I had just done that new 12” for them (“Bloodlands”). And we tried for other bands like Fell Voices, who couldn’t make it, and Krallice, who are in kind of a lull right now, and Colin (Martson) is focusing on Gorguts. But I felt it was important to invite them because they’ve been so integral to the growth of the label the past five or six years. Once I got a good core group of bands, many of them who played the first time around, that’s when I started branching out. As people who attended the 2012 fest, who will compare it to this year’s, will see, there are a lot of bands here I haven’t worked with yet. I didn’t just want to have Gilead Media Fest 2012 Part 2. That’s also why I’m not calling it Gilead Fest 2. I’m calling it Gilead Media Fest 2014, it’s at a new venue, there are a lot of different bands, and it’ll be a whole new atmosphere. I still wanted it to be intimate and have the sense of DIY community that I cherish in music. But I want it to be different so the people coming back won’t feel like they’re seeing the same show again.

It’s been a lot easier this year. I learned from a lot of the mistakes I made in 2012. As I said earlier, I tried not to do everything myself, because I am a control freak. My friend Scott is helping me run the fest. My wife Cari is helping coordinate the volunteers, because she actually does volunteer coordinating at the humane society she works at here in town. So it’s a lot more organized this year. The biggest pain in the ass really has been working with all of these touring bands’ schedules because certain bands are coming through town on one day, and they need to play at a certain time on a certain day. But I also want there to be an ebb and flow to the music. I don’t want there to be three straight hours of blast beats and tremolo picking. I want to be able to put a band like Owlfood before a doom band and after a black metal band, and things like that. I want—man, I’m going to sound like a douche here (laughs)—the music to take people on a journey while they’re here. Another thing is I don’t expect every attendee is going to be stoked to see every band, so I want them to be able to have some down time for themselves. Then there was the matter of getting the word out to people and getting people to come to Oshkosh, WI. Oh, and then I decided to put out four records during the final weeks of planning Gilead Media Fest. So the biggest pain in the ass I brought on myself!

Adam Bartlett

Adam Bartlett

Going back to broadening the scope of bands beyond your label, I imagine it also could enlighten a fan of, say, Wolvserpent to some of the Gilead bands that maybe they don’t know much about.

Oh yeah, there’s definitely that, and that’s a big reason I wanted to cast a larger net, so to speak. But I also just fucking love Wolvserpent. They’re such an awesome band. But yeah, having them on a label like Relapse, and I’d argue they appeal to a bit of a different crowd. They’re not totally an extreme metal band, though they have those elements. Even a band like Kowloon Walled City, even though I sold a ton of their stuff through my distro, the people who buy their music probably doesn’t listen to a lot of the stuff I release. Same with Owlfood, and they’re a band I’m just obsessed with. That’s all the type of stuff I was trying to bring into the fold this year. Yes, hopefully they will attract more people, but they’ll also keep the atmosphere fresh and will prevent people from getting worn out by one sound over the course of the weekend.

I know Oshkosh means a ton to you, and that it’s your home, but did you give any thought to holding this year’s event anywhere else?

It’s funny, because yesterday I was just going through some old e-mails exchanges with Cory (von Bohlen) from Halo of Flies based out of Milwaukee, as well as Erik (Stenglein) from Northless who also is from Milwaukee, when I was considering the first Gilead fest and was asking them about venues there. It’s a lot easier to get to. You can fly right into it and not have to drive anywhere afterward. But I have a lot of pride in my hometown. Oshkosh is a small place, and a lot of people talk shit on it from the area, but I love it here. There’s a small but totally compassionate community of artists and musicians here. It’s not a target tour stop for bands coming through here necessarily, but there are so many incredible people here and bands who are just doing it because they love it. It’s the same way with a lot of the artists who are here. So I just sort of wanted to say, “Fuck you, we can do this here.” We’re bringing people here from across the nation and across the world. At the first one, a dude came in from Australia. At this one, we have people coming in from the United Kingdom and other places. We have people coming in who run other record labels—I think half the people from Thrill Jockey are coming—as well as writers and fans of the music. It’s surreal to me that all these people come together in such a small town like this.

It also helps open the eyes of some of the people in this town of some of the other cultures that are out there. A lot of the other downtown businesses, like a place like New Moon Coffee Shop that’s like a block and a half from the venue, they said they sold a week’s worth of veggie chili in like two days last time. And they said the people that came from the fest were some of the nicest people who ever stepped foot in the coffee shop. You know, dudes with black leather jackets and long black hair probably seemed pretty sketchy to people, but multiple businesses I talked to—a record shop, a comics shop, and a few other places—said they were some of the best people who ever shopped there. So I think it’s cool to watch all of these people come together.

You mentioned you want to have a better time this time around and get to talk to more people who mean a lot to you and the label. But what bands are you most excited to witness?

Well, I’ve never seen Wolvserpent before, so I’m excited about that. Owlfood, who I keep going on and on about, I’m excited about seeing them. Thou has told me there’s a good chance they’ll be playing “Heathen” front to back, so I’m fucking so excited for that. Generation of Vipers, if that band sounds anything live like they do on record, I’m going to lose my shit. Their guitar and bass tone is just dirty fucking distortion. Bastard Sapling, obviously. I can’t wait to see those dudes. Sea of Bones. Shit. I could just keep going. And I mean, the bands I’ve done records for lately like Alraune I’m really excited about seeing. Kowloon Walled City, a band that doesn’t really tour and I haven’t had a chance to see. I did watch every single band that played at the first fest, and I’m going to do that again this year. I legitimately book bands that I fucking love, man.

Why did you choose Oshkosh Masonic Center to host Gilead Media Fest 2014?

Well, first of all, it’s beautiful. It was built, I believe, before Wisconsin was a state, and it’s old as shit. You can tell when you’re in there. It’s a stunning place. We’ll be having the fest in the main ballroom, which is on the second floor. It was built before there was amplified music and amplified instruments. Also, there’s a guy I went to high school with and a dude who works at The Exclusive Company, the local record store where I’m renting all the equipment and gear from, who are both part of the Masons. They were able to help me out with everything, and they were my contacts for the venue. It really helped that I was able to text one of them at 10:30 at night to ask questions and they’d get back to me. We’ve known each other for a long time, and there’s a level of respect there. They’re also giving me a lot of freedom to do whatever. For example, the ballroom has 60 windows, so I cut a bunch of wooden boards and I’m lining them with foam to cover the windows and partially soundproof the room. I’m also going to be screen-printing the Gilead logo on these 14-foot-tall curtains and am going to be hanging the curtains. Plus, I’m building a 24-foot wooden stage that will go in front of the traditional ballroom stage, because I don’t want the bands playing on this giant stage. So, within reason, they’re letting me do whatever I need to do to make this the best event it can be.

Gilead Media Fest kicks off Friday at 5 p.m. Come back tomorrow for a full rundown of the lineup, as well as a special pick of the week that might have a little bit to do with all of this. Thanks again to Adam for taking time out of his hellish schedule to talk on a Friday night over the most nightmarish Skype set-up of all time. Screw technology. Open the beers.

For more on Gilead Media, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/

For more on Gilead Media Fest 2014, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/fest/

To buy Gilead releases and merch, go here: http://www.gileadmedia.net/store/

Souls of Dissolution pour hate, fury into their black metal on ‘These Things We Have Wrought’

Souls of Dissolution coverRunning a metal website such as this one, I get a ton of submissions from bands looking for coverage. It’s not easy to get to those records, if I hear them at all, because I am inundated as it is with music. It’s just not physically possible to absorb it all. Apologies if I haven’t gotten to you yet. But what helps to stand out is a crafty subject line, something that makes me or other writers take notice. Give us a reason to dig into your record or at least give you a fighting chance.

Last month, I got the new record from Souls of Dissolution, a black metal band out of Riverside, Calif., and a major reason I listened to the music as soon as it was sent my way is their subject line in the e-mail made me laugh. The band isn’t trying to be funny in their music, mind you, but they figured out a way to make a writer like me, who is drowning in new music, decide to give it a shot. And I’m really glad I did, because their debut “These Things We Have Wrought” is 35 minutes of punishing Emperor worship (the band also cites Morbid Angel and Vader as influences, and that’s certainly in here), a really well put together collection of seven tracks that gives you a nice dose of their intensity and their strong songwriting chops. Before you ask, no, I am not going to reveal what their subject line was, but it made me think that creativity must carry over to their music, and that ended up being the case. The band isn’t rewriting the genre book, but they have come up with ways to make their songs stand out, remain memorable long after you’ve heard them, and even do a little damage to your hearing. They are intense and passionate, and they have a real future ahead of them.

For all of the band’s power, and they have it in great quantities, there are but two members responsible for this chaos–Michael Mesmer (vocals/programming/guitars/bass), of Thrones of Scorn and Shadowloo, and Austin Birch (guitars). The bulk of what you’ll hear is cascading, stormy black metal full of melody and anguish, but there also are strains of classic death metal, guttural thrash, and even prog. It’s an adventurous, creative display that goes on, and with each new peak and valley they conquer, they reveal more of their ability, as well as their tormented darkness. In their bio, they claim their music helps them express their contempt for humanity, and the way this stuff is delivered, there’s little doubting these violent eruptions do just that. It’s a really fun, but also incredibly brutal, listening experience.

“All Good Things” tears the lid off the thing, with crunchy thrash, thick black metal-style melodies, and melodic shrieking that sounds as musical as it does furious. Hopefully that makes sense to you all, but if it doesn’t, go listen to the thing. There’s a cold, harsh speaking section that envisions the destruction of the world, and charging guitar soloing (courtesy of band comrade Michael James) that puts the finishing touches on this killer opener. “Defiler” begins with drums that could tear a hole in the earth, and from there dark melodies snake through the thing and meet up with madness. The vocals are abrasive and creaky, and along with them, the band slides into a proggy section that dashes things with different colors before the song comes to a tumultuous end. “Unknown” blasts out of the gate with vicious force, with guitar melodies swimming in and knifing through murky waves, and more thrash goodness arriving to give you a good burst of violence. The playing gets brainy again, and a swarm of tremolo picking sweeps this track into utter darkness. “Crystal Mountain” gives you no time to catch your breath, galloping heavily and twisting your mind with tricky playing that offers no indication where things are heading. In fact, the song changes its tempo and character a ton of times, keeping you wide awake in case the next turn crushes you into a brick wall.

“Nebulous (the Fourth Seal)” is ugly and brutal immediately, with more creative playing injected into track and the band smashing you with power. There are some gazey moments that dust you with a black mist, and severe storming crashes through and refuses to offer any mercy. “Chaos Theory of the Ancients” is another mind-blower compositionally, as the band keeps pouring black melodies, interesting twists, and a ton of drama into their music. There are sinister guitar lines, gnarly vocals that match the scene perfectly, some monstrous cackling that pokes your wounds, and a breath-taking finish that robs you of your balance. The title track closes the record with dizzying melodies and vocals that sound like they wish to tear flesh. There is some calm midway through the song, where synth rises and causes nightmares to emerge, and then the final minutes ignite anew with metallic charging, incredible melodies cascading, and energetic savagery bringing the record to a close.

Souls of Dissolution are working to get on more people’s radars, and they shouldn’t have any problem achieving that with “These Things We Have Wrought.” The band has the chops, the intensity, and the creativity to pull in listeners from all areas of the extreme metal circle, and it will be interesting to see where they go from here. We already know they can turn heads with their e-mail-centric wit, and luckily their metallic power is just as sharp. Go check out this band if you’re dying for something new and frightening.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Souls-of-Dissolution/151333908374690

To buy the album, go here: https://soulsofdissolution.bandcamp.com/album/these-things-we-have-wrought

Drone doom nightmare weavers Monarch create ghostly chills on spooky new ‘Sabbracadaver’

MonarchThere are certain sounds and styles of music that can induce nightmares. You experience these sounds that are out of the ordinary, maybe even in conflict with your own psyche, and they can lead to you experiencing terrifying stories in your head while you sleep at night. Or at least you think they can do that. It’s up to you if that’s a thing you’re able to handle.

I always found French funeral drone doom band Monarch one of those that could illicit terrifying thoughts in my head. Their music feels less like deliberate compositions and more like stream-of-consciousness experiences, where you get a head-on trip into what they’re trying to let loose. Over the course of their seven records, they have set up surreal soundscapes, transmissions that sound like they’re transported from some sort of lost dimension that traps souls, and music that easily can get underneath your skin and freeze you. They’re not your everyday doom band, and their records often take repeated visits for the material to sink in just right. Same can be said for their three-track new record “Sabbracadaver,” their first for Profound Lore and follow-up to 2012’s great “Omens.” Here, the band is totally immersed in their own nightmares, translating all of the dark, violent shadows for you and weaving a mystifying world of horrors that only your nighttime excursions in your bed possibly could match. They’re a breath-taking band, one of my favorites in this genre.

Monarch coverOne of the main reasons Monarch are so mesmerizing is vocalist/electronics artist Emilie Bresson, whose work is fairly hard to describe. She has pipes that won’t quit, and she can wail bloody murder along with the best of them, but there’s something more to her that’s an intangible quality. She is a sweeping force, a voice that you just can’t get out of your system. Her singing sounds more like she’s channeling something greater than her, acting as a conduit or messenger, and you practically can imagine her shaking and writing as she adds her voice to these songs. That’s not to slight her band, who also deserve a ton of credit, including guitarist Shiran Kaidine, bassist MicHell Bidegain, and drummer Rob Shaffer, who combine to create a sinister low end full of drone and power, and you could find it caving in your chest cavity in a live setting. The band’s work on “Sabbracadaver” proves they have plenty more to say, added spirits to release, and doom thunder still blasting through their collective bloodstream. It’s both mighty and outright chilling.

The 17:15-long opener “Pentagrammes” unveils a heavy, thick blanket of drone that immediately blackens the surroundings. A dream haze sets in, but just as it seems like calm will prevail, the power ignites, with slow drizzling doom and Bresson whispering ominously, almost like she’s trying to disarm you. Eventually an elegant funeral doom flood rises up and spills over, and Bresson switches over to her monstrous, anguish-filled wail that should stop you dead in your tracks out of awe, fear, or both. The track continues to lurch along its way, letting feedback glimmer build, before it gives way to destructive crushing that leads toward the end. Some gorgeous singing that feels eerie and ghostly bubbles up, and buzzing noise gets ready to bury you deep. “Louves” is the shortest of the trio, but still runs 10:14, and it has a wealth of melody and well as more penetrating drone. The path the band walks is emotional and musically rich (some of the passages remind of Pallbearer), and the mix of dastardly ugliness, beautiful soundscapes, and angelic weirdness give this one its bizarre character.

The 18:32-long closer “Mortes” is a perfect capper, a sort of summary of everything that came before it. The song lights up and glows over its first minutes, with more noise buzzing, and Bresson, practically in a hushed tone, calling, “I’m just a shadow.” The pace continue gently, but just as Bresson sings, “Winter in my heart,” the bottom drops out, and the fire begins to ignite. The electronics simmer and give off blinding light, the song drubs heavily and with as crushing a manner as possible, and when Bresson’s most damaged screams arrive, the song takes a sharp turn toward spiritual horror. Sometimes the song makes you feel like you’re walking through a mist in an isolated forest, and at others, the pained delivery is like the band is grasping onto the last fibers of hope and health. The song heads back into more drone, vocals switch back and forth from whispers to wails to bloody cries, and the last moments of pounding finally relent and drown out in a synth haze. You’ll probably need to take a breath in order to digest what you just heard. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll take the journey all over again.

Monarch never fail to captivate with their music, and “Sabbracadaver” has the band sounding as powerful, scary, inspired, and dark as ever. The band is still growing with every record, and they always find ways to reach new heights, as terrifying as those may be. The songs should be astonishing to witness live, which should be an enlightening experiencing watching Monarch recreate those dark spirits that inspired them to create these transmissions. If see you see ghosts and ghouls spilling forth during those live experiences, you hardly can be surprised.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Monarch/121146434822

To buy the album, go here: https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/products-page/

For more on the album, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/

PICK OF THE WEEK: ‘Harbinger’ has Mutilation Rites upping ante in their filthy black metal game

MRDespite what you might think, not a whole lot of effort is needed to figure out our picks of the week. I know, you probably thought we went through mountains of paperwork, complex algorithms, and beakers and beakers of chemicals in order to arrive at the decision, but no. It’s more that I hear a record, it hits me in the guts, and I know that nothing that week will top it.

This week, it’s Mutilation Rites’ drubbing new record “Harbinger,” and I pretty much knew it would be from the first time I heard the thing over a month or so ago. This band is one of my go-to choices if I need music while on the road or running or any time I need a boost, and this album was one that was on my most-anticipated list all year. And from just one listen, I knew the NYC-based, filthy black metal band had outdone themselves, both making a record that would please their minions and push them to the next level. The band keeps progressing and getting more devastating, and there are moments on this masher where they channel the most hate-filled of ’80s thrash and burn it to the ground as well as weave even more entrancing melodies than before into their black metal sections. This band has a very identifiable musical fingerprint, which is so rare these days when everything runs together and bleeds color all over each other. When Mutilation Rites comes on, you absolutely know it’s them, and that should put sick glee into listeners’ hearts. And I know it does to mine.

MR coverPart of what makes this band so recognizable as soon as they begin to assault your eardrums is guitarist George Paul (also of Ruine, Hexer) and his throat-vomiting-staples vocals. They are raw, damaged, and sound painful, and sometimes it appears he is not ever blurting out words, but rather angry, pained grunt and cries. Along with him are guitarist Michael Dimmitt, bassist Ryan Jones (ex-Today Is the Day), and drummer Justin Ennis (also of Ruine). They’re a dangerous machine, pumping out black metal that is not hostage to trend or other sounds around them. Yes, they belong in the genre, but there is a lot more to their sound and their approach, and it’s one of the things that makes them so damn refreshing. They also happen to write killer songs that leave you guessing at to where they’ll go next and that bring total devastation in their wake.

“Black Pyramid” is the first crushing blow dealt on “Harbinger,” with the drums lacing with intensity, the band kicking into a blazing assault, and the vocals belching out like black tar. The song builds into a tricky, trance-inducing section as it winds toward its second half, and before all is said and done, the vocals figure out a way to sound even more menacing and out of control. “Exhaling or Breathing” is full of melody and pulls back on the reins just a bit, going for calculating instead of clobbering. There’s a nice thrash groove buried in there, deep growling that sounds scraped from the belly, and a storming finish that rushes into “Tactical Means of Ouroboros.” That track charges full speed into the mayhem, with more hellacious drumming and vocals that are practically spat out half digested. There’s an interesting segue into the second part of the song that makes you think things are going one way, but instead they punish you with precision at the end. “Gravitational Collapse” signals a change of pace for the entire record, one of savagery and pure thrash leanings that makes my old heart glow. Lurching growls, meaty riffing, and outright violence begin to turn you on your face for a through beating.

“Contaminate” makes me think of “Rust in Peace” heyday Megadeth, but even more explosive and ambitious. The playing is fluid and intelligent, and it makes complete mush of your brain as it goes on. It’s a sinister, barn-burning song, and it’s one of those tracks that enlightens you on just how diverse these guys can be. “Suffer the Children” greeted the internet around the end of May, and it’s a great first taste of this record. The track is a steamroller, absolutely blending your guts and helping you see blood. The song eventually pulls back and begins to boil on medium, but the back end is absolutely scorching. Just a killer song. “Ignus Fatuus” starts with a mud-thick bassline that rolls into a metallic haze, and muck-caked growls begin stomping hard. The guitar work gets tricky and dizzying, something you don’t hear every black metal band try and pull off this well, and a rush of melody takes the song to its conclusion. Closer “Conspiracy of Silence” is a solid meat-and-potatoes finish, with sludgy guitars, drums the rumble you to death, low and gurgly growling, and swirling melodies that could make the room spin. It’s a concise, to-the-point finale that wraps the record up with a nice, plasma-encrusted bow.

Mutilation Rites continue to prove they are one of the most creative bands in black metal, and their willingness to push their own creativity and the envelope has completely worked to their advantage. “Harbinger” is rock solid through and through, an incredibly strong effort from a consistent band that deserves to play to increasingly larger audiences. Not every record you peg as an anticipated release comes through once it’s in your hands, but this album surpassed expectations and has me really excited to hear these guys execute these killers live.

For more on the band, go here: http://mutilationrites.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://mutilationrites.com/store

Or here: http://store.prostheticrecords.com/

For more on the label, go here: http://prostheticrecords.com/