Great Falls deliver driving kick to the face, force you to seek motivation with ‘A Sense of Rest’

This year’s already off to a weird start. “Mean” Gene Okerlund died. If that wasn’t a big enough kick to the nether regions, the first week of 2019 has been challenging mentally and physically, and the shit we thought we buried in the center of 2018’s corpse have risen again, only more putrid. I need a swift shot to the jaw to get things moving in the right direction, otherwise I’m sleeping this one off.

Luckily, that stiff punch may actually have arrived late last year in the form of Great Falls’ latest LP “A Sense of Rest.” OK, I know it sounds strange that I’m calling a record titled “A Sense of Rest” as one to act as a boost but hear me out. These veteran post-hardcore noise purveyors aren’t exactly lulling you to sleep with these muscular eight new tracks and, if anything, they’re here knocking on your back door to ensure you’re not resting peacefully and instead are on your feet doing something about your shit. We’re getting to this a little late because almost all of December is devoted to a year recap, so new music kind of fell by the wayside for a bit. But we were well aware of Great Falls and always had plans to get to this one, so here we are. The band—guitarist/vocalist Demian Johnson, bassist Shane Mehling, and drummer Phil Petrocelli—plied their trades with notable other bands such as Undertow, Playing Enemy, Kiss It Goodbye, and Jesu, and released their first album “Accidents Grotesque” in 2013, followed by “The Fever Shed” in 2015. Now on “A Sense of Rest,” they continue to up the ante on their frustration and aggravation, giving you, the listener, a partner with whom to have a bloodletting.

“The Accelerationist” kicks off the record with tricky, punchy playing before Johnson’s harsh yelps come into the picture. The track bludgeons you, slicing through bone, as screams land behind the wall of punishment, halting briefly before static-filled drums bring us back in. Everything spills back in, with jerky playing, wild howls, and a spiral out into madness. “Not-for-Sale Bodies” opens clean before sludgy mashing is upon us, and wild shouts uncoil and push into battle. The track hits hard, slowing its pace to ensure maximum force per blow, before things are torn apart by a noise pit, boiling and scraping flesh before finishing out. “Kettle Logic” starts faster, with drums killing and speedy riffs barreling into your chest. The vocals are unhinged, as you’re smothered beneath the song’s weight, while chaos is afoot, and the track comes to a mangling end. “We Speak in Lowercase” is the longest track, running 14:30 and starting with alien soundscapes before the track fully blossoms. “With my head straight, let’s start again!” Johnson calls, as the track builds toward choppier waters and a doomier presence. Noise spirals, the riffs kick up, and Johnson cries, “Go on, say it! Apologize!” That takes us into a cataclysmic fury, dropping heaviness that continues until the track bleeds into silence.

“Thousands Every Hour” has noise aggravating, rising into squalls, and then the body of the song kicking in and bloodying lips. “Let’s talk this through!” Johnson pleads, while shrieks and pummeling sounds surround you and deliver damage, bringing the track to a bloody end. “Baldessari Height” has dark, wooly riffs that crawl in the dark, while Johnson’s vocals blow holes in walls, and then the track trickles with colder waters. This goes into slowly delivered hell, as the song chunks away, vocals screech, and everything soaks in a horrifying noise bath. “I Go to Glory” delivers kicks to the jaw, thrashing wildly before pulling back and letting the guitar work pulsate. The intensity then picks back up, and Johnson howls, “Run!” giving off steam and flowing right into closer “Scratched Off the Canvas” and its slurry front end. The pace is numbing as noise unfurls, the bass trudges, and Johnson belts, “Wake up! It doesn’t matter to me!” The song corrodes, gushing and shedding metal shards, as melodies dizzy before the song spins out in a hypnotic wave.

If you’re not too aware of Great Falls yet but dig bands such as Buildings or Kowloon Walled City, definitely try “A Sense of Rest” on for size. These are meaty, punishing diatribes that don’t relent on the audio violence and will make you feel all purple and sore when it’s all over. This isn’t music for someone who wants to relax, despite its title. This is for confronting demons head on and making them submit to your unrelenting will.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

Or here:

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PICK OF THE WEEK: Yatra’s journey blazes open with numbing doom, psychedelic fire on ‘Death Ritual’

Photo by Alyssa Maloof

I often wonder where the darkness and shadows come from when hearing doom metal. I imagine the answer is limitless, as artists pull from so many dank corners when creating their art. Often times, the answer is that it’s culled from personal chaos or the disorder they see in the world, but other times, it’s from something quite different.

Dana Helmuth, long of Maryland doom pounders Blood Raven, got to work in his new project Yatra while living a fairly primitive life, at least as most people would consider it. Moving into a cottage in the woods with no plumbing amenities and relegated to using outhouses and outdoor showers, Helmuth was able to find solace in the peace and lack of technological intrusion and come up with the eight tracks for the band’s debut album “Death Ritual” in about a month’s time. Joined by a rhythm section of bassist Maria Geisbert and drummer Mike Tull, the band started to push into a psychological, smoke-filled excursion (the band’s name is taken from the word used to symbolize a journey that Helmuth learned while motorcycling through Nepal and the Himalayas), and from first moment to last, you’ll feel like you’re journeying through strange clouds with them, mind altered no doubt. As for their sound, imagine a gnarlier, more prehistoric version of Sleep, and you’ll be headed down the right path, one you should take for sure.

“Hour of the Dragon” kicks off the record as it bleeds into a psychedelic haze before riffs kick in a deliver swagger. Helmuth’s vocals bark and sound, fittingly, as primitive as their surroundings, while the soloing chars, giving off a stoner vibe. The final moments are druggy and ugly before heading off into the darkness. “Black Moon” follows, as it has an eerie beginning before riffs slither and deliver a bluesy punch. Fuzzy doom emerges amid gruff singing that scrapes raw skin, situated in a fog before soloing bubbles to the surface, taking on Matt Pike-style muscle. Growls crawl back in before the song heads out in a blues-filled vapor. “Sacred Flower” kicks off with a simmering bong hit before the riffs burst, the vocals rip off faster, and the track makes you feel high AF, which is likely the intent. The track slams harder as it goes, with the leads rising, Helmuth wailing, “Rise up higher!” and the track dissolving into dust. “Snakes in the Temple” emerges slowly, with the vocals rolling in, and the vibe giving off a nasty feel. Soloing injects pain, as psyche blazes are set, torching a trail in front of it. Geisbert’s bass entrances, while the chorus returns, and everything comes to a volcanic end.

“Smoke Is Rising” is trippy as hell, with Helmuth’s voice coming off in yelps, later declaring, “Kingdoms, they fall into the sea.” The riffs slowly batter, while fuzzy guitar work forms clouds around your brain, paving the way for the growls to come in and clobber you, leading toward a slow descent to hell. “Four Directions” simmers in sitar drone before riffs begin to crunch, grimy vox are smeared over the chorus, and the guitars light up and surge, causing you to shield your eyes as you’re led toward the exit. “Mighty Arrows” sets up camp deliberately, as burly riffs flex their arms, and Helmuth barks, “Strike down the serpents!” Soloing gives off noxious fumes, crushing bodies slowly in its wake, adding layers of murk, with the track coming to a stomping end. “Sailing On” ends the record with agitating riffs and savage growls storming the gates. An acidic tempo swells, as the song drubs slowly, with the swagger pushing back into the picture. The leads catch fire anew, bringing the track to a filthy finish.

Yatra’s journey is just beginning with “Death Ritual,” and these first steps are spellbinding and spacious, a means to helping you reach out from a psychedelic watch into something entirely different. There will be comfort for those in the stoner doom realms as to what they’ll find here, but even if that’s not your thing primarily, you’ll likely be lulled in by the riffs and the filth. This is a promising first burst for this band that, while just offering their debut, feel like they come at you with ages of wisdom to impart.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

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Meat Mead Metal Top 40 revisited

We’ll get back to regular programming tomorrow with our first Pick of the Week of 2019. But for now, here is 2018’s Top 40 in list form. In case you’re new here, you also can read in-depth stories on the top 5, as well as a more comprehensive look at numbers 6-40 below. You’re welcome.

40. WINDHAND, “Eternal Return” (Relapse)

39. PIG DESTROYER, “Head Cage” (Relapse)

38. RUNEMAGICK, “Evoked From Abyssal Sleep” (Aftermath/Parasitic)

37. SLAVES BC, “Lo, and I Am Burning” (Fear and the Void Recordings)

36. WITCH MOUNTAIN, self-titled (Svart)

35. KHEMMIS, “Desolation” (20 Buck Spin)

34. HISSING, “Permanent Destitution” (Profound Lore)

33. SVALBARD, “It’s Hard to Have Hope” (Holy Roar/Translation Loss)

32. ICARUS WITCH, “Goodbye Cruel World” (Cleopatra)

31. ÆVANGELIST, “Matricide in the Temple of Omega” (I, Voidhanger)

30. PORTAL, “Ion” (Profound Lore)

29. INSECT ARK, “Marrow Hymns” (Profound Lore)

28. AGRIMONIA, “Awaken” (Southern Lord)

27. MARSH DWELLER, “Wanderer” (Eihwaz Recordings)

26. GLACIAL TOMB, self-titled (Gilead Media)

25. UN, “Sentiment” (Black Bow/Translation Loss)

24. WAYFARER, “World’s Blood” (Profound Lore)

23. HOREHOUND, “Holocene” (Doom Stew)

22. FÓRN, “Rites of Despair” (Gilead Media)

21. DEVOURING STAR, “The Arteries of Heresy” (Dark Descent/Terratur Possessions)

20. CLOSET WITCH, self-titled (Halo of Flies/Sass Bologna/Circus of the Macabre/Don’t Care/React With Protest)

19. ULTHAR, “Cosmovore” (20 Buck Spin)

18. BODY VOID, “I Live Inside a Burning House” (Crown and Throne Ltd./Dry Cough/Seeing Red)

17.AILS, self-titled (The Flenser)

16. TO END IT ALL, “Scourge of Woman” (Scry Recordings)

15. SLEEP, “The Sciences” (Third Man)

14. CHAPEL OF DISEASE, “…And as We Have Seen the Storm, We Have Embraced the Eye” (Van)

13. YOB, “Our Raw Heart” (Relapse)

12. BURIAL INVOCATION, “Abiogenesis” (Dark Descent)

11. TOMB MOLD, “Manor of Infinite Forms” (20 Buck Spin)

10. MESSA, “Feast for Water” (Aural Music)

9. PANOPTICON, “The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness Pt. 1 and 2” (Bindrune Recordings)

8. CHRCH, “Light Will Consume Us All” (Neurot Recordings)

7. EVOKEN, “Hypnagogia” (Profound Lore)

6. VILE CREATURE, “Cast of Static and Smoke” (Halo of Flies/Dry Cough)

5. KHôRADA, “Salt” (Prophecy Productions)

4. DEADBIRD, ‘III: The Forest Within the Tree’ (20 Buck Spin)

3. INEXORUM, “Lore of the Lakes” (Gilead Media)

2. THOU, “Magus” (Sacred Bones)

1. MOURNFUL CONGREGATION, ‘The Incubus of Karma’ (20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions)

1. MOURNFUL CONGREGATION, ‘The Incubus of Karma’ (20 Buck Spin/Osmose Productions)

It is fitting that, here we are at the very end of 2018, and we are holding a mental funeral for the year. That’s also apropos because we are naming our No. 1 record of the year today, and it is Australian funeral doom legends Mournful Congregation’s masterful, elegant “The Incubus of Karma,” an album that arrested our souls when it landed March 23.

Mournful Congregation have been a favorite here for years and years, but this album is their supreme work. It’s devastating, scary, psychologically scarring, and cosmically bizarre. Their set at Migration Fest was one where you just had to stand and stare in wonder as these, and other, songs played out. I definitely was a little drunk when they played, second-to-last set of the fest, and I remember just gazing and taking in my first experience seeing these guys live. But we’re talking this album, and it’s a doom record for the generation. If you think that sounds hyperbolic and haven’t really immersed yourself in it yet, please change that. I’ve heavily sunk myself in the band’s other four albums, all of them top notch, but this is their finest hour (well, hour and 20 minutes). From “Whispering Spiritscapes,” the first non-instrumental cut on the album, to “The Rubaiyat,” to epic closer “A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being,” everything comes together expertly. Guitarist/vocalist Damon Good was generous enough to answer questions we had about the record, its creation, their time touring in America, and what they have on the horizon. All respect and hails to Mournful Congregation and “The Incubus of Karma,” our favorite record of 2018.

MEAT MEAD METAL: We are naming “The Incubus of Karma” our top record of the year. The band’s albums appearing here seems to be something that’s a regular thing with our site and your band. How do you feel about the record now that it’s been out in the world for some time?

DAMON GOOD: I’ve slowly come ’round to acknowledging the strengths of the record, as opposed to focusing only on the weaknesses. The positive reception from fans and reviewers has definitely helped my confidence. So, thank you. But I must admit at first, I was a bit apprehensive as to the strength of the album, probably due to spending too much time mixing it, etc. But in hindsight, I think it is a strong fifth album for us, and we could not have done any better at the time.

MMM: At six tracks and 80 minutes, the album might seem daunting on the outside, but once you experience the music, it feels half that long. It can’t be easy to keep such long songs interesting, so how does the band always seem to do it?

DG: In writing this type of music, it is important that it has a constant flow of aural stimulation. We analyze every section of music constantly throughout the writing and recording process to make sure something interesting is going on and that each section is as strong as possible at all times. Our song structures are such that they rarely repeat. Rather they flow from riff to riff with little regard for choruses and verses or any “standard” structure. However, in doing this, it is important that the structures have the right ebb and flow, the right dynamics, and build up to something rather than meander endlessly. I do find that our music has a tendency to time-dilate. Playing it live especially. It’s an interesting phenomenon.

MMM: “Whispering Spiritscapes” is such a spellbinding song and the ideal first full track after intro cut “The Indwelling Ascent.” What’s going on during this song, and what’s behind the chilling spoken lines at the track’s end?

DG: In the beginning of the song, we wanted a more traditional approach, ala traditional British Doom/ Death melodies, with some crafty three-guitar interplay. In the middle we explore some more obscure sections with some disharmonic dissonance, and toward the end some more progressive mid-paced stuff. This song is definitely the most dynamic on the album, therefore a good opener, I think. Lyrically, it is more akin to an inward psychedelic or meditative journey than anything else. The sermon at the end seemed to encapsulate the dissolution of the ego quite well, often experienced in such journeys. A preparatory warning, perhaps, of what is to come when the ego dissolves.

MMM: “The Rubaiyat” is an interesting topic for the track of the same name. Is this song based on FitzGerald’s work? Omar Khayyam’s poetry? Why did you select this for inspiration?

DG: Yes, FitzGerald’s translation of the Rubaiyat was the inspiration. I came across it in my grandmother’s book collection (I think it was quite a popular tome in the early 1900s). It seemed interesting and obscure to me, both in title and text. I also came across Yogananda’s commentary on The Rubaiyat, which revealed a much deeper meaning to it all. So, it seemed befitting and worthy of basing a song around. Once again, it documents the journey of self-realization, the dissolution of the ego and the discovery of the true nature of reality.

MMM: “A Picture of the Devouring Gloom Devouring the Spheres of Being” is such a crushing ending to the record, the longest track at 22 minutes and one that’s swelling with emotion. What is it about that one the band decided this is fitting to close the book on “Karma”?

DG: We simply could not see this track fitting as perfectly anywhere else on the album. Plus, it has the perfect end section for the record. This is a special song for us in that the intro and outro, plus some other sections were written by Ben Petch, who I formed the band with and who had not written music for Mournful in probably two decades. So, it hearkens back to the earlier days of the band in my opinion, when myself and Petch were brainstorming together. And there is more of that to come since he is now a full-time member of the band once again.

MMM: Mournful Congregation obviously were a huge part of Migration Fest this past summer. Talk about your experiences during that festival. You don’t often get to the East Coast, so what was that like for you guys?

DG: I guess it just feels very welcoming and supportive, both having a label like 20 Buck Spin, who will provide an avenue like this for us to perform at, and the receptivity of the fans who came to the fest. Overall, we have felt very welcomed in the US over the last few years both on the West Coast and East Coast. Pittsburgh was a very nice city to visit, and a Fest like Migration has a very nice feeling of community among metalheads, with the perfect variety of bands and fans.

MMM: What can we expect going forward in 2019 from the band? Are more shows planned? Is it too soon to think about new music?

DG: Musically, we have a lot of material written for the next album. In fact, too much. We are in the process of culling it down and crafting it into the best possible follow-up to “The Incubus…” This could take some time. We need time for it to organically manifest and concepts to form and present themselves. Having some strong new material under our belts, there is no need to rush things at this point. As far as live performances go, we have no plans and no offers for 2019. So perhaps something will arise or perhaps nothing.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album (North America), go here:

Or here (Europe):

For more on the label, go here:

And here:

2. THOU, “Magus” (Sacred Bones)

There are plenty of bands that have had noteworthy years, but perhaps none other have accomplished what Thou have. The Baton Rouge-based doom/grunge warriors always have been a prolific group, but this year was a particularly fruitful one with three EPs all of varying styles, a great split with Ragana, and their earth-quaking fifth full-length “Magus,” our No. 2 album of the year.

Doing these lists is never easy, as there’s a lot of back and forth, scratching out list positions, tearing things apart, and trying again. This year’s top two spots were the hardest we’ve ever had to determine, and “Magus” and what ultimately got the No. 1 nod almost could be tied at the top spot, something we considered for about five seconds before realizing that’s a cowardly way out. But “Magus” is an amazing document, one worthy of being celebrated for years to come which, knowing Thou’s back catalog, is bound to happen. It’s that good, that meaningful.

“Magus” is the band’s first for Sacred Bones. This 11-track, 75-minute excursion is a mammoth, a record you never will unpack in one or even five listens, and another volcano of an emotional experience from a band that doesn’t give a single fuck about your metal aesthetic. This record isn’t a huge departure from 2014’s “Heathen,” our album of the year that year, but it’s not a repeat or a reworking of ideas. It’s an album that moves the earth with themes of alienation, boredom, futility, decay, the awfulness of history, agony, pain, and personal introspection at a time when so many people are fast to point fingers. A lot of these themes are woven throughout their monstrous catalog, and this feels like their natural evolution in the Thou story. The band—vocalist Bryan Funck, guitarists Andy Gibbs and Matthew Thudium, bassist Mitch Wells, and drummer Josh Nee—delivers this cataclysmic conclusion to their latest body of work that also includes noisy “The House Primordial,” lush and quiet “Inconsolable,” grungy and awesome “Rhea Sylvia,” as well as the Ragana split “Let Our Names Be Forgotten,” and they do so in a way that will level you.

Um … Thou (Photo by Craig Mulcahy)

“Inward” starts like a swirling storm you can hear in the distance when, all of a sudden, it breaks. The music, while traditionally doomy in the Thou sense, also swims in atmosphere, as Funck’s wild wails spit nails. The guitars cut through the heart, while things get heavier and muddier toward the end, bleeding into a bath of light and interlude track “My Brother Caliban” that’s situated in buried shrieks and fuzzy sound. “Transcending Dualities” has guitars churning and a calculated melody emerging. The pace sounds like it’s hunting prey, while Funck wails about “shapeshifting through life,” as the melodies bleed, and the tumult rises and falls. “The Changeling Prince” has leads barreling in, while the song then openly clubs you, with growls lurching and even some lighter tones spreading later on. Funck’s vocals stab at a “haunted fractured reality,” as things barrel toward a climactic finish, where Funck repeatedly howls, “Behind the mask, another mask,” while he digs for his subject’s true essence. “In the Kingdom of Meaning” has airy guitars that hint at calm before the track slowly breaks open, and Funck’s vocals delivering bruising. The playing here, while filthy and mashing, also is daring and exciting, as the guitars carve new paths, extending Thou’s kingdom. Later on, the track gets slower and liquidy, as the band looks to carve into hearts, and McWilliams returns to add a ghostly touch to a song that burns itself into the air. 10:54 closer “Supremacy” launches into slow-grinding pounding, with some cleaner lines woven within the soot. “Consumed by inner fires!” Funck howls, as beauty and carnage twist together, weird melodies rewire your brain, and noise simmers, threatening overflow. The band then bludgeons over and over and over again, thrashing your head, leaving you clinging to metallic sound clouds that eventually dissolve into mystery and leave a vapor spray on steel.

Thou are one of the most impactful, important bands in all of heavy music, and this past year proved why. “Magus” in an amazing opus that grows on you with each listen and provides more depth than many of the other records you’ll hear no matter how heavy or brutal. That’s because Thou come from an aspect of personal and societal truth and struggle, things that are far more devastating than any devil holding a pitchfork.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

3. INEXORUM, “Lore of the Lakes” (Gilead Media)

There is no doubting the power of the riff. It is mighty, and its grip cannot be loosened no matter how hard one tries. That’s a major reason this music and sites like these even exist, in that the riff is the backbone, an unbreakable line running through everything and keeping metal as the unquestionable force it is today and has been for years.

In many ways, Inexorum’s thunderous debut record “Lore of the Lakes” is an exercise in the finest of classic heavy metal. Just let the first 30 seconds or so of opener “Raging Hearts” wash over you and try to deny it’s infectious energy and majesty. That was it for me. As soon as that song had its way with my psyche, I was all in, and I have been ever since the record was released in late July, literally on the first night of Migration Fest (Inexorum didn’t play, but its creator Carl Skildum was in attendance, and we got a chance to meet up with him for a few moments). But it doesn’t end with “Raging Hearts.” The band—Skildum is joined by drummer Matthew Kirkwold—creates magic that carries over to the other intense and driving songs on this record—“Let Pain Be Your Guide,” “Years in Exile,” “To Omega,” and the record-closing title track, all of them beasts. This is one of the records I’ve recommended the most to other people looking to move deeper into underground metal, as its storming black metal combined with the classic riffs can be an easy gateway to any open mind. Skildum was kind enough to take some time to talk about the record, whether he’d been collecting riffs for this thing, and his alignment with Gilead Media. If you haven’t visited with “Lore of the Lakes” yet, definitely change that before the calendar year rolls over. You won’t be sorry.

MEAT MEAD METAL: We’re naming “Lore of the Lakes” one of the top five metal records of the year. It’s an energetic, pummeling record, one that feels like a classic-style album that gets the blood flowing. How do you feel about the record now that it’s been out for a while.

CARL SKILDUM: First off, thank you so much. When I first started working on this record, I thought I would just quietly release it to Bandcamp and maybe amuse a few of my friends, so to find out that it resonated with you, and hearing from others who found value in it, that’s very meaningful to me. It really did just start out with me wanting to find my footing as a vocalist, so I’m still just blown away that it exists.

MMM: One thing you cannot shake is the power of the riff on this album. It feels like there’s a cascade of them. Were you just sitting on a mountain of these things?

CS: Oddly enough, all of these riffs were new to me as I wrote the record. I’d just set aside an hour or two after work to write as often as I could. I was pretty disciplined about setting aside time to work on it, so it all came together pretty quickly, but I wasn’t pulling anything from the vault for this one.

MMM: The title of the record is interesting, as it feels like a call to nature. What’s the meaning behind the title, and why did you choose it to represent these songs?

CS: I grew up in northern Minnesota, where lakes and forests are the primary natural features. I had family that lived on the north shore of Lake Superior and always felt there was something incredibly powerful about that place, and I still try to get back there as often as I can. I was fascinated by the stories of all the shipwrecks on the lake as a kid. It can be a very peaceful place one day and violent and terrifying the next. It was an image and a feeling that kept coming back to me as I was writing.

MMM: The theme is trying to guide one’s own journey through life and make positive changes even amid hardships that are a part of everyone’s lives is something you discussed as a running theme through the record. What was it about that plight that helped you write these songs?

CS: I had been watching a very close friend dealing with terminal cancer, and my wife is a cancer survivor as well, so I was thinking a lot about mortality and finding some way to find some place of acceptance and control. There were serious things going on with a lot of people close to me, and that was definitely an inspiration to me in terms of how in all of these cases, people have to find courage and strength in the face of impossible situations. So, at some level I hoped that if anyone did hear the record, that there might be an opportunity to reflect some of those feelings of perseverance and empowerment.

MMM: “Lore of the Lakes” was released by Gilead Media, which feels like a natural place for this music to call home. What led to that union?

CS: I had gotten to know Adam Bartlett of GLM while I was playing live guitar with Obsequiae and performing at the first Migration Fest in Olympia. I had no intention of sending the record out to labels. I just posted a little clip on my Instagram feed, which is pretty much just going to a few of my friends and family. I thought if I posted a clip, my friends would keep me accountable for seeing it through to the finish. Adam heard it and reached out to me, and I’m very grateful that he did.

MMM: You noted on your Facebook page that the song “Raging Hearts” is inspired by Hammerheart Brewing. What’s the story behind that one?

CS: One day around four years ago, I walked into HammerHeart to meet some friends, and it was like walking into metal Cheers, where I’m suddenly geeking out about favorite Wrong Again and No Fashion Records releases with a roomful of new friends while Bathory and Ulver flow majestically from the speakers. So many important friendships have developed for me and this special place has been a focal point. Getting to know Tanner Anderson and Austin Lunn and learning the mechanics of how it is possible to write without a full band was a revelation, as up until this point, everything I had done had been worked out in practice spaces with a full lineups. (NOTE: Speaking of full bands, Skildum and Kirkwold also play in Antiverse, who released a crusher of a record “Under the Regolith” in October.)  There’s no way this record would exist without having walked in there that day, so I felt like I had to do something to give back. We had the vinyl release event there and it was magical.

MMM: Inexorum isn’t really a live band at this point. Is there any thought to making this more of a live venture, or will this be more of a studio project?

CS: I do want to play these songs live in the future, and there are some preliminary foundations being constructed.

MMM: What do you have planned for 2019? Not sure if new music is too early to think about or what else you have in store.

CS: I’m past the halfway mark on writing the second album now, with an eye on a 2020 release just to give the first LP some breathing room. I’ll be working with bassist/producer Matt Kirkwold again—he brought the record to life in a way that I never could, and he’s a part of Inexorum for as long as he wants to be. I feel like the best is yet to come.

For more on the band, go here:

To buy the album, go here:

For more on the label, go here:

4. DEADBIRD, ‘III: The Forest Within the Tree’ (20 Buck Spin)

A decade is a long time to be away. Especially when it comes to metal, a world where bands of every variety seem to grow on trees and where flavors of the day can be here today, forgotten five minutes later. So, when someone is gone for that long, there’s no guarantee a return will be fruitful.

Luckily for Arkansas-based Deadbird, their re-emergence after 10 years away was a triumph in the form of their third full-length offering “III: The Forest Within the Tree” that landed Oct. 12, just months after their triumphant performance at Migration Fest in Pittsburgh. That set paid off what was to come on this 20 Buck Spin-issued killer, a record that grows more magical and engrossing with every listen and that has spawned some of the most memorable songs of the entire year. Hell, just take on the one-two punch start of “The Singularity” and “Luciferous Heart,” which either is a welcome return for longtime fans or the cracking open the pages on a brand-new adventure for those who have just come along. The band—Alan Short (guitar/vocals), Chuck Schaaf (guitar/vocals) Jeff Morgan (bass/vocals), Reid Raley (bass/vocals), Chris Terry (synth/samples/vocals), and Phillip Schaaf (drums)— is comprised of members of other noted groups including Rwake, Ash of Cedars, Story of the Eye, Seahag, and more, and they sound as alive and transcendent as ever before on this record, an amazing triumph for this long-standing band. The enthusiasm for this record and Deadbird’s current state of affairs runneth over within the band, as two members—Schaaf and Short—both answered my e-mailed questions without knowing the other one also was doing the same. So, here are their thoughts on the record, their return that really isn’t a return (they never really went away), and what it’s been like working with 20 Buck Spin.

MEAT MEAD METAL: It’s been 10 years since we last got a new full-length record from Deadbird, a stretch finally broken with “III: The Forest Within the Tree,” one of our top 5 of 2018. How does it feel to finally have new material out in the world?

CHUCK SCHAAF: Man, it is so awesome and such a relief to have finally gotten this thing out into the world! The way that everything came together and the fact that EVERYONE who has worked on this thing truly crushed it has been incredible! Right off the bat I’ve gotta’ call ‘em out! Alan Burcham CRUSHED the recording and mixing. Brad Boatright took that mix and truly just blew it up. I couldn’t believe what all he got out of it sonically! John Santos really took all our lyrics and music and put it into the absolutely incredible art which is still mind blowing to look at! Dave Brenner (Earsplit PR) has truly gone above and beyond, not just getting us press but putting his creativity into it as well with his incredible “Heyday” video. And of course, Dave Adelson (20 Buck Spin owner) is the whole reason that we’re talking to you guys in the first place. I’ll never be able to thank him enough! It took a while to complete, and that plays into the title somewhat, but I’ll get into that on the next question. The recording process got REALLY stretched out (4+ years) once all was said and done. We didn’t plan it that way. It’s just the way that it played out. I was living in Tennessee at the time with the other guys being in Little Rock and Cincinnati and we’re all dads so getting us in one place at the same time with the money needed to pay for studio time was challenging. It gave us a lot of time to reflect on the songs though and really flesh out the vocals and other embellishments that ended up on there. The goal with the next one is to do something we’ve never done which is to book a studio for a week or two and come out the other side with a mixed record! Haha! But seriously. Our recording process has always been more of a journey than that, and there are attributes to that, but we really want to follow this record up with something new in the next year or so. There is already material coming together, and we’re stoked! To actually end up on your year-end list is absolutely incredible to us, and to be in the top 5 blows my mind! We’ve always been an underdog band to some extent, and it’s really awesome of you guys to bestow that honor upon us. Thank you guys! We’re really happy that this record seems to have made a connection with folks. The main reason to write and record music is self-motivated. The need and urge to create and to attempt to build something significant. When it actually connects with other folks out there enough for them to listen to the thing and shell out their hard-earned money for a copy, it is truly an awesome thing! When I get feedback from friends or listeners who have connected to it on an emotional level and have identified with some of the heavy emotions in there, that is the ultimate feeling! What we do is cathartic for us for sure.

ALAN SHORT: It comes with a wide range of feelings. Gratitude first and foremost. To finally have it transmitted and to find out that people give it a listen. That Dave/20 Buck Spin put out a record by a band that hadn’t offered any recordings in 10 years. That people remember us in this era of 1000s of bands. To be playing music with friends that inspire me and to perhaps inspire others with our record. All these things fill me with such a profound sense of gratitude. Also, a feeling of being connected. It’s great if people dig the record, but it’s just as OK if they don’t. The gratitude comes from being listened to. From completing a communication.

MMM: The album’s title itself is very intriguing. What is the meaning behind it?

CS: The title is something that we’ve had attached to this thing for a long time. I was thinking of the old saying “can’t see the forest for the trees” and how it truly applied to this record and beyond that, our lives in general during the making of this thing. There were lots of triumphs but also lots of tragedies that played out throughout the 4+ years that we were working on this thing. It goes both ways in that there were plenty of times where I had to remind myself that even though it was taking forever with lots of space in between studio sessions that we were going to complete this thing and we were going to get it out into the world. We were convicted on that 1000%, but there were plenty of times where I wondered to myself if we were really going to get it done. I would manipulate my perspective into a healthier space and look at the bigger picture and what all we had accomplished instead of what was still left undone. In the opposite way, sometimes the “big picture” can be overwhelming, and we need to focus in on whatever detail (individual tree as metaphor) was right in front of us and get it knocked out and move on. We are a really close bunch of old friends who have known each other for a long, long time, and we all are most interested in the more mystical aspects of music and our lives. A spiritual thing really. Simultaneously, speaking for myself, it is definitely a rock n’ roll thing too. I am and have always been drawn to guitar, bass, drums throw-down rock. Whether that’s AC/DC, Badlands, Afghan Whigs, Sparta/Jim Ward, His Hero Is Gone, Zeppelin, or Neurosis, etc. Guitar, bass, drums. Rhythm, riffs, swagger, groove, pocket.

AS: I’m glad you asked this. The name/idea “The Forest Within the Tree,” much like “The Head and The Heart,” came about from lyrical concepts of the album and ideas we seemed to return to often while philosophizing/running our mouths in between jams during the writing process. The Forest is the Many, and the Tree is the individual. One of the most important things we can do while here on planet Earth is to see Others as our Self, and to see our Self as Others. To be able to do that is heavy. It’s difficult. But, it’s important. It’s a practice that can help to remove the blinds that life and society place over our eyes.

MMM: What led the band to finally get back together and create new music? Is it something that had been in the works for a long time, and what was it like putting together these new songs?

CS: That is one thing that has come up over and over when folks have written about this record in that it’s been 10 years and we are “back together,” which makes perfect sense from the outside. What’s funny and interesting is that we never broke up or even consciously said, “We’re going on hiatus.” My mind never quit working on Deadbird, and there’s something in there that is always working on it, even if it’s just on a subconscious level. Being a family man, obviously that is my number one responsibility and motivation. To be the best father and husband that I can be, and I’m always working on that. I’ve got a “real job” now, so that takes up a good bit of mental space as well, but the band is always stirring around in there and is very close to all of our hearts. Things will just pop in my head and show up all of a sudden. Little phrases and titles or concepts that I email to myself, so I’ve got ‘em documented, and I spend a great deal of time thinking about riffs and ideas and how they fit together. Macro AND micro. It’s an obsession for sure! So, in my mind, we never quit, but in reality, there were two or three years there where we were just an idea and other aspects of life demanded our attention. It was healthy though! We needed to step away to really see how much this thing means to us and is a part of us. To really appreciate and respect the entity. Joe (Rowland) from Pallbearer actually got us back together! When I was recording their first record with them, we were having some “relax time” after a day of recording (i.e. a handle of bourbon) and Joe said to me, “Chuck, you need to get Deadbird back together and play a show where you do ‘The Head and the Heart’ in its entirety!” It stuck in my mind and, coincidentally, CT was putting together the first Mutants of the Monster Fest, so it worked out really well for us to commit to that and work toward that goal. It’s like we went full circle, relearning all of our songs on the first record. It wasn’t easy! Haha! But it really got us fired up and instilled a work ethic in us that we were really needing. It got us back to getting together as frequently as possible and got the creative energy going. I can’t thank Joe enough! Thank you, Joe,!

AS: We haven’t ever really stopped. There have been periods of time where we’ve had to learn to be in a different mental gear. To downshift. It makes things not so immediately satisfying, but it has ensured the long-term survival of the band. Ever since Chuck, Phillip, and I got together in 2002 and started Deadbird, it has always been there. It’s a feeling, or a riff, or a theme. It’s hard to explain. I just know that when I get certain ideas, whether for music, lyrics, or concepts, I KNOW immediately when it is for Deadbird. For example, the opening riff for “Luciferous Heart” is around 12 years old. I knew it was a Deadbird riff. I just had to be patient for its time to be ripe. Additionally, the title “Luciferous Heart” was a term Phillip offered for a song title on the first record. It didn’t fit at the time, but it just stuck with me.

MMM: Deadbird was a part of Migration Fest this past summer in Pittsburgh. What was it like being a part of that festival, and what do you remember about your set and the event?

CS: Man, it was truly a MASSIVE honor to be included amongst all of those bands and to finally get to experience the phenomenon that is Migration! It was really, really cool to finally get to meet Dave Adelson whom I had been communicating with regularly for many months before the fest. He is truly the real deal and just an incredibly awesome person. A straight shooter that is 1000% committed to what he does and just a great guy all around. It was also really cool to meet Adam from Gilead as well! Those guys have truly built something unique and monumental, and the fact that such an incredible lineup is curated almost exclusively from their two labels is a testament to what those guys do every day and truly excel at. We drove all the way there on Friday. Got up Saturday and got to the fest. Played. Watched the rest of the bands and got up the next morning and booked it back! I really wanted to see the whole thing, but being a 43-year-old father of two did not allow me that luxury. The caliber of bands we played with was absolutely stellar, and it was a daunting task indeed to get up there and bring it as hard as we could with schedule-conflicted minimal rehearsal and being unable to tour into the fest. I, for one, was nervous as hell! You can hear that in the first song we played, but we settled in and found that space, and I truly felt that by the end of our set, we had won at least most of the crowd over. When we finally went silent at the end of our set, there was a pause of silence and then the place really responded to our set in a way that I was not expecting! It was a beautiful moment, and we were grateful to be there! It was the most professional ran festival we’ve ever been on, and everyone there from the security to the soundmen were top notch. Got to kick it with our brothers in Spirit Adrift and hang out with our good friend Pittsburgh Josh too as well as meeting many other awesome folks! We hope to get the chance to do it again!

AS: Being part of Migration this year was such an honor and an all-around great time! The vibe was as inclusive and fun as the tunes were heavy! Every. Single. Band. RIPPED!!! Being there as a fan and a performer was killer. The sound on the floor, in the balcony, and on the stage were the stuff of perfect legend. Pittsburgh is a rad town that has always shown Deadbird hospitality and love (Whatup Jawsh!!). Dave Adelson/20 Buck Spin and Adam at Gilead really knocked it out of the park. I hope to see Migration grow and stay 100% shithead free! About our set, I remember how killer it was to be playing under this massive stained-glass window and being able to let go and just be music pretty easily, because it sounded so killer up there. Deadbird was kind of a different offering on the bill, which we often are, so it was exciting to feel the crowd respond positively and to feel them become part of the music. That’s what it’s all about. We met a lot of people who really enjoyed what we did and how we did it. It was an inspirational experience, through and through.

Photo by Adam Peterson

MMM: The band now is working with 20 Buck Spin, one of the most consistent and reliable in all of metal. How did this relationship come about?

CS: We truly couldn’t ask to be in a better spot! Dave has been such an awesome person to work with, and from the get-go, from the very first email exchange, he has been such a supportive force and just a real, true dude. We end up discussing all sorts of aspects of our lives with each other. He has felt more like a friend than anything. A friend who also happens to have built one of the all-time coolest, most respected labels in heavy music, and we are so stoked that he took us on. One of our oldest and best friends, Nate Garrett of Gatecreeper and Spirit Adrift, was responsible for getting our record over to him. He went to bat for us too! I sent him the record sometime late last year, I believe. It was as yet unmixed. I had been off and on listening to the thing for 3-4 years as we built it along the way. I always say that it’s not like we were making “Chinese Democracy” here. We obviously didn’t spend four years in the studio. We would get a weekend of work done every few months and slowly built the recording that way. I had hit a wall with it personally. I truly couldn’t tell if what we had was any good or not anymore. I needed an outside ear that I could trust. On impulse, I sent it to Nate, and he was really into the record! It was such a relief to have someone who I trusted completely and whose music I respect immensely to give us some positive feedback! It was his idea to send it to Dave. I wasn’t sure if it was ready in its unmixed and incomplete state, but he convinced me that he thought that this would be something Dave would be interested in. I am so grateful that he did! We are truly excited to see where this whole thing goes and are already working on new music for the next one.

AS: Aw, man. We couldn’t be happier to be working with Dave and 20 Buck Spin. You said it. Consistent and reliable. We have to 100% shout out to Nate Garrett from Spirit Adrift and Gatecreeper. Nate has been a close friend and inspiration for many years. Chuck sent him one of the early, mostly-unmixed version of the record. It was this thing where we had gotten ourselves so insulated with the record, we couldn’t really hear it properly anymore. One time I’d listen and think it was dope, then on another listen I’d wonder who I was kidding with this shit. Nate’s song-by-song feedback was sincere and exactly what we needed to hear. Plus, he pitched it to Dave for us. Thanx Nate!!!

MMM: “Luciferous Heart” and “Heyday” pack together one hell of a burst after a mesmerizing intro cut in “The Singularity.” These tracks feel like they present the wild heart and spirit of the record. Is that how you look at it?

CS: Thank you very much for your feedback on these two! We are very proud of how these two came together! Every song is special to us. It has to be, or it will never make it out of the jam room, but these two, early on, we felt were some of the stronger songs we’ve ever written and they definitely felt like a new creative space for the band. We put a lot of work into them and fleshed them out with vocal harmonies and CT’s synth, and I feel like they are indicative of a new era for the band. This whole record feels that way and, of course, with the cycles the band has been through and the time that we weren’t really active, it all comes together as sort of a rebirth in our minds and hearts. We left some baggage behind in the process of making this record and have grown as individuals as well. It all feeds into the creativity. It’s not easy to get this band together and to move the thing forward, but we are all driven by this idea to the point where we commit to whatever it takes to make it work!

AS: Thank you! And, yes. Exactly. In fact, the idea of one small thing being in parallel with a larger thing is central to the concept of the album title “The Forest Within the Tree.” It is also the theme that was in mind when I wrote the lyrics to “Luciferous Heart,” i.e. How can the story of a person be the story of a sub culture, and at the same time, also the story of humanity itself? You’re picking up on that same idea applied to “Luciferous Heart” and “Heyday,” and their relationship to both the record and also the band as an entity is a great compliment. You never really know if you can actually communicate that kind of idea when you are just trying to weave it into your work, rather than explicitly stating it. Gratitude ETERNAL!

MMM: “Brought Low” is another cool one, a track that injects some acoustics with the heavier stuff, reminding a bit of Alice in Chains. What are your thoughts on that one?

CS: “Brought Low” was another one where we ended up pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone. It was a process as well. The music came together fairly quickly, but then I think it was several rehearsals before anyone even started to try to put vocals to it. I started with some simple melody lines and slowly started fleshing them out. I came up with the melodic but screamed chorus at home while listening to the rough mixes along with the “post-chorus” with the clean doubled line. I think that throughout the recording process, I had the most anxiety about this one and wondered if it was going to be the weak link. We always ended up working on it last for some reason at every recording session, and you could hear that in some of the performances. Once everything was placed onto the track—acoustics, samples, synth, vocals and then it was masterfully mixed by Alan Burcham (our engineer from Memphis that I truly cannot say enough good things about! He is the real deal and knows how to make a masterful sounding heavy record! Look him up at AB Recordings out of Memphis) it really started to shine, and there have been several conversations where we have pondered the idea that this might be our favorite song on the record. I think it was probably the most collaborative song written as well with most of the others being brought in pretty fleshed out by either Alan or I, depending on the song. It is really cool to see that it’s making connections with folks. Alan and I both talked about how we were trying to come from a more positive place, lyric wise, on this record and I said, ‘Well, with the exception of ‘Brought Low.’ That one is just straight up about depression and anxiety.” So, in that way, it is a lot more in line with our earlier work, lyrically. Alice In Chains has always been one of my favorite bands. I return to their old records all the time and buy everything they put out. Actually, their reunion record, “Black Gives Way to Blue,” is one of my favorite records of theirs which is really saying something! In my opinion, at least off the top of my head, AC/DC is the only other band that was able to replace such an iconic frontman and maintain an upward trajectory, creativity wise. No one can ever do what Layne did, and I feel like William Duvall does a great job of balancing what is used to being heard as AIC lead vocals and also retaining his own signature thing. Plus, Jerry (Cantrell) is doing a LOT of the lead vocals too and in some respects always has. There have been SO MANY really bad bands that were very “AIC influenced.” It always bugged the crap out of me. This is definitely not the first AIC comparison we’ve gotten on this record, and its always an honor to be compared to such a great band and NOT be one of these third-rate rip offs that have had huge “modern rock” success! At least that’s the way I see it and take it. Thank you again! The thing about AIC, Faith No More, Acid Bath/Dax Riggs, Brett Campbell, Nate Garrett, etc. that really inspires me is the way that they build the vocal melody with notes that most singers wouldn’t pick. Atypical but beautiful, and that definitely inspires me when I’m writing vocal melodies.

AS: “Brought Low” has become my favorite song on the record. I feel like I’m watching a movie in my head when I listen to it. Chuck’s vocals and conveyance are really stirring. I think he was able to put a larger narrative into the song than just the words themselves can hold. Additionally, I feel like we have always had this thing where, even if we just improv jam, we can read each other and dynamically rise and fall together, in an unspoken communication. It’s a rare bond that is referred to as “stage telepathy.” It’s pretty much a sacred thing to me, and I feel like this track really puts that part of Deadbird out there.

MMM: What does 2019 look like for Deadbird? Can we expect more live show, or does the band have other plans?

CS: I’ve been long-winded on most of these. I tried to keep the answers short, but I suck at that! Haha! I think I can do it on this one though! We are currently, actively working on nailing down some dates, weekends, etc. for getting out there and playing as much as we possibly can in 2019. I can’t honestly say what that is going to look like, but I can say that we are trying our damndest to get out there and see some folks and jam with some great bands! Also, as I mentioned earlier. All members have been coming up with material and I feel some real momentum there. We are definitely making it a top priority to not take another 10 years! In fact, I would love to see us with number IV coming out in a year or two at the most. These are our immediate goals! Also, our good friend Dave Brenner who also handles PR for the band/label has put together an incredible visual representation of “Heyday” in the video (embedded above) that he made using Frank Huang’s live footage from Migration and Alan and Tera Short’s footage of their camping trips and explorations of the abundant natural beauty that exists all around us in our home state of Arkansas. He is going to be making another video for us for another track off “III,” and it should be ready at the first of the year. It is not lost on us that we are in a very special position by being on the mighty 20 Buck Spin and that the record has been received well. We want to take this momentum and run with it! See you in 2019!

AS: We’re looking to 2019 to set things on fire! We’re already writing new material. We’re looking forward to playing more live shows and festivals (Hollar!) We’re looking forward to any and every way we can continue to collaborate with 20 Buck Spin, as well as Dave with Gridfailure/Earsplit, who just wizard’d our first official music video. Deadbird is fired up to collaborate with friends and artists to create output this year and beyond. We really want to put out a split release with our friends in Seahag, because they rule!

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