Wretch – Wretch (2016)

WretchWretch (Bad Omen Records, 26 August 2016)

 

From the instant I first heard 2008’s Conqueror, I’ve been a huge fan of Indianan doom titans The Gates of Slumber. Certainly one of the greatest highlights of running this website was getting the opportunity to chat with that group’s founder, guitarist and vocalist Karl Simon, back in 2013 — and then a few days later actually meeting him and bassist Jason McCash in person before their incredible performance at the Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh. Tragically, the following year would see the loss of iconic bassist McCash, and a grieving Simon decided to put the band permanently on hold.

Since that time, though, he seems to have felt the need to continue expressing himself musically, and with the help of bassist Bryce Clarke and drummer Chris Gordon (who has done previous tours of duty with both TGoS and fellow Indianapolitans Devil to Pay) formed a new trio named for his previous band’s final album, 2011’s The Wretch. By last summer this new group had put together an album’s worth of material and released their self-titled debut, which happened to be one of the best things I heard last year. And now I’d like to share that record with all of you, in advance of Wretch making an appearance at The Maryland Doom Fest later this week (along with a handful of other shows — scroll down to the comments section for more details)

UPDATE 21 June 2017: all Wretch shows that were scheduled for this week have been cancelled.

 
Continue reading

Brimstone Coven – Self-titled (2014); Castle – Welcome to the Graveyard (2016)

Cover-e1403563589264

Brimstone CovenBrimstone Coven (Metal Blade Records, 05 August 2014)

 

CastlecoverDigipack300res

CastleWelcome to the Graveyard (Ván Records, 15 July 2016)

 

Good afternoon, all you fine people visiting the Valley. Things have gotten a little bit hectic around here recently — I’ll never understand what it is that makes people want to go on vacation in the summertime when it’s so gross and hot and humid outside. Given the choice, I’d rather sit in an air-conditioned office all day, and save days off for later when I really don’t feel like going. Not that much writing happens while I’m at work anyhow, I’m plenty busy enough doing my actual job, but I usually at least can spend the day listening to stuff, and jotting down some little notes that I can turn into a full article or review later. But sometimes lately I haven’t had much chance to even think, let alone formulate coherent sentences.

But as always, there’s tons of stuff happening in the music world, new releases to tell you about, older stuff that you may have missed but really deserves your attention, tours kicking off that just might be coming through your city. And this will be a blend of all of those things: one band whose new album comes out next month, and who started a tour (that will last pretty much all summer long!) just last week; another band who released an excellent album two years ago but somehow we never got around to sharing it with you, and who will be joining the first band for a handful of those shows in a few weeks. So keep on reading, you’ll hear some great music, and the full set of dates for each band will be listed down below in the comments …

 

Continue reading

Six Feet Under – Crypt of the Devil (2015), Graveyard Classics IV (2016)

SixFeetUnder-CryptoftheDevil

Six Feet UnderCrypt of the Devil (Metal Blade Records, 05 May 2015)

 

Six Feet Under - Graveyard Classics IV

Six Feet UnderGraveyard Classics IV: The Number of the Priest (Metal Blade Records, 27 May 2016)

 

Okay, here’s my story. About fifteen or sixteen years ago, the file-sharing software Napster had hit its prime. The MP3 file format had been around for a few years, and it was a revolutionary new way to store and transfer digital audio due to the way it compressed data, which meant that over a relatively decent dial-up connection, it became possible to download a song in a matter of several minutes rather than hours. But coinciding with the rise of the Napster service, cable or DSL internet services were becoming increasingly widespread among household users — and while these broadband connections couldn’t compare with the direct lines found in larger businesses or colleges (or even with the high-speed options available in homes today), this increased upload and download speeds exponentially: now (depending on the speed of the specific peer-to-peer connection), that same MP3 file could usually be downloaded in less time than it would take you to listen to the song it contained. There was still plenty of technological advances yet to come, to the point where you can now go to Bandcamp and download an entire album in about thirty seconds or less, but compared with the way things had been for years prior, this was a pretty amazing development.

At that time, I was just into my early twenties, and very eager to learn about all the music that was out there for me to discover. No longer limited to what was available on the radio or MTV, there was a whole new world now accessible with just a few keystrokes and mouse clicks. And so I set out to fill my ears with everything I possibly could. Wikipedia was still in its infancy then, and the Encyclopaedia Metallum had not yet been launched, but I remember finding an invaluable source of information at the now-defunct CDNow.com — which, at the time, was basically the music store equivalent of Amazon.com, who was still primarily involved in selling only books. CDNow had fairly extensive biographical information for most of the artists whose music they sold, and also had an excellent system of recommendations — a series of rabbit holes through which I spend many, many hours wandering. Between all of that online research, and sometimes just stumbling upon random things in the course of conducting Napster searches, I had started to amass quite a sizable library of music, in an ever-broadening range of styles.

The point of all this is that at some time — I guess it was probably around early 2001 — I happened upon a death metal version of Dead Kennedys‘ “California Über Alles” by a band called Six Feet Under, which I thought was well-done, in a somewhat amusing, tongue-in-cheek kind of way. As it turns out, just before this (specifically, in October 2000), the band had released an album called Graveyard Classics which was entirely made up of cover versions of old-school rock, punk, and metal songs — so naturally when I tried searching for more of their material, these were the songs that popped up most often: “Sweet Leaf,” “In League with Satan,” and so on. At the time I didn’t know anything about Six Feet Under, although I did learn that it had first launched as a side project of Chris Barnes who had been the vocalist for Cannibal Corpse. Now that was a band I was at least somewhat familiar with, as a high school classmate had introduced me to their highly disturbing brand of extreme metal back in the early- or mid-90s. Anyway, given that limited amount of information, and the selection of songs I had been finding available for download (for what it’s worth, I later did end up buying a copy of Graveyard Classics), the natural conclusion I drew at that time was that apparently Six Feet Under was essentially the Me First and the Gimme Gimmes of death metal …

I don’t remember exactly when, but eventually I learned the full story behind the band — that they do have original material as well, and that Barnes had decided to shift all his energy here after being expelled from Cannibal Corpse following their first few albums (and not long after forming this side project), for reasons that vary depending on which version of the story you hear, but which may have included being more interested in marijuana than in being seriously committed to the band. Whether there’s any truth to that could be debated endlessly, but I’ve always found it a bit peculiar that there might have been an issue with someone’s seriousness when it comes to membership in a band whose lyrics and titles were so offensive that it was almost cartoonish, and whose artwork was so absurdly graphic that their albums were normally sold mostly (or even entirely) covered with a plain cardboard sleeve. But anyway, none of that is really relevant here — we’re here to discuss Six Feet Under, who have always seemed to (at least at some level) embrace the inherent silliness of the extreme death metal genre — especially when it comes to tackling cover songs that are often, as I noted earlier, clearly intended to be at least somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

 

Continue reading

The List of 2013 Year-End Lists

Photo Collage - 2013 Shows - by Asya Yanyo

Click for full-sized image

 

Hey folks — a very Happy (Belated) New Year to all of you! 2013 definitely turned out to be an interesting year for me, with lots of big changes, new projects, new responsibilities, etc., but an unfortunate side-effect of some of that was (as you’ve surely noticed) that the amount of time I’d been spending writing really tapered off as the year went on, to the point where I didn’t post
anything here for the last few months! Well, as you may have seen, I’ve started writing reviews of some new 2014 releases — and as time allows I promise I will also be sharing plenty of older stuff I’ve missed writing about, because believe me there has been a TON worth sharing!

But more on that later. As I started doing last year, I’ve once again put together a collection of various people’s “best of” lists from 2013. Admittedly I sort of got a late start on this (I didn’t even put out the open invitation until after most websites had already finished with publishing all their year-end stuff), but several people have answered the call and contributed some really interesting lists that you’ll want to check out…

 

Continue reading

Person or Persons Unknown: Six Questions with Lycosa Guitarist “Tree”

personorpersons-newlogo

 

Six Questions with Lycosa Guitarist “Tree

by Asya Yanyo

 

So my next Person or Persons Unknown interview subject is someone I did not know very well before I decided to ask him for an interview, but I suppose that was the point of these: to shed some light on people not very many people knew much about. This one definitely qualifies. I first officially met Tree when his band Lycosa was having their Innervenus dual-release show with Grisly Amputation. Over the course of meeting all these new people, I would say that I am constantly surprised at how warm and friendly they are — which is a vast contrast to the mood and feel of the music that they play. No one surprised me quite as much as Tree — he’s sweet and kind and, just like my husband, you sometimes have a hard time hearing him because he really doesn’t talk all that loud (when he talks at all!). I have since gotten to know him slightly more speaking to him via Facebook messages and seeing him out at shows, and I am happy to now call him a friend. I hope you guys will find him as interesting as I do, and that you’ll check out Lycosa — maybe even venture out to Kent, Ohio, this weekend for a mini road trip to check them out. The band is great on CD, but even better live! Take it from me, it would be worth the drive from Pittsburgh.

 
Continue reading

The Huge List of 2012 Year-End Lists!

Well, friends, here we find ourselves in the waning moments of 2012. It’s been an interesting, eventful year that’s had lots of high and low points — a ton of excellent new music has been released and quite a few brand-new bands have emerged that I’d fully expect to be making some serious waves in the near future.

One of the best things about 2012, for me personally, was that I found myself (and my wife) going to lots more shows than in recent years, and as a result I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of new people — as well as starting to take a way more active role in the local music scene.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I had a suggestion from one of those people I’ve gotten to know in the past year (I won’t say who — he said he preferred not to be given credit for the idea, although I will say that it’s somebody who contributed to this). The idea was to collect top-ten lists from various folks in the Pittsburgh metal community.

So I put out an open invitation for any musicians or other people who are involved in the scene in some way — I was looking for anything, whether it was the traditional “Top Ten Albums” or something totally off-the-wall like someone’s ten favorite sandwiches they ate during the year. Really, the only rules were that it had to be a list, and involve something from 2012.

 
Continue reading

Out Today: Power Theory – An Axe to Grind

 

Power TheoryAn Axe to Grind (29 June 2012, Pure Steel Records)

 
So who out there is heading out to the Warriors of Metal Open Air Festival today (or tomorrow, or both days)?

Well, I suppose if you were going today, you’d be there already. But I dunno, maybe you’re heading out later in the afternoon, or maybe you’re catching up on the latest Valley of Steel updates in between bands or something…

Myself, although I’ve been reporting about it for months, unfortunately I’m stuck here at work, which is pretty shitty because it sounds like it’s going to be an awesome time! (Although the heat and humidity are forecasted to be pretty brutal this weekend — hell, when I left home at 5:30 this morning the air was already difficult to breathe — so anyone who’s attending, have fun, but be sure to drink lots of water!)

Although it sucks I’ll be stuck inside a boring office all day with no throngs of screaming metalheads (and no alcohol), at least I can try to make myself feel better by listening to some heavy tunes. No matter how high I turn the volume on this computer, I know a pair of headphones will never compare to a huge stack of speakers on an outdoor stage, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Anyway, when I was trying to decide exactly what I should be blasting into my ears today, the perfect choice suddenly became obvious: the brand new Power Theory album! Not only is German label Pure Steel Records releasing An Axe to Grind today, but the band will be celebrating that release when they take the stage at WOM this evening!

Maybe I won’t be there to see it live, but I can at least experience it vicariously through the studio version — and for all those readers out there who are also unable to make it to the Frontier Ranch in Pataskala Ohio, I’ll tell you where you can hear some Power Theory too, and where you can get your own copy of this album.

 
Continue reading