Heron – A Low Winter’s Sun (2018)

HeronA Low Winter’s Sun (Sludgelord Records, 13 April 2018)

 

Ever notice how many really great bands there are, who are named after birds? I mean, just off the top of my head: Vulture, Cormorant, Mockingbird, Wren… and I guess to a lesser extent, Counting Crows? Anyway, it’s time to add Vancouver (BC)’s Heron to that list.

Surprisingly graceful for their size, as well as extremely stealthy and patient hunters, the heron is already no stranger to cover art (both dead and alive*), so it totally makes sense for a metal band to use that name. Just released yesterday, Heron‘s debut album is one of the first few put out by the relatively new Sludgelord Records, and it’s one I’d highly recommend you check out.

 

Continue reading

Tombs & Hivelords On Tour / Win FREE Tickets For Pittsburgh Show!!

wp-1462788958590.jpeg

 

Tombs and Hivelords Announce Spring Tour Dates

 

Hey folks! I’ve got some quick tour announcements to pass along to you… starting this weekend there will be a handful of northeastern U.S. dates featuring Philadelphia’s blackened experimentalists Hivelords (whom you may remember from our review of their 2013 album Cavern Apothecary) and Brooklyn’s post-black luminaries Tombs (whom we’ve mentioned before — nearly four years ago — when they came to Pittsburgh with 16 and we did an interview with the drummers of local openers Molasses Barge and Vulture).

Since then, both bands have undergone line-up changes — Hivelords now features two new guitarists (including Evan Void, formerly half of that band’s frequent tourmates Sadgiqacea), and Tombs has replaced some of its members on at least two occasions (also, coincidentally, including new guitarist Evan Void) resulting in essentially a wholesale overhaul for that band.

They’ve both also put out new material with their respective new line-ups: Hivelords‘ album Tapered Limbs of a Human Star came out in 2015 via Anthropic Records, while Relapse Records released Tombs‘ new EP All Empires Fall in early April this year.

And now, these two bands will be performing together on a series of dates, the details of which will be shared with you as you continue reading below. Further down, we’re also including the remainder of Hivelords‘ currently announced dates through mid-summer; and finally, details specific to both bands’ stop in Pittsburgh next Saturday, including your chance to WIN FREE TICKETS to that show!

 

Continue reading

Lord Mantis – Death Mask (2014), NTW (2016)

Mantiscover

Lord MantisDeath Mask (Profound Lore Records, 29 April 2014)

 

Lord-Mantis_NTW_Cover2200

Lord MantisNTW (New Density Records, 29 April 2016)

 

In early 2015, the whole world was shocked and saddened to learn that Chicagoan misanthropic miscreants Indian were calling it quits. Maybe “the whole world” is a sight exaggeration, but for myself and everyone I know, it was difficult news — especially since it came just a year after the band had released what was unquestionably their best album to date.

But then that blow was softened a bit almost immediately after, when another huge announcement shook the metal world: that closely-related Chicago band Lord Mantis had parted ways with some of its members, leaving only founding drummer Bill Bumgardner and Andrew Markuszewski who had been the lead guitarist for nearly all of that band’s releases. Augmenting this newly depleted line-up would be most of the folks who had just left Indian — in addition to Bumgardner who had also been playing drums in that band for years, ex-Indian guitarist Will Lindsay (also a member of Anatomy of Habit) would be joining on bass, and former Indian guitarist/vocalist Dylan O’Toole (who has also appeared as part of the Wrekmeister Harmonies ensemble) would now be handling Lord Mantis vocal duties. And finally, rounding out the line-up by joining Markuszewski on guitar, Scott Shellhamer of yet another great Chicago band, American Heritage.

This shakeup didn’t come as a huge surprise to anyone who’d been paying attention to the goings-on surrounding Mantis; even in the press release for their last album, 2014’s Death Mask, it mentioned rumblings of turbulence among the band’s members at that time. And the new additions seemed like a perfectly logical choice, as not only had these guys all known each other and been friends for years, but Lindsay and O’Toole had each made contributions to the band previously, including guest appearances on Death Mask.

But now, finally, the result of all of these moving pieces has come to fruition, as the first recording by the new Lord Mantis is being released tomorrow — exactly two years (to the day) after Death Mask, the band’s own New Density will unleash the EP NTW. In this article we’ll take a look at the new EP as well as the album that preceded it. And for those who would like to learn more about how all these changes have affected the band from the perspective of its members, don’t miss this interview where they’ve answered some questions provided by members of Slaves BC!

 

Continue reading

Lord Mantis Interviewed By Slaves BC!!

3540280208_logo

Lord Mantis interviewed by Slaves BC

 

So tomorrow — Friday the 29th — the new Lord Mantis EP NTW will be released, the band’s first recorded material since their big line-up shakeup (and merger with Indian) last year. You can read all about those changes, and take a look at that new EP as well as their previous album, 2014’s Death Mask, all right here. But beyond just reading about my thoughts and reactions to this new and old material, perhaps you might be interested in learning more about what’s been going on with the band — in their own words?

 

Continue reading

Slaves BC – All is Dust and I am Nothing (2016)

a1663082985_10

Slaves BCAll is Dust and I am Nothing (Veritas Vinyl, 16 February 2016)

 


 
Whoops, I guess I forgot to say “Spoiler Alert”…

Seriously, though, that was my initial reaction on hearing this full album for the first time. I know it’s still very early in the year, and there will be plenty of high-quality releases yet to come (and I’ve even heard a few good ones already), so it’s ridiculous to make such a proclamation at this point. But I can assure you this record will definitely end up in my Top 16 list, probably very close to the top of that list. Because it’s that good.

 

Continue reading

Aethyr – Corpus (2015)

AETHYR - Corpus cover art 425w

AethyrCorpus (Cimmerian Shade Recordings, 19 February 2015)

 

Hello, Readers, and welcome to yet another paradisiac Monday. I could bore you all with another long intro filled with whining about being stuck back at work again after another too-short weekend, but today I’m choosing not to. Instead, I would like to pass along with you some interesting food for thought — something that was published last week, but I came across this morning on the bus when I saw that our fellow metal journalists at Broken Amp had shared it on Facebook. This article on Last Rites entitled “Heavy Metal in the Modern Age” discusses the role of the Internet in terms of the music industry — not just as the instrument that killed most of the previous infrastructure and completely transformed the existing business models, but as a tool that has leveled the playing field and removed many of the obstacles that were in place for bands, while offering far greater access and connectivity to fans. Much of the article, though, also relates to the changing role of the media outlets in this new superconnected world. Too often, says the author, websites are so busy clambering over each other to be the first to jump onto the bandwagon of the Next Big Thing that they forget to take the time to enjoy the music.

I can relate to a lot of what is said here: this new “level playing field” environment certainly lends itself to an overwhelming amount of materials available out there, and the absence of some of the former obstacles does result in a much wider range in terms of the quality of what ends up getting disseminated out there. But as I’ve stated in the past, I don’t mind wading through all the junk that exists, because the feeling of unexpectedly coming across something truly amazing more than makes up for it. Out of necessity — since this website is mostly a single-person operation with some rare exceptions — it takes a lot of time to go through everything that comes my way, so I hardly ever find myself playing the get-it-written-as-far-as-possible-before-the-release-date game. Rather, (as I’ve occasionally noted when writing about various albums) I sometimes will spend months (or longer!) enjoying something before I actually get the opportunity to write about it. But I don’t look at this as being negative; just because something has already passed its release date doesn’t mean it no longer needs to be promoted, or that it can no longer find its way to an appreciative audience’s ears. So this article has made me feel like my approach is somewhat vindicated. In any case, I will continue to share with you Readers as I come across things I feel are worth sharing.

For example, I’ve got something for you today from a Russian doom metal band called Aethyr. Here again is the link to that Last Rites article; you can bookmark it for later or you can check it out now and come back when you’ve finished. Either way, you won’t want to miss this….

 

Continue reading

Anatomy of Habit – Ciphers + Axioms (2014)

a4255284748_10

Anatomy of HabitCiphers + Axioms (Relapse Records, 10 November 2014)

 

Good afternoon, how is everyone out there? Myself, I’ve just finished my third cup of coffee (or was it the fourth?) and somehow I still feel like I could nod off any second. I did manage to sleep at least five hours last night — more than usual — which is a good thing. For a while, I’d been concerned I’d start seeing hallucinations.

Now, I’m just wondering if I’m hearing hallucinations. Yeah, I know, that was terrible. Sorry, but I just don’t have the energy to come up with a decent segue today. If you have a problem with it, you can write your own reviews.

Anyway, we’ll pretend that was a really smooth transition, and that brings me to what I wanted to share with you today. Again I’ve dipped into my extensive to-do list, and come up with this delightful little album that Relapse Records had unleashed on the world late last year. A bit strange, but it quickly grew on me, and I’ve come to really enjoy it a lot over the past several months. I’ve got a feeling that maybe some of you will, too.

 

Continue reading

Person or Persons Unknown: Six Questions with Slaves BC Bassist Jason Cantu

Hey there, folks! I hope your week is going well. If it’s not, I guess you can be glad that it’s almost over! Personally, I’m just about totally recovered from last weekend’s Winter’s Wake festival, and sometime soon I’ll probably even start writing again.

In the meantime, please enjoy this BRAND NEW feature which will be running periodically here on Valley of Steel — courtesy of the lovely and wonderful person to whom I am fortunate enough to be married!

 
Person or Persons Unknown

Six Questions with Slaves BC Bassist Jason Cantu

by Mrs. Valley of Steel

 
Greetings and salutations! Many of you know me, or have met me, or at least know of me. My name is “Mrs. Valley of Steel.” I’ve been married to “Mr. Valley of Steel” for about five years now — tomorrow [01 March] is our five-year anniversary, in fact.

I’m sure most of you have seen his many posts about shows that are occurring in the Pittsburgh area. Well, he doesn’t just post about them; he actually attends — we both do, actually. [Editor’s note: at least, as frequently as physically possible!] Well, through the course of attending these shows, we’ve met some great people and it occurred to me that you (the general public) might like to hear a little bit more about these interesting people, the bands that they are currently in, and what brought them to the musical path that they are traveling down.

I will be doing these on occasion: they will always be six questions, just enough to give you a sense of the person and their tastes (as opposed to the same old stale band questions you’re always reading). So I hope that you will join me on this new journey in getting to know these wonderful and unique people, and — who knows — maybe you’ll find a new band that may change your life, too!

My first “Person or Persons Unknown” interview is with Jason Cantu, the bassist for Slaves BC, whom we have already seen three times this year. Jason, while just one part of this great band, has an infectious enthusiasm that really enhances their live show. His love and support of music in general is also infectious, and it has inspired me to do these interviews.

Everyone should have a friend like this: someone who’s always posting about records you’ve forgotten about, or wearing t-shirts you would kill for (specifically, I am referring to the Ten Years After shirt he sometimes wears), and someone who is supportive of not only his own band but all local and non-local bands. He is the type of fan that makes you want to be a better fan, too.

Check out his band Slaves BC on Bandcamp, and then come out to see them FOR FREE this weekend [Saturday, 02 March] at Kopec’s Bar. You will not be disappointed.

 
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

What To Do In Pittsburgh Tonight (20 November 2012)

Hey folks, what’s up??

It’s Tuesday, but it’s also Thanksgiving week, so I know a bunch of you are off work or school this week (or you conveniently got real sick all of a sudden) — and for those of us who still DO have to work tomorrow, everyone knows we’re just going to slack off most of the day and then leave early anyhow, right?

Either way, if you’ll be around the Pittsburgh area tonight, you’ll have plenty of choices if you feel like getting your holiday celebrating started early!

Check it out:

 
—————————————————-
Continue reading