Body Count – Bloodlust (Century Media Records, 31 March 2017)
Some of our younger readers may recognize Ice-T as the curmudgeonly old guy in the “It’s Lemonade” commercials, or maybe they’ll recall his stints as a reality tv star (here and here). Perhaps he’ll even seem familiar from his portrayal of a police officer on Law & Order: SVU. But before he was gracing screens small and big (and by the way, his acting career has included roles as cops dating back more than a quarter-century), the man born as Tracy Marrow in New Jersey (and then raised in the Crenshaw district of Los Angeles) made quite a name for himself as a hugely influential part of the music industry.
Known primarily as one of the innovators who helped to shape the gangster rap genre, with songs like “6 ‘N the Morning,” he later formed the group Body Count with some high school friends who shared an affinity for hard rock music — introducing the band on a self-titled track on his 1991 album O.G. Original Gangster before they came out with a full-length self-titled album the following year.
They have been heavily influenced by fellow Californian contemporaries in the worlds of thrash (like Slayer) and especially crossover (like Suicidal Tendencies) — but for years I’ve seen a lot of negativity expressed towards these guys within the so-called “metal community,” from some of its more closed-minded individuals. Whether that’s a refusal to acknowledge rap or hip hop artists as genuine musicians, or a xenophobic reaction to a perceived “outsider” tresspassing into the “scene” — well, Ice-T‘s spoken-word intro to the original “Body Count” song can be applicable in both directions: “You know, as far as I’m concerned, music is music. I don’t look at it as rock or R&B, all that kind of stuff, I just look at it as music. […] But I do what I like, I happen to like rock ‘n roll. And I feel sorry for anybody who only listens to one form of music.”
Obituary – Ten Thousand Ways to Die (Relapse Records, 14 October 2016)
Obituary – Obituary (Relapse Records, 17 March 2017)
One of the originators of the foundational Tampa, Florida death metal scene, formed well over 30 years ago (and using their current name since back in 1988) with three of the original members — brothers John Tardy (vocals) and Don Tardy (drums) and guitarist Trevor Peres — continuously part of the line-up ever since, surely you — visitor to a website devoted to metal music — know Obituary, right? And if I told you they had a new single available with two songs (one of which can’t be found anywhere else) that also includes basically a whole live album worth of bonus tracks, AND that they followed that with a brand-new full-length album that easily stands up among the band’s decades-long discography, what more do you need from me aside from links where you can go and buy these new releases? (See the bottom of this page, below the videos and above the Bandcamp players. Also check below that, for information on the band’s tour dates over the next few days, including a stop in Pittsburgh TONIGHT!)
But I know not everyone out there is a lifelong death metal enthusiast. I’ll readily admit that I myself listen to the genre far less than many other styles of metal, and a main reason for that is that so many of the bands all sound alike and the sound of the music often seems stagnant and stale. But every so often something comes along where the band clearly is doing everything the right way — and with the rare stability and consistency Obituary has enjoyed over all these years, they certainly exemplify that. So I’ll assume that if you’re still with me, you aren’t already a huge fan of the band BUT perhaps curious enough to keep reading this far. Great, so here we go …
All right, people. Today we’re going to kick it old school.
Please accept my apologies for such a lame introduction, but honestly it’s all I have the energy for right now. After a busy weekend that was capped off with watching the Penguins seal a Stanley Cup victory late last night, I barely managed about three hours of sleep.
So anyway, here’s what I’ve got for you: a pair of newly reissued classics by two bands who — while I definitely wouldn’t call either of them unknown or obscure — have never seemed to achieve the level of recognition that they each seem to deserve …
Barren Heir – Tired Turns (self-released, 03 May 2016)
Stone Machine Electric – Sollicitus es Veritatem (self-released, 17 May 2016)
Hey people! Happy Cuatro de Mayo! I’ve got another pair of albums to share with you today, and I won’t waste any of your time getting to the part where we talk about them. Both are brand new (the first one came out yesterday, the second can be pre-ordered now and will be released in two weeks), both are self-released and self-promoted, and both are absolutely deserving of your attention. Oh, and each of them happens to be just five tracks long, but by serving up songs that average between nine and twelve minutes, both of these bands have quite considerately ensured that you get your money’s worth!
EDITOR’S NOTE: as some of you may have noticed, I put out an open call for writers a short while back when I updated this website’s contact page. That offer still stands — anyone who might have something to contribute, please feel free to get in touch! Today I’m posting an article that was sent to me regarding Anthrax/S.O.D. guitarist (and perennial VH1 personality) Scott Ian. Please enjoy!
Fatality – Psychonaut (self-released, 28 June 2013)
Hey, guys and gals! Remember Fatality? I first introduced you to this cool Canadian thrash band last summer when they were holding a contest, but at the same time I wrote a few words about their 2011 T.F.E.S. EP. That three-song release is still available to download for free (I’ll toss the Bandcamp widget at the bottom of this post), and the title track (“Thrash Fuck Eat Sleep”) is still one of the catchiest pieces of thrash metal I’ve heard in ages.
Anyway, the guys have a brand new album out now — they released Psychonaut two months ago, and since then they’ve been jaunting all across the United States and Canada on what they’re calling the “Towards Disastour”. (It’s a play on words, because there’s a song on the new record called “Towards Disaster”. Funny, right? These guys are just full of hilarity — just check out vocalist Spencer Le Von‘s ongoing tour blog over at Dead Rhetoric, or his series of Backseat Podcasts, or the band’s blog which he occasionally updates “with fervent apathy”. Seriously, check that shit out.)
The Towards Disastour tour is coming to a close tonight — Wednesday 28 August 2013 — with a stop in Pittsburgh, PA. Readers who live nearby are highly encouraged to come on out to Howlers in Bloomfield tonight. The show will also feature local thrash/traditional heavy metal greats Vermithrax and the NWOBHM-flavored Lady Beast (see full details about the show here). If you need more convincing than that (or if you live somewhere far away and won’t be able to go see the band in person tonight), keep on reading and I’ll tell you a little more about the new album Psychonaut.
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.
Six Questions with Steve Kaczynski (guitar) and Aaron Kaczynski (vocals) of Jericho Theory
by Mrs. Valley of Steel
Here I am again, writing another Person or Persons Unknown about another Pittsburgh band member, but this time I decided to change things up a bit. This time I am focusing on two guys actually: Steve Kaczynski and his son Aaron.
While I have never really had too much interaction with Steve in the past, I have seen their joint band Jericho Theory and was impressed with the chemistry and talent they both posses. I must admit, doing this particular article was one of the main reasons for starting these interviews. In truth, I have known Aaron for a while now, and I’ve liked him from the first time I met him. He’s got an infectious enthusiasm that you couldn’t fake if you tried. I have gotten to know him better through this journey of Facebook messages, attending shows together, and also attending shows that his bands have played. I am not sure if I have ever met a more honest and caring person in our music scene. He is that guy that knows all your songs, and knows what shows you’re playing; he’s the kind of fan that makes playing in a band in Pittsburgh worth it. I don’t even think people realize what a positive and caring member of this circle he really is. He has a way of making shows I attend with him more fun — even with my weird habit of buying him a PBR at least once a show — it’s more a level of comfort and happiness when I know he’ll be attending a show. He’s kind of turned into an unofficial little brother for the husband and me, and listening to him tell me at least once during each show that this is his favorite band or his favorite song makes me happier then I could ever state — because his influence has actually made me want to be a better fan.
So with that, I figured that this kid with his infectious nature and love of music had to have an amazing musical role model just like I did. Now that I have the ability to figure that out, I was on a mission to do so — hence the reason for this interview, so I could see if my inkling about him was correct. I am very proud to call Aaron a friend, and I hope after reading this you’ll want to be friends with him and his dad too, and I hope it will make you want to see them in action this Saturday, March 30th, at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
Six Questions with Grisly Amputation/Vulture Guitarist Gene Fikhman
by Mrs. Valley of Steel
My second Person or Persons Unknown is with Gene Fikhman, guitarist for Grisly Amputation and Vulture (one of my personal favorite bands EVER), horror and gore movie enthusiast, and all around cool and collected kind of guy. I must admit that I don’t know Gene very well, but in my personal interactions with him it has always seemed like he was the type of person who knew lots of information once you scratched the surface. I’ve had a lot of men in my life that are like this — in fact, I am married to one — and it’s been my personal experience that you are never disappointed when you get to know these kinds of guys. They are usually extremely intelligent, full of useless knowledge, helpful in all kinds of situations and hell to play trivia against. This is what made me want to interview him, not about just GrisAmp or Vulture, but about him personally so I could see if I was correct and I think you’ll see from this interview that I wasn’t disappointed. I hope you won’t be, either.
Hello, friends. Regular visitors to this website have surely noticed that recently the volume of writing I am putting out there has significantly decreased. I apologize for that. But it hasn’t been the result of laziness, I assure you. I’ve been getting myself involved with a few other things — as I keep alluding to in several new posts over the past few weeks — and finally I want to let you know about one of those.
So, I have been asked to join the Pittsburgh-based record label The Innervenus Music Collective to help out with their PR and publicity. It’s a pretty exciting opportunty for me — first of all, as a writer I’ve been working with a variety of PR people and representatives from other labels, so I understand what’s involved, and it’s cool to be getting some experience from the other direction now. But even more than that, now I get to work directly with a group of people who do so much to support our local music scene — between planning shows and giving away the Iron Atrocity compilations, not to mention releasing albums from some really talented bands (Vulture, Invader, Fist Fight in the Parking Lot — just to name a few examples that I had written about last year)!
And so this new position has been using up a lot of my free time recently, mostly because we’re gearing up to put out two CDs in February: the debut full-length by grindcore/death dealers Grisly Amputation, and a self-titled EP by death-thrash-groove-sludge-core band Lycosa. I’ve been sending out promo materials to a whole slew of websites and magazines, so we should start seeing some reviews trickle in shortly, but I figure I wouldn’t really be doing my job (EITHER job – as a writer OR a publicist!) if I didn’t also inform you about the releases here on Valley of Steel!