Well folks, here we are, starting another new year. 2016 was quite an eventful one, both on a personal level (Valley of Steel headquarters has relocated within the past few months! — which is why we’ve been so quiet for a little while; we’ve been hella busy between finding a place to move to, moving there, getting settled in, etc. — although for those who may be worried: we’re still in a valley in a former industrial area outside Pittsburgh, so the website title is still accurate, it just happens to be the valley of a different river than our former location), as well as on a sociocultural level (politics, both domestic and foreign, has really been a mess lately, hasn’t it??).
Of course, like every year, tons of great music got released in 2016 as well — and like every year, I’ve failed to write about everything I’ve wanted to share with you folks (or even half of it). We’ll be diving back into the reviewing and sharing of new (and some fairly not-so-new) music very soon. But today, I’d like to hit a few other items as we briefly glance over the year that was…
at The Smiling Moose, 1306 E. Carson St., Pittsburgh (South Side) PA 15203
21+ only | 10:00 | $10
Tickets are on sale NOW at this link… OR you can WIN a pair of tickets FREE, courtesy of Steel Bridge Promotions and Valley of Steel! Keep on reading to learn more about the show and to enter for your chance to win … Continue reading →
After a long holiday weekend full of fireworks and partying (and, perhaps, checking out a bunch of bands Sunday night), surely the last thing anyone needs would be ANOTHER show Monday night — when all of us will already have a tough enough time dragging ourselves back to work the next morning as it is. Especially one that features a whopping THREE FOUR(!!) co-headliners (any one of which would be a huge deal if they came to town on their own) who are pretty much guaranteed to smash your brains to bits. And when you throw in two perennial local favorites, plus a special holiday menu of vegetarian fare available from Onion Maiden? Yeah.
Anyway, so Steel Bridge Promotions are bringing all of that to you on Independence Day, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this ends up with buildings exploding just like in the movie of the same name. This will surely be a spectacle not to be missed. Pre-sale tickets are available right now at their Big Cartel page… but for the next two weeks, you can WIN a pair of tickets for FREE, courtesy of Steel Bridge Promotions and Valley of Steel! Keep on reading to learn more…
Lord Mantis – Death Mask (Profound Lore Records, 29 April 2014)
Lord Mantis – NTW (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!
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?
Anicon – Aphasia (self-released 06 May 2015; cassette via Acteon Records, 15 September 2015)
It’s Friday and the work week has ended and I’m all ready to kick off the weekend by heading out to the Slaves BC record release show! For those of you who aren’t close enough to Pittsburgh to make it here this evening, though, I’ve got something for you to keep yourself occupied — a band I first discovered when I saw them at another Slaves show…
About two and a half years ago, I went to see them with another excellent local band, Storm King, at this rinky-dink little dive in Pittsburgh called Kopec’s. The performance area was more like the living room of a run-down old apartment upstairs from the bar — a cool little space, which has been sadly missed ever since they stopped hosting shows later that same year. Anyway, that night was a special treat because a third band also played, whom I was not previously familiar with, but who definitely grabbed my attention and impressed everyone in the room with their energy and high-quality musicianship: the New York black metal group Anicon. Here is a video from their set that night, to give you a taste of what’s in store.
As one does when seeing a really good band from out-of-town play, I remember wanting to patronize their merch table, but as I recall they only had cassette tapes for sale, and since this is the twenty-first century, I had to leave empty-handed. Well, fast-forward to mid-2015, and I discovered that Anicon had put out a new EP. They said they had recorded it themselves in their practice space, intending for it to serve as a demo for a full-length due out sometime in 2016. But practice space demo or not, “Aphasia” still landed a spot on my list of last year’s best releases. Keep on reading (or just skip the next bit and head down to the part where you get to hear it for yourself) and I’m sure you’ll understand why.
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.