Black Anvil – Hail Death (2014), As Was (2017)

Black AnvilHail Death (Relapse Records, 27 May 2014)

Black AnvilAs Was (Relapse Records, 13 January 2017)

 
Recently I was reminiscing about the last Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh, partly because we’ve been reporting the news about this summer’s Migration Fest which will also be taking place in this area, but also because we’ve just (well, a little over a month ago) hit the five year anniversary of Winter’s Wake. This also had me thinking about Black Anvil.

They’d been around for a few years by that time and had already released a pair of albums, so I’m sure I had heard a song or two at some point, or at least was vaguely aware of their existence within the realm of domestic black metal bands. But that show — which was immediately preceded by a series of “getting to know you”-style interviews I’d conducted with nearly all of the performing bands (I’d missed a couple, due to timing issues or communication breakdowns, but as I recall, Black Anvil were the only ones who had outright declined to participate in the interview process) — was the first real exposure I’d had.

I can just vaguely remember that night — this was Friday, the first of two days full of music, and they were the second-to-last band to play, after we all had been standing for hours in this cramped loft-sized space breathing in the toxic fumes rising from the nail salon down at ground level. That was the atmosphere through which the band members pushed and shoved their way, each dripping with blood, to ascend to a stage hazy and thick with fog machine discharge — and instantly exploded into a maelstrom of blackened death fury.

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Molasses Barge – S/T + Covered in Molasses (2017)

Molasses BargeMolasses Barge + Covered in Molasses (Blackseed Records, 28 July 2017)

 

So I’ve been writing about Molasses Barge basically as long as I’ve been writing about music in general. It all started way back in late 2011 when they had a few shows scheduled, and I threw together a little synopsis of my first experience seeing them perform live (earlier that year when they opened for Pentagram). This was followed by an interview with drummer Wayne Massey in 2012 (as they were about to open for Tombs and 16), and then guitarist Justin Gizzi also answered a few questions as part of our coverage leading up to the Winter’s Wake festival in 2013.

In all, these Pittsburgh-based doom-metal workhorses have appeared (at least mentioned in passing) on this website a few dozen times. And yet, as active as they are (and despite having been in existence for close to a decade now!), the band’s official recorded output thus far has consisted of one EP six years ago, plus a three-song demo a few months later. (Both of them are available to stream or download FREE at Bandcamp.) But that all changes now: this Friday they will be unleashing their stunning debut self-titled LP, and as a special added bonus (perhaps as a thank-you to all the fans who’ve been patiently waiting so long), it’ll come bundled with a second disc filled with cover songs.

 

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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.

 
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Derkéta – In Death We Meet (2015 Reissue)

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DerkétaIn Death We Meet (originally self-released 2012; remixed/remastered CD and vinyl edition Ibex Moon Records, April/December 2015)

 

Named for a goddess of death in the mythology of the fictional kingdom of Stygia (analogous to Egypt in the Hyborian era setting of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories), the band Derkéta are widely regarded as Pittsburgh’s own goddesses of death/doom metal. You remember Derkéta, don’t you? Formed almost three decades ago, active on and off throughout those years with many of the same core members rotating in and out of the line-up; released a number of demos and EPs but then finally put out their debut album in 2012?

For a quick refresher, you could get a more complete history by checking out this interview that I did with founding guitarist/vocalist Sharon Bascovsky about three and a half years ago, when the band was about to perform at the Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh.

Since that time, In Death We Meet was remastered for a vinyl release via Ibex Moon, and during that process they went ahead and polished up the recordings for a new CD version as well — which (in my opinion) was a vast improvement to the overall mix (generally sounding louder and heavier, wider and more spacious, with a more even blend of all the instruments rather than having the cymbal crashes dominating everything else) and warranted an “Honorable Mention” on my Top 15 of 2015 list.

And now — tonight, in fact — the band will be appearing in Pittsburgh once again, this time alongside the legendary Deströyer 666 at the Smiling Moose. You can find the relevant details about that right here if you happen to be in the area, but first, whether you’re planning on going to the show tonight or not, this seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to discuss In Death We Meet

 

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Gnaw – Horrible Chamber (2013)

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GnawHorrible Chamber (Seventh Rule Recordings, 15 October 2013)

 

Hello again, readers. As I’ve mentioned numerous times lately, things are still crazy busy around here, and I’ve been having some trouble finding much time for writing. But, I suffered a pretty traumatic experience this past weekend — while attending a bachelor party for a friend of mine, I found myself squished into a van with a bunch of other guys, subjected to something called “redneck hip-hop” at very a high volume. Trust me, the less said about that, the better.

But as unpleasant as that experience was, an even worse thought came to mind: I imagined a scenario in which folks didn’t have access to any good music simply because they didn’t know where to find it. That sounds like a nightmare, for sure! Now, I’m not going to pretend like I’m anybody important, or that there aren’t plenty of other places out there to learn about new music, but if my writing this helps even one person discover something that they might otherwise have missed out on, and if it saves them from listening to some other sort of rubbish, then it’s worth the effort.

Having said that, I’m pleased to bring to your attention Horrible Chamber, last fall’s sophomore full-length from the experimental/industrial/noise ensemble Gnaw.

 

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Out Tomorrow: Icy Black Metal On Waldgeflüster’s Third Album

waldgefluester_meine-fesseln

WaldgeflüsterMeine Fesseln (Bindrune Recordings, 10 January 2014)

 

This week has seen a wave of record-breaking cold all across North America, with sub-zero HIGH temperatures in some places, as well as dangerously low wind-chill factors that prompted widespread closures of schools and businesses in many areas. Those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be able to stay home under several blankets could be seen bundled in as many layers as possible while still being able to walk, in a vain attempt to protect against the freezing winds. The point I’m trying to make is, it’s been pretty damn cold around here.

And so, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate time than this, for a new album to be released by the German one-man black metal contingent Waldgeflüster (just that name — which approximately translates to “whispering woods” — evokes images of icy cold darkness). The full-length due out tomorrow (10 January) from Bindrune Recordings will be the third overall from the project, which consists chiefly of a guy called Winterherz (“Winter Heart”). Comprising seven tracks in all, and lasting just over an hour, new album Meine Fesseln (“My Shackles”) also includes contributions from a variety of other musicians, including Austin Lunn of Panopticon (mandolin, vocals, and guitar solos) and Johan Becker of Austaras (violin), among others. Incidentally, Johan has also appeared on Panopticon recordings, and both he and Austin happened to have guest spots on Vit‘s The Dry Season — which had just been released when I spoke with that band’s drummer prior to last year’s Winter’s Wake festival in Pittsburgh; furthermore, Johan had accompanied Vit at that performance, and shortly afterwards he mentioned to me that he was working on a few other upcoming projects at that time — which happened to be my first time hearing of Waldgeflüster. Not that any of that has any particular relevance to this review (or to anything at all); I just thought I’d share some trivia with you.

 

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VOS Videography 2013: A Mid-Year Retrospective (Part 5)

VOStube

 

6119 (East Liberty / Pittsburgh, PA), 23 February 2013

 
These videos are from Saturday’s Winter’s Wake performances.

 
The Gates of Slumber – “Bastards Born”

 
Occultation – “The Sea of Snakes and Souls”

 
Derkéta – “Rest in Peace”

 
Vattnet Viskar – Untitled (New Song) and “Intention Oblivion”

 
Molasses Barge – “Crux Influx” (New Song!)

 
Molasses Barge – “Bone Chills” (New Song!)

 
Vulture – “Coming Storm” and “Dead Sea”

 
NAVIGATION
 
Part 1 (28 December – 18 January)
Part 2 (01 – 09 February)
Part 3 (16 February)
Part 4 (22 February)
 
Part 6 (02 – 09 March)
Part 7 (10 March)
Part 8 (14 March)
Part 9 (16 March)
Part 10 (22 – 24 March)
Part 11 (28 – 29 March)
Part 12 (02 – 11 April)
Part 13 (12 – 19 April)
Part 14 (20 – 26 April)
Part 15 (04 – 05 May)
Part 16 (11 – 17 May)
Part 17 (18 – 27 May)
Part 18 (31 May – 20 June)
Part 19 (23 – 30 June)

VOS Videography 2013: A Mid-Year Retrospective (Part 4)

VOStube

 

6119 (East Liberty / Pittsburgh, PA), 22 February 2013

 
This year, Allure of the Earth‘s Winter’s Wake Festival was expanded to a two-day affair. Here are some videos from the performances on Friday.

 
GNAW – “Haven Vault”

 
Vit – “The Dry Season”

 
Vit – “The Ascension Ritual” and “Sixteen Bodies”

 
Liquified Guts – “976-BEEF”

 
Liquified Guts – “Pissing Woody Harrelson Off Wasn’t a Good Idea”

 
Meth Quarry – “Drug Melted”

 
Meth Quarry – “Crash Anthem”

 
NAVIGATION
 
Part 1 (28 December – 18 January)
Part 2 (01 – 09 February)
Part 3 (16 February)
 
Part 5 (23 February)
Part 6 (02 – 09 March)
Part 7 (10 March)
Part 8 (14 March)
Part 9 (16 March)
Part 10 (22 – 24 March)
Part 11 (28 – 29 March)
Part 12 (02 – 11 April)
Part 13 (12 – 19 April)
Part 14 (20 – 26 April)
Part 15 (04 – 05 May)
Part 16 (11 – 17 May)
Part 17 (18 – 27 May)
Part 18 (31 May – 20 June)
Part 19 (23 – 30 June)

Dendritic Arbor – Sylvan Matriarch

SylvanMatriarch

 

Dendritic ArborSylvan Matriarch (self-released, 26 March 2013)

 
Good morning, folks! What’s new with you?? I have to tell you a story about what happened to me recently, but it’s a little bit embarassing…

So I’m sure you all remember Quercus, guitarist/vocalist for that band of black metal eco-terrorists Dendritic Arbor — he and I had a conversation about his band last month when they were performing at the Winter’s Wake pre-fest show (which you can read here). As you’ll recall, there was some discussion at that time about their forthcoming release Sylvan Matriarch

Anyway, fast-forward to a couple days ago, and I got a message from Mr. Quercus, where he asked me whether I do album reviews on this website. Well. That was sort of a reality check for me — I know that I’ve been very preoccupied lately and have been writing very, very little. And what I have been posting recently has largely consisted of interviews, either conducted by myself or by someone else. But at that moment I realized, geez, you really couldn’t tell just by looking — unless you were to dig pretty deep — that reviewing music is sort of supposed to be the primary purpose of this website!

So I got my hands on a copy of Sylvan Matriarch, which is officially available today — it actually went up on Bandcamp yesterday, but tonight Dendritic Arbor will be playing a show to celebrate the release. I’ve got all the information you need about the album, the show, AND a special super-limited bundle were you can get a whole bunch of goodies for a really low price, IF you’re one of the first few people to jump on this deal!

 
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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.

 
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