Saturday, December 31, 2011

BEST SHOWS OF 2011!

"We're Motorhead and we're gonna kick your ass..."

MOTORHEAD
February 5, 2011
(Roseland - Portland, Oregon)

This wasn't the first show of the year but things got started off right when Lemmy and the boys came to town and this happened. I asked Lemmy why he stopped playing Iron Horse/Born To Lose and he said he was just never particularly crazy about that song. I told him it was one of my favorite Motorhead songs of all time and that I thought maybe he stopped playing it because he wanted to distance himself from the Hell's Angels connection. He said, "Nah, it just isn't a very good song." With all due respect, I beg to differ. Thanks to Eric Heltzer and Jason Charles for making this night happen.


KALLISTI'S BENEFIT SHOW
February 11, 2011
(Blackwater - Portland, Oregon)

This might be the coolest thing punks have done since inventing anarchy and spikey hair back in 1977. My daughter Kallisti was selected to participate in a two week service learning project in Costa Rica with her 8th grade Spanish class this year. The only problem was, airfare was expensive. So in between painting her nails and watching re-runs of Gossip Girls she came up with the brilliant idea to throw a benefit gig to help pay for the trip (yeah, like you were gonna suddenly buy a bunch of art) and local punks stepped up to contribute their time and energy to the cause. Lebenden Toten brought the message and noise (mostly noise), Arctic Flowers (who released a great 12" in 2011) and Dove Asylum delivered the melody, and Vile Horrendous Aerial Bombardment dropped their crushing guerrilla grind with homemade weapons of fast destruction. A good time was had by all and Kallisti was soon hanging with the monkeys in Costa Rica. Thanks, punks!


BUILD YOUR WEAPONS! Photo by Dopi.

VOIVOD
May 28, 2011
(The Sonar - Baltimore, Maryland)

Admittedly, the highlight of Maryland Death Fest this year was my chance meeting with Michel "Away" Langevin who was wandering through the crowd during Neurosis' set. We've been in communication for a while but never had the opportunity to chat in person and he proved to be the humble, intelligent and good-natured astronaut I always imagined him to be. Voivod's set the following day was nothing short of spectacular. Killing Technology is one of the greatest records ever recorded (in any genre) so I was especially thrilled when they blasted through Forgotten In Space, Ravenous Medicine and Tornado! Daniel Mongrain is really something to behold, playing Piggy's parts with total respect and devotion. I have no idea how he even approached those incredibly complex and angular compositions but somehow he untangled all the right parts so that the songs came alive on stage. If you squinted your eyes (or, say, drank a fifth of whiskey) you would almost believe you were watching Piggy up there! And he turned out to be a very modest and approachable dude. Another highlight was Blacky stagediving right onto our heads at the end of the set. Top notch performance from one of the greatest bands ever!

Daniel Mongrain, Jeff Tandy, K├Ârgull the Exterminator and a painfully cute metal journalist with a killer tattoo who had the good sense to clutch my left hand as it dangled perilously close to her breasts.

Another highlight of MDF was running into Paul Stanley in the pit during Funebrarum's killer set! Just kidding. Paul Stanley wasn't there. But Funebrarum's set was killer. And this happened...


DEAD CONGREGATION
May 29, 2011
(The Sonar - Baltimore, Maryland)

The Greek death mongers tell me their set at MDF was one of their worst performances ever. They should've just lied and told me it was their best because I was totally impressed and everyone I spoke to was very satisfied. It's entirely possible that drunk Americans are less demanding than our European counterparts but I tend to think these dudes just hold themselves to a higher standard because this was one of the most crushing sets of the entire weekend which is saying a lot because Cathedral, Aura Noir, Machetazo, Acid Witch, Repugnant and Cianide all delivered absolutely killer performances. Here are some photos for you:

Huggy Bear...oh boy.

Tim Call jumped onstage with Machetazo and blasted through Sex & Violence in memory of Pete Steele!

"...draped in cerecloth!!!!!"

Citizen's Arrest.

The Sons of Hades...on Gay Street.


Photo by Anna Wilson.

DOOM
May 30, 2011
(Branx - Portland, Oregon)

I approached Doom with caution when they played a reunion set at MDF this year. I was very excited to finally have the opportunity to see these seminal crusties but I haven't paid attention to them in the past decade and not all punks age like fine wines. Would they come onstage with their livers hanging off their utility belts? Would they inject their songs with modern nu-metal crunch "for the kids"? The second I saw 'em hit the stage with dreads still intact my fear was abated. They blasted through an inspired and sincere set of classics and even played a little ditty to "a woman's right to choose." They were so good in Maryland that when I returned to Portland on Monday night we drove straight from the airport to Branx and caught them again at this local all ages venue. We only caught Deathcharge's last song but it was Hangman so I was not disappointed. Then I went home and slept for 14 hours.

Photo by...who???

DANAVA/VASTUM
July 3, 2011
(East End/Saratoga - Portland, Oregon)

Weird lineup, huh? Actually this was two different events in the same day that resulted in one of the best shows of 2011. As many of you know I've been playing records at East End every last Wednesday of the month since August 2010 and only missed one month when I went to MDF in May. For those of you keeping score, that's 16 months- long enough to have a baby and watch it pop it's first tooth- so the East End crew has become something of a family to me and I was honored when they asked me to play records at their second annual block party this year. Danava was the highlight and they delivered a typically amazing set, made all the more special in that it was outdoors in the warm summer sun. The club provided unlimited beer the entire day while I worked the turntables so now imagine me stumbling through the crowd at sunset so I could make it across town to catch a death metal gig at the Saratoga. It seemed like such a good idea at the time. We got there just in time to catch the last 20 minutes of Anhedonist (probably about one song knowing those dudes) and then Oakland's Vastum hit the floor (the Saratoga don't need no stinkin' stage). I have trouble getting into their record but live it really came together, probably because of the singer's charismatic presence. Great show! Incidentally, when I become too drunk to raise my middle finger at you, please cut me off and take me home...

Photo by Anna Wilson.

Another goddamn photo by Anna Wilson. I'm glad this Nordic Queen was at my side all year!

WEREGOAT
June 2, 2011
(Blackwater - Portland, Oregon)

I already sufficiently covered this event on my blog so I'll spare you the details. All you need to know is that I planned the opening reception of Cut & Pasted, Burned & Wasted to coincide with my birthday this year and asked my pals in Weregoat to perform for the occasion. Wait until you see their upcoming LP! Daniel Desecrator, who's spectacular drawings were publicly exhibited for the first time at this event, provided the album cover art and it is definitely one of his best drawings to date. Hail to Chile! Hail to Weregoat!

"OK...I'll DO IT!!!!"

AUTOPSY
June 24, 2011
(Oakland, California)

Another event that I already provided full photographic evidence for back in June. Suffice to say, we drove 13 hours to Oakland for a private performance in the Autopsy practice room and I can now die a happy man. The following day we saw a slightly abridged set at Slaughter By The Water along with Whiplash and Nuclear Assault! Here's the set they played:


The hater of fucking humans herself. Photo by Anna. Why won't she just marry me?

ADORIOR
December 9, 2011
(Backtage Live - San Antonio, Texas)

Look, It's New Year's Eve and I'm sick of typing words. I apologize but I've already given you cretins more than you deserve. Much more. These last two picks are basically a toss up because every band that actually played at Rites of Darkness put in quite a fucking performance. It was almost as if the bands delivered their best in spite of all the ridiculous shenangigans that unfolded in the weeks leading up to the event. Dispirit, Weapon, Impetuous Ritual, Cianide, Midnight, Grave Upheaval, Anatomia, Ares Kingdom and Black Witchery all deserve to be on this list but if I have to split hairs about who impressed me the most I guess I would come down on Adorior and Inquisition. Adorior never really works for me on vinyl. I've always wanted to love 'em- mostly because they have the terrible taste to employ Paul "Unhinged" McCarroll for their artwork- but for some reason their recordings just don't do it for me. On stage they positively exploded with passion! They're way more of a traditional heavy metal band than their brilliantly disgusting artwork might suggest and on stage it was a headbangin' extravaganza of epic proportions. They also sold out of their exclusive ROD shirts which featured the Pope covered in cum and surrounded by a most horrible display of cocks. I sure hope a few of those made appearances at Christmas dinners around the world this month.

"Crush! Crush! Crush!"

INQUISITION
December 9, 2011
(Backstage Live - San Antonio, Texas)

Speaking of upsetting Christians, the first time I saw Inquisition was with Thy Infernal at a Moribund Records event back in '98 or '99 at Portland's Satyricon (which closed its doors in 2011, serving as yet another reminder of how much this year can fuck off) and they were a very different band. If my memory is accurate, they had a much thrashier black/death sound and a full band. A lot has changed since then and their recent incarnation is amazing. I still have no idea how two dudes make those sounds but they pull it off live perfectly. I'll go out on a limb and say they are currently my favorite American black metal band. And they've been battling it out in the trenches long before a lot of their goofy Yankee peers jumped on Satan's bandwagon. It's a rigidly limited act but somehow they just keep getting better.

Happy New Year! Best Wishes for 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 10!

"Let's find a darker night. Let's find a brighter light. Let's go away to some place strange. And bring back a whole new change..." Blue Cheer

SATURNALIA TEMPLE
Aion of Drakon
(Ajna Offensive/Nuclear Winter)

Here is one for the ages. These posts haven't been in any particular order but Saturnalia Temple definitely created what has become my personal favorite and most listened to record of the year. I’ve absolutely adored everything this mysterious trio has committed to vinyl from UR and the Forgotten Cults 7” to their visionary contribution to the four-way split On The Powers of the Sphinx and with Aion of Drakon they have delivered something very special indeed. These are hypnotic and intoxicating (intoxicated!) chthonic transmissions from the darkest woods of Mother North...and far beyond! Steeped in genuine occult obsession and disciplined ritual, the Saturnalians have much in common both lyrically and spiritually with the anti-cosmic framework of Dissection, replacing much of their predecessor's gore and aggression with potent hashish and incense. It seems like every time I spin this record in public (which is often) some dude with a curly mustache and a Hawkwind t-shirt inevitably asks if it is Electric Wizard. I suppose I understand that shallow comparison in the same way all black people look alike but to my untrained ears Saturnalia Temple doesn't share much in common with “stoner rock” or even most self-proclaimed doom metal, although I do hear influences from the largely overlooked early Monster Magnet demo 25...Tab (if you're only familiar with Monster Magnet's embarrassing MTV antics, do yourself a favor and seek out the earlier Glitterhouse EP and recently re-issued 25...Tab for some surprisingly muscular New Jersey drug rock). For the most part they walk an entirely different path with only incidental creative crossover. Nowhere is this more evident than on the hypnotic 11 minute title track with its bizarre analog production and the crushing closer, Fall, a triumphant ode to the Luciferian Spirit that informs their most inspired moments. I look forward to watching this band evolve over the years, especially if they can lock in a permanent drummer, and those of you with the resources to travel should be sure to catch them at Roadburn in April along with Voivod (performing Dimension Hatross in its entirety!) among many others. In a twist of fate that certainly puts satisfying closure on the year, my art for Aion of Drakon was recently selected among the best of 2011 by metal scribe Todd DePalma over at Left Hand Path. I don't generally pay much attention to what journalists/critics/anonymous interwebbers have to say about my drawings but in this case I am honored to be featured among the ranks of a few similarly devoted contemporary artists. By the way, what a year for album art! I'd say visual art absolutely trumped music in 2011. Of course I'm completely biased since I can't even tune an instrument, much less compose an actual song. Check out DePalma's complete artistic recap here. Black Magic Metal to rule again!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 9!

"The most ferociously original death metal demo of the year."
-Stephen King

GRAVE UPHEAVAL
Demo
(Abysmal Sound)

If the thrash revival a few years ago made you blush then the latest rehashed metal trend should have you squirming like a maggot: OLD SCHOOL DEATH METAL™! I feel like there should be some terrible tagline after I type those words like, “It’s back from the grave…and it doesn’t smell good.” If I had a dollar for every time some frowning youngster with a scraggly beard described his new band as “old school death metal” this year I’d probably have enough money to repair the transmission in my fucking car. “Occult” is another misused term that I don’t need to hear again for quite some time, although in all fairness I’m about to drop the O-bomb a few more times before these year-end posts are done. The good thing about trends is that if hundreds of dudes are suddenly recycling the same riffs, at least a dozen or so are bound to really excel at it. The problem of course is that trends are always driven by imitation and, with painfully few exceptions, followers rarely achieve even a semblance of the creative impact of their original reference point. Doesn’t it seem like suddenly everyone is citing Incantation as an influence? Don’t get me wrong, Incantation is really good. But where were all these doomy longhairs back in the 90’s when McEntee and crew were struggling to fill bars and nobody seemed to care? It’s just weird how the world works. Anyway, my point is…what the hell was my point? There have been a lot of Old School Death Metal™ releases recently but this humble little Grave Upheaval demo rose to the top of the smoldering funeral pyres that are my ears. I'm not even sure if this was released in 2011 but since the cassette doesn't have a date and it only recently made the rounds in my neck of the woods, I figure it's fair game. Remember that sound the demons made in The Evil Dead as they ripped through the woods toward the cabin? It was sorta like Gregorian chants being backward-masked on a dying stereo and then sped up through a crappy handheld tape recorder. The portly dude from Grave Upheaval sometimes sings like that. This is very satisfying metal of death featuring two of the masterminds from Portal and Impetuous Ritual- so you know they’ve got insane chops- but this is not so much about nauseating riffs as it is throbbing mortuary atmosphere. These four mangled hymns are never overly technical and don’t outstay their welcome like so much other bethtial (sic) death metal I heard this year. I realize I’m a gay moron with the attention span of a toddler but who really wants to hear a death metal song longer than 6 minutes? Answer: NPR. Yawn. What was I just talking about? Oh yeah, the Aussies also killed it at Rites of Darkness. I overheard some chain and spikes in the hotel elevator complaining about their sound but I’m pretty sure that swampy cacophony was exactly what the band intended since they had their own guy cranking the knobs (which, incidentally, was exactly the sort of mandatory D.I.Y. initiative that was required all weekend to allow this avalanche of cancellations and mismanagement to happen at all- it was quite moving actually). My cinematic admonishment for 2012: children shouldn’t play with dead things.

Photo by Anna Wilson.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 8!

Meadow's smart drunk phone strikes again. Danava at East End circa 2011.

DANAVA
Hemisphere of Shadows
(Kemado Records)

I'll be the first to admit that I hadn't been paying much attention, but since their modest inception in 2003 as a Goblin cover band these local longhairs have been carefully honing their craft and building a cult following with tours across the U.S. and Europe and this third LP is a charm! Like the uppity shape-shifting demons of Hindu lore from which they take their name, Portland's Danava have magically metamorphosed in recent years and are ready for revolt on Hemisphere of Shadows. Singer/axeman/keyboardist Greg Meleney is writing some of the best material of his life right now and he ain't afraid to go tell it on the mountain with nasally highs that recall the days when Ozzy was just another disaffected bloke scarfing down rat salad and sweet leaf. He can belt it out with the best of 'em and on stage the man is something to behold. Like the bastard child of Dan McCafferty and Wendy Carlos (don't think about that too long), Meleney oozes sinister soul from every pore and when he lurches up to the microphone the realms of Patala tremble! Which brings me to my only complaint about this LP. It sounds weird. I didn't even notice until I put a song on a mix tape for a friend and heard the production juxtaposed with other recordings but the vocals sound like they were recorded behind damp drywall in the downstairs apartment. Fortunately the songs outshine the D.I.Y. production and nothing can hold back contagious jams like I Am The Skull (with its eerie snyth interlude), Riding Hood (with all the swagger and hustle of the ol' Witchdoctor Woman...remember her?), and masterful Slowbone cover with its proto-Iron Maiden harmonies building to one of the best choruses that jolly 1970's England had to offer. Hemisphere of Shadows is the epic here but the boys gracefully bring it on home right at the six minute mark and close with a creeper. Ignore the inevitable "hipster" and "faux retro" bullshit that might follow in their prism-colored afterglow (these dudes got their start with former Engorged vocalist Ben "Mustapha Akkad" Vargas, a devoted Krishna in the Cro Mags tradition who christened the band without a trace of smirking irony) and enjoy some righteous 'banging. While I'm waxing poetic about Kemado Record's smartest signing, be sure to grab the Electric Voyage 7" they also released this year (thanks to Greg Meleney of course). Total smoker! In the words of my favorite cross-dressing enemy of censorship, "You can't stop rock 'n' roll!"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 7!

This machine kills mortals.

ROB COFFINSHAKER
Dark Rollin' Skies
(Lightning Records)

Rob Coffinshaker is a brilliant troubadour of the eternal night, one of the truly great singer-songwriters of our age. What does it matter that he is also undead and cursed to roam the world until time itself ceases to be? His earthy bass-baritone calls up ghosts from the lost frontiers of old Americana, stirs bones centuries deep in the valley of Transylvania and rises up through the hallowed soil of Sweden like a terrible ancient plague born of blood, tears and seductive melody. This is far blacker than whatever black metal you've been cutting your arms to lately. And it's just one man with an acoustic guitar and a croon that rarely quivers above a stern whisper. Of course our European brothers and sisters have been wise to his magic for many years but North Americans might catch on yet (it only took four decades after the death of American balladeer Woody Guthrie for his home state of Oklahoma to finally honor his musical legacy with a formal museum archive, and even this modest recognition is being fiercely contested by southern fat cats who still frown on his commie political leanings). If you haven't spent quality time with Mr. Coffinshaker you soon will, as we all must. And this beautiful 7", his third solo offering, is as good a place as any to get started. You'll want red wax in the candelabra and plenty of good bourbon. The four songs on this latest EP are something of a departure from the overt vampire ballads and dark country swing of his band The Coffinshakers and it is a testament to his gift that what remains when he momentarily sheds the cape of persona are gripping meditations on death, betrayal and the pain of loss that time will never heal. For the most part these are well-worn traditionals given the cold unmistakable touch of the grave- equal parts Johnny Cash and Christopher Lee. I'm not sure if the title track Dark Rollin' Skies is an original or not but many of you will immediately recognize Stone Is Very, Very Cold, Henry Green and In The Pines, the latter being a particularly tragic confessional made famous by Leadbelly's quivering rendition (and returned to radio more recently via Kurt Cobain) sometimes referred to as Black Girl. Settle in, friends. It's going to be a long cold night. Limited to 666 copies, naturally.

Monday, December 26, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 6!

"Sister, the slaughter has already begun..."
The Video Dead (1987)

XANDER HARRIS
Urban Gothic
(Not Not Fun)

When I hear electronic dance music I usually do one of three things: 1) ask for my coffee in a to-go cup 2) press eject on the VCR or 3) toss my last four crumpled dollars on the rack and call it a night. It always sounds like some cold not-too-distant future dystopia to which I have not been invited where everyone wear's pointy shoes and has geometric hairstyles. In the stuttering din of synthetic beats I am primitive man recoiling from fire in dumbstruck awe. But possession takes many shapes and apparently some people prefer to shake their asses in the neon glow of mechanized darkness. Who am I to judge? This is a fantastic record for shaking your ass if you are so inclined or, in my case, sliding on the headphones and disappearing into the limitless abyss of inner space. Justin Sweatt is your captain on the Xander Harris starship and you are in good hands. Just don't turn your back on his charming exterior and easy smile. He is a devoted horrorhound who channels menacing spectral frequencies into his deceptively accessible booty beats. Sweatt understands the dynamics of 80's horror soundtrack scores on an intuitive level and there are certainly echoes of John Carpenter, Alan Howarth, Brad Fiedel and Claudio Simonetti pulsating through this debut full-length LP. The movie in your mind opens with a track fittingly titled Opening Credits which boasts the most jarring disco bounce of the entire collection- almost as if to intentionally throw unattuned listeners off the intoxicating scent of blood and burning aluminum that soon wafts through the sound waves in angular plumes. The House and First Body follow with plodding rhythm not unlike the more somber moments of Goblin's score for Dawn of the Dead. The Hunting is an alluring composition that builds to a brutal...uh...climax with nonchalant true crime confessionals anchoring the proceedings to some decidedly bad vibes. After the exorcism gone wrong on side two you open your eyes and find yourself in some nondescript European gay club with iridescent floor panels wondering what was in your drink and how the hell you got here. But just as you turn to leave some mysterious vamp with impossible cleavage takes your hand and guides you down a darkened hallway. You follow. This isn't exactly John Balance's anal staircase but perhaps something more horrifying, insidious and inescapable awaits, if only because it beckons so innocently. Somewhere a woman is screaming. She won't stop. Slaughter on the dancefloor!!!! Roll credits. Fade to black. Apparently there's been a lot of soundtrack worship creeping into the shoe and screen-gazer underground in the past few years. I guess some people call this hot new craze "witch house" and that sounds like a clammy underage Adderall party that I don't wanna attend (which is good since, like the future, I have not been invited). Fortunately Urban Gothic always remains bounds ahead of the bullshit. I should mention Matt Hill's Umberto because this dude also does horror homage right. His latest 7" Freeze is a pretty fun spin but a bit more self-conscious and goofier than his earlier full-lengths. Check out Prophecy of the Black Widow. Now that's a fucking record. Or if you wanna cut to the chase and experience a genuinely disturbing listening experience you can always throw on Jay Chattaway's brilliant Maniac soundtrack, which was re-mastered/re-issued this year in a ridiculously limited pressing that sold out in about two hours.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 5!

You're right. This photo has absolutely nothing to do with the new Autopsy record. But hanging with Chris Reifert and family was definitely a highlight of 2011.

AUTOPSY
Macabre Eternal
(Peaceville)

The reunion record to crush all reunions! Autopsy did the unthinkable: they created a killer double LP that not only sidesteps wimpy progression at the expense of their own legacy of brutality but also refuses to pander to the lowest common denominator with a lazy rehash of former glory. Don’t worry. You won’t hear any clean vocals, modern influences or production tricks on Macabre Eternal. In fact, if the boys are guilty of anything here it’s probably regression, with Eric Cutler’s contributions occasionally sounding more like early Necrophagia or Impetigo than Autopsy! Otherwise, this is exactly the ambitious 2011 record that fans might expect from the creators of Mental Funeral, the greatest death metal record of all time (fortunately for me, nobody reads this blog so I won’t have to moderate tons of angry comments from anonymous assholes who hope to assert their own "greatest death metal record of all time"). I shall go out on yet another dismembered limb and declare Always About To Die the death metal ballad of the year. Hands down. Carve these lyrics on my tombstone. If Autopsy only recorded this one song I would still include them on my “best of 2011” list. Reifert hits another poetic crescendo (seems like I type the same thing every year…talk about redundant journalism!) and the wry winks to both Jim Morrison and Bobby Leibling are not entirely lost on this imbecile. The very satisfying Wes Benscotter cover painting is also a fine return to form for the artist who basically single-handedly painted the entire 1990’s Relapse catalog. In fact, long ago I drunkenly coined the term “Benscotter Blues” to describe the feeling of impending dread one feels when one has partied (or drawn) longer into the night than anticipated and suddenly sees that faint indigo hue of dawn stabbing through the cracks in the blinds. It’s a terrible feeling perhaps best visualized in Benscotter’s painting for Hacked Up For Barbeque, which is itself something of an homage (intentional or not) to Bill Elder’s 1954 splash page for a self-referential EC comic titled, appropriately enough, The Night Before Christmas. You can also take my pal Ryan’s glass-half-full/glass-half-empty Autopsy self-analysis quiz. Just stare at the cover of Macabre Eternal and decide for yourself if those rascally zombies are stealing the skull or restoring the skull. Choose carefully, boys and girls. The answer also contains your forecast for the coming year…

Saturday, December 24, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 4!


VILLAINS
Road to Ruin
(Nuclear War Now!)

Leave it to the street metal scumbags of Villains to prove what a hopeless bunch of conformist pretenders most metal dudes really are. No offense to anyone who has health insurance and can actually pay the rent with their art but I’ll never understand why bands like Wolves In The Throne Room and Liturgy are practically household names and touring the goddamn world while a band like Villains can’t finance a simple two-week West Coast tour. The ultimate irony of course is that the creeping urban despair and genuine menace that characterizes Road To Ruin is actually more relevant to the crisis of modernity and far more worthy of intellectual analysis than any self-indulgent jams about livin’ on the land (hardly a new or radical concept, “eco-fascism” was taken up by myriad 1960’s communes as well as the lesser known but no less threatening MOVE organization of the 1970’s, a true “black kvlt" whose vermin infested home was literally bombed to rubble by the City of Philadelphia in 1985…but I digress). Their third full-length proves once again that Staten Island’s meanest are also the most honest born-to-lose survivors on the margins of the so-called underground. Heed my advice: this is a headphone record. And I’m not talking about your fucking iPod. Close the curtains and get yourself a heavy duty 20ft headphone cord so you can wander around the house kicking furniture and shoes while listening (or just vacuum the carpet like your lady asked). Opener Insult Inspiration is an immediately disorienting but surprisingly melodic jaunt through mainman Desecrator’s warped mind (and believe me, it ain’t a pretty place) with subliminal voices heaping unpleasant commands and ridicule galore. Things go from bad to worse when you find yourself in the motherfuckin’ Maniac Gutter (a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there). Narc Violence is probably my favorite track on side one but I’m a sucker for a catchy chorus (note: see Midnight “review” earlier this week). Side two rips open like a virgin with the titular ultra-violent anthem Road To Ruin, a misanthropic manifesto and high note of hatred that perfectly echoes 2009’s Lifecode of Decadence. Acid Punk (a nod to Black Uniforms?) disintegrates into pig squealing horror until The Land Hag comes galloping to our dubious rescue with NWOBHM nuances that quickly spiral into yet another ugly vortex of cum-crusted chaos. I caught nods to Sodom, Infernal Majesty and early Mayhem in the vocals and graphic design but there are probably tons of more obscure references that I’m too much of a poser to identify. Prediction: 15 years from now anyone still into metal will be namedropping Villains as an influence (how many people actually cared about Amebix or Blasphemy during their respective heydays?). Everyone will have Lino’s artwork sewn onto the back of their vests and the band's ritual names will be uttered in reverent tones reserved for metal’s true elite (as opposed to, say, whatever populist bullshit is currently sponsored by a car company or garnering the most pages on some miserable message board thread). But don’t hold your breath. If Villains is right, there won’t be any life left in 15 years. Drink and be merry, pal.

BEST OF 2011: Part 3!

It's Christmas Eve and since my internet connection is currently serving as a cruel metaphor for 2011 (see this post), you get two posts from Satanta today...

CIANIDE
Gods of Death
(Hell's Headbangers)

I’ve been a Cianide fan ever since they perfectly posed like Venom for A Descent Into Hell and sampled Akira Ifukube at the end of their epic crusher Mountains in Thunder (devotees of all things HEAVY must also be devotees of GODZILLA!). I finally had the pleasure of experiencing their guttural tombstone bludgeoning live in Chicago back in 2007 at the Empty Bottle and by the end of their 40 minute set I was an even more devoted disciple. This year I was fortunate enough to catch ‘em twice, first in the high noon sun at Maryland Death Fest and again just a few weeks ago at the unexpectedly spectacular Rites of Darkness, and they did not fail to crush skulls like the TRUE warriors of death that they are (never one for subtlety, Cianide guitarist Scott Carroll was seen rushing toward the stage during Ghost’s highly anticipated set at MDF and very enthusiastically flipping the bird). You always know what you’re gonna get with Cianide and this new LP is no exception. They have a simple- no, primordial!- formula that is foolproof to my ears. When I turn to Cianide I don’t want progression, politics, diversity, evolution, meditation, costumes, scenes, message boards or stage banter. I want crushing caveman aggression! And that’s what they deliver in spades. Always. Gods of Death opens with Mike Perun’s throaty conjuration of Desecration Storm before lumbering straight into the downtuned Celtic Frost-on-Quaaludes riffing of Foresaken Doom and then back into the ripping headbanger Rising Of The Beast. Here’s the formula: fast, slow, faster, slower, heavier, repeat. This is the musical equivalent of a prison yard baseball bat beating followed by a rhino trampling and slow descent into hell’s quicksand. I spin Dead and Rotting every time I get to play records at the local bar. I’m not crazy about the cover art but that’s probably only because I’m a frustrated little man and would love to do artwork for them myself. In any case, another high (low?) note in a rotting body of killer tunes spanning well over a decade now.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

BEST OF 2011: Part 2!


DEATHCHARGE
Untitled(Unseen Forces)

Deathcharge has been one of Portland, Oregon's best kept secrets for well over a decade now so it was about time they finally released their debut full-length (or whatever you call a 12" that runs at 45 rpm's). By the way, despite the Love Was Born To An Early Death poetry printed on the LP, the band insists that this is an untitled record. I first saw Deathcharge back in the Chinese Tea House days of yore (what is currently the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland was formerly many things including a sketchy Mexican restaurant and a Chinese joint that allowed punks to book shows in their basement) when they were strictly a Discharge worship band and their noisy style of sonic violence was well suited to dark basements and hard cider spit nights. They fell silent for several years as members played musical chairs in various bands but mainstay/founding member A. Void always remained true to his dark vision of micro/macro apocalypse. With the current lineup they have undeniably achieved new heights of creativity, even performing live with relative frequency. This is a strange and magnetic collection of songs with the flow of a powerful concept album that gets even better with time, not unlike Antisect's brilliant In Darkness There Is No Choice. I realize "post punk" is all the rage these days but this record perfectly melds the gothic overtures of early Christian Death with Killing Joke rhythm and the swirling tribal psychedelia of Monolith-era Amebix and it's all elegantly presented with outstanding artwork by Lebenden Toten vocalist Chanel Adair. I love this record so much that I insisted it be released on my very own label. Shameless.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO FUCK OFF...BEST OF 2011!

"...we salute you!"

Welcome back on this dark Winter Solstice Eve, brothers and sisters! The year is winding to a close and it's time once again for me to rattle off my unqualified and absurdly self-centered "best of" list in no particular order. In the spirit of total transparency I should probably let you know that 2011 wasn't a good year for me. In fact, it was one of the lowest points in recent memory full of almost mystical fuck-ups such as my car breaking down and my inability to connect to the internet all month. There were many magical moments to be sure, but there was also an unprecedented level of bullshit that kept me out of the drawing dungeon for much of the year. I also didn't purchase a whole lot of new music this year and since I don't download new music I'm admittedly "out of the loop". But I've been out of the loop my whole life and I suppose that's where I prefer to remain. If I had it my way I would put my own Halloween Mix Tape on this list because to be perfectly honest I love that collection of songs and listened to it quite a bit. But I realize how disappointing that would be for some of you. Bah. Anyway, let's kick 2011 right out the fucking door and welcome in 2012 with a bang!

Athenar strangling a stagediver with his guitar strings at the end of the Midnight set at Rites of Darkness in San Antonio, Texas. Photo courtesy of Meadow's phone.

MIDNIGHT
Satanic Royalty
(Hell's Headbangers)

Royalty is a great word. Go ahead and say it out loud. The syllables roll off the tongue like war drums and you almost expect a gong to accentuate the pronunciation. Jeff Clayton employed this most powerful of words in what is possibly my very favorite Antiseen ditty. Remember NC Royalty? If not, youtube it immediately. The opening track on Midnight's latest full-length delivers all the power, glory and ROYALTY of rock 'n' roll and doesn't let up until the needle finally slides into the dead wax. Sure, Midnight got popular very quickly and it seems like everyone from the lady at my coffee shop to the janitor at my kid's school can be seen wearing a Midnight shirt these days, but don't hold popularity against 'em. When you write great songs you're bound to attract lots of attention. Just look at The Kinks, Kiss, Motorhead, Venom or Roky Erickson. Jamie "Athenar" Walters sure did (I’m no musician but Black Damnation is as elegant a homage to Roky Erickson’s Burn The Flame as you’re likely to ever hear). He has the unique ability to distill the best parts of the past 40 years of rock 'n' roll into his songs without ever sounding lazy, contrived or pandering. If you don't believe me just crank Violence on Violence or You Can't Stop Steel and try not to bang your fist like a fucking idiot. Just try. He also understands the essence of the less-is-more equation and deserves the goat crown for musical economy. No moody intros, bullshit samples, or even pauses between songs. Just straight to the kill. Everything Jamie has put his energy into from Boulder to Destructor has been nothing short of excellent and if Mach II had released a new record in 2011 you can be sure it would be on this list as well. I could have lived without the incongruous Black Axe cover at the end but, in a word, this is a perfect record for late night binges (pick your poison), strip club rituals and two-lane blacktop misadventures. Kiss the ring.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

PORTLAND CITY HORROR HOLOCAUST!


HORRORHOUNDS! This Saturday night Portland's very own Hollywood Theatre is hosting a special ALL-NIGHT HORROR HOLOCAUST featuring 35mm prints of George Romero's bleak zombie epic DAY OF THE DEAD, quintessential summer bummer THE BURNING (come for the garden tool butchery, stay for Ric Wakeman's awesomely cocaine-damaged synth score), psychedelic Shaw Brothers mindfuck BOXER'S OMEN (every line of this beautiful film could be an Inquisition song title and there is more mysticism and magic in its 100 minutes than the entire Rites of Darkness festival) and, finally, the relatively uneventful chainsaw gutsfuck of PIECES (c'mon, the poster is WAY better than the actual film...and I've sat through it at least 5 times). There will be beer.

Hollywood Theatre
4122 NE Sandy Blvd
Portland, Oregon
December 10
9 PM
$12

Monday, December 05, 2011

AUTOPSY on KOFY TV!

Achtung, Bay Area cretins: AUTOPSY will be appearing on San Francisco cable television this Saturday December 10th at 11pm as part of Creepy KOFY Movie Time show on KOFY TV 20! They will be performing the song Voices from their oft-overlooked 1992 album Acts Of The Unspeakable! They'll also be showing the film The Galaxy Invader so expect plenty of cheese with your gore! It won't broadcast beyond the San Francisco/Oakland area so if you live down that way be sure to check it out.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY EAST END!

I'd like to take a moment to wish a Happy Anniversary to all my friends at East End! Portland's finest watering hole and live music dungeon celebrates 4 years in business TONIGHT and that's no small feat in these hard times of dire rock'n'roll abandonment. Naturally, a lusty gang of vinyl nerds will descend on the scene this evening to commemorate the occasion and I will be on hand to personally alienate the crowd with Jay Chattaway's highly disturbing and divisive MANIAC soundtrack. Thanks for the good times, East End. Here's to many more! See you tonight! And don't forget to tip your bartender...