Monday, March 28, 2011

Chris and Strawb break out their broadswords...

Show reviews are not just limited to this side of the pond here at Metal Flows In My Veins. Besides tales of battling the L.A. freeway traffic filled with D-list celebrities desperately trying to get blurbed on TMZ, or the dichotomy of SoCal shows alternatively occurring in bombed out L.A. and amongst the glitz and glamour of the Sunset Strip just a few miles away, or the rust and decay of dives in the Midwest as Skull braves the bitter winter and the perpetual losing streaks of Chicago sports teams, it just so happens that my English cohorts Chris Davison and Strawb find their way quite often to various shows in Merry Olde...

Well, you get the point. Never mind that I have NO idea what these lads are talking about with regards to references of a "telly"...

Take it away, boys...



Bands: Crimfall / Turisas

Venue: Nottingham Rock City

Date: March 19th, 2011

Text by: Chris Davison

Photos by: Strawb

...and lo, did a small band of hardy warriors travel from the rural backlands to the bright lights and big city of Nottingham. Having looked forward to a seemingly annual ritual of seeing Turisas live, we ensconced ourselves in a local metal-friendly hostelry (which sported a bizarre jukebox which seemingly only seemed to play “Angel Of Death” interspersed by early Beatles numbers). Several pints of ale later, (and an appalling spectacle of England being soundly thrashed by the Irish in the six nations on the telly), and it was time to stagger off to the venue.

Rock City really hasn't changed much over the years. It's still essentially a medium sized venue that benefits from low lighting and drunken patrons. The swelling crowd (both in terms of numbers and mass) were borne from all corners of the spectrum of the metal community; from the young scene kids and their asymmetrical hair and “kooky” glasses, to the older, more discerning metal-men, with their paunches and beards. Crimfall finally took to the stage, wearing armour and face paint, showing battle wounds. Like some strange kind of hybrid of earlier Amorphis and the theatrics and female vocals of Battlelore, they soon had the attendant throng eating out of their hands.

Some good fist-pumping anthemic moments, bookended by harsh male vocals and female operatics made a good impression. Yet the crowd were still restless in between numbers; at one point, the two-part cheers of “BATTLE” and “METAL” threatened to derail proceedings, leading to Crimfall exhorting that the next number was “dedicated to Turisas.” I doubt it actually was, but it did convert the endless chanting into a cheer just long enough for them to jog on and finish their last couple of numbers. Enjoyable without being essential, they piqued my interest enough to check them out on MySpace.

After an interminable age waiting for the main act to appear, (PROTIP: don't play the same looping atmospheric noise background while setting up; what ever happened to endlessly looping “Back In Black?”), the Red and Black war crew marched onto the stage. But, what’s this? No accordionist?! As it turns out, this did somewhat limit the normal folk influence on the band, but nonetheless Turisas went on to produce yet another brilliant live performance. With a set list comprising of new numbers from the disappointing new release, Stand and Fight, and the rest divided equitably between The Varangian Way and Battle Metal, their textbook display of sonic perfection was spot on.

Turisas remain a conundrum in many senses; their overblown sound occasionally resembles something that Andrew Lloyd Webber would put out, and yet their anthemic rousing metal is seldom anything other than infectious. Here, they held the crowd in the palms of their hands, even without their accordionist, Netta Skog (apparently taken ill during the preceding American jaunt), and regular bassist, it was hard to fault their sound. The crowd, as usual for a Turisas gig, went absolutely bonkers with a whole host of crimson and black face-painted mediaeval fayre clad types going berserk in the mosh pit.

When Turisas finally came to a shuddering conclusion at the end of encores “Rasputin” and “Battle Metal” (personally, I was hoping for their cover version of Black Sabbath’s "Supernaut" rather than the Boney M “classic”), no one could complain that they hadn’t had their money’s worth. In a world where it costs £12.50 to see Turisas, and on the same night in a small market town £18.50 to see a Thin Lizzy tribute band, the Finnish boys deliver top value. We look forward to them returning again in the autumn...

The pictures (the lads eschewed a t-shirt haul, though)...

Crimfall





Turisas






You can read the latest column of Dave's Underground Laboratory here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kampfar Mare



Kampfar Mare

(Napalm Records)

By: Chris Davison

It is time for pagan/ black metal, folks! I'm a bit of a sucker for anything pagan metal, even though in general terms I prefer to avoid black metal on the grounds that I'm indifferent to tinny guitars and high pitched shrieks. So this latest offering from the highly regarded Norwegian crew Kampfar was always going to be an interesting listen for me. I know from my net lurkings that many a kind thing have been said about them in the recent past, and so I was actually looking forward to receiving Mare and giving it my full attention.

As it turns out, I can see why Kampfar get so much attention. Mare is quite a remarkable album, a melancholic and sinister record that manages at once to splice those minor key melodies that pagan metal with its folksy tinges has become known for, with the dark menace of black metal. Indeed, the core of Mare is set keenly in the black metal camp, though it is a very well produced and full sounding record that, nevertheless, manages to keep some of the hallmarks of the genre.

The guitars are absolutely haunting and hypnotic, particularly on the likes of the epic “Huldreland,” which also combines a deep, spectral spoken voice and the more typical shrieking of vocalist Dolk. The use of keyboards to produce extra atmosphere is also well done here, although from time to time the synthesized tone of the keys can be jarring – in particular, the introduction to “Trolldomspakt” sounds like the soundtrack to an Amiga game. This seems a bit of a petty complaint when compared the majesty and scope of the music, which carries the listener along on huge journeys of the mindscape. Kampfar also prove their metal credentials with the infectious galloping of “Volvevers,” a head-down semi-thrasher that alternates between those all-too familiar Bathory drum patterns and to the point scything guitar riffs.

Mare is a particularly impressive and coherent piece of art that evokes icy scenes in the perfectly judged production, which retains the chilly guitar tones while choosing not to abandon the deeper sounds of the bass and drums. Purists will no doubt complain that this isn't harsh or aggressive sounding enough, but that would be almost entirely missing the point. Mare is an album of shade and depth rather than the monotonous blast and hatred of their peers, and an altogether more mature release as a consequence. It's certainly the best black metal related release of the last couple of years; at least, to my neophyte ears.

Kampfar Official MySpace

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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Reference... X

The vernal equinox occurred at 4:21pm PDT on March 20th (23:21 UTC). On the vernal equinox, the Sun crosses the Celestial Equator, heading northwards. This moment marks the start of spring in the Northern Hemisphere (and autumn in the Southern Hemisphere; sorry, I’m going to be Northern Hemisphere-centric in this description).

Many references to an “equinox” occur in metal, undoubtedly referencing the importance of equinoxes to ancient, agrarian-based cultures. A notable reference to the word in metal occurs as a song title in the somewhat infamously twice recorded album Obsessed By Cruelty by Teutonic thrash metal giants Sodom.



My personal preference is for the second recording, done for a proper, domestic German release on Steamhammer. Compare the two recordings of the song for yourself. A glance at the broken English lyrics of the song reveals nothing of note, astronomy related, anyway.





The vernal equinox, also known as the First Point in Aries, is a location on the Celestial Sphere where the Ecliptic crosses the Celestial Equator (the opposite point of crossing is the autumnal equinox). The Celestial Sphere is an imaginary construct that reflects the geometry of the sky as seen from Earth. Our perspective on Earth depicts the entire sky as a sphere of essentially infinite radius, centered on the Earth, with all celestial objects residing on the inside surface of the sphere. Many cultures of the past (and some of the present, unfortunately), notably the Aristotelian Greeks, viewed the Celestial Sphere as a literal picture of a geocentric universe with all celestial motion tracing a perfect circle about the Earth.

The model, though entirely incorrect as a literal interpretation of the structure of the Universe, does a good job of predicting and explaining diurnal motion, lunar phases, and the seasons. Even subtle, complicated motions such as precession were initially explained in terms of a geocentric universe. As I’ve previously described, the geocentric model falls apart completely when trying to explain planetary motion, ultimately leading to the Copernican revolution, referenced quite nicely on Heliocentric and Anthropocentric by The Ocean.

The following graphic (click on it) depicts the basic idea of the Celestial Sphere.



The Celestial Poles are the projections of the Earth’s geographic poles on to the Sphere. As the Earth rotates in a Solar day, we see the daily, or diurnal, motion of objects as a series of concentric circles centered on the celestial poles.



This motion is easily photographed from the Earth’s surface as a star trail photograph, which beautifully depicts this effect.



A Solar day is a rotation of the Earth with respect to the Sun, equal to 24 hours. However, the Earth is orbiting the Sun; therefore, a Sidereal day, a rotation of the Earth 360 degrees with respect to the background stars, is a bit shorter (see graphic below). This rotation requires 23h 56min, four minutes less than a Solar day. The Earth requires another four minutes to rotate such that the Sun is in the same position as seen from the Earth. The effect of this difference is that we see the stars rise and set four minutes earlier every day; therefore, the visible constellations in the night sky slowly change through the year.



The word sidereal (well, the Latin root sideris, anyway) is referenced once in awhile in metal. The Latin origin of the word means “from the stars,” giving rise to all sorts of references to cosmic infinity and so on. The recent album from Italian black metal band Nox Illunis, In Sideris Penumbra, is an example (the words “sidereal” and “penumbra” have nothing to do with each other, by the way, although both are astronomical terms).



The Celestial Equator is the Earth’s geographic equator projected on to the sky; hence, the Celestial Equator is 90 degrees from the Celestial Poles and splits the Celestial Sphere into two hemispheres. The Ecliptic is a projection of the Earth’s orbit around the Sun (click on the following graphic).



As the Earth orbits the Sun, we see the Sun move slightly eastward along the Ecliptic, from one Solar day to the next. The Ecliptic is inclined 23.5 degrees with respect to the Celestial Equator because the Earth’s equatorial plane is inclined by the same amount with respect to the Earth’s orbital plane about the Sun, giving the Earth seasons.

The vernal equinox is sometimes referred to as the First Point in Aries due to its designation as the origin for measuring right ascension, a celestial coordinate analogous to longitude. The following two maps depict the position of the vernal equinox. This is a closeup of the area from the Pocket Sky Atlas.



Of course, you cannot observe the vernal equinox in the night sky on the day of the vernal equinox (March 20-21st), simply because the Sun is at this point on that date! In other words, wait six months, say, September, to see it high in the night sky (boxed area).



The entire Celestial Sphere, however, is precessing slowly due to a subtle gravitational effect exerted upon the Earth by the Sun, causing the Earth to precess like a top with a period of about ~26,000 years. This results in the Ecliptic moving along the Celestial Equator at a rate of about 50 arc seconds per year, also causing the dates that the Sun spends in each constellation of the zodiac (the constellations through which the Ecliptic passes) to subtly change over time. Never mind that astrology was dreamt up 5,000 or so years ago, and that the Earth has precessed by about 1/5th of a period since that time, changing the zodiac “signs” associated with birth dates.

For that matter, because of precession, the vernal equinox is no longer in Aries, but Pisces, instead.



Incidentally, the recent “uproar” by the scientifically illiterate, pseudoscience/ religious/ creationism-obsessed, moronic American public about the “inclusion” of the constellation Ophiuchus in the zodiac is due to the official designation of constellation boundaries set by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1930. The Sun, for example, spends about three weeks within the official boundaries of Ophiuchus, compared to only one week in Scorpius….

Monday, March 21, 2011

Abacinate Genesis



Abacinate Genesis

(Epitomite Productions)

By: Chris Davison

If I say “modern death metal” to you, what images flash before your mind? When I partake of this experiment, I get a faultless, sterile production, amazing technical skills with a tendency to forget song writing, and, very probably these days, some awful haircuts and colourful band merchandise. This is actually shorthand for me to, one again, reiterate that the vast majority of newer death metal bands (especially those treading into ‘core territory) need to take a couple of steps back and learn from their illustrious ancestors. Luckily enough, Abacinate do not need any such advice, as they’re just fine.

Hailing from Jersey, Abacinate recently suffered from the death of their vocalist, Jason Sica, in September, 2010. As it turns out, as a swan song of sorts, Genesis is an impressive release, and should (with some luck) see the band propelled further up in the underground rankings. The core of the music fits squarely in the modern brutal American sphere of death metal with the requisite amounts of technical musical wizardry. What elevates Abacinate somewhat above the crowd of their peers are their abilities to craft interesting ways to utilise their seemingly never ending supply of clever riffs and time changes; but, also, to harness the power of tough guy hardcore influences for the power of good.

While I never thought I would read my own words praising a breakdown punctuated with the shout-outs, “Abacinate, 2010 – bitch!”, it did raise a wry smile with yours truly, who remembers the likes of Biohazard giving themselves similar exercises in back slapping back in the early nineties. Particular kudos is due to the rhythm section here – the subtle driving of the bass and the adept drum playing propel the proceedings along admirably here. Further praise is due to the production, which retains enough grime and grit to keep this album from falling into the trap of having too much spit and polish – a trap which many of Abacinate’s ‘core flirting peers seem to fall into.

Tasteful breakdowns and brutal death metal aren't always the easiest of bed mates, but Abacinate have perhaps authored the Genesis of a better way of marrying the two worlds together. Sterling stuff.

Abacinate MySpace

The most recent column of Dave's Underground Laboratory can be found here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Deicide, Belphegor, and others at the Key Club...



Check another "to eventually see in concert" band off of the list. I finally got around to seeing Deicide. Details of the show can be found here. Recent columns of Dave's Underground Laboratory can be found here and here.

Pictures...

Neuraxis




Blackguard




Belphegor





Deicide






I eschewed buying a shirt this time around. Special thanks to Chad Bowar and Josh Eldridge.

Video...

Belphegor



Deicide



Next...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Earth Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I



Earth Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I

(Southern Lord)

By: Skull

hack - a mediocre and disdained writer

It seems that in volunteering to cover Olympia, Washington's drone kings Earth's latest full length, I placed myself securely into the parameters of the above definition. There are times for me in which the thesaurus becomes useless, and I have to throw up my hands and admit defeat.

When HEX: Or Printing In The Infernal Method was released by Earth in 2005, I was thrown against my steering wheel by the force from the album’s philosophical downshift from previous efforts. I was awed to say the least, and the album remained in my regular rotation for some time (strangely, I use this album for cooking inspiration (editor: NWOCM), of all things). Hibernaculum maintained my buzz, but I was somewhat less taken by The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull for reasons that I myself cannot adequately put into words (see above definition).

Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light I continues in the vein of the above releases with its own quirks and subtleties that help it stand on its own. Long gone are the instrumentally-induced visuals of tumbleweeds rolling across vast and open prairies in favor of more elaborate stories to be told without words.

Angels… leans slightly more towards the abstract (is that even possible?) with the direct (more or less) “Old Black” starting things off, but advances to a more jazz-influenced second track in “Father Midnight.” “Descent To The Zenith” and “Hell’s Winter” take me into a more detectably psychedelic realm, and the album finishes off with the 20+ minute brilliant, droning title track, which affects me, coincidentally, in a way not unlike “Alice” from Monoliths And Dimensions by Sunn O))). The closer brings the entire experience to just over an hour in length.

Picking apart the musicianship in this work would be futile, and frankly, I'm not qualified to do so. Anyone familiar with latter era Earth knows what to expect. The reintroduction of the cello, though, is a very nice touch, allowing Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light I to become more than a worthwhile addition to anyone's drone/ ambient library.

As for myself, I anxiously await for spring to arrive so I can relax out back, spark up the grill (NWOCM inspiration), open a cold beer, and absorb this puppy on headphones in the fresh air while I watch the sun disappear below the horizon (also known as my neighbor's house).

Earth Official MySpace

Editor: I found this album to be the perfect accompaniment to barreling down California State Route 99 at 90mph from Yosemite Valley to SoCal.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Total Fucking Destruction Hater



Total Fucking Destruction Hater

(Kaotoxin/ Bones Brigade)

By: The Dragon of M87

Philly’s Total Fucking Destruction is a project from Brutal Truth drummer Rich Hoak, formed when Brutal Truth went on an extended hiatus. Although Brutal Truth have since reformed, Total Fucking Destruction are still going strong with a new, short full-length in Hater.

Although nominally a grindcore act, Total Fucking Destruction are probably closer to crossover more than anything else with plenty of doses of humor and a somewhat lighter guitar and drum tone than what you would normally hear in some of the more brutal, balls out grindcore acts. The band’s sound is rather clean and catchy with lots of structure and groove. Still, the general pace of the music is usually very fast with blasts and hardcore-style shouts galore. All of it blows by very quickly, with 27 songs in just over 27 minutes in length, and songs generally clock in at less than a minute in length with a few gems in the couple of seconds range.

If you’re thinking to yourself that this review sounds a bit like a description of crossover acts from yesteryear such as S.O.D. or The Crumbsuckers, you’re on the mark as Total Fucking Destruction are reminiscent of that era. Good stuff.

TFD Official MySpace

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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Cruachan Blood On The Black Robe



Cruachan Blood On The Black Robe

(Candlelight Records)

Reviewer: Strawb

For me, the journey into the Folk and Pagan genres began at Bloodstock in 2007. Chris Davison, fellow reviewer, knowing of my somewhat blinkered and narrow metal tastes, insisted that we get to the front for Korpiklaani. They came on stage and I was bordering on outrage: dressed like the Finnish equivalent of Morris dancers and carrying instruments heard only on the most drug-inspired rock albums. Then they began to play. And a glance from the stage showed that the majority of the large crowd had got it, and I was beginning to. By the end of their set I was pleasurably curious. Since then the route along this road has continued with the aid of numerous bands and festivals, as well as some lucky nights at small venues with the likes of Turisas and Alestorm.

And on the odd cold winter’s night, log fire burning and single malt at hand, I have used the vast reach of the Internet to discover other bands from the same genre. Journeys to Scandinavia and mainland Europe were made, and many languages were listened to. However, this had caused me to question the proliferation of bands, and also, if outside of the live arena, the Folk and Pagan genres were rapidly taking on the substance of the emperor’s new clothes? [Discuss]

Approximately a month before the receipt of this album for review, I had purchased and extensively listened to The Morrigan’s Call, which, for the uninitiated, was Cruachan’s previous [2006] release. There are differences between the two. Despite officially leaving the band between these albums, Karen Gilligan does return to the fold as a guest to deliver her distinctive vocal contribution on three of the tracks. The immediate impact of first time playing was not as great as for The Morrigan’s Call, despite the production values being of the same high standard - familiarity breeding a touch of blasé, maybe?

The source material the songs are based on is from Irish history and folklore, Brian Boru being the name that leaps from the page to me for the historical content, and Bean Sidhe covers the mythological. During the five-year gap between releases the band have moved on and evolved, as has their style of music. Blood On The Black Robe is a heavier album. It is darker, less frivolous. It invokes one to pick up broadsword and shield and march on somewhere. I have played the album numerous times and whilst it grows on me each time, it still falls short of its predecessor in my opinion: if I only had time to play one Cruachan album, Blood On The Black Robe would be my second choice. Not that it is a bad album in any sense, just less suited to my palette.

A favourite track? That honour would probably go to “The Voyage Of Bran,” which is the best contrast of light female vocals versus guttural male outpourings on here and hence the most similar to The Morrigan’s Call. And, as we all know, Irish bands with guest female vocals never get to the touching of a nerve stage, do they? Who said The Pogues and Kirsty McCall? Damn.

I have never seen Cruachan live, although based on these two albums, they are worth adding to my to-do list. To answer my own questions, Blood On The Black Robe is a worthwhile studio album and the emperor’s dignity remains intact, albeit that he is out in public wearing skin-tight spandex and a hat.

You can try for size at...

Cruachan Official MySpace

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Scion Rock Fest 2011



Scion Rock Fest 2011

Pomona, California

March 5th, 2011

Say what you want about “corporate rock.” The Scion car company puts on a well organized metal festival with established bands and a keen eye towards what is percolating in the underground at the moment. Considering that nearly the entirety of L.A.’s metal horde was in attendance at this year’s event, the negative initial buzz around a car company sponsoring free metal shows appears to be abating towards enthusiastic acceptance (the official Scion Rock Fest shirts were going like hotcakes; that’s good enough of an indication of acceptance for me). Couple this year’s lineup for with the fact that Southern California lacks a decent metal festival, and we all flooded suburban Pomona for a day of just soaking up metal culture (and to see some bands that rarely, if ever, make their way out here).



Looking at the lineup and set times, I had a definite game plan going in. I also intended to spend some time just walking around, browsing merch, and hitting the Grill ‘Em All trucks at least twice. I wasn’t so concerned with cramming myself to the front for the festival’s biggest bands, so forgive my few lousy pictures of such acts.

We arrived just in time to catch Wormrot, the first act to get things going just after 4pm, in Tent #1. A great clean sound highlighted Wormrot’s all out grindcore assault, and the punters in attendance started up a pit immediately.






After the set’s conclusion, I decided to hit Grill ‘Em All, figuring that I wouldn’t have so much time later in the day. After my burger, I headed to Tent #2 to catch Woe. I’m sort of up and down with this band, but their set was well done, highlighted by choice cuts from Quietly, Undramatically. Towards the end of their set, I drifted to Tent #1 to catch a couple of songs from Primate, a hardcore-ish “supergroup” with Kevin Sharpe from Brutal Truth on vocals. Not really my thing, but I stuck around for a few songs.

Back in Tent #2, Cough were getting ready to go and delivered a crushing set of stoner/ doom that brought down the tent. A great set and, as they were finishing, I scooted back over to Tent #1 and caught a few songs from Nails.

After another detour to Grill ‘Em All for some fries, I headed into the Glass House for the first big act of the evening for me, the mighty Immolation. Just about everyone else was there as the Glass House was totally jammed. Immolation are an awesome act live, and delivered the goods with songs scattered over their discography, including a track from the Hope And Horror EP. The venue’s sound wasn’t the greatest, though, muting the impact.

I decamped back to Tent #2 for the band that I was most interested in seeing, the Bay Area’s Necrite. The only full-on, corpsepainted traditional black metal band in the festival, Necrite were atmospheric and nihilistic, delivering a great set of serious black metal. Just awesome, and Necrite deserved my only t-shirt purchase of the evening.

Seeing Necrite in their entirety meant sacrificing the first portion of Obituary performing in the Fox Theater, a rather large venue anchoring the festival. While in the lobby getting a beer, I discovered that Kvelertak had to cancel their festival appearance, only to be replaced by Black Cobra. Had I known this earlier, I would have made seeing Black Cobra a priority. Oh, well. At any rate, I caught a good portion of Obituary’s set with Terry Butler on bass. A great set with great sound, my view from the very rear of the venue was good enough.

I managed to move up a bit for the newly reinvigorated Morbid Angel with Tim Yeung filling in on drums and Norwegian black metal alum Destructhor on second guitar. Morbid Angel were tight as Hell, and were obviously enthusiastic for their set. They even played a new song, sounding good, which bodes well for the immediate future of the band.

I left before Morbid Angel finished, however, and I managed to catch a couple of songs from Anaal Nathrakh, the final act in Tent #2. At this point, it was about midnight, and we had a 40-mile drive back home ahead of us.

Special thanks, as always, to my esteemed colleagues.

Here are some pics and video (of varying quality; this was not a priority for me for the day)…

Wormrot



The pit...



Woe



Primate



Cough



Immolation



Necrite





Morbid Angel



The Fox Theater Crowd...



The t-shirt haul (damn Blogger)



Woe



Cough



Necrite





Obituary



Morbid Angel