Maryland Deathfest 2013 begins tomorrow. I haven’t been to a music festival of any kind since Lollapalooza… 1996. Ok, that’s not entirely true, I did go to local hair band fest a few years back, but I got in for free and was only there for an hour to see Ace Frehley play and grab a tenderloin, so I don’t think that one really counts. Anyway, every year when MDF rolls around, there’s a part of me that wishes like hell that I was going. Take this year’s installment for instance; I’d kill to see the likes of Integrity, Manilla Road, Revenge, Aosoth and Bolt Thrower, what metalhead in their right mind wouldn’t?
I’ll be thirty-four this year; just short of halfway to forty. But I’ve never felt like I was getting older as a metalhead until recently. It occurred to me a few weeks ago when I was attempting to listen to a new album by a band that shall remain nameless and is being released by a well respected label; for the first time, I felt like the crotchety old fart who didn’t understand what the hell the young whippersnappers were doing. I simply could not wrap my head around what the appeal of this album was supposed to be or what the intent was. I shut it off after one track on my first attempt, after three tracks on my second attempt. And that’s when it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks.
Jonas Renkse is a difficult man to photograph. For the entirety of Katatonia’s set Wednesday night at Wooly’s, the singer kept his face deliberately obscured behind a mass of hair; as if not wanting to face the crowd. But his jovial between-song demeanor and powerful performance spoke otherwise; his exquisite vocals the undeniable focal point of the Swedish quartet’s excellent hour long set opening for prog metal grand poobahs Opeth. In some ways, Herr Renkse’s locks could be a metaphor for Katatonia’s music; their underlying metal-ness often obscured by heaps of beautifully dark, multi-textured melancholia.
It feels like it’s been forever since we last heard from The Sun Through a Telescope, but in reality it was just last year that the ultra-demented Canadian drone/metal entity unleashed the fascinatingly bizarre Summer Darkyard EP across a variety of outlets; you might even recall that I interviewed TSTAT mastermind Lee Neutron extensively following its release. The YouTube clip above is for “Mr. Yawning Infinity Chasm/Superinfinity,” the first taste of TSTAT’s forthcoming new full length I Die Smiling, to be released digitally via Bandcamp, as well as on cassette through Dwyer Records and on CD through Mutants of the Monster Records.
I’ve long tried to come up with an excuse to write about Black Sabbath’s Born Again. Most who’ve heard it will probably agree with me that it doesn’t belong on any top albums list you can thing of, yet it possesses a certain strange appeal that’s as much because of its flaws (of which there are many) as it is in spite of them. As I was loading all the Black Sabbath I own onto my iTunes and got ’round to this 1983 disasterpiece, I finally said to hell with it, it’s time to devote some digital ink (not to be confused with the “Digital Bitch;” keep away from her) to one of the weirder metal albums in my collection.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the goddamn mighty Darkthrone? It’s been three years since I last interviewed drummer/co-vocalistFenriz, so naturally I jumped at the chance for a second round of interrogation upon the release of Darkthrone’s sixteenth(!) album, the ridiculously awesome The Underground Resistance. I mean shit, it isn’t every day you get the chance to interview your favorite fucking band.
To say that I was highly anticipating seeing Ghost in the flesh would probably be the understatement of the year. Their 2010 debut full length Opus Eponymous has been in near constant rotation since its release, and this year’s Infestissumam already has a place in my year-end top five all but locked up. There is something about their combination of Luciferian lyrics, infectious yet hard-rocking pop hooks and outlandish visuals that’s incredibly appealing to this old fan of KISS, Alice Cooper and King Diamond, artists with which Ghost clearly shares a lineage.
The first time I heard/saw Slayer was on Headbanger’s Ball. It was either the video for the atmospheric yet pummeling “Seasons in the Abyss” or the flat-out face-fucking bulldozer that is “War Ensemble.” I was just starting to get into heavy metal in those days, and Slayer blew me away with their intensity and darkness; they seemed way more evil than Megadeth or Metallica, which I was already quite familiar with, and in those days, especially being confined to Catholic school for seven hours a day, the more evil, the better. It was love at first sight. From there, I slowly started buying up Slayer’s back catalog with my meager allowance money, reveling in the Satanic-sounding, speed-demonomania that was their early career.
Being a one-man project released on cassette, you’d probably be expecting DeathCult’s The Test of Time to be some kind of depressive/suicidal/ambient black metal clusterfuck. Fortunately you couldn’t be more wrong, because this Chicago-based maniac’s stock-in-trade is ripping, heavily blackened thrash that as expected pays its grim respects to the unholy trinity (Venom/Bathory/Celtic Frost), while at the same time putting its own nasty-ass stamp on one of metal’s gnarliest subgenres.
The last time I wrote about the Swedish sensation known as Ghost, I stated that the less I thought of them as a metal band, the more I found myself enjoying them. Their debut album Opus Eponymous was released on a metal label (Rise Above/Metal Blade) and featured distorted guitars, but was at its core a pop album; those vocal harmonies were more about The Beach Boys than Mercyful Fate, and the songs themselves were saccharine odes to Satan so addictive that I imagined even Pat Robertson’s wrinkly old Dungeons & Dragons-hating ass would have a hell of a time keeping them out of his head if he were ever exposed. Indeed, Ghost were an anomaly in the metal world; a band that praised Lucifer with the best of them, but did so in a way that actually stood a chance of sending the average joe or jane down ye olde left hand path.