For Those About to Rot: Exhumed @ People’s Court 04/16/12

The last time Exhumed played in Des Moines, it was the middle of July.  If you’ve never been to Iowa in mid-Summer, imagine being trapped in a giant pair of sweatpants and forced to walk through someone’s sweaty, overheated crotch; now you’ve got a pretty good idea of what humidity in the Midwest is like.  It’s the kind of heat that causes old people and animals to spontaneously drop dead.  Now, imagine a tiny venue with no air conditioning smack dab in the middle of that nasty-ass environment.  These were the conditions Exhumed were forced to weather their first time playing our little one-horse town, so it’s something of a small miracle that they actually agreed to come back.  Granted, they’re in the midst of a high-profile tour with death metal kingpins Cannibal Corpse (for more on them, wait for my upcoming review of their new album, Torture), but still, I can’t imagine that initial encounter made a very good impression.
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Napalm Death – Utilitarian (Century Media, 2012)

Napalm Death are an institution.  In three decades of existence, they have remained at the forefront of extreme music, constantly evolving and refining their sound while at the same time staying true to the band’s roots in early grindcore and punk.  Despite the fact that there are no original members left in the lineup, they have never faltered in quality or watered down their singular vision in order to get ahead; their integrity and dedication has become something of a gold standard by which all other grindcore bands are judged.  Utilitarian is Napalm Death’s fourteenth album, and it finds the band sounding as potent and relevant as ever.
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Revenge – Scum.Collapse.Eradication (Nuclear War Now!, 2012)

It’s been four long years since we last heard from Canadian filth purveyors Revenge, but I can assure you that the aptly titled Scum.Collapse.Eradication was more than worth the wait.  No other band on the planet is capable of harnessing hatred and scorn into a chaotic yet controlled whirlwind of pure electric death the way the duo of drummer/vocalist J. Read and guitarist/bassist Chris Ross (aka Vermin) do on Revenge’s fourth full length.  Even though the band’s basic approach on Scum.Collapse.Eradication differs in only the most subtle of ways from that of previous outings, the fact remains that Revenge are so goddamn good at what they do that their return to the frontlines of the war metal battleground is always a welcome one.
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Metallicus Ex Mortis: Ghoul @ People’s Court, Des Moines, IA 03/27/2012

It was a not-so-dark-and-stormy night when the creepy Creepsylvanians known as Ghoul brought their patented brand of uh, ghoulish splatterthrash to Des Moines, IA, aka the asshole of the Midwest.  I was excited to see them for the first time, and that excitement was only heightened by a lengthy wait outside the venue (at least I wasn’t standing next to the Juggalos), followed by what seemed like an eternity sitting through a rather abysmal opening band (the less said on that, the better).  After a declaration by the Grand Basilisk stating that we were all in violation of Creepsylvanian law for harboring these four maniacal hooded fugitives, the band hit the stage, immediately launching into “Off With Their Heads” from their latest album, 2011’s Transmission Zero.  From the very beginning it was clear that Ghoul had come to kill, and the musical evisceration didn’t let up for a moment over the course of their thirty-odd-minute set.
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THKD’S NUCLEAR NEW YEAR’S EVIL GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to you, the loyal readers, 2011 was the best year ever for That’s How Kids Die. I can’t believe the great response the blog has gotten over the course of the last year, and I’m honored that so many of you are willing to take time out of your days and nights to read my incoherent ramblings on all things heavy metal.

So, in the spirit of giving something back to you, the readers, and to kick off another year of THKD with a bang, I am proud to announce our first ever giveaway!
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Born (to grind) too Soon: the Maruta interviews

I first encountered Floridian grindcore lords Maruta back in 2008 while they were touring behind their debut album In Narcosis.  I distinctly remember vocalist Mitchell Luna almost inadvertently whipping the beer out of my hand with his microphone chord, such was the manic energy he and the rest of the band were releasing on stage.  I was totally blown away, and Maruta had clearly stolen the show.  I briefly spoke with Luna afterwards, long enough to buy a copy of In Narcosis and requisite t-shirt + shill a bit for the website I was writing for at the time (Sonic Frontiers.net, don’t bother looking for it, it’s not there anymore) in the hopes of securing an interview.  The interview happened a few months later and In Narcosis wound up taking the #7 slot on my best metal albums of 2008 list. Continue reading

Mortician’s (death) metal machine music.

In recent weeks I’ve made several attempts to contact New York death metal duo Mortician for an interview.  Those attempts were not responded to.  The band hasn’t released an album since 2004’s Re-Animated Dead Flesh and only plays a handful of live shows a year, so one can only assume that this relative lack of activity has something to do with it.  I can’t say I blame them.  But, I’ve wanted to write about Mortician for a long time, and even without an upcoming national tour or new album on the way, there is still much about the band’s totally unique and oft-misunderstood take on death metal that’s worthy of discussion.
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Exhumed – All Guts, No Glory (Relapse, 2011)

I remember almost exactly when my preoccupation with gore started.  I can’t remember how old I was (I do know I was quite young), but I definitely remember the circumstances.  I was over at my next door neighbor’s house and they just so happened to have a VHS of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.  We must have watched that movie a thousand times.  We were completely obsessed with it.  I remember running around outside yelling “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!”.  I also remember going to the local graveyard and being disappointed to not see even a single flesh-eating ghoul lumbering around.

As I got older, the obsession continued and intensified, ultimately leading me to much more repulsive films, comic books and finally to death metal.  As I’ve previously documented, I didn’t care for death metal when I first heard it.  But then one day, something clicked.  I realized that death metal was the musical equivalent of the all the horror movies and comics I’d freaked out over in my youth, and after that there was no turning back.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because no death metal band today exudes those putrid ethos that remind me of the fun of my gore-drenched upbringing more than Exhumed.  After a self-imposed eight year silence between full lengths (six if you count the all-covers Garbage Daze Re-Regurgitated) the band is back with All Guts, No Glory, a viciously executed slab of sickness that finds the California quartet doing what they do best; gore, gore and more gore. By backing off the musical and conceptual complexity of 2003’s Anatomy is Destiny in favor of a more refined and catchy approach, they have crafted what is easily their finest album to date.

Of course, a host of bands with more disgusting cover art and more offensive album/song titles have sprung up in Exhumed’s absence, but there is one very important thing separating them from the average Sevared Records band (for instance), and quite frankly, that thing is talent.  Exhumed knows how to write brutal yet classy songs that will stick in your head like a surgical saw to the cerebral cortex, the metallic equivalent of a Romero or Fulci film, making the competition look like the direct-to-DVD hacks of death metal.

Taking elements of death metal, grindcore and thrash and tossing them in a vat of musical quicklime, Exhumed goes straight for the jugular with cuts like “As Hammer to Anvil” “Through Cadaver Eyes” and “Necrotized”.  It’s frightfully awesome stuff, steeped in pitch-black black humor and backed up with some serious chops.  Speaking of chops, the guitar-work of Matt Harvey and Wes Caley (ex-Fatalist, Uphill Battle) is the album’s highlight, a grisly mixture of eviscerating razor-riffage and frenzied soloing that puts the guts in All Guts, No Glory.  Exhumed’s rhythm section are no slouches either and as expected, the playing of bassist Leon del Muerte and drummer Danny Walker (also of Intronaut) is as tight as a canister of 2-4-5 Trioxin, infusing the songs with the necessary speed and precision.

As crushing and brutal as All Guts, No Glory is, there is also an infectious sense of fun that permeates the recording.  It gives me the same feelings I felt watching that first zombie chase Judith O’Dea through the cemetery, that feeling of adrenaline and giddiness and terror all rolled into one.  The zombified band photo gracing the cover is telling; I have a hunch that Exhumed are a group of guys that love this shit as much as I do.  So, if you’re like me and looking for the perfect soundtrack to your gore obsession, look no further, because Exhumed are back from the dead and ready to party.

http://exhumed.bandcamp.com/

I bet you’re gonna like it in A.D. (or the first trve black metal album).

“When you feel like you’re going too slow / I bet you’re gonna like it in / A.D. A.D / People gonna talk about / A.D. A.D. / Bloody hell and sacrifice”
-“Earth A.D.”

I’ve been listening to the Misfit’s Earth A.D. for over a decade now.  Every time I listen to it, I hear something different.  Sometimes I hear a bruising hardcore album.  Sometimes I hear proto-thrash.  I most often hear the roots of black metal.  Is it a mere coincidence that Quorthon started Bathory the same year or that Slayer’s Show No Mercy was released the same month?  Sure, Venom’s Welcome to Hell and Black Metal albums had already been released by the time Earth A.D. hit record store shelves.  But the Misfits of Earth A.D. possessed several things that Cronos and his cohorts, or just about any of the proto-black metal bands for that matter, severely lacked.

The first of these key components is speed.  I recently read in Steven Blush’s book American Hardcore  that Glenn Danzig had tried to get the rest of the Misfits to play slower during the sessions.  Thank goodness he wasn’t successful.  To my knowledge, the blast beat hadn’t been invented yet in 1983 (Mick Harris didn’t join Napalm Death until 1985), but the blistering speed of Earth A.D. often comes close.  A huge part of the album’s power comes from the reckless abandon with which the band plows through songs like “Earth A.D.” and “Demonomania”.  It’s a ragged, violent speed, the kind of speed that sounds like the band is going to fly apart at the seams at any given moment.  Somehow, the Misfits keep it together for the original album’s fourteen-odd minutes (reissues would include the tracks from the posthumous “Die, Die My Darling” single), but the approach lends a sense of real danger, menace and foreboding to the proceedings that would also be present on second wave Scandinavian black metal albums such as Mayhem’s De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or Burzum’s self titled debut.

The second element that pushes Earth A.D. over the edge is brutality.  Unfortunately the word “brutal” (and every permutation thereof) has been thrown around in the heavy music world so often that it has lost nearly all of its meaning as of 2011.  This is a brutal album.  Primitive, barbaric, nasty.  Black and death metal bands surely took a great deal of inspiration from the positively corrosive assault of songs like “Death Comes Ripping” and “Hellhound”.  Danzig himself sounds like a snarling hellhound throughout Earth A.D., ready to claw his way through your speakers and “rip your face off” while the rest of the band violates their instruments in a manner that’s probably legally questionable in more than a few countries.  Earth A.D. was the first Misfits recording where the aggression of the playing and production scheme matched the violence of Danzig’s lyrics.  It’s a level of rubbed-raw vitriol that makes early Venom, Slayer, Celtic Frost et al sound quaint by comparison.

What about atmosphere?  Earth A.D.‘s got it in spades.  Granted, this probably speaks more to Spot’s ineptitude as a producer/engineer (see also: Black Flag’s Damaged) or the lack of a recording budget (probably both), than it does to any grand design by Danzig and Co.  Still, the vibe of the album is pitch black and claustrophobic, it reeks of rage, hate and desperation.  It’s a document of a band ready to explode and doing their damnedest to take all of us down with them.  The fact that the Misfits broke up only a few months after the album was recorded (on Halloween, 1983) leads me to believe that the palpable fury bursting out of every part of Earth A.D. is much more than just for entertainment value (“and that blood’s so real / ’cause I just can’t fake it”).

If all of this doesn’t make for proto-black metal, then I don’t know what does.  Add the grotesque, lovably amateurish artwork and black and white band photos, and you’ve got the blueprints for the sound, style and overall aesthetic that Darkthrone would take to the next level almost a decade later with A Blaze in the Northern Sky.  Some call Earth A.D. “the speed metal bible”.  I’m more inclined to think it’s the goddamn Necronomicon.

Interview: ABADDON INCARNATE


The Irish metal scene is a complete mystery to me. Aside from Primordial, Invictus Records and, uhhh… that’s about it, I literally know next to nothing about headbanging on the Emerald Isle. So, when the fine folks at Catharsis PR approached me with the opportunity to listen to and interrogate long-running Irish deathgrind merchants Abaddon Incarnate, I jumped at the chance, hoping to gain a little insight. The band has recently released a split 7″ with their American counterparts/brothers in grind Phobia.

THKD: Abaddon Incarnate has been around since 1994. To what do you attribute the band’s longevity?

Steve Maher: Hiya, well first off, we’re not sure if we started in late 94 or early 95 as we ditched the old band which were banging away in since 92 and evolved into AI so to speak. But longevity yeah, I guess it’s a tenacity, or a diehard attitude. Or just brutal stubbornness, me and Bill have been a constant driving force in this band since the start so I guess we just need to keep writing songs and performing live. Every time we do an album we are real eager to get the next one started so there is always a carrot on the stick.

THKD: What is it about grindcore that you find inspiring? What drives you to create and play such aggressive music?

Steve Maher: The beats and the sound just fill my brain 100% there is no room for anything else and I am satisfied when I listen to this shit, death metal and grindcore has been my obsession since I was a 12/13 year old kid and I first heard Napalm death, morbid angel and deicide and Carcass

THKD: How did the split with Phobia come about? Had you been in touch with them beforehand?

Steve Maher: No we’ve never been in touch with Phobia about this release. I met them in 2003 at the Fuck the commerce festival in Germany but we had no idea we would be doing a split. The label (underground Movement) organized it all.

THKD: Abaddon Incarnate contributed 3 tracks to the split. Is there anything tying your three songs together thematically/lyrically? What are these songs about?

Steve Maher: Chthonic Sacrifice is based on two things, first a book I read as kid called “the glass knife” by a guy called John Tully which left a mark in my mind thereafter, and second a discovery channel program on human sacrifice. I never wrote about South American occult/religion before and it’s pretty bloody and extreme so I thought why not? Vermin apocalypse is about the futile attempts by the plague doctors during the Black Death to heal the sick. Johnny king (our drummer) suggested I write a song about these guys back when we were recording “cascade” but nothing came of it. “Crucible” is about trying to break out of alcohol and drug addiction, the drink and drugs are a armor you use to keep the world out and you got to remake yourself within this armor so your strong enough to walk free among the people outside. But it’s written as a black magic prayer, so it’s usual satanic “self overcoming” attaining godhood etc. I mean how can you be your own god if you’re a drunken joke of a human stumbling out of control from one calamity to the next?

THKD: When and where were the tracks for the split recorded? How quickly did they come together?

Steve Maher: They were recorded in Nebula studios in limerick here in Ireland. They were written pretty quickly but they took a while to record because I had a bike crash and broke my collarbone in between sessions so the whole thing got drawn out a lot longer than was anticipated.

THKD: What do you like about the split release format? What are the advantages of doing a split release for two bands as well established as Abaddon Incarnate and Phobia?

Steve Maher: It’s a good chance for fans of both bands to hear the other, there’s shitloads of Abaddon Incarnate fans who have never listened to phobia and vice versa so it expands both bands horizons. Also it’s cool to have plastic out too.

THKD: Aside from both being grindcore bands, how do Abaddon Incarnate and Phobia compare? What other traits do the two bands share and what sets you apart from one another?

Steve Maher: Hehe, we are different in a lot of ways, the similarities would be we are both really fucking extreme, it doesn’t get much heavier than a split from phobia and Abaddon Incarnate.

THKD: With Phobia living on a different continent were there any obstacles involved in putting the split together?

Steve Maher: Not really, the internet is a global community now so we both recorded in our respective territories and the label did the rest. Mp3s can be emailed so we don’t have to rely on the postman to get his drunk arse out of bed and drop the CD in the letterbox anymore.

THKD: To outsiders, Ireland isn’t well known for grindcore. Is there an Irish grindcore underground the rest of the world doesn’t know about?

Steve Maher: Good grind? I’ll eat your face, sarcosis, the whole crust dbeat thing is becoming more trendy now.

THKD: What Irish bands were important to you growing up? Who are some current Irish bands people should be listening to?

Steve Maher: I only started listening to extreme Irish music around the age of 14, Morphosis, primordial and paranoid visions, later Brinskil bombeat were pretty good. These were influential to me personally and were big in my world back then. Nowadays there is so many cool bands, death metal you can check out Nephridium, warpath, Morphosis ( still going after all these years ) Zealot cult, Putrefy ( still going after all these years ), Overoth, condemned, zombiefied. Also, not death metal but have a listen to altar of plagues, geasa, then there’s doom stuff like wreck of the hesperes, and other older cool stuff like Scald for example. Irish metal is becoming really international nowadays, When we all started out if a band toured Dublin, Galway and Cork we thought they were going to be massive. Irish bands are getting on European tours, American tours, playing festivals, we have some decent labels and good promoters to bring large acts over and build bridges.

THKD: What are you personally listening to right now? Do you have any recommendations for THKD’s readers?

Steve Maher: I’m listening to the latest immolation album majesty and decay and Type O negatives Life is killing me a lot the last few weeks. 50% of that type O album is shitty Beatles crap but there are 3 or 4 killer tunes there also. I’ve also been banging out repulsions horrified quite often, carcass symphonies is getting a fair few spins and also I’m listening to way too much nile.

THKD: Are the members of Abaddon Incarnate involved in any other projects? Is the Irish scene as incestuous as say, the Scandinavian scene?

Steve Maher: Johnny plays in altar of Plagues, and also another band called sobd who I haven’t heard yet, Steve f plays in a crust band called “twisted mass” and also a gore grind band called sarcosis. I used to play in Geasa for 10 years and bill plays in a ambient dance thing called alibitrax and a Depeche mode covers band to pay the mortgage. Yeah it’s pretty incestuous, Irish and Scandinavians both like fucking people from our own families.

THKD: What does the rest of the year have in store for Abaddon Incarnate? Do you have any other releases planned for 2011? Are you working on any more new material?

Steve Maher: I want to record at the end of 2011, but nothing concrete is set yet. We have lots of new material, we just need to organize it.

THKD: Are you touring at all this year? Do you enjoy playing live? How would you describe an Abaddon Incarnate live show to someone that has never seen you?

Steve Maher: We are playing 3 dates in the Uk with general surgery in may, 2 dates in Ireland with basement torture killings from London in June, then a 20 date south American tour in Ecuador, Peru and Colombia next august. I really enjoy playing live, it’s the pinnacle of being in a band, what it’s all about. Abaddon Incarnate live show is typical 4 dudes with shaggy hair and manky t shirts screaming and grinding until everyone’s heads implode, usual stuff.

THKD: Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add?

Steve Maher: Final thoughts, Final thoughts? That’s a shitty obituary song right? Cause of death and slowly we rot slay. I sat beside a Old dude with grey hair in a suit on the train today and he was listening to slayer reign in blood, and also sitting there was a teenager with a emo fringe and some weird annoying screamo crap coming out of his earphones, I’m getting old and I’m fucking glad I have nothing to do with that screamo shit. But reign in blood is awesome; altar of sacrifice is probably one of the top 5 songs ever written in this universe. Thanks for the interview, cheers for the support.

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The Abaddon Incarnate / Phobia split is available now via Underground Movement. http://www.underground-movement.net

NOTE: The Abaddon Incarnate songs featured in this interview are from the band’s 2009 full length Cascade, not the aforementioned split w/ Phobia.