Sunday, February 28, 2010


I'm surprised some ultra-hip/cynical manufacturer hasn't already made these...

That image, and 62 more, are collected here. Many common tropes (the smoke skull in particular) emerge, and there are some (the "War" posters) that are just bizarre, but overall the individual and collective effects are pretty strong.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Because I'm sure everyone is just fascinated by this.

Darkthrone, Circle the Wagons (Peaceville)
First Meeting, Cut the Rope (Libra)
Satoko Fujii Ma-Do, Desert Ship (Libra)
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo, Zakopane (Libra)
Gato Libre, Shiro (Libra)
Dave Holland Octet, Pathways (Dare2)
The Infesticons, Bedford Park (Big Dada)
Jahcoozi, Barefoot Wanderer (Bpitch Control)
Poirier, Running High (Ninja Tune)
Six Gallery, Breakthroughs in Modern Art (Superball/Century Media)
Soulfly, Omen (Roadrunner)
Various Artists, Brazilian Guitar Fuzz Bananas: Tropicalia Psychedelic Masterpieces 1967-1976 (Tropicalia in Furs)

Also, two books (both of which I paid for):

Joe Hill, Horns
Elijah Wald, Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Not quite as epic as last Tuesday's 20-disc downpour, but here's what I got in today's mail:

Africa, Amanaz (Shadoks)
Thomas Fehlmann, Gute Luft (Kompakt)
Gama Bomb, Tales from the Grave in Space (Earache)
Gamma Ray, To the Metal! (E.A.R. Music)
High on Fire, Snakes for the Divine (E1) (this is the Best Buy version, with the exclusive studio track "Mystery of Helm" and bonus live versions of "Eyes and Teeth" and "Cometh Down Hessian")
Jóhann Jóhannsson, and in the endless pause there came the sound of bees (Type)
Thomas Savy, French Suite (Plus Loin Music)
Secondhand Sureshots, Secondhand Sureshots (Stones Throw)
Stigma, Concerto for the Undead (Pivotal Rockordings)
Jacky Terrasson, Push (Concord)
White Wizzard, Over the Top (Earache)
Witch, Lazy Bones!! (Shadoks)


Desolation of Eden (Artery/Razor & Tie)
Salt Lake City-based six-piece Chelsea Grin have all the deathcore basics down. The galloping, triggered double-bass drums; the pinched squeals of guitar at the end of downtuned riffs; the ultra-low breakdowns; the vocals that alternate gut-churning growls with witchy screeches. That's all superficial, though. What's important is what's uniquely theirs, and that's the feeling of ominous suspense that underpins songs like "False Sense Of Sanity" and the album's title track. The rhythms aren't so much blast beats as tribal throbs, and the riffs come in slow like bombers above an unsuspecting city pre-dawn. The guitar solos aren't spurts of fretboard overstimulation; they're almost the opposite, slow-burning interludes of relative peace not unlike those played by Meshuggah's Fredrik Thordendal (minus the brain-crushing technicality, of course). This is an assured debut by six youngsters with bright futures.

Of Mice & Men (Rise)
Yes, Of Mice & Men were formed by the former Attack Attack! frontman Austin Carlile. You should keep reading, though; they're nowhere near as awful as that implies. OM&M don't break any new ground--fans of overwrought screaming that leads into piercingly shrill clean vocals, ultra-percussive guitar riffing, and breakdowns every 30 seconds or so will find a slot for this right alongside many similar discs by similar acts. But a few of their attempts to stretch out slightly come off well; the piano at the end of "Second & Sebring," not to mention Carlile's softly crooned vocals that nudge into Coheed And Cambria territory, make it more than a typical screamo riff-display. These guys don't have a damn thing new to say lyrically, and they haven't reinvented (or even re-treaded) the wheel musically, but they're not bad.

The new print edition is out, too, and I've got some stuff in there. In the 100 Bands You Need To Know In 2010 omnibus cover story, I write up Circle of Contempt, Parkway Drive and Stray from the Path; and in the review section, I cover the new discs by Dark Tranquillity and Sigur Rós frontman Jónsi.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Here are links to my 10 most recent All Music Guide reviews:

Abscess, Dawn of Inhumanity
Barren Earth, The Curse of the Red River
GridLink, Amber Gray
Hayaino Daisuki, Headbanger's Karaoke Club Dangerous Fire
Hayaino Daisuki, The Invincible Gate Mind of the Infernal Fire Hell, Or Did You Mean Hawaii Daisuki?
Infanticide, From Our Cold Dead Hands
La 33, La 33
La 33, Gózalo
Mortemia, Misere Mortem
White Wizzard, Over the Top


[From the SF Weekly.]

Oakland's (and possibly Earth's) heaviest band, High on Fire, is ready for its close-up. The trio's fifth studio album, Snakes for the Divine, is its first for the E1 label after several years on highly regarded metal imprint Relapse. The musicians also worked with a real producer for the first time in years.

On Snakes, the band's sound was shaped by Greg Fidelmann, who has worked on such high-profile metal discs as Metallica's Death Magnetic and Slayer's World Painted Blood. "He's actually a producer producer," says guitarist and vocalist Matt Pike, contrasting Fidelmann with Steve Albini and Jack Endino, who worked on 2005's Blessed Black Wings and 2007's Death Is This Communion respectively. "Greg's a lot more hands-on."

The result is High on Fire's cleanest, most accessible album to date. Of course, the members keep their trademarks. Pike's vocals are a hoarse roar somewhere between Motörhead's Lemmy and the Melvins' Buzz Osborne with throat polyps, and the rhythm section of bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel thunders like an avalanche. But each instrument occupies its own space, with room for subtle ornamentation. And Pike's guitar, one of the fiercest and most punishing axes in modern metal, has moments of surprising clarity. Indeed, from the album's first few moments, it's obvious this is a new stage in High on Fire's evolution — even if the title track begins with a high-pitched, buzzing riff that's naggingly similar to AC/DC's "Thunderstruck."

Pike laughs and owns up to the borrowing. "Not intentionally, but yeah, I kinda lifted a little bit of that," he says. "I thought it was so cool, and it's such a fun thing to play."

For the rest of its eight-minute running time, the song is a vintage High on Fire gallop, riffs landing like body blows from a 9-foot-tall steroid abuser. The album is jammed with the band's longest and most punishing songs (five pass the six-minute mark, and two run more than eight minutes). It also offers greater variation from the High on Fire crew. "How Dark We Pray" and "Bastard Samurai" are slower than anything the band has recorded since its 2000 debut, The Art of Self-Defense. "Every now and then it's good to slow down some," Pike acknowledges. "Jeff and I had a really wide span of tempos."

Pike is busy preparing for the band's first headlining U.S. tour in several years. "The way our management and booking agents are, they want us opening constantly," he says genially. Indeed, the group has been the first act of choice on Megadeth's 2008 Gigantour outing and on the recent Dethklok and Mastodon co-headlining tour, but Pike would like the chance to play for an hour straight for a change.

He'd also like to play fresh material this time out. "I'm two-thirds of the way through learning all of 'em so I can play and sing 'em live," he says of the new songs. "We're still working out the quirks. But by the time March rolls around, I'm pretty confident everybody will have their end of things in order."

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Randomly came across the "call for papers" notice for this conference via a Twitter link, and decided to quickly whip up a proposal. If they keep to the same setup as last year, it'll be held in San Francisco in October or thereabouts. Of course, I haven't got the budget for a plane ticket and/or hotel stay in SF, so if they pick my paper, I'm gonna have to try and talk them into letting me deliver it via Skype or something (they'll probably dig that, being as how it's a technofetishist gathering anyway - whadda I need to be there in the flesh for, right?).

So here's the first and only draft of what I sent:


Looked at correctly, architecture is innately, irrefutably feminine. Just as when you really think about it, the person who physically surrounds and contains the other person during sexual intercourse is in fact the dominant partner, for all its spires and obelisks architecture is ultimately about men creating hollow spaces into which they can crawl like cowards, returning to the womb rather than facing the terrors of a vast and uncaring, if not predatory, world. But that which provides safety and reassurance can become cancerous – familiarity breeds contempt, and all that.

The modern office building and the rituals of corporate life conducted within it, from the panopticon-like surveillance conducted by bosses who monitor employees’ Internet activity and read their emails to the de-sexualization of interpersonal relationships within the office (hitting on one’s co-workers is seen as “creating a hostile work environment,” thus redefining sexuality as a form of hostility), all build up to create a sort of emasculating energy-field. And the familiarity of returning to the same corner of the same building day after day exacerbates that emasculation. Male resistance to this constant smothering pressure takes many forms – the forwarding of lewd or disturbing video clips to co-workers (I worked with a man who had a library of hundreds of these), flirtation with sexually available officemates or, in extreme cases, viewing of pornography and/or masturbating behind one’s closed office door.

In his book Super-Cannes, J.G. Ballard describes an exclusive, upscale colony where corporate heads live in close proximity to one another. The pressures of their jobs are so extreme, the distortion of innate drives by the demands of business so overwhelming, that a therapist embarks on an experimental program of behavioral readjustment, getting them to release pent-up tensions in orgies of sex and violence. Viewed through a suitably Ballardian psychic filter, it seems obvious that the ultimate manifestation of long-pent-up sexual release in corporate culture is the office-park shooting spree.

The image is deeply familiar to Americans – an unassuming employee is fired and leaves the office, only to return with one or more guns and begin blasting holes in co-workers, literally penetrating them in a manner that mimics/“makes up for” all the more traditional forms of sexual acting-out that have been systematically excised from corporate life. While this has traditionally been the province of male workers, we have recently seen the first female office shooter, showing that this type of behavior has crossed gender lines and truly become a part of Americans’ psychosexual DNA.

I propose a paper in which I will analyze office shooting sprees as a metaphor for too-long-denied sexual impulses, in much the way J.G. Ballard used car accidents as a metaphor in Crash.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Fascinating clip reel by a company that does green screen work for...well, it seems like every TV show currently on the air.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Here's a list of everything I got in today's mail:

Avsky, Scorn (Moribund)
Blood Cult, We Are the Cult of the Plains (Moribund)
Bury Tomorrow, Portraits (Artery/Razor & Tie)
Jorrit Dijkstra, Pillow Circles (Clean Feed)
Elephant9, Walk the Nile (Rune Grammofon)
Amir Elsaffar/Hafez Modirzadeh, Radif Suite (Pi)
Scott Fields Ensemble, Fugu (Clean Feed)
Fight the Big Bull, All is Gladness in the Kingdom (Clean Feed)
Kirk Knuffke, Amnesia Brown (Clean Feed)
Sei Miguel, Esfingico (Clean Feed)
Marc Mommaas, Landmarc (Sunnyside)
Red Trio, s/t (Clean Feed)
Mike Reed's People, Places & Things, Stories and Negotiations (482 Music)
Daniel Bernard Roumain, Woodbox: Beats & Balladry (Thirsty Ear)
Second Hand, Death May Be Your Santa Claus (Sunbeam)
Second Hand, Chillum (Sunbeam)
Andrew Thomas, Between Buildings and Trees (Kompakt)
Prins Thomas, s/t (Full Pupp)
The Ullmann/Swell 4, News? No News! (Jazzwerkstatt)
Various Artists, 2010 (Dial/Kompakt)

Monday, February 15, 2010


Here's the title track from the full-length debut by Chilean rapper Anita Tijoux:

And here she is doing a guest verse on Julieta Venegas's "Eres Para Mi":

Thursday, February 11, 2010


The Heat Is On
Metalcore kings Killswitch Engage finally achieve headliner status

[Note: When I interviewed bassist Mike D'Antonio for this story, neither of us knew that vocalist Howard Jones would not be taking part in the tour. (He's being subbed out by All That Remains frontman Phil Labonte.) If that subject had come up, believe you me, it would have made the piece, because it raises all kinds of questions about the stuff he and I did talk about, like the possibility of filming a live DVD or of playing sets featuring deep catalog songs.]

Considering that the Massachusetts metalcore kings have been around for a decade, it may seem bizarre, or even impossible, that Killswitch Engage is now on their first ever headlining tour. They preferred being the perennial support act on tours like Ozzfest and the Mayhem Festival, to going out on their own.

"It's kind of a weird thing, but also cool that we've had such opportunities to tour with bigger bands and have other people take the heat of being the headliner," says bassist Mike D'Antonio. "Sometimes that can be a little stressful, worrying about how the shows are gonna go, if people are gonna come. We've just had really good luck in that sense, of not having to do that yet."

Killswitch Engage need some positive public attention. Their self-titled 2009 album, which marked their first time working with an outside producer — Brendan O'Brien — wasn't much of a change from their previous release, 2006's As Daylight Dies. If anything, it was even more simplistic and less aggressive. The band's combination of crunching metal riffs, emotional lyrics and singalong-worthy choruses made the almost imperceptible shift from trademark to stylistic rut.

Perhaps for that reason, they've had their thunder stolen by more adventurous groups like Baroness, Mastodon and Bay State peers Converge, all of whose 2009 albums scored well in various metal publications' year-end Top 10 list, while Killswitch Engage's was ignored. And while it sold well, landing in the Billboard Top 10 the week of release, there are rumors that Killswitch Engage didn't meet label expectations. D'Antonio doesn't concern himself with that stuff.

"Apparently, there were a lot of good records that came out this year," he says. "That's someone else's call."

He's more concerned with what fans think — and even there, he sets limits.

"The only real interaction I like is face-to-face," he says. "The message boards tend to bum me out. It doesn't matter if there's 500 great comments, the one negative comment will haunt me for weeks. So I just stay away completely. I know people aren't gonna like what I'm doing, and that's fine. I just wanna stay away from that negativity."

Now that they're finally getting their moment in the spotlight, D'Antonio plans to make the most of it. "Hopefully, I'm getting a 15-minute bass solo where I'll do absolutely nothing but slap on my bass like Gene Simmons with a lot of echo in the background," he jokes.

More seriously, he says fans should expect set lists that go deep into the band's catalog. "We're definitely digging into the pile of older material and playing a lot more of the new stuff as well. We feel like the album's been out long enough [that] people should have it at this point. Up until now, we've been dabbling in [the] songs people are gonna gravitate toward — [playing] the guessing game, as far as how people will react to certain songs. We've been playing around with that, and we think we've got a gauge on it."

In two cities — Chicago and New York —Killswitch Engage will be able to dig even deeper into their catalog, since they're playing two-night stands. D'Antonio says there's a possibility of a live recording, but given the band members' busy schedules, such plans have fallen through in the past.

"We recorded a lot of shows a couple of years ago," says D'Antonio. "But no one's had the time to even listen to those, so I don't know if that'll ever see the light of day. There's talk of possibly filming stuff for a DVD. It's been a long time since we've had a DVD, and we've been discussing the options with some of these second-night places. We could easily set up and record two times in a row and pick the best songs from each night."

The band is taking another left turn in their career. Just as they've chosen package tours over headlining runs, they've also chosen to play smaller venues than they probably could, given their record sales and the fervor of their fan base. They like it that way. "It's hard to gauge the energy when the barrier is 20 feet from the first people in front of you watching," says D'Antonio. Of course, that's not the only reason. "These days, with the economy and the way things are going, people don't have the money to go to an arena show. At least I don't see it."

Still, there's an upside to this plan. "We wanted it to be a bit more intimate, have it be a setting for people to have more fun, participate, be squished together — really get into it with [us] and therefore help [us] put on a better show," says D'antonio. "So yeah, we're scaling down, but the production will be as big as Mayhem if not bigger. Some of these small places are gonna be loaded with stuff and might look pretty cool. A lot of the fans that have seen us on smaller headlining tours have never seen anything like what we're bringing these days."


They Are Coming For Me (Eulogy)
This Buffalo, New York-based straight-edgers like their hardcore old school. Their sound predates the Hatebreed worship of their Eulogy labelmates, all the way back to the glory days of Sunday matinee shows at CBGB. Vocalist Joe Riverside has a harsh, ranting style descended from East Coast legends like Agnostic Front's Roger Miret and Breakdown's Jeff Perlin--every word is a perfectly enunciated accusation. Guitarist Greg Styliades offers buzzsaw riffs, pick slides and shards of feedback and distortion in the mold of Sick Of It All and Gorilla Biscuits, while only rarely heading into the downtuned territory far too many of their cookie-cutter peers call home. Bassist Ian Pless even gets a solo intro on "Choices Made," and Aaron King's drums sound like wooden boxes filled with cement. This band's only been together since 2006, but their sound is straight from '88.

Blackjazz (The End)
Norway's Shining mix industrial and metal into an unholy screech that takes elements from Nine Inch Nails' Broken EP, Meshuggah's Nothing and the collected works of Magma and King Crimson (this album includes a hellish version of KC's "21st Century Schizoid Man"), plus ultra-distorted, shrieking vocals and skronking saxophone. It's a major leap into the abyss for the band; their last two discs, 2007's Grindstone and 2005's In The Kingdom Of Kitsch You Will Be A Monster, had their ferocious moments, but there were stretches of gentle, jazzy melody, too. Blackjazz, by contrast, is fierce and unrelenting, a slavering beast of an album with the complexity and dissonance of the Flying Luttenbachers and the head-down intensity of upstate New York ultra-power trio Borbetomagus. Absolutely not for the faint of heart--or people with cranky neighbors.

Sunday, February 07, 2010


The 4CD box You Don't Want My Name You Want My Action is, in effect, the first album by The Stooges. Their music has always been overshadowed by Iggy Pop's histrionics - not only his awesome, leonine vocals, but his quite literally in-your-face stage presence, rocketing back and forth and up and down and diving into the audience (which he doesn't do anymore, though Stooges reunion shows frequently ended with the reverse, Iggy letting as many members of the audience could fit pile onto the stage). Hell, for the last two years of its existence and its third album, the band was billed as Iggy And The Stooges. What had at one point been an avant-garde performance art spectacle had become a mere rock band.

This collection of live bootlegs, documenting four performances from spring 1971, offers the only evidence of The Stooges as five-piece - Ron Asheton and James Williamson on guitar, Jimmy Recca (who?) on bass, and Scott Asheton on drums, plus Iggy up front. And/but unlike the studio albums, which were produced in traditional rock-band fashion with Iggy's vocals as loud as the whole rest of the band put together, these live tapes are a showcase for the band. Iggy's barely audible half the time, and when he is his voice is so distorted and thin he sounds like Jon Spencer or somebody. What we get instead is a wall of wailing guitar, Asheton and Williamson tearing it up with almost Les Rallizes Denudes abandon, just wave upon wave of distorted power chords backed by drumming that slams the snare through your forehead like a nail gun. The sets are short - six songs and about 40 minutes of music per night - but they're astonishingly adrenalized, pure live-wire mania. This is not headphone music; this is total screaming rock 'n' roll abandon. Highly, highly recommended.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


[Below is the full text of a press release I received in today's mail.]

ALBUM: Pretending We're Not Animals
LABEL: Swordfish Records
RELEASE DATE: February 1st, 2010 on CD (eco-conscious packaging!) and digitally via iTunes
IN A SENTENCE: Simple, poignant pop songs dipped in molten silver and buried in the sand for weeks before being played back to your ears through an old Russian submarine.
IN PARAGRAPHS: Shaw is the quintessential self-produced art pop musician, a do-it-yourself soundchemist, exploring what is possible with limited resources and unlimited creativity. After producing a string of bands in his basement, Shaw set about conceiving an album of his own design. He locked the doors, shut the blinds and didn't leave his lo-fi laboratory until a perfect brainchild lay whole and conscious before him, with wolf-white teeth and a heart-machine pumping blood in rhythmic dances. Pretending We're Not Animals, a coy nod to modern man's schizophrenic self-image, was born.
If Pretending We're Not Animals was a building it would be an old Victorian house in San Francisco, a post-Earthquake dwelling with an expansive view of Golden Gate Park and the Pacific Ocean. It would present a wine red facade over old, vulnerable brick. The foundation of washed synths and delayed guitars would be poured upon pillars made of tiny bits of broken drum machines. The mantle would be decorated with self-portraits of artists the landlord once knew and loved. Thick carpets would sprawl over old growth redwood, basking in the warmth of the hearth. Some doors would only be large enough for cats and dogs, but otherwise it would be a fine place for an intimate party or quiet night re-reading a favorite book, far away from the near threat of December's frigid air.
MIGHT BE ENJOYED BY LISTENERS OF: MGMT, Animal Collective, The Faint or The Handsome Furs

[It almost makes me wonder if I was sent this - and the envelope was hand-addressed, making me think I was chosen with slightly more care than some publicists take - so that I'd wind up publicizing it in exactly this manner...once I stopped laughing. Which I haven't yet.]

Friday, February 05, 2010


Here are 10 more reviews from All Music Guide:

Banda de Turistas, Magical Radiophonic Heart
Decoy, Vol. 1: Spirit
Dream Evil, In the Night
Jukin' Bone, Way Down East
The Kandidate, Until We are Outnumbered
Knock 'Em Dead, Endless Struggle
Rhinoceros, They are Coming for Me
Shining, Blackjazz
Valkyrja, The Invocation of Demise
Van Canto, Tribe of Force