Wednesday, 1 July 2015

You Talkin To Me!!! - An Interview with Sara Twinn (Co-Owner of Taxi Driver Records)


Today's guest is a virtuoso within the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. Saxophonist, Vocalist, Artist and Record Label and Record Store owner. She's becoming one of the best known sources of promoting Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal from the Italian Music Scene.

She's co-owner of the fantastic record label – Taxi Driver Records – who've provided me with some awesome albums and EP's to review recently. She's part of Italian Atmospheric Doom Metal Instrumentalists – MOPE – who released a stunning debut album back in 2014 which we rated quite highly.

I'm of course referring to Sara Twinn. A hugely talented individual who I wanted to interview for a while. And Sara has kindly agreed to answer my questions.

Let's see what Sara has to say to us at Sludgelord HQ.

Hi Sara. How's it going. Thanks for doing this interview. Much appreciated.

Hi Steve! Hi readers! I really hope you'll enjoy the interview!

I don't know where to begin with this interview as you've had quite a musical career so far. Well I think we should start with Taxi Driver Records. What a fantastic label that is. When did you start Taxi Driver Records and what were your reasons for starting the label. Plus I just recently found out it's actually a record store as well. Awesome.

Thank you! Taxi Driver Records started in 2009 with the aim of documenting and promoting the local underground music scene. Here in Genova, Italy, where I live and my independent record store is located, we have great bands that deserve to be discovered! Recently the label opened also to other awesome underground bands within the Italian territory, and I like the idea very much! It's cool and certainly helpful to put in connection different artists and underground music scenes.


Was it hard experience starting the label and opening a record store. Would you do anything differently if you could.

I run both record store and label with my partner Massimo (ISAAK's bass player). Opening the two activities was hard, and it still is, but so gratifying! A risk indeed, expecially because we decided to start it in the worst period referring to the global economic crisis, and yes, there are things I would do differently from the beginning if I could go back in time. Anyway we both love our job and we strongly hope and believe that the passion we put in it every day will keep giving increasing results!

What came first. The Record Store or The Record Label. And was it a hard transition to go from record label to record store or record store to record label.

The independent record store came first. The idea grew up in a couple of months in late 2008. Massimo was working as usual on his music webmagazine www.taxi-driver.it he founded in year 2000, and after I graduated I actually realized I really wanted to live and independent life very close to the music scene I was starting to be involved into. The decision came immediately after we both went to the ATP festival curated by The Melvins and Mike Patton in UK that December: three full days of concerts living in the same resort together with the artists, awesome lineup (Fantomas, Melvins, Mastodon, Isis, Torche, Bohren Und The Club Of Gore, Big Business, Porn, Butthole Surfers, Meat Puppets, Joe Lally, Zu.. just to name a few!). 


I definitively felt this had to be my world, and thanks to Massimo's competence and ability we soon opened Taxi Driver Record Store, in 2009. The label came very naturally a few months after, when a local band called Cartavetro asked us to co-produce their first EP titled “We Need Time”, featuring Mike Watt on vocals in one track. So exciting to start this adventure with one of the greatest “do it yourself” icon ever!


Focusing on the Record Store side of things. How hard is it operating a record store in today's environment. Do you find it a hard challenge at times.

Very hard. Daily challenge. But being focused and specialized on particular genres (stoner, doom, heavy psych, metal, post metal, drone, ambient, hardcore, punk, alternative.. above all) and related independent labels helps a lot. We're always in contact with a nice community of this kind of music lovers, not only locals: Italian and foreign people, and also some tourists who come and visit the amazing Genoese historical centre where the record store is located. Our catalogue is appreciated online too (www.taxidriverstore.com), vinyl records expecially. With the store, the label and also an independent lab where I screenprint our merch, and thanks to the social networks, we promote Taxi Driver as much as we can every day.

And when you host for example Nick Oliveri for an unplanned acoustic miniset (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8tngkYqmv8) or when one of the greatest poster artists worldwide, Chuck Sperry, comes twice for an expo and a workshop (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RoahheEIPBc), or when you meet your personal idols at gigs and they really enjoy the albums you have, and so on, you really forget about all your daily efforts and feel how lucky you are!

Do you have a set or rules and ideals when signing to a band to your label. Or wanting to work with bands and artists.

We promote the bands we like and that are related to our world. As you can understand, Taxi Driver is a kind of expanded concept and we actually prefer to have a feeling with the artists we work with. Within the label, Massimo decides the bands and I'm the one who takes care of packaging and format and schedules the releases.


Why did you choose the name Taxi Driver Records. Any particular reason for this.

“Taxi Driver” is referred to 1976 Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, a movie that means very much to Massimo. This is why he gave this name to his webmagazine, and we thought the record store and the label should be called the same.

Taxi Driver Records (Label) only releases music by Italian bands and artists. Would you ever release an album or record by a band from a different country or is primarily focusing on the Italian music scene.

We're now documenting part of the the cool Italian underground scene, focused on the Genoese area (where we live) and expanded to other great Italian bands whose attitude and music we like so much. This doesn't mean that I exclude to release bands from a different country in the future, but they'll have to be connected in some way with Taxi Driver.

Mope cover art

Right. Enough about the label. Time to move onto your musical career. People may know you from MOPE and you've done work with FOLAGRA and Eremite. How did you become involved with music. When did your musical journey start.

I actually started when I was very young, studying classical and jazzy music on piano. Beautiful, but I always felt it not properly mine. When I started going to gigs, and met friends rocking around, I preferred to stop playing for a while and going to listen to their music: live shows but also rehearsals. That was my first approach to the underground scene. Anyway, the first time I ever saw a saxophone live matching heavy sonorities was with Zu, I think it was ten years ago. I was shocked, I went backwards in their discography, then more backwards discovering John Zorn and other avant-garde and multi-instrumentalist composers. I was too curious: when I had the opportunity I bought a very old saxophone and started to playing it alone. Going to live shows helps meeting a lot of musicians and new friends with same music interests: this is how I met my mates.

You play Saxophones on MOPE. WOW. When I heard MOPE's debut album. That was one of my fave parts. The Saxophones as you don't really hear Doom Metal bands especially with Saxophones on the album. Did you purposely try to be different to other bands.

Yes indeed. Even if saxophone is sometimes used in experimental, avant-garde metal or jazzcore music genres, in our band we loved the idea to combine heavy riffs with floating melodies and evocative atmospheres of a reverberate sax instead of vocals and we didn't know other doom bands doing it. I have to say that arrangements are not easy at all.. it took a while before we were all convinced to release the first album.. and we're still studying (in a very doomish attitude!) the right formula for the new one.

How did MOPE start. And will there be any future records from MOPE.

I was playing saxophone at home in that period. Once I went to visit my new friends Jessica (guitar) and Fabio (drums) rehearsing, and I don't really remember how we started to talk about introducing saxophone in the project but the week after I started to play with them. Stefano (bass) who once came to hear us, joined the band in a very natural way. Fabio and Stefano used to play music together since they were young, and in that period Fabio was starting also his blackened sludge project Eremite, and Stefano was still involved with his heavy shoegaze post-rock band Vanessa Van Basten. We really enjoyed the music we were composing together, so we recorded it in 2013 and gave birth to our first album in early 2014. 

We had an awesome year, our music had been much appreciated worldwide and we played live in not many but cool events. And even if now our guitarist is quite busy with her artistic lab (she's a painter, engraver and screenprinter) and the other members are differently involved in side projects, MOPE are working on new stuff!


Are you involved with any other bands currently at the moment.

I like collaborations: live, or recording saxophone lines in some tracks of other artist's records, as I did in the first Eremite's album. I also started to play a MS-20 Korg synthesizer. I actually used it while playing with Morgengruss, which is a new spiritual folk/drone solo project led by Marco Paddeu (from Demetra Sine Die, dark post metal local band) I found very interesting: I put some sax in his upcoming first album and supported him live with synth and saxophone.

Playing synth is actually amazing and gives me the opportunity to experimenting a lot, as I did for example a few months ago in an extemporary drone/industrial project for a live show. And Folagra duo (with Massimo) is still an open project, for when we're not busy with our respective bands.

Let's see what happens in the future!

You've also done some artwork in the past for other bands. Gandhi's Gunn (now known as ISAAK) according to Metal Encyclopedia. Are you still involved with artwork or are you too busy with other things at the moment.

I'm actually not an illustrator, but I curated layouts for album covers, expecially for some Taxi Driver Records releases. The one Metal Encyclopedia refers to is probably the cassette version of both Gandhi's Gunn albums Thirtyeahs and The Longer The Beard The Harder The Sound. They were both very limited editions which went sold out very soon, and me and Jessica (Mope's guitarist) curated the handmade printed artwork (chalcographic and screenprinting techniques). It was the first period of an amazing collaboration between me and her, studying and putting together our own abilities, focused on album covers. 

We started with limited edition cassettes, and during the years we curated the artwork of many Taxi Driver Records albums from Jessica's illustrations: starting from Mope and Eremite, to L'Inverno Della Civetta project and both Vanessa Van Basten's “Disintegration EP” different covers. But also the LP screenprinted cover we did for Goblin's “Amo Non Amo” soundtrack reissue, for another label, was great fun! So interesting! I really hope this collaboration will keep on through the years. And I'm also proud about our Gandhi's Gunn: a few months after the release of their second full-length, they signed for Small Stone Records, changing name, as you said, into Isaak!

In some ways I am always indirectly involved with artwork, from album covers to screenprinted merchandise for our bands or for the record store. And I really enjoy it, looking forward to creating my own artwork too.


Photo by Serena Bodratto

How do you find the time to do this all. Band Member, Record Store Owner. Record Label Owner amongst other things. Does this intrude on your personal life. How do you relax away from it all. Or is this how you relax. 

I try not to sleep! And yes, it 100% involves my personal life. And it is obviously not easy to work and live with your partner, sometimes private life and job are all mixed up creating tensions as you can imagine. Being strong is not that easy, but I really do it because I truly believe in it. And I like to think that if I'm a bit chained in it now, it's because I'm actually working for my freedom, away from the rest of the oppressive world. Anyway when I really need a break and I don't have much time, I relax escaping on the hills just behind Genova: you can enjoy nature and beautiful landscapes of the sea surrounded by mountains. A place where all problems and thoughts seem so far away and little!

We have to talk about the Italian Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene. It's very highly thought of through out the world thanks to awesome bands such as Ufomammut, Zippo, ISAAK, Doomraiser, MOPE, Satori Junk, Bantoriak and NIBIRU and a ton more that I may of forgotten to mention. What is the scene actually like in Italy. Is the Doom/Sludge/Stoner Metal scene on the rise in Italy. Or is it still firmly in the underground.

We have awesome underground bands, you're right! It's still hard for them to rise and be more acclaimed in Italy because here I think we still have huge cultural problems from that point of view.. which is weird! But Italian underground music scene still has less followers than it deserves here in our country.. even if the community is actually increasing I have to say. The attitude abroad is completely different, and curiosity, attention and music competence are still much higher than here... Hard work, but one of my goals is to contribute as much as possible in spreading the word. Not only with my label's records I mean. My way to do it, that I learnt from my partner Massimo's attitude, is promoting what's going on here, which is really cool, with Taxi Driver and records from other independent labels and by importing in the record store what's awesome from abroad.

If you could provide any advice to someone wanting to open a record store or create a record label. What would it be and why.

Do it only if you intend it as a way of living. It could actually ruin your life if you're not well motivated and completely in love with it. And please, sell good music!


What future plans are in store for yourself and Taxi Driver Records. Any gossip you can share with us about future releases. 


We just experienced our first sold out with Psychedelic Witchcraft's “Black Magic Man” 10inch EP in the bicolored version limited to 100 copies, that will be out at the end of July and whose preorder online was announced only a few weeks ago. I actually think that album is amazing, and I'm so proud of this first result! We've also just released a free sampler compilation titled “Taxi Driver 100” with tracks from our recent releases, outtakes and a few previews.

I'm looking forward to the upcoming doom/sludge Sator and Kröwnn's limited edition vinyl records, already available in preorder on our webstore and bandcamp, that will be out in more or less a month! Then, next on Taxi Driver Records will be Morgengruss full length and Fabio Cuomo's (Eremite and Mope drummer) amazing kraut/ambient solo project.

Those albums and the vinyl version of Vanessa Van Basten's masterpiece “La Stanza Di Swedenborg” will be out in Fall. But before all this we're very busy in organizing the first Taxi Driver Summer Fest, which will take place on Saturday the 18th July in Genova. We're so excited to have Elder and Mos Generator as headliners, and we will also have stands and showcases of some of our bands.. can't wait for it! After that, I think I will need to concentrate a bit on my next projects. We'll see what happens!

Well Sara thanks for doing this. Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

Thank you so much Steve for this interview, and for supporting me. This means a lot. And thanks so much to everyone who keeps following Taxi Driver, buying from the store, the label, who will discover it after this interview or in the future, and who's supporting my projects! You're so important!

Thanks for doing this Sara. Really appreciate this. Keep up the brilliant work that you do.
I want to thank Sara for taking the time out to talk to us here at Sludgelord HQ. Visit Taxi Driver Records as they're a brilliant label doing a fantastic job.

Words by Steve Howe and Sara Twinn

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Hair Of The Dog - The SIren's Song (Album Review)


























‘The tone of the record is undeniably loud and heavy, but incorporates an atmosphere which is vibrant, full of energy and represents a band with a very bright future indeed’.

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/07/2015
Label: Kozmik Artifactz

'The Siren's Song' CD//DD track Listing:

1). Into The Storm
2). You Soft Spoken Thing
3). Don't Know My Name
4). The Spell
5). Weary Bones
6). Gypsy Eyes
7). My Only Home
8). Wage With The Devil
9). The Siren's Song Part 1
10). The Siren's Song Part 2

Hair of the Dog is:

Adam Holt | Guitar/Vocals
Jon Holt | Drums
Iain Thomson | Bass

Review:

Hotly Tipped Psych Rockers, Hair Of The Dog return with their second album ‘The Siren's Song’. They released a debut album back in 2012 which sadly passed me by. Fast forward to 2015 and ‘The Siren's Song’ is the very definition of what a great Hard Rock album should be. It wastes no time in laying down the law and telling you who are in charge, and it isn’t you. Opening track ‘Into The Storm’ is a Psychedelic Blues/Classic/Hard Rock number that brings back memories of Thin Lizzy, Deep Purple, Led Zepp and the Black Sabbath.  If you dig the classic guitar sound of the 70s then you’re going to be in luck, because Hair Of The Dog has you covered on all levels.

In terms of the vocals, they are beautifully crafted and feel as if they were recorded in the 70s. Lead vocalist, Adam Holt shows his impressive vocal range on the 2nd track ‘You Soft Spoken Thing’ as he goes from soft-spoken romanticism to grizzled rock-god with apparent ease. The instrumental work is superb throughout too as the band create magically crafted riffs.  Hair Of The Dog combines classic hard rock musical landscapes with a more thumping and modern sounding stoner rock atmosphere. If that wasn’t enough, the record is a very bluesy affair, with lyrics containing tales of heartfelt emotion and woe. Third track ‘Don't Know My Name’ maybe classed as retro-rock by some, but for me it has an abundance of good old fashioned Classic/Stoner Rock magic, further demonstrating why Hair Of The Dog are so highly thought of.

‘The Siren's Song’ is a very loud album from beginning to end. No matter what genre or sounds the members put their minds to, Hair Of The Dog is very much a band who takes influence from the past whilst still maintaining a more modern sound. So you have the best of both worlds. Classic Hard Rock riffs mixed with the heavier Psych/Stoner element, perhaps best exemplified on the 4th track ‘The Spell’, which is an action-packed number that will get your head-banging and your foot tapping in unison. The lyrics demonstrate simplicity to them, but in my eyes that's a good thing, because this song is about rocking out and living life in the moment and not thinking about the more depressing things in life.

I was beginning to worry that Hair Of The Dog were going to bring a ballad to the party and they do with the track ‘Weary Bones’, a slow-burning ‘lighter in the air’ style song.  Despite my initial reservations the track is fully loaded with some fantastic riffs throughout and whilst it is not one of the strongest songs on the album, it does show how focused and determined the band is by playing by their own rules. Lead vocalist Adam channels the spirit of Phil Lynott at times, perhaps not in vocal tone or structure, but definitely with the delivery and the confidence that Phil Lynott was known for.

People maybe fed-up with the non-stop onslaught of Retro/Classic Rock bands starting to appear recently, but you'll have no such worries with Hair Of The Dog, they breathe new life into this overly saturated genre. Songs such as: ‘Gypsy Eyes’, ‘My Only Home’ and the awesome two-part closing opus  of ‘The Siren's Song’ prove that Hair Of The Dog have something to offer to everyone. The tone of the record is undeniably loud and heavy, but incorporates an atmosphere which is vibrant, full of energy and represents a band with a very bright future indeed. ‘The Siren's Song’ may not create the most original of sounds but these guys are still miles ahead of the competition within the Classic/Hard Rock genre. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

Words by: Steve Howe

The Siren's Song will be availble to buy on CD/DD from Kozmik Artifactz on July 10th 2015.

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Electric Valley - Multiverse (Album Review)

MULTIVERSE LP cover art

‘Multiverse’ is an intelligent, exciting and superb album for you all you serious Stoner Rock fans out there’

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 15/06/2015
Label: Self Released

‘Multiverse’ track Listing:

1.Lizard Queen 06:23
2.Black Hole 05:38
3.Ufo´s Rain 06:34
4.Exiled 08:39
5.Alien Orgy Trio 04:41
6.No.13 04:27
7.King Of Pluton 06:41
8.Minutemen´s Ballad 06:48

Electric Valley is:

CHARLIE SÁNCHEZ | Drums
MARIO GARCÍA | Guitar
MIKY SIMÓN | Bass and Vocals

Review:

Electric Valley's debut album owes a whole lot of gratitude to Stoner Rock innovators Kyuss and Fu Manchu, as well as more modern day bands such as Truckfighters. On their debut album ‘Multiverse’ it ventures into Space Rock territory to give this album a heavy atmospheric vibe build upon a foundation of riffs. Opening track ‘Lizard Queen’ is an intriguing choice to open the song with, the vocals have a certain John Garcia quality about them and the band offer up a subtle style of psychedelic stoner rock for the listener to feast upon. On the whole the track is very good but it feels a little disjointed, with the band venturing from straight up Stoner Rock to the crazier Blues/Fuzz Rock sounds towards the end of the song.

Despite this little stumble at the beginning, Electric Valley blast along the Californian Highway like an escaped convict escaping from the law, with the riffs becoming more exciting as time goes by. On the second track ‘Black Hole’ we see lead vocalist, Miky becoming more confident and slightly forceful with Sci-fi inspired tales of rebellion. The music has a more stripped back approach which allows the band to create a fuzzier and almost violent Stoner Rock atmosphere bursting with passion and ideas. There are a few epic guitar solos flying about on this song too, so if you miss the early days of Truckfighters, this band is the one for you.

Admittedly, Electric Valley are not going to offer anything new to a long-time Stoner Rock/Metal fan, but please don't let that put you off because this album is brimming full of great ideas.  It is top-notch music that will keep you entertained from beginning to end, with ‘Multiverse’ feeling like it is the album that Vista Chino should have released.  It doesn't hold back, grabs the listener by the neck and shows the band's love for all things Stoner Rock/Metal. Third track ‘Ufo's Rain’ is one of the albums strongest tracks with Electric Valley fusing genres such as Stoner, Space Rock, Fuzz and Blues for an extended jamming session, indeed it is undeniable how exciting it can be when the band play off each other. The drumming is one of the albums highlights, understated yes, but when the time calls for something heavy and bombastic then drummer Charlie delivers time and time again.

Fourth track ‘Exiled’ starts off with a slow-paced bluesy riff, with traces of 90s style Grunge that fans of Pearl Jam will easily recognise, once again it is the FUZZ tone that draws you in, the riffs maybe subdued but the vocals and drums become heavier with each passing moment. It's a trippy and psychedelic affair that transports you to the Californian Desert instead of the far reaches of space that the band ultimately to strive for. Most times they're successful but on ‘Exiled’, you feel you're transported to the legendary Californian desert. Exiled runs for almost 9 mins and Electric Valley pack a lot of different moods and ideas within the epic running time.

The 2nd half of the album sees Electric Valley focus more on the Psychedelic side of their music with some clever lyrics to match. 5th track ‘Alien Ogre Trio’ shows that the band do have a wicked sense of humour. The albums 3 remaining tracks ‘No.13’, ‘King Of Pluton’ and ‘Minuteman's Ballad’ offers Stoner/Fuzz/Space/Desert Rock escapism of the highest order and for me Electric Valley's talent knows no bounds. ‘Multiverse’ is an intelligent, exciting and superb album for you all you serious Stoner Rock fans out there. The production on the album is superb especially when the band change musical styles and let the FUZZ take over. Give Electric Valley a try and you'll be pleasantly surprised, ‘Multiverse’ has something for everyone to enjoy. Excellent and Highly Recommended.

Words by: Steve Howe

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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Strauss- ‘Luia’ EP (Review)


If you like you rock being fierce, full of riffs but with technical flair Strauss are definitely for you.

Album Type: EP
Date released: 26/05/2015
Label: Unsigned

‘Luia’ CD/DD track listing:

1). Mud at You
2). Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)
3). For all the wrong reasons
4). Eclipse
5). 2015
Strauss is:
Stef Sacchetto | Vocals
Charles | Guitar
Nando | Guitar
Bill | Bass
Doc | Drums
Review:
These London boys have created a stirring in my soul with this EP. Moving, disturbing, up lifting are a few of the emotions which flowed over me when listening to this, their second EP. Riffs galore, aggressive vocals and melodic sections abound during this EP of rock excellence.
‘Mud at You’ bounces along like Clutch on speed. Riffs smash into your body from the start. Drums make your heart miss a beat while the vocals twist your eardrums into knots. It surely made me sit up and listen. ‘Humanphobic’ has a Tech Metal structure with a Rush influence. The riffs are crushing again, slow/fast tempo’s and vocals sang with power and vocation gives you an emotional ride through this track. Six and half minutes of awesomeness!  ‘For all the Wrong Reasons’. A quiet intro leads you into a false sense of security, riffs and thundering drums come to the fore again, making your face feel like it is being pummelled by 10G’s. Harrowing vocals wrap themselves around the song giving you a feeling of hopelessness.
Now to 7 minutes of pure excellence with ‘Eclipse’. A slow throbbing riff leads you into a track of technical excellence. Harrowing vocals take you to the depths of hell where you are trying to survive from being taken back and forth from the living. Where am I? I want to live! The track takes you to a dark place and definitely screws with your mind. The final feeling is that the sun is dying and the end of the human race is here. Absorbing this into my psyche was an absolutely awesome experience. ‘2015’ closes the EP with a funky bass line leading to crushing riffs, thundering drums and powerful vocals but this time all built around a more commercial sound structure. Don’t worry a wall of noise arrives to end the EP.
Having formed in 2011 and with various line-up changes along the way, I do hope these guys stick together as they have produced something special. Whether the diversity of their nationalities have helped to come up with this metal, sludge, stoner sounding EP I don’t know but it can only have helped as the music testifies. It’s raw but technical at the same time. The song structures have been produced by a band at the top of their game which knocks the socks off some of the new tech-metal, riff-rock breed out there. It took me a few listens to get it but when the penny dropped I was totally absorbed.  If you like you rock being fierce, full of riffs but with technical flair Strauss are definitely for you.
Words by: Brian Mclean
‘Luia’ is available here
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Live Review: Primus & The Chocalate Factory @ Tivoli, Utrecht (NL) 16 June 2015


I’m not a fan of Primus. I don’t mean I don’t like the band, I mean I don’t know the band. Primus has been an enigma for me. On the one hand, they have been associated with a lot of bands I listened to while growing up, I’ve always wanted to check them out, but nothing ever came of it. So when my buddies asked if I’d be interested in joining them on a Tuesday night for a Primus show, I jumped in head first knowing that this would be my opportunity to check one more thing off of my bucket list.  Primus took the stage in Utrecht’s brand spankin’ new Tivoli on Tuesday June 16th. The venue spilled over with people, all of whom wanted to be up front. So it was hot, crowded, cramped, and most of all, fun. Shortly after the clock struck 8.30pm, Les Claypool and his two friends came out on stage. Not a word was said, the crowd went apeshit.

A trilogy of songs that flowed nicely into one another was what got things underway. Les’ bass was high up in the mix, where it should be, overshadowing his secret weapons; Larry Lalonde on guitar and Tim Alexander on drums. This wasn’t to do with an ego trip or anything, as it turned out the guys were having a blast, but Primus is a bass-driven rock band as opposed to many of their contemporaries who fill the mix with blasting guitars. Primus doesn’t make ‘guitar rock,’ though, its bass driven. I suppose that makes it ‘bass rock?’ Whatever their sonic delivery is called, it was something that I got used to quickly and it certainly wasn’t the strangest thing to witness during the three hour set.

Les Claypool’s voice was in form but not in any sort of traditional sense. His stoner mumble oozed out of the side of his mouth, as he went on about some girl’s beaver, his name being Mud, and Jerry, a friend of his who is a race car driver. (Well look at that, I guess in passing I did pick up a few Primus songs in my time). Claypool flapped, tapped, swigged, strummed, and picked his bass, moving his fingers along both meticulously and effortlessly, which somehow transformed into a precise melody. My mouth hit the floor, as did those of the bassist friends I was with. This wasn’t particularly heavy music but it’s not necessarily music for the light of heart. This wasn’t stoner rock, either, but the guy behind us gobbling up truffles didn’t come across as too out of place. This was mellow, well executed, music for the music lover.

And then the band left the stage, prematurely. The curtain was closed, house lights went up, and life returned to normal. This wasn’t the end of the show; however, this was merely the intermission. A short thirty minutes later, the curtain was opened, revealing a stage that was decorated with props that were one part twisted, one part industrial, and two parts sexual. The occasion, of course, was the Primus and the Chocolate Factory Show! And what a show it was! Electric stand up basses were played by bows, xylophones were being hit with frantic passion by a man whose grey hair did not match his vivaciousness or talent. “The Candyman” started things off hauntingly, the rest of the set followed suit, and Primus spiralled out of control one song at a time. All of a sudden, this innocent movie that I loved as a child was put through a filter for adults, which added a whole new layer to each character. And then real life Oompa-Loompa’s with over sized heads came out for what at first served as comic relief but later came across as a judgmental parent. Oh boy, did Primus know how to twist this well-known story around and do a fantastic job of it.

Once the Oompa-Loompa’s left the stage for the last time, the band followed. The ridiculous roller coaster that the audience had been through was docked, it was time to put our feet back on the ground. Or so we thought. Primus returned to the stage again for a double whammy of “Here Come the Bastards” and “Too Many Puppies,” which since I recognized these songs not only was proof that somehow Primus had seeped their way into my life, but that they have a following who eat this bass-crazed-post-polka-rock up. A quick look at their tour dates shows me that they’re playing Las Vegas in September with Clutch, so I’m going to sign off now and figure out how to get my ass out there.

Words by: Victor van Ommen



Monday, 29 June 2015

Skinless - ‘Only the Ruthless Remain’ (Album Review)



‘For the most part, ‘Only The Ruthless Remain’ is an album that’s good at what it feels most comfortable doing, with it’s best moments coming when it steps outside of that comfort zone’


Album Type: Full length
Date Released: 2/6/2015
Label: Relapse Records

‘Only the Ruthless Remain’ CD//LP//DD track listing:

1. Serpenticide
2. Only the Ruthless Remain
3. Skinless
4. Flamethrower
5. The Beast Smells Blood
6. Funeral Curse
7. Barbaric Proclivity

Skinless is:

Sherwood Webber | Vocals
Noah Carpenter | Guitar
Dave Matthews | Guitar
Joe Keyser | Bass
Bob Beaulac | Drums

Review:

Skinless released their first full length album. ‘Progression Towards Evil’ in 1998, which puts them in a similar timeline with bands like Dying Fetus, Deeds of Flesh, and Disgorge as part of a wave of mid-to-late 90s brutal death metal bands that culled their sound from the likes of Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and Broken Hope of the early 90s. There were a number of other notable—along with hundreds of uninteresting— brutal death metal bands around that time as well, as the style was going through something of an oversaturation at the time. I can recall reading in magazines during this time that a lot of it seemed to be a result of Cannibal Corpse’s popularity and unprecedented visibility.

As usually happens with these things; once a subgenre’s moment in the sun winds down, many bands disappeared or moved on to the next thing, likely including a few that got their tips frosted, and then picked up some JNCOs and a Coal Chamber album to help their next endeavour. Others, like Skinless, continued to fight the good fight, even as they’re closing in on the twenty year anniversary of their debut album. While they might be capable of producing better-sounding albums in 2015, the musical formula is essentially “business as usual”.

‘Only The Ruthless Remain’ is one of those rare albums wherein  the quality gets better as the album moves along. It’s no coincidence that the strongest material on the album happens when they open things up a bit more in the second half, especially when they start to throw in those suspended 4th chords Suffocation loved so much on ‘Pierced from Within’. The best example of this is “The Funeral Curse”, particularly in the last two minutes, where those chords are really able to breathe before a wah-driven solo takes over as the focal point. It’s kind of reminiscent of Sepultura’s “Desperate Cry” at that point, which is another song built around those same kinds of chords. The album is good in general, but moments like the that are where I think Skinless may find they truly excel. “Barbaric Proclivity” is another album highlight for its surprisingly catchy opening riff, complemented by a bouncing, galloping beat before breaking down into an excellent, but deliberately-paced solo section at about a minute and a half in.

For the most part, ‘Only The Ruthless Remain’ is an album that’s good at what it feels most comfortable doing, with it’s best moments coming when it steps outside of that comfort zone. It’s hard not to be satisfied with what’s already on offer, but as someone who picked up  ‘Progression Towards Evil’ all those years ago, I’m ready for Skinless to take a few more chances musically, especially when the chances they are taking result in the best moments on the album. They toyed a bit with some of these elements on ‘Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead’ as well, so my hope is that this album is Skinless dipping their toe in the water before they finally decide to cannonball the next time around.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

You can pick up a digital copy here and a CD/LP copy here.


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Sideburn - 'Evil or Divine' (Album Review)




‘Their genuine, honest musicality offers diversity backed by superb talent’


Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 09/06/2015
Label: Metalville Records

‘Evil or Divine’ CD//DD//LP track Listing

1). Masters and Slaves
2). Sea of Sins
3). When Darkness Calls
4). The Seer (Angel of Death)
5). The Day The Sun Died
6). Evil Ways
7). Presence

Sideburn is:

Morgan Zocek | Guitar, Background vocals
Dimitri Keiski | Lead vocals, Guitar
Martin Karlsson | Bass, Organ, Background vocals
Fredrik Haake | Drums, Percussion

Review:

Sweden; the world third biggest exporter of music after the US and the UK is a fertile ground for great musicians and Sideburn are living, breathing and damn right rocking proof of this. Blending melodic doom metal, a dash of classic rock and a bong full of stoner vibes with aplomb has created their 5th album ‘Evil or Divine’ (Homage to Dio anyone?).  From the first grunge infused riff in ‘Masters and Slaves’ I was hooked, already on my review hit list the urge to listen to the album in its entirety was compounded when Morgan sent me a link to ‘Sea of Sins’. Thankfully, for my aural leanings, my hunch paid off; the riffs were a’building; the sludge getting heavier; the guitar play hitting epic status and all before song 3 began. Oooh, I am in love.

‘Masters and Slaves’ is a superb offering and a seemingly gentle introduction, there is just enough classic rock vibe here to appeal to the 70’s rock freak in us all without aping the greats. Veering off piste, they add that extra kick of groove; surrounded by the smooth gravel flecked tones, Dimitri on vocals harnessing his inner Sabbath, it is a perfect start.Sea of Sins’ follows; the intro- immediate thumping drums surrounding by a perfectly timed groove flecked riff that is undoubtedly ear porn. Once more the dense vocals of Dimitri kick in with superb timing as he sings his heart out on this increased tempo number all surrounded with some insane riffage. Just, yes.

‘When Darkness Calls’ is decidedly more sludge filled than the previous 2 offerings, the stoner vibe oozes its way out of the speakers, subtle in its presentation yet in no way lacking, it is a superb display of talent. Sending chills up the spine, the vocals heart wrenching, simple, overflowing with emotion as the soul, the tortured victim, is bared, naked and bleeding. Jazzed up towards the end with epic guitar screams; the strings are played to within an inch of their lives howling in their misery they go on to end with a flourish.

‘The Seer (Angel of Death)’, can we say groove? Slap a bit of doom tinged boogie in there and you are close to what this is. With a Maiden meets Sabbath vibe- the persistent drums thrumming away in the background, the heavy whining guitar work; it just works.  ‘The Day The Sun Died’ is haunting from the start, this sends a chill down the spine, touching on the bands earlier work, the doom and gloom vibe this emits is fitting of the title. Mournful and Melancholic it gouges out the senses replacing all thought, feeling and emotion with black swirling apathy.

‘Evil Ways’ again moving to the up tempo, keeping the listener on their toes, changing the pace and ensuring comfort is kept at bay. Touching on the classic rock once more this shifts the mood once more. Dimitri once more singing his arse off, offering the odd scream, whilst the guitar/drum/bass background snuggle up to offer a stonking backing track. Two thirds of the way through there is an epic amount of guitar pyrotechnics that will leave one hankering for more.

‘Presence’ is the final offering on this album and it comes all too soon, to begin; so soft and melodic, the gentle metallic squeal of guitar strings alongside the easy flowing almost new age drum work, sets the scene for a heart wrenching finale. Quickly upping the ante the track moves to heavy, to floating peaceful and calm then to doomy, all within a heartbeat. An epic 7 minute journey that leaves you on a high and with a backing beat engrained on your soul, one that is not easily replaced.

Their genuine, honest musicality offers diversity backed by superb talent, Sideburn manages to produce a cohesive, sonic, groove filled journey of an album. Gliding from groovy to heavy with immense amounts of power and sludge tinged Easter eggs, this album is a fantastic effort. It brings a new taste with each song, blends numerous genres and displays some epic talent; an album that has to be listened too, repeatedly.

Words by: Kat Hilton

‘Evil or Divine’ is available now

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