Friday, June 28, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Atheist's Unquestionable Presence

Stepping into Chicago's Reckless Records often results in a treasure or two following me home. This time, Season of Mist's recent vinyl reissue of Atheist's Unquestionable Presence was the lucky winner and, despite being colored, not a purchase I regret. The pigment is astounding, with the transparent yellow a piercing glow against the usual boring drab, and easily among the most beautiful hues in my collection.

Unquestionable Presence is a record that, in my opinion, has long deserved a renewed spotlight showcasing its influence and place on metal's timeline. Season of Mist seemed to agree as well because, while the reissue is certainly plain, it offers a bare bones type of feeling that vinyl had in its heyday (and I suppose the early '90s, too, which was Atheist's heyday). I tend to appreciate things like that, considering the record's label is printed in traditional-looking text. How refreshing!

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Jake Superchi (Lord Serpent) of Ceremonial Castings

An avid fan since high school, I jumped at the opportunity to interview Jake Superchi of Ceremonial Castings, a renown black metal band from Washington. The act commonly refers to their synth-laden music as "Bewitching Black Metal," which is all too fitting for their witch-obsessed and dark lyrical themes. The Metal Advisor catches Jake for a quick Q&A to uncover the upcoming few releases, as well as dig into the mind of an incredible composer. 


If you had to recommend one record from the Ceremonial Castings discography to a new listener what would it be? Why?

Jake: Hrm... That is hard to say, really. I think all our albums are different in some ways. I always recommend Salem 1692 because I think it is musically our best representation. It also has a lot of personal connection from our family bloodline, so it really does have an importance to myself and OldNick. 

What is the story behind the Lord Serpent, OldNick, and Bloodhammer aliases? 

Jake: I won't get into too much detail about this, or break down each name to explain them. But they all represent an "inner-devil" of ourselves. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Concert Review: Skeletonwitch + Windhand + Black Goat of the Woods + Summon the Destroyer @ The Sinking Ship, Indianapolis, Indiana - June 17, 2013

Since discovering Skeletonwitch seven years ago, I've missed their black sorcery every time they've made their way through Indianapolis. Much to my dismay, I usually space on tour dates and curse my mistake until they visit Indy again--until I notice, of course, that I've forgotten yet another concert, yet another time.

That wasn't the case yesterday evening. A day before, a good friend informed me that Skeletonwitch would be offering up their fire-breathing brand of metal in Indianapolis and, best of all, the show was completely free. Naturally, I threw on Worship the Witch, Beyond the Permafrost, Breathing the Fire, and Forever Abomination and hoped the Ohio-based act would be as great live as their fan base claimed they were.

Upon arriving at the modest bar Skeletonwitch were stationed to play at, I realized it was in no way suitable for a metal gig. In fact, when I took a gander at the venue's website, I noticed very few bands, if any, had made their way through the lounge-like tavern in the past. The Sinking Ship, as they call it, was woefully under-equipped for something as hectic as a metal concert, and the delays, minor inconveniences, and lack of space between sets reflected that.

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Metal Advisor Interviews Metal Scholar Jeremy Wallach

Photo courtesy of Bowling Green State University

Jeremy Wallach, best known for his metallic academic work, hosted a metal music conference at Bowling Green State University in April. The gathering was an overwhelming success--surely a first for the genre in a scholarly setting--and proved that the music can be taken seriously. The Metal Advisor talks to Wallach to find out more about the conference, touching upon what helped get the idea off the ground, and how academic work on metal will continue to flourish


Last month, you hosted a conference with hopes of bringing together scholars and topics involving heavy metal. And you succeeded by attracting people from all over the United States—and other countries—to Bowling Green State University. Can you give a brief run-down on what happened, and what you talked about that day?

Wallach: The conference ended up being successful beyond our expectations.  The hardest part was only accepting half the proposals we received.  Since we knew we wanted no parallel sessions, abstracts went through a rigorous vetting process by the program committee and sometimes even students and colleagues of ours got turned down.  We also took the rather unusual step of not charging a registration fee (most academic conferences cost hundreds of dollars to attend) thus making the conference free and open to the public. In the end, close to 200 people showed up: BGSU students, faculty, community members, attendees from all over the US, as well as scholars from Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, New Zealand, Norway, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, and the UK.  

We had paper sessions on musical analysis, race, gender, globalization, national case studies, scene dynamics, and the rhetoric of sentimental nostalgia to name a few of the topics, and panel discussions on the origins and meaning of heavy metal, metal and community, and the Toledo heavy metal scene.  There were also three awesome keynote talks, by Niall Scott, Keith Kahn-Harris, and Laina Dawes, an exhibit on masks and facepaint, a book signing, concerts, film screenings, and lots of hanging out. A number of people were crucial in making the whole thing come to fruition. I’d like to send a shout-out to my fellow members of the Organizing Committee: Cláudia Azevedo, Amber Clifford, Esther Clinton, Matthew Donahue, and Brian Hickam. Thanks, guys!

Various publications have written about the conference (including the Wall Street Journal and and I’ve received a number of inquiries about whether we’re going to do another one.  That was never our intention—there’s no way we could repeat the success of the first one and the effort required to organize an academic conference of its size and scope is substantial indeed.  However, I can say that there is going to be an international metal conference in 2015 in Helsinki, Finland.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Pallbearer: Worth the Hype?

Photo courtesy of The Brooklyn Vegan
Ah, yes, Pallbearer: the band that released the most heralded album of 2012, bringing doom metal to the forefront and into the "mainstream." But with everyone and their mother claiming to be a fan, are they really worth all the hype?

I pondered that very question after seeing the Arkansas-based act earlier this year. Despite a rather tight performance, their live show was terribly unexceptional and the crowd reflected that, with only the front half of the pit expressing excitement for the music. Compared with their debut record, Sorrow and Extinction, Pallbearer's radiance and feeling failed to translate in person--the record is absolutely phenomenal in terms of atmosphere, but much of that is lost upon setting foot on stage.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vinyl Feature: Vader's Welcome to the Morbid Reich

Flashing back to 2011 brings to light all sorts of memories, in particular discovering Welcome to the Morbid Reich, Vader's eleventh full-length and an absolute cracker at that. The record instantly entered my exclusive list of untouchable albums after only one listen, and I was mesmerized for months after, unhealthily addicted and completely obsessed. A metal release hasn't "wowed" me that much since.

A record as fantastic as Welcome to the Morbid Reich warrants double-dipping into the Vader merch world--in this case adding both the CD and the vinyl to the collection. The vinyl is a particularly gorgeous affair whether you opt for the traditional black or succulent red; red obviously suits the album better, considering it's swathed in detailed, bloody-looking artwork, but the black beckoned to me more, being easier to find. As far as each pressing goes, neither were intended for U.S. buyers, but I managed to snap one up just in the knick of time before they were completely sold out, hidden in collections across the globe.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Concert Photos: Rival Sons @ District, Rockford, Illinois - June 2, 2013

On June 2nd, a good friend of mine was fortunate enough to see Rival Sons for the second time this year in Chicago. Even better was that he secured a spot right at the stage, directly in front of the band. If that isn't dedication, I don't know what is.

I normally don't do things like this, but I figured I'd pass along his photos because they're fantastic and really capture the live setting. While Rival Sons take a huge amount of influence from acts like Led Zeppelin, I'd say they have a sound all their own--and one that's definitely getting noticed. You're missing out if you're never heard them before.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Immolation - Kingdom of Conspiracy (2013)

Immolation is unquestionably one of the most consistent bands in the business, but production is where they differ most in terms of sound. The latest addition to their discography, Kingdom of Conspiracy, showcases each instrument fighting for a top spot in the mix, which severely limits the appeal to play the record past the first listen--expecting a faultless collection of music is not exactly unreasonable based on the band's impressive and storied legacy.

Spinning this record is certainly satisfying, but growing accustomed to the brick-walled production is only achieved through persistence. Looking back to Here in After for crisp precision of instruments breaking crystal clear silence is not uncommon; with Kingdom of Conspiracy's overly computerized wall of sound, Immolation moves farther away from intimacy, instead favoring sonic perfection. No longer will listeners hear fingers delicately sliding across strings to reach the next chord, a cymbal crash's entire decay, or a labored breath taken before a vocal passage. In a way, this is similar to electronic music and its polished, compressed quest for excellence--and completely expected, considering the way many productions, regardless of genre, steer contemporary music.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Music and the Human Mind: A Collection of Thoughts

Not the best music to play for a pop fan.
Just last night, I took it upon myself to introduce a sibling to death metal. Aside from an occasional Korean pop spasm, we don't have a single thing in common in terms of musical taste, and I predicted her reaction would be less than favorable. She asserted that death metal was nothing more than screaming, with the front men frying their vocal chords during each grunt into the microphone. Naturally, I took the opportunity to correct her and to educate her on the vocal style, but I ultimately failed to make the music resonate with her.

That being said, I find myself absolutely fascinated by the way people react to what they don't understand. Take, for example, the countless times I've played abrasive music out loud, only to have friends awkwardly scurry from the room or plead for me to turn said music off. Death metal and black metal--any form of extreme music, really--takes time to dissect; to understand; and to enjoy, unless, of course, you grew up with them from day one. Although I've always been a fan of metal, I vividly remember a time when I was opposed to anything with harsh vocals (Well, harsher than Lemmy of Motörhead) and outright refused to give the music an honest shot.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Megadeth - Super Collider (2013)

Super Collider meets just about every requirement for a barely passable release: predictable song structures, subpar vocals, and uninspired instrumentation. Like Th1rt3en, the album is essentially a collection of forgettable B-sides that, when used in the record-writing process, make for an incredibly lifeless listen and continue to further tarnish Megadeth's name. Mustaine's warped idea of what constitutes a decent piece of music makes this no surprise, however, and only one or two tracks stay "sticky" after initial listens. Quite a shame, if you ask me. 

Super Collider's biggest problem is its unwillingness to step outside the box, to experiment, and to bring new concepts to the table. Endgame, while not fantastic, proved Megadeth still had the adeptness to write a respectable album, but with Eleffson's return to the fold--and starting with Th1rt3een--the band fell back into a slump, releasing rehash after rehash. In execution, Super Collider feels eerily like Th1rt3en 2.0, which was perhaps not what Mustaine intended, but instead subconsciously created, as habits will be habits.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Photo Time: Vinyl Edition

Glorious, don't you think?
A record is often the most valuable possession a man can have. The joys of sifting through a well-curated collection are impossible to describe, and amassing said vinyl over years at a time is a rewarding experience--and something that should be enjoyed with an eye for detail and without the urge for impulse purchases.

Vinyl is demanding; it is fragile and to be treated with respect. The medium is, in a sense, sacred and as close as one can get to warm sonic perfection.