Why do bands do this?
Needs improvement, apparently
Manowar has announced that they are in the process of re-recording their debut album, 1982's Battle Hymns. The new version will be released in 2011, and it'll be one of two Manowar discs coming out this year—the other being Hammer of the Gods, allegedly the first volume in a multi-album saga written in collaboration with fantasy author Wolfgang Hohlbein.
I'm not a big fan of the re-recording of classic albums. Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often. Exodus did it not long ago, redoing their 1985 debut, Bonded By Blood, and calling it Let There Be Blood, and Suicidal Tendencies did it in 1993, re-recording their then-decade-old self-titled debut as Still Cyco After All These Years. But for the most part, metal bands know that fans love certain albums the way they are and leave the past alone.
I think the idea of re-recording Battle Hymns is a particularly bad idea. It's unique in Manowar's discography in that it's not pure "METAL" like everything they did afterward...and that's a good thing. It's a very heavy hard rock album not unlike a zillion others released in the late '70s/early '80s, and it's got some great guitar playing on it from Ross the Boss. If you like classic Kiss, you could very easily love Battle Hymns. And it's not my favorite Manowar album, but it's damn close to the top, and that's at least partly due to the fact that it sounds so different from everything they did after.
There are practical considerations, too; not only is Ross the Boss out of the band and unlikely to return for the recording sessions (though original drummer Donnie Hamzik rejoined in 2009), but Orson Welles, who narrated the song "Dark Avenger," is dead. The band has arranged to have Christopher Lee (Saruman in the Lord of the Rings movies) do a new version of the narration, but that's not the same thing at all. Frankly, he seems like a third choice, given that Don LaFontaine (the voice of a million movie trailers) is dead, too.
Well, whatever; I'm not necessarily the right audience for this. I was only converted to Manowar fandom a few years ago. But I am a fan, and I am very much looking forward to Hammer of the Gods. Here's Joey DeMaio, Manowar's bassist and undisputed leader, giving his reasons for doing this:
Hawkwind, sci-fi and being big in Europe: Part 2 of 2
You’ve said in the past that Monster Magnet is bigger in Europe than America. Is that still true, and how big a difference is it? It’s not a Manowar-size difference, is it?
[Laughs] In the States, we’ll go up and down in popularity, and it really affects practical things like guarantees for live shows. Sometimes you can’t cross the whole United States unless you have enough money. You just physically can’t do it. Unless you’re walking. Unless you wanna be like the Donner Party and just eat yourselves halfway across the States. It’s brutal. In Europe, the sales have been consistent ever since Dopes to Infinity. Which was a huge record there, and every record since has been big.
It’s just better. The sensibility of the European audience is way more adventurous than the United States. Just for an example, I remember playing a show not too long ago and I see all these guys and girls and hang out with them after the show, and the day after, we actually had a day off. This was in Hamburg. And a whole group, bigger than a handful, of the same kids—and we’re talking 21- or 22-year-old kids—were at a Charlie Parker retrospective at some jazz hall. Now, I don’t see that happening in the States. It just doesn’t happen. And they were like, “Yeah, we love Charlie Parker!” And they looked like the Stooges. I mean, these guys had nut-brown leather jackets and long hair and they’re at this Charlie Parker thing. I asked them, “Do you go to these things all the time?” and they were like, yeah, next week we’re gonna go to…some crazy shit, like they were gonna see some hippie band or something. But they had metal shirts on.
You seem like a guy who takes in a lot of pop culture stuff when you’re not on the road. What do you read, and what movies and TV shows do you watch?
A lot of movies. I’m a movie guy. But TV, I watch a lot of HBO shows, and Mad Men on AMC is my favorite show right now. I haven’t seen this season yet, but the first couple of seasons were awesome. And the Adult Swim thing, too, I was really surprised but it’s really good. I was watching Entourage for a while, but that ran out of gas.
Are you a sci-fi guy at all these days?
No, I gotta admit I was never a real sci-fi guy, except for the imagery when I was a real little kid. The sci-fi thing for me was all about between five and ten years old and watching black and white Ray Harryhausen stuff on TV. Then when I started actually reading sci-fi when I got older, it kinda left me—it was like, it’s a great concept, but where’s the drama? And the concepts put forth in those fantastic novels by Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl and all these guys, those concepts were displayed in comic books in three pages. You know what I mean? So I got the concept and some drama. I don’t know why, I never could really get big into the science fiction stuff. The concepts are great, sometimes the execution isn’t that great. So when good science fiction movies come around, like Contact or something like that, then I’ll check it out. But they haven’t really made many really decent science fiction movies. They’re here and there, but the tendency these days is just to put the spectacle on. And the spectacle’s great if you’re twelve years old, but after a while you’re like, eh, this is shit. “But there’s pretty colors when stuff blows up. That looks good.” But drama, man, and comedy—comedy’s the most important thing in the world, I think.
Final question, just as a pro tip for our younger readers getting into older music: Is there any reason to listen to a Hawkwind album without Lemmy playing on it?
Ooohh, that’s a really good question. Yes, and that would be the two before Lemmy joined, especially In Search of Space. An amazing record, and the bass was played by a guy named Dave Anderson who was absolutely awesome. He played with Amon Duul II, another monstrous prog band, it’s like a giant leviathan of prog. Bigfoot prog. Not this intricate Genesis shit, it’s heavy duty. And yeah, that’s the one, In Search of Space.
Okay, yeah. But nothing post-Lemmy.
[Long pause] No. I hate to say it, but no.
Yeah, that’s how I feel. I thought there might have been some merit to the stuff they did with Michael Moorcock, but even that stuff…
Horrible. Yeah, I know. It’s beat. But what are you gonna do? I mean, a band like Hawkwind, you’re gonna make 40 records in your career, you can’t be held responsible for a bunch of bad records because even if they just made Space Ritual, they would be tops in my book for the rest of time. I don’t care what they do. Space Ritual’s like, the most punk rock album ever made. The most audacious thing—it’s like, the balls on these guys! It’s unbelievable. Listen to the way it’s produced, all shitty and horrible and the bass is too loud—everything about it is real shitty and cool. And the cover, you’ve seen the vinyl cover, right? The thing that opens up to the size of your kitchen? [See below...] Everything about it is like my dreams when I was a kid. When I saw that in the record store, I was just like, “Holy shit, somebody made a band just for me!” Between them and the Stooges, and Sabbath, I was set for life.
Hawkwind's 1973 double live album Space Ritual (outer gatefold above; inner gatefold below)
Sci-fi, sloganeering, the Stooges and Sabbath: Part 1 of 2
The band's eighth album, Mastermind, came out yesterday, and it's their best work since 1998's Powertrip (the one with their semi-hit with the awesome video, "Space Lord"). It's also heavier and darker than their last two releases, 2004's Monolithic Baby! and 2007's 4-Way Diablo. I got to talk to Wyndorf, which was a real thrill, because a) I've been a fan for over 15 years, and b) he's a smart, funny guy. This was a longish chat, so I'll be posting it in two chunks. Enjoy Part 1!
This album seems a lot doomier and more downbeat than some of your earlier records. The songs are slower, and some of them are really heavy. Were you in a particular headspace when you were writing this material?
Yeah, definitely. The headspace was, number one, I wanted to make an album I could pull off live with as much rattle and doom as possible. Really, it was from a practical standpoint—I didn’t have enough of that in the set, we were playing live when I went to write this record, we happened to be on tour, so I was like, I wanna make something live. And number two, the last record we did was a very, very—not Monster Magnet lite, but it was a disconnected kind of record. The headspace was, I had no head. I can’t even believe I put the record out. So I had a lot to prove on this one. I was like, “Grrr!” You know? So I was in there stompin’ around, and the riffs happened, and I just happened to pick—well, I always pick the same riffs, I always like the same four or five chords. Most bands pick the ones that make ’em happy, and mine were all [Black] Sabbath and Stooges. And it seems like more Sabbath than Stooges on this one than some prior ones.
What was the creative process behind the record? Did the songs come fast, or did it take a long time to write?
Musically it came really fast, in about a week. I got back between Christmas and New Year’s of last year and sat down every day and took my guitar, played a bunch of riffs, put it to a drum machine or played bongos, which is the way I usually do it, and write up a verse and a chorus, sing over it, see if it’s comfortable, change the key, play it again, write an intro, and just leave that as that. Sometimes I got two or three a day. Then I brought it all to the band about a week later and we rehearsed it for about six days. It was pretty fast. The lyrics, of course, didn’t come till way, way later. I had a big problem with that, but that’s what happens. When you move ahead and you break up the organic symbiosis between lyrics and music and you’re just working on melody lines, you tend to come up with great music and then you have to come up with words that’ll match it. It’s a little weird.
How much do you know your way around a recording studio? Do you listen to a lot of input from a producer? What about from other members of the band?
I know my way around pretty well. I went from not knowing anything when we started this thing in ’89, and I just started producing my own stuff on eight-track out of a studio. I’m an old-school producer who rarely touches the board; I just chain-smoke and tell people what to do. But I know what I want, so I listen to engineers constantly for sonic advice. Because when you start putting loud parts together, sometimes the end result is gonna be an accrued high end, you know? “Where’d all this distortion come from?” Well, you just recorded like five distorted tracks. So I depend on that and record the stuff as clean as possible. Me as co-producer, I arrange songs and pick the sounds. And then there’s a battle sometimes between just how dirty the sound’s gonna be and how much it’s gonna affect it, but these days there’s a fine line between overproduced and not produced enough. Especially in a band like Monster Magnet, where it’s a big rock record but I don’t wanna make a 1980s rock record. So we swing back and forth all the time.
I read the Decibel article on the making of Dopes to Infinity, and you came off kind of dictatorial. How accurate a portrayal is that? Are you a bad boss?
I’m a benevolent dictator. I’m a happy guy. I write music all the time, and I’ve been the only songwriter for Monster Magnet since almost the very beginning. Basically, I have a plan. And the way we work is, if anybody’s got a better idea that’s gonna work, it’s certainly welcome. But what happens is, I’m so obsessed with this stuff that I’m working 24 hours a day. When everybody else is watching TV at home or going out with their girlfriend, I’m home going, “This is gonna be great!” So basically what happens is, I’ve got a pretty good idea of where it’s gonna go when I get in there. And I’ll explain that idea, but I’m not one of those guys that’s like, “No! No! Do it again! Do it again!” If they have a certain style, which all the guys in Monster Magnet do, they’ll play in their style and what I’ll do is arrange the song around their style. It’s really trying to get the best out of everyone’s talent, so my talent isn’t as a musician as much as it is a songwriter and arranger. Like a director of a movie. And their talent is to play. And what I’ll do is try to get the best out of what they’re playing and put it in my movie.
I think it helps that you’re also a guitar player. ’Cause I’ve heard of guys that are frontmen, who don’t even play instruments, and they’re ordering everyone around in the studio.
Oh, band guys hate that [laughs]. And I don’t blame ’em. What I do is I’ll make a valiant attempt to play everything I’m asking them to play, and if I can’t play it, which is most of the time, I can’t execute it as excellently as these guys. I can play everything, I can play drums, I just can’t play them very well. It’s like, the time that a person would spend learning to get better at an instrument, I learned just enough to know how to write a song and then move on. If I get to a situation where I want something better than that, I’ll pretty much go, “Look. Just go crazy here. Just go nuts, and we’ll see how it is.” And sometimes they ask for direction. But other times they appreciate the chance to go nuts. And most of the time when they go nuts it’s great.
Your lyrics used to be a lot more surreal, on albums like Superjudge and Dopes To Infinity. Now they’re more like collections of slogans. What’s changed—your writing methods, or your interests, or both?
[Laughs] Yeah, this last one is kind of a weird collection of slogans. They kinda change depending on how my life’s going. I always write about my life, and it’s really boring stuff—the same old traditional rock ’n’ roll stuff. Boy meets girl, girl leaves boy, vengeance ensues, some sort of disappointment, delusions of grandeur, what I wanted to happen, what really happened, but I always tend to express them in the vernacular of fantastic stuff. The stuff that I loved as a kid, be that a classic rock mindset or comic books or science fiction, I use a lot of metaphors. It’s like this weird kinda poetry that works for me, and it also lets me tell stories about my life without exactly fingering certain people I don’t want to know I’m singing about them. So I’m honest, but I’m cheating.
I think in the last couple of years, though, my shorthand has gotten tighter on this kind of stuff, and now I’m not writing to find out what I’m singing about anymore, the shorthand has gotten so tight that it sounds like a bunch of slogans. Because they are slogans. They’re slogans that I recognize. I’ve had discussions with people who were like, “What the hell are you talking about?” and I’m like, “Well, I know, and it sounds good.” It hasn’t gotten me in trouble, but it’s definitely set up a wall between me and some listeners. Today, rock ’n’ roll is very straightforward. There’s not a lot of crazy, dreamlike lyrics out in rock ’n’ roll right now. People are just like, “I got up today/And I went to the store/I wish I had my girlfriend back/The end” and I’m writing about exploding planets and all this crap.
The sloganeering on this one, probably more than any album before, is because I locked myself in a hotel in California for like three weeks, couldn’t write, wound up watching massive amounts of television, which I hadn’t done in years. Opened up my laptop—I bought an iPad, had an iPod dock, magazines and comic books all around, starting a million things and finishing none of them, just a complete 21st Century guy, you know? “I’m gonna look at everything, and I’m not gonna finish any of it!” So when I started writing the lyrics, which are again about my personal life or observations, it came out as slogans cause I’d been pretty much knocked over the head with slogans for three or four weeks. When you watch TV news for like three weeks in a row—you ever sit down and watch CNN or one of those things for more than an hour? You wanna jump off a bridge! It’s fuckin’ crazy! It’s all slogans and theme songs! So I’m watching CNN for hours, the cable news networks, all these things, and American corporate news is out of its mind. Everything’s a slogan. And alternating that with Robot Chicken and Adult Swim. Which is perfect for lyric writing cause it’s such a reduced attention span, and it’s so violent. “I want something to happen now, something really stupid!” And it happens. The laptop’s open, I’m reading digital comics, I’m reading real comics—a lot of comic books, a lot of images. Books, magazines, all this stuff coming in scattershot. I started writing the lyrics, and it came out like that. It actually sounded like the way my brain felt with all that kind of stuff in there. It’s funny how your environment’ll change you. The same thing happened one time when I went out to Vegas and wrote a record. I went out and spent like three weeks in Vegas and just wrote about money and tits and stuff. It’s the environment.
Empty your bank account and max out your credit cards - it's a big week
Amorphis, Magic & Mayhem – Tales from the Early Years (Nuclear Blast): This is a compilation of re-recorded tracks from the Finnish prog-folk-metal band's first three albums, The Karelian Isthmus, Tales from the Thousand Lakes and Elegy.
Conducting from the Grave, Revenants (Sumerian)
Control Denied, The Fragile Art of Existence deluxe reissues (Relapse): Death guitarist Chuck Schuldiner formed Control Denied in 1996, to pursue more progressive and melodic ideas than he could with his primary band. After Death broke up in 1998, Schuldiner recorded the band's first album, but in 1999 he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. He died in 2001, before the band's follow-up album could be completed. Now Relapse Records has reissued the album as a deluxe 2CD set, and as a limited-edition 3CD version that includes the group's earliest demos.
Daath, Daath (Century Media): This is the fourth studio album by this Atlanta-based progressive death metal band whose appeal has always escaped me. But lots of other people like 'em.
Earth, A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction (Southern Lord): This disc compiles Earth's first EP, Extra-Capsular Extraction, with a 1990 demo. Some of these tracks include contributions by Joe Preston, formerly of Melvins and Harvey Milk, and Kurt Cobain, who sang for some one-hit wonder band in the early '90s. If you like ultra-slow, minimalist doom-drones with occasional drum machine accents, you'll like this a lot.
Firewind, Days of Defiance (Century Media): The new album by Ozzy guitarist Gus G's until-now primary band. It's pure Euro power metal, and kinda awesome.
Forbidden, Omega Wave (Nuclear Blast): A reunion CD by a very underrated Bay Area thrash band that at times included Machine Head's Robb Flynn and Slayer's Paul Bostaph in its roster. Their first two albums, 1988's Forbidden Evil and 1990's Twisted Into Form, are pretty essential. And despite its terrible cover art, this one's a full-on return to form and totally worth your time—intricate, progressive and melodic with zero capitulation to contemporary trends.
Holy Grail, Crisis in Utopia (Prosthetic): This band features all the dudes who quit White Wizzard after that band's debut album, Over the Top, was released last year. They play high-speed retro metal, and they're damn good at it.
Ill Niño, Dead New World (Victory): Yeah, these guys are still around.
Kill the Client, Set for Extinction (Relapse): I love grindcore, and if you love it, too, then you probably already worship Kill the Client. Their Wage Slave EP and 2008's Cleptocracy are some of the most furious grind ever recorded, and this, their debut for Relapse, is even more pissed-off and assaultive. This album's almost certain to make my Top Ten list at year's end.
Kylesa, Spiral Shadow (Season of Mist): Speaking of year-end sure things, Kylesa have finally made their masterpiece. The two-drummer thing hasn't been working out nearly as well for them as it has for the Melvins, but on this record, it really comes together. Plus, there's a new megadose of psychedelia and melody in their songwriting, and the vocal interplay between singer/guitarists Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope is superb. This record is fantastic.
Melechesh, The Epigenesis (Nuclear Blast): Long-awaited new CD by a Middle Eastern metal band that's much, much better than Nile.
Monster Magnet, Mastermind (Napalm): A surprisingly strong album by these New Jersey psychedelic hard rockers, their best since 1998's Powertrip. I'll have an interview with frontman/bandleader Dave Wyndorf on the site tomorrow.
Napalm Death, Diatribes/Greed Killing/Bootlegged in Japan 3CD reissue (Earache): This is a box containing Napalm Death's weirdest album (Diatribes), a contemporaneous EP with four otherwise unreleased songs (Greed Killing), and a live album that was originally a bootleg. They were on a really strong experimental streak in the late 1990s, something I'll be talking about in early November when Earache releases the follow-up to this box, another 3CD set with the Inside the Torn Apart and Words from the Exit Wound albums, and the Breed to Breathe EP.
Shadows Fall, Madness in Manila (Everblack Industries/Ferret): A live album.
Slough Feg, The Animal Spirits (Profound Lore): I've tried more than once to understand what people love about this band. This disc sounds like a bunch of riffs stolen from the first two Iron Maiden albums and vocals that sound like a ranting homeless guy who's a huge Thin Lizzy fan. It's simultaneously unique and completely retro. I don't really love it or hate it, but wow, do these guys have a fervent cult. So by all means check it out.
Therion, Sitra Ahra (Nuclear Blast): Do you like Therion? They have a new album.
Triptykon, Shatter EP (Century Media): I've talked about this band more than a few times on this site already. This EP (three studio tracks and two live tracks, one of which includes guest vocals by Darkthrone frontman Nocturno Culto) is awesome. Get it.
Withered, Dualitas (Prosthetic): Another ambitious Georgia-based metal band, this one working in a blackened death metal vein. Their last album, 2008's Folie Circulaire, was pretty good, but I liked their live show better. I haven't listened to this yet.
Your Demise, The Kids We Used to Be... (Visible Noise): I haven't heard this album yet either, but this UK metallic hardcore band held my interest all the way through their last disc, Ignorance Never Dies, and that's no small achievement in such a hidebound and rote genre. So I'm gonna issue a conditional recommendation on this one.
The extremely busy guitarist talks old music and new
What’s your set list on the current tour? Does doing a Big Four show, or a Big Three show like you’re doing now, force you to focus on ’80s material? How much thought goes into the set list?
Not much thought at all, it’s pretty easy. It’s a “greatest hits” set. On a show like this, we’re just looking to get out there and give people what they want, and it seems to be working really well. We’ve gotten so tight and we’re running so well right now as a band and an engine that I seriously think the shows we’re playing right now are the best shows we’ve played since the Among the Living tour. We’re so tight, and Joey [Belladonna] sounds so amazing—he sounds like he did in 1986, and there’s not many dudes who’ve been doing it this long that can still sing and still hit all the high notes and not miss a beat. The dude is just killing it. So it’s been really exciting having him back in the band and doing the Big Four and now the Big Three and hopefully more Big Four shows next year—it’s just been awesome.
Has there been any serious talk yet about Big Four US tour dates, or is it all still speculation?
It’s all still speculative as far as we’re concerned. That ball’s in Metallica’s court for sure. So we just hear rumors and stuff, just like everybody else. [laughs] Even when the initial seven shows happened, there was a lot of rumor and speculation going around until we actually got the phone call. It’s pretty much the same similar situation [now]. Obviously, we’ve had quite a lot of talk about it between the bands, including Metallica, and everybody’s on the same page as far as wanting to do it again, so we’re just waiting to see when logistically that’s going to be able to happen.
What about Damned Things shows? Are there any plans for a major tour?
Other than a couple of gigs coming up—we have a gig in L.A. at the Roxy on October 28 and then the Pop’s show in Illinois on the 30th—nothing else is confirmed as far as touring. We have two offers for two different tours that go out in January, we would be one of the openers, but we haven’t confirmed anything yet. But yeah, we’re definitely going to go out and tour, that’s for sure.
What’s going on with the next Anthrax record? How much recording remains to be done? Do you have a release date yet?
We’re kinda right in the middle of it. We’ve been working on it almost every day of this tour. We’ve rearranged some stuff, and we’ve worked on writing some new stuff and Joey’s been working on the vocals, so the goal is to have musically everything done before the end of the year. We’re not re-recording the whole album. There’s like seven or eight tracks on the record that are already recorded, done, even mixed. All we have to do is go back and redo the vocals and drop them in and then remix them. So as far as that goes, we’re ahead of the game. And then there were a couple of songs that we decided to re-arrange—we just weren’t comfortable with them anymore so those are getting rearranged. I think especially now with Joey on board, we’re just rearranging them for him and making them more his vehicle. So I think we’re gonna go back in and re-track three songs, and of course all the vocals need to get done. So we’re not rushing anything. it’s the same attitude as always. We never want to rush anything, we just want it to be great, and we’ve had two years of hindsight almost on this record so I feel like now when it does come out, we’ll have had the best opportunity ever because we got to live with this thing for so long and really see what we loved and what we didn’t love about it. And yeah, sometime next year. We don’t really have an idea yet until we know when it’s gonna be done. I’d like to think it’ll be done in the springtime and from that point we could figure out when it’s gonna come out, summer maybe? Something like that.
So it’s definitely gonna happen. It’s not gonna be the new Chinese Democracy…
No, believe me, we’ve been actively working at it. When this tour ends we have a week of stuff to do with the Damned Things at the end of this month and then Anthrax goes to South America for a week, November 8 to 14, and then Frankie [Bello] and I’ll probably get together in the studio just to make sure everything is exactly where we want it musically, and then we’d be ready to probably go in and re-track that stuff before the end of the year. That’s kinda the plan.
Okay, so it’s getting to the end of the year—what albums have really impressed you this year?
Oh, I have no idea. Not a clue. I can’t even think of something new I listened to off the top of my head. I don’t know anything new that I’ve listened to this year. I would probably have to go through my iTunes and see. I’m looking right now, actually. Okay, the last record I bought was the reissue of Refused’s The Shape of Punk to Come, which came out in 1998; before that I bought the first Boston record; before that I downloaded the Pearl album from iTunes. The Pearl album came out in January of this year and I love that record. Before that it was the Misfits’ Walk Among Us, before that was MercyfulFate’s Melissa. This is all stuff I purchased off iTunes this year. There’s nothing—here, Alice in Chains’ Black Gives Way To Blue. That came out this year, right? [Actually, September 2009.] So that kinda gives you a little window into what I’ve been listening to.
Female-fronted French doom act playing with Trees, Bloody Panda, others
Monarch(!) are awesome. Frontwoman Emilie Bresson cuts loose with positively unholy howls and shrieks as the band behind her (guitarist Shiran Kaïdine, bassist Michel Bidegain and drummer Rob MacManus) crash through epic pieces that, like the work of Khanate, take the song "Black Sabbath" as a starting point but extend it as far as necessary. Their first, self-titled album (also known as 666) was a two-CD set with two tracks on Disc One and one on Disc Two. Their next release was a split with French grindcore band Elysium on which Elysium's four tracks added up to less than six minutes of material, and Monarch's one track, "Amplifire Death March," trudged along for an agonizing 58:27. They've also got a second two-CD set, Dead Men Tell No Tales (five tracks total), and their most recent US release, Mer Morte, is a single 33-minute composition. All this stuff is well worth your time and money, if you're a fan of noisy, feedback-laced doom that offers no catharsis, only endless pain. What's funny to me (and apparently to them) is that Monarch's graphics aren't the usual overwrought images of cemeteries, barren forests, etc., etc.—they're hand-drawn and lettered in a way that makes them look like scribblings from the back of a slightly twisted schoolgirl who likes Hello Kitty and doom. (In fact, the group has posted YouTube videos under the account name SANRIOSABBATH.) Here, for example, is the cover to Dead Men Tell No Tales:
Here's a two-part video of the band performing in Switzerland back in April:
This is not a group that tours (or records) frequently, so this is really a can't-miss event for fans of long, slow, screechy/rumbling doom. Here are the dates:
10/31/2010 Chicago, IL @ Hideout w/ Indian, Rabid Rabbit
11/02/2010 Seattle, WA @ Jewel Box w/ Trees
11/03/2010 Portland, OR @ Plan B w/ Trees, Thrones
11/04/2010 San Francisco, CA @ Hemlock w/ Trees, Al Qaeda
11/05/2010 Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman w/ Trees, Laudanum + Alaric
11/06/2010 Los Angeles, CA @ Vacation Vinyl (in-store show)
11/06/2010 Hollywood, CA @ 3 Clubs w/ Trees, Lesbian
11/07/2010 San Diego, CA @ Che Cafe w/ Trees
11/08/2010 Los Angeles, CA @ Two Headed Horse w/ Trees
11/09/2010 East Oakland, CA @ Terminal w/ Trees + Riqis, Sutekh Hexen
11/10/2010 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matters w/ Bloody Panda
11/11/2010 Baltimore, MD @ The Sidebar w/ Bloody Panda, Pala
11/12/2010 Philadelphia, PA @ TBA w/ Bloody Panda
11/13/2010 Manhattan, NY @ The Studio/Webster Hall w/ Bloody Panda
11/14/2010 Brooklyn, NY @ Union Pool w/ Bloody Panda
11/15/2010 Boston, MA @ O' Briens w/ Bloody Panda
Thrash band offers free 5-song EP, heads out on tour
November 7 - Seattle, WA @ The Funhouse
November 8 - Olympia, WA @ Charlie’s Bar & Grill
November 9 - Portland, OR @ Kelley’s Olympian
November 10 - Medford, OR @ TBA
November 11 - Sacramento, CA @ Fire Escape
November 13 - Escondido, CA @ Metaphor Café
November 15 - Phoenix, AZ @ TBA
November 16 - Flagstaff, AZ @ TBA
November 17 - Los Angeles, CA @ TBA
November 18 - Las Vegas, NV @ Divebar
November 19 - Riverside, CA @ Common Ground w/ Witchaven
November 20 - Berkley, CA @ 924 Gilman Street
November 21 - Eugene, OR @ The Astoria
They're also offering a free download of their five-song demo/first EP, By the Gates of Flesh, through the Heavy Artillery label's website. It's not a bad record; guitarist/singer Chris Birkle's vocals are harsh and shouty, reminding me of Bruce Corbitt from '80s thrashers Rigor Mortis. He and second guitarist Josh Kay carve out primitive thrash riffs (if you like Early Man, you'll like these guys) over a foundation laid by bassist Craig Bridenbeck and drummer Marcus Hartford. These guys are a little ragged at times (Hartford in particular), but they make up for it with a fervor that's both contagious and convincing. If you want to check them out (and at this price, why the hell wouldn't you), By the Gates of Flesh is downloadable at this link.
New Heineken ad features acoustic "Ace of Spades"
UPDATE: Some people who I normally think of as smart have grumbled about Motörhead agreeing to do a commercial. I'll let Henry Rollins (who's done a few ads in his time—posing for photos for the Gap, and doing voiceovers for Chevy—and has appeared in some pretty un-punk-rock movies, but whose own art has never changed as a result) speak to this issue.