Wednesday, December 24, 2014

ULULANT




I have absolutely no idea who the people (or perhaps person?) behind Ululant are, so I'm going to choose to fantasise that instead of being mere mortals, they're actually a gang of Lovecraftian monstrosities who've appeared from a dark start beyond our world and picked up instruments. The four song "Imbriferous" demo that's surfaced under that band name contains four tracks that fans of the wonky, dischordant sounds of the likes of Portal and Gorguts will probably enjoy - and will probably liken to those bands - but to me there seems to be a little more going on than that. And if you;re

There's an almost spontaneous feel to this music, that sense of a band collapsing in on themselves, that makes me wonder if there's fans of either modern composition or no wave behind this. Now, I'm not an expert on either of those forms of music nor will I pretend to be, but the bits I like in both of those genres is the point where although each instrument is going off on it's own little adventure, it somehow all fits perfectly. The stuff that was probably laboured over for months, but sounds like it's being made up on the spot. Am I making sense? No?Ah it's fine, I'm not sure Ululant make sense either.

The abstract little sonic demolition sites that make up aren't to be over analysed though - they're to be listened to very loud on headphones in the dark, and allowed to melt your brain. Whoever the brains behind this is, they've had the sage realisation that this kind of abstract murk works best in short doses where it arrives, strikes with maximum impact and fucks off again before you really know what hit you. The strange bell like noises that link the songs could almost be construed as the kind of bell you hear between boxing rounds if you thought about it. But don't think about it. Just let the gurgled Steer-esque vocals, crumbling dischords and wild drumming smack you round the head for a bit.

Well worth the meagre $1 they're charging.



Monday, October 27, 2014

The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)



One of the many problems with remakes is that they often struggle to find a convincing premise when resetting an old tale. How do you approach it? A straight up retelling? A new spin? And if the latter how do you make it tie in with the original version without completely tainting  or unnecessarily obscuring the source entirely?

This is one of the many reasons I don't like remakes I think. Apart from the fact that, let's be fair, 99% of decent horror movies  just plain don't need to be "reimagined", when they are and particularly when these old films are updated for a modern setting, one of their key attractive points - the charm and nostalgia for a supposed "golden era"of the Horror movie back in the day from whence many of these films came - is lost.

The modern tendency to over brutalise, to CGIfy and the like..it's not why we watched these older films and loved them. The grit of, say, the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" is totally pissed on by the sheer glossiness of the remake(s). You forget that any film coming out in the 21st century has to compete with your "Insidious" or "Paranormal Activity" or "Saw" or..well..insert big horror franchise here. S, to redo these old movies, often cruder in plot and manufacture, is like taking a beautiful vintage car, adding ugly new parts, and then entering it in the Grand Prix. It starts well, but sputters out and collapses in on itself in the attempt to keep up,and all you're left with is a wreck of a previously perfectly fine old thing.


"The Town Before Sundown" luckily just about pulls off the trick of being an above average remake, and it's largely down to the setting they place the story in - in many ways it's like a sequel. Basically, it's 30 years after the events of the original film, one which was "based on true events" that happened in Texarkana, and an obsession with the original film leads to the return of "the Phantom" from seemingly nowhere, embarking on a series of copycat murders that echo those carried out in the 1976 version. So far, so meta, and thankfully so good - it's a simple idea but it's a believable one. The fact that in 2013 the citizens all seem to dress like it's the 70s is perhaps less believeable, but it can be overlooked given that the set up actually works. 

This new version allows the idea of this being a revisiting of past events to build the story around the character of Jamie, a girl spared by the now returned Phantom as a "message" to the town. She recruits the assistance of a young archivist in the local library and their ability to pore over news paper reports about both the original 1946 killings, and the making of the 1976 film helps them formulate their own investigation into whats happening. The local cops are lead in their investigation by a Texas Ranger who nicknames himself Lone Wolf, and at some point the character of Charles B Pierce's (the director of the original film) son who has stayed in the town gets involved to provide some important information about what happened to the original Phantom. There's plenty of clever use of footage from the old movie throughout. Again, that set up makes referencing the original essential to the plot. Cleverly done.



It's not the first time something like this has been used as the foundation of a horror movie, and it's not without flaws (not least of which is the somewhat predictable and ridiculous Scooby Doo ending that's straight out of "Scream") - but it gives a pretty solid excise to recreate a couple of the iconic scenes in a modern manner that I think sucessfully bridges the old film with the brutality of the new. Take the infamous trombone scene - it's a deal more graphic in terms of seeing the damage inflicted on the victim, but this time around it's a gay couple. It also perfectly maintains the ferocity in the killings that was so apparent in the 1976 version. Think of the sheer aggression as the Phantom burst through that farmhouse door in the original, and how frightening it is..well that's still the case here. the violence is as abrupt and impactful. The frankness and severity with how it is depicted is unnerving.

Again, it goes a bit pear shaped with the cringey ending, but that's almost an aside - what impresses here is that this feels more like a natural sequel than a remake. It modernises the story in a plausible manner, and rather than turn it into yet another shitty modern torture porn "reimagining", it uses the rural and small town settings you're already familiar with very well. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

FOUND

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I'm reluctant for the most part to refer to “Found” as a horror film per se, at least partially because I feel like that a film like this has a little more going on on one hand, and will alienate many of the die hard gore heads on the other. Like “Thanatomorphose” which I talked about the other day, it's both slightly artier and a great deal slower paced than the average slash n' gash affair, and the fact that the bloodshed in it is actually fairly minimal (though the few times it comes up, it's pretty nuts) should be made clear from the start. Unlike “Thanatomorphose” though, I've no reservations about praising this film.

Really “Found” is a film about the difficulties of being a young boy of a certain age, of feeling alone and helpless in the world. It's about realising you have no one to rely on sometimes, or that when you do there's a chance they'll let you down massively. The plot is simple – Marty is a shy but good natured 12 year old boy obsessed with horror films and comics who's entering a rough period in his youth where he's starting to feel alienated from his family, and is being bullied at school. To be honest I think the character is part of the reason I was hooked into the film – replace “comics” with “death metal” and that was definitely me at that age, and I'd imagine that character will resonate with some of you reading this too. However, the big difference between he and I, is that I didn't have an older brother who was a serial killer.

Marty's discover of his brother's grim secret life is obviously key to the plot here. It's revealed pretty much straight away. The first forty minutes or so of the film though are spent setting up Marty's world, his bullying in school and the resulting fall out, the beginnings of his withdrawal from his family, and his relationship with his best friend and fellow horror geek. So far, so “Stand By Me”. It's when during a sleepover he and said best friend watch “Headless”, a film Marty realises is the inspiration for some of his brother's..eh..”work”, that the second act begins, and the more straight forward Horror Movie section really becomes the focus. I don't want to really get into the plot further than that here, but it's perhaps provident for those who've spent the first half going “when is someone going to get chopped up?” to point out that when the “Headless” tape is slipped into the VHS there's a couple of graphic segments of mutilation and necrophilia that'll keep the Gorezone crowd more than happy.
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The killings other than these sections, are never seen on screen for the most part. At one point they're heard from an adjourning room, and the effect of hearing the victims rather than seeing them works very well. It's far more evocative, and far more in line with the way Marty's inner world is unravelling – he can only imagine what's happening in the way he can only imagine what his brother has been up to all this time.

The real horror in the film for me is really that of a young man's realisation that the world is an absolutely fucking awful place. Marty has come out of primary school, into the big bad world of bullies, racism (which admittedly is handled pretty clumsily, though not offensively), homophobia, and trying to figure out how to be a man. “Found” documents two stories really – that of a disturbed older boy committing atrocious acts right under the noses of those around him, and at the same time the story of a naïve and good natured young boy become hardened and cold via his experience of the world around him. It's sad to see. Given how much he obviously looks up to his older brother, the only person who looks out for him, it's clear he's absolutely devastated by his discovery of what's going on.

The inevitable and grizzly climax to the story you can kind of see coming, but it's handled very well by the filmmakers none the less – and I'll tell you what, the last shot before it cuts to the credits is fucking brutal. Seriously, it's an image that'll stay with you for a while. This film was made for $8000 which seems crazy cheap given the quality of it too, both in terms of quality of visuals and performances. Gavin Brown who plays “Marty” is excellent, particularly for someone so young. The pacing will possibly be a problem for some, but I feel like it serves the purpose of the story, they're trying to build a plot rather than provide cheap thrills. I'd also be curious to read the book it was based on, which was written by a guy named Todd Rigney.

This film seems to be getting a bunch of notice and critical acclaim and the like, and to be honest, for once I feel like it deserves it. A solid, dark drama film that's actually kinda touching, and one of the few recent scary movies where the story comes first.

THANATOMORPHOSE


 I missed “Thanatomorphose” when it was screened during Horrorthon here in Dublin last year. It was one of the films I was most curious to see given a couple of mentions I'd seen online. The premise is simple: “A young girl called Laura mysteriously contracts a disease that causes her to rot from the inside out”. Fair enough, a feature film length visual accompaniment to Pungent Stench's "Just Let Me Rot" then, clearly.. Body horror's my bag, seemed like something I should see. And so finally, last night, I got around to sitting down and giving the dvd a look.

“Thanatomorphose” is one of those films you come across once in a while that every ounce of your being just wants to absolutely fucking hate, but some part of you can't dismiss entirely. There's not a great deal to recommend the movie – it features some of the most atrocious acting I've encountered in some time,particularly from the boyfriend character, who is excruciating to watch for the brief periods he's on screen.There is barely any plot, no explanation for why or how Laura contracts this mysterious virus. The camera angles at times seem completely random. It seems to last a lot longer than the 100 minutes it actually goes on for. It almost feels at times like you're watching a gore version of “The Room”, such is the overall shodiness of it.

But at the same time, there are a couple of saving graces. For one thing – let's be clear on this – the film is basically just a riff on one single idea, the idea of watching someone physically disintegrate over time. That's really the only reason the film exists, all the other elements are incidental and are probably just there to stretch this into a feature length film rather than the short it could have been. If you're okay with that, and you know that going in, it might make the movie work a little better for you. For one thing, the “drawn out” approach is really the only way I suppose you can portray something as gradual as the rotting process Laura goes through. And obviously, given the premise, the film can only end one way, so if you're not a fan of predictable endings this isn't the film for you.

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The sexual aspect of the film, which kind of seems played up a little in the trailer and some reviews, is again somewhat incidental – it's often suggested rather than graphically shown, and the nudity is practical more than anything. If you want to have a film where the main character is basically rotting alive, you kind of need to have that person not wearing any clothes so that their body, and the rotting process it undergoes, is visible. So if you're hoping for some kind of meditation on sex and death, again, this ain't the film for you. And indeed, the real stars of the movie are the make up team here.

The slow process that begins with some bruising and a nail or two falling off gets into some genuinely grotesque paces over the film as Laura becomes a living corpse. She shuts herself away in a world of bodily functions, duct tape and bandages as her skin becomes gradually more putrid and her limbs decay. I have to take my hat off to the folks who created the make up, because it's honestly pretty fucking disgusting. Which it had to be.

In terms of mood and tone the directors have nailed it. The weird dream sequences are a little too randomly thrown in to make any sense, but the dimly lit set, the sense of claustrophobia and almost tangible atmosphere of utter misery and degradation is bang on. The alternating sombre violin/death industrial soundtrack is pretty fitting too – indeed it's one of the things I liked most about the film. Actually it strikes me that for the second half of the film in particular, a lot of the visual elements wouldn't be entirely out of place as background projections at some dingy power electronics gig.

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By the time I reached the last, lingering shot, assured in its' utter finality, I was left with some pretty mixed feelings about “Thanatomorphose”. The filmmakers can't, clearly, tell a decent story here. You feel no empathy for Laura or any other characters. Any attempt at hiding some sort of hidden meaning (the repeated shots of Laura masturbating during various staged of decay, the vaginally shaped hole in her ceiling she sees as she does so), are cringeworthy at best.

But I'm not entirely sure that was their aim. There are a lot of blatant, unforgiveable flaws about this film, and I can see why most people would absolutely trash it. It feels, almost accidentally, like a film out of time – I can very easily imagine having read about this 20 years ago in Film Threat alongside “Schramm” or “The Mutilation Man” or something. I can't say I'll ever watch it again, I'm not sure I'd say I even like it – but there is definitely something about it that made it worth watching at least once.

Surreal by accident rather than choice, as clumsy as it it bleak, “Thanatomorphose” is a one of a kind, I'll give it that. It's more of a mood piece than a horror film. Proceed with caution.

an interview with BEAST AS GOD

BEAST AS GOD are from Nottingham in England. There are five of them. They sound like Unruh and Catharsis having a barfight. Inspired by yhe more confrontational ends of 90s metallic hardcore, they are far from any kind of nostalgia, but definitely a band old farts like me will probably have a soft spot for straight away. They have things to say. I have allowed vocalist Jérémie to say them here. While reading I suggest you listen to their excellent demo below


So Jérémie: what prompts a bunch of people to start a band like Beast as God at this point in the 21st century? Was there a specific set of ideas or goals in forming BAG that you had in mind once you got together? For example there’s a very definite hint of certain types of 90s metallic hc, that I don’t really hear any more going on in both the music and lyrics – so was BAG an attempt to bring that back? Are you trying to fill a void?

I had been thinking about starting a band in this vein for years, but the chaos in my life did not allow me to make it come into existence until last year. Coming out of that period and into a reconstruction phase meant getting a start on that project became more pressing, so I asked Steve (who plays guitar in Moloch and does Rum Lad zine) if he would be interested in playing guitar in a band in that vein, which luckily he agreed to. Perfect synchronicity meant that Matt, who was in Dead In The Woods with me, had returned to Nottingham and he soon joined the project. A common friend introduced us to drum wiz kid Steve and when Boulty, who is a long-time friend and also plays with Steve in Huffin' Paint as well as being known to many as the man behind 'Stuck On A Name' studio (and for a dubious love of nu-metal) offered to play bass, we finally had a band!

Yes, when we got together, there was a strong idea of what it would sound like, I did a mixtape to Steve and Matt, both guitar players, and we discussed our sound much before even having the full line-up. The idea is clearly to hark back to that 90s sound, from Rorshach to Acme via Catharsis and Unruh, all bands who obviously were raised on Maiden and Slayer before they discovered Black Flag, with a hint of that heavy metal proficiency and the unhinged-ness Japanese bands such as Deathside and GISM have. It is also a reaction against both Tragedy clones and Entombedcore. I love both Tragedy and Entombed, but I think between the HM2 fixation and the easy melodies, something has been lost of the primal Slayer addled heaviness of mid-90s hardcore.
So in a nutshell: His Hero is Gone, not Tragedy, The Swarm, not Cursed!

I can only speak to myself here, but for me, there is a long tradition of bands that exist in the hinterland between punk and metal which are influenced by both, but are really neither, combining the no thrill roughness of punk hardcore, with the heaviness and musicianship of metal to create something else. I would be happy and honoured for Beast as God to be seen as aligned with bands such as GISM, Sacrilege, Amebix, Crow, Bolt Thrower, Antisect, Starkweather, Integrity, His Hero Is Gone, Neurosis, Unruh, Catharsis, Gehenna, etc.

The type of metallic hardcore we play was my very first true love music wise. I came to age in the early 90s, and was into francophone punk, then moved to Uni in Bordeaux and was introduced first to the more ‘tough guy’ side of things with bands such as Stormcore and Kickback, and then the ultra-DIY, political side of things with bands such as Undone, Öpstand, etc… I liked the music of both, and made friends in both scenes, but the posturing of the former was not for me, and the politics of the latter, whilst worthwhile, was a bit too much at times. Then Stalingrad, Catharsis and Gehenna came to town in short succession, and they were mean, no “network of friends” hippy bullshit (even so I deeply care for the DIY network), confrontational, but not posturing, just pure take no prisoners punk hardcore fury, with a thick metallic sound, I was hooked for life!

I am not sure if I get you right, but I am going to try to answer you there on the last point. Currently, there’s a resurgence of a sort of “holy terror” hardcore, I had given metallic hardcore up for dead in the early 00’s as ‘metalcore’ became a swearword, all pretty boys playing overproduced bullshit or knuckle-dragging e-chugg boredom, but bands like Pulling Teeth and Rot in Hell reminded me how much I loved that stuff! There are a lot of newer bands doing it right, like Children of God or Withdrawal, but I find that too many bands go for the pseudo-occult, neo-folk, Process fixated aesthetics of later Integrity only as a packaging, it all rings very hollow to me, with Beast as God we ally ourselves more with bands like Unruh, Artimus Pyle, (early) Catharsis or Gehenna, seeking solace in acknowledging the more sordid corners of humanity, exploring the raw sewage…
No master plan to bring anything back or fill a void, just play the music we want to play, and rage.

What prompted the name “Beast As God”? Is it an allusion to paganism? A statement about humanity? Or was it purely just cos it sounds rad? Do you feel the name ties into the lyrics?

Very prosaically, Beast as God comes from Integrity's song “Beasts as Gods” (which I am pretty sure is influenced by the NON album God and Beast), losing the ‘s’ to make it roll better out of the tongue!

And yes, it is a statement about the dichotomous nature of humanity, we are the beast, and we are god. This indeed ties nicely with the lyrics, as my lyrics explore the extremes of human condition… I am a staunch rationalist, I live in a world of causes and effects, however, my lyrical world is a world of vengeful gods and half-forgotten myths, as I find those tap into strong atavisms for the listeners (assuming they are culturally western). I was raised a catholic, so biblical imagery speaks strongly to me, but I am very interested in the interaction between humanity and the natural world about which pagan traditions have much to tell us.

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(photo by Andy Greenstreet)

The artwork on the tape looks great, what does the Japanese writing on the cover mean? And for those who missed it (ie: most people) can you tell us a bit about the “special edition” with the sort of military looking art?

Thanks, those are the Japanese characters for “Beast” and “God”, Momo who does Flower of Carnage record in Japan and his Friend Toshi did them with a proper calligraphy brush and I love how they came out!

The special edition, ha! Ok, it is a handmade, numbered edition of 13 with a GISM rip-off over-sleeve. Andy from Viral Age and I are suckers for that kind of thing, small handmade editions meant for friends and supporters, not to make it into ebay fodder, but as a way to make it a bit more special and personal… That one was definitely not meant for general consumption as it has some borderline nazi aesthetic that would be wrongly interpreted by anybody not familiar with the cover of GISM's last album (SoniCRIME Therapy)…

It is also a nod to my Laibach obsession, 20 year old me would have hated it, as I used to call for a boycott of Laibach based on their aesthetic! But then I heard their cover of a Queen song as a Teutonic marching band and realised the humour in what they were doing (“Geburt Einer Nation”seek it out, it is one of my favourite things ever), I love how they toyed with this martial imagery, but made it into something very kitsch, maybe not to be shared with everybody, though…
So yeah, that’s what the Ltd tape is about: a cheeky GISM/Laibach homage.

I get the feeling there are some specific nods to the Catharsis/Inside Front/Crimethinc gang in the music, lyrics and aesthetic elements of the band. I know you personally are a fan of that particular period in HC history – what is/was it about that corner of the scene that appealed to you so much? Do you feel the sense of revolution that movement was trying to push so hard has been lost in punk/hc at this point? How do you feel the musical and written elements of that movement have held up the best part of two decades on?

Here we go, how many pages do we have? Haha… Yes, you are right Catharsis is a very special band for me, and by extension, so are Inside Front and Crimethinc, musically, I think they fully exemplify what I was saying about a band being neither metal, nor hardcore, but both, and then some more. With the benefit of hindsight, I feel some of the revolutionary fervour of the whole Crimethinc thing to be more than a bit cringe-worthy, for sure. Their more outlandish drop-out facet looked very different after I met my current partner, who had been a single mother for 6 years before I was welcomed into her and her son’s family: drop-out of capitalism and become a vagabond? OK, but that would not put dinner on the table, innit?

Still, around the time they released Samsara, that whole thing was the perfect package: a band musically head and shoulders above most of their peers (listen to Alexei’s incredible drumming and Brian's weird on time but not on time delivery) which was entirely dedicated to their revolutionary mission. It sounds corny, but for a while it all made sense, they were the vanguard, their way of life and art combined offered a glimpse into another way of living… Of course it could not last, but being there at the time was exhilarating! So I hope we take the best of that period, but don’t fall into the trap of being too ebullient about it, just keep what made it so powerful.

If I am being honest, what makes that particular period of music for me is that it harks back to my formative years, so of course I am looking at it through nostalgic lenses... I am at war with the narrative that wants the 90s to have been a low point for hardcore punk. A period that spawned bands such as His Hero Is Gone, Acme, Zorn, ABC Diabolo, HHIG, Catharsis, Breach, Headway (mostly the Frenchies will get that one), Stalingrad, Botch, etc. cannot be so easily cast aside! And yes, there was a revolutionary fervour which is lacking nowadays. I can see how the whole PC thing can been seen as borderline ridiculous now, and some bands/people went too far in their zeal, but those questions needed asking, and at risk of sounding like the old man I am, I sometimes despair that we have almost lost that, the constant discussion about sexism, food not bomb, etc. those were worthy endeavours, and made punk more special than just posting pix of coloured vinyl on Instagram.
How does it all hold up after 20 years? I am not sure. I think some amazing records came out at that time, for sure. As far as the written element is concerned, I was indeed a fan of Inside Front anti-MRR approach to things, when MRR was and still is a quick, to the point snapshot of the scene at any given time, short interviews, shorter reviews, Inside Front wanted itself to be more akin to an academic journal, taking its time to get in depth into the matter. I am not saying it is the only approach, and that the written aspect of hardcore punk culture should always be that verbose, far from it!!! but I liked this (can’t you tell?) and I worry we’ve almost totally lost this in a world of Facebook posts and Twitter…

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(picture by Fat Robbie)

You’re a Frenchman living in the English Midlands. We always have this slightly romanticised idea that the punk scene on the mainland is slightly better organised/run than it is in the UK or Ireland in terms of autonomous spaces, DIY venues and the like, but I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot more of these type venues popping up in the UK nowadays, like I know of JT Soar in Notts for one. How do you think the DIY aspect in the UK now compares to in France at this point?

When I first came to England, I was shocked by how many promoters were not providing hospitality, this is taken for granted in France and the rest of Europe, to promote a gig means finding a venue and a line-up and of course actually 'promoting' the gig beforehand so people turn up but IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING that it also means cooking something hot and nutritious (go vegan so you’re sure to cater for everybody) and find some friendly dry floor place for the band to crash on!! It was shocking to have to beg the audience for a place to crash and to have to buy food on the go from an already meagre budget! Luckily this is less and less the case, but still there is room for progress on that one…

I’ve now lived in England for 13 years, so I am not an expert on the French scene anymore (if I ever was)… and I haven’t been on tour for years, so I don’t feel I can really answer that one. What I can tell you is that the DIY punk hardcore network in the UK is the healthiest I have ever known it!!! At some point, it looked like the legendary 1in12 in Bradford was the sole standard bearer for DIY run places left! But of late places like Stuck On A Name studios and JT Soar in Nottingham, Wharf Chambers and Temple of Boom in Leeds, the Lughole in Sheffield, etc. have been proving me wrong!

Similarly, I’m always interested in the local vs global aspect of punk. I feel like in the scene while things like touring and putting out records , which are obviously a means to reach the wider scene, are all fine but there’s an element within punk whereby the importance is more about what role your band plays locally. I suppose what I’m getting at here is I’m wondering if you’re happy for Beast As God is a band that is more interested in interacting and participating in the UK scene primarily, or do you wish to reach a wider audience? Or is that something you even think about?

Beast as God as a band is not going to ever be that busy, we’ve got other bands, jobs, kids, older bodies, etc. which means we’re never going to be a band planning global domination!!! So by default we are going to exist primarily as a local band, but the global aspect of DIY is one of its best aspects, I have directly and indirectly interacted with people from all over the globe thanks to the DIY network, and I certainly hope BaG is a part of this. Knowing that some of the tapes went as far afield as Japan, Malaysia, Latin America and New Zealand has been great! Likewise, I'd like to think that we are part of a network of like-minded folks/bands, across the globe...

I agree with you that the local aspect of DIY is paramount, it is what got me into it 20 years ago, the realisation that your scene is in your hands, getting into bands like Stormcore and Out For Blood (Neglect inspired Belgium band) and then realising that if I wanted to see them, all I needed to do was to get them to play my city, which we did together with a mate and was revelatory, it switched me from a musical consumer to an actor! And 20 years down the line, even so I often grumble about it, I won't let it go just yet.

We’re almost all promoters in the band, and all partake in the local scene’s life: I put on gigs with two friends (I think the names Andy and Henry will be familiar to you and any readers following the Nottingham scene) as the 593 Collective, Steve's (gtr) artwork is often seen on posters for local gigs and he also puts on gigs semi regularly and so does his partner Tanya from Bismuth, Steve (dr) also puts on gigs, Boulty runs the legendary 'Stuck On A Name' studios and Matt’s artwork is also often seen on posters and records for local gigs/bands.

The older I get, the less interest I have in what you might refer to as “The Discharge Haiku” approach to lyrics. Thankfully you’ve avoided that. I wanted to ask about two of the songs on the demo in particular – firstly, “Eschatological Visions” can you perhaps explain this one a little? I’m curious about the mention of “breaching the walls of Jerusalem” for example.

First of all, I beg to differ with you on the Discharge Haiku thing, like most things punk/metal, it is awful when done badly, and of late, yes, there might have been a lot of that! But when done right, it is devastating; check Bloodkrow Butcher’s lyrics for “anti war”:
“Who declares the fucking war? Not the corpses. Anti war”
Fucking genius if you ask me!

Eschatological Visions is what it says on the tin, a vision of destruction, annihilation, pure rage. Like all the lyrics of the demo, it directly concerns a recent period of my life when I was thrown in absolute turmoil, I shan’t go into the specifics, but it has had a profound and life changing effect on my family, and myself. Coming out of that period battered and bruised, I felt the need for an outlet allowing me to express primal emotions, something brutal and to the point, so I could channel out the negativity.
This song is a declaration of war to the human race, after years of taking abuse from all directions for sticking to your guns, after seeing people reduce you and your loved ones to mere shells because you stood right (and were later proven so in court) in something that was a matter of life and death to a child, I can tell you at some point, if I had the power to pass judgement on humanity, I would have happily called time on it! Of course it doesn’t mean I am for voluntary extinction, or anything like that, it is a snapshot of my emotions at that specific moment, just incandescent rage.

I will breach the walls of Jerusalem besieged/and unleash a storm, with it comes pestilence”

Like I have discussed before, I find religious imagery to be extremely potent as a lyricist, those lines of lyrics are a denial of the separation of good from evil, you know the idea that people who are doing evil deeds are “monsters”, so that most people are good, they are Solomon's temple, and on the other side of the walls are monsters, evil hordes besieging Jerusalem? Nope, the monsters are us, the urges that make those people kill, rape, steal? We all have them, those evil paedophiles? They might be great mates, a laugh down the pub, good brothers who remember your birthday, neighbours etc...they are not “like” us, they are us.

So I (or at least my demonic avatar in the song) tear down the wall creating that false separation, and call time on the whole lot!
Not beast or god, beast as god...

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(picture by Charlee Rowton)

And secondly, can you talk a little about the song “Eulogie” – my French is crap but I can understand the bit at the start about “we are living, brothers and sisters, in a life of agony” and then something later about “everything will be possible, everything will be permitted”; can you explain a little about this song and what made you write this one in your own language rather than English?

Almost right! The first part means "We are alive, brothers and sisters, alive in a world in agony" and the other part translates as "everything was possible, and everything was permitted".
This song opens with a celebration of survival, we are alive, in a world in agony, maybe, but still alive when too many people aren't, but after that, it is a litany of nostalgia and reliving memories, memories of moments when one felt alive with possibility, you know: first love, first riot, first gig, that kind of thing.

I am almost forty, life half-over as Geriatric Unit helpfully puts it, and I just took a battering, and yes, sometimes I yearn for the innocence of my earlier days, to be once again that cocky little prince who walked the world like he owned it (I was horrendous!) and not that scarred veteran! The end of the song translates as "And when each evening/I close my eyes/on my defeats/I find myself alive/alive but lost in a dying world/and I can hear the cries/of fallen angels/they are my brothers and sisters/fallen from a sky ablaze/their wings torn away/their heart broken/here they are laid/ on the floor bare/this cruel fate/condemned them/to an eternity/spent crawling". A declaration of heartbreak at the people we have lost, because they choose an early exit, or because they just gave up and joined the production lines...

So where the first song of the demo is a snapshot of pure rage, this one, the last song, is a snapshot on a moment of quiet despair, of absolute lassitude...

Why did I write it in French? I try to have at least one French song on every record I put out, it is my own tongue and I think it is important, coming back to the international dimension of hardcore punk, it is great, but at times it feels like it is just another part of globalisation, you know, Indonesian, Ecuadorian or Pakistani kids shouting in English? Now I am not saying it is always wrong, but it can be very odd, reading the texts of some of my friend's old bands back in France, trying to say worthwhile things, over a 2 minutes song, and in barely understandable broken English!!!

You might remember that band Ire, which became the Black Hand? Radwan the singer was a Lebanese kid living in French Canada, so they released that 7",and it had one song in English (I think it was about work), one in French (about the futility of the tension between French and English in Quebec seen against the genocide of the Native Canadian) and one in Arabic (about the Intifada), it left a very long lasting effect on me, how he used all three languages he spoke, but also how each language was suited to the subject matter... So from that example, I made the conscious decision to have French on every record I did, but it is easier said than done, French grammar does not suit the short sharp shock of hardcore, at all. It is great for chanson, and hip-hop, but not for fast! So the initial reason that song is in French is that it is the more mid-tempo song we had, and when I heard it, I knew it would fit French lyrics...

Right, the big question you knew this was coming: we’re both parents. How, if it all, do you feel being involved in punk/hc culture has affected your approach to raising children? How easy do you find it to balance still being active in a band with being a parent?

My partner of 13 years had a 6 year old son when we got together, so I sort of was thrown in at the deep end when I became part of their family... and we now have a 5 year old daughter. Being into punk hardcore definitely has affected my parenting, and being a parent has definitely changed my outlook on punk hardcore!

I come from a very middle class, liberal, catholic family, and I try to bring to my parenting the good side of my upbringing, and from punk hardcore a healthy mistrust of authority as well as trying to teach my kids to see through the trappings of consumer culture, with varying results, of course, but parenting is definitely an art, not a science!!

Having a daughter has been a learning curve, as I am one of 4 boys, and the exposure to feminist theories I had through hardcore punk culture definitely informed my parenting in that matter.
I have already said how difficult the last years have been for my family, going through that time has put my musical activities into perspective, as at the end, it doesn't matter at all compared to the well-being of my loved ones, but at the same time, having somewhere to escape it all and lock myself in a room with good people and make an infernal racket for two hours a week has been salubrious! So on top of influencing my parenting, the outlet offered by being in a couple of bands, and going to raging gigs certainly makes me a better father...

However, there is an intrinsic tension between home and musical activities, which are by and large nocturnal, and therefore clashing with parenting duties. It is hard to establish an easy balance between the two and it has had an effect on how many gigs I can play, and certainly go to, I seldom go to gigs I don't play or put on anymore.

Another unexpected benefit of being a parent has been to take myself out of the punk hardcore fish bowl, and throw me into the real world, interact with ‘real’ people… It did put things into perspective. Some things I got from hardcore punk became very futile, some others even more crucial…

This also made me much choosier about which gig I will play. If I go to play a gig, it will likely cost me money (the joy of DIY in 2014), it means my partner has to stay home, and can't socialise and it is likely I will be slightly under the weather and grouchy the following day, so a gig has to be worth it for me to play it, so if we don't like the bands we play with, or are friends with them, or are not reasonably sure there will be some petrol money, chances are I am not going to play it. I wish it was not the case as I am sure this means missing out on some belters, but it is the price to pay for playing that game at my old age...

Almost done – I know most if not all of the BAG members are involved in other bands; want to tell us a little about those?

Sure, Steve (gtr) plays in Moloch (http://moloch.bandcamp.com/), who play monolithic sludge, they have released a couple of split 12" with Meth Drinker and Ensorcelor last year, two slabs of pure hatred!

Steve (dr) and Boulty (bass) play gonzo fastcore in Huffin' Paint (http://huffinpaint.bandcamp.com/) they have a split with Chevin out and regularly play all over the country. Boulty also plays in Death Tripper (http://deathtripper.bandcamp.com/) a grindcore band who have recently released a split EP with Meatpacker.

As of very recently Matt (gtr) plays keyboard in Nadir (http://nadirmurk.bandcamp.com/), a weird psychedelic sludge band in which I also do vocals and abuse a Theremin, we are about to release a tape album on Viral Age records. Matt also has a couple of not heavy musical projects on the go, but nothing finalised yet.

And finally: what’s next for BAG?
Playing more gigs and writing an album, then finding people willing to release said album. Maybe do a mini tour out of the country next year. Rage on...

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(picture by Charlee Rowton)

WHO'S LAUGHING NOW: a decade of Deathpile's "GR"

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I talked about the movie "Maniac" earlier on this blog. About how it was basically a horrendous story, a grotesque and horrific misogynistic character at its core performing gruesome and despicable acts - and about how the success of the film was to make the viewer feel implicated in the action so as to feel the full horror. For convenience's sake because it operates and affects me in much the same way that film (and the original version) did, let's refer to Deathpile's "GR" as pretty much the audio equivalent. Only more so. Because it's based around a true story of utter horror, which makes it all the more frightening. 

Yeah, I know, power electronics artists singing about true crime and sexual abuse is about as powerful and disturbing this point as a bowl of melted ice cream. "GR" - a concept album about the Green River Murderer Gary Ridgeway written from his point of view - is one of the tiny percent of records in that vein that is as unsettling as you want it to be. Listening to the fancy new green vinyl reissue version of it I got in the post yesterday makes me feel just as uneasy and on edge as it did the first time I heard it a decade or so ago. 

I have a lot of time for Jonathan Canady's work. I dug Dead World, the industrial metal band he was in in the mid-early 90s as a teenager,back in the days when Relapse (who released their now pretty dated but still enjoyable enough "The Machine" lp) were still very much an underground concern. Angel of Decay, Nightmares, and his recent solo work are all highly recommended. His artwork and his late, great "Colours of the Dark" blog piqued my interest too.

But "GR", recorded by himself and David E. Williams, was the game changer for me. It's the work of his I keep coming back to. It's a record that presents difficult, horrible topics in a way that is utterly without titillation, without any sense that these horrible acts are being trivialised. Indeed, the most frightening moment on the record is it's calmest - "Known Victims", which lists those who suffered at this horrendous man's hands. It reminds you this is real. This isn't something you should enjoy, or take lightly. It's an audio documentary of a man's murderous descent into misanthropy and violence.

"GR" succeeds in being a compelling and ultimately affecting record because it channels the atrocity of the situation unflinchingly. It's hard to get through. It is a piece of art that I think genuinely reflects the darkest reaches of the human psyche in a powerful way, and without even a hint of irony.

And I wanted to talk to him about it now, in light of the fact that's back out there once again. I'm by no means the first person to ask him about it, nor is this the most in depth piece, but I felt compelled to ask him about it from the point of view of someone who has been spellbound by it. I'd urge you to read a more detailed piece in Mark Goodall's "Gathering Of The Tribes" too, and thank Jonathan for taking the time to answer these questions for me.



Firstly Jonathan, it's now ten years since "GR" first came out, so looking back on it in hindsight, how do you feel about the record a decade later?

I'm not really one to pat myself on the back when it comes to my own music but I think "G.R." stands the test of time remarkably well. Until David (keyboardist / engineer on the album) and I listened to the vinyl test pressing I hadn't heard it in years. I was expecting to hate it. Other than some of the lyrics making me cringe, I actually enjoyed hearing it again.

Can you remember where the idea to dedicate an entire album to the Green River murderer rather than just,say, a song or two came about? I presume it was a personal obsession/interest that lead to it obviously but what I'm getting at here is taking the step to write a whole album about it - was it something you felt needed a whole album to explore fully?

I can't take credit for the idea. Dominick Fernow from Hospital Productions saw Deathpile perform live in Providence, RI in 2002. After he watched our set he suggested we do a theme album on The Green River Killer as the suspect had just been arrested at that time. I thought it was a good idea so Dave and I agreed to do the release.

How long did the writing take? There was obviously a timeline of events you had to follow in order to tell the story, I'm curious was it difficult to do that, to condense so much information into a relatively short space? Were there any aspects you want to include in the lyrics but couldn't? Any material that wasn't used?

The research and lyrics took over two months to complete. In retrospect I can't believe I actually put so much time and effort into it. I relied mostly on The Seattle Times newspaper articles but also a couple of books, a magazine feature and a couple of TV documentaries. I wrote pages and pages of notes based on that research material. Then I made an outline and built on that from my notes. I broke the expanded outline into potential "songs" and then completed the lyrics after several drafts. So yes, it was a nightmare.

I included everything interesting that I had access to at the time and then added my own speculations as to what Ridgeway may have been thinking. The only material I didn't use was Ted Bundy's theories on the Green River case that were published in the book "Riverman" by Robert Keppel. I think Bundy's ideas were mostly bullshit but they did help me get into Ridgeway's head a bit.



Was there any specific books/documentaries you referred to for research during the writing? And kind of an aside, but have you read the "Green River Killer" graphic novel that came out recently and what did you think of it?

I had already read "The Search for the Green River Killer" by Carlton Smith and Tomas Guillen and actually didn't end up using it for the writing of the lyrics. The only other book out at that time was "Riverman" and it wasn't all that helpful. The Seattle Times was the main source. Some of the research and the voice samples on the album were from two different TV documentaries / news magazine shows but I don't recall the specific titles. Since I can't help you there, I will recommend the excellent film "The Killing of America." It has nothing to do with the Green River case but it's the only True Crime documentary you ever need to see.

I don't care for graphic novels and I have avoided almost everything about the case since the album was recorded. After some time had passed I did end up reading the chapters added to "The Search for the Green River Killer" after Ridgeway's confession, but that's it. At this point in my life I have very little interest in True Crime at all. I think that has a lot to do with the fact that the writing of "G.R." burned me out.
The album is obviously written from Gary's point of view, rather than just a retelling of events from a third party standpoint. On a personal level, do you think approaching the topic from that point of view and inhabiting that head space helped you understand Ridgeway any better? Or empathize with his victims any further?

There was so little detail about the crimes available I had no choice but to try to express what Ridgeway may have been thinking and doing. I am a fan of Peter Sotos' writing so I used some of his early work as inspiration on how to riff on the bland facts. I think I may have been able to understand Ridgeway a bit but obviously not enough if you think about the song "You Will Never Know." It was really all speculation based on the research and reading far too many True Crime books over the years.

As for the victims, since the majority of the album was (to borrow from the Adverts' song) "looking through Gary Ridgeway's eyes" I didn't empathize with them at all. That sounds pretty cold but I was still in the "young and angry" part of my life. I've matured into a kinder, gentler person since then. Funny but true.

Obviously it's not something that ever really gets discussed as in the power electronics/industrial scene I suppose a lot of us are , for better or for worse, unshockable, and the album obviously was intended to be an underground release; but as someone who made a record that I think handles a taboo topic very well ,here's a hypothetical question:  I was wondering how would you respond if someone who were to stumble across the album without really understanding the context were to accuse you of "glamourising" a serial killer in the work?

I don't think killing people and having sex with corpses in real life is very glamorous.

Finally, "GR" ended up being the final Deathpile full length (besides the "final confession" comp) - was this by design? Did you feel after that it was time to draw a line under the project because of the fact that you had maybe done what you'd set out to do, or was there a different reason to call it a day?

Dave and I knew we couldn't top the "G.R." album. As I've said before, I really wish Celtic Frost would have stopped after "To Mega Therion" was released.

For further information on the music and art of Jonathan Canady, please check out:


the album is available via Tesco and Freak Animal or digitally/streaming via Bandcamp

DROSE

DROSE first came to my attention via the Built On A Weak Spot blog last year some time, you might remember I mentioned them in a list of bands whose albums I was looking forward to. I've been listening to the tracks off their 7" and various tracks that have popped up on soundcloud a lot over the last few months, and the trio are making compelling, fascinating and vaguely terrifying music that has fast made them one of my favourite bands of late. Alien and unnerving sounds that remind me of early Swans or latter day Oxbow at times atmospherically - although they really don't sound like either band. They don't really sound like anyone else full stop. More people need to check them out, basically.  And in order to hopefully induce you to do that, I interviewed vocalist and guitarist Dustin.

I suppose I should just get the boring stuff out of the way first: can you tell me a little about the formation of Drose? The first thing I heard by you was the 7” obviously, but I know there was a tape before that (which, stupidly, I missed out on)...How long have you guys been together now?

 I began writing for Drose in the fall of 2010. After I had recorded a few songs I played them for John to see if he would be interested in playing drums. After a couple months and with a few more songs I asked Greg if he would like to join. We had all been friends for quite some time, but I knew they would both understand the main idea behind Drose.

 We began working on the material together but then in the early spring of 2011 John faced a life threatening medical complication that required immediate surgery and John’s life was put on hold for quite some time. It wasn’t until February of 2012 that we played our first show and recorded the tape and 7”.



With the name “Drose” obviously being an abbreviation of your (Dustin’s) own name, and some of the tracks that I’ve heard online being demos with drum machines and stuff,I kind of wondered was this something that you originally envisioned as a solo project? Do you write as a group or is it a case that you just demo stuff at home and teach the other guys in the rehearsal room?


 Drose was never purposed as a solo project, and the name didn’t get picked until sometime in 2011. The material is prepared and recorded on my end and after I have brooded over them for a bit I play them for John and Greg for approval. This process has been fairly successful in helping us to stay on topic and hand pick the right songs as a group. The “sonic message” is calculated and reviewed in this way.



Listening to you guys and with the lyrics (which I’ll get to in in a sec), I always get the feeling your music is sort of like the result of some sort of struggle between this very human element - your voice, specifically, puts across a kind of discomfort and almost panic at times - and some kind of inhuman machine.What brought about that kind of approach, the man vs machine thing?


 I have grown up servicing machines and mechanisms my entire life, following in my father’s footsteps from a young age. Over the past six years I have been exposed to and obsessed with a particular theme however. Some of which is purely from imagination but the rest is from experiences and time with machines. The theme has been converging on this character, this sort of "man". This man comes from a world of anxiety, obsession and tinkering. This man misses the "big picture" or the "good life" but instead has found something else, something in the dark that fuels him and brings him this distorted joy. He calls the world of industry and fire his home and in doing so has lost interest in the creature comforts that they provide. All he does and knows is machine. Control is his craft, machine is lord and the future is unraveling.

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Man vs. machine is almost the right idea but the perspective is what is important. The man gives commentary to his own idea of what progress is and will be, and it begins with himself as he transforms himself. The man hopes to show the world he has lost touch with all of his new discoveries, which to the people “above” are actually terrifying and threatening.

Sonically the voice itself is meant to waft the story and message of this transformation. To me a machine is beautiful and even seductive, but at the same time overpowering, unstoppable and inhuman. The voices give me the vehicle to express a lot of odd subjects that aren’t actually real but very real to “me”.
Also on a more trivial level I feel the vocals fill a void in the high-volume music world, soft melodic vocals are hard to find.



Similarly the lyrics are really evocative to me - there’s a very pared down style to them, a very disorientated feel. I was wondering do you ever do any writing in a non-band context (fiction, poetry or anything like that), and were there any specific writers or lyricists that impacted your approach to lyrics.


 I only write lyrics in a musical context, aural stimulation is the quickest way to my core. Without the sound, I would not be able to convey any meaningful message behind what I create. The sound comes and the lyrical content mimics the message I receive from that audible experience.

I actually described you guys, while struggling to explain your sound to someone recently, as being like the musical equivalent of the film “Tetsuo, The Iron Man”. Do you feel, because of the fact that what you’re doing has  essentially a very visual element to it, that Drose could ever perhaps be suited to doing a film soundtrack or something like that? Or do you ever see yourselves using visuals for live shows? Or making a video for one of the songs even?

 Tetsuo, The Iron Man has been brought to my attention several times by people who have known me or heard Drose and I have no good reason for why I haven’t seen this movie, but it is in my future. Writing for a film could be very interesting, and given the opportunity we would participate. To help make the message more of a reality to myself and the audience we do have some visuals during our shows if the moment is right. I have fashioned a sheet steel helmet with a 2 way mirror as the face, it belongs to the “man”, and we occasionally start our set with the helmet and a message spoken by the “man”. We also use a high voltage metal halide lamp, and a 1.5 HP single phase electric motor to create resonances and bring us and the audience together. A music video is a possibility as well but might require some stimulation from a party outside of the band in order to really make it happen.


While I never really give a shit about the kind of equipment bands use in general..Some of the guitar in places really does sound purposely like you’re trying to get it to sound as little like a guitar as possible; like for example that noise at the start of “A Voice”before the first chord kicks in. Are all these more unusual sounds actually just a guitar? And if so is there any particular gear you use to make them beyond the usual guitar/amp setup?

 We record a fair amount of machinery in the shop at my place of employment in our recordings. They are the inspiration behind most of what we do and it has been very satisfying to capture them. A Voice starts with an electrically powered shearing press, at first just powering on but then the crushing rhythmic sound is made from its actuation and cutting of a rather thick piece of aluminum. Aside from the machines, the guitars are meant to have a very hot, thick and most importantly oscillating/vibrating sound.



Okay, so I believe you toured the US earlier in the year - how was that? Any particularly memorable shows (for good or bad reasons)? And I’m curious what kind of bills you guys end up on - I imagine people who like, for example, the more droning end of the metal spectrum, or even noise/industrial fans would find plenty to like about your music, but who or what does the typical crowd at a Drose show comprise of?


 The tour went very well, our favorite show was in Brooklyn at Saint Vitus an exemplary high-volume music venue. In Philadelphia there was a freak incident where the previous band’s singer’s beer ended up inside my amplifier and upside down, unfortunate but pretty punk rock...

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We have been lucky to play with a few noise artists that were very fitting to our atmosphere and also some friends of our from Cleveland Ohio, MurderedMan. Buy their 7”, and forthcoming LP. I am not sure what to say about the Drose crowd, perhaps serious, and I like it.



I mentioned earlier, obviously, that I’d heard some demos online of some newer material over the last while, some stuff you’d posted on soundcloud. Can we expect an album any time soon? And what can you tell us about it?

We are currently constructing an LP, it is completely centered around the man and machine, the topics covered above. We record the guitars drums and vocals under the steel floor of a bus dynamometer test cell at my place of employment and have become quite familiar with the sonic potential of the facility. Aside from that, the machinery is field recorded, it so far includes a CNC, some welding machines, metallic structures and great deal of random testing that happens in my work. At the moment we are playing some shows here in Columbus Ohio but will be back in the hole by May at the latest.