Friday, July 19, 2013

Celtic Frost "Monotheist"

"Os Abysmi vel Daath"

from MONOTHEIST (2008)
I don't think that at this point it is even arguable whether or not Switzerland's Celtic Frost (they were-along with Venom, Bathory, Sarcofago and a million others I'm probably forgetting) were responsible for inspiring what became known as "Black Metal".  And, in spite of the band's foray into hair metal territory with the awful Cold Lake (1988) and their clumsy attempt to right the ship with Vanity/Nemesis (1990), Frost's early material was so strong that the never entirely lost their credibility or it's influence.  Morbid Tales, To Mega Therion and Into the Pandemonium are classic albums that (like Bathory) combine proto-black metal with strong classical influences and Discharge/D-Beat drumming. 

Unlike Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax, Megadeth etc., Celtic Frost paid particular attention to atmosphere and mood.  Most critics weren't
"Into the Crypt of Rays"
from MORBID TALES (1984) 
sure what to make of this approach and often used terms like "Avant-Garde Metal" (as well as "Black Metal") to describe their sound, which was a bit lazy and tiresome, if not entirely inaccurate.  But ultimately, Metal is Metal and another sub-genre isn't necessary even if a band like Celtic Frost pushed the envelope.

After losing their way, on the aforementioned Cold Lake Celtic Frost eventually came to their senses.  But, it took a break-up that occurred in 1993 and a reunion in 2000.  It is unfortunate that it took them until 2006 to release Monotheist and even more unfortunate that they disbanded a second time in 2008, because it is every bit as good as their earliest material.

Monotheist is as relentlessly cold and bleak sounding as it is heavy. The brute force of Frost is
"Circle of the Tyrants"
from TO MEGA THERION (1985)
only thinly veiled by their classical leanings, epic arrangements and gothic overtones.  It often sounds mechanical in the way an old, rusted, rarely used piece of industrial machinery might sound if fired up again after years of neglect. The songs churn and sway in a mid paced grinding fashion, picking up speed occasionally, but rarely to velocity of their earlier work.  

Monotheist sounds bitter in the same way NYC's monstrous, crust/doom unit Winter's Eternal Frost album was, but only during the moments when is sounds as if the grinding slows to a pounding tempo - it isn't "Doom Metal", but flirts with that "genre" quite a bit.

If I had to take issue with any part of Monotheist I would say that the guitar tone  on this album is far too crisp for my taste and there are times when the triggered double-kick is too prominent in some of the songs. But, those are minor complaints.
"Caress Into Oblivion"

While I cannot say that Monotheist is my favorite Celtic Frost album, I can say that it is a great record and every bit as heavy as well as imaginative as anything that they have ever produced.  Monotheist serves as a reminder that Celtic Frost is every bit as influential as their '80's thrash-metal era peers and they will be missed.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Illustrated Man (1969; starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom. Dir. Jack Smight)

One cannot live on music alone.  Right?
Maybe.  Maybe not.

In either case, I love films almost as much as I love music and books.  I must admit I'm not nearly the "snob" that I am when it comes to the two aforementioned mediums. But, I don't think that it would be out of the question if I was told that I am a bit snooty when it comes to film.  I don't know all of the ins and outs about making films and in some circles my tastes might be a bit pedestrian.  I am far from an overly critical art-house turd.  However, it is fair to say that I loathe most, if not all, "Summer Blockbuster" action films, most modern comedies and don't even get me started on the state of modern horror films.

Look...In my opinion, three of the greatest films of all time are "Convoy", "Roadhouse" as well as "The Beastmaster" and I say this without the slightest ounce of sarcasm or hipster-dipshit approved irony.

That said, I try to be somewhat adventurous when selecting a film to watch.  As with the music I enjoy, I tend to prefer older films, so most of the films you'll find here will be just that...older.  But, it is safe to say a review of a newer one will slip in from time to time.  However,unlike the music reviews that will appear in this blog, I will be equally inclined to post about films I disliked as well as the ones that I enjoyed.

Which brings me to The Illustrated Man - released in 1969, starring Rod Steiger and Claire Bloom.

Being a fan of Ray Bradbury's work, I really, really wanted to like this film, but found it too problematic to be able to recommend this film without reservation.

The film is an anthology of sorts with a wraparound based on the Ray Bradbury book of the same name.  The plot involves a man hitchhiking across country to find work and has the misfortune of running into the titular character, played by Rod Steiger.  Steiger is seeking a house occupied by a woman named Felicia (played by Claire Bloom) who he had a brief affair with and covered him in tattoos.

Each tattoo tells a story related to Steiger, the woman and the young hitchhiker.  All three of the stories (the book contained eighteen) deal with the nature of mankind and its relationship with technology as well as a multitude of other existential questions.  

The film  has a hallucinatory quality that starts off interesting but soon becomes tiresome as none of these images do anything to move the plot forward.  Thus, leaving the aforementioned queries unanswered or at the very least provide any substantive perspective.  Most importantly the film never bothers to answer how any of the principles are connected or provide any clues as to what the tattoos might represent in relation to the story.  Rather, the whole films looks as if it were hastily assembled set pieces cobbled together during a hash smoking bender.

But,perhaps the most glaring flaw is with the performance Rod Steiger gives as the title character.  He insists on being intense in every single scene and delivers nearly all of his dialogue as if he is about to go into a "roid rage" at any moment.

The Illustrated Man is only interesting to view in the context of the time period in which it was made.  Science fiction films of the 1960's were few an far between.  There was 2001: A Space Odyssey, which provided philosophical insight, and Planet of the Apes as well as Fahrenheit 451, both containing poignant social commentary.  The Illustrated Man in it's self-important psychedelic haze seeks to have both, but contains neither.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Buddy Guy. Akron Civic Theater-March 6th, 2013

Buddy Guy is a shredder of the highest order.  Despite having cut his teeth in blues clubs on Chicago's south-side in the '60's and backing up Muddy Waters as well as a number of other Chess Records luminaries, his guitar playing actually resembled the likes of Hendrix and even Eddie Van Halen at times.  At least during the solos.  His virtuoso playing was painful to watch-in a good way.  It was clean but overdriven, intense, excessively loud and astonishing.  It contained all of the blues hallmarks, but none of it's limitations.  He never settled for "the big note" bends, but contorted his guitar in ways that the two aforementioned "gods" probably picked up on when they first heard Mr. Guy.

The set last night contained plenty of Buddy's own songs and more than a couple of covers.  He opened with the monster title track from his Grammy-winning album "Damn Right I've Got the Blues" and followed up with tunes he did while in Muddy's band.  His band was tight and they were able to follow Buddy wherever he chose to take the show without missing a beat.  The only time the set dragged was when he would play only sections of covers, a verse and a chorus, but not the entire song.  Not that it sounded bad, but I would have preferred hearing the songs in their entirety as they were well done.  

I did not get to hear any of his Junior Kimbrough covers from his "Sweet Tea" album, but I left right at the very end and did not stick around to see if there was an encore.  Buddy was amazing and would gladly go to see him again.

Unfortunately, the show opened with Jonny Lang.  It was awful beyond all reckoning.
Could he sing?  Yes, he sings very well.  
Can he play?  He plays well-meaning, he has ability.  

But, the problem is that Jonny Lang is one of those gutless "blues" musicians (along with Kenny Wayne Shepherd) that play with as much emotional depth as dry mud.  His playing was utterly devoid of feeling-a total wank fest right down to the ridiculous facial expressions he makes during his solos.  And he played for an eternity.  

To make matters worse his band could not seem to get it together until the last two songs.  They seemed to get it together during a gospel influenced tune that I felt was the strongest of the set.  However, the squandered any good will they earned during their self-indulgent solos.  Every band member had their time in the spotlight, including the bass player who seemed to fancy himself some sort of "slap" bass genius.  He was more Flea than Willie Dixon.  It was miserable.

Seeing Jonny Lang is like watching "Guitar Center Presents: The Blues".   

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Interview. Dave Ignizio of Square Records.

I've known Juniper and Dave for a really long time.  A REALLY long time.  I originally met Juniper when she was still in high school through some mutual friends.  But, I didn't meet Dave until shortly before they left Akron.  It sucked when they left.  That was some time in the early/mid '90's.  Juniper is, hands down, one of the sharpest ladies I know and Dave is one of the most laid back guys around.  They also both have great taste in music.  So when I heard they were opening a record store in Akron I was excited and knew that it would be a success.  Plus, I was glad that that they came back to Akron.  My visits to the store are in fits and starts depending on when I have time and cash, but still have somehow managed to spend an inordinate amount of time pestering the proprietors.  There is rarely a time that I stop in and don't find something that I want to get in my grubby hands.  I have spent many hours in the store talking with Dave (and Juniper, when I am fortunate enough to catch her) about anything and everything music...  And all the while Dave grins with the patience of a slightly put upon father.  It is with that same patience he shares with Job that he answered a couple of questions...

Lets get the blatantly obvious out of the way first; Give me the basics; how did this all come about? When did you open? How long have you been around?

We opened in August 2003. It kind of came together because my wife Juniper and I had recently moved back to Ohio after being away for a while. We'd been kicking around the idea of opening our own business for awhile. Both of us had worked at several small businesses through the years and that was something that was appealing to us. We ended up opening the store with our friend Geoff after working on a game-plan for a few months. The location in Highland Square opened up and we had to jump on it. We probably weren't really ready, but we really wanted to be in that neighborhood so we just went for it.

You mentioned not really being ready; How confident were you when you opened the store? What were some of your concerns going into this?

We didn't really know what to expect. But, I guess we were young enough that we didn't really care. Obviously we wanted to succeed, but I don't think we had any clue whether or not it would be successful. What we knew we wanted to do was open a record store that focused on vinyl . At the time, there really wasn't a shop doing that. We wanted to have a large amount of used vinyl and carry unique new stuff on CD and vinyl. Mostly we wanted to carry records that were kind of overlooked by larger stores in the area. When we opened we really didn't have that much stock. I look at pictures from our opening week and can't believe we tried to open a shop with as little as we had. Luckily for us, people really came out and supported us anyway. We knew there were people around Akron and surrounding cities that were interested in different music, but we didn't realize just how many.

Was there any model that you followed during the planning stages? Why Highland Square? I know Juniper grew up in or near that neighborhood...

I wouldn't say there was any specific model that we followed, but like I said we lived away from Ohio for about five years. We lived in Colorado and Virginia. So we went to a lot of shops in Denver and Boulder. Denver had-still has, I think-a few great shops. The ones that impressed me the most were Wax Trax and Twist and Shout. There was a Boulder version of Wax Trax that wasn't much bigger than Square Records. If I had to say any shop influenced me it would be that one. It was in our neighborhood and it was a place I could count on to go to every Tuesday and pick up new releases and often times a good used record or two. Reasonable prices on new and used stuff. That's always been important. Collector shops are not interesting to me. Nothing's a bigger bummer than walking into a shop and finding records priced above eBay value. Those Colorado shops had good records and they weren't an arm and a leg. Then when we moved back to Ohio, we were living in Lakewood and found out about My Mind's Eye. Charles at MME helped us out immensely when we were getting our shop started. I think his shop is the best in this area and it was a model for our shop in a way. Mostly, just how he does business. I always respected the way he runs his shop. There's a certain integrity to it that is kind of uncommon. So I suppose that our shop might be kind of an amalgam of those three shops in particular with little bits and pieces of all the other indie shops I've been to here and there throughout the country.
There are a few other stores in the area now that sell vinyl - how do you differentiate yourself from these other stores? Is there even a conscious effort to do so, or is it purely organic?

No I don't really try to be different. We just kind of do what we do. In a pretty major way our customers have defined our store. There's plenty of stuff that I don't listen to personally in the shop, but if enough people mention it to me, or special order it, it becomes sort of a staple in the store. I try and stock a lot of stuff that I do like, but it's usually in smaller quantities and sometimes it'll sit there for a while til someone buys it. But it's still important for me to have those kind of records in the shop. Vinyl has obviously taken off in a pretty major way in the last few years. It used to just be certain genres that were keeping it alive, but it's gotten to the point that just about everything is coming out. It's hard keeping up with that and still keeping what we carry within our nebulous idea of what's appropriate for our store. I think we've managed to become more mainstream and more obscure in our offerings at the same time. I think that's a good thing.

The store is pretty diverse and you have a good grasp of the stuff you carry - has anything come in that you previously disliked that you found yourself actually enjoying?

Sure. When the store started I was 28, which is still young enough to be an idiot and think you know it all. I was pretty anti- any classic rock back then. I grew up listening to punk, hardcore, hip hop and indie rock stuff. Over the years I've come around to stuff like Thin Lizzy , Jimi Hendrix and stuff. Basically all the stuff that most people get into when they're 13 years old. I just didn't get that stuff when I was younger. It took awhile for that to sound good to me. And then there's just all this other astounding music that I just never even knew existed. So having a shop where I buy used records from people allows me to check out a ton of stuff I may have never otherwise heard. I mean, the list is really endless, but I've gotten much more into jazz and soul and electronic music. All just part of growing up I suppose. You expand your horizons. Either that or you just become that guy that doesn't listen to anything that came out after he graduated high school and you bitch to everyone how they don't make good music anymore or some nonsense.

Unlike Dave, Kali looks at your purchase with disapproval.
Were you really THAT anti-classic rock? You seem fairly well rounded.
I mean, Thin Lizzy, c' came late to that?

Oh yeah. I hated all of it. I didn't even listen to the Beatles or Stones. Couldn't stand Led Zeppelin. My parents didn't really listen to music in our house. My brother is five years older than me and he was really into trash metal and punk. So I would hear Metallica, SOD, MDC, Exodus, Dead Kennedys coming from his room. That's what really got me interested in music. That and hearing Public Enemy and Slick Rick and stuff like that in high school. So I just listened to that and ignored the entire history of rock and roll. Yeah, I probably never listened to a Thin Lizzy album until after we opened the store. So I was definitely learning on the job. I don't think it's that uncommon. I was just really caught up in what was current.

Name one type of music that you would never carry under ANY circumstances.

Well, not a genre, but... Skrewdriver - or any sort of racist crap.
Yeah, yeah, I know. “Their early records...” whatever.

I hate “Skrewdriver apologies”.  Their early records sucked, too.  But, that was obvious- is there a particular dislike, aside from that sort of thing, where you say to yourself "no way"?

No. I don't think so. I mean, there's stuff I don't carry. Stuff that just would absolutely make no sense to carry; yer Beibers, Kesha, what have you. But, I really don't like to be "the Judge" of what's good, that stereotype of the asshole record guy who laughs at you for buying something.  It can be true at some shops. It really doesn't matter to me what someone buys. If they enjoy it, I think that's cool. I had some guy flip out about buying twenty Abba 45's a few months back. That's great. Makes him happy. I don't care. So I don't set rules on what I carry. Especially with used stuff. I try and cover a lot of ground. With new stuff, it's a fairly limited selection. I just don't have the resources to carry everything I want to have, but I try and keep it fresh and rotate in different stuff all the time.

Are you as diplomatic when it comes to local music? How hard is it to maintain quality control and still be objective when it comes to supporting local music that comes into the store? It doesn't appear that would be a concern...

I'll take any local music on consignment.

What are you looking for when people bring in trades or when ordering? Is physical quality more of a concern than the quality of the actual music? Are you cognizant of what you take in when you take it in in relation to how it might affect the store’s aesthetic?

It's both. We pay more for stuff in better condition if it's harder to find. I'm always looking to buy good collections of punk, metal, psych, r&b, jazz. Those are kind of the bread and butter of the used section. But, I'm also happy to buy real nice copies of somewhat normal classic rock or 80's records. Different customers come in looking for different stuff. There's plenty of people coming in hoping to find Fleetwood Mac "Rumours" or a Journey record. There's also a lot of people hoping to find Dust or the Damned. Some of those things just happen to be a little more common than the others. But both are important to our shop. Of course, I always want to get more of the rarer stuff, because when people find it they're pretty psyched and it keeps ‘em coming back.

Akron has an incredibly rich, but undervalued music history. It seems that up until recently there has been a drought in the local music scene since the close of the Lime Spider - some would argue that there still is - what are your thoughts on the current state of local music.

I don't get out to as many shows as I used to, but I still see good stuff from time to time. Akron could use a couple more venues probably that would help. But, as long as we've been open I feel like there's been really good music being made around here. A lot of it is really unassuming stuff. So many bands get together play three or four shows and call it a day. Or they just play some house shows here and there. I feel like most of the best bands around here aren't really trying to "make it." They just do their thing until they're done. The Lime Spider was great when it was around, cuz it kind of felt like a "real" rock club in a way that hadn't happened around here in a really long time. And it gave local bands an opportunity to perform on that stage with really good touring bands. At the same time there was a house show space called Diamond Shiner's that was going on that I think was just as important. It sucks that both spaces are gone, but I still see glimmers. In the last couple weeks I've seen plenty of cool local stuff. Ultrasphinx, Relaxer, David Bay Leaf, Bad Trouble, Wesley Bright and the Hi-Lites. A lot more, really. There was a benefit show at Annabell's last week with nine bands and they all had something to offer. So there's good music being made around here still, you just have to make an effort to find it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Interview. DeathCrawl.

Damon Gregg-guitar/vocals; Jason Luchka-bass/vocals; Dave Johnson-drums/vocals

One of my favorite phrases to describe certain types of epic bands is "Earth shattering". I have used it positively in the past, but more often in sarcastic derision. Even on the occasions that I have used it in a positive manner, it tends to be a bit of an overstatement. However, in the case of DeathCrawl, "Earth shattering" doesn't even come close. If I were charged with compiling a list of bands most appropriate for the soundtrack for the end of the world, DeathCrawl would make the short list, along with Kiss It Goodbye and Bloodlet. While all three bands are incredibly heavy and (in my mind, at least) definitely metal, the only substantive quality all three share is movement. DeathCrawl has a way to move the listener, slowly and surely, against your will, towards an inevitability that may not turn out to be pleasant. This "movement" that I described can be attributed to superior songwriting and a certain "tunefulness" (is that a word?) many other "extreme metal bands" lack. 

I've known "Big Metal" Dave Johnson (drums, vocals) for an eternity and could have easily done the interview with him. But, I knew that it would quickly devolve into silliness and inside jokes. So, not really knowing Damon, I opted to speak with Jason, whom I've know for a couple years now. Jason was kind enough to subject himself to my amateurish line of questioning and here is the result.

Could you start with the basics; Who are the principles and how did this come together?

DeathCrawl is myself, Dave Johnson, and Damon Gregg.

I had met Dave through some friends i made working at 88.9 VRock in the late 90s. I had kept in touch with him via email/online and booked his early project studio in Medina to record my other band (the Gingerdead Men) in the summer of 2005. I think Dave was impressed by my gear and my gutteral shouting, because in January 2006, he approached me about joining a band with him and Joe Melnyk (sp?). He wanted loud, crusty bass to accompany him on guitar and Joe on drums. We practiced for a few months but Joe quickly lost interest, even though the songs were pretty rad. I asked my friend Shaun Yanovich if was interested in jamming with us, and one again we found ourselves with a drummer for a month or two. As luck would have it, Shaun lost interest in it and we found ourselves back at square one. 

Dave and I were really happy with the songs, so we decided to make it a recording project. He brought his kit to the practice space and we jammed drum and bass for the summer, gearing up for a fall recording session. One day, after tearing through a fun song in crazy time sigs, Dave said something along the lines of "this is too hard, let's play really low and slow." That was it. DeathCrawl was born. Scott Schumacher from Schnauzer sat in on guitar a few times, but his commitments with Schnauzer were more important. Dave asked Damon if he wanted to join us on guitar instead. They had previously jammed together in Pistols at Dawn and worked together, so it was a pretty easy gathering of people. Coincidentally, I also knew Damon through some other friends. It was really all quite incestuous.

You said "it was really all quite incestuous"; There seems to be a limited amount of musicians in the area to work with, at least as far as playing aggressive/extreme music. Has this ever hindered you creatively? If not for DeathCrawl, than in other situations?

Not really. I'm not the most social person, so working with people I'm comfortable with is easier for me. I don't have to learn a bunch of new quirks when I'm jamming with people I already know. I love music. Making it, listening to it... I really need it, and dumb as that sounds. I'm not the greatest musician, but I love rocking with friends. The OCD in me also always got a kick out of linking the various local bands to each other in my head when I was younger and going to shows. Oh yeah, that's so-and-so, he plays in whatever and whoever. I would like to work with a few other people I have never played with, but they are all people I have come to know, so again, that sphere of comfort comes to roost.

Since you don't feel limited creatively could you talk about some of the more uncharacteristic influences on your writing and the music written for a band like DeathCrawl? Do they manifest themselves in this format?

I have a secret affinity for what most people consider "circus music." Mr. Bungle, 16 Horsepower, Lozenge, etc... I love that wacky sense of undulating melody. Now, that does not get much airtime in a band like DeathCrawl, but sometimes I sneak something by Dave and Damon. The accordion overdub on our first record, for example, and I recorded a full intro to "Lucifer's Hammer" for the new record that Dave chopped up and made fit our sound better in the final mix. Otherwise, I would say my affinity for AmRep/noise-rock really influences my playing, as does my love of stoner-rock. Neurosis, Unsane, Melvins, Deadguy, Kylesa... these all undoubtedly color everything I do in DeathCrawl. I just want to deliver crusted out, chest-caving bass.

16 Horsepower happens to be a personal all-time favorite of mine as well.

Such a haunting sound... those dudes rule. I also love Slim Cessna's Auto Club and 99% of everything Jay Munly has done.
That Denver sound...

You talked about slipping things by the other guys during the songwriting process - How do the songs come together and how cognizant are you of other bands that might have some similarities in the songwriting process?

Our songs come together pretty easily. Sometimes, one of us will come to practice with almost an entire song's worth of riffs and bounce it off the other guys, quickly shaping it into a song. Sometimes, someone has just a riff - a seed that sprouts quickly. Everything else comes about from riffing at rehearsal. They joke on me for noodling all the time, but sometimes I will accidentally noodle my way into a bad-ass riff or melody. Since all of us are songwriters, in the most basic sense of the word, I think we each have a certain comfort level with presenting ideas at the risk of the idea being shot down. Nobody is afraid to say, "Hey, I was thinking this part could be cool if we tried-". I think that is part of why we put our songs together so quickly. I think that if it takes more than a few rehearsals to get the meat of a song together, you are wasting time. I don't think we worry too much about how the song will turn out, or who it sounds like, as long as we like playing it and we think it sounds right for us. Now, if it turns out that we're rehashing someone else's song by accident, we'll definitely shut that down.

Let me add that there are a few DeathCrawl demos that will most likely never see the light of day because although they are cool tunes, they just don't fit our catalog quite right. Dave definitely tries to cultivate a certain framework.

Well, how often does that happen-rehearsing another band's song? Since you have a framework that you create in, is it possible to actually push the envelope creatively? Isn't there the possibility of stagnating or at least feeling trapped? I mean, I understand adhering to a certain aesthetic - too many bands just throw things at the wall to see what sticks, but...

Sure, I think that could always be a possibility. Our framework is pretty loose - let's say we come up with a tune and we jam it out, build it, and then we demo it. It's a cool song, but we realize it has too much of a "stoner rock" vibe. We like mixing in elements of all of our influences, but when a song suddenly sounds like it's being played by a different band, you've probably gone too far.  

I don't know much about pushing the envelope. I'm not that good of a musician, but I think we have plenty of avenues ahead of us. Dave keeps getting better on drums, Damon and I keep coming up with riffs... There are plenty of songs still in us. I think the important part is, "do we like the song? is it fun to play? does it feel like it has a pulse?". You know what I mean? A lot of metal bores me to tears. I like hooks, I like heavy. I like hearing it all come together in such a way that i feel the need to bob my head or drum on the steering wheel.

Give me a personal rule or guideline regarding music, or art in general, that you have set for yourself? Are there any circumstances in which you might bend or break the rule?

I think lyrically, we really need to switch it up on the next batch of songs. "Accelerated Rate of Decay" is a bleak, unrelenting picture of a possibly not-so-distant future. I think we need to explore something else on the next songs.

Well, given your sound, where would you take things lyrically?

Let me come back to thee rules/guidelines and finish this tangent on lyrics... I think we need to back away from the urban combat, starvation, prison camp focus and get a little more surreal this time around. We have four songs recorded for a hopeful split, all sans vocals at this time. I have some stuff written, and yes, it is still bleak, but more imaginative. More abstract and less literal. "Lichen" or "November", on the first record, are a good example of letting imagination run a little more rampant.

As far as rules or guidelines-I don't want to come across as someone that panders, but I admit that I always think about how people might respond to a song when I'm putting riffs together. I will try to write a chorus vocal that people might actually want to sing along with, since that is what a chorus is supposed to do. I think a lot of heavy bands are afraid of the chorus. They don't want to "Sell out." What is "selling out" when you aren't making any money? I think of it as writing a song that people want to listen to. 

Now, there is definitely a fine line between writing something people intrinsically enjoy and dealing pre-fab poop to the masses. Nasum is a great example - brutal grind of the highest order, yet dang it if they didn't have parts you cannot help but bark along to. So, I consider that. I also consider, does this try something new? While DeathCrawl is relatively focused, we still have a fair amount of variety in our songs-Fast parts, slow parts, slamming riffs, chord progressions... It isn't the same song over and over. I hate that.

Another artistic guideline for me is trying to remain either intelligent or humorous, or both. I don't like to write lyrics full of senseless cussing. I'm not a puritan, I just don't see the point. I prefer to write stuff that uses the English language as properly as possible. I write so many excessive syllables to this end, that Dave has to cut and chop it to get it down to something we can actually pull off live. If we ran with my original lyrics, every song would be a battery of words and tongue twisters. I like using words...different words. Bands that cuss a lot always seem to be using those words as filler, and that seems like a cop out to me. Read a book. Reference a rhyming dictionary-mine has 1928 copyright date-and consider a thesaurus from time to time. I would bend any rule if I felt it made sense for the song.

But, what one of those "rules" would you consider breaking and under what circumstances? I don't think writing a chorus is a "sell-out" by any stretch. Is there anything that you normally would not do in the context of the band, but might...

I would not want to add in a part that blatantly is riding the coattails of some trend and I would not bend to that. For example, the breakdowns and crab-walking of crappy modern metal bands. Yuck. Otherwise, I'm pretty open to trying whatever makes sense for the tune. The way DeathCrawl writes, I'm not sure if my lyrical stance would ever be tested. Dave and Damon are always free to write whatever lyrics they want, and i usually will go along with whatever they want, but I probably would not want to sing something I really don't agree with. For example, I wouldn't want to sing about pedophilia or rape or anything. I'm not going to glorify that crap.

Sorry if I'm not answering that last question very well...

Right, but i was thinking more along the lines of; "I might sacrifice writing a song a certain way if...". The way that you are dodging the question is a thing of beauty.

They don't call me "Switzerland" for nothing.

So what you're saying is "I'm a Celtic Frost fan"?

From experience I know that playing such an aggressive type of music poses different challenges. Could you speak to those challenges if any? Do some of the challenges have any unforeseen benefits?

One challenge is that awkward encounter with your CEO, when he says "I hear you are in a band. I am a fan of the rock and roll. Please notify me of your next live performance, as I would love to attend." I have been dodging that for five years now. I'm mortified to think that the guy who decides whether or not I get to keep my job might come see me sweat, scream, and head bang in some dank bar somewhere, while his Mercedes is getting keyed in the parking lot. I'm not ashamed of what I do, but it is uncomfortable when people who don't like this scene ask me questions about it. I feel almost like they are mocking me sometimes. "Oh, what is this 'sludge' metal? Eyehategod? What a funny band name!" the other challenge is that DeathCrawl doesn't quite fit any one scene very well. 

We're too heavy for the post-rock dudes, not brutal enough for the death-metal dudes, and too loud for the art-school kids. There are definitely bands we fit with, and all of us are in the same boat. We tend to play small shows, attendance-wise, which is not a complaint. I just remember when I was younger, I went to so many shows with all sorts of bands. Now, it seems like there are almost no "kids" coming out. It's our peers. 30 year-olds have jobs and kids...they don't make it out to all the shows. I know that I don't. I have missed a ton of shows the past 2 years.  

One benefit of all this is that there is no doubting our motivation. People don't play this type of music unless they want to ruin people's hearing and rock as hard as physically possible. We aren't cashing in, we aren't wearing a mask. People know that we are real. I think they appreciate that. We're down-to earth guys who want to play some seriously heavy music.

Another challenge is trying to jump on larger shows. We don't seem to know the right people to hop on a bill with some national heavy hitters. That honor always seems to go to the same handful of bands. No complaints-I know it is all about networking, but it would be nice to actually play in front of a lot of new faces.

If there was one thing you would change about your band, what would that be?

I wish that I didn't have to do so much vocal work. I would rather do some backing vocals here and there and focus more on playing and enjoying the music. Sometimes I'm so focused on trying to play and sing and remember lyrics, that i forget to have fun.

I also sometimes wish we weren't tuned so low. The low A string is so unstable on my basses. Drop C is so much more stable. The low A sounds awesome though...really awesome.

Now you're talking tunings and have lost me completely.  Would you be comfortable with someone else communicating your thoughts if you wrote the lyrics for a particular song?

No more talk of tunings! Definitely. It already happens. I write the majority of DeathCrawl's lyrics, although Dave does edit them to fit better. In my other band, I've always written the lyrics and when we started playing live, I had friends sing them. My buddy Shaun, who I mentioned earlier, sang our songs for four years before he burned out last summer, and Jon Reider was cool enough to handle lead vocals on the last EP we recorded. 

My lyrics are not all that personal. I try to paint pictures and tell stories. Sometimes there is definitely a deeper meaning that may or may not be obvious to the listener, but I'm too guarded to write anything really personal that anyone but me would ever hear.

What are you plans for recording and playing live?

It depends. With DeathCrawl, everything we do on record, except synths and other insturmentation, we have to do live. This means any lyrics I record I better be able to play and sing simultaneously. Some of the other things that I have recorded, I had no notion of ever being performed live, so that becomes more of a free-for-all of creativity. Tons of overdubs, way too many syllables...

I appreciate you taking the time. Anything else you'd like to add before signing off?

It was my pleasure! I don't have much to add, other than that DeathCrawl will hopefully have a split out later this year with someone. Fingers crossed for Vulture. Also, we will be playing March 29 at Annabell's with our Columbus bass-dudes Bridesmaid and our Portage County pals in Goosed.

for more information and to hear DeathCrawl for yourself visit:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


On tap in the coming weeks are interviews with;
Jason Luchka, bassist/vocalist of Deathcrawl 
Dave Ignizio, owner/operator of Square Records
and Jason Tarulli, former bassist of Hell's Info, owner operator of Studio Time Studios and current house engineer for the Black Keys.

Thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Obsessed "Live at Koln"

I don't think it is hyperbole to call The Obsessed, and Wino in particular, "legendary".  A lot of people use that word and others, such as "epic", fairly loosely and with little justification.  The Obsessed, however, can rightly be seen in that light.  There have been thousands of bands that have followed the floor plans drawn up by Black Sabbath with varying degrees of success.  Much of this success (or lack of it) depends on how many other elements these Sabbath acolytes bring to the table.  It simply is not enough to ape Sabbath and worse still, to ape a Sabbath clone.  Some bands drench themselves in a haze of smoke and are content to jam out quasi-blues riffs endlessly.  Others take the sound to it's logical conclusion and drag the tempo through the mud until the sound barely resembles music.  Still, others rely on gothic overtures and self indulgent passages that lead nowhere fast. 

 I am painting with broad strokes.  There are some bands who could neatly fit into one or more of those stereotypes that are amazing in spite of the cliches. But that may be due to the fact that they were adding these elements before they became cliches.  In other words, they took the Sabbath sound, innovated and created their own style.  Bands like Eyehategod, Grief, Electric Wizard, Buzzov*en, Sleep (and a handful of others) are good examples.

The Obsessed have often been lumped in with other doom, sludge, stoner (insert adjective here) metal/rock bands, but really have little in common with any of them.  The Obsessed, in spite of being incredibly heavy, having some bluesy riffs and some slower tempos, are nowhere near being a mere Sabbath acolyte, except in that they are definitely a metal band.  That glaring fact aside, The Obsessed (like Pentagram and Saint Vitus) are a whole other beast altogether.  Unlike many of the bands that are using the same road map, much of what The Obsessed did sounds like the streets and Wino's world -weary vocal captures that perfectly. 

Don't get me wrong, the music of Sabbath sounded like it was made by working class guys from Birmingham.  But, all of the occult and hoodoo lyrics leaves one a bit underwhelmed as time passes.  Sabbath no longer carries the same atmosphere of danger that once permeated their music.  It hasn't for a long time.  But, comparing The Obsessed to Sabbath is unfair as well as misleading.  However, the problem is, how does one put The Obsessed in the proper context without mentioning Black Sabbath?  Yes, they are heavy, have amazing blues-influenced guitar work and unconventional, yet iconic vocals...  I guess you can't.  It most likely does not matter since many of you reading this have probably already heard of or listened to  The Obsessed at some point, anyway.

If you are unfortunate enough to have never listened to The Obsessed before, this album is a good a place to start as any.  The set list is pretty comprehensive containing tracks from their first self-titled Lp, "Lunar Womb" as well as "The Church Within".  The quality of the live recording is pretty good and true to form this Lp is heavy - heavier sounding than the aforementioned studio albums - and I don't just mean that in terms of sound.  The band is tight, but play with more of a sullen swagger than on aforementioned the studio albums.  "Live in Koln" has all the hallmarks of a great metal band - a great band of ANY kind - with a world of talent, life experience and soul. THAT is what I mean by heavy.

In short.  Get this.

Here is The Obsessed live.
Here is the song "Field of Hours"  from their album "The Church Within".

Thanks for checking in.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I know that my first post came with absolutely no introduction or statement of purpose.  Sure, the description below the title indicates what my intentions are; writing about music, film and comics.  But, do not be surprised if you see posts regarding mixed martial arts, reviews of novels and whatever else happens to occupy the typically empty space between the two hearing-holes set on either side of my head.  

What you will not see is an overabundance of negativity.  I would rather spend my time writing about stuff I enjoy and possibly turn someone onto something cool.  That does not mean I won't be critical, its  just that many of my earliest attempts (during my tenure at the illustrious Crunchface) at writing were fairly negative and hostile.  Particularly, when it came to  my music reviews.  The language I used was coarse at best, and on more than one occasion, I should have been marched up to the bathroom to have my mouth washed out with soap.  Although, Clorox would have been more effective, but I digress.

That doesn't mean that I am, suddenly, some sort of linguistic puritan who is above swearing and giving my honest opinion - I will be critical.  I just think this space can be used for better things.  The internet is already filled with a load of uninformed opinions meant to illicit a reaction.  I've no interest in any of that bul...  nonsense.

For the most part I will be covering older music, older films...older stuff in general.  For those interested, I will review your stuff, but I will not deal with any downloading of music, e-books, e-comics, etc.  I don't have the space on my hard drive and I am generally not interested in digital media, save for films.  But, I don't anticipate any unsolicited submissions, so this is probably a non-issue.

Oh - really quick.  I will also be including the occasional interview.  However, the subjects will (for the most part) be folks from the Akron area and around NE Ohio. There might be an exception now and again, but unless Nick Cave calls or Mark Sandman rises from the grave to chat, I doubt you will see any deviations.

Yeah.  That's it for now.
Thanks for checking in.

Monday, February 18, 2013

End credits roll.

John McConnell and "The Legendary Crunchface Foundation"; for the pen-name and giving me me my first opportunity to communicate as well as the name of the blog you are currently reading.  It is borrowed and I will return it when I am finished.
Protein Supplement is a reference to a former vegetarian diet.  Any other potential references are purely coincidental and a product of your own imagination.

Again, thanks for checking in.