Friday, December 20, 2013

INTERVIEW: TRAVEL VLOGGER ELLA ERANTHIS


The transcendental, transformative mystique of road tripping is alive and well in America. Popularized by Jack Kerouac and the Beats, the lure of the road and thrill of being a stranger in a strange place still inspires wanderlust to this day. Vlogger Ella Eranthis was kind enough to take some time to discuss her series of videos with me, and answer some questions about her documented adventures. Read on for her thoughts on hauntings, extra-terrestrial life, and her Jurassic Park survival tactics:

Mister Growl: For those unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your travel videos and vlog?

Ella Eranthis: A very colorful compilation of travel sights, hopefully with a feeling of actually being there for anyone who watches.

Mister Growl: I described your videos to a friend as No Reservations (with Anthony Bourdain) meets Green Porno (with Isabella Rosselini), with the trippy camerawork of a Darren Aronofsky film. Who are some of your creative inspirations?

Ella Eranthis: I love your description, thank you! For as long as I can remember Brigitte Bardot was my inspiration. I am drawn to her love for animals and life in general. Some things she says I don’t agree with, but I love her movies. Other than that I watch Youtube videos all the time - I think online video is a completely different medium and will eventually become as powerful as movies and TV, but will always be different.

Mister Growl: In your most recent video you visited a supposedly haunted hotel in New Orleans. Did anyone at the hotel share a backstory on the hauntings?

Ella Eranthis: I was creating my video all the time and did not speak to anyone, only when ordering room service. If I ever stay there again I must ask someone. I have my own experience - I definitely sensed something different there, and some strange energy all the time.

Mister Growl: New Orleans happens to be the home of some of my favorite bands (such as Eyehategod, Acid Bath, Goatwhore, and Soilent Green), but I’ve never visited before. Did you get a chance to see much more of the city, and what were you thoughts?

Ella Eranthis: I have Acid Bath’s “Scream of the Butterfly” on my iPod and it is hauntingly beautiful ...must check out the other bands. I saw a lot of New Orleans and filmed almost entire French Quarter and Canal Street. This video will be posted soon. Some of the footage looks gothic and haunted, it’s all dark with lanterns. I was amazed at the beauty of this city. I want to go back there and film some more! What I noticed is that people are incredibly sharp in New Orleans; very intuitive. They figure out quickly what you might want to buy or order and it’s so right on. They are less pragmatic, more intuitive.


Mister Growl: Another video of your Louisiana trip showed you cuddling with a baby alligator, and you later shoot footage of watching sharks in an aquarium. Do you have pets of your own, and are they deadly predators?

Ella Eranthis: Not at the moment because I travel so much. If I wanted one it would probably be a dog or a cat or both. But I love all animals and am very curious about creatures who live in the water. The experience of holding the alligator was unusual. I was surprised how much I connected with it. I held it in my arms and it looked into my eyes and I felt a connection. The alligator had strange, surprisingly soulful eyes and was vulnerable and friendly and I felt it was up to me to take care of it.

Mister Growl: You had previously stayed in another hotel with some suspicious, possibly supernatural occurrences. Are you just a ghost magnet, and have you had prior experiences with phantoms?

Ella Eranthis: Ha ha! I would love to be a ghost magnet; the videos I could make then! But my experiences were very mild compared to what other people described when describing paranormal experiences. Well... it was a little weird when the elevator button switched on its own.... but I would have to say – no, I am still waiting for that ghost...

Mister Growl: My favorite videos were focused on Area 51, sharing another instance of your fascination with the unknown. Do you personally think there are other life forms waiting for us in space, or possibly living amongst us on Earth?

Ella Eranthis: I really don't know. We have Earth and here we have life so it is possible there are other planets with life – the universe is huge. Many people reported seeing strange things and I believe them. But the first thought that came to me when I read your question was: It would be sad if aliens were living on our planet because what that would mean their own planet is unlivable. If that is the case we humans need to watch what we do to our planet.

Mister Growl: How did you first become interested in travel, and what was your first vacation?

Ella Eranthis: My first vacation took place when I was only few months old - literally an infant - my parents took a car trip through Europe. It’s probably not recommended for infants, but somehow here I am addicted to it today. I wake up every day and want to go somewhere to experience something new.


Mister Growl: In most of the videos you’re traveling alone. Do you think people experience a place more completely when they experience it without others?

Ella Eranthis: I think it depends on a person. We are all different. Some people see more while talking to others and some are more observant when alone. For me, yes - I like to travel on my own, I really do what I want to then, and it’s also a journey within, and I have more focus because there is no company to distract. But in a way I do not completely travel alone; I make videos and post them and read all the feedback and observations of others, and it isn’t a completely isolated experience then. I think maybe an answer is good balance - do some sightseeing on your own when you travel with someone or a group would be my advice.

Mister Growl: I noticed you rented Jurassic Park when you were visiting Area 51, and obviously you would travel to the island to see the dinosaurs if you could. Do you think you’d survive Jurassic Park, or would you be a Tyrannosaurus snack?

Ella Eranthis: LOL! I would survive! I have very good intuition.

Mister Growl: If you could visit any place tomorrow where would you go and what would you do?

Ella Eranthis: To Hawaii to scuba dive with dolphins and to film them underwater.

Mister Growl: You mention that Hollywood is “a place where a lot of weird people make a lot of money by pretending to be somebody else.” Who would play Ella Eranthis in a Hollywood film?

Ella Eranthis: Someone who can imitate my very weird not-belonging-to-any-country accent.

Mister Growl: On your Youtube channel you mention that you have a special holiday video on the way. What are your goals for the future, and what else can your fans expect in 2014?

Ella Eranthis: They can expect plenty more adventure. I will travel to many more places in 2014 and to other continents. My goal is to put more places in videos and show the beauty of this planet and hopefully inspire someone out there to take a trip too and to be more adventurous about life!

Many thanks to Ella for taking the time and giving us insight into her travels. Plus, she has Acid Bath on her iPod, how could the metal community not support her? With multiple experiences with hauntings, a hunger for exploration, and an appreciation for Dax Riggs’ sultry voice, she is the exact sort of modern-day adventurer metalheads can identify with and learn from.

Visit Ella's Youtube channel here and watch all of her videos: http://www.youtube.com/ella4tv
And follow her on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/EllaEranthis



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

LIST: TOP 50 METAL ALBUMS OF THE YEAR


It’s that time of year, where I face a legitimate heavy metal Sophie’s Choice and somehow narrow all of the releases I’ve enjoyed this year down to 50. A lot of truly solid albums are not listed here, and honestly, my rankings have fluctuated nearly every day for the past two months, when I handed in my initial Top 40 list to the editors at Decibel Magazine. I have no doubt that if I look at this list in another year or decade, hell, even another week, the rankings could shift and shuffle depending on my mood, the cereal I eat, how crowded the subway is that morning, etc. Feel free to inform me of how lousy my selections are, how overrated band A is, how album B is obviously the top selection of the year, and how I’ve terribly under-represented genre C.

2013 Top 50 Metal Albums of the Year

1.       Church of Misery – Thy Kingdom Scum
2.       Carcass – Surgical Steel
3.       Gorguts – Colored Sands
4.       Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
5.       Ramming Speed – Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die
6.       Anciients – Heart of Oak
7.       Nails – Abandon All Life
8.       Baptists – Bushcraft
9.       Shroud Eater – Dead Ends
10.   Lesbian – ForesTeleVision
11.   Serpent Eater – Hyena
12.   Tribulation - The Formulas of Death
13.   Obelyskkh - Hymn to Pan
14.   I Exist – From Darkness
15.   Noisem – Agony Defined
16.   KEN Mode – Entrench
17.   Usnea – Usnea
18.   Skeletonwitch – Serpents Unleashed
19.   Naam – Vow
20.   Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - Mind Control  
21.   Deafheaven – Sunbather
22.   Olde Growth – Owl EP
23.   Mammoth Grinder – Underworlds
24.   Exhumed – Necrocracy
25.   Koresh – Chump
26.   Serpent Throne – Brother Lucifer
27.   No Fealty – In the Shadow of the Monolith
28.   Toxic Holocaust - Chemistry of Consciousness
29.   Full of Hell – Rudiments of Mutilation
30.   Lycus - Tempest
31.   In Solitude – Sister
32.   Mount Salem – Endless
33.   Bone Sickness – Alone in the Grave
34.   Noctum – Final Sacrifice
35.   Weekend Nachos - Still
36.   Blood Red Throne - Blood Red Throne
37.   Red Fang – Whales and Leeches
38.   King of Pigs - Drown Out the Sound of Widows Grief
39.   Cokegoat – Vessel
40.   Obliteration – Black Death Horizon
41.   Revocation – Revocation
42.   Lumbar – The First and Last Days of Unwelcome
43.   Suffocation - Pinnacle of Bedlam
44.   Autopsy - The Headless Ritual
45.   Watain - The Wild Hunt
46.   Pyrexia - Feast of Iniquity
47.   Deeds of Flesh - Portals to Canaan
48.   Occultist – Death Sigils
49.   Great Falls – Accidents Grotesque
50.   Deuil – Acceptance/Rebuild

If you haven’t checked it out yet, go buy the new issue of Decibel Magazine, where the whole staff helps to select the Top 40 Extreme Albums of the Year. Check out all the other lists popping up around this time also and feel free to send Tweets about my questionable metal taste over to @MisterGrowl.

Monday, December 2, 2013

READ MY SHIT: DECIBEL ISSUE #111


Hey, strangers. It’s the time of year where respected publications release their annual lists of top albums, and the fiendish scavengers of the interwebz nibble them apart. The arguments are part of the fun, so be sure to pick up this issue listing Decibel Magazine’s Top 40 Extreme Albums of 2013. No spoilers here, but I’ll be sharing my own personal list of the year’s top albums this week. There’s also an amazing piece on the legendary King Diamond, a Hall of Fame introduction for Integrity, and an exclusive Toxic Holocaust flexi-disc for subscribers. Here’s what I contributed to the issue:

Page 26: Mortal Decay - The Blueprint for Blood Splatter profile. What a cool group of dudes. Joe Gordon was my main contact, but the members chipped in to give me great insight into their creative process and the time commitments necessary for working-class guys to have a successful death metal band. I have a ton of respect for this band, and their album is exceptionally brutal.

Page 84: Hail of Bullets - III: The Rommel Chronicles review. Solid album for fans of Dissection and especially Bolt Thrower. It’s a concept album about one of Hitler’s field generals, and I suggest you not only listen to this album, but also read up on Rommel, because his tragic story is fascinating. My first draft included the tagline “How’d you Nazi this concept album coming?” I was justifiably asked by an editor if it was intentionally retarded. I have since learned my lesson regarding puns. I gave it 7/10.

Pages 43, 44, and 46: Top 5 Lists. Just a few silly lists lining the pages, including “Top 5 Substances Staining my Battle Vest in 2013,” “Top 5 Athlete Nicknames that could be Stoner Bands,” and “Top 5 Press Releases Genres of 2013.”

I have a couple more pieces in next month’s issue, so more on that in a few weeks. This issue should be on shelves now if you’re still one of those weirdos who ventures into the real world to buy things. Just order stuff online like the rest of us Morlocks.

Go over here to subscribe to Decibel Magazine. At $29.95 for a whole year this is one of the biggest bargains out there. The editors and writing staff are fantastic, and the design is sleek and filled with trippy illustrations. Definitely worth your money:  http://store.decibelmagazine.com/collections/subscriptions-renewals

Monday, November 25, 2013

LIST: 10 MOST ANTICIPATED BANDS of MARYLAND DEATHFEST


I love making lists. In fact, that probably why I was offered the role of Oskar Schindler, in Schindler’s List. I said, “Steven [Spielberg], I make lists all the time.” And he said, “That’s exactly what I’m looking for.” (My next list will be HBO shows that I quote from too often, starting with this quip from Liam Neeson in Life’s Too Short.)

Before I let the rabbit out of the hat or the cat out of the bag or whatever other animal cliche fits here with my TOP 50 EXTREME ALBUMS OF THE YEAR, I wanted to start with a list of the bands I’m looking forward to seeing most at Maryland Deathfest. It’s my first year attending, so I’ll be targeting international bands who don’t tour often, and a few North American bands who have evaded me thus far:

10) Noothgrush. Recently missed them playing in Brooklyn, and you never know how long it will be before these West Coast sludge-slingers visit the borough again. If there was a split album you enjoyed over the last 17 years they were probably involved.

9) Bongripper. I love the Chicago doom scene, and there’s nobody in the Midwest who can touch the bleakness of Hate Ashbury and Satan Worshipping Doom.

8) Crowbar. I traded Monster Magnet’s Powertrip album for Crowbar’s Obedience Thru Suffering back in junior high school, and it went down as one of the best trades of all time.

7) Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats. With so much screaming and growling, this UK band’s brand of macabre doom rock will be a reprieve from extremity. Great songs that avoid that lazy “retro” tag people love and just provide great hooks and a sense of mystery.

6) The Secret. I still think Solve et Coagula is one of the more underrated albums out there, and I’ve missed my chance at seeing this Italian band several times in Brooklyn. NOT THIS TIME.

5) Coffins. Blurring that line between death metal and sludge, their music seems like the perfect soundtrack for swimming through a pond of entrails. With the government holding up work/travel VISAs to the point where Church of Misery cancelled their NYC show earlier this year, any time a band I dig from Japan heads this way I make sure to attend.

4) My Dying Bride. I always loved the sense of sophistication and drama they brought to doom, and Turn Loose the Swans was one of the first albums that persuaded me to embrace slower-tempo genres back when I was a grindcore maniac in high school.

3) Gorguts. Unfortunately I’ll be missing their show at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn in December, so MDF offers me a chance to see a band whose comeback has given us Colored Sands, an album I feel even surpasses the legendary Obscura in terms of vision, focus, and grandiosity.

2) At the Gates. Since the first time I heard an old Earache records sampler, I was infatuated with Tomas Lindberg’s bark and the melodic savagery of Slaughter of the Soul.

1) The Church of Pungent Stench. Not only does the Been Caught Buttering album art adorn my battle vest, but Martin Schirenc is the culprit for igniting my adoration for death metal. I love his Hollenthon project as well, but it obviously starts with the gruesome excess of Pungent Stench.

Check out the full list of bands over at the Maryland Deathfest website, and tell me how wrong I am about this list:  https://www.marylanddeathfest.com/

Friday, November 22, 2013

REVIEW: HOLLOW LEG - ABYSMAL


Sometimes I forget I’m considered a music critic, because I’m really just a fan boy lucky enough to occasionally be paid for my opinions. But critics LOVE when an album/movie/book title can be used as a simple headline; let’s say, for example, the Seymour Hoffman/DeNiro film Flawless (Not quite Flawless, LOLOLOLOL!). Here we have an album named Abysmal, from Hollow Leg, a band from northern Florida that has an “affinity for the roots of American blues music and English metal,” so says their promo material. ‘Abysmal’ just happens to be one of those beautiful words that can be used to both praise and reprimand a piece of art; abysmal most often refers to something of poor quality, but can also describe something that is limitless and deeply profound. Boasting powerful performances from each musician, and offering eight tracks of zero-horseshit, Sabbath-informed sludge (is there any other kind?), Abysmal is built on a solid blues rock foundation with hardcore intensity and addresses themes that may not reach profundity, but are absolutely universal.

I first need to mention that in the second song, “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home),” I heard Scott Angelacos’ howl and immediately thought, “Oh shit, how did it take me a full song to realize this is the Junior Bruce vocalist?” He has one of those instantly recognizable voices that can’t be unheard. I say this more as a warning for non-metalheads: You will be haunted by the voice of Angelacos, which is strong enough to tattoo pentagrams in your ear canal. For metal fans: Rejoice, because his delivery is singularly awesome.

Most of the album feels like Iron Monkey accidentally stumbled into slightly gentler melodies. “Ride to Ruin” introduces a fuzzy higher-register lead to join Tom Crowther’s burly bass tones, and will be my motorcycle soundtrack when I’m eventually an outlaw biker with an eight-foot long beard. Brent Lynch provides some memorable riffs here, with “Blissful Nothing” syphoning Eyehategod’s groove and capturing the slow-motion sense of a day passing sluggishly on hashish, and “Cry Havoc” trapping the listener in an alligator death-roll as drummer Tim Creter goes in for the kill after some Big Black-era Orange Goblin goodness.

While the mixing on both “The Dog” and “Lord Annihilation” feels a little flat, lacking contrast and punch despite some great hooks and well-built tension, Abysmal is an album that’s the middle sprinter in a relay race, taking the baton from the UK’s best doom bands and handing it off to the crusty, lice-scalped troublemakers of the sludge scene. Though the song structures are closely related to 90s hardcore, this album will lead riff-worshipping fanatics of the slow and heavy into the exceptionally loud, wolf-infested abyss. And that, right there, is as close to a title-related catchphrase as I get.

Check out Abysmal over on bandcamp and get yourself the album on vinyl, or by instant download:  http://hollowleg666.bandcamp.com/

And check out Hollow Leg over on Facebook, and maybe some day they will answer what they would hide in a prosthetic limb:  https://www.facebook.com/hollowlegfl