Tuesday, April 30, 2013

REVIEW: UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS - MIND CONTROL




A few minutes into Mind Control and I’ve already slipped into that dreaded Wikipedia sinkhole, descending deeper into Gnostic texts, Mojave geography, and the Beach Boys discography. There’s just no telling how weird things can get when Charles Manson is one of the major influences of a band’s music. All I know is that when Uncle Acid sings, “Don’t you worry baby, you’re safe with me,” I don’t believe that mularkey for a second.

There’s a fuzzy, retro sense of danger and sleaze on the latest album from Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, a phenomenal band from Cambridge, UK. It harkens back to memories of drive-in theaters and grindhouse cinema, pulpy horror comics and psychedelic serial killers. This is the album Ghost B.C. should wish they released in 2013, full of melody and just a touch of technicolor menace. The songs expertly walk that line between charming camp and genuine creepiness while slugging out crunchy hooks from amplifiers stacked in a swirl of cemetery fog and hookah smoke. “Mind Crawler” and “Poison Apple” rumble with mid-tempo swagger and bad boy sex appeal, while “Evil Love” feels like the James Gang started wearing black capes and playing Deep Purple songs. “Death Valley Blues” finds the middle ground The Beatles left vacant between “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and “Strawberry Fields,” brimming with deceptive harmonies and metallic blues.

While “Follow the Leader” drones on a bit long for my liking, this is a brilliant 70s throwback track and is that song that every band made while experimenting with the grooviest ‘shrooms they grew out in their secret gardens. “Valley of the Dolls” can’t hold a black candle to “Mt. Abraxus” or “Desert Ceremony“ earlier on the album, but its mediocrity is snuffed from memory immediately by closing track “Devil’s Work,” which stomps, swoons, and grooves to lure the listener into a trance before soaking them in the low hum of an ominous organ note befitting one of Dario Argento’s giallos. This is an album that takes an LSD chaser with every shot of whiskey and takes castle dungeon tours while stoned on its lunch break. I know, I’m anthropomorphizing this album quite a bit, but I seriously want to have a beer with it. I just wouldn’t leave my drink unattended, as I might later wake, strapped down to a concrete coffin, surrounded by women with forehead tattoos and janbiya daggers. Still, inspiring their next song might almost be worth it.

Check out Mind Control on Spotify and visit the band’s website here:  http://acidcoven.com/

And head over to Rise Above Records to keep an eye on the band’s merch, which has been selling like hotcakes. Unless hotcakes don’t sell well in your region, then it’s not like that at all:  http://www.riseaboverecords.com/products/view/364

Monday, April 29, 2013

MISTER GROWL: THE WEEK AHEAD




Apologies for a slow few days, but it’s for a very good, very metal reason. I have been working on an exciting new article for Decibel Magazine, marking the third assignment I’ve received from those magnificent gents over in Philly. I should be back with new posts starting tomorrow, covering the following artists in no guaranteed order:

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Howl, Waster, Woe, Tumbleweed Dealer, Motherplant, and Desecration.

We also have a guest post in the works, I will cover a visual artist, and the new issue of Kung Fu Breakfast will be released in the coming week, including one of my new short stories.

I will also have a post sometime in the next week about who the Hell I am, so I’m not just some faceless goblin passing judgement on albums from the safety of my lair, littered with the bones of nu-metal musicians.

Catch ya sooner than later, goons.

Mister Growl

Friday, April 26, 2013

REVIEW: FULL OF HELL - RUDIMENTS OF MUTILATION


Don’t be afraid, be very afraid. Full of Hell’s new album, Rudiments of Mutilation, is what all those fairy tales were warning you about. All the ugly, cruel, dangerous elements of the world have packed their bindles and trekked across broken glass and glowing embers to join the sonic fray in this release. While quotes from the band suggest that the album is simply about “meaningless suffering” I created an entire narrative of a tortured soul recounting violent deeds and troubling experiences post-mortem, waiting for the revelation of what exists when our pulse ceases, and finding nothing. In the street-wise words of Blood for Blood, “What have we got? We got nihilism.”

Full of Hell blast pitch-black, grinding crust’n’doom at their audiences like they have a lifelong grudge against anyone in shouting distance. After “Dichotomy” lures the listener in with howls from a bottomless pit and eerie scattershot drumming, “Vessel Deserted” taps into the hardest core of crust punk before slipping into the abyss for one of several funeral sludge passages, where Dylan Walker’s vocals trail away like smoke from bodies burnt to destroy evidence. Full of Hell rip through a few grinders before pounding out “Indigence and Guilt,” a vicious hardcore song with stop-and-start riffage over a grimy wall of tremolo noise. When Full of Hell muscle up and aim to maim there is no place safe to hide. You don’t want to have an arm wrestling contest with Rudiments of Mutilation. Remember Jeff Goldblum in The Fly? Compound fracture just waiting for you, son.

The middle of the album opens up into a gaping pit of despair as “Embrace” features lifeless, droning musing over feedback and a swampy, groovy bass line. The song bleeds over into the doom track “The Lord Is My Light,” whose dissonant opening chords dive cranium-first into a pool of coagulated blood. This portion of the album is the harshest, scraping along on its belly like a dying snake trying to swallow its last rat-meal before it stops breathing. Then it’s back to the daily grind, with “Bone Coral and Brine” and the title track cranking out crusty, savage hardcore punk with barbed-wire texture. The album closes with “In Contempt of Life” marching bleakly to a halt, with barked vocals reverberating restlessly through a purgatory of ash and bone dust that I assume looks frighteningly like Wyoming. In Full of Hell’s nasty reality there’s never a moment of silence, just the shrill ringing in your ears after a speaker explodes or a gun goes off.

This release is exactly what makes A389 Recordings one of the most important labels in aggressive music. Full of Hell has a versatile and downright scary sound that needs to be celebrated and appreciated by fans of sonic extremity. The Dude was totally accurate, even in jest, when he suggested being a nihilist is exhausting. So even the most dedicated nihilists should take a break and seek out Rudiments of Mutilation, because this album will make you believe in nothing except the lasting power of a musician with a bad mood. Full of Hell are also touring extensively through June, so support these bad mofos on the road. Can’t wait to catch them in Brooklyn with Trap Them and Seven Sisters of Sleep, that sounds like the best excuse for a concussion I’ve ever heard.



And though vinyl pre-orders are sold out, get a CD/Shirt combo over at A389:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

INTERVIEW: MOM AND DAD GROWL


It may shock or even disappoint you, but I was not hatched from some speckled owl egg in the middle of winter. I was raised by two compassionate Christians who have always believed that to be truly happy in this world you had to make family and friends your priority, always be a good neighbor, encourage creativity even when you don’t understand it, and cheer for perpetually losing sports teams.

In honor of their 35th wedding anniversary I am posting this interview with my parents that I conducted about a month ago in a Friendly’s restaurant. Read ahead to discover my questionable middle school music taste, my mom’s Earth Crisis impression, and my very first CD:


Son: When was the first time you remember me being into heavy music?

Mom: Probably when we moved when you were in middle school. I noticed that the most.

Son: Do you remember any of the bands I was into at that time?

Dad: Bush.

Son: That’s true.

Dad: Hootie and the Blowfish.

Mom: Cannibal Corpse. When did you like Cannibal Corpse?

Son: That was when I got really into it, yeah. Junior high.

Dad: KoRn.

Mom: When was Bryan Adams?

Son: *Laughs*

Dad: Aren’t you glad you’re recording this?

Mom: Pearl Jam too. But I do remember Cannibal Corpse.

Sean: Yeah when I got into Cannibal Corpse that was some intense stuff. Was there a time you were nervous about me liking that type of music?

Mom: I don’t think I was nervous about the music, but I remember going into to try to find a CD for you and trying to filter out by title if we should get it for you. And I brought one home and you said, “Really Mom? This is worse than the one with the Parental Advisory sticker.”

(Editor’s Note: This is describing her purchase of Tool’s Aenima over Rage Against the Machine’s Evil Empire album.)

Mom: But I wasn’t scared so much, because I couldn’t understand the words. *Laughs* The music didn’t make me that nervous though, no.

Dad: I was raised on some hard rock so no, I wasn’t nervous. The only time I remember, is there was one band that wrote about the police. About violence towards the police.

Sean: Do you mean the band Body Count? With Ice-T?

Dad: Yeah, I think that’s the one. The rapper.

Sean: They had the song “Cop Killer” that was pretty controversial.

Dad: And now he plays a cop. *Laughs*

Mom: I think I remember other parents being impressed that I knew some of the bands you listen to, because they had no idea what their kids were into. And I’d list off the bands for them, and I’d get a laugh out of some of the names, like “Blood Somethingness” or “Zombie That.”

Sean: Blood Somethingness? *Laughs*

Mom: It always had “blood” in it!

Sean: And when I started playing in a band you were really supportive. What were your thoughts on me playing in a heavy band?

Mom: I actually really liked it, it felt like a connection. I wouldn’t call us groupies, but--

Dad: It was a social group.

Mom: It was like a bonding experience, and I liked the fact that you were into music. I think that music throughout your life--

(At this point a Waitress my parents have known for a decade approaches to the table.)

Waitress: (To my Mom) I was just thinking about you the other day, I pulled a book out the other day and there was a sketch you did in it with the teddy bear family, and I was like aww.

Dad: How are the kids doing?

Waitress: They’re getting so big, it’s ridiculous. I took them to the Children’s Museum out in Boston this weekend, because of Spring Break, and they were in the bubble room. My five month old’s blowing bubbles and just starts squealing, he loves it so much.

Dad: Loves the bubbles.

Waitress: I gotta run, but talk to you later!

(The Waitress departs.)

Son: Awesome. *Laughs*

Mom: But I think music carries through, you always have the music and the connection with the people you made music with. Like you writing for this magazine now, I think your love for music lead to that. And we would sit in the back with the other parents and cheer you on. Those were fond times.

Son: And as far as having a group of friends who were into that stuff, Dad were you ever nervous about the kids playing metal?

Dad: None of the guys you played with, no. And you gotta remember, I grew up with Alice Cooper. You watch Alice Cooper and he had quite a reputation.

Mom: I think you have to look beyond the music. You couldn’t have a nicer group of friends at that time. They were good guys and the music style doesn’t necessarily determine personality.

Son: And did you ever hear a song that was too much for you, like you didn’t even know if it was music?

(At this point a Waiter delivers our food. When he’s out of hearing distance my Mom continues.)

Mom: Some of them sounded like *Does Earth Crisis growl impersonation and laughs* I think i walked in one time and I said, “Whoa, I don’t even know what that all is.” But my parents used to walk in when I was playing the Beatles and the Stones and they’d say, “That’s music?” And I swore I wasn’t going to be one of those parents who would do that because I didn’t want to be judgemental.

Dad: Those times with your bands were great times, we enjoyed that. You guys went through a lot of garbage after Columbine and you were tough through it, and I always respected that.

Son: And do you guys remember the first CD you got me?

Mom: I remember the CD player, not the CD.

Son: It was Queen. A Night at the Opera.

Dad: Queen!

Son: Too late, Dad.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

REVIEW: HELA - BROKEN CROSS


One of the perks of metal band research is the dramatically increased knowledge of all things morbid. For every band name that is just some conglomeration of the words Dark/Iron/Goat there is one that actually enlightens you. Such is the case with Hela, a Spanish psychedelic doom band with a stoner rock foundation, who named their band after a Norse goddess of Death, usually described as being half beautiful woman and half skeleton, who happens to be a compassionate caretaker for the souls of those whose deaths were not caused by combat.


On Broken Cross, Hela’s sound has a similar dichotomy; strikingly heavy with surface-level intimidation but a heart of gold beneath the sinister shroud. On “Horns of God” and “Wicked King” they establish their modus operandi: Playing towering, groovy riffs with bluesy NOLA sensibilities as Isabel Sierras’ mystic voice floats above the din like notes played from a flute crafted from human bone. Throughout the album the lead guitar is incredibly restrained, so relaxed you can picture the guitarist playing eyes-closed with a spliff dangling haphazardly from his lips. The uninspiring lead guitar is one of the main reasons songs like “March of the Minotaurs” and “Black Eagle” seem to plod a bit, just chewing up track time as the rhythm section works at the same riff like a piece of tough jerky, trying to keep it all headbangable. In the metal world, headbangable = bangable.


There are nice moments here, even when the music feels a bit predictable, like the soulful blues licks kicking off “Flesh Ceremony” and the confident double-bass swagger of “Slave of the Witch,” but several of these songs dawdle too much for my liking. These tracks have mainstream rock accessibility but linger too long while falling in love with their own riffs. There are some catchy melodies and good ideas, but I feel this album needs a radio edit to make it as concise as possible for it to reach its full potential. I just suggested a radio edit, which means somewhere a true metal warrior is now planning my assassination and sharpening a spiked mace. I really don’t have a problem with nine minute songs, but you have to earn that length, and Hela rely too much on flourishes that are ultimately distracting, like the looooooong barely-audible movie clips beginning and closing the album.


There’s no shortage of fuzzy, spaced-out doom riffage on Broken Cross. If you want some music to accompany you on long desert drives through a landscape that seems to morph like a lava lamp, this is your jam. The album is approachable and safe and washes its hands before and after dinner, but it can still let its hair down and rock enough to break a sweat. Overall, Hela just need to trim the fat, challenge the lead guitarist a bit, and quit spending so much time with all those peaceful underworld souls, ‘cause they aren’t the rowdiest crowd on the block.



Listen to the album streaming over at Bandcamp at:  http://discosmacarras.bandcamp.com/album/broken-cross


And check out their Facebook page for more information:  https://www.facebook.com/Helaband

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ART: BRITTANY BINDRIM

With the newest issue of Kung Fu Breakfast less than a week away (this month’s theme: Tales of the Internet), I was privy to a sneak peek at the cover art by Brittany Bindrim by editor Jay Kantor. It’s maniacal, pulpy, and gorgeous. Much like last month’s cover from Caitlin Anne, this is the sort of art that makes me proud to be a part of such a dynamic, exciting publication.

Brittany is an artist, musician, entrepreneur, and graphic design guru who is the founder of Black Dove Design Company and the songwriter/vocalist of I:Scintilla, a band that defies easy genre categorization but flirts with synth pop, trip-hop, and indie electro. She has a versatile illustration style but I have selected work by her that I think matches the overall aesthetic of this blog: Macabre, creepy, and beautifully stark. She’s a striking talent and her work would be perfect for a variety of metal styles. I could see her designs as a cover for anyone from Kylesa to The Dillinger Escape Plan.

(PRO TIP: CLICK PICTURES FOR A LARGER  VIEW AND MORE BAD ASS DETAIL.)


Brittany says of her artwork,  “I honestly cannot remember a day that art was not in my life. At an early age, I found a way to escape reality and get lost in the dreamscape of creating art and have lived there ever since. With compelling vision and true passion, I aim to create memorable and meaningful illustrations with magical realism. Working as a graphic designer and art director for over 6 years has given me an innovative design sense to construct elaborate images and nurtured my bold graphic style.

“My latest body of work consists of pen and ink illustrations drawn with obsessive organic detail. These pieces have been fueled and inspired by dreams and nightmares, anxiety, the streets of New Orleans, the poetry of Charles Bukowski, conspiracy theories, and the horrors of the 9 to 5. I have been hypnotized by the pen to create rich black and white surrealist imagery. The organic vines and veins repeated in the work symbolize a complex and puzzling interconnectedness we have with the one another, nature, and the modern world.”


Check out more of her art and design work and find contact information at:  http://www.blackdovedesigncompany.com/

Prints of her amazing work can be purchased here:  iscintilla.imagekind.com

And listen to I:Scintilla’s music, streaming over at:  http://www.iscintilla.com/?page_id=8

I:Scintilla are releasing a new EP on May 3rd. You can check out a preview track here:
https://soundcloud.com/iscintilla/ruin

Many thanks to Brittany for allowing me to share her work! I will post links to the next issue of Kung Fu Breakfast when it’s officially released so you can all marvel at her mind-frying skill.


Monday, April 22, 2013

REVIEW: COUGH / WINDHAND SPLIT (REFLECTION OF THE NEGATIVE)



Reflections of the Negative features two colossal doom bands from Richmond, VA, both on Relapse Records. I just listened to this split album a couple times on repeat and I’m pretty sure the music impregnated me and a baby demon is now forming in some egg of sulphur in my tummy. Not gonna be fun shitting that out, but this split was totally worth the future discomfort.

The opening of Cough’s 18 minute track, “Athame,” sounds eerily similar to the music created by the coven of black-toothed witches in The Lord of Salem, a film I found tedious and completely uninspiring. This song, which plods defiantly into oblivion for nine minutes before switching gears into an even more unpleasant circle of hell, features more suspense and chills then that film mustered in 101 minutes. The connection to witchcraft isn’t just a convenient bridge into mentioning my recent film reviews either, as an “athame” is a ceremonial dagger used in many neopagan witchcraft traditions. Like the dagger, the percussion cuts through the suffocating fog of black smoke just enough for Parker Chandler’s strangled vocals to sneak through the forest of briars. Halfway through the song, when the lyrics announce “the time has come for sacrifice,” you can picture a procession of hooded figures lead by a single dying lantern flame to a black altar crafted from burnt bones and warped wood. The droning chant, soaked with reverb and haunted to the core, accompanies pummeling drums that rejoin the heavy groove of the main riff leading into the thirteenth minute. It’s all entirely captivating, a testament to the power of one ungodly riff and a whole lot of phantasmal atmosphere. Try listening to this in some woodlands after dusk without something dead rising from the rotten leaves and muck.

As the album’s chaser, Windhand is the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, if the medicine is actually laced with the blood of a leprous monk and poison sumac. The riffs are similarly massive and leaden, but while Cough just try to get through the woods alive, Windhand seem to have found the safest clearing and stroll there a little bit. Sure, they’re surrounded by the skeletons of ill-fated travelers, but the way the light bounces off their skulls and femurs is kinda pretty at this hour. “Shepherd’s Crook” features some soaring lead guitar and Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals wind between the pine trees to awaken some ancient evil. But of the two songs “Amaranth” leaves the largest impression in the mud, with resourceful drumming from Ryan Wolfe powering the attack. it turns out that Amaranth is a blossoming weed that has symbolized immortality reaching back to early Greek mythology. Windhand’s music is similarly everlasting, as you can find roots of this music in ancient incantations and the rawest forms of blues. Both of these bands show up at the top of their form on this split, making it essential listening for fans of doom, sludge, or extreme occult rock. When that demon egg hatches I’m gonna name it Coughand, and this album will be his lullaby.

Listen to the album over at Bandcamp and feel the black magic consume you:  http://coughwindhand.bandcamp.com/album/reflection-of-the-negative

And order the beautiful vinyl LP from Relapse over at:  http://www.relapse.com/label/catalog/product/view/id/83006/s/reflection-of-the-negative-lp-white-and-black-splatter/category/52/

Sunday, April 21, 2013

REVIEW: EVIL DEAD / LORDS OF SALEM

I moseyed down to a local cineplex yesterday for a twin-bill showing of Evil Dead, the remake (re-imagining, whatever) of the Sam Raimi classic, and The Lords of Salem, Rob Zombie’s newest flick. I just wanted to share a few thoughts on each movie.



Evil Dead establishes early that the viewer should not expect shlock or camp. Apart from a few minor bloody fingerprints of dark comedy, this is deadly serious start to finish. The screenplay (collaboratively written by four people, including director Fede Alvarez) works hard to illustrate the dramatic weight of each relationship impacting David, played by Shiloh Fernandez. From his junkie sister to his nurse friend with sexual tension to his childhood friend who has since soured on him, there is plenty at stake when most of these people die. Interestingly enough, his girlfriend seems to carry the least dramatic significance, which just never bodes well for a character’s fate. The dialogue in these early scenes is pretty stilted, and you can feel the wheels churning as they rush to introduce all relevant information before the bloodshed kicks in. When it does, where your ponchos, ‘cause it gets messy. This movie has a serious vendetta against human limbs. There are some really solid set-pieces with nasty FX and slimy sound, like Jessica Lucas’ creepy, cringe-inducing turn. Evil Dead aims to terrify, disgust, and delight gorehounds. While the scares aren’t as effective as the gruesome effects (which mostly avoid the trappings of bad CG), this is still a genre offering I would encourage horror fans to give a chance, even if they are reluctant due to the pedigree of the original film. But Evil Dead is a totally different animal. For instance, it doesn’t have “The” in the title. Jane Levy, who plays the recovering addict Mia, steals the show with her deranged, physical performance. She drools, crawls, screams, and creepily grins her way through violent personality shifts in the most crucial role of the film.





I then used my stealth skills to crawl on the ceilings and jump shadow to shadow to find my way to The Lords of Salem theater. Rob Zombie is one of those directors (like Tim Burton, David Lynch, or Alejandro Jodorowsky) that has his own stamp of style, a mark (of the devil) that is undeniably his own. Unfortunately, his trademark gallows humor only pumps out in inconsistent spurts, and we’re left with a film that is both thematically sprawling, physically claustrophobic, disinterested in narrative clarity and the relationships between its characters after the second act, and equates to a long stare at a painting. As the lead character, a radio DJ with a mysterious connection to Salem’s bloody history of witchcraft persecution, Sheri Moon Zombie is entirely passable. The range required for the role isn’t tremendous, but she’s appropriately amiable to receive our sympathies, and a victim of circumstance entirely beyond her control. The real trouble is that all the work to develop her character is discarded as the “LET’S SEE HOW CRAZY THIS CAN GET” approach takes lead, resulting in an eye-rolling number of dream sequences and inexplicable location changes. It feels like this was written in the same day-to-day manner as Lynch’s Inland Empire, a similar occasionally captivating but mostly deeply flawed film that left me disappointed. Most of The Lords of Salem felt like a reason to see how hot Rob Zombie’s wife is, and how awesomely her character’s apartment is decorated. Stylistically this film definitely aspires to be The Shining by way of Rosemary’s Baby, as directed by Jean Rollin, who never saw a lady draped in sheer cloth he didn’t feel compelled to film. I have long admired Zombie’s passion for film, his jubilant cinematic voice that brings a refreshing, approachable quality to a grindhouse mentality, but this lumbering, tedious film was barely worth my sneaky zero-dollar admission fee. But hey, genre heroes Ken Foree and Dee Wallace camp it up and have some fun, so that’s cool, right?