Tag Archives: Pelican

012 Maryland Death Fest 2013

As if Deathfest or inner city Baltimore aren't brutal enough. . .

As if Deathfest or inner city Baltimore aren’t brutal enough. . .

This year, both of us attended Maryland Deathfest to witness the metal event of the year. Not only did we join Chris Dick of Decibel for band sets, Bergers cookies, and late-night chili dogs, but we also met Mark Rudolph of Requiem Metal Podcast to talk shop about podcasting. The weather in Baltimore was unseasonably pleasant, and we all had a blast hanging out and breathing in the not-so-fetid air of the Charm City. Shout-outs to our comrades Sean Palmerston, Kevin Stewart-Panko, Gordon Conrad, Ian Christe, and Magnus Henriksson! All the following songs were played live and are in chronological order:

“Incarnated Solvent Abuse” from Carcass’ Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious (1991, Earache)

The reunited Carcass—well, Jeff Walker, Bill Steer, and the new blood—came to slay, and slay they did indeed. The godfathers of UK grindcore who pioneered the melodic death metal subgenre even have a new album, Surgical Steel, out October 1 on Nuclear Blast. Mark your calendars!

Pelican gettin' all Pink Floyd-y.

Pelican gettin’ all Pink Floyd-y.

“Ephemeral” from Pelican’s Ephemeral EP (2009, Southern Lord)

Some fans may’ve thought that post-rockers Pelican didn’t belong at MDF, but actually they added a much needed diversity to the brutal mix. I found it touching that before playing two new songs, guitarist Trevor de Brauw asked the crowd politely to refrain from recording the songs and posting them online: a heartfelt plea from a true artist. Sadly, this made even more people pull out their cells and record the proceedings!

“Skybone” from The Obsessed’s Incarnate (1999, Southern Lord)

The Obsessed, the true grandfathers of doom, formed in 1976 (!) but hadn’t played together since the band broke up around 1995. A few festival gigs and here they are in Baltimore, their first hometown gig in twenty-odd years. For all you collectors: “Skybone” was originally released on the 1991 Hellhound Records comp What the Hell! and later included on their final full-length, The Church Within (1994, Columbia/Hellhound). Wino’s long locks are graying and sophisticating as the years roll on.

When Eric eats a bannana, he becomes. . . BANANAMAN!

When Eric eats a bannana, he becomes. . . BANANAMAN!

“I Am God” from Broken Hope’s Loathing (1997, Metal Blade)

Chicago’s Broken Hope have peddled meat & potatoes death metal since 1991, to varying levels of acclaim. Critics severely panned their early albums, but 1997’s Loathing introduced a more technical style, furthered by 1999’s Grotesque Blessings. Founding throat Joe Ptacek left in 1999 and tragically died in 2010, but the band reunited with Gorgasm vocalist Damian Leski and recorded their first album in almost fifteen years, Omen of Disease, out September 30 on Century Media!

“Night Goat” from Melvins’ Houdini (1993, Atlantic)

Ahh, the Melvins…what can we say about these guys?!? We’ve loved them ever since Houdini blew our minds back in high school, regardless of how spotty or inaccessible their output has been since then. We thought that their inclusion at MDF didn’t make the most perfect sense but were glad when they stuck to their Atlantic catalog for their set list. King Buzzo dressed like a wizard for the festivities, and thankfully Dale Crover was NOT wearing only a Speedo!

“Lifer” from Down’s NOLA (1995, Elektra)

Down is Phil Anselmo’s most famous on-and-off band outside of Pantera, still going strong since 1995. Our enthusiasm for their albums has decidedly waned since the initial fireworks of NOLA, mainly due to the band’s extreme lethargy in releasing albums (usually 5-7 years between them, due to the obligations of the members’ main bands). Yet they released the new Down IV Part I – The Purple EP last year, and it wasn’t half bad. We just wish Pepper Keenan would rejoin COC and set them straight!

“Independent” from Sacred Reich’s Independent (1993, Hollywood)

Straight-up thrash from Phoenix, Sacred Reich was an early signing to Metal Blade in 1987, and major-label Hollywood Records picked them up for only one album, 1993’s Independent. We feel that the Reich hasn’t received a whole lotta love over the years, so we were very pleased with their very enthusiastic reception at MDF. As bassist/vocalist Phil Rind commented during their set, “You younger fans don’t know that we used to a cool band. Now we’re just fat!”

“Dragonaut” from Sleep’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain (1993, Earache)

Since 1991, San Francisco’s infamous Sleep have been the progenitors of stoner doom alongside Kyuss and Monster Magnet. They’re also one of the only metal bands that’ve released only one truly great album before breaking up, the pioneering 1993’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain, which spawned numerous sound-alikes. Check out the original video for “Dragonaut” here [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-FjO3E8K-E].

“Road of Kings” from Manilla Road’s Open the Gates (1985, Black Dragon)

Three crucial game-changing points to remember about Manilla Road: (1) their hometown is the awesome Midwest burg of Wichita, Kansas; (2) they began crafting their cult traditional metal sound in 1981, while most of their fans were still sucking their thumbs; and (3) they’ve released a whopping 18 official albums! The MDF crowd was visibly stoked to see these guys, especially founding guitarist/vocalist Mark ‘The Shark’ Shelton, now 56 years young and rocking like he was a teenager!

You're never too old to play guitar either.

You’re never too old to play guitar either.

“Treat Me Right” from Pentagram’s Last Rites (2011, Metal Blade)

If you haven’t seen the recent documentary Last Days Here about Bobby Leibling’s return to metal, please binge-stream it on Netflix asap. The elder statesman of Sabbath-inspired doom, Leibling was late as usual, but this crowd didn’t mind as they gave this 60-year-old metalhead an ear-splitting ovation as he shuffled onstage. Bug-eyed Bobby aimed to please with fan faves like “Be Forewarned,” “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head,” “20 Buck Spin” (which inspired the record label of the same name), and of course “Forever My Queen.”

“Black Metal” from Venom’s Black Metal (1982, Neat)

We’ve never quite understood the appeal of England’s Venom. They’re known for extremely influential proto-thrash that started as the NWOBHM movement was ebbing. They coined the term “black metal” as the title of their 1982 album and inevitably named an entire metal subgenre/movement. They formed in 1979, before most of their fans were born. But when Cronos took the stage to the fathoms-deep bellows of the MDF crowd, we understood everything. This is metal, after all.

Look:  RequiemMetalUrgesPodcast.

Look: RequiemMetalUrgesPodcast.

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009 Hydra Head Records part 2

The conclusion to our tribute to Hydra Head Records and label prez Aaron Turner, this episode contains even more quality music from a label that has given us so much enjoyment and inspiration over the years.


Scissors 0. Scissorfight 1.

Scissorfight, Mantrapping for Sport and Profit (“New Hampshire’s All Right If You Like Fighting”), 2001

Do you like to fight? Because Scissorfight will smash your face! Hailing from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, this burly quartet, helmed by vocalist/mountain-man Ironlung, plays monster truckin’ meat rock about life in the Granite State. Scissorfight were one of the first signings to Tortuga Recordings, started by then-HH-label publicist Mark Thompson (even though both labels were run out of the same office, Aaron had nothing to do with Tortuga, other than playing in Old Man Gloom). This track has a huge Karma to Burn-esque chorus, but ultimately Scissorfight are most related to ’90s-era COC with their massive Southern-rock chords and plenty of Clutch-esque funk. The band went on extended hiatus in 2006 after the release of theirJaggernaut album but has since emerged with a Greatest Hits album on their own Scissorfight Records, now available on iTunes.


Big Business, Head for the Shallow (“Technically Electrified”), 2005

Big Business started out as a duo from Seattle playing Melvins-esque heavy sludge/doom rock but are now a four-piece or what they call a “power quartet.” Bassist/vocalist Jared Warren (formerly of the incredible indie band Karp) and drummer Coady Willis (of Murder City Devils) released their debut album in 2005 on Hydra Head and the next year became members of the Melvins. They’re still members of the Melvins but have managed seven releases to date as Big Business and are currently signed to their own label, Gold Medal Records. The rumbling, bass-heavy vibe of this song totally exemplifies this band!

Zozobra, Harmonic Tremors (“Kill and Crush”), 2007

Zozobra was formed by Caleb Scofield (bassist for Cave In) and Santos Montano, both of whom play in Old Man Gloom—which, in turn, is another name for Zozobra, the giant marionette that is built and ritually burned in effigy every fall in New Mexico. This was Scofield’s first opportunity to write his own songs, which he had been unable to do in Cave In and Old Man Gloom. “Kill and Crush” underscores his earthshaking bass sound and harsh vocals, but also highlights his clean (but processed, here) pipes. Their most recent album is 2008’s Bird of Prey.

Torche, Songs for Singles (“Cast into Unknown”), 2010

Now a household name, Torche began as an indie metal band in Miami after Cavity guitarist Steve Brooks and Juan Montoya dissolved the band Floor in 2002. Brooks took the “doom pop” aesthetic of Floor to great lengths in Torche and in the process redefined how poppy truly heavy music could be. Hydra Head served as a great stepping stone for Torche, as they released the lauded Meanderthal in 2008 and the Songs for Singles EP in 2010. Torche have since been signed to Volcom Entertainment, the record label subsidiary of Volcom sports clothing. With wickedly catchy songs and clean vocals, Torche is a band that bridges the gap between genuine metalheads and the Warped Tour crowd.

Atomsmasher, Atomsmasher (“Thunderspit”), 2001

Atomsmasher (now renamed Phantomsmasher) was one of the first releases on the noise imprint, Double H Noise Industries, which went on to spotlight records from Sunn0))), Merzbow, et al. Also the guitarist for OLD, an Earache band from the early ’90s, James Plotkin is the mastermind behind Atomsmasher. Municipal Waste drummer Dave Witte has played on 50+ metal albums including Human Remains, Black Army Jacket, Burnt by the Sun, Candiria, Exit-13, and Discordance Axis. Check out the video for “Thunderspit” (available on James’ website, www.plotkinworks.com)!




5ive, Hesperus (“Big Sea”), 2008

Another Tortuga Recordings band, 5ive are a two-piece, guitar & drums, hailing from Boston. Chris has seen them live several times, and they often set up their gear on the floor in front of the stage and played one or two long jams—a very unique band. Their music is completely instrumental, though Jonah Jenkins of Milligram sang on two songs on their sophomore album, 2001’s The Telestic Disfracture. Isis bassist Jeff Caxide also played on two albums. They haven’t released any new material since 2008’s Hesperus, so maybe they’ll break their silence soon?

Discordance Axis, Our Last Day (“Sega Bass Fishing” and “Ikaruga”), 2005

Discordance Axis was a grindcore band from New Jersey starring Jon Chang and Dave Witte of Atomsmasher. Though their sound is quite unique, few understood how important they were until Decibel did a Hall of Fame feature on their 2000 album The Inalienable Dreamless back in March of 2009. Our friend Kevin Stewart-Panko called that record “the most forward-thinking grindcore album of all time.” Hydra Head is credited with bringing DA to the metal forefront, because their previous releases were nearly impossible to find. Their Hydra Head albums were packaged in DVD cases and came with long lyrics booklets. “Sega Bass Fishing” is actually their cover of the theme song of the videogame for the Sega Dreamcast! Chang now heads up Gridlink, and of course Witte is drumming for Muni Waste.

Milligram (photo by Chris Ayers)

Milligram (photo by Chris Ayers)

Milligram, Hello Motherf**ker! (“After the Riot”), 2000

A short-lived heavy rock band from Boston and another jewel in Tortuga’s crown, Milligram was formed by Jonah Jenkins, storied vocalist from hardcore heroes Only Living Witness and Miltown. Milligram were much more rock-based than Only Living Witness, and “After the Riot” is a perfect example of their adherence to a post-punk aesthetic. Fun fact: the HMF line-up of Milligram reunited for a one-off show in October 2012, then the following weekend they reunited again and played one show with the line-up that recorded 2002’s This Is Class War.


Knut, Terraformer (“Torvalds”), 2005

Pronounced “knoot,” Knut are a mathcore/sludgecore band from Geneva, Switzerland—one of the few international bands on the Hydra Head roster. Back in the day, Knut got a lot of Isis references, partially because they were on the label run by Aaron Turner, but they sound more like hardcore like Botch without the crazy tempo changes. We like “Torvalds” in particular because of the female voice samples at the bridge—very unexpected right in the eye of the storm!

Harvey Milk.  (photo by Chris Ayers)

Harvey Milk. (photo by Chris Ayers)


Harvey Milk, Life…The Best Game in Town (“Death Goes to the Winner”), 2008

One of our all-time favorite art-sludge bands, Harvey Milk has quite the history with us: our former editor at Charlotte’s Indie File, Samir Shukla, released their 1994 album My Love Is Higher Than Your Assessment of What My Love Could Be on his Yesha label, later reissued by Relapse in 2007. “Death Goes to the Winner” is the only metal song with a lyrical reference to the My So-Called Life TV show. This track even has a Beatles reference at the coda: they sing a couple of lines from “A Day in the Life” then end the song with that sustained piano note—one of the most famous final chords (of the most important Beatles song) in history, ending the Sgt. Pepper album. More to come in our forthcoming Harvey Milk episode!

Old Man Gloom, Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism (“Cinders of the Simian Psyche”), 2001

Arguably the most famous band on the Tortuga roster, OMG was birthed by Aaron Turner as a side project to Isis but grew into a supergroup with Santos Montano on drums, Converge’s Nate Newton on guitar, and Cave In’s Caleb Scofield on bass. Their sound is a melding of sludgecore, experimental electronics (something that Turner would expand on in his ambient/noise band, House of Low Culture), and doom rock. Their early lyrics and CD booklets talked about research on primates and the evolution and de-evolution therein. Though Isis called it quits, OMG just put out a new album last year, titled simply No—which, strangely enough, is their first non-Tortuga album; instead, it’s a straight-up Hydra Head release.

Special thanks to Aaron Turner for setting us straight about the Tortuga relationship. Long live Hydra Head!

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008 Hydra Head Records part 1

“The decision to pull the plug has not been an easy one, and in some ways is a not a choice at all.  The simple fact of the matter is we’ve been running on empty for a while now and cannot afford to keep our doors open for much longer. Years of imbalance between creative ideals and financial realities, personal problems amongst the label operators, an unwillingness to compromise our aesthetic standards, a tendency towards releasing challenging (i.e. unmarketable) artists, and the steady decline of the music industry in general, are amongst the chief reasons for our inability to continue.” (Aaron Turner, September 10, 2012)

Sniff, sniff. . . Hydra Head Records

Sniff, sniff. . . Hydra Head Records

The night they drove ol’ Hydra Head down was indeed a dark day in metaldom. Like many fans, we first stumbled upon then-Boston-based Hydra Head Records in 1997 through strictly metal channels in the form of the In These Black Days seven-inch series. Our fave bands at the time—EHG, Brutal Truth, Coalesce, et al.—paid tribute to Black Sabbath with unique interpretations of their songs (like A.C.’s version of “Sabbra Cadabra” ripping off Steve Miller Band’s “Abracadabra”). Since Hydra Head molded our young minds into true metal critics, it seems only fitting that we devote two full episodes to the incredible legacy that this fiercely indie label leaves behind. With that moldy Sinatra song in mind, Hydra Head did it their way all the time, every time, for all 236 (give or take) phenomenal releases. Here’s to you, Aaron!

Botch, We Are the Romans (“C. Thomas Howell as the ‘Soul Man’”), 1999

We already had an entire podcast planned on Botch, but we shelved it to focus on Hydra Head as a whole for the time being. This quartet from Tacoma, Washington is one of the greatest hardcore/mathcore bands of all time!  Along with Dillinger Escape Plan and Coalesce, they helped to pioneer this particular subgenre of metal, starting with their blistering HH debut, 1998’s American Nervoso. We Are the Romans is one of our favorite albums of all time, no question—and it holds up strongly to the test of time.



 Cavity, On the Lam (“Sung from a Goad”), 2001

From Miami, Cavity was a sludgecore band akin to Eyehategod, Iron Monkey, Bongzilla, et al. They had scattered releases on half a dozen labels from the mid-’90s to around 2001 when they broke up (interestingly enough, their 1997 Rhetoric debut Somewhere Between the Train Station and the Dumping Grounds contains a full live set hidden in the pregap of the CD!). HH breathed new life into their career with this new full-length and two reissues, and after the group dissolved, members went on to form Floor, Torche, and Black Cobra.


Keelhaul. . . y’all

Keelhaul, II (“New Void”), 2001

Cleveland, Ohio bruisers Keelhaul was the supreme mathcore band of the late ’90s/early ’00s. Every album is a mind-boggling workout of fretboard gymnastics, pogoing tempos, and sporadic screams. And you will never witness a musician more uproarious onstage than drummer Will Scharf. Are they still together?  On extended hiatus?  Who knows, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see another release from them anytime now.

Jesu, Jesu (“Friends Are Evil”), 2004

Formed by Justin Broadrick after the original demise of UK’s Godflesh in 2002, Jesu took its name from the final song on Godflesh’s 2001 swan song, Hymns. This sound is more post-metal than Godflesh’s smothering industrial metal, and it has since morphed from guitar-based gravity to an electronic heaviness, with more emphasis on Justin’s clean vocals. “Friends Are Evil” is long at over nine epic minutes but exemplifies the early concept of where Justin was going with Jesu before he divested himself completely of the Godflesh influences.

Pelican, City of Echoes (“Winds with Hands”), 2007

From Chicago, Pelican are also post-metal but leaning more toward stoner/doom and post-rock and are completely instrumental. They released their debut eponymous EP in 2001 on Hydra Head and are still going strong, now on Southern Lord Records. 2007’s City of Echoes was their last full-length for Hydra Head and, we think, their best album. Their newest release, this year’s Ataraxia/Taraxis, was produced by Isis drummer Aaron Harris.

Cattle Press, Hordes to Abolish the Divine (“Crowskin”), 2000

From Brooklyn, New York, Cattle Press was a short-lived band with only a handful of releases. Their sound was doom/sludge with heaping helpings of thrash and hardcore. Guitarist Joey Capizzi had a similar band called Iabhorher that contributed a song to the famous Cry Now, Cry Later comp on Pessimiser/Theologian along with a rare Cattle Press track, and bassist Eddie Ortiz went on to join Candiria and later formed the black metal/thrash outfit The Dying Light. Hordes to Abolish the Divine was the very first HH promo that Chris was sent for review!



Cable, Northern Failures (“Black Leather Mustache”), 2001

This noise quartet from Manchester, Connecticut, has been on a slew of labels over the years and is currently part of the The End Records roster. Cable’s sound is noise-core, though over nearly twenty years they’ve gone through many different styles, including Southern rock-tinged metal, doom, sludge and hardcore. The voice sample that bookends “Black Leather Mustache” is from Harmony Korine’s 1997 cult film Gummo. Northern Failures was their last release on HH and was produced by Steve Austin of Today Is the Day; that album also contains their noisy cover of the Marshall Tucker Band’s “Can’t You See”!



Harkonen, Shake Harder Boy (“The Burly Spur”), 2002

Also from Tacoma, Washington—same as Botch!—Harkonen is one of many bands with names inspired by Frank Herbert’s Dune (see also Sandrider, Shai Hulud, Stillsuit, et al.). Bassist Ben Verellen is the brother of Botch frontman Dave Verellen. Harkonen’s sound is noisy hardcore, though on later releases they evolved to a more progressive hardcore with more tempo change-ups. Verellen is currently playing with Helms Alee, another HH band, and making/selling high-end custom guitar amps and pre-amps (check out www.verellenamplifiers.com).

Cave In, Jupiter (“In the Stream of Commerce”), 2000

One of the earliest signings to HH and the most successful & influential, Boston’s Cave In are still going strong. Jupiter turned the hardcore world on its side with its melodic structures and Steve Brodsky’s clean vocals—truly one of the best metal albums ever! A glorious Cave In episode is also on the docket for us…

Stay tuned for the companion episode, Hydra Head Records, Part II!

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