Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mixtape 8: Kylesa Interview

Here is the 8th installment of the Dreams of Consciousness podcast. While Kylesa were in town on the Malaysian leg of their South East Asian tour, I was able to snag guitarist/vocalist Phillip Cope for an interview. Of particular note is an extended discussion about his days in Damad. One of the best interviews I've done, except the parts where you can hear the 3 cups of coffee I had right before. Thankfully, Phillip was patient enough to put up with my ADHD and rapid fire stammering.

Many thanks to Ci Chaan and Emi Norazalli for helping to organize this interview; and of course, for bringing Kylesa to KL in the first place.


Taken from the album Static Tensions 

Shatter the Clock
Taken from the album To Walk A Middle Course

Identity Defined
taken from the album Time Will Fuse Its Worth

To Forget
taken from the Violitionist Sessions EP

Damad - Landscape
taken from the album Burning Cold

Damad - One Word
taken from the Damad/Meatjack split CD

Low Tide
taken from the album Ultraviolet

Tired Climb
taken from the album Spiral Shadow

Kylesa on Facebook

Kylesa on Bandcamp

Ultraviolet on Season of Mist's Bandcamp

Retro Futurist Records

Dreams of Consciousness is on Facebook, posting podcasts and articles and one-liners and shit.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

When the Napalm rains, it pours

Accompanying Mitch Harris' excellent new Menace album and an EP released to coincide with their Roadburn appearance, there's a new Napalm Death recording - and more excitingly, a Napalm Death Bandcamp page. The new release is a Cardiacs cover, released as a benefit for The Cardiacs' Tim Smith, who suffered a heart attack and stroke in 2010.

I remember checking out the Cardiacs' A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window a decade or so ago, largely due to a dedication to the band on the Live Corruption DVD. To say I didn't understand their music would be a gross understatement - their mix of post-punk, prog, and pop seemed to me like one of the drug induced hallucinations in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

The Napalm cover is similarly batshit crazy. Along with the typical guitar and drums carpet bombing, there seems to be either a keyboard or a melodica and something akin to the harmonized guitar interplay that their friends in Carcass are so fond of. Napalm have always worn their influences on their sleeves - Siege, Repulsion, Swans in particular - but any impact the Cardiacs may have had on Napalm's sound is hard to parse.

Most likely it's less the Cardiacs' sound, but more their "anything goes" approach to songwriting that rubbed off on Napalm Death. Napalm were probably the first band to consciously mix shoegaze with extreme metal; not to mention all the skewed side projects they've done over the years like Meathook Seed and Malformed Earthborn. The two groups probably recognize something of their own renegade spirit in the other, hence the mutual love. One more reason why Napalm have always been a few steps ahead of their peers.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bandcamp Picks: Menace, Idylls, Nuclear Summer, Amouth

The members of Napalm Death are known for their prolific output and eclectic musical tastes; in that spirit, while we wait patiently for the follow-up to Utilitarian, guitarist Mitch Harris rewards us with Menace. On the debut album Impact Velocity, Voivod and Killing Joke collide with Devin Townsend's best moments. Not that this is a complete departure from Harris' day job - the corrupted harmonies on display have a certain kinship with Napalm's nineties material. Wonderfully off kilter and stubbornly resistant to easy categorization, the songs have an insidious way of sticking in your head long after they've stopped playing... just like a virus infecting its host, you might say. [$9.99]

I haven't kept up with Brisbane's Idylls since they played Rumah Api in 2012; their new album Prayer for Terrene shows that our Aussie friends are still very much enamoured with Jane Doe's chaotic fury, occasionally ratcheting up the intensity to grindcore levels or down into the realm of discordant Albini rock. Like a trip to the dentist on PCP, in a good way. [$5 AUD]

Fellow Brisbaners (Brisbanians? Brisbanos?) and Rumah Api guests Nuclear Summer put out a three song EP last year that completely slipped past me. Death to False Sunshine Metal is an amalgamation of all things post (rock/metal/hardcore) that gets surprisingly heavy at times... the occasional death metal roars had this hesher nodding in approval. "I'll dress in black til I find something darker", and so forth, but there might be something to this "sunshine metal". As someone trapped in the furnace of South East Asia, I can vouch for sunshine being as brutal as winter. The EP is available as a "name your price" download.

If I'm ever in Italy and looking for someone who shares my love for Cult of Luna, I'll be sure to look up Arezzo's Amouth. Their debut EP Awaken has the same knack for doomy minimalism and post rock atmospherics. Considering how far Neurosis, Isis, and Cult of Luna have taken the genre, Amouth are playing it pretty safe; but for a debut, this is a strong start. Plus, it's free.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Grey Skies Fallen - The Many Sides of Truth

New York's long running Grey Skies Fallen return with their self-released, almost crowd-funded new album, The Many Sides of Truth - a title that could easily refer to their varied and eclectic style. It's to the band's credit that their music has so many different facets that it defies easy categorization. Trying to sum the album up with a facile genre tag like "blackened doom" or "gothic metal" would be reductive and misleading. 'The Peaceville Three' are a noticeable influence - but so are Pink Floyd. In general, GSF sound more European than American; there's a definite kinship with bands like In The Woods... and The 3rd And the Mortal in the way that they go from oppressive to vulnerable to operatic within the same track.

The album revolves around four long songs separated by instrumentals. Opener "Ritual of the Exiter" kicks the album off in a moody and shuffling fashion before careening suddenly into a blasting rager. "The Flame" goes in the opposite direction, beating the listener up with epic black metal that transforms into a dirge built around Craig Rossi's forlorn piano melody. The keyboards are front and centre on "Of the Ancients", which is sure to raise eyebrows as it strides boldly and purposefully into melodramatic rock opera territory. "End of My Rope" finishes the album in headbanging style and leaves the listener on a sanguine note. At the heart of the band's sound is the interplay between the keyboards and the guitars and throughout it all, vocalist Rick Habeeb is in fine form, switching from a full bodied tenor to tortured screams as the music demands.

Grey Skies Fallen are in an unenviable position; on one hand, their music should appeal to anyone with a broad view of metal's history and who wants to see it branch out of its self-imposed restrictions. By releasing the album on their own, they can bypass any record label looking to shoehorn them into a more marketable genre. Unfortunately, the current musical climate seems to reward talented plagiarists over bold visionaries. Here's hoping the tide is turning the other way and The Many Sides of Truth finds its audience.

The Many Sides of Truth will be released 29 April 2014 and is now available for pre-order through Bandcamp.

In addition to the CD and digital versions, the album will also be released on vinyl ("Our first foray into vinyl!" says the band), including coloured/splattered vinyl and a limited edition "Glow-in-the-Dark" version. The vinyl comes packaged with a green variant cover by Travis Smith, and is also available for pre-order through Bandcamp.

Grey Skies Fallen on Facebook

Grey Skies Fallen Website

Monday, March 24, 2014

Symptom of the Universe

"War Pigs" was playing on a loop during jiu jitsu training on Friday. Specifically, the version from the sequel to 300 (or as I like to call it, "Pride Parade: the Movie"). Turns out, contrary to what I previously thought, Sabbath does not in fact give me super powers. Though getting slaughtered by my buddies didn't make me forget any of the words, so there's that.

The next night I saw some kids cover Nirvana songs that were older than they were. I guess it's no stranger than when my friends and I jammed on "War Pigs" and "Children of the Grave" when we were their age, except I can remember when In Utero was referred to as 'the new Nirvana album' and Kurt Cobain was a recovering drug addict instead of a dead one.

I was born in 1979; by that time Sabbath's best years were behind them and the travesty of the Ian Gillan years were still ahead. None of that meant that they were anything less than ubiquitous during my own metal awakening a decade and change later. I knew a dozen Sabbath songs by heart without owning a single album, thanks to FM radio and reverential covers by the likes of Sepultura and Faith No More. Clearly for millenials, Nirvana occupies the same classic space. It seems like every generation is rife with nostalgia for the musical era it just missed. I'm not sure why this surprised me; I guess i wasn't expecting the music of my angry youth to become classic rock so soon.

Unfortunately, all this instant nostalgia also means that we're probably less than a decade away from a nu metal revival.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bandcamp Picks: Infinity Horror, KhaoZ, Amputated, Dephosphorus

Are we witnessing the rebirth of Brazilian death metal? Sao Paolo's Infinity Horror certainly make a case with their excellent demo Celestial Profanation. Though more tempered than the bands like Krisiun and Mental Horror that exploded out of the region in the late 90's, the 3 songs on offer are chockfull of blastbeats and blasphemous intent - the two things that made the scene there so endearing.  The demo is available as a "name your price" download.

With members of Dutch death metal lifers Pleurisy and Houwitzer, KhaoZ should have known better than to saddle themselves with such a hokey band name. Luckily, I, Creator of Damnation is a neck-wrecking slice of hellacious death-thrash, with a few modern flourishes to keep things from falling into revivalist tedium. Fans of vintage Sinister and Defleshed will find lots to love. [€2.50] 

Remember when death metal was glutted with Cannibal Corpse clones? London's Amputated probably look back on those days fondly. Dissect, Molest, Ingest  follows in the button-pushing footsteps of their gory forebears with song titles like "Gorging On Putrid Discharge (septic felch, wretched belch)" and "When Whores Meet Saws". The lyrical content may be straight out of the 8th grade (and was probably held back a few times) but the music is top notch - hook-driven and memorable. Besides, not every band can be Abnormality. [£7]

Greeks Dephosphorus do like to keep you guessing; ostensibly a blackened death metal album, Ravenous Solemnity wanders occasionally into noisecore and tech-death territory. The result is surprisingly cohesive and shows how much bands have to gain by colouring outside the lines once in a while.  [€6]

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Deformatory Interview

Canadian blasters Deformatory impressed me with their debut album In the Wake of Pestilence, a melee of jackhammer drums and tasteful shredding. I love me some Canadian death metal, so I e-mailed some questions to the band, which guitarist/vocalist Charlie Leduc, guitarist Jeffery Calder and drummer Neil Grandy took turns answering (the band is completed by bassist Justin Brazeau).

Dreams of Consciousness: Deformatory previously went under the name Tual-Masok. Why the change? Did this reflect a change in musical direction as well?

Charlie Leduc: That name was goddamn terrible! Our previous vocalist was the one who came up with it, and it was taken from some random fantasy novel, used to described a type of sword called the “Blood Drinker”. It only took a few shows under that name, and a few times trying to explain it for us to decide it was time to get rid of that nonsense.

Jeffery Calder: The project started in 2005, in Edmonton under the moniker Exile. Bringing the project to Ottawa in 2008 it was renamed to Tual-Musok. After years of not being able to easily convey the band name, it was decided that the name needed to be changed. [We] unanimously agreed that Deformatory was better suited. The name conveys a visual element that anyone can make their own opinions of what the music and name are about.

Neil Grandy: I’m just glad we changed the name. [Tual-Masok was] hard to say, nobody knew what it meant, not the best choice.

DoC: What were your goals when you first formed?  

To combine all of our favorite extreme musical elements into one cohesive unit. (CL, NG & JC)

DoC: How would you describe the difference between your first EP A Prelude To... and your newest album In the Wake of Pestilence?

Neil Grandy: While I didn’t play drums on the released EP, I see the biggest differences being the more cohesive writing style used on the full length. I believe the riffs make more sense and are in line with the goals of the band; the songs simply flow better as well.

Charlie Leduc: Well, the EP was a reflection of Deformatory at that time, with that particular line up. In my opinion, it wasn’t as strong and as right as it could have been, or as it is now. We eliminated much of the gayness from the band, and allowed the songs to write themselves.

Jeffery Calder: From the EP, to our single [Believe the Lie - DoC], to the LP was quite a leap of growth as a band. Each producer educated us on various approaches of recording that were adopted as we went along. The line up changed between the EP/single and the LP which vastly improved the final product.

DoC: In the Wake of Pestilence is a remarkably strong debut. How long was the writing process? What were the recording sessions like?

Charlie Leduc: Thanks man! Our writing process is very organic. We write riffs and songs in our jam space, as a unit. The songs develop very quickly and very organically. We’re definitely not a Guitar Pro band (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But, we love to just...jam! The album wrote itself fairly quickly. The recording process was a good learning experience for us. Having worked with different producers, we really loved the way Dan Rogers worked with us on this album. He got what we were going for (no click tracks, live, old school feel, natural sounding instruments, etc) and was able to capture the essence of Deformatory quite well.  The recording sessions were very laid back. Most of the drums were tracked in one day. All of the songs, Neil killed them in one or two full takes. The vocals were done in a similar way. The guitars were tracked by Jeffery and I, at our own time, in our rehearsal space. Altogether, the process took about 4 months.

Jeffery Calder: The writing process on this release changed from our previous releases. We chose instead of bringing forth songs entirely composed by one individual to collaborate as a unit in the rehearsal room with 1-2 musicians playing riff ideas and shaping them into their final product. Some songs were entirely composed in a 3hr rehearsal session, while others were re-written in various forms but ultimately became what is presented on the final album. It was a learning process but fun to collaborate and create the music that is on the album.

Drums were the shortest element tracked as Neil is a machine and we decided not to record using a click track. Guitars and bass were a lot longer process to record. Vocals were also done quickly with very little edits required. Dan Rogers did an incredible job to take our parts and make them sound epic as the final product showcases.

Neil Grandy: I enjoy the writing process. It really has changed from a one-on-one approach to more of an organic involvement by everyone. I find we develop ideas quicker and require less rewrites because we cast aside on the spot what we don’t like. I find there’s like an unwritten rule about the songs that the process cannot seem forced in anyway. The structure has to flow naturally with ideas getting locked in your head so can walkway and hum to yourself even the craziest of parts. 

Recording is always interesting. For this recording I used my standard kit, just replaced the heads. We recorded drums in the practice, simply mic’ed the kit and went for it. Dan did a killer job on the production. I don’t know how but drums were done in a short period of time. We learned a lot from the process. 

DoC: Deformatory is self described as 'technical death metal'. The term has been applied to bands as varied as Gorguts, Cynic, and Necrophagist; bands who have very little in common stylistically. What makes a band 'technical'? What are the aspects of the genre that appeal to you?  

Charlie Leduc: I don’t care so much for the labels. To me, we just play death metal. If it happens to be technical at times, it certainly isn’t intentional, and if that makes it easier for others to categorize us, then so be it! Personally, I’ve always been drawn to death metal, and to the most extreme death metal at that time. The phrasing of the riffs, the relentlessness of the drums, and the overall intensity of the songs is what appeals to me.

Neil Grandy: For me I just want music to be interesting. BPM, a million notes per riff... I like that stuff, but it’s not the sole focus. I don’t want to sound technical for the sake of it, like we are trying too hard. I guess if I had to it one way it would be I like to write something I find challenging to play. It maybe something easy for another drummer play, but I like to think I am challenging myself, creatively and technically.

Jeffery Calder: Technical varies per person, but for me it is about limited repetition of riffs in a short period of time while integrating and showcasing musicianship. Bands of this genre explore various styles and techniques of riffs throughout the course of a song and album. They don’t limit themselves to playing similar styles song after song or release the same album over and over again. Instead the bands aim to bring brutal extreme elements that maintain the degree of extreme technical music. And it is great that Canada contributes a legion of talented tech death bands of its own kind. For me, tech death was introduced via Suffocation’s Effigy of the Forgotten and Death’s Human albums via my guitar teacher Jake Evans of Entrafis (Halifax, Nova Scotia). His music style and project got me excited to write and perform my own songs of that same genre.

DoC: If you had to name 5 landmark albums of the genre what would they be?

Neil Grandy:
Cryptopsy - None so Vile 
Suffocation - Effigy of the Forgotten
Death - Human 
Carcass - Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious 
Origin - Informis Infinitas Inhumanitas

Jeffery Calder:
Death - Human  
Cynic - Focus
Suffocation - Pierced from Within/Effigy of the Forgotten
Necrophagist - Epitaph 
and the mighty Cryptopsy - Whisper Supremacy followed by None So Vile

Charlie Leduc: 5 albums? Man, that’s way too short of a list for me to compile.

DoC: Canada has been a well spring of technical and forward-thinking metal. How influenced are you by other bands in the region? How do you stay distinct in such a vibrant scene?

Neil Grandy: For me Canadian bands were a major influence. Sacrifice was a big influence when I was younger and just starting to play. Of course I moved on to some of the US bands by that point, but when I heard None So Vile, it was a life changer for me. I remember where I was when I first it and the feeling...just incredible what those guys were able to achieve with that recording. I wouldn’t say I or we are influenced by them; I think we just do what we feel, but that can’t be forced. It has to be natural. Because we are unique people, ideas flowing naturally can be more unique.

Charlie Leduc: Canada certainly knows how to throw down with their death metal. Most of my favorite bands come from Canada, and it’s not even intentional. You can hear influences of almost every extreme metal band in our music, and perhaps that’s what manages to make us distinct in this vibrant scene; we’re an amalgamation of some of our favorite influences.

Jeffery Calder: Canada has a vast array of thrash and tech death metal bands that were introduced to me mainly via Much Music’s Power Hour / Power 30 and tape trading / underground magazines of the early 90’s. Such thrash bands as Disciples of Power, Sacrifice (thrash), Entrafis that evolved into the extreme tech death bands Cryptopsy, Martyr, Despised Icon, Quo Vadis, Strapping Young Lad, etc that have each had an impact on Canada’s extreme technical and forward thinking metal.

In certain ways, each of these bands have influenced us over the years. Striving to release a strong album among other talented metal Canucks, Deformatory has wanted to fuse elements of various bands be it Canadian or elsewhere into our own style. And that in turn gives us our own distinction. We hope the mixture of these elements keeps us interesting, fresh, and yet appeals to a variety of new and old fans to balance old with new metal extreme elements.

DoC: Seriously, there's got to be a link between Canada's brutal winters and its brutal death metal, right?

Neil Grandy: Makes you want to practice and write material so you can tour in the summer.

Charlie Leduc: It’s all in the pure maple syrup man. It makes us to do some crazy shit. We can’t help it.

DoC: What made you decide to self-release your album? Have Bandcamp and Bigcartel helped you as an unsigned band, and if so how?

Charlie Leduc: Is there another option for underground death metal bands? I mean, this is how WE all get our music out there. We’re not different in that way. I am definitely in favor of this method of releasing music. What I love is that you can release a song on YouTube or Bandcamp, and in a matter of hours, people across the world can be listening to it, liking it, and then supporting it. The support we’ve received from people around the globe has been humbling and amazing. We never expected it, and we are grateful that there is an ability for any band to get their music out there.

Neil Grandy: Bandcamp and Bigcartel help a great deal in getting the music out there for people to hear.

Jeffery Calder: We tracked it ourselves, we wrote it ourselves, so why not take on releasing and promoting it ourselves? We don’t have to sell our souls for the music we write to some record label and are proud of the music we have composed. It is ours and we wish to keep it that way if at all possible. But we certainly appreciate the support and distribution networks we have developed to assist promoting and spreading the Deformatory music around the globe.

People have discovered us via our Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp and Cartel sites which has allowed us to get the band exposed to networks that may not have necessarily discovered us otherwise. Hope people continue to discover our music as time passes.

DoC: What does 2014 have in store for Deformatory?

Jeffery Calder: We are in the midst of writing new material. We are fusing new elements of bands that influence us that takes the music in an even more aggressive direction, and maintain the standard we have set with In The Wake of Pestilence. We will not allow ourselves to sell-out and release a product that is subpar from what we have previously written. As well, we refuse to release material that albeit has good quality ideas, we strive to achieve a standard that each song measures up to, or else it gets put aside. Other goals for the coming year include Deformatory performing various concerts throughout 2014 to promote In The Wake of Pestilence and we welcome any/all opportunity to promote our music. 

Charlie Leduc: First of all, we are going to try to play as many shows as we can. Now, we’re old, have careers, and responsibilities at home, so we can’t do as much as we would like. Having said that, we’ve already got plans for a week long tour in July, and many shows lined up until then. Secondly, we’ve already made plans with Dan Rogers to record a new album. The concept of the album, the titles, and the lyrical direction are already mapped out. We’ve been writing every time we meet up to rehearse, and so far, we got some 3 new songs that are absolutely ridiculous. As Jeff said, we are trying to raise the bar, for ourselves, and we’re challenging ourselves to write more aggressively and technically. We start the pre-prods in the middle of April, and hope to have something ready by the end of the Fall. 


Deformatory on Facebook

Deformatory on Bandcamp

Deformatory's Bigcartel page

Dreams of Consciousness is on Facebook