Archive for October, 2012

Halloween

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , , on October 31, 2012 by Magadh

Seeing how it’s Halloween I thought I’d point you in the direction of the mix tap the fine people at CVLT Nation have hosted for you. The tape is curated by Cape of Bats and is well worth a listen. Check it out here

– captain of games

Moss Icon Returns

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , on October 29, 2012 by Magadh

The band that would launch a thousand sweaters and backpacks, Moss Icon, has returned! They recently played in NYC with Bitch Magnet and we’ve included some footage from the excellent unARTigNYC for your viewing pleasure.

If the stars align, we may have a piece on the band from long time friend and current roadie Colin Seven (who also played in UOA with Toni). Until then, enjoy the footage.

Review: Downfall of Gaia

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 22, 2012 by Magadh

Downfall of Gaia Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes Metal Blade

At some trying point in history, a famous white guy (now long dead) said something like, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” I don’t know how true it was then, but I assure you that it’s been such a time around the bunker for the last couple of weeks. Perhaps a fortnight ago the autolock on one of the outer doors malfunctioned allowing one of the local zombie hordes access to some of the peripheral cells of the bunker. Of course, the secondary system kicked in, and when the motion sensors were tripped half a dozen claymores went off, reducing the zombies to feculent grey mist. This all happened while Mrs. Mags and I were on a little trek to one of the local settlement to try to barter some of our soilent purple for some electronics that we needed. Not surprisingly, our return to find the peripheral cells covered in a fine patina of zombie remains resulted in the following exchange:

Mrs. Mags: Did you remember to lock the outer door when we left?

Magadh: Of course I did. I did it just after I finished loading the food cubes into the atv.

Mrs. Mags: Well, somebody forgot to lock it and it wasn’t me.

Magadh: So what are you saying?

Mrs. Mags: What do you think I’m saying?

After a few more iterations it became clear that I was going to be spending the next few days in the cells with a high pressure hose getting things squared away. Ahh, marriage.

Of course, all of this happened while the Captain was out of the picture. He was in one of the local trading bazaars the other week and heard some deranged prophet gibbering about heading to the east to find a promised land of peace and freedom. Needless to say, he was all over that like a cheap suit. The last I saw, he was headed into the mountain passes wearing an old Hawaiian shirt can carrying a gallon jug of margaritas. I expect he’ll be back any day now.

Anyway, normal service is now being resumed. I’ve been meaning for a while to do a piece on the German dark crust band Downfall of Gaia. They have been on the radar for a bit and since they’ve just had a record come out on Metal Blade, it seemed like an appropriate time to say a few words. DoG come from the German city of Hannover which, as their bio on Metal Blade’s site appositely points out, is not one of the real fashion spots in terms of the German music scene. Many people (including myself) are aware of one and only one band from that particular locality: The Scorpions. True to form, DoG rock like a hurricane, although in a rather different musical than Rudolf Schenker and co. They’ve been around since at least 2008, when the released a self-titled demo. The four songs included presented an interesting mixture of blistering, crusty thrash, slower breakdowns that bore a certain similarity to bands like Tragedy, and acoustic sections that would not have been out of place on Discouraged Ones-era Katatonia. This release set a pattern which extends to their entire body of work: acoustic elements, some of which are quite extended, are used to set up crushingly heavy central riffs.

On Epos, released in 2010, this approach was sharpened and refined. The acoustic intros were rather more lush, and they tended lead into passages that drew the best out of blackened doom without giving in to it’s boring excesses. They also began to experiment with rather longer songs, with “Zerfall” (“Collapse”) running just over ten minutes. Long songs can be a good thing, assuming a band has the ideas to support the length. This can be a hard quality to pin down, but you can tell it’s happening when you find yourself getting lost in the music, rather than wondering when the song is going to end. The songs on Epos do a good job of drawing the listener in to a dark world and keeping them engaged, which is a real sign of success in a cut lasting 8-10 minutes.

DoG followed Epos with a split with Hearts of Emperors released in February of last year. What was said above about Epos holds a fortiori in this case. DoG’s contribution to the split comprises two cuts totaling over 20 minutes. It is common for bands in this style to try to extinguish the last embers of your soul, and two 9+ minute songs, if done poorly, could probably accomplish that, although not in the way intended. Continuing to fill out their style, DoG’s cuts on the split sound like a crustier version of Moonsorrow, sliding at points into a sound reminiscent of Counterblast.

Earlier this year it was announced that they had signed to Metal Blade. This in itself was a bit surprising, to me at least. Perhaps it is because I am so old, but I still associate Metal Blade with all those cookie cutter, Brian Slagel produced bands from the 1980s. They seem to have expanded their outlook, quite impressively in this case. DoG’s latest release, Suffocating in the Swarm of Cranes, came out a couple of weeks ago and has hardly left my disc player since it arrived in the bunker. The seven songs comprised therein represent the fulfillment of an arc of stylistic development from their demo. The tunes retain the soft/loud dynamic, and they still do an excellent job of creating atmosphere. The improvements in Suffocating are twofold. On the one hand, the recording is rather better than on previous releases, given a sharpness and immediacy to their music that was somewhat muffled on earlier releases. On the other, they have managed to rein in their arranging to a certain degree. Although they still do some pretty long songs (two cuts clock in at over ten minutes) their songs have a more precise shape and approach. They seemed to have added a bit of black metal influence, although it may have been present in earlier releases without having been highlighted by the mix. In any case, this is an absolutely crushing disc. Fans of bands like Neurosis will enjoy with, as will those who enjoy blackened crust on the model of Hammers. Find one at your local market before the snows come and the passes close for another season.

Those looking for a bit of instant gratification can find some sustenance here.

Magadh

Under Your Skin

Posted in Heads Up with tags , , on October 17, 2012 by Magadh

Love tattoos? Of course you do, so check out the fantastic “Under Your Skin‘ podcast. Here’s the write up from the always excellent Needles and Sins blog

Just wanted to share this podcast I’m enjoying right now:  “Under Your Skin” by the radio show To The Best of our Knowledge on National Public Radio.

“Under You Skin” looks at the old and new schools of tattooing. There are a number of clips from the wonderful cd box set The Last of the Bowery Scab Merchants by Walter Moskowitz, one of the legendary Bowery Boys. Some great stories about fixing black eyes and also tattooing interesting characters like one wealthy businessman who said, when asked about his job and having all his tattoos, “When you have a million dollars in the bank, the world can kiss your ass.” Loved it!

There are also interviews with others in the tattoo world that are a compelling listen as well. You can click individual clips of the podcast here.

To enjoy all of Walter Moskowitz’s stories, go to Scabmerchant.com and get your own 2-cd set (with great essays and artwork in the 24-page booklet) for just $22.50. [I’m honored to be a part of the project as well and to have talked with Walter before his passing.]

– Captain of Games

Solidarity With Pussy Riot

Posted in Articles, Heads Up with tags , , on October 12, 2012 by Magadh

One October 10th the 3 jailed members of Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot found themselves back in front of the Russian judges who first imprisoned them. Yekaterina Samutsevich was  released from prison after suspension of her sentence. However, the tribunal ruled Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina will be forced to serve out their 2 years sentences for hooliganism.

Shortly after her release from prison Christiane Amanpour interviewed Yekaterian Samutsevich. The short interview is well worth your time and is available here.

In solidarity with Pussy Riot, Tobi Vail (ex-Bikini Kill and Frumpies) released a song entitled Free Pussy Riot. The song was inspired by Free John Sinclair by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It’s a great tune and Vail encourages listeners to spread it far and wide as a message of support for the jailed members of Pussy Riot. Check it out here and then pass it on!

Free Pussy Riot!

– Captain of Games

Tattooing Legends: George Burchett and Amund Dietzel

Posted in Articles with tags , , , on October 10, 2012 by Magadh

King of Tattooists: The Life and Work of George Burchett

These Old Blue Arms: The Life and Work of Amund Dietzel Vols. I, II

Solid State Publishing

Long time readers of this blog will have, by now, concluded Mags and I can be a bit obsessive. Perhaps it’s the monotony of the bunker, perhaps it’s some form of intellectual monomania we both share. In either regard, it’s fair to say when we latch onto something we really latch onto it. My obsession with the history of tattooing owes a great deal to the fine folks at Solid State Publishing and their sumptuous histories of George Burchett and Amund Dietzel.

Both Burchett and Dietzel came to tattooing through their early careers as sailors. In the case of Burchett, I may have things reversed. He was forced to join the Royal Navy at age 13 as we as expelled from school at age 12 for tattooing his classmates. Both men would begin to hone their craft on their sea faring colleagues and both would take up tattooing when their sailing days were over (Burchett absconded from the navy, the Norwegian Dietzel nearly drowned in a merchant marine ship wreck).

Burchett would settle into an apprenticeship before opening his famous studios on Mile End Road and 72 Waterloo Road. His career would see him draw upon the rich history of tattooing, often incorporating elements of South East Asian, African and Japanese tradition into his work. Before his death in 1953, he would tattoo European kings and pioneer cosmetic tattooing. His autobiography, Memories of a Tattooist, is a brilliant read and fetches a handsome price from collectors.

Dietzel, following the previously mentioned shipwreck, found himself in Connecticut where he met British ex-pat tattooist William Grimshaw. They would fully tattoo each other before hitting the carnival circuit in order to draw income by exhibiting themselves. In 1914, Dietzel ended up in Wisconsin and began to put down roots. He continued to perfect his craft with two world wars providing a steady stream of soldiers and sailors from the nearby Great Lakes Naval Station eager for his attentions. Milwaukee banned tattoo parlors in 1967 with Dietzel commenting, “At least it took the city fifty-one years to find out it doesn’t want me. Milwaukee used to be a very nice town.” Seven years later, Dietzel passed away.

The amazing lives of these tattooing pioneers are presented in exquisite detail by Solid State Publishing. The historical photos and flash are worth the price alone. If you’re a fan of tattoos and tattooing history you owe it to yourself to pick these books up.

-Captain of Games

More Stuff from España

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by Magadh

Maniac demo

Altercado Espiritual demo

Displague S/T

Those of you who were into punk, or underground music more generally, in the 1980s will remember the frequent discussions that arose over the pernicious influence of the record industry on music. Horror stories were legion of bands who had, for one reason or another, signed up to major labels only to be fucked over, sucked dry, and cast aside. One important impetus for the development of the post-1979 punk scene was the desire to create a culture outside of the sort of art as extractive industry that characterized (and continues to characterize) the music business. Having done a bit of work in radio and music journalism in the 1990s, I can attest to the deeply parasitic nature of the industry. A lot of things were funded by skimming money off of (or simply expropriating the work of) bands. I was always shocked by the number of hangers on who did nothing useful but whose livelihoods were guaranteed by the need for the promotion and distribution capabilities that the records companies could offer through their capacity to aggregate capital.

For some time it’s seemed to me that this has been changing. Digital technology has enabled lot of bands to present their music directly people without the intermediation of pressing plants and mastering services, to say nothing of the record companies themselves. People in the recording industry are wont to bitch about the effects that downloading is wreaking on the business. In the long term, I think the real challenge to them is that they are simply going to become irrelevant. There is probably no more important development in the history of modern underground music than the advent of Bandcamp. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s the flagship for a larger pattern of contact between bands and their listeners that, for the most part, factors the parasites out of the equation. Want to sell your music? You can do it. Want to give it away for free? You can do that too? Want to make the actual artifact available to your listeners (since some people still dig having the record or cd in their hands)? Nothing’s stopping you.

All of this is a long form way of illustrating how chuffed I am at the improved access that I now seem to have to music from far flung places (well, at least far flung from here). In my previous post, I talked about Valencia thrashers Tempesta. Their Demo-níaca demo is most excellent and can be had from Bandcamp. As previously mentioned, they specialize in aggressive, metal tinged hardcore with impressively guttural vocals and precise musicianship. Their demo came out in January of last year, if I’m not mistaken. Since then, they’ve also done split recordings with Winterstorm and Maniac. The former hail from the Canary Islands (and should not be confused with the black metal band from Andalusia or the darkwave act from the UK). It’s kind of funny to me that you would come up with a name like Winterstorm coming from a balmy place like the Canary Islands, but I give them credit for creating some fierce blasts of raw death metal.

Maniac come from Madrid and have some similarities to Tempesta, although they are really a proper metal band. Their demo was released earlier this year. It features six tracks of gruff speed metal with some death metal tendencies. They kind of sound like less guttural version of a band like Séance. They chug along mostly in middling tempos, but their music is really quite enjoyable. It’s not exceedingly complex, but they know what they are trying to accomplish and they do it with aplomb. Their singer has a pleasing gruffness and sounds sort of like a Spanish version of the guy from Guillotine Terror. They sing about the sorts of things you might expect: death, metal, hell, phantoms, yeah, you get the idea. Anyway, their demo can be had for free and is well worth your time.

You could really say that I am kind of an atavist. I do tend to gravitate to the kind of music that I’ve been listening to since the early 1980s, and it was for this reason that I got into the demo from Altercado Espiritual. Have you ever wondered what the This is Boston, Not L.A. comp sounded like in the ears of our Spanish colleagues? No? Well, I don’t suppose that I did either before I heard Altercado Espiritual’s demo. It’s not what you would think from the cover art, which features a deliciously amateurish take on Indian iconography. What emerges is obnoxious, early 80s Boston style hardcore with buzzsaw guitars and a really snotty attitude. The longest of their songs clocks in at 1:29, with most considerably shorter. Those who remember the early days of Boston H.C. will be reminded of Kill for Christ era F.U.’s, with maybe a little Impact Unit thrown in for good measure.

Finally, the find of the week for me has been the self-titled record released a couple of months ago by Displague. They are from Molins de Rei, which I think is somewhere in the neighborhood of Barcelona. If you’re wondering what they sound like, their name sort of spoils the surprise. This is d-beat hardcore played with precision, passion, and belligerence. Their sound is a little cleaner than a lot of bands that play this kind of music, but their songs are heavy and well arranged. Those who have heard Instinto will hear some similarities, particularly in terms of the melodic elements that they include in their songs, although Displague’s music is a little bit rawer. Their singer is really awesome. He sounds utterly desperate and it lends a really urgent dimension to their music.

Is that enough for now? I think so. More soon.

Magadh

Review: Maldito Pais y Tempesta

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , on October 6, 2012 by Magadh

Maldito Pais Demo

Tempesta Demo-níaca

The other day, I had one of those excellent, serendipitous encounters that one has from time to time around the punk scene. I had decided to check out the Spanish punk band Disparo. Why, you may ask? Because I saw a picture of Instinto in which one of the members was rocking a Disparo t-shirt, and since Instinto are pretty awesome, I figured that bands that they like might be worth a listen. I found Fracasados on Bandcamp priced at 7€, which really didn’t seem like too much to me, so sent them the dough. The next day I got an email from one of the guys in the band saying basically that the record was meant to be free and refunding my money. He also turned me on to a couple of other bands that he was involved in. It’s moments like that that have kept me involved in the punk scene since the early 1980s. At its best, the punk scene is about making cool things happen for others. At its worst…well, we won’t worry about that right now. Suffice to say that since he did me a good turn, I thought I might return the favor by reviewing the other stuff that he turned me on to.

As those who read my review of Disparo from the other day will know, I really dig them. As an aside let me note that I’ve been really getting into a lot of punk from Spain lately, thanks in no small part to having gotten in touch with Paco from Instinto (who is a really right guy). When you live in the U.S. it’s pretty easy to let your focus get really narrow. There is a lot of music here and, given the hegemonic reach of the English language, one tends to get exposed to a lot bands that do us the courtesy singing in our mother tongue rather than their own. Unlike most Americans, I actually speak a couple of other languages, so I’m not put off by music that isn’t in English, but it still takes a bit of effort to get with things outside one’s own linguistic area. I know a lot about what’s going on in Scandinavia, in part because if the prominence of bands from Sweden and Norway in the underground culture. A lot of those bands sing in English, but even when they don’t the fact that I speak German (which is similar in a lot of respects to Scandinavian languages) means that I can generally figure out what they are talking about. It is one of the ironies of world culture that bands from Spain are little known over here, to a great extent because they sing in Spanish and relatively few people in the U.S. learn it unless the grow up speaking it at home. This is really absurd. We share this continent with a huge number of Spanish speakers. The fact that so few of us are conversant in their mother tongue is a sad commentary on the xenophobia that is so rampant in our culture. I do not exclude myself from this judgment. Having grown up in an area with a lot of Spanish speakers, I knew a bit growing up, but lost it because I moved away and didn’t use it. I am now trying to rebuild my knowledge of the language. There are a lot of reasons for this, but the most important is that it is a gesture of earnest to all the Spanish speakers in North America (and around the world) that our cultures have something to say to each other, and something to learn from each other.

Having nattered on for a bit about matters only tangentially related, let me now say that I am really stoked to hear bands like Maldito Pais. They play a kind of punk rock that recalls an era before such a premium was placed on playing 10,000 miles per hour. Of course, there is nothing wrong with blazing thrash, but there was a moment in the mid-80s when this kind of became the be all and end all of punk chops. It meant that a lot of the joyful quirkiness of the early punk scene got beaten into the ground. Obviously I’m exaggerating a little bit. There are plenty of veins of punk in this country that aren’t given over to shortness, fastness, and loudness, but I do kind of think that the hyperthrash thing had the effect of pushing some other things to margins, although it produced a lot of good music on its own account.

To return to the matter at hand, Maldito Pais are a little like a less hypercharged version of Inu. They have a lot of elements of ’77 type punk both in terms of song structure and melody. They bounce along happily with cool, hooky tunes and choruses that would be fun to sing along to after consuming a lot of Pabst. I’ve listened to their demo a lot of times in the last few days and I always find myself tapping my foot along to their music. It helps to that the musicianship is really, really solid. This isn’t complicated music, it’s just really solid and entertaining.

Hmm, did I mention bands playing 10,000 mph? Well, I think that Letxon is also in Tempesta who roll along at a considerably higher tempo than Maldito Pais (at least most of the time). In my post about Disparo I think I made some comment about Tempesta being really metal. Having listened to Demo-níaca about three dozen times now I have come to the conclusion that this was a little unfair. There are some metal elements in evidence: some heel damping here, some back picked chugging there, but this is really pretty straight forward hardcore otherwise. These guys are aggressive and guttural, without being totally incoherent, which is more of a challenge than you might think. Demo-níaca is just unrelenting. It gets to grips quickly and stays in your face throughout seven really blistering cuts. Paco tells me that these guys are an absolutely crushing live act, and I have no trouble whatsoever believing it. They have a split EP out with Maniac, which I’ll talk about in my next post (preview: it fucking rules), only because I’m going to talk about Maniac’s demo then too.

Paco kind of joked with me the other day that I was becoming an expert on “Spanish” punk. Well, hardly, but it’s a nice thing for him to have said. I will say that I know a lot more about what’s going on over there now than I did two or three months ago. Hardly a week goes by when I don’t hear something new and awesome out of Spain. Maybe it has something to do with how fucked up the government is over there. It’s hard to say. We’ll be doing a bigger thing on Instinto in the near future and maybe that’s something I can ask them about. For now, the process of learning about the punk scene over there is like being a kind in a candy store for me. More on this topic in the very near future.