Goatsnake's Black Age Blues

It’s been almost 15 years since Goatsnake has put out a new studio album. What took them so long? As one of the premier sludge/blues metal bands at the turn of the century, I think there were a lot of expectations and excitement of what they could bring to the table, then poof…they were gone. They return now with Black Age Blues via Southern Lord Records

There are nine songs of redemption and on the vinyl, there are two bonus tracks. The first thing that hits me in the face is the guitar tone. You can’t get enough of it. It’s so fucking heavy that you get lost in the riffs while being mesmerized by the punishing, creamy low end. The second thing are the vocals. So bluesy, so free. They kind of remind me of Ian Astbury, but customized for the sludgy, blues influenced Goatsnake. As a unit, Goatsnake keeps it simple and heavy, the detail is within the tone.

The album kicks off with Another River to Cross. The intro brings you to a swamp on the Mississippi Delta and you’re trying to peer through Spanish moss to see where the haunting acoustic guitar is coming from. Once you think you’ve found the source of the haunting sound, the distorted guitar kicks in, and you’re getting bashed over the head with a Sunn Model T. The album doesn’t let up from here. The backing vocals, provided by Dem Preacher’s Daughters, are what sets this album apart and really puts is over the top for the typical fare of the sludge/stoner rock genre. And who could forget Scott Stahl’s harmonica cameos. This album really has it all.

Some of the recent releases by the heavy hitters like Electric Wizard and High on Fire have been solid and haven’t disappointed, but in my opinion they weren’t Black Age Blues good. Maybe the trick is waiting almost 15 years between albums? All I know is that it worked for Goatsnake and is in the lead for my favorite album of 2015. - Nikos Mixas

Cave Dweller's new album- Procession of the Ancients

The valley of the sun has certainly not been bereft of good releases lately. One of the most impactful is Cavedweller's newest album, Procession of the Ancient. If you have not had an opportunity to catch this band, then you have been living in... well a cave. You cavedweller. The band illuminated the scene in 2012 with Terra Incognita, a masterful effort showcasing clever bass lines, blackened vocals, and intricate guitar playing. The album took the listener into a labryinth of razor sharp riffage that truly showcased the power of the Phoenix scene. With acclaim that bands receive, it is often difficult to create a follow up that matches. Reaching a high and looking back down to recreate the same effect is a plague that has affected many a band. Particularly when being badgered by those posessively eager for new details such as myself. However, with Procession of the Ancient this is not the case. This is an awesome collection of songs of which I will elaborate on below.

Motherless is a proper way to start an album as it showcases the marvelous agility that all the musicians have. The album hits you with blackened vocals and sharp riffage but what I love most of the song is the Bauhaus sounding vocal effect beginning a minute and a half in. There is not a vocalist more guturral than Jason Raudebaugh and it is nice to hear that the vocals are played with to produce this effect. It quite honestly sounds like the devil. And the devil is crafty here. Blended into these unique vocals are some soloing in the background by Lucas Gillette. The end of the song is sure to instill envy in many a guitar player.The sound of wind in the intro combined with Flynn Hargreaves' clever bass addition is a perfect setup for what has become my favorite song entitled Black Spring. Vocals and guitarwork by Lucas Gillette and Jason offer whisperings of atmospheric black metal which creates a barbarous yet calming atmosphere analagous to our sparse desert landscape. Green Earth startles the listener with a creepy vocal intro that sounds like some nameless dark demon is summoning you from the speaker. The song starts off with bleak slowness, piling the suspense and then unleashes into a maelstrom of melodious hooks. The highlight of this song is the rhythm created by Flynn Hargreaves. 4 minutes into the song, you can clearly hear not only the rhythm in the background but the harmonious creations added by Flynn as well. Additions like this demonstrate the instrumental proficiency that all the players have. Now that you've delved into almost 20 minutes of blackness, many listeners may need some breathing space, a cleansing of the palette if you will. Out of the darkness arrive flakes of snow falling adding an element of beauty in the midst of of all of the angularity. A fire adding light in the midst of the darkness. Flakes fall and exterminate the incandescene at the arrival of the Serpents Reign, an amalgamation of mountainous drumwork and gritty guitar playing. Brian Burke unleashes a barrage of technically impressive drumwork on this one. Desert Witch is a mindmelting journey into Arizona. It starts with a gradual procession into the badlands and canyons and at 3:00 you are propelled into musical demonstration that will propel the listener into an altered state of consciousness, the Procession of the Ancients. Blue Dawn is a beautiful instrumental before the epic of Pangaea. Pangaea is when our seven continents once were merged into one. There have been theories that civlizations of the ancients were even more advanced than ours in terms of extraterrestial contact before darkness befell us and we were reduced to the barbarity that we see today. Metal as fdff. Pangaea is a pantheon of all things we love in metal including excellent musicianship and thunderous riffs.

Metal today has many bands attempting to deliver some experimentalism in their metal which is great. This is what pushes the boundaries in metal. However, it's rare to find a band that does so in a manner that is palbable. Cave dweller does this. 10 out of 10 beers is the rating. Speaking of beer, catch Cave Dweller live with Warhead, Through the Earth, and Unholy Monarch at the Rogue on Friday May, 15th and buy some beers and their new release Procession of the Ancients.

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Post Mortal Possession's Possessing Entity

Recently, someone from California asked me what Arizona was like and asked if everyone has guns. I replied with a yes. Sometimes perpetuating a stereotype is just more interesting. In Clint Eastwood fashion, eyes narrowed and searching out into the horizon, I'm always restless and looking out for some of the best death metal out there. I can now step away from peering out into the horizon, scratch my grizzly chin, and spit out the rest of my brown rusty tobacco chew water and sidestep a tumbleweed in the desert of Arizona. Sorry, I just finished watching the classic western High Plains Drifter... Every city has their age old stereotypes. Phoenix has a plenitude of their own. some are negative some are positive. Obviously a negative here in AZ is the racism used in profiling those with brown skin thanks to recent immigration laws in Arizona. But a good stereotype is one of a hardworking city.

 

Recently, I've had a unique fascination with Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. while I know that the city is no longer blue collared nor are plumes of smoke billowing from pillars, I still enjoy envisioning that because it because well it just sounds tough. The stench of coal filling the air and embers of industrial steel welds glimmering off in the distance. Recently, Metal Devastation radio did a poll and has ranked Pittsburgh's own Post Mortal Possession as the number one band for January. After seeing this, I felt an inclination to delve further. This inclination turned into a necessitation after seeing that respected grind/punk/metal website Cvlt Nation released a feature on the Pittsburgh scene last week highlighting excellent bands such as Hounds of Hate and EEL.

 

PA's Post Mortal Possession is imperious, cold, and defiant. Their newest EP, Possessing Entity, blasts you harder than a cat trying to cover shit on a hot tin roof. Post Mortal Possession's guitarwork can puncture and expose bone so take caution before exposing yourself to this music. Vocals carry a chilling tone as do the lyrics. Drumwork and bass are spawned from darkness. This is a band that should take over control of the Pittsburgh scene and wave the death metal banner. And these boys are working hard son. Be warned, the tide of Post Mortal Possession is coming and it will sweep you off your feet. Most death metal acts base their melody off of scales surrounded by diminished chords and all that. This band does so in unique fashion. Harvest begins with an extremely fast tempo and intro guitar playing. The technical solo at around 4:35 is mind blowing and i'm not really sure how someone establishes this kind of guitar muscle memory already particularly for being a band that is relatively new. Suspended by Nails contains some of the most lungful and brutally impressive vocals I have heard. The drum rolls and gravity blasts are expertly done. The guitar work from 1:42 on leaves you with a gritty taste in your mouth. The taste of rusted metal. What is equally is impressive is that though having wall of guitar work, each guitar is decipherable- an excellent achievement by Shane Brutal. Even Tim Church's bass lines are clearly discernable. Tim recently left Victims of Contagion to unleash his basslines full time with Post Mortal Possession. The song Death March is my favorite song from this EP and the most dynamic. I'm no musical prodigy but there are some unique and almost Cryptopsyish time signatures. The Arrival is probably the darkest sounding song. Drummer Nick Bentzel assails the kit on this like deathly rain. The guitar duo of Jake Sewage McMullen and Brian Cremeens is tight. Visceral Butchery is classic metal butchery at its best with cheesegrater vocals and heavy and glorious riffage. Catch the Visceral Butchery video below

 

Listen to Possessing Entity here

Deadspawn's The Source of Chaos

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Since their 1st EP This Ascension, these desert marauders have been playing a lot of shows. I believe that making your band stand out today amongst the multitude of other metal bands is a humbling experience. But this makes you stronger. Only the strongest of these bands rises to the top of death metal strata and remain. Thank you to all of you for working so hard to make this beautiful music and providing motivation for not only my life but for many others. Deadspawn is one of the strongest that remain and they well deservedly earn the praise they receive. Through their unending campaign of shows, the band has emblazoned a trail of death metal madness and has been establishing themselves among Phoenix's death metal elite with the likes of Scattered Guts, Genocaust, Meathook, Singularity, etc. The newest EP offers unique, cold, refreshing riffs to momentarily ease the dullness of the increased heat here in Phoenix and your drive home in your work week

Always the fan of no nonsense technical death metal bands, I jumped at the opportunity to jam the new Deadspawn EP, The Source of Chaos. The Beyond is the first track and there is no question that one of the highlights of this was going to be the guitarplaying. Achieving guitar playing like this while doing vocals has always bewildered me. Massive walls of guitar wizardry provided by Curt Durocher and Taylor Pritchard wins. Like dust flowing in the desert wind, guitar transitions flawlessly bring this composition together. Hints of lost notes embedded in layers of guitarwork, the insignia of timeless music.

The no nonsense approach displays itself again in The Watcher. The song marches directly into the trenches' edge leaving the weak and meager awaiting behind taking cover in whatever falseness of lesser talented bands they follow. The beginning is very similar to Jungle Rot of which I am a giant fan of. This song has the sharpest most frenetic and dynamic riffs that I have come across and this uptempo style allows Ryan Frech to showcase his speedy drum execution case in point at 3:18 you will hear that thundering column of drum rolls accompanied by blackened melodies that all of us look for. The song is bolstered by Curt's vocals which are very unique. Not guttural which is done too much by most bands. With Curt there is a howl with more range and rage.

Ignoring wounded fingers, the guitarists' shredding skills are showcased in Lord of Worm at 2:20. The shrieking guitars flow with the calculated and precise drumwork. Yet again, the power of Chris's bass is virulent but not overpowering. Muting this power at just the right times to allow the rest of the musicianship to shine. Lord of Worm is my favorite song on this.

The Void is a clever song containing chaotic patterns that are similar yet slightly changing like a fractal. Dusting off an old gem, kicking your feet up, zoning out and getting up and rewinding a few seconds to discover a new note and/or other nuance is one of those experiences that only a few of us understand. Sure all music fans can appreciate music. But most other music does not require that specifically trained ear. We find enjoyment sifting through the chaos and finding those small embers of beautiful musical composition engulfed by sound creating instant comradrarie with other seekers of the notes hidden within. Chris Calvert does a masterful job of creating the presence of power here. Ryan Frech, formerly of Fran de Mork (excellent black metal piece if you haven't had the courtesy) is more than an effective replacement for now Lago drummer Brian Miller. The progressive death fused with melody works spendidly. The similarity is very close to well...to Death or Control Denied. You won't find another review from me comparing a band to Death as they are untouched. However, the vocals and guitar style are very similar and the comparison truly fits here.

So Metalifestyle gives this a ten out of ten beers. Tonight at the Cornish Pasty, you can determine how many beers you give it at the Cornish Pasty where you listen to the Source of Chaos in advance and meet these fine lads. Even better, why don't you just buy the package- the disc, a ticket to the EP release, and a shirt for $20. That's a deal if I ever saw one. Saves you money for beer and a pasty. Because delicious pasties are metal as fudge. Speaking of delicious pasties, Flynn works there. Speaking of Flynn, stay tuned for the next episode of Metalifestyle where we review new CaveDweller.

Best of the Desert Wastelands 2014

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Metalifestyle has grown quite a bit in the last year. Perhaps not in traffic but it sure has in terms of creativity and probably in terms of maturity. Okay maybe not maturity. But thanks to all of you who I met and chatted with at shows throughout this awesome year in Metal. Through each of you, I have grown. Even today as I see some grey hairs in my beard I can grow. After all, growth is a continual process. This past year has shown that positivity and metal can be intertwined. Being negative all the time only alienates you and is not Metal. Its just dumb.

 

This year I decided to do something different than adding to the multitude of metal best of lists out there. Partially because I couldn't afford to buy as much and also because I couldn't make up my mind with so many legendary releases such as the new Corpsessed, new Impetuous Ritual and the new Priest album. Instead of adding to the multitude of year end lists that are out there, I decided to make one different and make a best of Arizona. Most of these artists are from the Phoenix scene only because that is what I have been most exposed to in the last year. So bear in mind that this is obviously very subjective. The Phoenix scene never ceases to amaze me in terms of awesome talent and live presence. A big thank you to those bands for working so hard to create the soundtrack to my life in the last year. I can't imagine the time spent penning and erasing tiny errors and omitting miniscule parts to create that perfect riff. That said, I am always interested in learning about those outside of the smog borders of Phoenix. I hear of so many great bands like Inoculara, Sport Utility Vehicle, Magguts, etc. I look forward to seeing them. If you are a band in Flag, Tucson, Sierra Vista, or wherever feel free to send me a review or have your PR peeps send me one and I would graciously write about it. This is actually out of order. All of the releases are so good that I just threw them all together. Below are bands whose albums you should purchase to bring in some holiday cheer or Santa will summon his reindeer Valkyrie to trample you.

 

1) Singularity

One of the harder working bands in the Valley and also showcasing one of the best guitarists in Jack Fliegler, Singularity's talent has taken over the number one spot. Upon first listen you will be captivated. You have now entered Singularity, a land where "stars and planets have been devoured" by white sound. In this land lies the Monolith, a giant slab of metal that aurally destroys you. Great lyrics and composition in every song.

Buy/Listen to Singularity

2) Lusitania

Lusitania has been around for quite a while. I've seen them twice and each time I found their sound to be uniquely ominous. Parodixically, the very dismal sound and dread generated by black metal bands like this gives a stimulant to my spirit. I was left eager to replay this multiple times and delve further into the black metal world and find some old gems. Featuring members of Gay Kiss, Dealing, Sacred Followers, and Detached Objects this is a must listen.

CVLTNation gives us a Soundcloud of Lusitania's newest, click here

3) Lago- Tyranny

With Tyranny, Lago firmly entrenches itself among the frontlines of the best death metal acts coming out the Southwest the last few years. Every time this band plays they blow everyone away. Upcoming northwest and west coast tour in 2015.

Click here to get destroyed by Lago

4) Twingiant

Invoking a groove that will awake even the darkest of souls, Devil Down's decision to tap into 70s era rock was a good one. Catch their record release show at Rips downtown.

Listen to the shredders in Devil Down, by TWINGIANT

5) Funerary- Starless Aeon

A dark atmosphere where the night is so dark that there is not a star to be seen. The intertwining of gnarly guitar accentuations and unusual time signatures creates a unique twist in the celebration of emptiness. This band employs more than just tuned down guitars. There is some mindboggling guitar effects including clever manipulation of gain and distortion and string sliding at just the right times which creates a tension effect akin to a rope being tightly drawn. For fans of Asunder, Cough, Graves at Sea, Wolvhammer, and Locrian.

Listen and buy Starless Aeon, by FUNERARY

6) Godhunter City of Dust

The band with infinitesimal riffs, Godhunter assails you with masterful guitarwork, deep vocals, and tight basslines. All of the songs on this album are very catchy and easy to hum a long to. What is interesting about this band is the ability to incorporate elements of the southwest into it. Tumbleweeds in the background, ravens pecking on a dead mule carcass in desert wash with pink in the horizon is the visual I get among many.

Buy City of Dust by Godhunter

7) Gatecreeper self titled

Gatecreeper reps Sonoran Desert Death Metal. Drawn swords uplifted, knobs cranked and ready to deliver, Gatecreeper's self-titled debut delivers furious blows to maime and mutilate. Catch them live on the 27th with Lenguas Largas.

Blast some GATECREEPER and buy holiday copies here

8)Take Over and Destroy Vacant Face

 

Take Over and Destroy did Phoenix a solid in picking up the legendary Dylan Thomas. In Vacant Face, TOAD taps into their primordial ooze. Vocals seep out of the blackness of this ooze like its seeping out of a void of the abyss. Okay, that's just weird. Anywho, I really appreciate the goth/deathrock vocals thrown in there occasionally. The guitar solos are spectacular also. Click below to buy the new album.

Vacant Face, by Take Over And Destroy

9). Goya Satan's Fire

I listened to Goya whilst taking a stroll through the desert and I thought this band represents exactly the type of stoner doom rock that I would expect from the desert. The title of the album resembles the backdrop of the Valley sullied with smog and all. Tons of dissonance and driving bass combined with creative guitar playing evokes a hallucinatory effect. The talent of each musician shines but Jeff Owen's clever guitarwork takes you further into a world of dreams and fire. Its been said that certain music if properly played can allow one to transcend the current state to feel a connectedness to another realm. Goya does this.

Listen/Buy Satan's Fire, by Goya

10) Woundvac

Phoenix has an excellent grind scene with the likes of Godawfulnoise, Biocidio, Sorrower, Dusted, and a multitude of others. A constant clash between generation Y and the police state is evident daily. From this land rife with corruption and the home of Sherrif Joe Arpaio would you expect anything less furious sounding? Straight out of the land of gangs, fangs, cactus, and spines Woundvac delivers.

Listen and Buy Woundvac!