It’s been a while since Napalm Flesh entered the internet (albeit the Napalm has been festering behind the scenes) but I’m sure this is a long-awaited return for the loyal readers (sarcasm switch ON!). I have an interview with Tampa, Florida’s Gigan bassist/guitarist Eric Hersemann – keeping things pretty short and to the point – who just released their second full-length Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes on Willowtip Records. Also included is your usual weekly rundown of local and national shows coming to town. We also have a few reviews, including my spouting off point on the already opinion-blasted new Morbid Angel album, a hefty review of the now-no-longer-part-of-Metal-Blade Records Black Market Activities signee Engineer’s new album by SLUG’s Dylan Chadwick, and a fetching review of Death Strike’s Fuckin’ Death re-issue.
On Thursday, June 16, get your heavy on with some touring death metal bands from Texas in the form of the mighty Abolishment of Flesh and Insidious Decrepancy with local black metal crew Winterlore and Utah thrashers, Gravetown. All the blasting is underway at Bar Deluxe around 9 p.m., and a mere $8 gets you in.
Also Thursday, Club Vegas hosts its local band recognition night with a plethora of rock/metal oriented bands with Reveeler, Melodramus, In Ship Down, Thorn of Gethsemane and When Darkness Falls. Music starts around 8 p.m. $7 gets you in the door.
Friday June 17 Club Vegas plays host to locals Sonic Prophecy, Twitch Angry, Visigoth, Crow, and Blakthron. Music at 8 p.m. $7 gets you in.
On Sunday night (Fathers day, June 19) go rock out with your dad and pretend like it’s 1986 with Motley Crue, Poison and the New York Dolls performing at the USANA Amphitheatre. Tickets available through Smith’s Tix range from $37.50 to $103 smackers. Show starts at 7 p.m.
SLUG: Gigan are technically still in their early stages as a band but the members have some serious credentials. What’s the story that lead to the culmination and just overall beginning of Gigan?
Eric Hersemann: After many years of blood, sweat and tears in other bands, I decided that it was finally time to start my own band from scratch with the only creative limitations being my own.
SLUG: You just released your latest album. How has the reaction from critics and fans been now that the reviews are now streaming in?
Hersemann: So far the reactions have been great! You can't please everyone, but the right people are reacting the right way!
SLUG: Your larger label debut The Order of the False Eye was released in the U.S. on Napalm Records—not really a label known for death metal bands. What made you initially sign with them?
Hersemann: Napalm had the best offer on the table at the time, and the American office has a killer staff and manager!
SLUG: Judging by the impact the EP must have made, did you get offers from other labels?
Hersemann: We did, but at this point Willowtip is the best home for GIGAN.
SLUG: How did you now come to join Willowtip Records’ list of awesomely growing bands?
Hersemann: After shopping to several labels Jason and Willowtip had the best situation overall, for GIGAN. I was most concerned with creative freedom and passion for GIGAN's music.
SLUG: The new album seems quite a bit more controlled than the first – don’t get me wrong it’s rife with chaos, but rhythmically it’s a bit easier to contain the tempo changes and that makes for songs that stick out (in my opinion) more than just overall blasting and guitar noodling. Was creating a cleaner album one of the band’s goals?
Hersemann: Honestly, there was no conscious decision...I just think the songs are better written and performed. Production-wise however, I did go for a more audible, less muddy sound overall. The guitar and bass tones made a big difference, clarity-wise too.
SLUG: For people who have never heard Gigan, how would you describe the band’s sound?
Hersemann: Psychedelic extreme metal infused with passion and color.
SLUG: I saw that Gigan got a slot on what seems like a pretty hefty touring line-up. How did that get arranged? You’ve got to be excited to deliver your music to new audiences.
Hersemann: GIGAN has been fortunate to have been a part of quite a few high profile tours and the Grave tour this August/September is no exception! I am VERY excited to tour with Grave, since I have been following them since their demo days!
SLUG: Quasi is very much an exercise in organized chaos but I think the bigger success of the album isn’t just the fact that it’s “crazy,” “fast,” “sick drumming” but the fact that each songs have strong identities and the much more added spacey/sci fi approach in the songs really stick Gigan in a territory of its own. What brought about the changes and progression (if you want to call it that) from first album to Quasi?
Hersemann: As I mentioned before, there was nothing specific, just natural evolution and dedication to good songwriting. Fortunately, the evolution is a good thing! :)
SLUG: There is quite a bit of actual vocal distortion on the record. Why did you chose to go this route and have some of the vocals sound like they’re coming from a demonic robot?
Hersemann: I look at vocals as just another instrument on the record. Sometimes, to convey a specific concept or feel, you need to use unorthodox sounds. Vocals are no different than another guitar or bass...sometimes effects are a good thing!
SLUG: Gigan uses things beyond drum/guitar/bass/vox—among the extra instruments, a xylophone is used. How do you make a xylophone even be heard in extreme metal?
Hersemann: Bang the heck out of that thing! Seriously though, it's all in the mix...
SLUG: On the same subject how does the extra song mechanics translate in the live setting?
Hersemann: GIGAN songs are primarily written with the live setting in mind, so most everything you hear on the record will be performed in yo face!!! :)
SLUG: Now that I’ve rambled, thanks for taking time to answer my questions, I really enjoyed the first album and the new one makes that one look like small potatoes, what’s the next step for Gigan to conquer the world?
Hersemann: Thanx for the kind words and support!!! Our quest will be continued with many tours, lots of songs and a ton of positivity!!! THRASH IN SPACE!!!
Blog exclusive CD reviews
Illud Divinum Insanus
Season of Mist
Morbid Angel = the most hated band in extreme metal right now
Give it to Morbid Angel for achieving one thing after twenty-two years since they released their now notorious Altars of Madness album: they’ve definitely stirred the pot of controversy with IDI. Pretty much every metalhead, even the ones that pretend to have actually been listening to Morbid Angel since Altars came out, have taken an unabashed stance of hatred towards this new offering from the arguable giants of death metal. IDI is the first album to feature David Vincent since the band’s 1996 live release Entangled in Chaos. A giant chunk of metal fans possess a high level of cynicism—if a band messes with the core sound they started with, their apt to cry “sell-out” or whatever crimes against metal they can come up with. Morbid Angel have been taking crap truly ever since they released Domination in ‘95. Where does my personal opinion lie with this new album? Well, it’s far from classic Morbid Angel. I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it. I could sit here and give my dissection of the albums songs and the whole industrial metal aspect of a good hunk of IDI’s songs, but at this point most everybody that gives a shit has already heard the record and found their own opinion.
The clear matter of fact that people may be missing is there are actually bands that make the albums they want to make and don’t give a crap about what they think fans are going to expect and want, see Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Emperor, Mayhem—the list goes on. One indication that Morbid Angel wanted to dick around with something new is the track “Blades for Baal”—if the rest of the album sounded in the vein and style of this track, the hatred for IDI would not be as massive. I just leave this album as Morbid Angel doing whatever the hell they wanted to do. Guitarist Trey Azagthoth has been rumored to want to do an industrial death metal style for years. Fans, cynics and haters: go ahead and beat the hell out of the record. People still bought those Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth e albums, and some who initially pissed all over them changed their minds. This comes to my closing spouting off point: if you truly don’t like something then don’t buy it, don’t listen to it and don’t support the band, I guarantee three-fourths the haters are going to buy concert tix to see Morbid Angel tour to hear the “classic songs.” I’d pay to see them still. One record, two records or even three records hated? It doesn’t mean crap because you can’t take away Altars, Blessed, and Covenant away from Morbid Angel just as you can’t take away Slayer’s Show No Mercy and Reign in Blood. –Bryer Wharton
Engineer = Breather Resist + Coalesce + Cursed
Crooked Voices is a step in a new direction for Engineer, Syracuse’s throaty blue-collar metalcore outfit. Eschewing the pummeling sludge of yore, and opting for an approach that’s infinitely more varied, more atmospheric and even a bit more subdued, the band has almost inadvertently managed to craft their most universally heavy and haunting album to date.
Now, old time fans of the band may take issue with the statement. After all, The Dregs was an excellently convoluted concrete head-smasher, and Reproach had more yammering gravel in it than a damn cement mixer. To be fair, Crooked Voices isn’t their loudest record, and it’s certainly not their fastest. It sports the squeaky-cleanest guitars of their career with nary a whiff of distorted crunch and more subtle acoustic touches than ever…but it’s heavy. Not in a “bang your head” way…in a “rattle your bones and drag a razor across your neck” kind of way. It’s got a sighing weight to it that’s hard to shake.
It’s the very soul of the album that’ll do it…that creepy, crawling, spine trembling sense of woe and existential crisis that they conjure. It’s the non-sequitur style of steely atonal riffing on “Curse of the Common Man,” the dissonant punch of the angular “Starving Artist” or the ominous tribal thunder of “Drunk on Blood.” It’s that icy, Bannon-esque vocal moaning that sounds like it’s echoing from within a meat-locker on “Kid Killer” and “Scavenger,” the occasional splashes of droning throughout and the surrealistic ghostliness in the tinkering piano chords of “Prepared for the Worst.”
Like all good technically-minded bands, Engineer relies heavily on a strong rhythm section, and it’s the masterful octopus-arm drumming and serpentine bass leads that keep Crooked Voices fresh when it threatens to painfully grate against itself, like steel wool on a ripened peach.
Ultimately, the new direction, though slightly more minimal, opens the band up for more. That frenetic metalcore rope tends to run out fairly early for these types of bands (we’re more than a few records in now), and Crooked Voices should be considered a transition piece for excellent material to come. It’s a funny dynamic really. Where many bands of the chaotic metalcore ilk find their strength in the bewildering cacophony of sound, Engineer manages to shift gears a bit, pulling back to let things ring out a bit more…somehow finding an understated power in the resonance that’s as harrowing as it is naked. –Dylan Chadwick
Fuckin’ Death re-release
Death Strike = Master + Slayer (old) There’s quite a few albums from bands that never came full circle for whatever reason those bands either released one album or just a slew of demos—Repulsion, Poison (Ger), Slaughter (Can), the list goes on quite literally. Death Strike lasted from 1984 to 1985 and recorded a demo and before vocalist/bassist Paul Speckman went on to help create the mighty death metal band Master among being part of many other bands and projects. The demo saw an official release with some bonus goodies in 1991 by none other than Nuclear Blast. Dark Descent is releasing it again with more bonus goodies. With the ‘91 version long out of print, the small label will give Death Strike a killer LP release as well as CD. What’s the motivation for snagging this re-release up? Well it’s Fuckin’ Death and it quite honestly slays reeking of the origins of death metal but also a raging thrasher of an album. Speckman’s vocals are as nasty as nasty can get. Cranking this beast is like stepping into a time machine back to the mid-80s, when metal contained more blood, sweat and heart than the mostly flair that it consists of now. I’ll be looking for this sucker on LP, and so should you. If you fancy the CD format (it does come with two extra bonus tracks), get that. Whatever the case, this is a release you might not have heard or if you have you just may need a fancy new version of it with expanded liner notes, which contains a foreword about the band written by Oliver “Zoltar” Badin of Terrorizer Magazine and other special new pics and notes. –Bryer Wharton