SLUG’s weekly metal blog is proud to welcome our new blogger Dylan Chadwick with his debut interview with Cape Fear, NC sludge metal crew Sourvein. We’ve got a couple shows happening this week as well—if you’re putting on a metal show or even if you just know about one, please tell SLUG and we’ll get your event listed in the blog. Also on tap are CD reviews for Fleshgod Apocalypse, Pestilence, Today is the Day (amazing!), Toxic Holocaust and Vale of Pnath.
Event Listings (compiled by Bryer Wharton)
If you happen to be in Logan tonight or feel like taking a mini-road trip for some killer local metal, then visit Why Sound (30 Federal Avenue in Logan) and catch Gravetown with Reverence, Dethblo and Adipocere. It’s an all ages show, and as for a price, don’t stress—the bill is local artists, so if it isn’t free, $5 should get you in.
On Tuesday Aug. 16 In The Venue plays host to The Slaughter Survivors Tour. I’m not certain why it’s called that, other than maybe the line-up is compiled of bands that were on “The Summer Slaughter Tour.” In any regard, the headliner is Conducting From The Grave with support from Scale the Summit, The Contortionist, Structures, Volumes and Rings of Saturn, so dust off your moshing shoes and get those kneepads ready for your mosh-aerobics workout. Advance tickets are $10.50.
Having released their first full length in nine years, sludge metallers Sourvein come out swinging with all the bile, spit and vitriol one might expect out of a band hailing from a place called Cape Fear. I got to chat with lead vocalist and primary lyricist Troy “T-roy” Medlin about SST Records, Sabbath, shifting lineups and the future of the band.
SLUG: I read an interview where you talked about getting into a lot of early SST stuff. Black Flag and whatnot.
T-roy: Yeah SST opened a lot of doors and in many ways shaped what we do. I got into SST when I was 13 at a skate ramp. My friend Rich, who’s a few years older, turned me on to Black Flag and then I got into Bl’ast’s It's In My Blood and of course Bad Brains I Against I—That’s been a staple for years. Then one day they sent Saint Vitus as a bonus when I ordered My War and that’s where it started.
SLUG: Did any of those SST bands make it out to North Carolina?
T-roy: Yeah. Black Flag came through a few times. C.O.C was 2 hours away and would do the gigs. Bad Brains used to come through all the time…still do. HR used to live in the Cape Fear area on the beach. B'last, Descendents, Saint Vitus…I saw them in ‘92. I hitchhiked from the beach to see ‘em and there were only like 20 people there and they tore up!
SLUG: Generally speaking, it seems that Black Sabbath plays heavily into your band. I’m curious as to what the first Sabbath record you heard was and why you think it had such an effect on you.
T-roy: It was Master of Reality. It sounded real…it sounded different—the vibe, the
way it just rocked way harder than everyone else. It affected me a lot. I really love it...the guitar tone is everything—Black Sabbath is everything.
SLUG: The general consensus I’ve been able to find about the new album is that it’s good sludge stuff played to a T, kind of like they’re saying “Not reinventing the wheel, but they’ve found they’re groove and they do it really well.” Do you agree with that statement?
T-roy: Yeah it’s opinion...[I] never tried to reinvent the wheel and never will...I just wanted to bring the raw and dirty sound I hear into light
SLUG: How would you describe the new album?
T-roy: It’s a heavy heartfelt record. It’s a personal record from me. It was a rough time and I was bummed after the passing of my mother so I’m lettin’ my heart vent through the vocals on it. We used a lot of influences on this one to make it a variety for everyone to hear. I’m into it..it’s great to see it out.
SLUG: How do you feel about “sludge” rock or any of those tags generally?
T-roy: I don’t care for tags really, but they’re there, so whatever...
SLUG: Some people feel that certain subgenres are rigid and don’t allow for much creativity or experimentation…how do you feel about it? Do you feel that Sourvein has managed to experiment with the “sludge” blueprint a bit?
T-roy: Yeah I mean we do whatever we want to do. We didn’t have a blueprint…we did what we did from jamming on Black Flag, Sabbath, early Melvins, Samhain, Saint Vitus, Howling Wolf, Bl’ast and Hellhammer. That was the mix.
SLUG: Why did it take so long for a new full length to come out?
T-roy: A good label to be honest. We did over a full length’s worth of songs on an EP trilogy and split 7”s with bands from Japan, Israel and the UK. It came down to having a label backing it. We’re going in for the follow-up this winter.
SLUG: I heard you are the only original member. Will this current lineup be a stable one for the time being?
T-roy: Yeah, King James is in for the long haul! As of the 1st, I am no longer the only original member as we got JC back on bass and he’s down for the haul as well. He stepped down after the 2006 UK tour with Rameses to raise his son and record bands. Now he’s back! I’ve been waiting to jam and I’m stoked that we are good and stable.
SLUG: I heard something about this being a studio bassist or something like that…
T-roy: Yeah, the guy who recorded in the studio is a friend of mine—not a session guys or anything. He plays bass for The Misanthrope Project outta Virginia Beach. He lives super close to the studio and offered to do it and it really helped me out, but now we have the lineup that will hit the studio for the next one.
SLUG: I’ve always been curious as to the origination of the term “sourvein.”
T-roy: It means “Sour Vanity.” It was first written as “Sour Vain” which, to me, meant “ugly and dirty.” We mixed the spelling and put the words together, but yeah, it means “ugly and dirty.” “Sour vanity.”
SLUG: Southern Lord put a European tour for you guys together in the early 2000’s. Have you been back to Europe since or is there a plan to go back?
T-roy: We’ve been back a few times with Rameses and Church of Misery last spring. Last Spring we did a “Tour to Roadburn Fest” with Coffins (from Japan) and other shows with Pentagram, Graveyard and Voivod. We will be back in 2012.
SLUG: Do you feel that Euros respond better to the music you play than Americans or is that even a factor?
T-roy: It’s pretty even really. I dig both places.
SLUG: What is the future for the band?
T-roy: Always touring! In the winter we’re going to record, and tours of the West Coast, Europe and Japan are in the works.
SLUG: It’s commendable that the band has been going for so long, even with a shifting lineup. How do you maintain the motivation to keep the band going after 18 years?
T-roy: Well it’s been my thing since ’93. Someone said it’s like the old blues dudes touring non-stop. When someone couldn’t do it, someone else would sit in for a few gigs, etc. I’m on a mission. It’s gotta go down no matter what, you know? As I said, now we’ve got a stable line up with an OG member!
SLUG: Maybe I’m reading too far into things, but with the album artwork and album title, and some of the lyrics (a ‘50s vampire) I feel like there’s a sort of “theme” to the album….a vampire theme or something. Am I onto something here?
T-roy: No real theme, but an overall vibe with Black Fangs. There are songs about usurpers and in an abstract way I write about vampires of all sorts…and Theda’s on the cover and she is the original “vamp.”
SLUG: Is this the first time you’ve worked with Candlelight records?
T-roy: No, they did our last EP.
SLUG: How’s it been?
T-roy: So far, so good. Seein’ how this record does and ready to do the next one.
SLUG: Did they approach you?
T-roy: They came to see us in Philly. I signed with them a month later.
SLUG: Who writes the lyrics?
T-roy: I write all the lyrics! I always have, as well as all the lyrics in my other project Hail!Hornet except where my cousin Dixie Dave shouts back…that’s all him. I gotta write my stuff to feel it! Plus, I got something to say!
SLUG: Kind of the silly question to ask a band, but where are you coming from with your lyrics? It seems like there’s a lot of anger, misanthropy and whatnot in there…is the music an opportunity for you to exorcize some of those demons? A catharsis of sorts?
T-roy: You nailed it as far as where we’re coming from! Mix in poverty, the ghetto, day-to-day struggles and depression and you’re even closer.
SLUG: Are you generally angry people?
T-roy: Not angry folks…but nothin’ to fuck with!
Blog exclusive CD Reviews
Fleshgod Apocalypse = Hour of Penance + Septic Flesh + Spawn of Possession
You could describe Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse as a rags-to-riches type story, though they’re not exactly rolling in any sort of massive financial glories quiet yet. Fleshgod truly built their reputation and expectations on their talent – current and past members are all firmly rooted in the extreme metal scene of Italy. Candlelight Records delivered the bands debut full-length Oracles, which has seen heaps and heaps of praise since its release. It was released by the definitely-more-indie label Willowtip Records, and the band got hooked up with an opening slot on a summer tour with Suffocation.
Why the history lesson here? Well Fleshgod Apocalypse could’ve taken the brutal tech-death metal scene by storm with their follow-up to Oracles – an album full of technical merit in its intricacies and sheer brutality. The band didn’t pull a complete 360 with this new offering Agony but they massively switched their sound to a symphonic-based death metal. I’ve listened to Agony many times, but I can’t fully decide how much I enjoy it—I like it to an extent. The feel of the record is immensely grandiose—the key/piano work beats the crap out of anything Dimmu Borgir have ever attempted. The big problem with the keys is that they’re a constant on every track of the album—it stands out massively when it’s on its own alone (effective in the Oracles track “In Honour of Reason”) but when everything is going instrumentally and vocally on Agony it can sound like a noisy mess. Agony is an album you have to commit yourself to listening too completely or it’s just going to sound like noise. It really doesn’t help that the production of the record literally blows the hell out of the volume of the drumming and the guitars/bass are muffled nearly to the point of being inaudible—it’s a far cry from the guitar crunch that FA offered on Oracles. If you can commit your attention to listening to Agony do it, there are mounds of terrific bits to be found be it in the sung vocals, guitar solos or just the huge underlying structure of it all. I do give great merit to the band for taking an explored style and making it their own, I just hope the band didn’t lose too many fans that they gained from the awesomeness of Oracles. –Bryer Wharton
Pestilence = Atheist + Asphyx + Obscura
Oof. I should have known it was all a ploy. Maybe I should be congratulating Pestilence instead of slagging them. They did get me to lower my guard after “reuniting” and coming back swinging with Resurrection Macabre (2009). Maybe it was the long absence or maybe everyone was so psyched to see them playing real-deal death metal again, but I dug it…and so it’s all the more unfortunate that they’re up to their old tricks again.
It’s not that I don’t dig experimentation in metal. Many bands pull it off to stunning results (later Death records do it in spades) but it hasn’t really worked for Pestilence much. They tried to do that awful jazz thing on Spheres, and regardless of the douchey art-schoolers with bad goatees that cited it as “revolutionary,” every metal fan with a brain realized it sucked, amounted to cheap pandering and sounded awful. For every bass-wielding Les Claypool acolyte they may have won over, they lost five metal fans in the process…and so it’s absolutely baffling to me that they’d try it again…but what the hell do I know?
Doctrine just sounds disjointed from the get-go, wiggling and squirming all over the place, shackled by a mid-paced groove and some of the most torturous vocals this side of black metal (check that wail on “Sinister” or the cringe-worthy whispering on “Deception.”). Maybe it’s more of Patrick Mameli trying to remind us that he’s NOT Martin Van Drunen (as if we hadn’t figured it out yet), or maybe age has given the old throat-spaghetti a beating…but geez, it’s half way between a screaming goat with its head held underwater and grinding brake-plates on an old Corolla. I’m not saying Doctrine is sloppy, or that it doesn’t have its occasional merit. “Confusion” is littered with solid quasi-thrash riffs, “Salvation” has a few driving moments that faintly call upon older Pestilence material and it boasts competent drumming throughout…but despite their rhythmic prowess, these glimpses of tolerability are always interrupted (and ruined) by obnoxious wailing and flatulent fretless off-notes—the stink is unavoidable.
Perhaps I’d expect a little more from one of the pioneering bands in death metal, and for that I offer nothing constructive. They know how to do it right…they’ve done it before. I can’t fault them for implementing a new approach in an attempt to shake up the staid death metal mold…but I can (and will) fault them for crafting a farty album that plays out like B-sides from a Novelty Euro Primus cover band. No one’s questioning their musical craftsmanship at this point…only their aesthetic choices. –Dylan Chadwick
Today is the Day
Pain is a Warning
Black Market Activities/Good Fight Music
Today is the Day = Converge + Coalesce + Discharge
For a band that reinvents itself with every album, saying that this is an unexpected but poignant record may sound redundant, but it’s fully correct. Pain is a Warning offers the highest replay value of any of the band’s records. Every song included is highly purposeful and each one not only has its, dare I say, catchy moments, but emotional, gut-wrenching moments, to the point of being somber and downright bone-splittingly scary. There’s a bit of bluesy momentum in tunes like “Wheelin,’” “This is You” and “Pain is a Warning.” Opening cut “Expectations Exceed Reality” is a complete and blissful rager— the drum hits from Curran Reynolds (of Wetnurse) sound like earthquakes, and Ryan Jones’ (also of Wetnurse) bass guitar exemplifies the amazingly distorted guitar-riffing from Today is the Day helmsmen Steve Austin. “Remember to Forget” makes me want to go hide in a corner and contains some of Austin’s most compellingly sung vocals ever. Pain is a Warning goes so far beyond the typical boundaries of what the band has accomplished, and the production value is superbly perfect. Where past records felt like Austin and guest musicians, this lineup feels like a band that’s been creating music for a long time. Pain is a Warning is Today is the Day’s most musically relevant as well as accessible-to-the-masses album ever. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss this release. –Bryer Wharton
Conjure and Command
Toxic Holocaust = Kill ’Em All-era Metallica + Venom + Filth
Toxic Holocaust have returned and, surprisingly, largely continue in the vein of the rock n’ rolly breakdown of “Gravelord” from An Overdose of Death. Conjure and Command opens with the merciless thrasher, “Judgment Awaits You,” and continues with relative speed in “Agony Of The Damned,” a scary zombie tune. “Red Winter” and “I Am Disease,” however, demonstrate an almost sludge-meets-Venom style with spurts of thrash for dynamics’ sake. “Nowhere To Run” tears away at your insides with and account of an eerie murderer on your tail and a moderately paced beat, which the drummer speeds up at times in order to complement the anxiety generated by the subject matter. Thematically speaking, Toxic Holocaust continues within their Satanist, post-apocalyptic world full of Road Warrior-like terror. There seems to be an occultist element in the album, though, as “Bitch” deals with the imagery of a woman being burned at the stake for witchcraft. All in all, the evil is rife and fresh. –Alexander Ortega
Vale of Pnath
The Prodigal Empire
Vale of Pnath = Decapitated + The Black Dahlia Murder + Pestilence
This release came out of nowhere for me, and damn, am I glad it came my way. Out of all the would-be albums getting promoted to hell and back in the metal world, the awesomely named Vale of Pnath (inspired by the pit in H.P. Lovecraft’s underworld) came to me with little background. There is a brilliant combination of brutal death metal, melodic, tech and other nuances on this album that make Vale of Pnath sound fresh yet rooted and familiar in a way that makes listeners feel they can instantly connect. Performances from every player are pristine: There are crazy guitar leads and soloing, maddening bass-picking, intense death growls and snarls and fast, demonic, human-but-somehow-inhuman drumming coming from Eric W. Brown of Swashbuckle and Destroy Destroy Destroy (these projects never revealed the talent he exhibits here) The Prodigal Empire is perfect, and I mean perfect—production, songs that don’t get old, only better, and an overall fresh and darkly enticing atmosphere. If there is any justice in the world, this album and band will be propelled to death metal fame. –Bryer Wharton