Only ten days till Christmas, star-spawns. Are you done with your shopping? Or, like me, are you waiting to begin it in a hail of barbarian howls, swinging fists and pile-drives to the elderly? Maybe we should go back to the sacrificial orgies at the solstice; there’s no way cow blood could be harder to get out of clothes than the blood of bargain hunters. But I digress; for the holidays, Napalm Flesh brings you tidings of prog and djent in this week’s blog. A few months ago, Salt Lake was honored with a visit from Textures on their very first US tour in support of new album Dualism, and we were lucky enough to grab an interview with drummer Stef Broks, which I now give to you, dear darkhearts. It’s way better than a package of tube socks. Merry fucking Xmas! We’ve also got your trusty web-exclusive reviews, including Jesse Leach’s new prog-project The Empire Shall Fall and a review of the newest effort from Saturnian Mist.
Hey, speaking of sacrificial orgies, here’s your weekly metal calendar; get out there and spread some holiday cheer!
Thursday the 15th (hey that’s today!), check out former Static-X frontman Wayne Static at The Complex. Doors are at 6, and tickets are $18.
Saturday the 17th, don’t miss Parallax, Despite Despair and Hi Fi Massacre at Muse. You can hear an interview with Parallax about their final show on this week’s episode of SLUG’s podcast, Soundwaves From the Underground.
INTERVIEW WITH STEF BROKS of TEXTURES
Progressive metal bands are sprouting up all over the scene like dandelions on freshly mowed grass, and the new faces have a few bands to thank for clearing the way to the musical wonderland technical metal fans now find themselves in. One of those bands to thank is most certainly The Netherlands-based Textures, who have been putting out solid, layered, progressive and unique albums since 2001. Their career has not been without its speed bumps, including the recent ground-shaking lineup change of their vocalist just as work began on their newest album. But Textures is a horse of a different color, and what would destroy most metal acts has only strengthened them. This summer they embarked on their very first US tour with fellow progressive acts Periphery and The Contortionist; their recently released album Dualism is reaching new corners of the earth; and all in all, these men are poised to conquer. I was lucky enough to catch up with drummer Stef Broks after their appearance in Salt Lake and find out how they’ve endured the last decade, and what’s over the horizon for Textures.
SLUG: How has this tour been so far?
Stef Broks: It’s great! Especially the weather is awesome, and the scenery. We are really culture-minded guys, of course we’re in it for the music but we’re also in it to see the world, and going to America means a lot to us; we can see different cultures and enjoy different food. Especially the scenery in Arizona and the drive thru California was really awesome, one of the big experiences you have in life in general, I think.
SLUG: Is this the first visit to the US for all of you?
Broks: Some of the guys went to New York before but it’s definitely our first road trip through America. If you compare Europe to the US, the size from LA to NY is the same distance from London to Moscow. Travelling across Europe you pass 30 different languages and cultures in all these countries, and here you have all that in one country. You have more than that, really. In one day, you can pass 3 kinds of climates, which is really strange for us, but also really cool. On the biggest part of the tour we had the most amazing weather, which, especially being a Dutch guy where it rains all summer long, was a wonderful thing. We got a real summer.
SLUG: The new album’s just been released in Europe and not yet in the US, but are you guys hearing any feedback or reviews yet? How is it being received?
Broks: Most people are liking it, but of course that’s easy for me to say, every band member is going to tell you people like their new album. [laughs] But most reactions are great. I don’t know, there’s something going on with the band, I don’t know what it is but people, especially the press, they are focusing on this “djent” scene, it’s the new big thing. With bands like TesserACT and Periphery, and they put us and Meshuggah into this new djent-scene, and we are all constantly confronted with that which is great. We are getting a lot of attention now. It’s really the right album at the right moment for us. I think us being on Nuclear Blast is helping, it’s a way bigger record label than our previous label. My uncle from Holland called me, he’s a huge collector of Japanese editions of albums, and from a friend he got a Dualism promo all in Japanese and we were like, “What the fuck?!” We didn’t even know that there was something like that! A few years ago when Silhouettes was released, it was only in Europe and a small USA release, but now we’re in Japan. It’s getting big and it’s very exciting.
SLUG: Have you guys enjoyed touring with Periphery and The Contortionist?
Broks: We’re always a bit anxious when we hit the road about the supporting acts, you know, whether everyone will be okay with each other. But this tour is definitely great. The rest of the guys are young and open minded as well- that means a lot. The whole metal culture in the 90s and 80s was kind of stubborn or conservative in a way, but the new generation like Periphery and The Contortionist is open-minded. They don’t care about people who don’t dress metal, it’s not even an issue of course. Maybe the scene over here in the US is a bit more modern, but we are not 100% metal guys, we don’t dress in band shirts every day and don’t listen to metal all the time, and these guys understand that metal is just a tiny part of our lives. We express ourselves in metal, but the rest, we are just regular guys making music and by coincidence that happens to be modern metal in a progressive way.
SLUG: It’s true, any jackass can pick up a band shirt. Metal is about much more than the outside.
Broks: I was discussing this the other day actually. I can remember in the mid-‘90s, there were bands, most from Roadrunner Records, that opened up the scene because they were a bit more commercial than the underground bands. Suddenly, together with those bands, the metal fans start to dress different, and I can still remember those years where people gave me mean looks because I wore skate shoes at the time. I was a metal guy with long hair but I wore the skate shoes instead of the combat boots, and people were like, “Oh he’s a nerd! He’s a skater!” A few years later everybody dressed like that, and now it’s not even an issue how you dress or what bands you like. All boundaries in metal were broken. And that’s really weird. Maybe it’s positive for the scene, maybe not, I don’t know if it strengthened or weakened us, I’m not sure. You can also see it in the lyrics. Before ’95, most bands wrote about death and horror and that kind of stuff. ’95 for me and guys in Textures was like a breakthrough year because Fear Factory put out “Demanufactured” and Death came out with “Symbolic”, and Meshuggah’s “Destroy. Erase. Improve.” And those three albums were a big step ahead for what the metal scene would look like after 2000. So ‘95 was a turning point in progressive metal I think.
SLUG: You guys had a pretty big shakeup with your vocalist leaving, and I know it delayed your newest album. Did Daniel de Jongh help with the writing process when he came into the band, and if so what did he bring to the table that was new for you guys?
Broks: I think the biggest thing he brought was new energy. [Former singer] Eric [Kalsbeek] was a bit fed up with being on tour and investing a lot of time in the band, and Daniel is eager to do new stuff and be part of this band that is about to do big stuff. He was really spontaneous and had a lot of ideas. When it comes to vocals, it was kind of hard for him in the beginning because Eric was such an established guy for the band, he wrote a lot of lyrics, and he was really the front man, especially in Holland and Europe. Daniel had big shoes to fill. But he’s a tough guy, maybe even a big tougher than Eric; he has to deal with all the critics and most of the time he gets good critics in the press. But the fans are sometimes tougher because they like Eric, they claim Eric, you know? Eric is Textures. But Daniel is a tough guy and he manages all the critics and it feels great. The band feels stronger than it did two and a half years ago. It feels strong, we’re a collective once again and it feels great. We can conquer the world. Those may be big words but we’ll manage, we can do it.
SLUG: And vocally, Daniel seems to be keeping up with Eric’s past.
Broks: Speaking of his vocals, he can do all that Eric could do as well, and that’s maybe the best of it all. Eric was a versatile singer, and Daniel can do it as well. We got some offers from guys from other European countries and overseas from US and Australia, but not a single guy could even sing the grunt parts or the screaming parts, let alone the clean vocals. He went to the same musical school as Eric did actually. In the end it’s all very bizarre. [laughs]
SLUG: Your former frontman Eric Kalsbeek actually did artwork for Dualism, so I would safely assume you guys are still good friends with him and he is still being a creative influence.
Broks: He did the front cover, yes; our bass player did the rest. When we started writing this new album—that was in 2010—and Eric came up with a lot of new ideas. The spirit of him is still on this album. He actually still wrote some lyrics for the vocal lines, which Daniel used and Eric was totally okay with that. It’s great to part ways with a good vibe. It’s of course a tough decision and it’s always at the wrong moment, but we respect Eric’s decision. Everyone is focusing on different things in life. He actually came up with Daniel’s name and told us “Hey you have to choose him, this guy’s very good.” And that feels great.
SLUG: What a rare and cool happening, not only to have a positive vibe with an ex-member, but to have him help choose his replacement so the band can carry on successfully!
Broks: I hope that it says something about the band, that we are in it because we are friends. You see bands on the road and you ask yourself “Why is this band together?” They’re not really coherent as a group. The music is okay and as well as performances on stage. Offstage Textures is also very close, very connected. We get through problems that would break up other bands. We’re very open-minded. It’s sometimes a tough job but it’s the only way for us to deal with each other.
SLUG: What are you guys listening to right now?
Broks: Let’s see what’s on our bus iPod! Jochem [Jacobs] brought some American music like Dixie Chicks, and actually John Denver is one of my favorites! Maybe that’s really corny. Also: Carnevil from Australia, AC/DC, Otis Redding, Elvis, Devin Townsend, jazz music, Chris Cornell. Everything that is well-played and played with passion is great music for us, we don’t care about the style.
The Empire Shall Fall
Volume One: Solar Plexus
Angle Side Side
Street: 12.6 (digital only)
The Empire Shall Fall = old Killswitch Engage + metal sax! + At The Drive In
Jesse Leach, the musical mastermind who brought us the glory of “Alive or Just Breathing?” and one of my personal top 5 of the year, “Hymn of a Broken Man” with new band Times of Grace, continues to stretch musical boundaries with The Empire Shall Fall, a project begun with longtime buddy Nick Sollecito. This EP is intense and surprising, with a solid foundation of metal /hardcore, upon which they have built a twisted tower of jazz, progressive metal, and even some hip-hop influence thanks to Sollectio’s training in the area. The lyrical message is reminiscent of everything Leach touches: revolutionary, positive, and uplifting. Opening song “Genesis Of These Scars” is djenty and screaming right out of the gate, before descending into groovy beat under Leach’s unique clean vocals; it hooks you almost immediately into the rest of the EP. “The First Redemption”, a 7-minute masterpiece, starts like with some old Motown groove before the metal comes crashing in; the band has done an exceptional job blending these musical styles into something amazing. Beautiful lady-singing, saxophone solos, jazzy piano and crazy symphonic accents are just some of the awesome surprises buried in the tracks. It’s experimental as hell and sincerely like nothing else I’ve heard this year. –Megan Kennedy
Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions
Saturnian Mist = Deathspell Omega + Ved Buens Ende + Blut Aus Nord + Root
Gnostikioi Ha-Shaitan takes black metal to new territories and massive occult obscurities. Eight tracks of completely nasty, insane, uncomfortable occult exorcisms makes listening a huge challenge. Saturnian Mist forgo many of the typical black metal stereotypes—i.e., what tremolo riffing there is, is minimal. The album recalls the maddening intensity delivered by black metal’s pioneers, but pulling tangentially in all directions. Just in the vocal preaching/scathing there is a huge level of discomfort; they scoff at the idea of what black-metal vocals need to be, stemming from hate and fueled by trains of thought that the average person doesn’t even care to contemplate. The music is punishing from its core; oddly distorted, fuzzed guitar tone, hectic drumming and oddities in lone guitar passages delivers in each track something different and horrifyingly refreshing. This deserves to be listened to by dark music lovers that strive to find new territory in the obscure and the occult—listening to Gnostikioi Ha-Shaitan was like dusting off some forbidden occult book and reading passages that unleash things that cannot be sent back. –Bryer Wharton