You feel that heat out there, darkhearts? Were those global warming hippies on to something? Or is that just the rise of the inevitable wrath of the great and mighty Cthulhu, awakening to swallow our souls? Either thought is kind of depressing, so shun the outside I say! Grab a tasty beverage, take a comfy seat, and let Napalm Flesh regale you with its tales of metal badassery. Being out in the sun is for jocks and butterflies, anyway. This week, we sit down with guitarist Dez Nagle of prog-metal group The Safety Fire, who stopped in town on April 6 with their bros from Protest the Hero. Plus, we have your usual cavalcade of metal reviews from Aura Noir, Deathhammer, Heidevolk, Hellvetron, Primal Rock Rebellion and your weekly calendar of doom!
compiled by Bryer Wharton
Enjoy your Friday the 13 with a hefty dose of extreme metal. Sacrificial Slaughter, Blessed Curse and Monolith (all from CA) with locals Adipocere, Incediant and Gravetown will be killing all the camp counselors that dabble in pre-marital coitus and drug usage at Wasted Space (342 South State) in Salt Lake. $8 gets you in (21+), tunes around 7 p.m and the show is being presented by Utah Death Metal (UTDM.
Also Friday, in Payson, UT the “Girth Tour” with A Balance of Power, Riksha, Guttshot and Foreseen Exile plays The Wee Blue Inn (21+). $5 gets you in, music at 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 14, Merlins Beard is playing CD release show with a plethora of local talent, including Gunfight Fever, Machines of Man, Danny the Skeleton Horse, Stormalong, Castleaxe, Mr. Richter and Hazards Runway. The show will take place at the Basement in Ogden. Doors open at 5:45 p.m., music at 6 p.m. $5 advance, $7 at the door.
Also Saturday, Burt’s (21+) hosts Wizard Rifle, Cornered by Zombies, Oldtimer and Laser Weasel. $6 gets you in, tunage around 8 p.m.
Option number three for Saturday’s massive metalness: Sepultura headlines at In The Venue with Death Angel, Krisiun and Havok with local support from Arsenic Addiction and Dead Vessel. Tickets $20-22 are available for this all-ages show. Sepultura and Death Angel will also be making an in-store autograph signing appearance at the Heavy Metal Shop at 4 PM.
On Wednesday, April 18 The Decibel Magazine tour featuring Behemoth (check out our print feature here http://www.slugmag.com/articles/3451/Behemoth.html), Watain, The Devil’s Blood and In Solitude play the Grand at the Complex (all ages). Tickets are $22, doors open at 6 p.m. Behemoth is also scheduled do make an in-store signing at the FYE located at 5526 S. Redwood Road at 5 PM.
Interview with The Safety Fire Guitarist Derya “Dez” Nagle
Hailing from London, progressive metal band The Safety Fire may be newer on the scene than their tour mates, but they’ve already made waves with their 2009 EP “Sections”, their special brand of pop-influenced prog metal, and a reputation for a face-melting, energetic live show. Napalm Flesh caught up with guitarist Dez Nagle before their set at In The Venue on April 6th (opening for Protest the Hero, Periphery and Jeff Loomis) to find out how the band is enjoying their first visit to the States, and hear more about their new release Grind The Ocean.
SLUG: How has the tour been so far? Is everyone as hilarious as they seem?
Dez Nagle: They’re awesome; everyone’s been getting on really well. We couldn’t think of a better tour music-wise. We were so happy about that. We knew the Periphery guys from touring in Europe before with them, but the Protest guys and Jeff Loomis and Today I Got The Plague we just met at the start of this. Everyone’s just one big happy family and helps each other out, there’s no egos or anyone causing any havoc, it’s been great.
SLUG: Have you noticed any major differences between the US and UK metal scenes?
Nagle: Distance in driving for sure, which is just unbelievable. We’ve already had four 12-15 hour drives, which you might have one if you’re unlucky in Europe. In the UK it’s completely unheard of; the longest drive you can have is six hours. Crowd-wise, I’d say the Americans we’ve met so far have been really forthcoming in terms of actually coming up and talking to us, whereas some of the UK fans can be rather shy. Which is good, we want to hear feedback from people. The drive in Europe is better, yes, but this is a new thing for us. Seeing the different and yet similar culture is the interesting part that comes with it. When you’re coming to the States—especially each different state—it’s interesting to see the different people that come out to the shows and the reactions you get. One thing about Europe: if we had a bad show, they let us know about it. [laughs] But we haven’t had any major hiccups here yet.
SLUG: The thing I love most about progressive metal like what you play is that so many talented bands can take the same similar elements and yet create out of them their own unique, layered sound. What is it, in your opinion, that gives The Safety Fire its unique feel?
Nagle: Protest and Periphery and us, we can all be lumped together within that kind of progressive metal, yet still have very different sounds, and still share the same fan base which is obviously great. For us, we incorporate more of a pop sensibility to our music. Everyone has their hooks and stuff but we have our influences that come from a very different place that’s not metal or progressive in any kind of way. The reason something’s progressive isn’t because it’s influenced by prog, it’s because it’s influenced by pretty much everything. It’s that combination and arrangement which really brings a new fresh sound, as it were. For us, it’s the idea of not having any set rules in terms of what we want to do musically, but also keeping a kind of frame of mind that we want a good, well-written songs as the main point, rather than saying, “Oh, this is a technically amazing part here, this is a showy part here,” or whatever. It’s about the song, so that someone who doesn’t necessarily know about the technicality or what you’re doing musically can listen to it and say “That’s a really cool song.” That’s what we go out to do.
SLUG: So the release of Grind The Ocean has been delayed a little bit. I was hoping to ask you how you think the album has been received, but instead I will ask: have the songs you’ve played from this upcoming album been received well live?
Nagle: We’ve been playing songs from the album live, and there’s a few songs people know, like the single “Huge Hammers,” and you’ll see a good reaction to that. But we get a lot of people afterwards coming up to us at the merch stand saying “We’ve never heard of you guys before, it was amazing, I want to buy the album.” That kind of response has been great, to have people who’ve never heard of us before and have that reaction where people want to spend their money on us is awesome. Even seeing day-to-day that fans have bought the album and think we’re amazing, you can’t really ask for much more than that.
SLUG: Sometimes, the singing reminds me of Fear Factory, especially when it’s over certain sections of guitars, and that causes a weird and yet comforting flashback moment when I’m listening. Were they one of the band’s inspirations, or am I just hearing things? Who would you count as inspirations to your sound?
Nagle: We’ve had that before—none of us are Fear Factory fans! [laughs] Sean [McWeeney, vocals] also gets Lemmy from Motorhead, which I don’t hear at all… maybe it’s the English accent. We’ve gotten Sting quite a lot, too. Vocally for Sean, he’s inspired by singers like Maynard from Tool, and Bjork. Lyrically, I think he’s more influenced by books and social surroundings than anything else, like Samuel Beckett. Our music influence is such a wide base: Carnivore, Between the Buried and Me, then more pop-related stuff like Prince, Peter Gabriel, Kaki King. As a guitarist, I take a lot of influence from a lot of fusion guitarists, which doesn’t necessarily translate as a sort of straight influence, but it does translate in note choices and how you write things.
SLUG: How do you guys go about picking which songs you’ll wind up putting in a set? With progressive metal, I imagine the selection process is a lot more convoluted.
Nagle: For a tour like this we definitely keep in mind the kind of fans that are coming, so we kind of cater the set list to that. And the way the set list runs is quite important because you can build and kind of have different peaks and troughs in terms of vibes for the set. Like for this we knew we needed to be a high-energy set, because we’ve only got 30 minutes, so want to do as much as you can in a short space of time. I think for us as a live band, we have a lot of fun on stage, so we want that energy and vibe to be transferred into the people watching us.
SLUG: Tell me about your writing process.
Nagle: I’m the main songwriter in terms of the general structure of the songs. Sean writes all the lyrics, then he and I come together to come up with ideas for the actual vocal lines which can be quite complex in terms of arrangement because we have a lot of duel harmonies parts which aren’t necessarily doing the same thing. The actual song “Grind the Ocean” on the album took a year to write, but there’s other songs that we wrote in two weeks. Sometimes it kind of flows and you let it roll, sometimes it’s segmented for whatever reason.
SLUG: How do you feel about the current state of metal?
Nagle: I think it’s interesting, when you’re a kid and you see bands, the business side of it is nothing. You don’t ever think about it, you just know: “This is a magazine, and these are the bands in the magazine, this is the band I’m going to see.” When you grow up, you see how those things work, it’s interesting to know the business and why certain bands tour with each other, or in cycles or whatever. I’m friends with a lot of metal bands from other genres and work with quite a few as a producer, so it’s interesting to see that stuff. In general, it seems to be in the UK getting bigger—not exponentially growing, but in terms of festivals like the Download Festival, it’s getting bigger every year. I think it’s a really exciting time—there’s a lot of new music coming out. The only downside is that because there’s so much new music coming out, it’s easy to miss really good bands.
SLUG: What do you hope to see your band accomplish in 2012?
Nagle: Coming to America was one of the things we definitely wanted to accomplish, so that’s done! We’re going on a European tour with Periphery and Between the Buried And Me, which is huge—Protest and Between the Buried and Me are two of our favorite bands. In fact touring with Protest is awesome, to see a band you like that much every night, I feel very privileged and lucky to do it. We want to tour as much as we can, with the album coming out in a week or so, we want to get out there and promote it. Hopefully we can come back to America at the end of the year. We’ll be playing the Download Festival in the UK as well.
Exclusive CD Reviews
Out To Die
Aura Noir = early Venom + Darkthrone + Absu
Sixteen years after their initial Black Thrash Attack, these Norwegian blasphemers are still shredding riffs most sinister. Every song on Out To Die burns with pure black malice and screaming thrash energy, while the pace of their music has picked up substantially since 2008's Hades Rise. Tracks like “Withheld” and “Deathwish” launch themselves forward with inexorable force, while “Abbadon” and “Trenches” overflow with blistering, complex guitar work. Yet, “Priest's Hellish Fiend” steals the whole album with its pugilistic riffs and pitch-black tone. Thrash metal's glory days are far from over, and even though the genre can occasionally feel done to death, bands like Aura Noir have shown there's plenty more to do with the style. By infusing their sound with the misanthropic evilness of black metal, Aura Noir have managed to craft yet another truly memorable entry into the annals of metal history. If you're a fan of black thrash, Out To Die will rip your face apart. –Henry Glasheen
Onwards to the Pits
Deathhammer = Kreator + Holy Moses (early) + Sodom + Vulcano
Ostensibly, this trash duo from Norway is quite pleasing, especially now that everything “old” is new and cool. If you haven’t heard much early German thrash metal or other thrash crossed with early black metal, Deathhammer will sound as raw as fresh Indian burns from the school bully. Initially Deathhammer fooled me—I dug the overall sound, but quickly recalled in my abysmal brain banks the likes of Sodom’s “Deathlike Silence,” Kreator’s “Total Death” and the equally facefucking “Walpurgisnight.” from Holy Moses. I can’t shake how hard Deathhammer is trying to be like the cool guys from back then. The vocals are the giveaway on Onwards to the Pits, as they try the hardest and ultimately bring down some actually well-assembled riffs, drums and barely audible bass concoctions. If “The Final Black Mass” came about in ’86 or ’87, Deathammer could have had the chance to be revered as legends—unfortunately for the band, it’s decades later. The worst song is the botched crust (or whatever the hell the production/band crew was thinking) of “Deathrashing Sacrifice” and its heavily overblown vocal approach. A couple redeemable songs do not make for an album I want to regularly spin, because the style and atmosphere on those early German thrashsterpieces kill Deathammer’s panache. All bitching aside, give me a bunch more songs that don’t sound like Endless Pain re-channeled and I’ll pay attention longer. –Bryer Wharton
Heidevolk = Otyg + Turisas + Storm
Marking the departure of Sebas Bloeddorst from their ranks, Batavi nonetheless delivers what is perhaps the most focused and mature iteration of Heidevolk's sound. The first track, appropriately titled “Een Nieuw Begin,” begins this dark, epic journey through the dark ages and beyond, following a tribe of Germanic people known as the Batavi, which hailed from the band's home province of Gelderland. As always, the dual vocals of Joris den Boghtdrincker and Mark Splintervuyscht feature prominently in the mix, but on Batavi their voices feel fully realized, and immersed in a musical landscape that travels beyond traditional beer-soaked jollity and deep into Heidevolk's folk roots. This album picks up where Uit Oude Grond left off, but with a greater sense of cohesiveness and consistency in the tone, and a greater sense of heaviness to each riff. Though they've always been heavily influenced by the early music of Andreas Hedlund, Batavi reinvigorates that nostalgic late '90s folk metal sound with a healthy dose of modern production. “Wapenbroeders” recalls Otyg with its moody vocal lines and prominent violin, while “Het Verbond Met Rome” reminds me of Vintersorg's first two albums. In short, Batavi will remind you of all the great things you miss about folk metal, with enough contemporary sensibility to give you hope for a revival of the sound. –Henry Glasheen
Death Scroll of Seven Hells and It’s Infernal Majesties
Hellvetron = IC Rex + Abruptum + Hypothermia
This 7-track debut album from Texas black metal duo Hellvetron will surprise your dark side with its psalms of the obscure. Hellvetron’s music is blatantly valium-dosed—the tempo rarely ever rises above the dreadfully slow and is a far cry from the duo’s other project, Nyogthaeblisz. The album plays out in ritualistic fashion. There’s plenty to be found if you’re intent on exploring the album’s obscurities, especially in the lyrics. Some metal folks in the extreme circles like to write off the occult as cliché or redundant ,but nothing about this album is half-assed. Hellvetron nails the atmosphere and ritualistic intent on this record to insane perfection. Guitar and bass tones and the production lurk in different pathways. The guitar often feels a bit subdued with a chamber music, echo-type feeling, especially when it’s the only instrument wailing. Bass and vocal approaches come closer and louder in the mix, offering blunt, heavy-handed strikes to the aural passages. If you take a step back musically, the style Hellvetron offers has been delivered by other artists before, but crafting something groundbreaking is not Hellvetron’s intent. They deliver a ritual for your senses, welcome or unwelcome. In a genre where atmosphere and feeling is everything, Hellvetron wrap their sound in blackness—play this album enough and the light from the sun will start to be blotted out. –Bryer Wharton
Primal Rock Rebellion
Primal Rock Rebellion = Disturbed + SikTh + Iron Maiden
Unexpected pairings often happen in the world of metal and hard rock. Enter Primal Rock Rebellion: an unlikely paring of longtime Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith and Mike Goodman, vocalist from “djent” fire-starters SikTh. Awoken Broken has some brilliant moments of hard rock and a huge fresh factor, though songs on this album will leave Maiden fans stuttering and fans of Goodman (and his harder-edged music) off-put by the blend of hard rock/heavy metal and extreme elements. When Awoken Broken hits, it hits. “Bright as a Fire” works extremely well, with an almost Maiden-tinged intro beckoning to a heavy-handed, well-delivered main guitar riff. Howver, “I see Lights” feels like a big misfire in many ways—it feels forced and tries to hard to be different. The stuff that works best are the more hard rock/heavy metal style cuts, such as “White Sheet Robes,” “Search For Bliss” and the album’s title track. Ultimately, the songs that work well and the misfires equal out on Awoken Broken. Complaints aside, I’d take this record over most of the more mainstream harder-edged stuff that gets so much attention. –Bryer Wharton