Author: Conor Dow

prize countryPrize Country
Lottery of Recognition

Exigent Records
Street: 02.27
Prize Country = Unsane + Zeke + some Refused

Formed in May of 2006, Prize Country has a way with being catchy without being infectious, fun without being a guilty pleasure and rockin’ without being masturbatory. No matter how many times I listen to this, I really have been unable to find any flaws. While the vocal tone would be the only detractor for my personal tastes, I can’t even say that it’s necessarily bad, just… distinct. Their hard rock style seems to be influenced by older noise rock and punk, but the guitar layering is actually quite intricate and entirely too technical to be considered anything close to “punk”. The secret weapon could possibly be their bass player, being crystal clear in the production, and how he and the rhythm section work together. Each listen of this has me enjoying it more, car windows down, steering-wheel drum kit out in full force. Turn this up to eleven.

With raw production, blazing guitars, shrieking vocals and blasting drums, black metal has always purported an extreme display of individualism, making every effort to reject all things politically correct and socially acceptable. Like everything however, human beings have turned those sparks of individualistic expression into hackneyed, formulaic practices, which have become little more than parodies of themselves. It takes an overwhelming dose of praxis for this cycle to be broken. The somewhat reclusive members of Wolves in the Throne Room who hail from Olympia, Washington and are some of the few individuals who strive to break these patterns. Not only do they defy most typical black metal forms of tradition, but also black metal culture as a whole. “We have no intention of contributing anything to traditional black metal. The orthodox thinking involved in the construction of traditional black metal is repugnant and stifling” Rick (no last name given) states.

With their new album Two Hunters, released in late September, and their first national tour underway, waves are being made as their ideologies are expressed unto many for the first time. “Our live performances are concerned with transcending the ubiquitous confines of the here and now, leaving both band and crowd shaken free, in however small degree, from the smothering edifice of our modern culture.” Although many audience members may only be attending the show for loud music, there are also those who will be there to truly listen, “we endeavor to rouse those in attendance from the psychic torpor society demands of its constituents.”

While metal can be seen as a blatant assertion of masculinity, some bands attempt to balance this out with the inclusion of female vocal elements. Rick explains, “our lives are full of powerful women and naturally these experiences find their way into our music. We seek to honor the glorious nature of womanhood in our music as we do all the primal forces around us.” Wolves’s first album includes the talents of Jamie Meyers (Hammers of Misfortune), and the recent release of Two Hunters showcases the talents of Jessica Kinney (Eyvind Kang, Asva) who offers her femininity to two of the four tracks on the album. “Jessica is focused professional with a powerful talent.” Rick continues, “She quickly internalized our lyrics and ideas about her contribution and effortlessly surpassed our expectations with a performance more meaningful than we’d hoped for.” The band yields a strong reverence for femininity not only in their beliefs, but also when creating their music. “We have worked to make all representations of women in our music and art true to the feminine spirit as we have experienced it and find the prurient manner in which women are portrayed in the culture at large and metal specifically utterly sickening,” Rick affirms.

To many fans, black metal is simply a style of music, or a means to individualize them among the herd. However it has developed clichéd traditions and tired theatrics that have very little value beneath the surfaces of corpse paint and wrist spikes. I asked Rick about a previous statement I had read in regards to Two Hunters being “a tribute to the genre,” in light of their bold defiance to what black metal has become. “Our tribute is more to the radical and innovative spirit conjured when the bands at the genesis of black metal created something new and engaging with their music rather than to the sounds or appearances that spirit manifested as. Tribute by rote mimicry is a hollow gesture.” It could be said that these roots and this spirit which was evoked when the medium of black metal was created was not only inspirational, but completely essential. What once was vapid for many have been made new again with a “cleansing fire” and by seeking out these roots, the pallid representations of what black metal stems from can be interpreted in a new light. “Our influences for Two Hunters were much the same as for Diadem of 12 Stars, as well as the new material we’re currently writing. Life, death, horror, awe. There are never any unadulterated veins of influence in what we do as everything is a collaborative venture, the three of us continually working and reworking everything until any recognizable individuation in the work is obliterated.”

But is human expression, art or even black metal just another form of deep rooted narcissism? Rick explains, “The intrinsic and elemental human experiences reflected in black metal resonate with us and will always be fertile and valid inspirations for art in any medium.” Exhibiting these intense feelings of misanthropy may call for conjugation with an extreme medium. For many, this is why extreme metal continues to be such an abundant catharsis. Rick summarizes, “it will always be important for humans to reflect upon the world and puzzle at their place in it; whether it be rapture in the presence natures glories or the revulsion and disgust felt when faced with misery and death. To express these considerations is life itself.”

Wolves in the Throne Room play at The Broken Record on October 26th, 2007.

As Sugarhouse slowly devolves into corporate strip malls, ultimately pushing the small business owners out, many patrons of the area are already looking for an alternative free market. On March 1, 2007, Red Light Books was established in a small and uniquely artistic area near the heart of downtown Salt Lake City. While you might not find John Grisham’s latest work there, you’re certain to find something out of the ordinary that might perk your interest; whether it’s something like Muerte! Death in Mexican Popular Culture by Harvey Bennett Stafford or Sex Machines: Photographs and Interviews by Timothy Archibald, if it’s strange and wonderful, chances are it’s on the shelves at Red Light.
The idea of opening a bookstore hadn’t always been in the forefront of Jared and Tia Martinez’s minds. “ We honestly didn’t plan on doing this,” Jared said. He continued to explain, “ It’s funny because the people at Slowtrain suggested we check this place out, because we were talking to them about books one day.” After that, things started to come together quickly. “I used to run LionHead Records so I had some connections with distributors,” Jared said. LionHead Records started out as a label, before it became a record store that specialized in selling dub, reggae, hip-hop, jazz and some rock.“Tia was looking for a job because I work full time for a computer company. She stayed home with our kids and needed something to get out of the house. [The owners of] Slowtrain said ‘hey, there’s that place on the corner, the landlord seems really cool,’” Jared said. “ It kind of came naturally just being into collecting books and ‘zines.”Over the past few months Red Light has become much more than just a bookstore. They’ve participated in Gallery Stroll and featured the photography of Andrew Nelson and the Dead Baby Show by Ben Thomas in June. Thomas’ show consisted of baby dolls, and parts of baby dolls, in gruesome and uncomfortable poses and situations. There have also been several grindcore and crust punk shows held in the basement free of charge. “That first show we did was amazing, Catheter with Pacifist.” Jared said. Robin Banks, one of the store’s employees and a member of Pacifist, organized the show.

On Saturday, July 14 Red Light will be hosting a noise festival. “Noise could be described as a futuristic style that doesn’t have any remnants of other music,” Jared said, “there are a lot of different sub-genres like Smegma who [play] psychedelic ‘found sounds’ which are all cut up, versus a band like Merzbow that’s just a brutal wall of noise.” Jared got into noise while playing with Iceburn during the mid to late 90s; “We were kind of experimenting with different types of noise sounds. Our guitar player and drummer were from Minneapolis and they were into a lot of bands that I had never even heard of. Those guys introduced me to that kind of music.” Jared said.

As far as current noise music. Jared had many recommendations. “ I’d recommend Wolf Eyes for sure. If you check them out, you can be introduced to a ton of different music because each guy in the band runs their own label, and are friends with handfuls of artists, so there’s this weird inter-breeding between these projects.” Some other artists in the top of his list include SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Death Roes, and Whitehouse.

The Doon’n Sick Noisefest, organized by Jared, Tia and Aaron Zillionaire, will be held at Red Light Books on Saturday, July 14th at 7:00pm. Black Seas of Infinity will be headlining the showcase. The festival will also feature The Tenants of Balthazaar’s Castle, The Schwas, Breakers of Men, Zach & Jessie, Added Oil, Sterile Garden, AODL, Weak Sisters, Nosferatu (Eli Morrison/8ctopus Records), Waxen Tomb, Ghastly Hatchling, Nolens Volens, Norwhal and Gudgeguh. Local filmmakers will also be showing their short films between the musical performances. If you’re a big fan of the style, or curious about what noise is, this festival is not to be missed. Red Light Books is located at 179 East 300 South in the Broadway district of downtown Salt Lake City. To find out more about upcoming events visit their Myspace page at www.myspace.com/redlightbooks.

Morning Constitutions
Larry the Cable Guy

Warner Brothers
Street: 04.03

Daniel Whitney, or as America knows him, “Larry the Cable Guy,” is a marketing genius. Work with me here. When he first started taking his comedy to the stage, he learned that the square, irreverent white-guy routine was not only covered, but done much better by others. Changing his persona drastically, Larry was born, pandering his tailor-made routine to southern, or “redneck” culture. Though the subject matter of much his material remains intact, it is heavily altered to match his new moniker. Today, the camouflage-hat-wearing comic makes millions starring in movies, music videos and comedic DVD and CD releases. While I’m not demanding all standup comedy to be laced with philosophy, one element of it that IS important to me is honesty. “Funny” is subjective, but standup comedy is a catharsis, and it can mean much more to a listener if it’s not marketed as a product. Dig deeper, and avoid this like a sweaty turd in your drink. -Conor Dow