Welcome to another edition of Bitter and Then Some. This week we have an interview with Kevin Baker of All Pigs Must Die, who are releasing their full-length debut via Southern Lord on August 16. Also included is a rundown of this week’s metal happenings around Salt Lake, a stream of the new singles collection from screamo pioneers Pg.99 and extended reviews of new albums from Ringworm and Harm’s Way by Dylan Chadwick.
On August 2, Robotic Empire will be releasing a collection of non-album material from Pg.99 fittingly titled “Singles.” The experimental hardcore group, which boasted an eight member lineup at the peak of their existence, will be reuniting to perform their classic album “Document 8” at Best Friends Day in Richmond, VA on August 20. Check out a stream of Singles below.
As you may already know, Club Vegas is closing its doors for good tonight, with a big sendoff from locals Deny Your Faith, Better Life Band, Truce, Riksha, Blood of Saints, Reaction Effect, Still-Born, A Balance of Power and Dead Vessel. There’s no cover, but they are asking for donations. It’s always a bummer to see a local venue close, especially one that houses metal and books local bands so often, so show Dusty and his crew how much you’ll miss ‘em by visiting the club one last time.
Also tonight @ the Complex "Scream the Prayer Tour" with Norma Jean, Sleeping Giant, The Chariot, War of Ages, Close Your Eyes, Texas in July, The Breather, The Great Commission, As Hell Retreats and Sovereign Strength for $20.
On Thursday July 28, locals The Dark Past will be playing an all-ages CD release show at Kilby Court. Freedom Before Dying, Numbered With The Dead, My Final Estate, DeadGates and Face The Tempest open the show. Doors open at 6:00 and $7 gets you in.
Also July 28, Bar Deluxe (21+) has Hells Belles (a female tribute band to AC/DC) with Thunderfist opening. $12 gets you in.
On Friday the 29, Burt’s hosts a night of local metal with Visigoth, Beyond This Flesh and Blood Purge. Doors open at 9:00, and the show is being filmed for Comcast’s Bandwagon TV series. As always, Burt’s is 21+.
If you’d rather get some hardcore in you on Friday, check out touring acts Revenge and Hate Your Guts with locals Gunner, Cherish the King and Thousand at the Boing House. The show runs from 6:00-9:00. No price, but donations are encouraged to help out the local bands.
On Saturday, July 30, The Garage ($21) hosts locals Muckraker, Oldtimer and Jesust at 199 North Beck Street. $5.
Also Saturday, locals Butcher Babies, Brute Force, Ravings of a Madman and the Thirteenth Key will be at the Dawg Pound, $10.
Also worth a mention, A Perfect Circle will be at Kingsbury Hall on Monday August 1st. Tickets range from $45-$75.
On Tuesday August 2, one of the biggest metal tours of the summer rolls into SLC as Torche, Big Business and Helms Alee play In the Venue. Doors open at 8:00 and tickets are a cool $10. Check out a stream of Big Business’ new EP here: http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2011/07/new_big_busines.htm
All Pigs Must Die interview
All Pigs Must Die are influenced by a variety of bands and incorporate a number of genres into their musical approach, but the word that best describes the band is simply “heavy.” Taking cues from the straightforward, pummeling sound of current bands like Trap Them and Black Breath as well as old school death metal and d-beat, All Pigs Must Die’s debut album God Is War is an unrelenting jackhammer of anger that sounds infinitely longer than its 32 minutes--but in the best possible way. I spoke with vocalist Kevin Baker (while he was on break at work) about the new project last week.
SLUG: I know that a few of the guys in the band work full time. How does that impact the process of making music in All Pigs Must Die?
Kevin Baker: The most important thing is the music. When it comes to making the music, writing and recording, that’s the thing that’s most important to us as a band. We already have a bunch of songs written for the next release. When you’re a full-time band, which I’ve been in and Ben is in with Converge, there’s a cycle you get yourself into that you have to be in to write, to record, to release, to tour at the right time and the right places--there’s a lot of stuff you have to do. With this band none of that factored in--we just wanted to make music. We just wanted to do a heavy band--something that’s a bit more bare bones than anything we’d done before, something with a bit more of an old school metal influence. As far as my work goes, I’m flexible and I can go out and play a show on a weekend here or there. We’re going out in August to do a bunch of shows on the west coast, so we can make time for something like that, but it’s hard being out there for a month. It’s not something any of us are really interested in doing. We just want this to be our project and choose to play when we wanna play, write when we wanna write and record when we wanna record and not have any kind of schedule imposed upon us.
SLUG: In some of the press releases I’ve read about All Pigs Must Die and even on your Facebook page there’s no mention of The Hope Conspiracy or Converge. Was that a conscious decision?
Baker: I’m looking at a postcard right now that has a press release from Southern Lord and it talks about Converge and The Hope Conspiracy, so there’s some of that out there. I understand why they’ve gotta do it, but when we first started out we were doing everything on our own as far as funding this whole project. We didn’t think it was important to mention our other bands and I still don’t think it’s important. Anyone who knows me or is into The Hope Conspiracy will find out about this one way or the other and whether they like it or not is up to them. As far as the music is concerned and the band is concerned, what we set out to do, like I told you before, was to write and tour and play whenever we felt like it. We didn’t feel it was necessary to pull the “members of” thing because we weren’t trying to pull this automatic group of people that had interest in us. We wanted it to just be what it was, and if people picked up it, they’d pick up on it, and if they didn’t, they didn’t. The bios and the information on the band has been devoid of that kind of stuff up to this point. We didn’t really do any interviews either. We were putting it out on our own, nothing went out to magazines or press or anything. We kept it real organic, for the people who would have that initial interest in it.
SLUG: I think that’s really cool, especially since so many bands are hyped based on previous projects and it’s used as a way to create unwarranted buzz.
Baker: People really put a lot of importance on that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an idiot, I know why they do it. It gets the word out there if you say this is Ben from Converge’s other band. It makes sense why labels have to do stuff like that, but when we started out that definitely wasn’t important for us to do that. I personally thought it would’ve been in bad taste. I’m just not a self promoter. I like doing things for me with my friends and whoever catches on and gets it or likes it, that’s great. Whoever doesn’t, that doesn’t bother me. I don’t do this for attention. I don’t do this so that I have people tell me how great it is or how shitty it is. None of those things really matter to me going into it, but when people do pick up on it, that’s great. I’m appreciative of it and I think we all are, but that being said we just do this thing for us, straight up. When the people who come out to the shows know the words to the songs, that’s just an extra bonus to doing this.
SLUG: With the band now being on Southern Lord Records and having a PR campaign coming from Earsplit, has promoting the new album been a weird adjustment?
Baker: Yeah, a little bit. Before there was no set release date or anything like that. When stuff was ready to be sent out to be manufactured, that’s when it was sent it out. When it came back, that’s when it came back. When it went up online, that’s when that happened. With this, there’s a lot of stuff out of the band’s hands. We were fully prepared to put this album out on our own like we did the first record. Greg at Southern Lord got in touch with my by email out of nowhere at the end of last year. He got his hands on the EP and he really liked it and just wanted to write and tell us he liked it and that was the extent of the conversation. I was blown away by it, because as far as a label goes I really respect what they do over there. We kept in touch and wanted to let him know what the band was up to. We went in to record the new album at God City right before Christmas and he told us to keep in touch, and I told him that if we ever did anything with another label that Southern Lord would be the one we wanted to work with. We played some shows in New York and word got back to him from some friends telling him that they were great shows, so he invited us to come down to play the Power of the Riff showcase at SXSW in Austin in March, and we said yes. Going to a place and being able to play in front of people from all over the world as a band that isn’t full-time seemed like a good idea. Between the time we agreed to play at SXSW and going down there we hashed out a record deal with Southern Lord and things have been awesome.
SLUG: What has it been like playing sporadically to people who want to see All Pigs Must Die rather than as a full time touring band?
Baker: We’re fully prepared to play in front of a bunch of people who don’t know who we are or who aren’t interested, so we have that in mind. We’re a new band, and not everyone knows us. When it’s a good show, it’s awesome. As long as we play well, we’re psyched. As long as everybody’s nailing it, that’s what’s important to us. If you’re a full time band on tour and this type of band, you’re gonna have the real awesome show, and it’s gonna be followed by three really abysmal shows--that’s just the nature of touring, especially in America. If you’re gonna do that, it has to be a conscious decision to make an experience out of it. When I was in the Hope Conspiracy, it was all about the experience of seeing the country, being surrounded by people you care about and playing music. You get good times mixed in with really low times, so it becomes about enjoying the entire experience. The same goes for this. Everyone’s older now--we don’t have time to get in the van and get out there, so we do what we can to get in front of as many people as we can.
SLUG: You talked earlier about how this is more of a straightforward heavy band. Have you seen your taste changing as you get older or are you incorporating influences in All Pigs Must Die that you didn’t in Hope Conspiracy?
Baker: Yeah. As far as taste goes, I still have the things I always love, the staples that I always stand by, but there are always new things that come along. Sometimes it’s stuff that’s been around since 1970 that you’re just hearing for the first time and it blows you away, or it could be stuff that came out this week. If you’re into music you’re always exploring and trying to find new things that get you stoked and keep you inspired. The influence that this band has comes from bands that I’ve been listening to since the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. A lot of them are the same influences that Hope Conspiracy had, but it’s more of a bare bones, sledgehammer approach. I think it embodies all the things we’ve loved since our teens--raw punk, early American hardcore, British hardcore like Discharge, early black metal, early death metal--but as a whole we bring it all together and try to be our own thing. I don’t think we’re doing anything that a thousand bands aren’t doing right now or haven’t done in the past, but the important thing is that we’re doing it. We just wanted to do something new that we as people haven’t done before as musicians
SLUG: Was it easier recording the new album now that the band has been together for a while and recorded an EP? Did you change your approach at all or try to bring any new elements into the sound?
Baker: Totally the same approach. There’s no conscious decision making as far as slow or fast or whatever. Basically this is the sound that we make as the four people involved int he writing process. Matt writes a majority of the riffs and compositions on his own at home on GarageBand, sends it to us and Adam and Ben meet up in New York and go over what he sent and send back the song with drums and guitar. From there we just meet up and smooth out the songs.
SLUG: Florian Bertmer did the art for both the EP and the new album. What made you decide to use his art?
Baker: He’s a friend of ours. When we were talking about who we wanted to do the art we had a short list of people, but everyone who has been involved with this have been friends for years. We didn’t know Greg or the Southern Lord guys, but up to that point we wanted everyone to be a friend of the band--that’s why we recorded with Kurt [Ballou]--and Florian is a guy that we kept in touch with on a regular basis. He was one of the first people to hear the songs and we approached him about doing the art. As far as being able to pick up on a concept and illustrate it, he’s the guy. It can be hard to figure out what we want to do with the art, but once we came up with the concept and he got going on it, he knocked it out of the park. I think that the EP and the LP go really well together visually. I think the art for the new album is a step above the wolf on the EP, and I think the sound on the new album is a step above the sound on the EP, so I think it’s a perfect match.
Blog exclusive CD reviews
Harm’s Way = Machine Head + Integrity + Godflesh
Many may mistake Chicago’s Harm’s Way as a new development in heavy metal, but thank the gods for in-the-know hardcore kids to snidely roll their eyes and remind us that the band has been going at it for a few years now. In fact, Harm’s Way began as dirgy power violence cretins with a tongue-in-cheek militant straight edge shtick, bred from the same teet as other Chi-town monsters Weekend Nachos, before streamlining themselves with a meatier, moshier approach on subsequent releases like Reality Approaches and No Gods No Masters. (And though it’s an irrelevant detail, it’s one everyone seems to fixate on. Their singer is the size of a ‘roid infused silverback gorilla and looks as if he can bench press an ocean liner).
Isolation continues in the mosh-tradition of the latter, only with some added bells and whistles, and comes off as an ambitious studio project. Compositions are lengthy, chops are razor-sharp and production is punchy. Vocalist James “Judge Hammers” Pliggue snarls like a rabid dog overtop the heavy metallic-hardcore hybrid of band mates, while the band generally works to wrangle crafty studio resources into something gripping and interesting. “Scrambled” sports an acidic mixture of impassioned yowling and electronic studio fuzz, “Pretender” is a seven minute extendo-jam, the aural equivalent of picking deeper and deeper into a scab, and “Breeding Grounds,” with its reverb drenched vocal, misanthropic sample (“people are of no value!”) and incessant groove is leaden and ferocious.
Still, the pummeling gets tiresome as concepts are relentlessly mashed into oblivion, and songs tend to drag. Cinder block cuts like “New Beginnings,” “Timing” and “Slither” play like by-the-numbers moshers that struggle to distinguish themselves or hold any listener’s attention, and the standard chug-chug breakdown formulas get exhausted fairly quickly. Sure, there’s earnestness here, and the band is clearly fighting to break away from the glut of generic iron-bellied mosh permeating the hardcore scene today. (Check “Becoming,” a refreshing number which breaks from the hardcore paradigm entirely by divulging into a throbbing hunk of cybernetic industrialism a’la Al Jourgensen) It’s certainly a palpable effort that’s as commendable as it is exhausting.Ultimately, Isolation Harm’s Way’s strongest offering to date. It’s tight, it shows them experimenting with their sound and foreshadows a journey into potentially exciting territory…but it’s far from fully realized. A little fat-trimming, and a little less redundant bludgeoning might work wonders for the future, but for now? Listeners should settle in and get comfortable…the beatdown will take a while. –Dylan Chadwick
Ringworm = Integrity + In Cold Blood + Kreator
Though Integrity gets the lion’s share of hype, notoriety and acclaim from Clevo’s glut of hardcore bands, smart mark ‘core nerds know in their blackened, barely present hearts that Ringworm’s always been a better band. The band’s got a near flawless discography, unmatched musicianship, and one of the best vocalists in the whole biz…but we’ll get to that in a bit.
Ringworm’s newest offering Scars instantly connects with fans on a level they can dig. It opens with a terrifying sample (something about God being dead or something), it’s relentless and chock full of that trademark metal-via-hardcore sound and really the first point of interest here. It’s a sound Ringworm’s always done right, filtering just enough metal into that rigid hardcore formula, just enough teutonic shredding to make it potent without making it cheesy. Check out the superb axe work on “Cleansing of the Fall,” “Unravel” or the gargantuan title track. A steel-bellied mix of bottom-rung galloping chug and solo-picking a’la german thrash from the Destruction or Sodom camp.
Second is Ringworm’s metronomic rhythm section, a facet that’s played to bloodsoaked perfection throughout. Nothing flashy, but always maniacally driving and deep in the pocket, shifting and mutating from frenetic fills into thunderous mid-tempos. (Check “To the Grave”).
But most of all, it’s that vocal delivery. Oh that vocal delivery. Akin to an angel getting ripped in half. To live wolverines being fed through a wood chipper. To the final seal of Heaven’s Final War being broken asunder. Like a slathering animal, snarling through his own faithless commentary of a world gone to the dogs, ravaged and mutilated, ripe for an apocalyptic raid. He’s as potent as ever, acidic and laced with fury…and backed by a stellar band of hellions, he sounds practically god-like. (Check “Used Up, Spit Out.”) But what more would you expect from a guy named The Human Furnace?
Ultimately, Ringworm can never get their share of praise. They’re one of the only hardcore bands who can properly inject metal into their sound without sounding like goofballs, and their storied discography should speak or itself. Scars is easily their work since Birth is Pain and easily fits superbly alongside other undisputed classics like The Promise and Justice Replaced by Revenge as A-Level Ringworm that’ll be talked about for years. –Dylan Chadwick