Welcome to this week’s edition of Napalm Flesh. Today we have an interview with Harm’s Way vocalist James Pliggue, a rundown of this week’s metal events, and blog exclusive reviews of the new albums from Chasma, My Dying Bride, Root and Whitechapel.
On Saturday the 19th, Touche Amore, Pianos Become the Teeth and Seahaven will be at The Basement in Ogden. Tickets are $10 and music starts at 6:30. Listen to SLUG Contributing Editor Ricky Vigil’s interview with Touche Amore on this week’s episode of the SLUG podcast, Soundwaves From the Underground.
Also on Saturday, Spellcaster will be in town with local warriors Visigoth and Castleaxe for a night of mighty metal at Raunch Records. The show starts at 7:00, and make sure to bring $5 to help Spellcaster stay on the road. You can stream Spellcaster’s latest album, Under the Spell, here.
On Sunday November 20, Burt’s Tiki Lounge hosts The Atlas Moth and Batillus with locals Oldtimer and Cicadas. $6 gets you in the door and the show starts early at 7:00 PM.
Also at Burt’s on Monday the 21st, Vena Cava, Filth Lords, Two Bit and Rebellious Case will be playing a benefit for local punk house The Bikehouse. $5 gets you in and music starts at 9:00. For more info on The Bikehouse, click here.
On Wednesday the 23rd, Saltair hosts The Devil Wears Prada, WhiteChapel, Enter Shikari and For Today. Tickets are $23 and the show starts at 6:00.
Interview with Harm’s Way
“Yo! I heard those guys were like a militant edge band, and their singer was a body builder. I heard they use synthesizers now and don’t write mosh parts. Seriously man, that singer is scary!” This is the collective voice of every dumb ass on the internet, and I guess it’s no surprise. One of Chicago’s heaviest hitters of late, Harm’s Way has evolved from spastic Slap-a-Ham style mayhem into a full-blown lead pipe mosh unit, assaulting ear drums all over...and maybe that confuses people. If you didn’t make it out to see ‘em last week with Terror, The Acacia Strain and Stray from the Path at In the Venue, maybe this will tide you over. I caught up with Harm’s Way vocalist James Pliggue, to dispel some rumors, pontificate on the new record Isolation and discuss the future of the band. Don’t believe anything you read on the internet. Ever.
SLUG: So this is your second release for Closed Casket. How did the relationship come to be? Did they contact you, or did you go to them? How’s it been?
James Pliggue: Closed Casket has been nothing but the best for Harm's Way. Justin has helped advance our band and allow us to become more professional in our releases, merchandise, and promotion. Everyone in Harm's Way thanks him for everything he has done because he is an awesome person and Closed Casket is one of the best smaller labels out there. As far as the relationship beginning , I’m honestly not sure. I think Justin contacted us about doing a record on his label and from there we developed a great relationship.
SLUG: It seems like more people are using the term “metal” to describe your band nowadays. I guess this came about with Reality Approaches but I can remember people saying that the Imprisoned 7” was a “power violence” record. Would you have ever considered Harm’s Way to be a power violence band?
Pliggue: At one point Harm's Way was a really different band that wanted to sound a lot different. We loved Infest and one day we just started Harm's Way as a side project band. We went with that for a while.
SLUG: Did you want to change your style or did it happen organically?
Pliggue: Just like every band, we made a logical progression and came into our own. As far as it being conscious I guess it was, yes, but speaking for myself I got more and more into metal and listened to less and less hardcore. Therefore, when I would write music for the band it was influenced strictly from the variety of metal I was listening to.
SLUG: Have you had the opportunity to play with many metal bands?
Pliggue: We really haven't played with many metal bands at all. Harm's Way is a metal sounding band with the hardcore or punk mentality. We play hardcore shows because that's what we grew up with and that’s the music scene we developed in. Honestly though, as much as I love metal and the people in Harm's Way love it, the independent aspect of punk and hardcore still appeals to me a lot more than some metal dork bullshit.
SLUG: A few years back, I read an interview in Night Owl zine about hardcore not being “dangerous” anymore—something about a desire to start smashing things with a hammer, Mario bros style. Do you still feel that hardcore is too safe?
Pliggue: Well I guess I have always felt hardcore is an extreme expression of feelings, whether it be anger, sadness, hate, etc… As far as it being too safe? Unnecessary violence is extremely stupid and something that I have always hated about hardcore shows. However, hardcore is full of extreme emotions and violence is a part of it whether we like it or not.
SLUG: Also, straight edge (specifically militant straight edge) used to kind of be a topic surrounding you guys…even if it was sort of tongue-in-cheek…
Pliggue: We were never a "militant edge" band. That was something created by the internet because we had a few lyrics about straight edge or beating up drunks. Like I said before, hardcore is about extreme emotions and it doesn't meant I am going to carve X's in peoples backs. Harm's Way is a straight edge band and it is something we do care about, but is it the main aspect of the band? Not at all
SLUG: I’m curious about people always commenting on your size….I don’t think I’ve ever read a Harm’s Way review where it wasn’t mentioned. It seems like people fixate on that more than your band…Does that get old or do you even care?
Pliggue: I know for me it gets extremely old. The internet has blown so many things about Harm's Way out of proportion that it is sickening. Yea, ok, I enjoy working out and sports. I take my shirt off because for those who haven't played a show, it’s extremely fucking hot. I never claimed to be a tough guy or anything like that. The internet has just made that into some bullshit that’s untrue. Just because I am a "Jock" it's supposed to be a big deal, I guess. In reality, fuck what people think. That’s the Harm's Way mentality.
SLUG: What else can we expect from the band? Are you playing any of the fests or working on anything else…or just touring the new album?
Pliggue: We are not sure what is to come with the band next, an LP, a 7"...we don't know. As far as tours, we are touring with Acacia Strain, Terror, Stray from the Path for a full US in October and November. We are really excited for that.
SLUG: There’s a definite Death Metal influence in your sound…what specific death metal bands/albums are you guys listening to?
Pliggue: I love death metal. We love Bolt Thrower, Dismember, Entombed, Obituary, Asphyx, etc… As far as new bands we really like Tryptikon and Hail of Bullets. Those are bands that we jam constantly and as a band as a whole listen to a lot.
SLUG: Is there any sort of theme on the album? I just think about the samples and everything….Just about the world being a terrifying place or what?
Pliggue: There isn't necessarily a theme, but a lot of my lyrics are about the extremes I feel on a daily basis. There are a lot of things I despise and people I hate. That’s what I sing about because it is a great release to get those extreme feelings out. As I get older I guess I am getting more and more tired of the scum of this earth and realizing that they will never go away. It's terrifying but I guess that is why this band exists, to let out my hate and anger.
SLUG: Just a general contempt for humanity? Are you a generally pissed off dude, pretty mellow with a good musical catharsis?
Pliggue: I don't like the human race. I have found that people are generally bad. Murderers, rapists and thieves live on this earth and I am surrounded by them. There is no hope for the world and we will at some point destroy ourselves and the planet as we know it. I guess it just sickens me, what this world has become, and I know this world could be a much better place. I know it won’t ever change but over all, we are all pretty mellow guys and nice guys. Our band wants to try and be good citizens and not become what we hate in the end.
SLUG: There’s some interesting production on the album…some studio wizardry I guess. Was that a choice on your part or did someone else add that stuff in? Who produced the record?
Pliggue: Yeah we wanted it to sound spacey. The majority of us love stoner metal and stuff like that so adding in long drone sounds was just a progression we chose to add in the record. Andy Nelson recorded the record and he really helped us produce the record how we wanted it to sound.
SLUG: I think “Becoming” is an interesting song because it steps away from traditional metal/hardcore template and introduces a real industrial element. I’m curious as to how that song came to be. Was it written with the intention of being an industrial style song or did that come to be in the studio?
Pliggue: All I can say is we love Godflesh and Nine Inch Nails. We wanted to eventually have a song that combined these elements.
SLUG: Does Matt Rolland like the new record? Is it true that you consciously try and make music to bum him out?
Pliggue: Fuck him. Harm's Way hopes we bum out as many people as we can. (laughs).
SLUG: How has reception been for the new record so far?
Pliggue: I think the reception of the record is great. It has done a lot better than I thought, considering the change in sound and our progressions.
Blog Exclusive CD Reviews
Declarations of the Grand Artificer
Chasma = Wolves in the Throne Room + early Immortal + Pelican
Hailing from the school of atmospheric US black metal, Chasma's album is brutal and atmospheric, the meeting point between rapid blast beats and doom-laden sludge melodies. Across three lengthy tracks, Declarations of the Grand Artificer is a bleak, emotional piece that blends depressive progressions with the intensity and theatrics of black metal. Chasma's riffs build up intensity only to disperse into moody, clean guitars. Instead of getting caught up in experimentation and virtuosity, however, these passages contribute to an overall sense of hopelessness and despair. -Henry Glasheen
My Dying Bride
The Barghest O Whitby
My Dying Bride = Anathema (old) + Paradise Lost + Mourning Beloveth
“Fevering thoughts all hollow and old - Shivering veins now running cold - When dawns were young and woodland green - And silvery moons as often seen.” This is the My Dying Bride I loved in the earlier days. The band’s last couple full-lengths A Line of Deathless Kings and For Lies I Sire were a bit of a misfire for my tastes—they weren’t bad albums by any means but compared to The Dreadful Hours and The Angel and the Dark River they didn’t showcase the complete depressive depravity and despair that My Dying Bride is famous for. This 27-minute EP following up the bands intriguing orchestral re-interpretation of favorite songs that was the rather massive Evinta is a fresh shot of absolute horror and dread that can only come from My Dying Bride. Barghest really feels like it could’ve came straight from the time that The Dreadful Hours came out. Sharp, heavy guitars are juxtaposed with bone-marrow freezing violin work and vocalist Aaron Stainthrope’s harsh screams and mournful swooning. Complete immersion in the EP can result in feeling exactly as if you’re in the dark seaside moors of Whitby being stalked by unseen and unspeakable terror. –Bryer Wharton
Heritage of Satan
Root = Sanctus Diavolos-era Rotting Christ + Root
The first few moments you spend with Root's new album might confuse you, as the Czech masters of Satanic darkness have embraced a simpler, more direct sound that abandons many of their roots in classic black metal. After a few listens, though, the album starts to grow on you. Something betweyouen Jiri "Big Boss" Valter's theatrical voice coldly narrating epic battles between forces of Light and Darkness, and their mid-tempo martial sound makes Heritage of Satan sound more like a call to war than a conventional black metal album. I find it helps to think of it as the dark side of heavy metal, where slow, heavy beats make for excellent music for headbanging... or marching. -Henry Glasheen
Whitechapel = The Acacia Strain + Stigma + The Red Chord
There are many purposes for EP releases. Essentially, they are just mini albums or a method to dish out some b-sides or a nice tide over until the bands next full-length. I am of the opinion that there are many useless EPs in existence that are just a reason for people to spend money on a band, said bands to tour and sell merch for said EP and all that encompasses the same thing a band can do with a full-length. If the material on the EP is of merit, I’m all for it. At its core Whitechapel deliver one new song on this EP, its title track. I fully admit that I do not like what Whitechapel do musically, but I jive on the fact that many people do—it’s a bit more accessible a form of extreme music. “Section 8” is a generally boring and overproduced track—the guitar sound rips off of what Dino Cazares should’ve trademarked long ago, because all the bands that use it should owe the man some sort of royalty. The track churns and churns without really striking up any emotion or thought other than “on to the next.” And the next is, well, a lot worse. Take a raw, unnerving classic Pantera song, “Strength Beyond Strength,” and completely sterilize it and you have Whitechapel’s rendition it’s completely worthless even for any sake of nostalgia. The more interesting portions of the EP are the Big Chocolate and Ben Weinman (Dillinger Escape Plan) remixes, but unfortunately are followedup by a completely unneeded acoustic version of “End of Flesh”—taking an “extreme” song and stripping it down to acoustics doesn’t make much sense. But by all means don’t take my word for it, you can check out the song “Section 8” online via Metal Blades website. –Bryer Wharton