Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Review: Pilgrim - Misery Wizard (2012)

Pilgrim [ Facebook | MySpace ]
Misery Wizard

Pilgrim - Misery Wizard
For the well-informed doom metal fan, choosing an appropriately listless and depressive soundtrack for the gloomiest of moods usually means pulling an album from the catalog of bands like St. Vitus, Reverend Bizarre, or Lord Vicar. Rhode Island's Pilgrim, self-described "Disciples of True Doom", look to add their name to such a lamentative list with their debut album Misery Wizard. Crushing, ponderous riffs and a laggardly pace dominate the album, but Pilgrim conjures up a few surprises to keep listeners from succumbing to an otherwise overwhelming sense of despair.

The first of these surprises is more of a tease, as Misery Wizard's lead-off track "Astaroth" is a an up-tempoed (for doom metal) number with very catchy riffs. The guitar sound possesses plenty of the requisite fuzziness and more than a hint of a Black Sabbath influence. The vocals, when they finally appear, arrive in the form of distorted chants that eventually give way to mainman The Wizard's intonations. Consistently set back in the mix, The Wizard's voice isn't particularly strong and is rather limited in range but his roughened style fits nicely into Pilgrim's formula.

"Astaroth" serves as a tease to listeners because its Pentagram-like groove is instantly discarded when the oppressive title track lumbers forth. The tempo of "Misery Wizard" is agonizingly slow, with the lazy riffs and drawn out vocals emphasizing the nearly stalled pace. A lackadaisical solo dominates the latter moments of the song and quickens the momentum ever so slightly, but this song - along with "Masters of the Sky" and "Forsaken Man" - are crushingly slow dirges designed for the most stalwart of funerary doom fans. Thankfully that latter half of "Quest", where The Wizard unleashes a rather enjoyable bluesy Black Sabbath run and drummer Krolg Splinterfist (Dwarven chieftain, perhaps?) flails about with reckless abandon, livens the mood and results in another of Misery Wizard's standout moments. "Adventurer" is likewise a touch of fresh air with its uptempo pace and infectious groove. The Wizard gets a little innovative on this track, briefly introducing a death metal roar to his vocal style and kicking out a few nice guitar runs.

A handful of traditional groove-inspired moments aside, Misery Wizard is a plodding foray into the cavernous depths of exceedingly slow doom. If observing glacial advancement and watching paint dry can be counted among your most favorite hobbies, then Pilgrim's debut release will definitely not disappoint.

Track Listing
2Misery Wizard11:34
4Masters of the Sky11:50
6Forsaken Man13:45
Total Runtime1:00:32

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 11

A little overdue, but now online and ready to shred your eardrums - Harvest Moon Radio Episode 11!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review: Oakenshield - Legacy (2012)

Oakenshield [ Website | Facebook | MySpace ]

Oakenshield - Legacy
Based in the West Yorkshire city of Leeds, Oakenshield is the folk metal manifestation of multi-instrumentalist Ben Corkhill. The lyrics of Legacy, the second album created under the Oakenshield banner, are rooted in the Viking arrival in the British Isles during the early Middle Ages and contain snippets of historical sagas and ballads. Within this context, Corkhill crafts traditionally-inspired melodies that are given a sense of menace through the use of imposing riffs and croaking black metal vocals.

Listening to Legacy, the terms epic, majestic, and sweeping come to mind when attempting to describe the atmosphere Corkhill creates with his gritty riffs and lush keyboard work. Such a sense of Scandinavian grandeur begs comparison to bands like Falkenbach, Einherjer, and Forefather, and were it not for one particular element then Oakenshield would run the risk of being considered too similar to its predecessors. Enter David Denyer and his mighty violin to set Legacy, and Oakenshield, apart from the early runners in the folk metal marathon. I'm not being facetious in calling Denyer's contributions mighty, for without his part buoying the songs with a detailed sense of emotion Legacy would quickly become a touch too repetitive - though still quite good. From the mournful tone he lends to "Wen Heath" to a sound both folkish and Gothic on "Mannin Veen", Denyer's presence is a boon to the already engaging Oakenshield formula.

Oakenshield - Ben Corkhill
That formula, skillfully arranged by Corkhill, is built around a blend of folk and black metal that will most likely appeal more to fans of the former than to those of the latter. The traditional melodies - crafted through the use of keys, woodwinds, and violin - overshadow the crunchy riffs, which themselves never exceed a determined marching pace. Blast beats and tremolo techniques are not to be heard, though Corkhill does occasionally wind up a nice melodic solo. The most blackened element of Legacy is Corkhill's primary vocal style, though he croaks out the lyrics with exceptional enunciation and more pride than venom. He bolsters his rasps with generous use of clean gang choruses, chanting, and spoken-word passages that lend a hint of Nordic mysticism to his tales.

Legacy is such a consistent album, from the Yuletide melodies of instrumental intro "Northreyjar" to the keyboard and flute interplay on "Jorvik" to the grinding riffs of closing track "The Raven Banner", that pointing to one or two standout tracks is a difficult task. Instead, each song possesses such a strong sense of history, melody, and arrangement that it's easy to recommend Legacy to all fans of folk and Viking metal. This album is not unique, but it is worthy to share space in the CD rack next to the finest releases of the sub-genre.

Track Listing
2Earl Thorfinn5:58
4Mannin Veen4:38
5Wen Heath7:00
7Eternal as the Earth5:54
8The Raven Banner9:07
Total Runtime45:31

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Review: Diabulus In Musica - The Wanderer (2012)

Diabulus In Musica [ Website | Facebook | MySpace ]
The Wanderer

Diabulus In Musica - The Wanderer
The Wanderer, the sophomore album from Spanish symphonic power metallers Diabulus In Musica, is awash with influential sounds. Shades of Epica, Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, and Tristania can be heard as the album progresses from bombastic opener "Ex Nihilo" to the wistful acoustic breeze of the title track. In between, the soaring voice of frontwoman Zuberoa Aznárez skillfully parries the harsh snarls and growls of guitarist Adrián M. Vallejo and keyboardist Gorka Elso. The resulting product is intriguing for its use of numerous style elements, but ultimately The Wanderer stops short of delivering a memorable wallop.

Diabulus In Musica gained attention with their debut album Secrets due in large part to the voice of Aznárez. Classically trained and an active member of a chamber choir, Aznárez injects elegance and grace into the band's sound as her voice soars and dives in harmony with (and sometimes opposition to) the grinding music around her. "Ex Nihilo", for instance, is an epic power metal track of the most symphonic sort with driving riffs, robust background vocals, and thunderous beats. Aznárez' unhurried vocals offers a stark but welcome contrast to the immediacy of the music, making the song one of the highlights of The Wanderer. At times she can be a bit over the top in terms of theatrics, but by and large she does an outstanding job of fitting in with shifting tones as the album progresses. "Sentenced To Life", an agonizing duet with John Kelly of the rock opera production Elfenthal, contains one of her smoother performances but pales in comparison to the power she brings on the faster tracks.

Diabulus In Musica
Photo: Stefan Heilemann
Adding another dimension to the band's vocal style, Vallejo and Elso accompany Aznárez with a variety of snarls and grumbles. Used most often as accent pieces, the extreme male vocals take center stage on "Shadow Of The Throne" as Vallejo's riffs and leads are delivered just a tad darker and more chaotic. Monastic choruses and a brief contribution from Aznárez punctuate vocals that otherwise shift only between deathly growls, gurgled whispers, and blackened shrieks. The supporting gurgles on "Blazing A Trail" come courtesy of Epica's Mark Jansen and contrast nicely with the otherworldly refrains, but "Oihuka Bihotzetik" is another male-dominated track where the vocals descend into annoyingly screamo territory - as do the stop-start riffs. "No Time For Repentance (Lamentatio)" follows suit, with swirling melodeath riffs and shrieked vocals, but Aznárez offsets the foolishness with some ethereal refrains and ends the track a cappella.

The aforementioned tracks aside, much of the riffage contained within The Wanderer is quite pleasing if not necessarily remarkable. Nearly always hefty and with decent variation, Vallejo's riffs are nevertheless rather safe. The muted licks on "Sceneries Of Hope" are a nice touch, as is the acoustic performance on the title track, but once the album closes there's little about the guitar sound to remember. Elso's keys, on the other hand, manage to remain in memory long after The Wanderer has ended. As the dominating orchestral factor, the ever-present keys are richly textured and satisfyingly grandiose. Elso expertly conveys the proper sense of atmosphere each track demands, from the intimidating "Oihuka Bihotzetik" to the soothing "Call From A Rising Memory" - which also features a haunting vocal melody from Aznárez. Together with the wide array of vocal styles, the keyboard defines the core of Diabulus In Musica's sound.

The Wanderer is an album that is practically flawless, from a production and execution point of view. The musicians of Diabulus In Musica are obviously highly skilled, talented, and able to craft complex arrangements, yet their sophomore album fails to break through into remarkable territory. Fans of symphonic metal, particularly those inclined toward bands like Nightwish and Epica, will undoubtedly want to add The Wanderer to their collections. The rest of us might want to wait for something a little more lasting.

Track Listing
1A Journey's End (Intro)2:16
2Ex Nihilo5:33
3Sceneries Of Hope3:52
4Blazing A Trail4:04
5Call From A Rising Memory (Intro)1:18
6Hidden Reality4:44
7Shadow Of The Throne4:45
8Allegory Of Faith, Innocence And Future5:21
9Sentenced To Life5:04
10Oihuka Bihotzetik4:53
11No Time For Repentance (Lamentatio)8:30
12The Wanderer4:38
Total Runtime54:58

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Celtachor - In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers (2010)

Celtachor [ Facebook | MySpace ]
In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers

Celtachor - In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers
Emerging from the mists of Ireland, bands like Cruachan, Primordial, and Waylander awakened a style of music that blended the ferocity of black metal with the myths, legends, and melodies of the ancient Celts. Through this dialect of folk metal, Ireland's proud history has been shared the world over with music fans that might otherwise never have known the magic and mystery of the Emerald Isle's birth. Reinforcing those trailblazing bands is a new corps of Irish metallers, of which Dublin's Celtachor may well be the standard bearer. In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers, although a rough produced demo, places the band in line with the innovators of the style and strongly hints at greater things yet to come.

While the demo is certainly a measure of Celtachor's potential, it shouldn't be overlooked as nothing more than that. Fans of the Celtic style, particularly those with an intense interest in Irish mythology, will find plenty about In The Halls... to make it a worthwhile acquisition. Mainman Stephen Roche sings in a gruff, raspy style that is fairly typical for the genre but nevertheless enunciates the lyrics quite clearly. Having the ability to decipher the words to the stories, as they're retold by Roche, helps open the door for the listener to most appreciate the glory (and tragedy) of the mythology.

Aside from snarling out tales of Lugh's rise and Cian's murder, Roche infuses the album with touches of majestic atmospheres and wistful Irish melodies. He accomplishes the former through just a hint of keyboard intrusion, most notably on album intro "Nemed's Wake" but also to a lesser extent on "Riders Of The Fomor" and standout track "The Sons Of Tuireann And The Blood Fine". "Nemed's Wake" aside, Roche's keys float just beneath the surface of the mix so that they provide an adequate of a sense of foreboding without distracting from the primary instruments. His whistle, on the other hand, stands front and center when present and provides the only distinctly Irish aspect of the music. Being a part of four of the songs, the whistle is nevertheless a welcome compliment to the caustic guitar tone and crashing beats that dominate In The Halls.... Yet, Roche's whistle is also responsible for one of the album's deficiencies. While pleasant in and of themselves, the whistle melodies are most often not well-timed with the underlying instrumentation. The exception to this comes on album highlight "The Sons Of Tuireann...", where Celtachor is firing on all cylinders and the whistle blends seamlessly with the keys and buzzing riffs.

The overly raw production of In The Halls... sometimes renders the quality of the riffs difficult to discern, but six-stringer David Quinn's ability usually punches through with a groovy traditional metal style. Tremolo assaults are rare, confined mostly to "Riders Of The Fomor" and points within "The Sons Of Tuireann...", giving the rest of the album a chance to ensnare fans who prefer more of a NWOBHM touch to the riffs. Emile Quigley adds his bass to Quinn's efforts on "The Wavesweeper", weighing down the chunky guitar tone and darkening the mood. That particular track, and coincidentally the album as a whole, ends with a nicely upbeat groove and a very clear bit of bass slapping.

In The Halls Of Our Ancient Fathers, despite being very rough around the edges, is an exciting addition to the Celtic folk metal sub-genre. With it, Celtachor shows considerable promise and the potential to carry the flag of the next generation of Irish folk metal bands.

Track Listing
1Nemed's Wake2:26
2Rise Of Lugh5:55
3In The Halls Of Nuada5:08
4A Warning To Balor3:51
5Riders Of The Fomor5:48
6The Sons Of Tuireann And The Blood Fine6:28
7The Wavesweeper6:41
Total Runtime36:17

Friday, March 16, 2012

Harvest Moon Radio Episode 10

Here's a special episode for you this week featuring only Irish and Irish-themed bands, all in honor of Irish Pride Day. Sláinte!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Video: Dead Label - Self Immolation

Irish deathcore outfit Dead Label have released a video for the song "Self Immolation", which appears on the band's recently released debut full-length Sense of Slaughter. Be sure to check out Harvest Moon's interview with Dead Label drummer Claire Percival!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Review: Corrosion of Conformity - Corrosion of Conformity (2012)

Corrosion of Conformity [Website | Facebook | MySpace]
Corrosion of Conformity

Corrosion of Conformity - Corrosion of Conformity
Despite having released only seven full-length albums in their 30-year career, North Carolina's Corrosion of Conformity have become the standard by which Southern doom-oriented rockers are measured, even though they themselves have evolved their sound over time. From the hardcore of their beginnings, through the heavy metal of the early '90s, onward to the Southern rock of the Pepper Keenan years, CoC has remained a band to which many emerging acts are compared. Capping off the band's most recent hiatus, during which Keenan departed the line-up and drummer Reed Mullin returned, is CoC's self-titled eighth album and the first which attempts to bridge the gap of the band's various stylistic periods.

CoC fans are a polarized lot that can be roughly grouped into pro-Keenan and anti-Keenan factions. While Corrosion of Conformity lacks Keenan's distinct style, the trio of Mullin, Woody Weatherman (guitar) and Mike Dean (bass/vocals) emulate the "Keenan Era" sound just as well as they reinvigorate the style they themselves perfected during the band's formative years - at times during the same song. "Psychic Vampire" kicks off the album in this fashion, embedding flashes of hardcore fury amongst the lazy, Southern groove-oriented riffs. This bridging of eras continues on "The Doom", which alternates between crushing, Sabbath-inspired riffs and a raw, punkish onslaught. The waning moments of the track are an album highlight, featuring a nice bottom-end grove and a rather remarkable solo.

Corrosion of Conformity
Not all songs are stylistic mash-ups, however. "Leeches", with its hardcore riffs and vocals, unrestrained leads, and gang choruses, caters directly to the Animosity-era fanbase while "Come Not Here" is an unadulterated, grimy Southern doom track. The instrumental "El Lamento de las Cabras" features Skynyrd-esque leads atop a slow-as-molasses pace, and "What We Become" is predominantly a punky little burner until Weatherman unleashes a very thrashtastic set of riffs during the song's latter half.

If Corrosion of Conformity comes across as a bit of a shotgun approach to dissimilar musical influences, then you're understanding what the album essentially is. The band does an excellent job of bringing their various stages together in one offering, but beyond that I found the album to be lacking any real impact. The songs are good, but not quite up to expectations. Some fans may be united in their acceptance of this release, but many may be alienated by it. By attempting to harness 30 years of history into one album, Corrosion of Conformity may have set the bar just a tad too high.

Track Listing
1Psychic Vampire5:01
2River of Stone6:44
4El Lamento de las Cabras3:32
5Your Tomorrow4:39
6The Doom5:23
7The Moneychangers4:45
8Come Not Here4:38
9What We Become4:18
10Rat City2:57
11Time of Trials4:14
Total Runtime48:59

Friday, March 9, 2012

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Iron Fire - Voyage Of The Damned (2012)

Iron Fire [Website | Facebook | MySpace]
Voyage Of The Damned

Iron Fire - Voyage Of The Damned
Denmark's Iron Fire has been a band that has hovered on the periphery of the European power metal scene since its inception in the mid-'90s. An unsettled line-up and an identity crisis, each of which have been the deciding factor in many a band's demise, both plagued Iron Fire from the beginning and are without a doubt what kept the band from shouldering into the ranks of the genre elite. Frontman Martin Steene has been the only consistent member of the band, but with such a revolving door of cast members Iron Fire was never able to establish an identifiable sound. With Voyage Of The Damned, Iron Fire's seventh full-length release, Steene tries once more to secure a place at the power metal round table.

Gone are the tales of warriors and wenches, as Voyage Of The Damned is wholly constructed around sci-fi themes and imagery. Gone too are most of the expected Euro-styled power metal trappings, with most songs having a dark edge and mid-tempo pacing. Guitarist Kirk Backarach infuses each track with a weighty, dominating presence through ample use of crunchy, sometimes staccato riffs. There's an overwhelmingly modern sound to his style that is reflected in his riff construction, though he proves more than able to set his strings aflame with frequent solos - the best of which occurs on the track "Taken". The contributions of Martin Lund on bass draw down Backarach's groove into truly menacing territory, and the four-stringer even breaks out with a bit of a lead on "Ten Years In Space". All of this combines for a modern heft that places Iron Fire more in the realm of bands like Iced Earth than Blind Guardian, which may be a pleasant surprise for long-time followers of the band.

Iron Fire
Steene also mixes it up vocally on Voyage Of The Damned, augmenting his clean delivery with occasional forays into more aggressive territory. Songs such as "Taken", "Slaughter Of Souls", and "Leviathan" feature brief snarls and growls during the choruses (those on the latter track courtesy of ex-Benediction/Bolt Thrower frontman Dave Ingram), while the very modern sounding "Ten Years In Space" and "With Different Eyes" contain more of a balanced mix between clean and barked vocals. This variety enhances the appeal of the album, being neither too extreme nor too "traditional".

Even though Iron Fire's approach on Voyage Of The Damned is not typical of their European power metal peers, the album is not entirely without the familiar flair. "The Final Odyssey", for instance, is an epic ballad during which Steene delivers a rather theatrical performance. The song is, admittedly, quite intricately layered, but still a cheese-tastic ballad. The 10-minute title track pulls out all of the power metal stops and ratchets up the orchestration to exceeding heights, though a few growls do make their way into the mix. A prominent component of each song on Voyage Of The Damned is Rune Stiassney's keyboard work, which ranges from the Gothic to the Baroque and always manages to provide the appropriate type and amount of atmosphere.

Voyage Of The Damned is a good power metal album from a band that desperately needs to latch on to a consistent sound. What Iron Fire has created, while not altogether groundbreaking, will unquestionably appeal to power metal fans who don't identify with the fairy-tales and fantasies the style is mostly known for. The only drawback is that little about Voyage Of The Damned remains after the last notes fade into silence. Forge those hooks, and Iron Fire will be the band that it has been struggling to be.

Track Listing
1The Dark Beyond1:27
2Enter Oblivion OJ-6664:15
4Slaughter Of Souls5:15
6The Final Odyssey6:00
7Ten Years In Space4:13
8Voyage Of The Damned10:10
9With Different Eyes4:34
10Dreams Of The Dead Moon5:20
11Verge To Collide4:36
12Realm Of Madness4:05
13Warmaster Of Chaos3:37
Total Runtime1:04:41

Monday, March 5, 2012

Interview: Claire Percival of Dead Label

For our March installment of the Women of Heavy Metal interview series we speak with Claire Percival, the energetic drummer of Irish melodic death metal outfit Dead Label. Having been together for just over three years, Dead Label have won a nation-wide Battle of the Bands competition, self-released an EP, and - just last month - issued their debut full-length album, Sense of Slaughter, via Rising Records. As obviously hard-working as Dead Label is, Claire still found the time to chat with Harvest Moon Music.

[HMM] For readers who may be unfamiliar with Dead Label, can you introduce the band and describe your role?
[Claire Percival] We are a three-piece metal band from Ireland. I am the drummer, Danny is the guitarist n Dan is the vocalist n bass player.

How did the group come together, and is there a story behind the name Dead Label?
Well we used to all be in a band together called VX with two other members n previous to that I was in other bands with Danny, so when VX broke up we decided to go as a three-piece because we all had very similar tastes in music, a direct vision of the type of music we wanted to write n we all knew we were a hundred percent committed to being in a band for life n giving it everything we had!

Yeah there is a story to how we got our name. Around the time that we started as a band, a girl in the UK called Sophie Lancaster was killed for being a "goth". We wrote a song at the time n decided to write it about the sick people who murdered a girl just because they didn't like her "label". As rockers growing up you do see some hostility, n this was a horrific n extreme version of this. As the song was being written we were obviously talking about labels as such, n as I'm sure you know in metal there are so many sub genres! We didn't really want to work to a genre, we just wanted to be straight up metal, so the name Dead Label covered that ground also. There is no label, we are just metal! (forgive the cheesiness of that statement!) So after we decided to call the band Dead Label, Dan renamed the song about that murder "Rest in Pieces".

Less than a year after forming, Dead Label won the All Ireland Battle of the Bands "The Crypt Trials" in October of 2009.  What was that experience like?
That was an incredible experience. We entered not really expecting to get very far, more with the attitude of it's another gig! When we won the first round we were so happy! It was our first achievement as Dead Label, n it felt great to get that far! It was a voting system from the audience, n a lot of our friends were there so we didn't get our hopes up about the final at all! When we got to the final, it was decided by a panel of judges so we were a lot less confident because it didn't matter how many friends you brought! We played with some very talented bands n we were sure we wouldn't win! At the end of the gig they gathered everyone while the winners were announced from third to first! I remember being devastated when we didn't get third, because I thought that if we were going to get anything it would be third! The band that came second were the sure winners in my head so when they called us first we went crazy! It was an amazing feeling!

Your debut full-length release Sense of Slaughter just came out in February on Rising Records.  How did the recording sessions go and did how involved in them was the label?
We went to Essex in October to record the album. We were staying in the studio which is also the home n offices of the label. It was an awesome house! We arrived late on Sunday n began recording on the Monday! We were nervous but we got straight to work, there were no arguments during the recording session, n there was no major stress. There was a schedule for the day, we worked ten until seven. There are some production parts that I am not too happy about but that may be because we went straight into mixing, with no time to rest our ears as such, so obviously things will sound better the minute you start mixing them from raw tracks, n it's only when you step away you find certain sounds you aren't completely happy with. Having said that, overall I am very happy with the album itself n the recording process. We were made extremely welcome, n looked after very well. It was an enjoyable experience n I am looking forward to recording the second album!

How has the response to Sense of Slaughter been so far in Ireland and elsewhere?
The response so far has been great! We wrote these songs to our taste, if we like them n enjoy playing them that's all that matters to us! N if they will make a crowd jump up n down! So with that attitude we were not sure what reaction to expect. The first review we got gave us seven out of ten n we were blown over! We couldn't believe a complete stranger who had no allegiances to us liked it that much! We have gotten a lot of reviews n for the most part they have been really good! We have one or two who didn't like us us, n we had one guy who hated our guts! He opened his review with "go fuck yourself for writing this album!". It felt great to affect someone so much with our album! ha ha! Apart from that we have been getting great feedback. There was a problem with the CD deliveries so people haven't received their copies yet but they should be getting them within the week! So I am excited to see what people think when they have the full copy of the album!

Do you have any impending tour plans in support of the album?
Yes we certainly do! Well we are playing a few warm up gigs here in Ireland, starting next Saturday! We have a couple of dates in the UK for April, n we are supporting Blaze Bayley here. We will be playing with The Dead Lay Waiting in the UK for June n here in Ireland for July. After that we have things that are currently being confirmed. We hope to hit Europe as soon as we can! We want to play as many cities as possible, if we could we would be on tour every day! We also would love to get back to Belgium. We played there last May n had a great time!

Are there any notable stories from previous gigs that you'd be willing to share?
Actually I just mentioned Belgium, well that was a new experience for us! A couple of months previous I made friends with a guy called Peter on Facebook, due to similar musical tastes! We chatted a bit about bands like Caliban n Ektomorph! I asked him to check us out, as I do everybody who ever connects with me on Facebook! (I spam everybody!) A while later, he asked me would we be interested in going over n playing two gigs, n that we could stay with them n they would look after us. On paper this sounds risky! Meet someone on Facebook n fly over to them n stay with them, but I had a good feeling about this guy n his band were real - we saw pictures n videos etc. Plus there was three of us, n our friend Robbie, so if we were going to be killed we would have a fighting chance! I'd like to mention we didn't get the feeling we would be killed! So we booked our flights n the dates came upon us quite quickly! I have to say it was very exciting flying to a random country not really knowing what was happening! We also were going to use their gear so there was very little for us to have to think about! So we landed in Belgium n as we walked through arrivals we were so nervous! The guys from Decent Invasion, (Peter's band) were there waiting for us! They were really friendly! Jens had the best English n could chat away to us! They could all speak English though so that was cool! They took us to a pub n bought us MASSIVE burgers called pub burgers! N bought us beers! They made us very welcome! We played a gig that evening in a pretty small venue, but it was packed n the other bands n the crowd were awesome! It was rally cool to meet the bands n the people! We were exhausted but we had loads of fun! The next day we were playing in a venue called Take Five! The guys were excited to show us this venue n they were right to be - it was really cool! It was like a massive renovated barn! N they had free beer for the bands! During sound check Jeremy took us to Luxembourg, which was only half an hour away. He was getting petrol n we tagged along! We live on an island so it was quite exciting for us to inter-country drive! ha ha! This gig was honestly one of the times where I have had the most fun playing! All the bands were excellent, n very friendly! N the crowd was just so alive! We all had loads of fun on stage!  Then we got drunk for free n had to go to the airport after the gig, being hungover in the airport was dreadful but worth every minute we spent there!

Is the songwriting process for Dead Label a collaborative one, and how long did it take to write the songs for Sense of Slaughter?
Yes it is very much collaborative. The songs are written in the rehearsal room with all three of us throwing ideas back n fourth! Sense of Slaughter I guess has been in the writing process since we started as a band. "Rest in Pieces" was the second song we ever wrote as Dead Label, mind you it has been updated n changed since it was first written. A few tracks off the album were recorded for the E.P. but again they have been changed quite a lot n are skeletons of the old songs they used to be. We have written a lot of songs but we only ever keep the songs that always give us a certain feeling when we play them. If a song dwindles it tends to get scraped. We believe if it loses its eumph for us, it will certainly lose it for a listener! So Sense of Slaughter is a collection of songs that still excite us to play, even after quite some time. The last song to be written for the album was "Self-Immolation" which we decided to use as our single, n there is a video coming out for it soon. This is the newest song which would usually make us nervous, but we all love it just as much as the older songs!

When writing material for Dead Label, where do you draw inspiration from?
We are all heavily influenced by the same bands, Metallica, Machine Head, Lamb of God, Pantera. We all have other bands we love too, but they are the bands that influence all three of us the most. I think in terms of writing we would focus more towards the Machine Head n Lamb of God style than Metallica n Pantera. Its impossible to listen to Through the Ashes...... by Machine Head n not be instantly inspired!

Is there one particular song on the album that you consider your favorite to perform live?
I enjoy playing all of the songs, but recently I think my favorite to play is the song "Sense of Slaughter" itself. It's really enjoyable on the kit! There's some half-time moments were your whole body goes into a bounce, n you cannot avoid it, well I can't! I love playing "Enslavement" too, that's one where I can kind of sit on the groove which is a lot of fun!

How long have you been playing the drums, and what led to your involvement in heavy metal?
I have been playing drums nearly seven years now. I had a drum kit before I could play it all. My friend asked me to start a band with him n I said yes, completely unable to play! He said we were covering Metallica's version of "Turn the Page" so I played a standard eight over four beat for that. I also used that beat for the two songs we wrote in the band. I did not move from that beat for a whole band ha ha! It was disgraceful now that I think of it! At that time I started listening to Metallica n Machine Head, n when I heard "Vim" on ... Ashes ... I was one hundred percent sure that I wanted to be a heavy metal drummer. I bought a double bass pedal shortly after n there was no turning back from there!

Are there any drummers in particular who inspire your own style?
My biggest inspiration is n always will be Dave Mc Clain from Machine Head! That guy is a robot! He is incredible! He plays exactly what the songs require but he manages to blow your mind every single time! He is so fluid in his playing, n he plays some parts that are more like drum riffs than drum beats! He is amazing! I was lucky enough to meet him last year, n watch the gig from behind the kit! This was my fourth time to see Machine Head live but my first time from this angle, n it is an experience n a day I will never forget! His playing was flawless, it was kind of like watching a magic show, just unreal! N the best part is, he was super cool! I don't think he has any idea how AWESOME he truly is! Other drummers that inspire me are Chris Adler, Joey Jordison to a degree, n Travis Barker. Travis Barker was the first drummer I ever noticed, n the reason I wanted to start playing, he was so cool n flicky! He has a knack for making the drums the catchiest part of the song!

I've read that you also sing.  Are there any plans to involve your vocals in Dead Label's sound?
Good Lordy no! I can't sing at all! I wouldn't inflict that sort of pain on anyone who listens to our band! ha ha! I don't sing in the band, n I never will! Even if for some magical reason I could sing, I'm pretty sure I would sound far too girly to sing along with Dan! Whoever wrote that probably saw videos of me mouthing along while playing, even at that I am probably singing one word per bar n it might not even be the same word as Dan so it's a good job nobody can hear me! ha ha!

You're also pursuing a modeling career, correct?  How, if at all, has your success as a heavy metal drummer impacted your work as a model?
Well I wouldn't say career really, there isn't a lot of jobs going in Ireland at the moment, n we are quite busy with the band, so I do some modelling n promotional work as my job because it coincides nicely time wise. I am in a competition called "Face of Ireland" at the moment so we will see how that goes! Being a heavy metal drummer hasn't really had any impact on work I've done, I guess they are two very different worlds. You meet people from two completely different lines of work, n they are very different people. When people outside of the "heavy metal" world think of heavy metal, they think of beards n anger I guess n not like that at all. Well there are a lot of beards, but some of the nicest people I know are people I've met through being in a band.

If there was one bit of advice that you could give to a woman with aspirations to be a heavy metal drummer, what would it be?
Advice number one: practice, practice, practice! N when  you're sick of practicing, practice harder! Number two: Never be happy to be told you're good for a girl. This is not a compliment. Unless boys use their manhood as a third arm or leg, there is no reason why your gender should effect your ability. Yes boys have a little bit of extra natural strength but that's nothing practice won't fix. Number three: Hit hard, always hit hard n lastly, get tough. Some people can't help but expect you to be crap when you're a girl so there will always be people who doubt you. Flip them off n play anyway!

Finally, do you have any parting words for your fans and for those who may be reading about Dead Label for the first time?
Thank you for checking out this interview! If you have heard us before thank you for listening n if you're going to have a listen I hope you like it! N to anybody in a band, no matter how hard it gets keep going!

Thanks so much for the great interview Claire!  I'm looking forward to the video and much more from Dead Label!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: The 11th Hour - Lacrima Mortis (2012)

The 11th Hour [Facebook | MySpace]
Lacrima Mortis

The 11th Hour - Lacrima Mortis
Workhorse drummer Ed Warby, of Gorefest and Ayreon (among others) fame, created The 11th Hour as a means by which he could express his interest in traditional doom metal. Influenced by the greats of the genre such as Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus, the Dutchman released his debut album in 2009 to considerable critical acclaim. Handling the vocals and all of the instruments himself, with the exception of the deathish growls courtesy of Rogga Johansson, Warby produced perhaps one of the better doom/death releases of the last decade. Now, with Lacrima Mortis, Warby tests the "sophomore slump" theory and for the most part proves The 11th Hour to be still up to the task.

The differences between Lacrima Mortis and Warby's previous album are significant, though the overall style remains very much the same. For starters, unable to provide his earthshaking growls due to a lengthy illness, Johannson was replaced by Officium Triste's Pim Blankenstein. Though there is no comparing the two, Blankenstein nevertheless offers up an excellent performance that is both menacing and relatively easily deciphered. The way with which Warby mixes his own clean singing with Blankenstein's aggressive style provides an excellent contrast of moods, effectively conveying the often symbiotic emotions of anger and sorrow experienced at times of loss and bereavement.

The 11th Hour - Ed Warby
While that theme is shared by Lacrima Mortis and its predecessor, this album is not quite the tragic concept album that is Burden of Grief. The stories are varied this time, though most reach the same conclusion, with "Death of Life" perhaps the most heart-wrenching of the lot. Not only is this song remarkable for its lyrics, but Warby delivers his most convincing vocal performance of the album and the melodic riff/synth interplay during the refrains is expertly crafted. Yet while most of the songs here plod along at a pace appropriate for the weighty lyrics, a couple ratchet up the energy a bit through crunchy, chugging riffs and an almost wistful keyboard presence. "Tears of the Bereaved" is one of those tracks, though by the latter half of the tune the dirgelike heaviness is back in full force. This song also contains what I feel to be the only real misstep of Lacrima Mortis in the form of the sounds of a woman weeping. Instead of enhancing the message, the effect is rather distracting and jarred me away from the mood the rest of the track worked so well to develop.

As enjoyably depressive as Lacrima Mortis is, I hesitate to declare it a remarkable album for the genre. Boundaries are left uncrossed, innovation is left undisturbed, and emotions are only slightly awakened. The album is good, well-written and executed almost without flaw, but its hooks only scratch the surface of our melancholy without firmly clutching on to our sorrow. Sophomore slump Lacrima Mortis is not, but fans looking for a repeat of Burden of Grief will be disappointed.

Track Listing
1We All Die Alone7:24
2Rain On Me8:24
3The Death of Life7:15
4Tears of the Bereaved8:46
5Reunion Illusion8:07
6Nothing But Pain7:37
7Bury Me4:47
Total Runtime52:20