Asphyx unleash brutal, real death metal on bone-crushing disc ‘Deathhammer’

I never could see me wanting to pick up an arm and head into battle, but I oddly really enjoy music that makes me daydream about it. There’s something about aggressive, galloping music that packs a fury and causes me to think about catapults smashing the sides of castles, fleets of planes liberating a town under tyrannical rule, giants doing battle, wielding clubs the size of people. And I’m a pacifist!

But metal’s concentrated on war quite a bit from the start, so it’s become a part of its DNA. A lot of times the music decries battles and bloodshed, sometimes it glorifies it, yet other instancess it recalls times of great struggles that led to telling a nation’s story. Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” always comes to mind as a song that gets the adrenaline going, no matter what atrocities it details. Bands such as Bolt Thrower, Cobalt and Black Pyramid also work well when wanting to immerse oneself in the chaos of battle, as do Hail of Bullets, a war-centric outfit whose inclusion in today’s piece is quite fitting.

This leads up to “Deathhammer,” the punishing new effort from Dutch death/doom warriors Asphyx, whose frontman Martin Van Drunen and guitarist Paul Baayens also comprise part of Hail of Bullets’ lineup. Van Drunen also did time with Bolt Thrower as well as Pestilence, so his commitment to firepower is well known. Yet Asphyx aren’t concentrated on war, per se. They delve into death and destruction and pain and sorrow and madness in every realm. You don’t go to an Asphyx record to find a positive note to start your day, unless of course you are headed out onto a battlefield. But if your daily tumult is too much and you need an escape into a fantasy world where you could detonate the very things that ail you, by all means, treat yourself to “Deathhammer.” Just keep that violence in your mind, where it belongs. This music should be used as a mental release.

This is the second album with Van Drunen back in front of the band (their eighth overall), following up 2009’s awesome “Death … The Brutal Way,” a record that really doesn’t need a description. Just read the title. It was a fine return to form for the band, and now “Deathhammer” takes that several steps further. This thing sounds flat-out mean. There’s no mercy to be had, no hand up from the ground, no compassion for anyone in its path. You get steamrolled over and over again by the band’s potent mix of death metal and doom, and if the music comprised a real killing machine, all that would be left of you when it’s over would be bone fragments and charred flesh.

This son of a bitch meets you head on as soon as it begins, as the band launches “Into the Timewaste,” a grindy, thrashy mauler of a track that doesn’t intend to allow room for breathing. From there, the earth-swallowing title track kicks in, then stops, then ignites again, and it’s sure to be a fan favorite. Van Drunen howls, “This is real death metal, you bastards!” as the rest of the band takes up arms and drowns your senses in a bomb raid of mashing and menace. The chorus is so simple, but it resonates and likely will result in shout backs live. There are some longer, typically doomier cuts on here such as war-torn “Minefield,” where the guitars remind a bit of vintage Celtic Frost and the presentation feels kind of ceremonial; “Der Landser,” that also talks of a young solider, battlefields, conscription and hell on earth; “We Doom You to Death,” that has a nice sludgy finish; and the ominous and plodding “As the Magma Mammoth Rises,” a song that hulks along like it’s fictional title creature might.

There also are blasts of faster, quicker numbers such as ferocious and clubbing “Of Days When Blades Turn Blunt”; “Reign of the Brute,” a post-Apocalyptic nightmare that’s creepy, crawly and completely savage; and “The Flood,” a flattening number that’s of the flash, tidal wave variety. It leaves your head spinning and you gasping for air.

Asphyx certainly continue to get better with age, and they’ve never sounded more pissed off than they do on “Deathhammer.” Van Drunen’s raspy growls and shouts are a credit to the genre, and the rest of the band shows a hunger and desire most of the band half their ages couldn’t match after a case of Red Bull. This truly is real death metal, the brutal way, and the manner in which it was intended. All hail Asphyx, one of the true rulers of the metallic world. Now, where’s my sword?

For more on the band, go here: http://www.asphyx.nl/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/Search/asphyx

For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/

Drudkh return to their darker days with gusty ‘The Eternal Turn of the Wheel’

You probably think you have a lot to do. You have to go to your job or school or both, pay the bills, fulfill some tedious social obligations, do laundry, make meals, and eventually find some way to squeeze in rest. It’s a lot to do, and everyone really feels for you. It’s all pretty silly, right? We have things to do. That kind of constitutes life, does it not? So we go about our day and do what’s ahead of us and start again tomorrow.

Things like that make me wonder how the dudes in Drudkh get anything done. Surely the Ukrainian black metal band members have their own responsibilities around the house and in their everyday lives, but on top of that, they also hold down their main project as well as a bunch of side bands. And they do it pretty damn well. Blood of Kingu have delivered two strong records, and the band’s latest offshoot Old Silver Key combined them with Alcest leader Neige for a spacious post-rock surprise that resulted in “Tales of Wanderings,” one of Meat Mead Metal’s top 40 albums of 2011. Then again, considering the band members never reveal their real names, don’t provide photos, have no official web site, and never perform live, that likely gives them more ability to focus on the matter at hand, creating stimulating music. Perhaps the secrecy and isolation from the rest of the world is their key to being so prolific.

The band’s new record “The Eternal Turn of the Wheel” is their ninth full-length offering since 2003. That’s a lot of music in a small amount of time. I feel like every time I turn around there’s new Drudkh music, and they’ve yet to let me down. I know some folks weren’t wild about 2010’s “Handful of Stars” because it was softer and a little more post-rock than metal. But I liked it, and it sort of served as a breather from a monstrous catalog that often was thorny and convulsive. It also seemed to pave the way for Old Silver Key and what they accomplished with that band. Their new one delves deeper into their past, sounding more like some of their heavier earlier work, but they still leave room for some lush atmospherics and gazey wonder.

Obviously we’re giving you the English translation for the band’s album and song titles, as they’re formally named in their native tongue, and you won’t be able to cull a hell of a lot from the lyrics unless you speak their language. But the band – Thurios (vocals/keys), Roman Saenko (guitars/bass), Vlad (drums/keys) and Krechet (bass/keys) – can move you with their music and help you feel an emotional connection that way. Their songs, that typically are drawn from Ukrainian poetry and are inspired by nature and history, are spacious and take deep breaths of air. Their music is heavy and quaking, but not really violent. You don’t get a sense of anger or hatred from what they do, and instead, you sort of feel alive and invigorated by their sound. It’s pretty unique for a black metal band to accomplish that.

The five cuts will please those who like their Drudkh more forceful and aggressive, and they tell a tale of a calendar year being born and progressing into the dead of winter. After a quick intro “Eternal Circle,” that gets winds whipping through your hair, they launch into “Breath of Cold Black Soil (March),” that blows open from the start with growling vocals, enrapturing melodies, and woodsy synth that keeps one foot in the forest. “When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls (August)” sounds just like what you’d think from reading its title. It has a battle-of-the-heavens sort of feel to it, like it’s transcending earthly bounds for a plane of existence once only can imagine. It has a dreamy underbelly, but on top is a full assault of forceful vocals, adventurous black metal and even some hints of folk. “Farewell to Autumn’s Sorrowful Birds (October)” also reveals itself in its title, as the song is crushing but mournful, with winds whipping back up and the guitar work travelling on those gusts. Only when the crow calls do you know this trail is at its end and the cold air is about to arrive. Closer “Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars (December)” is the strangest of the group, with an off-kilter melody holding the piece together, proggy melodies and gothic keys playing their part, and the vocals sound like they’re reaching out into the night for some sense of warmth. It’s an odd song that demands the longest adjustment, but the more I hear it, the more I understand what’s going on inside.

I’m sure by the time I post this review, there probably will be more Drudkh-related music awaiting me in my inbox, and I’ll digest it happily. So let’s wrap this before it happens. I loved “Handful of Stars” and “Microcosmos,” both of which started to show new shades of the band, but I welcome this return to times when “Autumn Aurora” and “Swan Road” still were new in our psyches. I’m always surprised and pleased by Drudkh’s output, and certainly “The Eternal Turn of the Wheel” is no exception. This band remains one of metal’s most consistent and active bands, and I doubt that’ll change any time soon.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/drudkhofficial

To buy “The Eternal Turn of the Wheel,” go here: http://e-shop.season-of-mist.com/en/items/drudkh/eternal-turn-of-the-wheel/cd/30174

For more on the label, go here: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Monarch’s ‘Omens’ proves that beauty, dreaminess belong at doom’s table

Doom metal can be a beautiful medium. That probably sounds like a weird statement if read by an outsider with no knowledge of the genre, and that’s understandable. How can something awash in darkness be lovely? But once you get to know the music, its nuances and what it tries to express, you’ll be able to comprehend all of this.

I find my heart can flutter with Bloody Panda’s shocking drone, my mind can soar on the riffs of the mighty Sunn 0))) and I can be moved by the tales and sorrow of Aldebaran. Another band of that ilk that always made me see the beauty of doom is French band Monarch, who have been pretty damn prolific the past seven years, putting out six full-length efforts, all of which belong in your catalog. Emilie Bresson, who live goes from handling vocals to commandeering some of the band’s other noisy elements, is the reason this band is so special, and her approach to her craft also amplifies the allure of the band. Her banshee, hellish shrieks penetrate your soul, making like she’s scooping emotions from her cavity with a spoon and spreading the bloody results across the walls. But when she goes clean, she’s damn-near angelic, which sounds paradoxical but really isn’t.

As for the rest of the band, Shiran Kaidine (also of Year of No Light) takes cares of the mammoth buzz, guitar squall and muddy riffage, that can make you feel like you’re drowning and gasping for life in a tar pit, while bassist MicHell Bidegain and new drummer Rob Shaffer (he pounds the kit for Dark Castle as well) keep the low end crawling on its belly, rumbling all the way. When it’s all put together, Monarch’s music can sound ceremonial and ritualistic, and if you get caught up in what they do, you can find yourself captured and on your way to a spiritual self-examination that could produce results you don’t expect. You’ll go really deep into the darkness, no doubt, but as noted, you won’t believe how gorgeous the journey can be.

The band’s new record “Omens” has an interesting story. The three tracks were recorded in four different locations with four different producers (Hironori Ochi in Japan; Neil Thomason in Australia; Matt Cartman in Montreal; Sanford Parker in Chicago), so you have lots of cooks in lots of kitchens. But while you might expect an emotional disconnect or some choppiness from so much collaboration, the record is surprisingly smooth. The songs gel easily and blend together really well, resulting in a cohesive, moving experience.

The album is built by three songs, which is not a surprise since their efforts tend to have small track counts that go the epic route. This is no different, as the record is bookended by long tracks that are broken up by a haunting, nightmarish interlude “Transylvanian Incantations.” The album opens up with “Blood Seeress,” a track that sets its own stage with cascades of noise and gong crashes. Bresson then lets loose with her wails and screams that make it sound like she’s exorcising her own demons. The song simmers and burns, rises and falls, and eventually washes out with wordless singing, causing it to feel like the whole thing is fading into the night. “Black Becomes the Sun” is one of my favorite Monarch tracks ever, as Bresson goes cleaner and sings high and radiantly, showing a different side to herself. Eventually gushing drone bubbles over, some rollicking drums rolls just go off (Shaffer is awesome on this cut) and Bresson’s demonic wails take over and bring the song to its crushing conclusion. This cut’s just a killer, and the first time I heard this nearly 20-minute song, I had to immediately go back and listen again. It’s just an awesome display.

I’m hoping for this record Monarch will reach the States again because I’d love to hear these new songs live. It also would be nice, with doom metal at such an apex right now, for this band to get the notoriety they deserve. Monarch’s machinery seems to be constantly in motion, and they just get better with each release. And obviously Bresson’s gift as a singer and figure in front of this band makes this group worth investing your attention. Monarch is a unique and awesome force that will put a hole in your chest where your heart was. That may sound painful and all, but you’ll enjoy every moment of it.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Monarch/121146434822

To buy “Omens,” go here: http://www.bluecollardistro.com/atalossrecordings/product_info.php?products_id=6913&cPath=719_721&store=0#.T0vNw_EgduM

For more on the label, go here: http://www.atalossrecordings.com/

With ‘Animosity’ lineup in tow, C.O.C. destroy your face with self-titled album

There are many bands that have been around for an extended period of time and claimed enough accomplishments that their lifespan can be broken up into eras. And fans of the bands’ music generally will take sides as to which era was the best, which was the most embarrassing, which was just OK. It’s another fun thing about being a music fan.

There are a ton of bands I can name off the top of my head whose entire catalog doesn’t appeal to me but that certainly had times when their music generated my excitement. “Number of the Beast”-to-“Seventh Son” Iron Maiden. Ronnie James Dio-fronted Black Sabbath. Metallica up to and including “Justice.” Mastodon’s Relapse years. And, of course, the “Animosity” period for Corrosion of Conformity. Admittedly, that’s a really short span of time, as they made just one record as that lineup, but that was the C.O.C. I first became aware of and that I’ve been attached to ever since. When I was becoming more aware of harder metal than what the mainstream had to offer and was just starting to collect records with labels such as Metal Blade and Roadracer on them, C.O.C. were one of the bands on my radar.

But that lineup only lasted until 1987 when bassist/vocalist Mike Dean left (he’d return for good in 1993). Simon Bob Sinister popped in and out to do some vocals, and eventually Pepper Keenan joined the fold, basically taking over as the band’s mouthpiece. While Kennan’s status in the band isn’t totally clear (he’s working on a series of EPs with Down), he was out for the band’s new self-titled album, meaning the “Animosity” lineup would be together again in the studio. Thrilled was I. Once the music landed in my inbox and I took several trips with it, my excitement grew even more. This sounds a bit more like the C.O.C. I grew up loving, and some of their other alterations prove they have kept up with the times. I didn’t hate the Keenan years, by the way. Their music of that time just didn’t do a whole lot for me, though I know many people feel differently. Depends on what moves you, right?

So on to the new 11-track album that’s their first since 2005’s “In the Arms of God” and their eighth disc overall. It sounds like a band totally revitalized, as they’re absolutely on fire on this album. And not only does it sound good, it’s also a really fun listen that, even when it takes on more serious subject matters, still gets you going. Dean and drummer Reed Mullin share vocal duties, while guitarist Woody Weatherman helps drive along the melody and intensity. One thing that should quell any fears of C.O.C. fans who did prefer the Keenan era is that the band does carry over some of the musical influences from that period, so we’re not talking a total throwback hardcore/thrash record. Oh, that’s there, too, as is some doom and sludge. These dudes basically don’t disqualify any sound as long as it makes for good material, which is usually does.

The record opens with the awesome “Psychic Vampire,” that reminds me a lot of their earlier hardcore days but also gets a nice helping of muddy rock and a simple chorus that sticks in your head all day long. “River of Stone” is the longest song of the bunch, taking on a stoner vibe, conjuring classic doom imagery, and getting a little swampy at times. “Leeches,” a quick blast of punk-flavored metal, and “Rat City,” a nice, steady rocker, are the album’s shortest songs; “Moneychangers” feels the most vintage of all the songs on the album, and it combines with “Your Tomorrow” as the album’s most bleak, cynical songs lyrically; and “The Doom” is a combination of, well, doom, blues licks and a filthy gallop that kicks the song into high gear. “Come Not Here” and “What We Become” sound transplanted right from the mid-1990s, so if that was your thing, these two are likely to be your favorites.

While the trio doesn’t sound just like they did in 1987, their intensity is there. These are 11 really strong songs that do the C.O.C. name a lot of good. Personally, I hope they continue on in this incarnation, but that’s me being selfish. Regardless of what happens in the band’s future, C.O.C. made a killer record that pleases the hell out of the part of me that still craves those early metallic inhibitions of my youth.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.coc.com/

To buy the album, go here: http://www.candlelightrecordsusa.com/store/

For more on the label, go here: http://candlelightrecordsusa.com/site/

Christian Mistress’ Davis offers glimpse into her life, lyrical inspirations (Pt. 2)

Yesterday we brought you the first part of our interview with Christian Mistress singer Christine Davis. It was a fun time, and it was a loose conversation that went all over the place. Today, we have the second helping, and this time Davis talks more in depth about some of the new songs on their sophomore album “Possession,” what inspires her to write, and what she does in her downtime away from the band. Thanks again to Christine for taking so much time and giving our readers an honest look into her life and what makes Christian Mistress tick.

Meat Mead Metal: Do you work?

Christine Davis: Do I work? I work seasonally. I work jobs over the summer as a biologist technician.

MMM: Did you go to school for that?

CD: I have a science degree, yeah.

MMM: Where did you go to school?

CD: In Olympia (Washington), at the Evergreen State College. Yeah, it’s great, and the seasonal work is ideal for being in a band. That way I can put a lot of time into the band when I’m not working out in the mountains, and my bandmates are able to give me the freedom to do that.

MMM: When you’re working in the mountains, what do you do?

CD: I work in the back country of a national park, so I’m hiking 25 miles to the job site and living out there for the summer. I work with plants as a biological technician, I live by the river, and I have no communication with the outside world other than the radio, the little two-way talking radio. It’s a pretty extreme lifestyle. My life is definitely based on extremes.

MMM: Did you kind of grow up a kid who was always into nature and took lots of walks in the woods, or did your interest come later?

CD: Not at all. I did grow up in a small town in Northern California, and there was a lot of farmland around there. But I didn’t really know anything about science or biology until I was out of high school and had gone to community college for a couple of years. I didn’t know that’s what I wanted to do until I went on a trip with friends into the wilderness, and that was my first experience being out in the middle of nowhere, and it just kind of struck me, “Oh, maybe I can spend a lot more time in a place like this.” I had to figure out how to make that happen, and doing science work is the way that I can do that.

MMM: So it sounds like if the band was on the road and broke down in the middle of nowhere, you’d be alright.

CD: Um, no, because then I’d be stuck with a broken-down van and a bunch of gear that needed to be protected and a bunch of bandmates that wouldn’t know what to do with themselves, so that wouldn’t be very good at all. (laughs)

MMM: OK, fine, I was trying to paint you as a hero. But never mind!

CD: (laughs) Yeah, I don’t like that because I’d be thinking, “Oh great, now I have to take care of everyone.” That’s terrible. (laughs) They probably would be like, “Christine, what do we do?” Yeah, but being out in the wilderness takes a lot of preparation. It’s a different beast than being out on the road because that takes a different kind of preparation.

MMM: You mentioned the video for “Pentagram and Crucifix” and how you’re excited about it. Have you done stuff like that before?

CD: No. I made short films before, kind of like weird, dream sequence art films, but just as a hobby. But I’d never really done other films before, so we got someone we know who is good at shooting films make it for us, and I directed. It happened to be during a few days when it was snowing really heavily here, so we got some really cool shots. It was really beautiful here.

MMM: Is there a storyline?

CD: There was, but a lot of the film we used got ruined, so it’s going to be something else now. We’re not quite sure. There’s still enough to use, but the story that was in the film is gone. But yeah, it’s been interesting. I’ve been thinking of differences between film and video, digital, because I don’t really know a whole lot about that world. I’m good at coming up with images and I have a really active imagination and can come up with what things should be and what things should look like. I just don’t know how to make that happen.

MMM: Back to the album, what do you draw upon lyrically?

CD: The first inspiration for what I write about comes from the guitars. I just listen to the riffs and the basic sketch of the song and think about what kind of mood it’s projecting. From there I attach whatever is going on with me mentally at the time. So it’s very much elements of the guitar players’ subconscious psyche and my conscious psyche.

MMM: So it’s more in the moment. You’re kind of writing based on a feeling from what you hear in the music.

CD: Exactly, and letting the song dictate what happens. My idea of what vocals are is they’re an instrument, and they should weave in and out of everything just like another instrument would. It’s what works for this band. I don’t want to be a screechy, high metal vocalist. It would just sound bad. In that way, the lyrics must stay very close to the vibe of the music. They’re very much a part of what’s going on. In my case, I write the vocals parts and the lyrics, and those are two different elements in my mind. So it’s like a right-brain and left-brain activity combining with something other people created. So there is a complexity to it, and it is very much thought out.

MMM: One of the songs that really interests me is “The Way Beyond.” One of my favorite lyricists ever is Ronnie James Dio. I know a lot of people think what he wrote was cheesy and everything, but I always thought he was awesome at conjuring an image and making me use my imagination. “The Way Beyond” reminds me of him.

CD: Well, it’s funny you say that because the other day, an interviewer told me he thought my lyrics were more of a Dio vibe than a Paul Di’Anno vibe. There’s more narrative and it’s more imagery-based. So “The Way Beyond.” As I told you, we did a pre-recording of the album, and I had totally different vocal parts and lyrics for that song. But when I went to the mountains to work, I rewrote all of that in the back country. So I hiked out of the mountains to record, and when I met everyone in the studio and showed up with the new lyrics and vocal parts that they had never heard, my bandmates were really excited about the new version I had created. Those are the only lyrics on the album that I wrote out in the mountains.

MMM: Yeah, and there are some lines in the song that sound like you’re directly calling out to nature.

CD: Yeah, I was trying to relay the feelings of being in a really remote place and taking me away from all the worries that I had in the culture that we live in. Being removed from that is a really amazing experience. But it’s also about how it takes a certain kind of person and realizing I’m that kind of person that would need to be removed from society for a while just to delve deep into my core and take the time to understand who I am as a person. I get really upset if I don’t have time for myself, and I’m not able to function if I can’t be alone for extended periods of time. I’m not an extremely social person.

MMM: Now what’s it like for you going on tour? You’re kind of thrust into a situation where you don’t have a ton of time to yourself or time to reflect in nature?

CD: I’ll usually just go on walks by myself. I’m fine with it, actually. It’s a cool thing. Touring is really fun, playing shows is really fun, and you use a different part of your persona. I think, “This is what I’m doing now, and I’m going to do it well.” I’m going to do my best to perform every night, and I’m going to hang out with my bandmates, who are my friends. I’m not in a band with people I hate, and I wouldn’t be. We enjoy hanging out together, and the longer you’re on tour, the easier it is to be in that persona. When you get back from tour, there’s an adjustment period.

MMM: Another song on the record I wanted to ask you about is “Haunted Hunted,” which is my favorite song on the record. That’s also one where the symmetry between the vocals and the guitar work is really evident. Talk about that one for a bit.

CD: All I can say about that song is it’s about someone who was in my life who isn’t anymore. That’s all I can say.

MMM: What do you hope to accomplish, and what do you hope the band accomplishes, with this record?

CD: I’m not sure. I hope we can tour Europe more than just the tour we have coming up in April. I think it would be great if we can go back later in the year and just tour Europe as much as possible. I’d love to tour the U.S. I’d love to see the songs on “Possession” be an addictive element in people’s lives. I’d love to see people get serious Christian Mistress cravings and come to our shows and freak out. I’d love that. When I see that happen, I get totally floored by that, because I get excited when I see people having the same emotions I feel in the music. It’s very exuberant and real. This is music that makes people feel alive, and we’re a band that isn’t afraid to balls-out feel alive.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.christianmistress.com/

To buy “Possession,” go here: http://www.relapse.com/search_result.php?search_by=all&q=christian+mistress&x=11&y=6

To buy both “Agony & Opium” and “Possession” LPs in a package deal, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/store/product_info.php?cPath=28&products_id=1100

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Christian Mistress’ Christine Davis talks new album, stalking, one-eyed dog (Pt. 1)

Next week, Christian Mistress will release their awesome new record “Possession,” their first for Relapse. As strong as their debut “Agony & Opium” (20 Buck Spin) was, their new one is even better. The songs are catchier, the guitar work is scintillating and memorable, and the vocals, as always, are smoky and tough. We got a chance to talk with singer Christine Davis, and things didn’t go according to any script. Look, so many times when I do interviews, they’re kind of by-the-numbers and a little business-like, because often these artists have talked to so many people already or are so on message that it’s hard to paint outside the numbers.

Not Davis. From the start, she made it clear she isn’t terribly interested in doing some stodgy Q&A by the books, and I was more than pleased to hear this. That led to a 45-minute conversation that bled into her next interview slot (sorry, whoever had to wait) and she was honest, amusing, challenging, and at times, weird. Davis’ deadpan delivery when she’s joking around can take you off guard, but that all seems to be part of her charm. Because we talked so long and covered so much ground, I’m breaking up this interview into two parts, the second of which is planned for tomorrow. Thanks again to Davis for taking so much time and doing the type of interview that makes what I do fun.

Meat Mead Metal: Well, we’re here to talk about the new album, unless, of course, you don’t want to talk about anything having to do with the band.

Christine Davis: (laughs) Yes, let’s do that. I love French movies, mostly from the ’60s and ’70s, and Christian Mistress just did a video for the song “Pentagram and Crucifix” off the new record. It was filmed on 16 mm film, black and white, and it’s going to be really killer. I’m really excited about that. I’m a total film lover. I also like when interviewers ask me questions about things other than the band. I mean, I love to do interviews, I love Christian Mistress, I love the new record, but it’s also fun for me to have story time. (laughs) But yeah, the new record’s great. “Possession.” I know that’s what you want to talk about.

MMM: No, seriously, throw all that stuff in. There are going to be traditional questions, bit I’d love to go off topic as often as we can. In fact, I did an interview once with a Christian metalcore band for a magazine, and at the end of the piece, the dude wanted to pray with me.

CD: I ordered a burrito once in Portland, and the lady came around the counter, the owner, and put her arm around me, which was really intrusive, and asked me to pray with her. My old band had a van that we got for free that said Baptist Senior Citizens on the side, so she decided that I was Christian because I had pulled up in the band van. This 18-passenger band from the ’80s. Yeah, that’s awkward.

MMM: But what do you do, you know? Do you just say no? She probably meant well.

CD: I was just so stunned that I just stood there kind of going, “Ahhhhh, OK.” But I’d seen her often and I knew she was, like, this brainwashed Christian lady who runs a burrito shop. But yeah, I didn’t go back in there for a couple years after that. I took a break. This is getting too weird. (laughs) We’re going to spend some time apart.

MMM: You could have just sent someone else in.

CD: Yeah. But she thought I was the driver for the senior citizen Baptist van and that I was a backslider because I was a metalhead. So she was trying to help me reconnect with God or something. But enough about her!

MMM: OK, well, let’s get into the new record. It sounds just amazing. Are you happy with the results?

CD: Yeah, totally. We got a lot more time to spend on “Possession” than “Agony & Opium.” “Agony & Opium” is a record that we love, but we didn’t put as much attention on it. For “Possession,” we pre-recorded the songs on a four-track just to hear what they sounded like and get an idea as to whether all the songs sounded good together. So we had more time to think about what we were doing and more time to plan guitar overdubs and that sort of thing. So we’re really happy with how it came out. It was exactly what we were going for.

MMM: Yeah, you can tell from listening to it that it has a better sound. It’s not overproduced or polished or anything. It still has that vintage sound, but certainly it’s richer sounding than “Agony & Opium.”

CD: We wanted the guitars to sound heavier, that was our main goal, so we chose a studio (Louder Studios, owned by Tim Green, ex-The Fucking Champs) where we could do that. We weren’t looking for an overly polished, sort of current, digital sound, and we also didn’t have a ton of time. We had 10 days to record everything and mix it. It was certainly more of a low-budget record compared to other things that get recorded these days. But we took the same spirit into the studio (as for “Agony & Opium”) in that we recorded everything on analog and did things the way we did in the past, but this time we had 24 tracks instead of four. Also we were away from our home town, because the studio was in California, and there was no cell phone reception. We stayed there the whole time and hung out in the sun, which is totally different because it’s always fucking raining where we live. It was like band vacation. It was good.

MMM: OK, as far as it being band vacation, what kind of fun stuff did you do besides recording?

CD: Well, Tim has a pool, and we hung out with his one-eyed dog a lot.

MMM: Woah!

CD: Yeah, he runs in counter-clockwise circles because he can’t run in a straight line. Yeah, the Chompfrey. And we went to the Yuba River, which is so unreal. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. So he swam in Tim’s pool in the morning, we swam off our hangovers, recorded as late as we could, and just hung out. Really, we didn’t do much more than recording. We were all focused on getting a good recording, but it was a nice place to be.

MMM: Can we go back to the one-eyed dog for a moment?

CD: Sure, yeah. Chompfrey. The Chompfrey. The one-eyed dog. He runs in circles. He tries to be a lifeguard. He likes to bark at people when they’re jumping into the pool, and then he runs in circles. But he won’t jump in to try to save them because he’s a really little dog. But what he will do is lose his balance, slip and fall into the pool, and get really disoriented. He’s a lot of fun.

MMM: What kind of dog was he?

CD: I don’t know. I’m not really up on my dog breeds, but he was a little, white, curly-haired dog.

MMM: OK, well back to Christian Mistress. Your vocals really stand out on your albums. And in this day and age, there are so many singers that just scream front to back. Obviously you don’t to do that. What’s your background as far as singing? Are you trained or is it just something you picked up?

CD: My vocal training is strictly from being in bands, so that’s a form of voice training, I think. I definitely notice my voice has gotten stronger over the years, as in I can talk with a normal voice after playing shows. It used to be that after playing a show, I wouldn’t be able to talk the next day. I was hoarse. I definitely think the way I sing in Christian Mistress is an effect of the music having so much of a voice to itself. The guitar parts, they’re so melodic and there’s so much going on that screaming and being gruff doesn’t really translate, especially for a recording. Sometimes that kind of emotion does come out live. But I think for this band, my vocals fit the music really well. That’s how we all feel anyway.

MMM: Yeah, but you do hear a lot of bands that play these parts that seem to need a clean voice and they scream over it anyway, and you go, “No, no, no no, that’s not right.”

CD: Well, yeah, but I also feel very strongly that music is art, and there should not be rules in art. Maybe someday there will be a place for (screaming) in Christian Mistress. I don’t know. We’re not going to push ourselves into any one place creatively.

MMM: A lot of people have put the New Wave of British Heavy Metal label on the band’s sound. How do you feel about that? Did you grow up listening to that style of music?

CD: I grew up listening to really true heavy metal and really true heavy punk. I don’t really know what NWOBHM is. I think it’s just a term to describe bands that were playing really heavy punk-influenced metal in the ’70s. I think it’s not very descriptive, and I don’t like the term.

MMM: I guess I always think of it along the lines of those first two Iron Maiden albums, and it’s always funny to hear Steve Harris talk about that and say they were reacting against punk. But it’s like, no, those two albums are very punk rock.

CD: Yeah, I love the Paul Di’Anno era of Iron Maiden. I mean, there’s no secret that we love those (types of) bands. We never set out to try to emulate anyone, and I think that comes across in the songs that we write.

MMM: Another thing that’s been attached to the band is the endorsement from Fenriz of Dark Throne. What did that mean to the band, because people really seemed to start paying attention after he said that?

CD: What it did for me is it made me realize there are a lot of people out there who pay attention to that stuff and who care about who says what about what. For me, it opened up my eyes to the international metal scene, actually. So that was kind of interesting. But other than that, I think the labels that put out our records have grabbed onto it more than we have. We thought it was cool for about a week, then it was like, OK. I mean, I’m sure there are a lot of people who are very interested in what he has to say, but I don’t know if it does anything for us.

MMM: Something unique about Christian Mistress is the band doesn’t have a huge online presence. There’s a fairly bare-bones web site, but it doesn’t seem like the band is as interested in social media as everyone else. Are you just not a fan of the medium?

CD: Our main reason for not having fan pages like that is it just seems like it’s too much clutter. It just seemed tedious. None of us wanted to take the time to set one up. We were like, “You do it. No, you do it. No, you do it. No, you do it.” So we just decided we weren’t doing any of that. We don’t do anything we don’t want to do. It’s just that simple. We’re not going to do anything that doesn’t interest us. I think it’s nice to have a place where shows can be posted, but anything more than that is just going to be clutter that we have to deal with on the dead-end street that is society. (laughs )

MMM: But don’t you realize everyone deserves to know every little detail of everyone’s lives?

CD: Yeah, I’m sure they still can. Have you ever heard of stalking?

MMM: That’s a lost art.

CD: I know. I’m into it. I’m for it.

MMM: Have you stalked anyone yourself?

CD: No. (laughs) I just think that My Space and Facebook are like a legal form of stalking.

MMM: Do you get into any Internet stuff on your own, just on your own time away from the band?

CD: Not at all.

MMM: Doesn’t interest you?

CD: No. I don’t even have the Internet at my house.

MMM: What about TV? Do watch anything on TV?

CD: I don’t have a TV.

MMM: What do you do all day?

CD: Nothing. I just sit and stare out the window. It’s interesting.

MMM: What does that do for you?

CD: Nothing. I’m really bored all the time and I don’t know what to do with myself. I sit around hoping someone will bring me a television or a computer, damn it.

MMM: You don’t know what you’re missing.

CD: It’s horrible. I have the worst life. (laughs)

MMM: You miss all the celebrity divorces and marriages. How do you live without all of that?

CD: I have my own personal celebrity divorces and marriages to focus on.

MMM: You should write about them.

CD: I know. It would be great. But, no, seriously, what do I do? I watch movies sometimes, but I don’t have cable or anything. I’m gone so much from home that it wouldn’t make sense for me to be paying for that. I also have another band I practice with sometimes, and I have Christian Mistress, so I’m pretty busy.

***

Come back tomorrow for the second part of our interview with Christine Davis. We’ll get more in-depth into some of the songs on the record, how she handles touring, and what she does when she isn’t fronting Christian Mistress. You might be surprised to find out the answer to that last one.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.christianmistress.com/

To buy “Possession,” go here: http://www.relapse.com/search_result.php?search_by=all&q=christian+mistress&x=11&y=6

To get both CM LPs together at a low package price, go here: http://www.20buckspin.com/site/christian-mistress-possession-lp-in-stock-get-both-cm-lps-for-24-99/

For more on the label, go here: http://www.relapse.com/

Pallbearer unfurl modern doom classic with killer debut ‘Sorrow and Extinction’

Everyone at some point goes through something soul crushing and devastating, an event that changes your life and leaves you reeling. You see the world differently, you don’t feel the way you once did, and you wonder how you’re going to take steps into the future without feeling this horrible anchor tied around your neck. It’s enough to make you want to retreat into a dark room, stay there for weeks, and slowly let everything built up inside of you flood over in a tidal wave of anguish and rage that no one else has to experience but you.

When those times arrive, it’s comforting to have something in which you can immerse yourself that lets you achieve some sort of catharsis. Some people like to forget their woes, listen to happy, bubbly music and pretend that everything’s OK. But that’s a lie. Once you’re alone, once those bright lights die down, your ghosts return to you. I’ve always tried to get in touch with as much of the torture I’m experiencing so that I can heal in time, and, because of that, the debut album from Pallbearer arrived just in time. “Sorrow and Extinction” isn’t just a perfect avenue for making amends with your sadness. It also happens to be a modern day doom classic, and I am saying that the very day it is being released to the world. So if it all sounds like hyperbole, go get this thing and let it crush you into a million pieces that’ll need put back together again.

Little Rock, Ark., quartet Pallbearer started to turn heads with their perfect blend of modern and traditional doom on their three-track demo, released last year. That effort demonstrated the promise the band held, and, not so surprisingly, they were snapped up by Profound Lore, your one-stop shop for quality, artistically ambitious, forward-thinking metal. I had been waiting for their debut record to drop for about a year now, and upon just a single listen I knew I had something special in my car stereo. Here I was just driving to get beer (a longer drive than you might think), and the record totally captured me and left my jaw dropped. I probably looked like an idiot when stopped at traffic lights. But it was astounding how moving and impactful the album was just on that very first visit. Subsequent visits, and there have been many of them, helped me connect with Pallbearer’s music more and more.

One of the most noteworthy things about Pallbearer’s sound is Brett Campbell’s voice. He sings with such a passion and fire that you have no choice but to get swept away by his storytelling, his pain, and his expression. He only rises to a yell momentarily on “An Offering of Grief,” and that’s only because it matches the way that the tempo and caterwaul of the song is building. On the rest of the album, Campbell sings cleanly and powerfully, and he’s quickly becoming one of my favorite singers in all of doom. I like his work that much. The rest of the band – guitarist Devin Holt, bassist Joseph D. Rowland and drummer Zach Stine (he’s since been replaced by Chuck Schaaf, who also engineered and helped master the album) — travels the annals of time for their inspiration, nodding their heads adoringly toward the altar of Black Sabbath but even blending in some sludge and drone into their work.

“Foreigner” opens the record on a heart-wrenching, sorrowful note, as Campbell sings of mustering strength, not giving in to outside forces, but eventually realizing one’s will can be eroded and beaten. “Lost within a shade, I call out for a helping hand,” he emotes as his final words on the track, leaving you wondering where this leaves him standing – if’s he’s still standing at all. “Devoid of Redemption” and “Legend” are new versions of cuts found on their demo, and they benefit from the fresh revisions. “Divine” is one of the heaviest, meatiest entries on the record, while “Legend” has tenets of classic heavy metal, like something that the Ronnie James Dio version of Sabbath could have conjured. Aforementioned “An Offering of Grief” also feels Sabbath-esque, as Campbell and Holt let their guitars go off kilter and spacey at times, adding a sense of adventure to the song. Closer “Given to the Grave” is short on words and long on psychedelic, challenging and colorful passages, pointing back to late ’70s and early ’80s doom, prog and power metal. When Campbell reveals, “No more sorrow can weigh me down,” that’s your sign to wind down and take an inventory of what you’ve discovered about your own grief.

“Sorrow and Extinction” is a stunning, earth-shifting album that’ll be remembered as one of the most important debut offerings of 2012. I’ll go as far as to say it’s the most affecting Profound Lore release since Agalloch’s masterpiece “Marrow of the Spirit.” This is an album you cannot afford to pass by, especially if you’re huge doom fan. But all you have to do is be a human being willing to address all emotions, both good and bad, with raw honesty. “Sorrow and Extinction” is a very human document that’ll take you into dark corners but will bring you back out of them more enlightened.

For more on the band, go here: http://www.pallbearerdoom.com/

To buy “Sorrow and Extinction,” go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/index.php?option=com_ezcatalog&task=detail&id=852&Itemid=99999999

For more on the label, go here: http://www.profoundlorerecords.com/