Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Coming straight out of the "death metal state" of the nineties, is a band with a real first name and a ferocious, emotionally intense sound. Meet Silas.

This band revels in rhythmic dissonance; moreso than many bands around at the moment, these guys excel at writing complicated song forms. The music they create has a huge scope; the songs are incredibly ambitious in terms of the amount of material they encompass, and constructed in a thoroughgoing and convincing manner.

In response to the questions I sent out at the beginning of this current round of reviews, I was given to understand that this St. Petersburg Florida five piece has a diverse array of influences. One thing that intrigued me in the list was a mention of classical music and jazz.

The reason that I found this to be so interesting is that this is the first band in a year that I have found that is committed to the ideal of writing contemporary, uncompromisingly heavy underground music that listed these two genres as among the musics that inform their aesthetic and thinking.

The influence is there; it's undeniable. One of the first aspects of the groups texture that jumps out at you in this respect is the use of keyboards to emphasize the harmonic variation and clarify the bassline. When the keyboard is functioning in this capacity, it lends a deeply expressive quality to the music that heightens the emotional impact considerably.

Another aspect of their sound is in the use of arpeggios and scalar passages in the guitar parts. Many guitarists employ these devices; they are the essence of melodic structure and omnipresent, available in just about all styles of western music.

However, there is a particular way of deploying these devices that imparts a type of flavor in the hands of string players of a certain mindset. When played in this manner, the resulting phrasing is imbues with a particularly "European" aesthetic. This type of approach ended up becoming the "neo-classical" school of guitar playing, some of whose exponents incluce Yngwie Malmsteen and one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Randy Rhoads.

What I like about Silas' approach to this type of guitar playing is the way they retool the concept in the context of their style. Phrases are punctuated by lightning fast figurations and the passagework connecting sections is astonishingly intricate at times. One example that springs to mind is "When Triad MET-ALkoline", the second track off of the two track player on MySpace.

For a song that is just under five minutes, there is a massive scope to it. In the first twenty seconds alone, the amount of energy these boys emit is numbing. During the course of the entire 4:48, the sheer quantity of sectional changes and transitional passages is testament to this bands talent and work ethic. My favorite part of the song is the transition from the guitar solo to the final section , where the action has died down a bit and things are winding to their end. The solo crowns the climax of the song and provides the necessary release of all the energy that has been pooling. The whole last minute and a half is simply beautiful, and brings a powerful sense of closure to what has come before it.

All in all, I find that the deeper I dig into the current underground music scene, that more incredible bands I find. Silas is another to add to the list; on top of that, this five piece has developed a style rich in emotional expression and an approach to formal development that heightens the drama inherent in the lyrics. Listen to this band, they have something to say.

check em out at:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Broadcasting from Brooklyn, NY, to all the known points in the universe, is PAS.

Originally a solo project begun by Robert Pepper in 1995, the project remained a one man band until 2004, when Robert met Jon "Vomit" Worthley at a Genesis P. Orridge lecture. In 2007, Robert met and subsequently started dating Amber Brien; together these two people have helped Robert to fill out and stabilize the group.

The current line-up is divided this way:

Robert Pepper - Keyboards, percussion, loops, various analog
Amber Brien - Drums, Percussion, Bass, Electronics
Jon "Vomit" Worthley - Guitar, Effects, Electronics, various analog

Amber is also trained in Taiko, the Japanese drum art.

Taking their name from a religious pamphlet, PAS (post abortion stress) is a group out to create music according to their particular artistic vision, which is one of aberrant beauty and abstraction; their name refers metaphorically to those who have been aborted by society, those whose point of view doesn't fit in the constraints of "normal" society.

This viewpoint fuels their creativity. Since their inception the band has been interested in making music from the fringes of perception, creating soundscapes that aren't defined by any particular conventions or viewpoints; the aesthetic underpinnings are defined by the notion that music can be whatever is perceived by the ear. It's a conception fueled by a love of life and art and a desire for honest artistic self-expression.

The compositions themselves are more akin to soundscapes than "songs" in the traditional sense.
There are no clearly defined melodies, no structural landmarks that give you any sense of traditional anchor. This is not music making with any sense of or desire for commercial viability, but sonic sculptures in the mode of pure art.

During my usual round of questions that always forms a necessary part of the act of creation for me in this medium, I was given to understand that painters and writers are a huge influence on the band. This bit of information was highly revelatory for me, as the music this band makes has a very visual quality to it. Terms like "sound collage" spring to mind almost effortlessly.

I would go so far as to say that this love of visual media is the main thing informing this particular musical experience. Listening to these ethereal, shifting compositions leaves me feeling like I was journeying through an alien landscape, taking in the shape of the land, the types of flora and fauna; at the same time searching for the inhabitants, but never finding another person, only knowing of their existence through bits of information, voices carried on the wind, and sounds of "civilized" existence.

The sense of being alone imparted by the music is not a criticism. On the contrary, as mentioned above, it is an essential element in the overall design. "Old Mirrors New," the tenth track from the album "The Lyre Speaketh," is a perfect example of this. The track doesn't begin in the traditional sense so much as cohere from nothing, the sounds of the piece gradually building until we find ourselves immersed in an ethereal soundworld.

As the piece unfolds, we hear some type of intoning counterpointed against wooden flutes, as if we are listening to the enactment of some solemn mystic rite. The accompaniment for this track has the quality of a hammer or a shovel, digging at very hard ground. This has the tendency of heightening the sense of ritual engagement that the intoning voices seems to impress on our consciousness.

The space in between these two elements is filled in with a very atmospheric type of sound, high pitched and quiet, more an intimation of atmosphere than anything else. This element has the effect of heightening the hallucinatory element of the piece, as if we are experiencing this scene under the influence of something intoxicating, or perceiving in a trancelike state.

For another example of the bands approach to music, let us turn to the title track on the album.

The effect of this piece has a more unsettling quality to it. Part of it has to do with the bassline, a ponderous, low-brass timbred affair that sounds like a whole tone scale, or at the least part of one, re-iterated at intervals with a quiet relentlessness. This is played against a repetitive figure on what sounds like a Koto, which in turn is played against a vague screaming sound. The overall effect is stunning in itself, evoking some alien landscape of foreign dimensions.

All this from a three piece. The amount of layered sound they manage to produce gives the impression of a much larger ensemble, but this is just indicative of their talent, and the focus they bring to bear on their vision. They are one of the most engaging groups I have encountered in some time, due to the idiosyncratic nature of their philosophical view of music and the way in which they realize this philosophy by their output.

In keeping with their deep interest in visual media, there are several videos available on their MySpace page.

As of this writing the band has four albums available. They are “Intro to Jesus”, “The Lyre Speaketh”, “Antarctic Tribe”, and “We Have Discovered Your Mother’s Body.” All of these are available at or iTunes and various internet dealers.

Check 'em out at:

Monday, July 20, 2009


RingBearer are a slab of sonic concrete. Hailing from Iowa, these guys come on like a weapon.

With a name that relates to Jesus Christ and the halo of thorns he was forced to wear, you can rest assured that this group is determined to make some waves.

I have not spent a lot of time in the Midwest. I am an eastcoast boy, born and bred. However, I cannot fail to notice that that region of the country has spawned a lot of brutally heavy bands.

In the case of Ringbearer, I can fill in the pieces to that puzzle to a certain degree. According to information I was given by Maxxwell, their guitarist, the band lives in a town of 9,000 with 48 churches and they have, for all intents and purposes been blacklisted from the town. So, that could definitely have something to do with them sounding the way they do.

The thing that impresses me the most about this four piece is their approach to rhythm. In general, aside from timbre, I think that this is the biggest innovation in musical thinking in the underground in general.

Let's look at the first song on the MySpace player, "Church Burner." Right out of the gate, and you're getting bludgeoned by some forceful sonic rage. If you listen to the rhythm of the guitar part, and the way it divides against the drum beat, it turns out to be a grouping of irregular rhythmic phrases comprised of the same riffs.

What's interesting about this is the fact that the guitar part is dividing against blastbeat style drumming. The thing that makes blastbeat so intriguing (and so effective) is that there is no real metre in that style, no stress of strong and weak beats. It becomes a constant rhtyhmic wash with no profile; this is why it supports ultra-heavy musical styles so well.

Anyway, why this is so fascinating to me is that the end result is just ferocious, really nasty and biting. And that's a compliment. It is the sonic equivalent of a severe beating. The phrasing of the guitar part emphasizes certain partials of the blastbeat in such a way that it stays with the tempo and manages to lock in, without actually defining a specific time signature in any way.

When the drummer and bassist fall out and the guitar comes in with the first rhythmically constant, metrically stressed riff, the effect of the former is heightened. All in all, this song is a small masterpiece, taking into account the way the ideas unfold and the way it builds to the end. It's a highly dramatic, "perfect" piece of facemelting thrash. By the time the last chord is played and the song fades out on cymbals and feedback, the tension has become unbearable.

In many ways, this group reminds me of the "great" bands in the grind/death undergound of my high school days; however, this isn't some trip down memory lane in search of the past, just a comparison.

This group is definitely alive in the here and now, as evidenced by the foregoing description. The things these guys are getting up to in terms of song structure weren't even conceivable in the mid-nineties. I simply mean to say that there is something about the overall spirit and sheer sonic weight of this band that is a bit of a throwback. Aesthetically, this band is its own thing entirely, and express themselves in thoroughly contemporary terms.

Playing together since the first week of November, 2008, this band has gelled quickly. From what I have gathered on their MySpace page, they have shows at their own loft apartment, a place called the Wolf Hanger. I can only assume that has helped them to grow so quickly. It's also obvious that they love what they do.

The band has a release out entitled "Cult," and some great merchandise. They are working on a slew of new releases and will make things available as quickly as possible. All of it is available at their MySpace page. Fans of brilliant heavy music need to get behind these guys in a big way. Their desire is to make as many great records as possible and tour the world. Let's all get together and help them achieve that goal.

Check em out at:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Feeding The Foxes

Feeding the Foxes is a band from the land of Andre 3000 and Big Boi.

Active as a musical entity for a little over two years now, this band is a unit of very hardworking individuals; look at the roster of bands that they've played with in such a short period of time, and also at the way that they nail the complex material they write.

The group's sound is quite interesting. These guys are definitely hipped to the developments that have rippled through the postmetal underground in the last few years, including rhythmic deconstruction, odd time signatures, irregular phrase groupings, abrupt shifts, and a mix of testures, from clean toned to highly distorted.

Their guitarist Colin is a jazz guitar major, and he's put his hours and hours of shedding altered modes to great use here. The phrasing is wild. I hear something of sixties free jazz in there; the rhythmic quality of his phrasing is at times akin to Coltrane's "sheets of sound" approach that critic Ira Gitler picked up on in the fifties.

His rappour with the drummer (Matt) has that same quality. Listen to "Interstellar Space" by Coltrane or even "Bells" by Albert Ayler and you'll get the idea. While there is generally more of an emphasis on "straight" timing, there is also a lot of phrasing going on in the drumming that mirrors and reacts to Colin's phrasing.

A perfect example of this is the live Vimeo clip of "Scott Stapp the Man, not Scott Stapp the band." At certain points during that song, the drummer is imitating Colin's phrasing, almost exactly. On a side note, there are two vocalists on stage during that performance, but only one is listed in the lineup.

This band is one of the more rhythmically adventurous outfits I have heard in a while. There is something akin to the Locust's "loose-but-tight" approach to phrasing, but given Colin's whole approach comprising a huge dose of linear thinking in the form of lightning fast scalar and arpeggio material, this lends a sprawling, open-ended quality to the forms.

A perfect example is what might be termed the "B" section of "EraseCreateReplace," a song with a very long title. After blasting out of the gate with some intensive power chord/ scalar riffs backed up by an onslaught of loose, scattershot drumming, the band dies away, and Chaz the vocalist starts intoning about pollution in a low voice. Then the band kicks in. When the guitar resumes, Colin's solution to move matters along is very interesting.

The first thing we hear is a blazingly fast scalar run, sounding something like 32nd note quintuplets, executed flawlessly. The resulting triangular shape of the phrase broadens the whole section of the song, the ascending and descending contour imparting a sense of temporal expansion.

This phrase lurches directly into the next short section, which is a bit of less distinct connecting passagework, play with deadon rhythmic accuracy. Unless I am completely mistaken, the rhythmic profile of the ostinato-like guitar part of the section after that is an extension of the connecting passage, smoothed out and given a more streamlined profile, so as to serve as a more stable accompaniment. It's sort of like Paganini, but on drugs.

One thing I was given to understand is that the bassist on the recordings is not Dave, the bass player listed as being in the band. What is interesting is that I was told that he is a lefty and plays six-string. Even more interesting is the fact that he plays what Colin plays, "but with more rhythm." So, to me that means that the rhythmic concept of this band has taken even greater strides forward.

Musically, the band wants to make "honest music for a long time to come", and we should all show our support in this respect. The band doesn't have any albums out, but they do have a demo and are featured on a compilation. Both can be downloaded for free at their MySpace page. And, for those interested, they have a few shows coming up in the Georgia area. If you like it loud and progressive, you'll want to check these guys out.

Check 'em out at:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Melted Cassettes

Hailing from Arizona, a state famous for wide open spaces and novels by Bentley Little, comes a punishing experience in 24 bit aural suffocation. This is Melted Cassettes.

Forming in 2005, the group is a two piece collaboration between David Turner (vox and effects) and Mike Warden (keyboards). Mike is a graduate of the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. He joined the band in 2007.

This band is uncompromising in its rage. There is nothing mainstream about any of their music. The intention is intensive sonic experimentalism. To call the sound processed is an understatement, as the sheer complexity of the tone colors and their almost tactile quality is astounding, even in today's timbral mad aural marketplace.

Their influences include Wolf Eyes, Big Black and other "non-weak shit"; I hear tinges of Ministry and Atari Teenage Riot in there as well. On the nonmusical front, the band lists "noises,horror films,depression,psychiatry," as being influences on the thinking of the members.

The inventiveness they display within the confines of their chosen mode of expression is indicative of their desire to engage in some serious experimentation.

"Razed from the Bottle" is a perfect example of their approach to music making. While the structure develops from a midtempo keyboard/sequencer hook, the piece flows from phrase to phrase with a high sense of liquidity; this produces a cumulative effect of impending collapse. It's one of my two favorites on the player.

A similiar experience occurs on "Sounds from Hell vol.1"; the song sputters to life on a rhythmic idea that gets spun out into this infectious three note main hook.
The simplicity of the hook is the key to its success; it's so straightforward that the musical edifice built around it is able to effectively burst through with intense amounts of energy. The approach on this song is more straightforward than on "Razed"; the overall effect is one of showcasing the "hook" and developing it in such a way that the abrupt ending comes as a real surprise.

At the other end of this particular aesthetic spectrum there is "Ataak Pak", with it's midtempo vocal effects in the rhythm section producing a sense of mechanized rage. The way that the rhythm of the lyrics is synchronized with the rhythm section is really intriguing.

In answering my usual round of questions, I was told that the band manages to realize this sound live. David's explanation of this is as follows:

"We build a wall of Pa's and random speakers that pump out the beats and bass tone sequences.loud as we can get it.Mike plays a midi keyboard with patches we build in reason and pure data.I have a zoom vocal processor that produces "demon" vocals run thru the venues PA.We have a rigged stack for guitar amplification that is part ampeg and part peavey drum machine amp.we are working on gettin' some tweeters."

In this light, I am psyched for any fans of experimental/noise/electronic avant gardeanism who reside in the Arizona area, because I can assure you that the live show this band puts on is intense, chaotic, and a hell of a lot of fun. Listen to their music and read the fans comments, and you'll be convinced as well.

The band has an e.p. out now, ("MySpace: A Place For Fiends" e.p.), and has a split with cheezface coming out in August. This will contain tracks from their upcoming full length L.P. "The "Real" Sounds From Hell." Their music is available on Liberal Squid Records ( ), Lovetorture Records (, Sunwarped records (, and Seattle based UF records (

Check out the band at: