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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Interview: Wino

Powerful handshake, body littered with timeworn tattoos and with a veritable sweep of gently whitening hair, there is no mistaking the legendary guitarist/vocalist Robert Scott Weinrich a.k.a. Wino. Slumped so deep into a sofa, he seems almost past the point of no return, yet he rouses enough of himself to reflect on his recent achievements, a mere scratch on the surface of his long association with what many would pigeon-hole as doom or stoner rock. The reality, as his latest slice of acoustic nostalgia is testament to, is something that is, on the face of it, impossible to define in such simple terms. So little time, so many questions. I managed to grab a few minutes before his Shrinebuilder show at the London Scala to ask just a few of them.

Are you enjoying your day so far?
Last day of the tour, it's been really fun. I've been on the road a long time before this tour so looking forward to a couple of days off.

Of course… supporting your solo album ‘Adrift’ in October?
Yeah, we did almost a two-month tour. Had about 10 days off back in L.A.

'Adrift' has just been released here. How much of yourself do you feel is in there?
Well it's a pretty personal record so I'd have to say a lot. The songs are my way of letting off steam a little bit. Also there a couple of songs on there that were written way back when I was, like, 16.

I love it but its acoustic bare-boned nature took me a little by surprise?
It's the first time I've done anything like that and it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. It turned out to be a real challenge. All kinds of things like the different gauge picks you use for more string attack when you're recording it - you use a heavier pick, you hear more of that "kkk-kkk". All these things. At the same time the engineer we used, who's a friend of mine, is also a little bit of a strange guy. He wanted to do a lot of proselytising when we were recording, which was really annoying. I want him to give me my space but… y'know. We agreed to disagree about a lot of things [laughs]. So it was a little bit of a trial but, at the end, I was happy with things.

Did you enjoy the different recording processes required as opposed to an album recorded with St. Vitus or Shrinebuilder?
It was very different. Now, I think I've learned from it, so it was cool. So, not only am I proud of the record but it was also a good learning experience.

Do you think you'll have another crack at recording in that way?
I'm definitely going to do another one and I think now I won't be quite so apprehensive. I'm definitely going to prepare a bit more lyrically, 'cos the arrangements and the lyrics were a little bit of a hold-up. Most always, there are a few little lines that don't get finished until you're standing in front of a mic. A lot of the songs, we never played them live before we recorded. The optimal thing to do is to write a song, take it out on the road and play it live before you record. Sometimes you just don't have that luxury.

It was great to hear ‘Iron Horse/Born to Lose’ again and the way you’ve managed to reveal the lyrical content makes it that much more powerful. What was the thinking behind covering that song particularly?
I've always done that song because I've always loved that song. That version, anyway. The "On Parole" version of that song is pretty fucking old; Larry Wallis was playing guitar. After that, they did the first Motörhead album where they do that song, but I don't like that version. It's a real bluesy version. So that earlier version always grabbed me when I heard it, and I bought that record having never heard Motörhead ever. I bought it 'cos of the picture on the front. It just looks so badass, I thought it can't be bad. So, it's an easy song to play and I like the theme - motorbikes and the lifestyle - it's the ultimate fucking bike song.

Have you had a chance to hear what Lemmy thinks of it yet?
I haven't spoken to Lemmy about it yet, but I would like to play it for him at some point.

Why did you choose this particular album title?
That's kind of how I feel. I was having some domestic issues; I'm kind of estranged from my children, so it matched how I was feeling.

So, the UK’s been waiting with baited breath for Shrinebuilder. What was it like being upstaged by a volcano?
It was pretty fucked actually. We kept trying and trying to get in [to Europe]. Al Cisneros' [bassist/vocals] original idea was that if we came in over Africa we could have made it in, but then we might have never made it out so, after the first couple of shows we knew we couldn't make it in - the first four shows was like a third of the whole tour budget. We really wanted to play so that was really cold. Something good did come out of it though because, as we can get together so rarely, we used the extra time to go into rehearsal where we fleshed out our next record. We've now got way more than enough material, so we're in good shape. I think we're going to do a couple of other releases first. We're going to release a live album first before we go in and record which might not be until next November.

How did Shrinebuilder actually come together to record an album in the first place?
Well, the idea had been around for a little while, and then me and Al decided to slip the idea to Chris [Hiatkus] on drums. Then when Chris left Om he said it wouldn't quite be right for him, so that left just me and and Al. About that time Al had asked me about bringing in Scott Kelly (guitar/vocals) and I thought that was a great idea. Then we needed a drummer and basically all of us agreed that if we could have our dream drummer it would be Dale [Crover] and when he said "yes", we were pretty blown away. I think we'd been together about 6-7 months. The interesting thing is we never actually played together until the night before we went in the studio. It was either me and Dale, or me and Dale and Al, or Al and Dale, and then, finally, me and Al and Scott. The first time we all got together was midnight on a Thursday night and the next day we went in the studio. Three days later, we'd recorded the record, so it was pretty rad.

Three days is a pretty short time. It seems incredible that the individual styles of writing managed to fit together so rapidly and so perfectly.
A lot of cool stuff happened, a lot of serendipitous stuff. I was struggling with the lyrics for this riff that I'd bought to the table and Scott happened to call me at that exact moment and said "Hey man, I got some lyrics that might help you finish that song" so it was pretty amazing. Then Al had a piece that he'd tapped out that fit just perfectly. So everything on that first record is written by all of us - everyone has written a little piece of each song.

So a lot of it was written over the phone?
A lot of computer files sent to each other. It actually forced me to get little bit more computer-literate. But it's getting easier and easier now.

Immediately the supergroup label was slapped on you. Did that add pressure?
You know everybody needs words to describe stuff. That's how stoner rock came about and that's how heavy metal came about. I don't focus on this kind of stuff because it's not what I need to be focussing on. It's nice to be accepted though.

It's possibly because you've got four big fanbases that are all interested in this one project.
I think it's interesting that you point that out because there was a bit of a firestorm - there was this thing where the stonerrock.com guys didn't like the sound of Scott's voice and then the Neurosis people who didn't like my voice. That's pretty interesting actually. (Laughs) The stoners were hating on Scott and vice versa. It was pretty funny. I’ve never been in a band before with that style of vocals, and I'm not just saying this 'cos he's in my band, but he's one of the few screamers where I actually like it. Maybe it's the timbre of his voice.

How often are you getting to practice as a band?
We really don't get a lot of time. We rehearsed two days before this tour. Probably two sets a day. We probably practiced the songs three or four times each, if that. But we're pretty good at it. The one thing in our favour is that everybody's been around the block, it's easier to do things; nobody's got ego problems. There's no real problems like you'd get with a new band. We respect each other. Not that there's competition between us. When I was little kid I asked myself "How can bands as good as The Beatles possibly have broken up?" It just seemed unfathomable. When you're young what you don't realise is that people come into play here. You could be the best player in the world but if you act like an asshole you're gonna have problems, right?

So you say the second album is now all but written?
The ideas are finished.

Do you have, say, song titles yet?

Let's see - I'm not sure if I should do this - ah, I can give you a couple. One song is called In The Wake Of Zeus, we talk about the volcano, and another is called The Concept Of Now.

Thanks for the tip-offs. You've certainly whet my appetite for the show now! Have a good one.
My pleasure.

Thanks to Rich@Rich-E and Lauren@RarelyUnable

Also online @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2010/12/tlobf-interview-wino/

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Album Review: Five Days Of Rain – Taste My Breath After The Fallout

The dark, starkly industrial “Intro” soundscape combined with the maniacally skidding entry, colossal breakdown and elongated scouring howl that adorn “Feeding My Own Entropy” supply you with everything you need to know about Five Days Of Rain’s credentials. Their biography – formed in Italy 2004, EP recorded 2006, change of line-up 2007/8, signed to Rising Records 2009 – neatly wraps up the facts, but it’s their music that is the most revealing.

Taste My Breath After The Fallout is a hefty slab of sonic obliteration that owes a great debt to the vagaries of modern American deathcore but also clings onto the speeding coat-tails of early Swedish death metal. Easily identifiable are the crushing half-time vortex breaks and double-kick battery that bands like Black Dahlia Murder and Suicide Silence delight in, the furious palm-muted riffing and harsh, throat-scraping vocal style pedalled by Whitechapel and Job For A Cowboy, and screwing it all into place are the incessant galloping rhythms and buzzsaw guitar characterized by bands like At The Gates and Entombed.

The polyrhythmic assault and buffeting verbal squall that power “Searching Within Their Memories” and the jagged shreds, riff sweeps and power chord harmonies that litter the otherwise spacious “Corneal Ulceration” show off both the band’s impressive technical ability and their wild, imaginative songwriting ability. They’ve found a distinctive, addictive style and they seem reluctant to give up such a position of power, nailing each song to their snot-slicked flagpole, proudly repeating their own colors over and over again.

Certainly, one downside to the pinpoint accuracy of the drums is the naff metallic click on the kick drum – it sounds like a particularly indignant conductor tapping on his lectern. At times, it’s so incessant it becomes mildly hypnotic but that sensation soon develops into a nagging annoyance. But when you’ve got a monumental, balance-shifting sub boom that explodes into each beatdown and spine-tingling layers of crash and ride on tracks like “As An Ocean Rebuilt The Life” to contend with, it’s easy to forgive such small inaccuracies.

We’ve had to wait a while for it, the release date having been pushed back due to “a series of misunderstandings, delays and mistakes”, but it’s been a debut album worth waiting for. An extra layer of recording polish, a more generous running time and just a little more variety and Five Days Of Rain will seriously have something to shout about.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/five-days-of-rain-taste-my-breath-after-the-fallout

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gig Review: Shrinebuilder + Wolves In The Throne Room - Scala, London 2/12/10

Ducking into the Scala to escape the capital freeze is a pointless exercise tonight as, be it deliberate or not, the band room is chilled to the point where their cloakroom becomes wholly redundant. It’s the perfect temperature for Wolves In The Throne Room though, who proceed to ramp up the emotion with a combination of gloom, jettisoned fog, etched banners and a protracted candle-lighting ceremony. With the stage fully anointed, their crushing gloop of malevolent black metal, crust and doom rings out, regularly dipping into a burbling, Neanderthal-paced melancholy before bursting out into a session of grating barks and power chords. Like creeping death, they wash over us sparking neither disgust, nor true passion. A few nodding heads and the odd round of gentle applause are all they can muster from those attending, although their fastidious lack of eye contact, rather than their music, is most likely the reason for this.

Nothing less than a volcanic eruption (remember those newsreaders trying to pronounce Eyjafjallajoekull?) could stop Shrinebuilder visiting these shores last Spring, so to finally hear the crowd roar as Dale Crover (Melvins’ drummer/vocalist), Al Cisneros (Om’s bassist/vocalist), Scott Kelly (Neurosis’ guitarist/vocalist) and Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich (The Obsessed vocalist/guitarist), legends all, mount the stage is enough to cause several grown men’s lips to momentarily quiver. The lank-haired Crover and Cisneros, resplendent as the class clown in his woolly hat, immediately fire up the rhythm section; Dale beats the snare into submission with the minimum of effort whilst Al uses his grotty basslines to overwhelm as much of the room as possible. Kelly and Wino try hard to make headway into the deluge with dissonant guitar and a mixture of vocal howl and croon, but they seem to make little impression. Only a trip up to the Glass Room, where a vast pane dissolves the sound, can cure the problem and single their individual efforts out.

They mix the songs up nicely, firing up the mighty ‘Pyramid Of The Moon’ and ‘The Architect’ as an opening salvo and saving ‘Solar Benediction’ for a raging finish. The middle of the set wanders away from the punchier material to slip into a spot of almost mystical noodling – it marks a period where the now fervently headbanging crowd find space for mild introspection. The band also happily fit in a couple of less well-known tracks; ‘We Let The Hell Come’ shining out like a beacon. Kelly, looking like he’s been dragged through a hedge backwards and sporting a perma-stoned expression, is constantly impressive, digging out arse-clenching riffs and scowling vocal which Wino latches onto, plugging any gaps in sound with wah, extravagant slide and morphing melody. In fact it’s also Wino who adopts the role of ringmaster, legs spread, urging the audience to greater heights with a combination of vein-popping head jerks and fierce eyeballing.

There is really only one real spoiler to this brutal showing and it comes in the form of this evening’s stringent ‘no flash’ policy. One fan dares to forget to switch his off and suffers the indignity of having a roadie repeatedly pelt him with flying cups until he ceases. When you’ve got four of the world’s finest musicians before you, performing at the top of their game, turning your brain into mush, it seems the perfect excuse for a little lack of self-control.

All photographs by Rich Etteridge

Also online @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2010/12/shrinebuilder-scala-london-021210/

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Free Download: Magrudergrind - Crusher EP

Accused of channeling bands like Napalm Death, Terrorizer and Carcass, the crushing grindcore of Magrudergrind has been lighting up grotty venues and blowing bedroom sub-woofers for quite a few years now. Recently released and, inevitably made freely available, this latest EP provides the perfect opportunity to give your favourite headbanger an early Christmas present.

Go visit Brooklyn Vegan to get the free download: http://www.brooklynvegan.com/archives/2010/11/a_free_magruder.html

Then go to one of their mental gigs and thank them kindly: http://www.myspace.com/magrudergrind

You could even read this awesome interview printed in Issue #6 of Crucial Zine which you can also download for free: http://crucialzine.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 6, 2010

EP Review: Burn The Iris - Sovereign

One letter shy of being horribly accused of being Emerald Isle-bashing pyromaniacs, the crazily named Burn The Iris hail from the nether regions of the Netherlands and seem at pains to claim they draw great inspiration from their progressive metal neighbours, Germany's The Ocean and Sweden's Burst. Having recorded a promo back in 2007, it's certainly taken them a fair old while to construct three tracks worthy of release - possibly a sign of either a lethargic demeanour or an absolute dedication to producing nothing but quality.

Moving through the tracks, 'Holding Time' pounds along at a fearsome rate, firing out damaged licks and globs of roared, echoic hate until it reaches a gut-churning breakdown that sinks itself into a grim mire where it meets a sticky end. Changing tack, 'Old Son' is a sand-shifting storm of Isis-inspired battery and ubiquitously contrary acoustic guitar and guest vocal, courtesy of Tamara Clijsen. The real find here though is the 10-minute ‘(Sovereign) Ghost’ which straddles an incessantly subversive, richly macabre vein that punches above its weight, inhabiting a groove that will inevitably inspire windmills and headbanging alike. It's possibly a little too choppy to really cling onto the coat-tails of Opeth, and infinitely more opaque than their named influences.

It's probably the deep, echoic vocal and lamentable repetition of minor keys that mark out the distinct streak of black metal running down BTI's spine, but it's a strong feature that bears noting for all future releases. 'Sovereign' is a fine glimpse of the capabilities of an upcoming band but, if they continue to release at a rate of one track a year, I don't recommend holding your breath for a debut album anytime soon.

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/nov10reviews/cdreviews-bti.htm

EP Stream = http://soundcloud.com/burntheiris/sets/sovereign

Friday, December 3, 2010

Album Review: Ill Nino - Dead New World

Ill Niño have taken multiple knocks for continuing to forge a long-forgotten path in a long-dead genre, diligently brushing away cobwebs, side-stepping obstacles and generally keeping the faith when so many have moved on to other religions. So, seemingly, as the last of a dying breed that refuse to jump on the nay-saying bandwagon, I've accepted this chance to defend them.

Their last album, 'Enigma', a Cement Shoes release that was delayed numerous times (which naturally affected sales), turned out to be something of a welcome surprise. I'd not heard the band prior to that and what impressed me more than anything else was their luxuriantly flowing amalgamation of Latin rhythms and vocals with a good, clean dose of hard rocking. It took them seven months to record but their patience clearly paid off. 'Dead New World', on their new Victory label, finds the band singing from the same lyric sheet but clearly to a completely different tune. The recording itself has been somewhat stripped back to create rougher edges and the Latino and electro affectations are almost completely missing (they occasionally pop up teasingly, but feel like something of an afterthought in the process). They've aimed for a more basic, full-frontal assault of Bleeding Through-style macho posturing blended with an, admittedly less than awe-inspiring, rather cluttered, radio-friendly, rock sound.

I think it's safe to say Christian Machado's vocal style dominates the album, with his familiar penchant for using multiple vocal recordings to build up a kind of gang-chant in places. Here, though, he also treats us to some metalcore scream-to-clean vocals and some eye-opening deep bellows too. His range has always been pretty impressive, but this is stepping it up to a whole new level. At times, it's almost as if he's dictating the amount of grunt the rest of the band put in, rather than the other way around. Tearing into the openings of 'God Is Only For The Dead' and 'Serve The Grave', Machado gives it his all leading to a powerhouse display of drumming and a similarly hefty level of guitar chopping and chugging, whilst holding back for 'Against The Wall' and 'If You Were Me' results in a smoother ride for all. 

Brushing quickly over their Smashing Pumpkins cover of 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings', you'll find the album highlight, 'The Art Of War' ripped through with an arsenal of drum shots, and riding a Soulfly-esque tribal groove. There's also the monstrous 'Killing Me, Killing You' to consider as it pounds away creating a monumental driven energy all curled around a brief flourish of nifty Spanish acoustic guitar. This is the true sick realisation of just how pumped the band were in the recording studio and clear proof that Ill Niño aren't quite as stuck in the mud as we perceive them to be.

I've languished on the album's stronger points to create what, I believe, is a valiant defence but, if my review has changed your opinion of this much-maligned New Jersey sextet, even just a bit, then I'd whole-heartedly recommend you heading over to your iTunes/HMV/whatever store and grabbing a copy of 2008's 'Enigma', because at the end of the day it's three times the album that 2010's 'Dead New World' is.

Also online @ MTUK = http://www.metalteamuk.net/nov10reviews/cdreviews-in.htm

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Album Review: Lords Of Falconry - Lords Of Falconry

This band’s juicy moniker, Lords Of Falconry, conjures up images of vast birds of prey gliding in from hilltops to alight on oiled leather gloves so, as an avid ornithologist, I was keen to learn more. A quick flick through their PR release reveals nothing but hyperbole: phrases like “quixotically naïve”, “green, inferno-like” or “the waltz-like sound of mastodons”. Their MySpace page, similarly, reveals little but misdirection (a claim that they hail from the United Arab Emirates being the straw that broke the camel’s back), but a bit of digging unearths one Steven Wray Lobdell, an Oregonian guitarist with a few bands (Davis Redford Triad, Faust, Sufi Mind Game) under his belt and a doyen of all things psych, and one Sammy James Adams, a North Dakotan drummer with a penchant for cultism and all things ancient.

Here, their music emerges through a heady fog of white noise to deliver, most notably, a deranged howling at the moon (‘Doomsday Legislation’), a wash of drunken guitar feedback (‘Scottish Chords’), a hypnotically swerving, effects-laden solo (‘Manifest Destiny’), and a starkly simplistic and instantly accessible array of rock chords combined with a reverberating, gothic vocal, reminiscent of the style of delivery that harkened from The Mission’s Wayne Hussey (‘Mariana’). All these little affectations pin an individual imprint on each track, but all seem impelled by a filthy rich mix of warping guitar overdrive, a monumental, track-bleeding bottom-end drone and an almost epic use of hard-hitting snare and resonating cymbal shatter to steadily drive the music to the point of implosion, where crazily the music folds in on itself – almost as if the players seem hell-bent on self-destruction.

This fetid wall of muddy psych implies a heavy use of mind-bending drugs and a blatant disregard for subtlety or technique. Here, then, is music that screams self-indulgence. Probably recorded as near to live as humanly possible, with disappointingly short tracks (considering the style) faded carelessly in and out, the whole album feels lost down its own deep murky hole where the aggressive power swirls and builds to raise its head before abating and sinking below ground once more. Smack the volume up, close your eyes and, for brief moments, you should be able to generate a feel of how immense this might sound live but burnt to a piece of plastic it merely disappoints rather than invigorates. Perhaps if they’d left the powerful shock ending of the outstanding brutish grunge of ‘Rosebud’ for last, they might have afforded the moment even bigger impact and left a natural fullstop. However by ending proceedings on the mental disharmony between dizzy, treble-heavy guitar and the thunderpunching bassline of ‘Creeping, The Ether’, they’ve left it feeling like an odd bonus track. “Quixotically naïve” is probably a fair description after all, especially when you consider the painfully miserly 35 minutes they offer you to lose yourself in their ambiguously psychotic world.

Also online @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2010/12/lords-of-falconry-lords-of-falconry/