Monday, December 24, 2007

Top Five Metal Christmas Tunes

Christmas and heavy metal have always shared a bittersweet relationship. After all, should musicians whose sheer existence depends on the denigration of religion cop to being family folks off hours? So many have said over the years that they don't really believe their lyrics' words—that they're merely actors portraying characters (looking at you, Alice Cooper)—yet they won't lighten up their tunes. Anyway, a few artists have written Christmas songs (and anti-Christmas songs, but really what are we to believe?), and shockingly they're pretty good. So, without further ado…

  1. King Diamond – "No Presents for Christmas"

    The mother of all antichristian flagellation. But at the end he says he'd dreaming of a "white Sabbath." Isn't that self-contradictory?

  1. Fight – "Christmas Ride"

    Naturally, Judas Priest singer Rob Halford can write a great song about anything. Plus, I believe he really wishes he could go on a Christmas ride.

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  1. Spinal Tap – "Christmas With the Devil"

    Who cares about sincerity? This song rocks. Plus, if they were serious about it, it would be better than King Diamond's Christmas song.

  1. Bob Rivers – "I Am Santa Claus"

    "Leave him cookies and beer/He'll be back to your house first next year." Neither Ozzy nor Kris Kringle himself couldn't have said better.

  1. Twisted Sister – "Oh Come All Ye Faithful"

    Who cares about sincerity? Dee Snider! Now this is a present I can get behind.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Top Releases of 2007

Yes, the top single of the year is a YouTube video. MP3s aren't really singles, now are they? And although I listen to the radio, they would never play this song. And don't get me started on MTV. Anyway, Ever since I discovered The Charlotte Church Show, and the former opera ingénue's duets with British rock's middle to upper class such as her infamous "Beat It" duet with Amy Winehouse, "Seven Nation Army" with the Brand New Heavies and a rousing "9 to 5" with Fergie. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll wince with empathy. "When Doves Cry" stands out mostly because of the awkward moment where Church reaches out and claws Patrick Wolf's stomach during the line, "Touch if you will my stomach/Feel how it trembles inside." His reaction, moving from surprise to tension to "fight or flight" (when he delicately makes a windmill motion to move her away, makes their stiff reinterpretation of the Purple One's almost-purple prose (uh… "This is what it sounds like when doves cry"—maybe that's more emo than purple) that much better. You all already know how I feel about Grinderman, so I wanna jump to Unklejam. This is also a video. I watch it on my iPod way more than I would listen to it. How can you not watch this and just smile? For those who know me Soulja Boy might seem like an eyebrow raiser, but I gotta say, after my cell phone accidentally downloaded the ringtone because I forgot to put keyguard on it, I've grown to love this song, too. I do the Superman now and again, when people aren't looking. Shh, don't tell.

As for my albums, the Long Blondes released a perfect album this year. So what if other critics put it on their lists last year— prompting the American fans that would buy it at a regular price to pay twice as much, and thus skewing its success here? This is one of the smartest bands around from their narrative about aging women (written by a man!) to their interwoven cheerleader-ska-indie-rock anthems. Black Francis released an album that could easily double as a Pixies slab, if it weren't about a Dutch junkie painter and M.I.A. has more than replaced Bono as the social crusader for the 21st Century. I defy anyone to find a better death-metal record than Obliteration's Perpetual Decay—written when the Oslo-based band was just 18 or 19 (better than any of the reunited deathsters' albums this year.) O'Death officially issued their goth-country masterpiece and Rufus Wainwright dabbled with Broadway crooning. When I first thought about making this list this year, my first thoughts were that it was a pretty uninteresting year for pop music. There weren't any major artistic statements (save Battles and the more-than-excellent Mayhem album), but looking at these lists, it was really a year of diversity. There was no one over-arching theme across music, and when you think about it, that's a very good thing. I'm looking forward to seeing what next year will bring.

Top 10 Albums of 2007

  1. The Long Blondes, Someone To Drive You Home
  2. Black Francis, Bluefinger
  3. M.I.A., Kala
  4. Obliteration, Perpetual Decay
  5. O'Death, Head Home
  6. Rufus Wainwright, Release the Stars
  7. Baroness, Red Album
  8. Mayhem, Ordo Ad Chao
  9. Battles, Mirrored
  10. Panda Bear, Person Pitch

Top Singles/Tracks of 2007

  1. Patrick Wolf with Charlotte Church, "When Doves Cry"
  1. Grinderman, "No Pussy Blues"
  2. Unklejam, "Love Ya"
  1. Jesu, "Conqueror"
  2. Soulja Boy, "Crank That (Soulja Boy)"
  3. Battles "Atlas"
  4. M.I.A., featuring Bun B and Rich Boy, "Paper Planes" (Street Mix)
  5. New Pornographers, "Myriad Harbour"
  6. Animal Collective, "Peacebone"
  7. Dude N Nem, "McDonald's"

Top 5 Reissues of 2007

  1. Various Artists, Stax 50th Anniversary Celebration
  2. Young Marble Giants, Colossal Youth
  3. Pylon, Gyrate Plus
  4. Botch, American Nervoso
  5. Pink Floyd, Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Top Metal Albums of 2007

In terms of quality metal, 2007 has been a pretty diverse. There were the psych metallers, the black metallers (and unfortunately a few meddlers), the avant-garde experimenters, stoner rockers and even a small thrash revival. Strangely there weren't any really good hardcore/metal crossover acts (I will not admit to liking metalcore) like Converge, but the records that were good were great.

Jesu got top honors on this list mostly because of the strength of the title cut. Justin Broadrick's beautiful, non-metal croon seems as though it was coming from another plane. After that, there are some differences in ranking on this list from my general music list, mostly because I think about metal differently than I think about general metal—although if you're mincing where Obliteration falls versus Mayhem, then you're a metalhead after my own cockled heart.

  1. Jesu, Conqueror
  2. Mayhem, Ordo Ad Chao
  3. Obliteration, Perpetual Decay
  4. Neurosis, Given to the Rising
  5. Watain, Sworn to the Dark
  6. Byla/Jarboe, Viscera
  7. Wolves in the Throne Room, Two Hunters
  8. Dekapitator, Storm Before the Calm
  9. Big Business, Here Come the Waterworks
  10. Deathspell Omega, Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum
  11. Obituary, Xecutioner's Return
  12. Nadja, Radiance of Shadows
  13. Baroness, Red Album
  14. High on Fire, Death Is This Communion
  15. Bergraven, Dödsvisioner
  16. Gallhammer, Ill Innocence
  17. Dälek, Absence
  18. Hacavitz, Katun
  19. Clockcleaner, Babylon Rules
  20. Rotting Christ, Theogonia
Song of the Year

Grinderman's "No Pussy Blues" is the song of the year, because, well, it's truth. And pain. Which really just makes it all the more truthful when you think about it. We've all been there. We do anything and everything we can to please someone just to be denied. Doesn't have to be sex, either—that's why Nick Cave's frustrated everyman lyrics resonate so well. And that's why I chose to write an essay on the song for Paper Thin Walls' 2007 Year-End Mixtape, which you can read hyuh. If you haven't heard the song, here's the video.

And since you so kindly sat through this post, here's...

the "No, Pussy!!" Blues:

Monday, December 17, 2007

An Ode to Interludes

I was recently listening to the debut from reformed sludgies Baroness, the brilliant Red Album, and was floored by the instrumental acoustic piece "Cockroach en Fleur." Having interviewed John Baizley extensively about the album, I know that there was a reason why they put this interlude where they did in the album. They wanted to break up the heaviness on either side as so many bands have done before. Guitar solos, whether acoustic or electric, used to play such an important part in metal and hard rock that contemporary bands like Tool and Isis that don't play guitar solos have unwittingly begun lengthening their songs or including weird ambient tracks, acting as phantom limbs. The Grammy Awards have actually added a Best Rock Instrumental Performance award in the '80s, but it's mostly been awarded to primarily instrumental artists and, well, Paul McCartney. Frank Zappa got it once, though, which is kind of surprising. Anyway, in an effort for some historic fairness, I've made a Top 10 of my favorite metal interludes, airs and solos. They're not all guitar solos, but they contribute to the album's overall heavy sound. My criteria is that it has to serve its own independent purpose within the album and must mostly be performed on one or two instruments (hence, Judas Priest's "The Hellion" and Metallica's "Orion" don't count). Feel free to correct me on any omissions.

Top 10 Metal Interludes and Solos

  1. "Dee," performed by Randy Rhoads.

    Named after deceased guitarist Randy Rhoads's mother, Delores, "Dee" is a crisp, neoclassical acoustic tangent that comes in as track four on Ozzy Osbourne's solo debut, Blizzard of Ozz. It's beautiful and provides some insight into what a Rhoads solo album might have sounded like. In 1987, Ozzy included over four minutes of outtakes from the "Dee" sessions on his Tribute album. Not Surprising, one of Rhoads's replacements, Zakk Wylde, has attempted many acoustic guitar solos on his disappointing Black Label Society albums—save one, which is below. This is the ultimate in odes.

  2. "Black Mountain Side," performed by Jimmy Page and tabla player Viram Jasani

    Sandwiched between the poppy "You're Time Is Gonna Come" (the most Yardsbirds-y song on Led Zeppelin) and the blistering "Communication Breakdown," this hippy-dippy piece reflects the album's 1969 release year more than anything else on the album. This set the standard for metal interludes to come.

  3. "Eruption," performed by Eddie and Alex Van Halen

    Right after they hooked you in with "Runnin' With the Devil," the Van Halen brothers fired the finger-tapping shot heard round the world. In under two minutes, Eddie changed guitar playing forever.

  4. "(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth," performed by Cliff Burton and Lars Ulrich

    The best interludes are often the most off-the-cuff—the ones that people are doing just for a laugh. Burton never sounded serious on this ultra-distorted solo, and Ulrich's rushed drums only make it the more fun.

  5. "Spanish Fly," performed by Eddie Van Halen

    A year after he rewrote the rules for electric guitar on Van Halen with "Eruption," Eddie returned on II with this plucky acoustic number on side two between "Light Up the Sky" and "D.O.A." Although he uses his tapping techniques, it seems more derivative of influential jazz and flamenco like Al Di Meola and Paco de Lucia. According to Wikipedia, this is Steve Vai's favorite Van Halen song, and therefore it's probably crap and should have been omitted.

  6. "Laguna Sunrise," performed by Tony Iommi

    Programmatic music never suited metal well, but this ode to a beach in Orange County, California fit perfectly in the madness of Black Sabbath's 1972 album, Vol. 4. On their most straightforward "metal" album, "Laguna Sunrise" serves as a musical yin to side one's druggy "FX" yang. Plus, the major-key intro riff on "St. Vitus Dance" wouldn't make any sense without "Sunrise." Other notable Sabbath interludes include the harpsichord-driven "Fluff," their long-running concert opener "Supertzar" and "Children of the Grave"'s lead-in, "Orchid."

  7. "T.A.Z.," performed by Zakk Wylde

    I've included this as a reminder that moderation is best in small doses. Standing for "The Alcoholic Zakk," methinks Mr. Jeffrey Phillip Wiedlandt of Bayonne, New Jersey has bought too much into his southern biker rocker mystique. When He recorded this, it was pretty awe inspiring and the rest of this debut Black Label Society release seemed a refreshing change from the nu-metal that was still popular in 1999. Unfortunately, every album this group has released since has sounded exactly the same, and not in a cool AC/DC kind of way.

  8. "Bourée," performed by Ian Anderson

    Jethro Tull once won a heavy metal Grammy Award to the chagrin of Metallica fans everywhere, myself included, but since I've always rather liked Tull and this is my list, and hardly any metal bands have written a riff as thunderous as "Aqualung" in recent years, this flute arrangement of a J.S. Bach ditty in E minor makes the cut.

  9. "And the Address," performed by Richie Blackmore and Jon Lord

    From Deep Purple's debut, Shades of Deep Purple, guitarist Blackmore and organist Lord create a swirling psychedelic cauldron of heavy proto-prog and blues that predates Zep's "Black Mountain Side" by a year as an instrumental, but lacks the surrounding heaviness. Deep Purple was a different band then, still singing "Hush" and the Beatles' "Help," but not long after they would become one of heavy rock's greatest riff bands.

  10. "Odens Ride Over Nordland," performed by Quorthon

    This Bathory intro is one of the turning points of when solos and interludes started becoming soundscapes. Sure, there's a pretty creepy organ instrumental on this song that fits perfectly with the rest of Blood Fire Death's thrashy '80s black metal, but it's ruined by "mist" sounds and horses bleating. This album also contains an "Outro," but as a standalone piece "Odens Ride" sets more of a mood. After this, extreme metal started to become more modern and less bombastic. In my opinion, the bands could stand to take a break and pace themselves.

Dinosaur Jr., 9/3/2007

Earlier this year, around the time I stopped posting, I got to see the reunited Dinosaur Jr. perform at Webster Hall. It was sponsored by Camel, who put up lights and displays and handed out cigarettes despite New York being smoke-free. They had a spin-art table and a place to take zany photos. None of this convinced me to take up smoking. Nevertheless, the band sounded great. Lou Barlow seemed agitated in a good way and J. Mascis was his usual laconic, bored self. Perfect for "Freak Scene." Oh yeah, Dr. Dog played, too. They were anything but memorable.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Axl Rosenberg's post today is a good kick in the pants for me to get this thing going again. I'll post some new photos, interviews and other stuff you can all make fun of this weekend. And yeah, that forthcoming Genghis Tron is pretty awesome.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Performing in what looked like an abandoned warehouse down by the East River in Williamsburg, Brooklyn last night, Toronto-based, experimental-rock duo Nadja seemed to improvise two ornate, ragged songs. The atmosphere, which could best be described as a hipster-y crowd standing and sitting in a cleared-out room—much like you would do for a house party so your idiot friends don’t ruin your furniture—worked with the pair, which consist of composer/guitarist/noise manipulator Aidan Baker and bassist Leah Buckareff. Also, it was infernally hot outside, which seemed to add to the urgency with which they played. Both songs started with nearly quiet, static-laden noise, highlighted by occasional drum machine beating, and built to impressive heights of melody.

Although Nadja define themselves as doom metal (their email address starts with nadjadoom, after all), they cover too much ground to just qualify as doom metal. (Personally, I hear a lot of later Swans, Godflesh and My Bloody Valentine in their sound, although they might argue with the influences; also, my favorite Nadja album is Bodycage, which is one of their heavier albums.) Using violin bows on their guitar and bass, both members did everything they could to conjure new sounds from their instruments. At one point, Baker began picking the strings behind his fretting hand, making a really high squeaky sound, and spent time twiddling knobs on the guitar pedals he had on the big platform before him. Throughout the whole set, Buckareff kept her back to the audience, although she seemed to respond when the audience clapped. Neither sang during the set, but the music easily stood on its own. At the end of their second song, the music got louder and louder until it completely stopped cold. It was abrupt and was the perfect way to end their set.

After Nadja, dark, psych-rockers Bardo Pond took the stage. There were a lot more people watching them than Nadja, but they didn’t sound as good as their old records. It was just something about singer Isobel Sollenberger’s voice (although her flute-playing was spot on.) The band sounded great, though, and when in the adjacent room they sounded even better because it was less distorted, and Sollenberger sounded better as the night went on. The two bands were a perfect match and the warehouse atmosphere only made it better.

Nadja’s official site is, although Baker’s site seems updated often here: For more on Bardo Pond, visit, or

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Since 1995, a man who goes by Malefic has created noisy, minimalistic black metal soundscapes by himself with his group, Xasthur. With murky tones, repetitive motifs and almost instrumental-like vocals, it ranks among the most introspective yet scary music I've ever heard. Although he contributed to Twilight, a collective of US-based black metal musicians, which he recently departed (to be replaced by Isis vocalist/guitarist Aaron Turner), and has contributed to the groups Sick (US) and Mord (US), as well as vocals for SunnO)), he is music sounds like the work of an isolationist. Often, he has used drum machines, which gives his music even more of a less-human sound. For his latest album, Defective Epitaph (Hydra Head), he expanded his musical instrumentation to include cello and live drums.

Earlier this year, Malefic answered some questions I had for a feature I was writing for CMJ. He wanted the original, unexpurgated interview to appear so he could not be misquoted, which I completely understand. At the end of this interview, he says that it will be his last, but only time will tell if that's not the case. Nevertheless, in this interview, done via email, he is candid, thorough and witty. I especially like his Pumping Up With Hans & Franz reference near the end (or maybe I'm missing something). Nevertheless, it was an honor to do an interview with Malefic.

Why are you including drums and cello on your forthcoming album? Will you be playing the instruments?
Yes, the drums and cello have been performed by myself. It’s time to try different things, to get a different sound and to present a challenge to myself and anyone else who might be listening. To be specific enough, at least five of the songs will have real drums and three will have cello. I’ve gotten something unexpected out of the cello. It not only came across sounding more eerie in the music, but it simultaneously comes across with this slight industrial drone/undertone, so it’s catching my interest in many ways.

Other than flaky musicians, why do you feel it’s hard to collaborate with others on your music?
I don’t think that I would be able to convey to another person what I’m trying to do or to explain it. Also, I don’t think of myself as a very good musician. I don’t “shred” on the guitar, for example, but I have many ideas, and this is the strength in what I do. But I’m not so “technical,” which is the weakness. I’m better at writing music and recording it myself than I am playing it with others, and this is one of the reasons why my “collaborations” don’t last for very long. Being on my own is what has worked best, but the future might have something else in store.

I’ve read that you played in death metal groups in the ’90s, and I figure it was a natural progression, but what originally attracted you to black metal?
Yes, I did temporarily until I became sick of the death metal scene. All around me, it was starting to become a party scene with the same mentality. There was plenty of “gore” behind it, but once the shock value wore off, I realized that there was nothing dark, deadly or hateful about it. And it became something urban and was something I grew out of.

Once I discovered black metal, the transition came naturally, and it was more in tune with the way I felt and looked at life. Many years ago, I viewed black metal as the opposition and adversary to everything, including death metal, thrash, head-banging heavy metal and also things like life, love, society and hope. Unfortunately, I’m beginning to see black metal turning into the opposite of what drew me to it in the first place, which I’ll admit is hard to deal with, but I will deal with it soon enough by just letting go. Being “into something” doesn’t mean a fucking thing to me.

I don’t care about many death metal bands of today, but sometimes I still listen to some bands from a special era like Sepsism, Demilich, Shub Niggurath, Hardware (Mex), Autopsy and Rottrevore for old times’ sake.

Xasthur has a very different sound from more traditional black metal groups, it’s more morose. What do you feel separates your music from Scandinavian bands or other more-traditional groups?
There is a lot more of a funeral doom influence in the music I create. It’s not strictly winter-y and majestic black metal. Being untraditional is about the only thing that sparks my interest anymore.

You’ve previously expressed an interest in possibly doing a non-metal album, something more symphonic. Who are your primary non-metal influences?
This is an option that I consider, but I would want the sounds and ideas to be endless. With black metal, the possibilities are many but not endless. So far, I haven’t depended on keyboards as the main and only instrument, but with something non-metal or ambient I would more or less have to. There’s a difference between using this when in the mood to and using it as the whole mood. It sounds easy but it’s not. When I’m able to get a higher quality keyboard I’ll consider this more strongly. I have very few influences, and that’s what makes this idea appeal to me.

You’ve mentioned Steve Roach in interviews. How did you first discover ambient music?
The Magnificent Void was the album. I discovered it by someone who had made a CD-R of it for me. I had put off listening to it for a while, and then one night I was in the right time and space to truly discover it. I got the feeling that the earth was fading away, and it was the epitome of being lost in a galaxy of infinity, forever. The title fits very well. I’m not really sure how or when I discovered ambient music. I don’t categorize the non-black metal stuff I like. As long as something is atmospheric, sad or dark sounding I’ll take an interest in it.

You’ve also cited the Who and Boston as influences, both of which come across more in your production. In what ways do you feel rock comes into your music?
No, I’m only a fan of their music and listen to it during times when I’m fed up with black metal. There is no influence from rock music in the music I make.

You’ve expressed anger at the music industry and the internet for exploiting black metal. How do you keep a balance between your art and business?
Many bands and fans are blinded and manipulated by the music industry. Both can certainly be loyal to the wrong people! The more and more the “music industry” milks out of a band, the less and less respect and gratitude they’ll show and give to the band and in time. They’ll think they “own” the band. Supporting the music is fine, but why support the crooked labels? Does some label (if not the music) give the sheep some kind of identity? They don’t support you or the music, only themselves. Cult labels are a thing of the past. Wake up and get over it.

There are some highly respected bands in today’s scene that’ll sacrifice all their beliefs and give up their art to some businessman that does not give a shit about their music just for a few measly dollars more and, in the end, it’ll be quite a few dollars less. Hear me now, believe me later. There are labels out there that will disagree with your views and philosophy and not even listen to (or like) your music but will try and get you to sign a contract immediately. These are the same labels that will look you in the chest and not in the eye while telling you there’s no money in black metal. Meanwhile, these pricks are laughing all the way to the bank. I have seen what a joke this scene is, and I’ve had the disgust of seeing labels sign and work with bands that they’ve insulted and mocked behind their backs. I’ve witnessed labels call bands on their roster “shit.” I will and have rejected things like this once I began to encounter it. So think about that the next time you want to call me a “sellout,” as a sellout would just bite the bullet and tolerate it.

Black Metal can do just fine without this social crutch known as the internet. Few use it, many abuse it. Personally, I take care of my emails, and that’s worked well enough for me. None of this other bullshit has any meaning. No thanks to the internet, mouths and opinions have become more significant than contributions. There couldn’t be any other subculture or subgenre scene that relies on the internet as much as black metal does when it should have been relied on the least! The internet is the same thing as a television or a tabloid that gossips about movie stars, and this has no place in black metal. Yet, the bands that aren’t playing the music for themselves (or because it’s within them to do so) means that they’re doing it for this internet acceptance.

Naturally, when black metal became very big on the internet, that’s when the businessman stepped in.

The balance is a good question, there have been times, not long ago, where the business part of things felt like it was becoming a distraction and a frustration, but I made it through all that. Being on a label that’s sincere and isn’t trying to sneak something past me or rip me off gives me one less thing to stress about, and that means some more time spent focusing on the point and what matters: the music. On a more positive note, I believe a couple labels like Hydra Head and Total Holocaust Records have had my best interest in mind and seem to have a grasp on where I’m coming from.

You’ve said in the past that when you started Xasthur, you only wanted to self-release albums and not deal with labels. Why has that changed?
Probably getting too caught up in the actual making of the music to have the time or patience of releasing it myself. Contrary to popular belief, I’ve never had very much money, and it takes more time and money than I could afford to release my own music. But still, looking back and even with these great excuses, I should have found a way. I should have not solely benefited others with the music since it was never their creation. As much as I hate playing the role of businessman or people person, it’s a mistake and for a while I paid for it.

Why did you decide to leave Moribund and Southern Lord?
I buried the hatchet with this one already. It’s time to move on…

Are you disappointed by some of the people just discovering black metal through your music alone?
No, I’m not disappointed by that. If anything, I would be fortunate if that’s really the case. If someone is new to black metal they should see that not all black metal music, structures, ideas, lyrics and people behind those things live up to the same typical stereotypes they may have had before deciding to get into it. For example, there has never been a need for me to make a song about a fucking goat, and there are different ways to express misery, hatred, evil, emptiness and darkness, but more on a personal level, personal attack and affect. No, I’m not so concerned with geographical locations; I just happen to live in the US.

Why do you often mention mirrors in your lyrics and in interviews?
I see my music as a mirror to see a horrific hidden truth within your very being, to reflect fear, to reflect weakness and ugliness within and expose denial. Mirrors are the voices in your head that you thought no one heard, but someone did. There are many human beings that can’t see themselves, and when they have the audacity to think their life means something or has worth, there are mirrors to run from that will tell otherwise and exploit mortality. Tormenting human beings with mirrors is more fatal than cracking their head open or sticking a knife in them. You could hate me for everything I’ve had to say (even in this interview), but don’t hate me, hate the mirror. The sound is a picture of what I see around me, within me and within human beings. I want depression, a void and oppression to be an experience or a soul-drain through music and more than just a word. Pride, denial and lies are another part of human nature that I despise. Mirrors can be a key to reducing human beings to NOTHING! I will leave you with nothing to idolize and show you that nothing is sacred and I want you to know the pain of what it’s like to hate everything you loved.

Your lyrics aren’t typically about time-worn subjects like Satanism. What are your views on black metal artists whose goal it is to spread the word of Satan?
True, my music doesn’t spend much time dwelling on “Satan.” Some other bands who spread the word as a philosophy that they believe or have even adapted into their lives is something I can respect of course, but there are also fools who are confused and don’t know any other ways or emotions to express individuality, hatred, opposition or evil. It’s empty words and it bores me. The shock value has been lost for years and besides, a true Satanist doesn’t walk through life dressing the part.

Unfortunately, politically correct labels and listeners have made Satan and the devil something safe now and will accept these themes from a band in their music and interviews because it isn’t an offense or an attack of hatred toward specific religions, stereotypes, genders, races, wars, political stances, sexuality and most importantly, characters. Therefore the businessman doesn’t have to stand on either side of the fence, and it only equals money with no risk. Provoking an audience in other ways may not be acceptable, or… doing something different all together may not be either. Ironically, as these new “open-minded” people discover black metal, it means that black metal has to remain closed-minded by sticking to the same old thing. Go figure.

I’ve read in interviews that you hate everything in LA. What has kept you there for so many years?
Basically lack of money has kept me here, not to mention, this place is sort of expensive, so it’s easy to spend more than a person can save or make. Some laziness might be a factor as well.

What do you feel people misinterpret most about you?
Instead of giving a real long answer, I’ll say just about everything. Just about everything I say will be intentionally misunderstood, because there are many things people want and don’t want to believe and it’s easier for them to do this. It would crush your little world to believe me but at the same time, that’s why I’m here and that’s what the intent of this music is for me. It’s all a mindfuck, where reality is the rapist… if not yourself. Your crutch will fail you and then you’ll be lost. I think I’ve made myself clear enough here.

Thanks again for taking the time to do this interview.
Thanks for the interview. I will not be doing any more of them.

For more on Xasthur, visit and

Hypnotic, San Francisco-based black meddlers Von formed in 1989 and were arguably the United States' first contribution to black metal. With pounding drums, repeated lyrics and minimal guitar playing (save a few lead-motifs here and there), Von inspired many Scandinavian groups--most notably Burzum, whose Varg Vikernes once cited as an influence in an interview, giving Von's name an acronym: Victory, Orgasm, Nazi. This was incorrect, as the name Von was not an acronym at all, although its meaning remains mysterious.

At this point, most of Von's music remains difficult to find. Their only official, non-demo release was the 2003 compilation Satanic Blood Angel (Nuclear War Now Productions). Strangely, the only widely available Von release is a bootleg called Devil Pigs, released by Candlelight, which contains their Satanic Blood demo after Dark Funeral's first release.

Earlier this year, I contacted Von bassist Kill through Peaceville Records, which puts out records by his new group (Abscess), wherein he goes by his real name, Joe Allen. He was kindly enough to grant me an email interview, which he says will be the last Von interview. Portions of this interview were used in a feature I wrote for CMJ.

You’ve said that people didn’t understand black metal back at that time. What kinds of resistance did you get from San Francisco’s mostly thrash-metal audience?
I think people expected to hear something they could thrash to; they wanted more dynamics in the music. We liked the way it sounded in its basic form, and felt by adding anything else would take away from the sound we were after.

Have you found that that non-black/death metal people have started to understand your band?

Why did you play such minimal riffs?
Von’s intent was not to compile riffs. It was mainly to reflect an intense image and pound it into you relentlessly.

What kind of music were you listening to around that time?
Sodom, Voivod, Slayer, Napalm Death, Misfits, Motörhead.

How did that affect Von?
We were into metal, but set out to isolate Von’s sound from any other influences. We never listened to other bands in our studio.

I read that Diamanda Galás was a major influence on Von. How did she affect you?
The Litanies of Satan sounded completely possessed, dark. We liked it.

Your lyrics were often ritualistically Satanic. How serious were you at the time about your message?
It was created in the music, and ended there.

How did you devise your live rituals (blood, candles and all)? Did you base them on anything?
Our stage presence was important to us but was limited with what little time we had to play. Our set lasted about 30 minutes. We made two, seven-foot-tall upside-down crosses to be placed at both sides of the stage, placed red candles at the base of the crosses, we wore stage blood on our faces and body, flooded the stage with fog when possible. The songs were played without much of a break. We would finish a song and immediately go in to the next.

How did you react when you read that Varg Vikernes attached an acronym to your name?
We laughed. We thought no one could have taken that seriously.

What are the origins of the name Von?
Goat created the name, as well as everything else relating to Von. It was accepted with the band and not many questions were asked about it.

What lead to your group’s demise?
I’m sure we each have our own answer to that one. As for me, I think it had mainly to do with the pressure of everyday life. We supported ourselves with the bare minimum. As time went on, it wasn’t enough to keep the band going.

What’s your fondest memory from Von?
Playing live.

What should people remember about Von?
Goat created Von’s sound, Von’s image, and artwork. It was his entity. He will not return to the metal scene for his own reasons, but as the bassist, I am glad to have been a part of it.


For more on Von, and maybe to hear their music, visit, and

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Last Friday, Kansas City knuckle-bruisers Coalesce performed their first NYC "reunion" show in five years at the Knitting Factory (as if these guys have never broken up... repeatedly). Matched well with Provdence-based schizo-corps Daughters (a little too well, since Daughters remain one of the best live bands around right now), the groups tumbled through fan favorites and adrenaline boosters.

Shortly into Daughters' set, a fan yelled out, "Play all of your first album!" Singer Lex Marshall rejoined, "We already played all the best songs... all two of them!" In general, this was one of the best times I'd seen the band. Marshall did his spitting, scratching, fellating-the-mic thing (thankfully he didn't do this), and the band bounced off the audience like a rubber wall. This was also the closest I've gotten to the stage during one of their concerts--I mostly stuck to the back previously because of the aforementioned reasons--and it seemed, surprisingly, like Marshall was pretty sober. I got to thinking, This is no madman of rock at all. His sobering precision in when he performs his ridiculous acts and meticulous detail to the way in which he freaks out belies his persona. Well-studied in David Yow (and maybe aspiring to be G.G. Allen, if you clicked that link), he's pushed himself to become a great frontman. Of course, this is no slight at him since he does it so well. For all the moshing, crowd-surfing and screaming he shared with the audience, it will be hard for them to top this gig. There were a couple of girls there, obviously brought by their mother who bought them drinks and asked if she should stay, which speaks to Daughters' universality. Saliva and family make good friends.
Coalesce somehow garnered a mookier crowd than Daughters with their mangled mathcore. Perhaps nobody left after Daughters' set, but instead a bunch of bridge-and-tunnel violence-gang punks just showed up. It was nice to see guitarist Jes Steineger back in the ranks, as his fill-in on the band's 2002 farewell tour wasn't nearly as exciting to watch. He often writhes, screams, shakes his fist, shouts into a bullhorn, looks ferocious all in the course of a song. By the third song, the Kansas City troupe was playing cover songs, Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love," to be exact, and that seemed to win over any stalwart wallflowers. Throughout the set, vocalist Sean Ingram kept joking about how "I bet you didn't know we were really a cover band." Uhh... why don't you cover more of your own songs and not Hendrix's "Voodoo Chile" and Fugazi's "Repeater"? Sure, a fun sing-along is good every so often, but for a band with so many albums and so many different styles, I was hoping the diversions wouldn't last long. They did play a song from their new 7", which sounded pretty good--very groove--oriented, after which Ingram joked, "You'll know this one next year." In the end, the group ended strong with Functioning on Impatience's "You Can't Kill Us All." The audience sang most of the lyrics while Ingram sat back and laughed. It's good to have you back too, dude.

Friday, August 10, 2007


I sure can't. Anyway, the re-formed post-metal group performed Spiderland at New York's Webster Hall. I tried taking some pics, but had no luck. I did review the concert, here.


A couple of weeks ago , I caught black metal legends Immortal at B.B. King's in New York, but I forgot my camera. Thus, here are some camera phone pics. They're terrible, aren't they?

Anyway, I reviewed the concert for Decibel, so let's hope they got some better pics. Not sure when it's gonna run, but look for it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


MIA stole the show at this year's Siren Fest. To read a brief interview that I did with her a couple of weeks before, click here.