Saturday, February 25, 2012

Liberteer – Coz' I Wanna beeeeee ... ANARCHY!

I’m not what you could call a Grindcore specialist. However, I know how to appreciate a record that grooves and that has the mighty devil-beat that turns us metalheads on. And Liberteer’s first record “Better To Die On Your Feet Than To Live On Your Knees” has got plenty of that killer groove.
 “Better To Live On Your Knees…” is about Grindcore and Anarchy, and Matthew Widener, the only man in charge here, made it pretty clear: without that specific theme, there would be no Liberteer  at all. That naturally leads us to the second reason why I had a crush on this record: I just love artists who use their art to express their opinions and ideas. Grindcore might not only be about disgusting autopsies and fecal fetishism after all... 

That’s your first record with Liberteer, and I understood you did it all by yourself?

Was it something you wanted or you just didn’t find the right people at the right time?
Both. Doing it myself afforded me the flexibility to slowly work on it over the span of a few years. But also, the album is very personal and I didn't know any other musicians who shared my exact views, so doing it myself was also a necessity. 

And is there a particular “satisfaction” when you release such a solo record?
There's always a satisfaction when releasing any sort of record. I work on my own a lot so this is nothing new to me.

Basically, Liberteer=Matt Widener

What are the nicest things when you do such a record alone?
It's great being able to abandon it all if you want. With this album I had no one else's expectations on the line.

What about the bad aspects of a solitary record?
That would be that I was working in a bubble and wasn't sure if what I was doing was any good.

You also play in Cretin, and have been in Exhumed, The County Medical Examiners: do you only like Grindcore??
I like grindcore the most, but I also like other forms of metal. I listen to a lot of rock and indie music. I listen to some jazz. And I listen to more classical music than all the rest combined.

What is your definition of Grindcore anyway?
That's pretty complex. I can't give you a definition because so much of what grindcore is depends on historical context, production sound, common perception, and so on. Sorry for the disappointing answer.

I love the banjo and the orchestral elements on the record. Did you just wake up someday and think “I’m gonna play banjo on a grindcore record”? 
Yes, pretty much! I actually heard these interesting combinations in my head years ago. I'm not sure where I got the inspiration for that. I knew there would have to be some interesting instrumental choices in order to keep the album from stagnating and becoming too fatiguing.

On the promo copy I have, the songs flow very quickly, as if they were all one big 27-min song...
That was the idea. I wanted the album to feel very different and one way was to make it one long song. I was more interested in the album as art, instead of just an assemblage of singles. But I knew doing that would be hard on the ears. Grindcore seems to need those song breaks, to make songs short and digestible. Psychologically it allows us to disconnect, to even turn the album off at a certain resting point. That's why I wrote the instrumental parts and spread them out.

What are you musical influences? Only other grindcore bands?
In general I have all sorts of metal influences, from Napalm Death to Exodus to Iron Maiden to Death, all sorts of bands.

Do you think that Grindcore needs to be either “fun” or “political”?
Not at all. I think it's great that grindcore has a long history of protest themes, but grind can also be fun, it can be disgusting, it can be anything.

Liberteer’s message is pretty obvious when you listen to the lyrics, is it a definitive element of the project?
The theme is inseparable from the music. Without the politics, I have no interest in making the music for this project. Meanwhile I have other musical projects that don't have a theme or lyrics, only music. It depends on each project.

And how would you sum up the concept behind “Better Die On Your Feet That Live On Your Knees”?
The lyrical concept is anarchism, in a most broad and general sense. It advocates a society without a state and without capitalism. It imagines a society based on equality.

I don't know if this record's gonna change the world, but it sure made me change my opinion about Grindcore

Do you think that music can really change things, or society?
In a way; yes. I think musical movements can have an effect on society. Look at rock and roll in the '50s. Be bop in the '40s. Music is a huge part of our zeitgeist. But as for politically focused messages in music, I don't think the change is very noticeable. I think I'm lucky if even one listener grows curious about Liberteer's theme and looks into anarchism with an open mind.

Do you have any “idols” other than musicians? People that made history and that inspire you?
There are too many to name. Besides the obvious courageous political figures that Liberteer quotes, I like many artists and painters. Most of my heroes are writers, however. Kafka, Beckett, Dostoevsky, Checkov, Camus, the list goes on and on.

The very symbolic shutdown echoed all over the world. Do you think we need to forbid filesharing to preserve the artists? Or do we need to invent a whole new system?
I think none of the systems we have in capitalist societies are fair to artists. This is because capitalism is concerned about profit and unconcerned with who is exploited for that profit. I'm not too interested in the file sharing argument; beyond the minimal effect "pirates" have on corporations. Every artist is different, some are popular enough where the filesharing doesn't make much a dent, and others, like me, can lose money. Regardless, if I were to forgo a label and release an album by myself on a website for a few dollars a download, I would be paying an ISP money for bandwidth and storage to do so. Everyone gets their cut. In a society I'd like to live in, there wouldn't be corporations taking a majority of the cut.

And are you going to tour with Liberteer and have you hired a line-up?
No. There's a possibility of getting other musicians but it isn't likely.

No chance to see you on stage in France anytime soon I believe…
Maybe with my other band Cretin, after we put out our new album.

Thanks to Matt and to Frank for making this interview possible!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Quill - Bring it on!

The Quill is without a doubt one of my favorite bands. I really had the revelation in 2002 when "Voodoo Caravan" came out. This pure hard-rock gem is probably one of my all-time favorite records. And then the band stunned me again with it's most successful record "Hooray! it's a deathtrip"; as they explored a heavier and more aggressive territory.  
This band's always had everything a hard-rock band needs to give you the chills: energy, blues, feeling and great hooks. However, after the release of "In Triumph" in 2006, everything collapsed: singer Magnus Ekwall left the band and The Quill pretty much disappeared. Very suddenly last year, they popped out back, from out of nowhere, with a new singer, a new record and a whole new load of energy. "Full Circle" is a fantastic way to introduce the new singer, Magz. The man has got huge boots to fill as many fans didn't know what to expect from The Quill without one of it's biggest assets; former singer Magnus Ekwall. 
More than enough for me to get in touch with The Quill to find out more about that great return. 
Now you all say thanks to Rob Triches (bass) for beeing kind enough to answer these questions!

First of all, the new album, Full Circle came out last summer. How was the feedback like?
The response has been very good. Good ratings in European and American press and we’ve sold reasonably good. We’ve also had som really good promotional work done for us both in Europe and in the US, thanks to our new record company Metalville.

Did you get a chance to tour to promote it?
Oh yes, we’ve played about twenty or so shows in Sweden, we’ve also been touring in Holland and the UK. We just got home from a ten gig tour in Germany and Switzerland and are going on our first ever US tour in March. We’ve also played a few festivals, both in Sweden and in Spain. We will also return to Holland (in April) and do summer festivals in Europe. Hopefully will find time to tour even more in the autumn, but that’s not definite yet.

Now a little bit of history: What happened after the release of In Triumph, the band seemed to be doing OK and all of a sudden, you guys called it quits!
Well what happened in short was that our previous singer Magnus Ekwall didn’t want to get on with the band. That led eventually to The Quill being put on ice for about a year and a half. Jolle joined Hanoi Rocks and both Christian and I worked in other musical projects. But by late 2009 it was Quill time again, and we joined with our current singer Magz Arnar.
I also understood that the situation was pretty tough for the band, in terms of “sales” and “touring”.
Well yeah it was, but not any more for us than for any other band on our scale. I mean downloading has changed the music industry and salesrates completely. In terms of touring we had the chance to kick our work up a notch or two, but Ekwall wanted to quit instead. Now there’s a whole new energy to the band, and we’ve never played so many shows on one single album before as now.

I always considered you guys as one of the most talented band in your domain, seeing you almost quit really pissed me off! 
Well, thank you very much! It’s appreciated. My personal view is also that we’ve been ”underestimated” a lot. Some of that can be blamed on our selves, too, of course, but now there’s a new dawn.

I wrote a blog last year about the “misunderstanding” of hard-rock bands these days, because they seem to be stuck in a “no-man’s-land” between mainstream rock and Metal audiences…
Yeah, I read that. It might be true in some sense. But I believe our music can reach everyone.

And I also felt that you got closer to the “Metal” audience with the very heavy "In Triumph" record, which is VERY different from "Voodoo Caravan" for instance…
Well, yeah, maybe that’s right. Those two albums are no doubt really different from each other but it all comes down to the natural development within the band. It’s nothing that you can stop and change deliberately in any other direction, at least won’t we try to do anything like that. We write music that we love and we put our hearts into every little bit of it. It’s really clear on Full Circle, I think. There we’ve shared many of the writing duties that used to be Ekwalls responsibility.

This is one of my all-time favorite records. Amazingly warm, groovy and elegant hard-rock. 

Voodoo Caravan is my personal favorite record from The Quill. Which one is your personal favorite, and why?
I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hooray album. But Full Circle is more… competent, more fulfilled.

Are there any decisions you “regret” over this period? Maybe a record deal, or a tour you might have missed…
Absolutely. There’s always things like that. Some you can blame on other people, some you can only blame yourself for. Like when we missed out on a coast-to-coast tour in the US supporting a big band back in 2007. That really sucked big time.

And when & why did you guys decide to come back?
It all re-started when we found out about Magz. We heard some of his work on MySpace and decided it was gonna be him or no-one. The first time we approached him he was busy with other professional and personal things. But when we presented some new songs to him he was hooked ;-)

 Did he play in a band we might know before?
Well, he used to play in a band called Lawnmower, but that never took off really. He’s been involved in a vast variety of projects over the years, it’s really interesting to hear him talk about everything he’s done. But he says himself he never played in a better band than The Quill.

He had huge boots to fill; Magnus Ekwall was really popular among the fans…
Yes, very true, and we totally respect that. And of course we’ve lost some of those fans along the way. But there’s really nothing that we can do about that. They are very welcome to listen to the old stuff and enjoy that, but we’re gonna press on and write new music and make new history instead. We’ve also found a whole new audience with Magz, actually we see more kids on our shows today than we used to, which is fantastic. And the hardcore Quill-fans are still there. As we are…

I think he does a good job on the record though, because he doesn’t try to sound like Magnus Ekwall at all…
Nope, he would never try to mimic anyone. And if he sounded different we wouldn’t have been so impressed with him as we were when we first heard his work.

What was your main purpose when you started to work on Full Circle?
To show everyone that we’re still around and can deliver a kick ass album and do kick ass shows. The revenge factor was high... But of course it all boils down to our love for the music, the brotherhood in the band and the connection to the fans. We really missed them!

And how would you compare it to the previous ones?
It’s more of a straight rock'n'roll album. And as I said earlier it’s also one where all four of us has taken responsibility for writing both the music and the lyrics. In my ears it’s more diverse that the previous ones. But I’ve heard people say differently.

I love the bluesy songs that you guys compose, what are the bands that have influenced you? They go as far as Americana and even country I believe??
We’ve always acknowledged the blues as the foundation for our music. Yes, we took it a bit towards the countryside on a song or two, but that worked out nicely as well, I think.

I think it’ll sound fantastic on stage!
Yes, under the right circumstances it does fit it’s place in the set.

Generally speaking, do you think we need to see the band on stage to fully
understand it?
Hmm, thats a difficult question. I can only answer that if it were me, the answer would be yes. This band is all about live and the nerve and the spark.

I’d seen you on the tour with Monster Magnet in 2004. I think, was it your biggest tour?
We toured with Gluecifer and Monster Magnet in 2004 and yes, it was the longest tour we did so far – forty shows in a row. But all together we will play many more shows supporting Full Circle than any of the older albums. Right now we’re totally psyched about going over to the US – it’s gonna be great!

Rob, all I have left to say is Thanks for that great Interview!
You welcome Yath, thanks for your interest and keep rockin'!


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Torture Division - Satan, Sprit och Våld

Lord K Philipson, Tobben Gustafsson, Jörgen Sandström: that’s some Line-up! This Death Metal power-trio combines 60+ years of Death Metal experience. These guys have played in: Grave, Entombed, Vicious Art, Krux, The Project Hate MCMXCIX, God Among Insects, Leukemia, House Of Usher and Vomitory. Enough credibility? The reason why you might have not heard about this band yet is that they’re not doing things in a conventional way. Torture Division is all about the love of Death Metal, just as it’s written on their their website. And it’s not just some marketing trick; the guys are serious about it and they've been prooving it: no record deal, no physical CDs, the only business they do is with Tshirt and some other Merch. The Torture Division crew produce demos and give them away for free  download on their website, with a super cool artwork and a complete CD cover. All they’re gonna ask you in return is a volunteer donation. That’s some attitude. And coming from one of the most exciting line-ups you could ever imagine, I say it’s UNBELIEVABLY COOL. I had the opportunity to interview Lord K Philipson last year, and he pretty much summed up the situation: “Fuck it, it’s that easy to be great”. Indeed. Except that to be that great, you still need to have their talent!

One of the Best Death Metal Line-ups you could ever imagine...

Needless to say that Torture Division's Death Metal is WAY above average. I mean, these guys have invented Death Metal, and their only challenge now is to perfect it. Nothing experimental, nothing too serious, nothing progressive here, just the essence of our beloved extreme musical style: raw and powerful riffing, groove, attitude and sick melodies. The first thing that’ll strike you is Jörgen Sandström’s unique vocals and the unbelievable production. And guess who’s behind that thick and insanely heavy sound? Dan Swanö of course! And as you might expect, he’s also in this for the fun and the love of music. 
In all cases, you guys definitely need to check Torture Division out, download all of their demos and make a donation to thank them for having the best attitude ever and most of all for their top notch Death Metal.

You can download the music, the full-cover and everythingyou need to burn the CD yourself

Seriously, who the hell am I to try and analyze their music??? Their latest offering, Satan, Sprit och Våld, (means Satan, Spirits and Violence according to google) is another piece of perfect Death Metal. The first song, “Cirkelstryk” is a good introduction to the band, it’l kick your ass in less than a minute. Jörgen Sandström’s introductory scream and the blasting madness of this one will twist your guts. Second track “Otukt” is all about the groove; old-school Swedish Death Metal brought to perfection.  The last song, “Satan, Sprit och Våld” is a bit more surprising, as it has that fantastic melodic riff, the old-school way: fast, sharp and vicious! Amazing.

This is 10 minutes of pure Death Metal pleasure, much superior to anything you guys might have bought this year, better than anything any label is trying to sell you. And guess what, it's all of  FOR FREE!
Not much to say, really, other than THANK YOU Torture Division for bringing Death Metal to such a level of awesomeness!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Iced Earth – Dystopia

Take this as a confession: I never really got Iced Earth. For a Heavy Metal fan, that sounds like a heresy I guess. But as you all know, appreciation of music is completely subjective. I really need to feel the music all over my guts to “get it”, and it just never was the case with Iced Earth. 
I still remember buying the normally amazing triple Live CD (Alive in Athens) when it came out back in ’99; everyone had told me it was the perfect introduction to the band, and I was so disappointed! I mean I did recognize the quality of their Heavy Metal, but somehow, I just didn’t dig that band… Maybe it was about the very old-fashioned vibe, the cheesy lyrics…I can’t really tell, to me, they sounded like a way too nostalgic band… I even remember a discussion with a friend of mine about The Glorious Burden record; that came out in ’04. Man the lyrics were just…ARGH!

Jon Schaffer has two passions: Metal and History. I like it better when he doesn't combine them

And now here I am, listening to Dystopia on a nice 180g-vinyl and thinking, WOW, at last I get this band! Something's changed, definitely, and knowing what I just confessed, you guys should realize how awesome this record is.

Freakin' awesome, nothing else to say about Dystopia!

First very cool thing about Dystopia: singer Stu Block, former Into Eternity (a band I literally LOVE). The guy is the perfect modern heavy Metal singer. He’s got the insane high-pitched powerful voice and the aggressive modern singing. That is clearly an asset for Iced Earth and it makes the songs sound much less old-fashioned. And I also felt that mastermind Jon Schaffer specifically wrote songs that would allow Stu to express his entire potential.

Stu Block is no longer the singer of Into Eternity. "Hybrid Singer" is indeed a very relevent way to define his skills

The songs on Dystopia are extremely heavy, with insane power riffs and amazing choruses. In fact, every song has 3 special ingredients: at least one insane riff, a fantastic chorus and a cool solo or melodic bridge. And somehow, the “cheesy” feeling you had when listening to Iced Earth is replaced with a very impressive modern approach! It’s like old Iced Earth met Nevermore, the melodies and the songwriting join forces with the heaviness of Thrash-like riffing.
It’s amazing sometimes how minor changes in a band completely reverse the feeling you get out of the music!

That is the killer self-titled opener! 

Dystopia’s got 10 awesome songs, but some of them stand out, like the killer self-titled opener, the genuine hymn “Anthem”, the melodic “Anguish Of Youth” and my personal favorite, “Dark City”. And although some tracks are just “good” (like the very classic “V”), this is still overall a "way above average" Heavy Metal release. 

One of 2011's best songs. Period. 

At first, when I started liking that record, I thought something in me went wrong, I mean, I wasn’t supposed to like Iced Earth! After discussing that surprising fact with some friends (I happen to know some huge Iced Earth fans) they confirmed me this was Iced Earth’s best record since the classic Something Wicked This Way Comes (1998). And as a very wise man said: “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change”, I thought I’d give Iced Earth another chance and I grabbed some old records to see if my opinion about the band would change. And you know what: I think I’m gonna stick to Dystopia…



Sunday, February 5, 2012

Metallica – Beyond Magnetic

I was pretty surprised to come across Beyond Magnetic on my local record store shelves. I thought this was supposed to be an exclusively digital release, but apparently, the fans demand was so strong that the band eventually decided to release the “physical” EP version.

These B-sides from the Death Magnetic sessions were originally a gift the band had made to its fanclub members. Then the songs were released on Itunes, and the feedback was extremely positive, so what the hell, why not put out a low-price CD? Great idea & an excellent way to move on after the DISASTEROUS LULU.

And that also explains the very minimalistic packaging: very simple cover, no booklet, just a cool picture on the back of the CD. At first, I was disappointed, but I have to admit it makes sense. These are only B-sides, and obviously the band just wanted to make them available for old farts like myself that absolutely WANT the physical CD. No need for a fancy packaging, bonus songs and useless linear notes. Simple cover, cheap price and most importantly: 4 very good songs; no more, no less, I kind of like that idea.

Simple yet very classy cover...

These 4 songs were originally composed and recorded during the Death Magnetic sessions, and they were eliminated when the band had to choose the final tracks. The songs are in their rough mix, non-edited version. They are pretty long; as you get 30 minutes of Metallica on that 4-song EP, and they sound indeed like rough mixes full of ideas, different riffs, breaks…

There are 2 ways to “analyze” that EP. The first one is pretty simple: these songs are really cool, I personally LOVE “Just a Bullet Away”, with it’s awesome riff and very cool/typical melodic break in the middle.

Your second option is to try and understand WHY these songs weren’t on the final Death Magnetic tracklist; especially that as said, they are pretty good.
If you listen carefully, you can clearly tell that these songs are more “rock” oriented than Death Magnetic; that had a clear METAL orientation. I mean listen to the “Hell And Back” riff; it sounds like it escaped from the Load/Reload sessions! If you dig a little further, these songs actually sound like the perfect transition between St Anger and Death Magnetic! Maybe St Anger wasn’t just a horrible accident after all…(OK, most of you Metal fans want to hang me now).

And that is probably the reason why these songs didn’t make it on Death Magnetic: they sound a little different, with a more rock’n’roll vibe, whereas the band wanted to make the Metal & Thrash orientation very clear. Makes sense…

And that’s why I’m glad Metallica did release that EP because I personally love it when they inject that groove and rock vibe into their music. I’m actually a fan of many Load/Reload songs and I enjoy a lot of the St Anger Riffs (I did say RIFFS, not songs J). Another funny “coincidence”: the band’s black & white picture on the back of the CD: really looks like a picture from the Load/Reload period!