Interview: Rosetta

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One of the more interesting bands ploughing the post-whateverthefuck genre are Pennsylvania’s Rosetta, a four piece outfit who meld riff heavy bombast with a cerebral, mantra like space groove. They have described themselves in the past as ‘serious music by unserious people, which seems about right. Their new album, The Anaesthete is a phenomenal piece of work, and their first attempt at a complete DIY process. Demon Pigeon sat down with lead singer Michael Armine (not really, I emailed him. What you think we can afford to fly to Pennsylania?) to ask about the new album, ice moons and why Spotify is rubbish.

DP: I think you are the only band that I’ve ever discovered through a Wikipedia article about a frozen moon around Jupiter. I was writing a story about Europa and while researching it I stumbled across a link to The Galilean Satellites album. The story turned out to be so bad I had to erase all traces of it from existence, but I’m glad it introduced me to you. So, what’s the new album all about?

MI: A lot of people will be disappointed with the lyrical content of this record. There is an over arching them to The Anaesthete but it is not transparent from the lyrics. Unlike The Galilean Satellites where there were a lot of repetitive symbols, The Anaesthete has only three that repeat very few times. There is one reference to a song on A Determinism of Morality because a theme that I had hoped was laid to rest ended up having a little more life left in it after all. We receive a lot of emails from people dealing with their potentially suicidal episodes. The all say the same thing, that Rosetta made them feel hopeful. So we wrote around that idea.

DP: This is your first album being released under your own steam, how is that going? I’d imagine it’s a little daunting?

MI: It was daunting for each member in a different way, especially for Matt (J Matthew Weed, Guitar). Aside from putting his energies into seeing the album be exactly what we wanted, individually and collectively, Matt set up entire platform and business model the record was released on. There were a lot of nights with no sleep for him. The rest of us kind of got off easy in comparison.

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DP: The new artwork is amazing, continuing in the fine tradition of your previous work, each of which is wildly different from its predecessor. Who designed it, and how much input did you have as a band into it?

MI: Jordan Butcher of Work Of Self designed the piece. He’s an old friend of ours we met touring the states. We actually relinquished our input on this as we trusted his good judgement and skills. We gave them themes and symbols to work with, he did the rest. Our reaction to the original cover was the same as everyone else who posts on our facebook page: “What the fuck is this?”

Instead of dismissing it straight off we decided to sit with it for a week. The more we came back to it the more we liked it and ended up going with it. At a time when people too quickly dismiss a piece of art, we decided to package the record in something that people would have to accept and come to like the more they returned to it.

DP: I noted with amusement that the visual presentation of your name on the artwork had certain cretinous buffoons lamenting your move towards black metal. You’ve never before had a set ‘logo’, does this rather lovely ornate typeface represent a ‘stunning new logo direction’ for Rosetta?

MI: The reaction to the logo was something I found really interesting. All of a sudden the hive mind that is the internet decided that design to be a black metal one. It was ridiculous too see people making assumptions about the sound based off the image. I understand that Black Metal is very popular right now but people should have more faith then to think we were jumping on a new trend.

DP: Now that you’ve moved into the murky world of self-releasing, how much of the extra work of being in a band are you now in control of? I’m thinking tour booking, merch, stickers etc. Do you still have people to delegate all this stuff or is it all entirely in-house?

MI: This is a new world for us. Matt is taking care of all the business in terms of how this album will be released in physical form. While we all have input on every decision he’s the go man for that part of the project. Dave (Grossman, Bass) and myself are still taking care of US booking. Overseas booking is always handled by the one and only Mike Persil.

DP:  The trajectory of your albums seems very clear, and each album always feels like a natural progression from the last. The new album is no different, but it feels a lot grander in scale than ‘Determinism…’ It’s also crushing in places. Do you look at each album in terms of an overall piece, or are you guided more by the individual songs as they appear?

MI: I think the former is true for albums like Gallilean and Wake/Lift. Determinism and The Anaesthete were very much song by song in terms of construction. It was not until later in the studio that we sat down with the songs and really though about they sounded together. This is especially true of The Anaesthete. The track order was very much intentional and was the center of a lot of debate and conversation. We finalized the record as it is because it has three segments, each having their own feel that flow into one another nicely.

DP: You were interviewed for the ‘Blood, Sweat & Vinyl’ documentary, and you are often lumped in as being in the ‘post metal’ scene, or the ‘sludge metal’ scene, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Do you feel part of this or any other scene?

MI: Certainly not anymore. I think for a moment in time we did and were even okay being lumped into the ‘Post this or that’ metal scene. We never focused on that stuff and we never tailored the music for that demographic of listeners. That may be why I’m currently feeling left out of a the loop in terms of what good bands are out there. Because we toured so much. Touring will make you hate music, especially what is currently popular. I personally turned my head to a lot of new music because I was feeling so over saturated from touring. I’m playing catch up. For example, Deafheaven was just a name to me for a long time. Turns out I really like what they’re doing. But it took me a long time to actually give them a listen.

DP: Part of your self-release for the new album was to work under a ‘pay what you want’ system, with a physical release later in the year. Do you think it’s more important for people to hear your music and get yourselves out there than to try and make money off the album itself?

MI: Both are equally as important right now and I hate that that’s the case. We make music for ourselves and are thankful that others are interested and take interest in it. It was okay in our 20’s to push hard just so people will hear the music. Now, 10 years later we have a lot of other outside responsibilities. we need a support system that can finance Rosetta so we can keep creating music for people to enjoy. In retrospect It was a good thing that we worked so hard for the last 10 years. Now we have a support system in place allowing us to keep creating music for a dedicated base of people while still continuing to reach more with less energy.

DP: Your old albums are on Spotify (which I guess is the label’s decision) but the new one isn’t up yet, is this a conscious choice?

MI: Yes it was. Spotify, like Itunes, takes advantage of the artist. Like any business they are out to maximize profit while using an antiquated business model:Pay the worker less than what they are worth. We went with Bandcamp because they are a good-guy company and have the bands best interest in mind. They do not strip the bands of large percentage of the profit. In fact, the more you sell on Bandcamp, the less they take for themselves.

DP: What are your feelings about the way these services seem to be driving the market these days?

MI: Bandcamp’s business model could easily destroy Spotify. It won’t happen. The result will be a division between how independent musicians/ bands promote themselves and how the majors promote their bands. The result I think will be outstanding. Aside from the Bandcamp model making major labels irrelevant, because they work for the artists best interest, Bandcamp will become the platform for independent musicians/bands to launch a career where no middleman can get in their way. Hopefully it means that less bullshit is promoted to us and more quality music is highlighted for us.

DP: I’ve always thought of you as one of the more cerebral bands out there at the moment, as a bunch of clever dicks what entertainment delights should we plebeian fools be enjoying that we might not know about?

MI: This answer would change drastically between band members. Speaking only for myself, Breaking Bad is a new favorite TV show of mine along with Parks and Recreation. Currently I’m reading The Dreaming Void series by Peter F. Hamilton. In terms of new music that’s out there I’m really not the guy to ask. I’ve been listening to a lot of Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Autecha, and Public Enemy.

I’ve been feeling it harder and harder to come across good heavy music these days. A few weeks ago my friend introduced me to a band called Cloakroom. Their new record is awesome along with a European band called Ventura. They just did a song with David Yow from The Jesus Lizard that is unreal. Recently my opinion is that heavy music has been vacillating between too technical and premature. It seems like we’re being flooded with a large number of bands and only a small fraction of them are interesting.

DP: As a resident of that diseased isle across the pond from yourselves we were very glad to hear that you’re joining the line up for Damnation Festival, but what are the odds that your European fans will get the chance to enjoy the new album in a full blown headlining setting?

MI: We are doing a very short tour of the UK in November that will include two shows in France as well. This upcoming summer we will be in China for two weeks with a possible tour of Russia in April. A full European tour will happen in the summer of 2015 I’m sure.

DP: Finally, do you have a favourite ice moon?

MI: EUROPA!!!!!!!

http://www.rosettaband.com/

Rosetta are playing Damnation Festival at Leeds University Union on 2nd November, alongside Carcass, Cult of Luna and many more. 

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Live Review: Torche

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Torche/Fat Goth/Shields

Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 18th Aug 2013

It’s a funny old world, after all. The night previous to this I was sat in the grounds of a stately home watching thousands of wretched middle and upper class toffs wave their beflagged umbrellas in the air as the English National Orchestra prom’ed their way through half the Classic FM playlist marked National Pride (with a stirring rendition of the Star Wars Theme thrown in for good measure) with a sense of mixed enjoyment at the spectacle and revulsion at the company I was forced to endure.

Tonight I’m ankle deep in hipster douchebags smoking brown papered roll ups and endlessly moving their fringes out of the way of their lensless glasses, feeling much the same way, except on the second night I don’t get the enjoyment of watching middle aged women attempting to dance to the distinctly un-groovable rhythms of classical music.

Torche, those grande-dames of the stoner sludge scene, have graced these blighted isles with a whistlestop three date tour, so I was expecting the rather tidgy Brudenell Social Club to be busier than I find it, even if it is a Sunday night. The sun is still listlessly hanging about when the first band, the ‘not at all influenced by TorcheShields, take the stage, and as a result they play mainly to the people queuing up for cans of Red Stripe. Those few who do stick around are treated to some pretty tidy riffathons from a band clearly still working to find their place but showing plenty of potential. They also seem to be fronted by Charlie Brooker, marking a potential new revenue stream for the be-fopped angst machine and making Shields the best thing he’s done for the last few years since he disappeared on a journey up his own colon. Actually, it isn’t him, it’s just someone who looks a little bit like him, but it has allowed me to indulge in some petty remarks about a former hero of mine for a few sentences and fill up some space. Writing!

Fat Goth are next, and at first I’m too busy looking at the bassist’s Star Trek T shirt and his resemblance to Kerbdog singer Cormac Battle and thinking that this means he must be destined to be my best friend someday to really take them in. Once I do start paying attention I’m delighted to find a band that sound like my entire record collection by the end of the 90’s, all playing at once. Fat Goth meld together the 90’s Brit Rock penchant for hooky songwriting with a big dose of American alternative eccentricity and ending up with something that is just damned good fun. Most enjoyable, not that you’d guess from the blinked appreciation of the assembled bearded douchebags who watch them.

Then we come to the main event, and the room fills with people and you think, ok, we’ve got a thing going here. Torche come on stage and burst into a big slab of gloriously sludgy groove and the crowd goes crazy. Well, they shuffle their feet a bit. Stare at the stage. They may give out a beleaguered sigh of appreciation.

Torche ignore this (I presume they are used to it, having picked up the Pitchfork crowd a few years back) and barrel on, ignoring the slight sound issues to swing between their gloriously catchy pop songs to their sledgehammer heavy doom with the enthusiasm of an E4 presenter at the end of a Refreshers binge.

They are staggeringly tight, and seem intent on delivering a ‘greatest hits’ set, which translates to playing basically every song they’ve ever done. The likes of Kicking and Letting Go from Harmonicraft sit alongside Grenades and Healer from Meanderthal with ease, the slight nature of the newer material beefed out by a live sound that can best be described as ‘holy bullcrap heavy’. Over the course of the next hour, Torche delight the parts of the crowd that seem capable of emotion, and manage to elicit no response whatsoever from the rest of them.

These people have gone to the trouble of buying a ticket, turning up at the gig, making their way down into the crowd and then somehow fail to find the energy to give the band back anything other than begrudgingly issued polite applause. Given the barnstorming performance of the band themselves, one can only assume that that dancing, nodding heads, raised arms and hollering in appreciation are passé these days. I indulge in all of these things to the bewilderment of those around me.

In retort, Torche bring their set to a close with the two sludgiest compositions in their impressive arsenal, turning briefly into the ghosts of Godflesh made manifest, bruising and battering the crowd into submission with a fervent intensity. In the end, they walk offstage to a rapturous applause, even the douchebag contingent forced to admit that that there was a hell of a performance.

Demon Pigeon does Bloodstock 2013: Part the Second

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In which our intrepid reporter continues his chronicle of disappointment. Part one can be found here

We wake up to Saturday morning sunshine, the air thick with the bellowing mating call of the drunken metaller. We take a moment to ponder the previous day with a sense of dismay. We’re not angry Bloodstock. We’re just really, really disappointed in you.

We summon the effort to go to Hell. Might as well, since that’s where we’ll all end up anyway. They deliver in a big way. This band possesses a frontman so engaging, enthralling and entertaining that actual heavy metal sorcery happens in his presence. True story. They were always going to be good though. Strange that they have the best sound of the day *coughAndy Sneapcough*

Kataklysm come up next and are the perfect death metal band for this time in the afternoon. Their groovy riffs slice through a barrage of blasting and at a tempo that does not strain one’s neck too much nor too soon. Yummy. We do not go to see Gojira. They are boring.

Sabaton play an hour of classic Bloodstockian pomp, my heart filled with the power of metal. They’re a lot of fun and really good at what they do. Nevertheless, I blame them for what was to follow. Vast quantities of drink are the chief order of the day, however, and though memories are frangible, I will try to recollect what nuggets I can.

Power Quest: I really don’t remember but I am sure we watched them. Perhaps I shall wake up one day, sweating in tangled sheets, vividly recalling their set in a disoriented panic, but until then let’s just say they were good.

Lamb of God: From what I remember—and I dropped in on their set on two separate occasions due to wee and beers—it all sounded the same. Every song. What’s worse is that it’s not even their song. You know the name of that other band that sounds the same. I don’t need to point them out. They are spectacularly terrible and not even in a brain-dead self-aware wanker’s way. They are the worst, most despicable excuse for modern day metal there is. I would rather wrap myself into a pretzel and puke up my own arse than spend one more second listening to the disgraceful Randy Blythe.

Like many others in our cohort we go to see Andrew O’Neill (he’s that metal comedian guy that occasionally pops up on comedy panel shows and who is actually metal. Go him. I also notice him wandering about the place on the Sunday. You wanted to know that right?) He plays on the fact that we have all come to escape the sewage treatment of metal on the main stage, to pretty good effect. He is a funny guy but some of it gets lost in such a large and, I can only assume, drunken crowd. Good audience participation, nevertheless, featuring both types of appreciative feedback: stomping and clapping. He is also borne aloft to the bar on a sea of upraised hands after the set. Not sure why.

The evening winds up into the familiar and foggy haze of alcohol, as is customary in these parts. I think we ended up back in the Sophie tent, ostensibly for the ‘entertainment’, but mostly for the booze. Hey, is that chips? That looks like chips. I like chips.

Bed. Overnight the world appears to have ended. I have the thunderous monotony of an Ufomammut riff on a constant loop in my head and my comrades appear to be under the indoctrination of a Reaper (computer game joke). This can’t have anything to do with last night’s drinking, so we head back to the bar for a taste of what is definitely not killing us. I try (admirably, heroically) to drink a cider. I fail. Hours seem to pass before my spirit guide comes to me in a vision and persuades me of the restorative benefits of grease-laden protein. We’re really doing this? Fine!

Sat collectively munching on something dead and wincing in pain, we are serenaded by the one note metulz of Whitechapel. Even thrice hungover to hell I can tell this is bad. I do perk up a bit though, so thanks for that chaps!

The next two bands are why I am really here. RSJ are a lovely band from York that ‘crush’, as someone explained to me after their set. I know a couple of the chaps, and without blowing too much smoke up their bums they really pull out all the stops. Great set that has everyone buzzing. Well done them. Bossk follow and I will be honest, I do not expect to see a band like this at Bloodstock. They are mindbogglingly good. Other bands take note: this is what despair, anguish, anger and beauty sound like when performed by actual people, with souls. Wow. Set of the weekend for me. A friend of mine went to see Fozzy, that band comprised of insane anti-Islamic right-wingers and fronted by a fucking wrestler. They were shit apparently. I have no reason to doubt this. Still a little the worse for wear we descend once again upon the Sophie stage for Evil Scarecrow, and it is packed. A few minutes in, we see why. They rule this stage and have the crowd clutched in their collective claws. They have a sound hard to define, which is so refreshing. Not sure if I would buy anything of theirs but I would definitely watch them again. Mass audience participation and loads of actual fun.

Back to the main stage, where we catch Exodus. I have a soft spot for this band which makes their terrible sound so frustrating. Exodus are all about the guitars and they are so low in the mix that if I didn’t know the songs more intimately than my own palm, I would have been at a loss. This has been a problem in previous years also. Arse.

Now seeing as our collective is past the mythical age of 30, after which the disappointment of life begins to set in (juggling boring jobs and demanding children between the crushing inanity of managing a real life, etc) we had decided we were leaving this very evening. As the next band was Devildriver we decided now was the time to go and pack up the tent. Devildriver: so good that you would rather risk death under the baking sun to pack up a tent and drag it back to the car. You can quote me on that, Dez.

We make it back in time to see some Anthrax and although not a band I have ever liked, save for that period when they were taking it back with the good singer, their sound is surprisingly good and their fans are left happy.

By now at the point of bemusement at the strange weekend we’ve had, we go to see Blaze Bayley and the mighty Wolfsbane. Sing-a-longs all round over here! I don’t know their songs but they follow the old school path of two words repeated four times, ad infinitum, so it’s easy to pick up the gist. Blaze still has an amazing voice and the band is beaming. Such a good feeling in the Sophie tent.

On to the main event, Slayer (or half of Slayer if you’re a pessimist). Before I start I want to make it clear that musically-speaking, they were absolutely flawless and played everything you would expect them to play, and that Gary Holt is just on another level compared to practically every other guitarist.

This felt odd, and I was a little uncomfortable on the few occasions that Tom Araya spoke to the crowd. He was visibly upset, obviously feeling down, and gave a speech on life that was so drawn out and depressing I thought he might walk backstage and top himself. It is easy to understand why, with the loss of Jeff Hanneman and the other (rumoured) issues within the band.

There was a nice touch when they unveiled a large backdrop of a Heineken can with Hanneman on it before playing Raining Blood and Angel of Death. At the end of the set both Tom and Kerry King left the stage while Paul Bostaph and Gary Holt did the usual band stuff.

Truthfully, it just felt really odd to have seen such a professional performance mixed with a much, much darker undertone (and not in a metal way, just to be clear). It made for a heated discussion on their future on the trudge back to the car. Our three days are done, and it was good—just not as good as it has been. I don’t know whether I am getting too old for this shit but it just didn’t have the proper Bloodstock feel.

So, because it’s not very nice to be critical without offering a solution, here is how we think Bloodstock needs to improve, before it goes the way of Sonisphere:

  1. Stop booking Download bands. We already have one Download. That is more than enough.
  2. Book more Bloodstock bands (ie power metal).
  3. Sort the EFFING sound out.
  4. If you need to expand your bill, book more death, black, stoner and doom bands. Not the radio-friendly stuff either. You get fewer wankers with them on a bill. It would also offer an actual alternative to the Wal-Mart bands on the main stage.
  5. Get rid of the DJs and pole dancers. It’s just pathetic. An actual club night is all that is needed. You know, where we can meet like-minded equals and discuss the bands of the day or get pissed and mosh ourselves to sleep again.
  6. Krusher is not funny. Some of the jokes he told, even my dad would not have touched. An actual dad! Finding someone decent to gee up the crowd and introduce the bands is a simple enough task. You have a radio station. Try using someone off that instead.
  7. Where the hell was Mr Teas? I missed my coffee and toast of a morning. It was always a great place for the, ahem, older Bloodstockers to nurse a delicate head, relax and chat actual adult conversations. I was very sad and did a cry.

First confirmed band for next year is Emperor. Which is almost as exciting as finding out Anthrax were playing this year. I don’t think I will be going to the next Bloodstock unless there is an incredible supporting line-up of actual good bands. It’s a pity that it has come to this, but all good things must end.

I could trot out the old line about growing up, moving on, being in different places to one another and how it’s not you, it’s me. It’s all bollocks. I won’t do that, because I’m more of a ‘won’t ever ring you back, will change my phone number, and instead try and jump the bones of a younger more attractive festival with an exotic European flavour’ kind of guy.

RIP Bloodstock.

Hellfest Day 2: Saturday

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Yes, that’s right, we’re continuing with a review of a festival that happened so long ago they’ve since started announcing the line up for next year’s event. What of it?

We awoke from what fitful sleep we could manage on the rough French terrain in something of a battered, beleaguered state, dear reader. I’m not going to lie, I felt like I’d been scooped out of my own skin like a disintegrated sausage, and then hastily stuffed back into it in time to be eaten for breakfast. Possibly by the drunken French teenager stumbling around outside our tent screaming ‘LE SLAYEUR’ like it was the only word he’d learned in his life (besides ‘viande chevaline’). A quick survey of my compatriots revealed a harrowing, thousand-yard stare I hadn’t expected to encounter until Monday morning at the earliest. None of us are young. None of this is getting any easier.

We realised we were pursuing a fool’s errand, an extravagant mission to see far more bands than our fragile skulls could bear. We couldn’t do as many as we’d seen on Friday, that much was apparent. So we went through our list and made sacrifices of The Secret and ZZ Top in scrawled biro, among others. No more rushing around trying to fit fifteen gigs into one day. Demon Pigeon’s typically-comprehensive event coverage could get fucked. We were on holiday.

Then the heavens opened and our lists turned to shredded papier-mâché mush in our hands. We were despondent. Disconsolate. Dour. We needed a pick me up, something to lift our spirits, reinvigorate our souls, get us back in the party mood. Or possibly we needed to travel back in time and buy more comfortable shoes. What we got instead was Coal Chamber.

Now, you might scoff, but it turned out the sight of Barry Dez Falafel, accompanied by the hot lady bassist, the silly guitarist who always looked like a goth muppet and the big dumb drummer pounding their way through a bunch of songs which we hadn’t heard in well over a decade but to which we still knew every word was exactly the tonic we needed. This poison tasted so sweet, just like a bowel-corroding sausage and egg McMuffin at 8.37am. Our blues evaporated just a little bit with every shout of ‘me loco.’ We bounced, we pogoed (crunchy knees allowing) and then the rain faded to nothing. Dreadful band, certainly, but great show. Cheers Dez!

Our mood enhanced, we headed back to the tent. We were in the spirit, we had the flava, and now we needed to go and neck a considerable amount of the Hellfest vintage to ensure we didn’t lose the damn thing. We stopped off for pastried goods on the way and suddenly remembered the line-up for the rest of the day. We were just a few scant hours away from seeing Converge. Energy flooded our corporeal forms, and our feet no longer hurt. Mere tolerance of our Gallic-metallic surroundings finally began to turn to warm-natured acceptance. It took some doing.

Suitably lubricated, the next stop was Karma to Burn. Now, I may have been drunk the last time I saw them, and I may have been drunk this time as well, but I could have sworn that there used to be three of them. Where there were three, there now stood two, one of whom seemed not to be a member last time I saw them. Is Rich Mullins the latest victim of the aforementioned ‘Great Bassist Cull of Hellfest 2013’?

They were also the first participants in the ‘isn’t that a different drummer?’ trend. Nonetheless, they were still Karma to Burn, and they still knew how to bring the party, especially to a tent full of people who were already having the party. Beer soaked riff followed beer soaked riff, and then another one followed that one. We drank more, we cheered, much fun was had. Please don’t ask me to comment further, or I’ll have to expose the utter lack of blogging professionalism in my state of inebriation.

By the time Red Fang came on, I was marginally more sober, but I really can’t tell you that much about them, not because they were especially bad or bland or nondescript, but because I knew that the next band I was going to see was Converge, and I was a bit over-excited and spent more time looking at my watch than at the stage. Good band though, and I’ll give them a lot longer shrift if I ever get to catch them again.

Converge are another one of those bands for whom my journalistic objectivity gets defenestrated at glass-evaporating velocity. This was to be only my second time of seeing them, and from the moment they stepped onto the stage I fell into that other place, the place we all go to when the music becomes less an abstract thing that you consume and more something that you experience in your entire body. Every single riff, every howl, every lightning drum attack, it all merged to form a cathartic expulsion of fury wherein I well and truly lost my shit. It was brilliant, dazzling, one of those rare live performances that is unlike anything else on the planet to watch. For me at least. Thankfully, someone filmed the whole thing and put it on Yoot-Toob. Watching it back I can see that the band were a bit sloppy in places, but that’s not what I remember. I experienced that precious moment when consumption of art becomes a profoundly personal thing. Luckily for me, this was the second time it had happened at one festival, and it wouldn’t be the last.

Next we had the choice of watching ZZ Top or sitting on some damp grass and waiting for NOFX. We opted for the latter, so I’m afraid I have no tales for you from the frontlines of (Frank) beard rock. We also realised that between our team of dual scribes, we had a dilemma. One of us wanted to see NOFX and then go see Cult of Luna. The other one would rather stick long pins in his ears than sully the memory of Converge with some SoCal pop-punk, so consequently wanted to see Immortal. Seeing as we were both adults we decided to unclasp our reins and make our choices. One of us would end up feeling a lot more smug than the other.

Hmm, NOFX. They came on stage as the sun started to set, they slagged off the French, the rest of Europe, all heavy metal, Kiss in particular, suggested that the name of the festival would be a lot more welcoming with the addition of a single ‘o’, and were generally as rip-roaringly good fun as they normally are. Most of the jokes fell on deaf ears, but at least NOFX learnt the lesson Blink 182 never did, which is to pepper your stage banter with fearsome pop-punk excellence, rather than whatever it is Blink 182 play. A welcome light-hearted interlude between two behemoths of intensity.

After Fat Mike’s final insults waft into the ether we contemplate seeing Kiss, who seem to have transformed the main stage into some kind of U2-inspired jumbotron, but one of these giant screens is focused far too heavily on Gene Simmons’ distended beer gut so we think better of it, and it is off to the Valley we go for Cult of Luna’s headlining set.

I’m slightly worried at this point that I may have used up all my hyperbole-bullets (‘hyperbollets’???) on Converge, because I’m going to need them again. Bathed in nothing but backlights and thick smog, Sweden’s foremost post-metal practitioners spend an hour and a half demonstrating why they deserve the status of ‘band of the festival.’ From the moment they launch into I: The Weapon there is little that this reviewer can do but stand before them and openly weep with unbridled joy at the majesty of it all.

At the outset there was a small commotion on the stage, and it seemed the bassist was unable to wrestle any sound out of his rig. ‘Crikey,’ this reviewer thought, ‘if they sound this heavy without the bass, what’s it going to sound like when-’

Unfortunately, I was unable to finish this thought because it was at this point the bass started rumbling and the heaviest damn noise I’ve ever experienced sat down right on my solar plexus, crushing all my blood to my feet and head, forcing me to banish all cognition in a wave of orgasmic exultation.

If Vertikal is the album of the year so far (and it is, you cretin, don’t say it isn’t) then this right here was the gig of the year. The highlight was an enrapturing Vicarious Redemption that was so close to transcendent that it damn near had me believing in that there Sheriff Jesus our American friends are always talking about. Hands down, band of the festival—not bad going at an event with more high points than a Katie Price-lookalike convention. Remember, this band are playing Damnation in November and on this evidence, if you don’t get along to see them then you are a prize wally. Which, incidentally, is exactly what our other reviewer is, because instead of ensuring he witnessed this brilliance, he went to see Immortal instead, and promptly fell asleep. Well done him.

If I was looking for a suitable downer to bring me back to reality from such lofty heights (and coincidentally bring this review full-circle, like it was art or something), then catching the end of Korn’s set was an ideal move. After twenty minutes of their biggest pop songs—featuring tracksuit-master Jonathan Davis gleefully murdering his own already-ropey vocal lines—interspersed with a taste of their ill-advised dubstep adventures, we realise our feet are regrettably still in contact with French soil and so it’s time for us to go back to our tent.

Join us again soon for the final installment.

Causa Sui – Euporie Tide

causa sui euporie tide

(El Paraiso Records)

Well, here’s a turn-up. This ought to have been the album of my summer, but to be honest my summer was mostly occupied listening to a different band (called Carpet) and getting my arm medically torn off at the root. Consequently, Causa Sui’s new album managed to get past my music radar—a matchbox containing a dead woodlouse that I keep in my pocket—until last weekend. Which is a great pity, because Euporie Tide comes on like a cricket bat-sized Solero delivered directly to the back of the throat on the hottest day of the year.

Comparisons to the sprawling psychedelic krautrock of the early 1970s are both appropriate and inevitable, but let’s see if we Can avoid doing that, shall we? Instead, let’s look at this record as simply the latest offshoot of the thriving modern heavy psych scene, which owes as much to Sabbath and Kyuss as it does to Ash Ra Tempel.

What do you need to know about Euporie Tide? It’s fully instrumental. It is one hour long. It grooves. It swings. It writhes. It rocks. It rolls. It JAMS. And it riffs. Oh, how it riffs. All across its length, this record is bursting not to piss itself over its own building euphoria, its joyful momentum driven by the interplay of jazzy organ passages, lightning-hot, soaring guitar licks and a craggy, dusty, desert rock atmosphere. Big, wide drum grooves shuffle around the place giving you lovely soft cuddles, while the bass rumbles away warmly to itself in the corner of the sofa, only slightly covered in drool. It seeds bliss and positivity without ever saying a word for itself.

Opener Homage, for example, is one of the rarest of rare psychedelic treats; a song that is a trip in and of itself, continually folding outwards into new and subtly-embellished configurations. The addition of nothing more elaborate than the sixteenth-note shuffle of a shaken tambourine to complete the groove is enough to make you howl with joy. It’s built around a simple, anthemic, major-key riff, but it is orchestrated so beautifully, and progresses so unexpectedly, that by the time it finishes the first play you’ll be reaching for another just to confirm it was as good as you imagined. I was, anyway.

A clear highlight. But elsewhere on the record, we encounter a tension between wah-wah-wailing Hendrix-esque leads buttressed by foot-stomping hard rock organ swirls (Boozehound, Ju-Ju Blues, The Juice); and stoned jazz-fusion interludes that conjure thoughts of improbably beautiful European people riding bikes with baskets on the front, and which seem solely designed to soundtrack a clandestine cornfield fuck (Mireille, Echo Springs, Fischelscher Sun).

Nimbly slipping from one side of this equation to the other, Euporie Tide remains laid-back yet unpredictable without ever seeming totally outré.

Excellent stuff.

http://www.causasui.com/

Interview: Kim Newman

KimNewman

If you are a horror fan of the British persuasion, the chances are you’ll know Kim Newman. Even if you don’t follow him on that there Twitter, or read his Video Dungeon column for Empire Magazine, or read his ever excellent works of fiction, you’re guaranteed to have seen him interviewed for the DVD extras of some classic horror film or whatever and thought to yourself ‘That there is what a horror fan looks like.’

If you do only know him by his hat, tache and waistcoat combo, however, then you are missing a trick, because Mr Newman has produced the best literary horror series this country has seen in a long time in the form of the Anno Dracula novels. Set in an alternate world that supposes that the Count survived Bram Stoker’s tome, this sprawling, magnificently gore drenched series has been entertaining horror fans since 1992, even though it’s still only three novels in length. Now a fourth installment ‘Johnny Alucard‘ is set to invade portable reading devices (and their old fashioned paper counterparts) everywhere. Demon Pigeon sat down (metaphorically) with the Grande Dame of British horror to find out more.

DP: Firstly, it’s been a while since we’ve had a new Kim Newman novel on the shelves, what took you so long, lazybones?

Kim: Last year, the reissues of The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha from Titan included two new novellas which essentially add up to a whole new Anno Dracula book. And I had Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Urbervilles out in late 2011. And there were the three Diogenes Club books in the 2000s. Any gaps in my bibliography are down to vagaries of the publishing industry rather than me being lazy – though, to my mind, I am pretty slothful.

annodraculafamily

DP:The new book, Johnny Alucard, is the latest in your Anno Dracula strand, and is set in 1976. What can you tell us about where we find ourselves in the new story?

Kim: It’s set from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, mostly in the US and Romania, and deals with the film industry, drugs, crime, politics, fashion, punk, disco, porn and blood. The surviving characters from the earlier novels show up in new jobs and decades, and Dracula’s cloak still casts a shadow over the whole world.

DP: Like all of your books, the Anno Dracula series melds fact, fiction, myth and legend together. What is it about this approach to storytelling that appeals to you as a writer?

Kim: I find it an interesting way to deal with big issues – I think we all live lives bombarded by momentous and trivial information all the time, and we tend to see what’s going on as refracted through movies, pop music, television, culture, etc. So that’s how I come into the world of these books. I do pay attention to stuff like plot, character and prose, as well – I try to ensure there’s a spine of some sort of reality that would remain even if all the white media noise were removed. It’s fun to do, sort of like collage or mixing, and you do get interesting new things from juxtaposing old or unconsidered trifles.

DP: Although you’ve seemingly taken ages to bring us book four, it’s not as though you’ve not been busy in the meantime. You work tirelessly to watch the dregs of b-movie hell so we don’t have to for Empire, and you are what I consider to be that rare thing on twitter, a celebrity worth following. I especially enjoy your ‘Empire Dungeon Quotes’ of a morning. Do you ever look at your pile of DVD’s to watch and weep?

Kim: The unwatched pile is the size of a 1950s fridge. And that’s just the conventionally packaged DVDs. I also have shoeboxes full of check discs. I have a similar to-be-read pile of books. I even have a backlog of comics to look at. Still,it’s nice to know I’ll never have to flip through cable channels in search of something to watch …

DP: Being an author is often thought of as a solitary pursuit but social media means authors are able (and sometimes forced) to engage with their readers more. Do you enjoy that freedom?

Kim: I’m still in two minds about this. I like the connection with a readership and live about as much of my life in public as I am comfortable with. I do get quite a lot of requests that pile up unanswered to look at films, read books or retweet kickstarter links and that’s a distraction from actual work.

DP:You work across two mediums primarily, film journalism and fiction, which do you consider to be ‘the day job’?

Kim: Neither. I just think of myself as a writer. Some of my fiction is very much an extension of my criticism – Johnny Alucard is all about movies and the cultural issues I am interested in – and I do try to bring the rigour of fiction prose-writing to reviewing and criticism. I do other things too – broadcasting, for instance. Like my novels, I think my life and work are mosaics or tangles where everything relates to everything else. That might not always make me comfortable to be around, especially when I’m wrapped up in a project.

DP: As a lover of cinema, I’m surprised you’ve not been drawn towards writing for the screen. Is there a half-finished screenplay locked away in some dingy corner of your ‘My Documents’ folder gathering electronic dust?

Kim: I’ve sold options on my books and done treatments/scripts … but no feature films, as yet, have been made. I wrote and directed a short film, Missing Girl, which is on my website and there have been a couple of short adaptations of my stories, an episode of The Hunger (‘Week Woman’) and an Australian version of my story Ubermensch. I’d rather be a writer of published novels than unproduced scripts, but I remain cautiously interested in working in film/TV. I have written audio dramas – ‘Sarah Minds the Dog’, which is part of an online horror series called Tales From Beyond the Pale, and a couple of things for the BBC – and last year worked with other writers on a theatre play, The Hallowe’en Sessions, which had a successful run in the West End (albeit in a tiny theatre).

anno drac johnny alucardDP: You’ve won countless awards from the ‘horror’ literary community, but like most genre authors you’ve not been so duly recognised by the wider literary awards world. Does this frustrate you or is it part of the same genre snobbery that means horror and sci-fi films don’t get best director nods?

Kim: Snobbery seems to me to be inherent in most awards systems – even those bestowed by the genre communities. I’m not especially awards-obsessed … I don’t campaign or nag my friends to vote for me or nominate myself for these things … but I have been happy to receive the weird range of awards I have had, from the Bram Stoker Award to the Bram Stroker Award. I don’t have any particular whine about not being taken seriously by mainstream culture, either – I think my work has been reviewed sensibly by the general press and I get invited to literary fests as much as genre conventions.

DP: The Anno Dracula series is creeping up towards the modern day, but lives nicely in its own little timeline, so do you have any plans for how far you can take it? Will we be seeing Anno Dracula novels set on a distant future space station?

Kim: Part of the set-up for the books and stories is that each takes place in a different place at a different time, at the moment from 1888 to 1991 … and the settings are chosen to have a certain mythic/pulp/literary resonance, whether it be gaslit Victorian London, the front in World War One, Rome at the time of La Dolce Vita, swinging sixties London, disco era New York, cocaine-and-big-deals 80s Hollywood. This means there has to be a certain distance, a time to build up the legends around the truth and to transform even a horrid reality (vile Victorian slums) with an overlay of almost-appealing mythology. I don’t have that on the last 20 years yet. I have toyed with a science fiction one, but probably not space-based … I might do a 1980s Japanese cyberpunk Anno Dracula, or go back and do a Western. I’m not settled on where to go next, though there will be another book eventually.

DP: I understand you got into the Dracula mythology through the film versions. When you got to the source novel, were you disappointed? I recently reread it and was dismayed by how little I enjoyed it. Do you find yourself going back to it for inspiration?

Kim: I read the Stoker very soon after seeing the 1931 film, and I’ve been back to it over and over, and kept up with all the other adaptations. It’s not as good a novel as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, She, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Picture of Dorian Gray (all roughly contemporary with it) but it is a great work … I keep finding things in it that send me off down new paths. With Johnny Alucard, I was struck by the Count’s relation to money … when we meet him, he’s looking for buried treasure and there’s a terrific moment (which isn’t in any of the films) when he’s stabbed and bleeds gold coins.

DP: Lastly, do you listen to music when you write. If so, what gets your literary muscles working? I always pictured you being a fan of Viking Metal. Please tell me this is the case…

Kim: I usually have the music collection on random … but when writing about a specific time/place, I do listen to appropriate music. My tastes are eclectic, but include Hollywood/Broadway musicals, 1950s and 1960s pop, early music, folk rock, jazz, novelty records, doo-wop, psychedelia and symphonic classical.

Johnny Alucard is available now in all good bookshops, shit bookshops, some supermarkets and the usual despotic internet sites. Visit http://www.johnnyalucard.com