I think there are a lot of people like me out there, people who live for music, who couldn't survive without it in their lives. Like me, I think many of them have certain people who helped create that bond, whether it's a person in their life who turned them on to a certain kind of music, or a band that captured their attention and opened up a whole new world for them. For me, as it turns out, I had a little of both.
As I've stated before, I started getting heavily into punk and metal music when I was around 11 or 12 years old. Guns 'N' Roses led me to Metallica, which led me to Pantera, which led me to Sepultura, etc. I first discovered death metal by seeing Morbid Angel's "Rapture" video on Headbanger's Ball, back when they still played music videos on TV. At the time, I lived in a small suburb in northern New Jersey called Randolph. Randolph had a small, but rabid, death metal scene at the time. The local night club, Obsessions, would often host touring bands like Pungent Stench and Dismember, and local acts like Malfactor and Decollation would often be on the bill. My friends and I had our own fledgling metal band, Nineveh. At the time, we were in a bit of a transitional period. We had started as a thrash band, but our tastes began to lean more toward death metal and our style gradually changed. After I left for Arizona, they transformed into a full on death metal band. Years later, drugs and petty crime would ruin any potential they may have had, but when I was there, we were just kids trying to find our way.
We practiced in our guitarist's basement and would often spend entire weekends there, either playing music or goofing off in the woods behind his house. Once a week, we would make the long trek through the woods to Ledgewood Mall, on the outskirts of Randolph. All the "cool" kids would hangout over in Rockaway, at the nice mall, but we always went to the "dirt mall" in Ledgewood, for two reasons. First, there was a music store there where both of our guitarists were taking lessons at the time, second, because of Record Town. If memory serves, Record Town was a regional chain on the east coast, kinda like Zia here in AZ, or Amoeba in California. It was one of the first places that taught me to really appreciate a real record store. The cool kids would go to Sam Goody in Rockaway and buy the latest Paula Abdul cassettes from some faceless drone in a stupid uniform who was just there for a paycheck, but Record Town was populated by people who wanted to work there for their love of music. Whatever kind of stuff you liked, there was somebody there who knew all about it and could help you find what you were looking for. Plus, it was the only place in town that you could go and get stuff that wasn't whatever over-hyped garbage the majors were trying to ram down your throat at the time.
The person at the store that we naturally gravitated to was the one we always referred to simply as "the death metal guy." He was probably in his early 20s, long, dark hair, always wearing a death metal t-shirt. After seeing him at the store a few times, we started noticing him at shows, then we heard through the grapevine that he had once played in Revenant, the local thrash legends who still played from time to time. Being a bunch of kids, we ranged in age from 13 to 15 by this time, we desperately wanted to look cool to the older dudes in the scene. If death metal guy told us about some band, you can be damn sure at least one of us bought the tape.
It all started with Morbid Angel, of course. He rang one of us up when we were buying "Covenant" one day, and the rest is history. After that, every time we went in it would be, "if you like Morbid Angel, check out this band." Obituary, Grave, Morgoth, Bolt Thrower, Pungent Stench, he turned us on to all of them. I can safely say that my musical tastes from the time I discovered death metal up until I moved to AZ a year later were entirely shaped by the death metal guy at Record Town in Ledgewood Mall.
It had been many, many years since I had thought about death metal guy, or that time in my life. Then, a few months ago, I was sitting around a friend's house leafing through an issue of Decibel Magazine that I hadn't read, when I came upon a short article about death metal legends Incantation, a long time favorite of mine. Incantation had come up out of the same New Jersey scene that I did, they were from just a few towns away, in Bergenfield. Their bass player at the time, Ronnie Deo, was only about a year older than me and I knew a few people who knew him, but we never saw his band play. They weren't the legendary band that they are now yet, they had just started to make a name for themselves. Their first album came out right around the time I was leaving Jersey, and it had somehow passed me by. I didn't really get into them until a few years later, after I finally saw them play a show in Arizona.
The article I was reading had a sidebar, where Incantation's legendary bandleader, John McEntee, talked about his band's contribution to the Decibel flexi disc series. For their entry, Incantation had chosen to do a cover version of the song "Degeneration" by none other than New Jersey's own, Revenant. McEntee talked about his origins in the scene, how he joined Revenant for a short period during their heyday, and how he had left to explore his own musical vision with Incantation. He also made mention of the fact that he had met some of the more luminous personalities in the New Jersey metal scene through his job at Record Town. That's when it hit me, John McEntee was the death metal guy from the mall when I was a kid!
What a strange, yet wonderful revelation that was. I look back fondly on those formative years, before everything became about drinking and drugs, trying to get laid all the time, worrying about who's going to put out your next record, where you're gonna go on your next tour, when all that mattered was the latest tape you bought by some new band playing music like you had never heard before. To find out that one of the people who had guided me through that time went on to become a legend in our scene was a pretty awesome feeling. I guess if anyone who isn't into this crazy music I love were to read this, it would seem pretty mundane. It's not like it was some household name to the outside world, but to me it was pretty special. I hope that sometime in the future, my path will cross with his again. I think he'd enjoy the story.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Thursday, May 30, 2013
I'm giving serious thought to turning Seething Cauldron into a record label. Probably gonna start with the next Sorrower 7", but if that winds up being successful I might consider expanding. Pricing things out right now. I've got to do something, 'cause I'm losing my mind working in dead end restaurant jobs all the time!
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Been awhile since I've written anything here. Truth is, for the last few months I've been alternating between extreme stress and severe depression, both on special occasions. Not sure how I keep going anymore. I work six days a week and rarely practice with my band anymore. I don't make it out to many shows either. I'm really failing to see the point in anything anymore. Why the hell do I work so hard? What do I have to show for it? I sacrifice the things I care about so I can go to work to pay bills for shit that means nothing in the long run. Fuck this. If this is the "American Dream," then America can fucking suck it. I'm so done. I spend fifty-sixty hours of my week working for the same people that would call me an entitled, lazy, sack of shit if they saw me on the street. These people can go get fucked. They're living the high life off of the same kinds of benefits and entitlements that they would vote to take away from me. I hate everyone.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Doing a year end top 10 list is always a dilemma for me. I often find myself including records based on how much I like the band in general, rather than how much I actually enjoyed the record. I find myself trying too hard to find albums that will stand the test of time, albums that I'll always regard as classics, rather than ones that really define a year for me. So this year, I'm doing it differently. Those reading will notice some surprising absences. Three of my all time favorite bands released albums this year that didn't make the cut. That doesn't necessarily mean that I disliked the albums, far from it actually. Some albums take time to be fully appreciated. Maybe somewhere down the line, I'll look back on records as classics that I didn't really appreciate enough at first. It's happened many, many times before, and it will happen again. The albums that made my top 10 this year are the ones that kept me coming back for more all year long. These are the records that defined 2012 for me, for many reasons. They may not all stand the test of time and become all time favorites, but they will always remind me of where and who I was this year.
Friday, November 16, 2012
It is often said that oppressive political climates produce the best in hardcore and metal music. Perhaps that explains the recent explosion in heavy music here in Arizona. While we've always had a tradition of producing some great, yet often overlooked, metal and hardcore bands here, a new crop of bands has risen up in the last few years and several seem poised to make the jump from local acts to nationally known names. Following in the footsteps of 80s forefathers like JFA, Nuclear Death, and Sacred Reich, not to mention more recent bands that have paved the way and put Arizona on the map, such as Landmine Marathon and Vehemence, most of the following bands have already released fantastic records and hopefully have bright futures. In no particular order;Seas Will Rise. Starting life as a d-beat hardcore band called Cagematch, Seas Will Rise adopted a new name and heavier sound on their debut full length, "Disease Is Our Refrain," released earlier this year. While staying true to their hardcore roots, the band is not afraid to experiment with sludge and thrash metal influences. Their intense live performances and recorded output have gained them some national exposure, even landing them on a Scion showcase with the likes of Phobia and Morne, among others. The most recent show I caught them at revealed that they seem to have almost an album's worth of new material, so be on the lookout for a sophomore LP from them in the not so distant future.
For fans of: From Ashes Rise, Struck By Lightning, Trap Them
T.O.A.D. This band has been kicking around the underground for several years now, but line up changes and members' involvement in other bands have kept them from becoming a fully focused entity until recently. Last year's CD "Rotten Tide" was, in my humble opinion, one of the best things to come out of the AZ underground in ages. The band plays a unique blend of black metal, death & roll, and traditional metal that really can't be explained without hearing it. They did some touring in support of "Rotten Tide," before taking time off to produce their upcoming "Endless Night" album. I've heard the record, and all I can say is that if this band doesn't reach the next level with it, there is simply something wrong with people.
For fans of: Entombed, Darkthrone(later), Bathory
Lago. Death metal fans seem to fall into two camps lately, those who prefer the straightforward heaviness of bands like Incantation, and those who value musical technicality above all. Lago is the best of both worlds, showcasing their musical prowess while maintaining a decidedly old school heaviness on last year's debut EP, "Marianas." Line up changes have kept them out of the spotlight recently, but their latest line up has just done a run of out of state shows before entering the studio to record an internet exclusive single that will be available for download in the coming months. A full length album and some extensive touring should open people's eyes to this band's oppressively heavy death metal.
For fans of: Immolation, Nile, Morbid Angel
TWiNGiANT. A relative newcomer, this band has already self-released a fantastic full length LP entitled, "Mass Driver." TWiNGiANT's blend of heavy, fuzzed out hard rock and southern fried sludge metal has landed them several choice shows and catapulted them to the top of the growing stoner/doom metal scene. While always maintaining a level of heaviness, the band uses their twin guitar setup to great effect, with instrumental passages that often veer from Thin Lizzy-esque harmonies to drawn out psychadelia that would not be out of place on a Sonic Youth record. The band recently made their out of state debut at a festival in Colorado. While extensive touring may not be in their immediate plans, they'll likely be doing some short runs in support of "Mass Driver" as well as some upcoming shows around the valley.
For fans of: Mastodon, Clutch, Kylesa
GodAwfulNoise. Despite being plagued with line up problems, grinders GodAwfulNoise have become a staple of Phoenix's crust/grind scene. Blast beats, death metal inspired guitar riffs, and raging vocals are this band's tools of the trade, and they use them well. Their debut EP, "No Escape," displayed songwriting skills that set them apart from run of the mill grind bands. These aren't your average, forgettable 30 second blasts of noise, these riffs and venomous lyrics stick with you after the CD is done playing. Although they've drastically cut back on live shows, due to their newest drummer calling Texas home, they have an upcoming split 7" that is set to be released at any time now.
For fans of: Phobia, Terrorizer, Magrudergrind
Godhunter. Tucson's Godhunter have been kicking around for quite some time now. While they already have several splits and their excellent "Wolves" CD under their belts, it is live that this band truly excels. Their crushingly heavy take on sludge metal is absolutely explosive live. This extremely hard working band has already done some touring in support of "Wolves," and can regularly be seen opening for national acts, as well as headlining their own shows, all around Arizona. I'm not sure of their upcoming recording plans, but I know they have a tour coming up early next year.
For fans of: Buzzov*en, Weedeater, Bongzilla
Inducing Terror. One of Phoenix's longest running death metal bands, Inducing Terror has remained largely unknown due to their constantly evolving line up. Having finally secured a stable line up over the last year or so, the band is currently in the midst of recording an EP at Arcane Digital in Chandler. This band is a brutal death metal fan's wet dream. The drumming is ridiculously fast and the guitar playing extremely technical, but they never lose their heaviness, unlike some of the over-triggered leaders of this genre. This is fast, heavy, guttural death metal at it's best. Their live performances are sporadic at best, but hopefully they'll start to pick up again when they release their new recording.
For fans of: Dying Fetus, Broken Hope, Suffocation
Monger. Crust has seemingly always been a thriving sub-genre in Phoenix. This band is something of a Phoenix crust supergroup, being comprised of members of Pay Neuter, Warfair?, and ETTS, among others. Monger's self titled debut 7", released earlier this year, blends the kind of sludgy crust punk that the southwest was known for in the 90s with the chaotic noise of bands like GISM. Most of the tempos stay mid-paced and heavy, but occasionally speed up into a gallop, and the four pronged vocal attack creates an almost dizzying effect. The band has done a bit of touring and plans to release a split 7" with Coaccion soon, but sadly may be reducing their activity due to their guitarist's recent relocation to San Diego.
For fans of: Misery, Amebix, His Hero Is Gone
Rituals. Rituals' music alternates between crushing heaviness and hypnotic ambiance. While there are roughly 18 billion bands playing this style right now, Rituals' ability to create a memorable tune sets them apart. Where so many bands seem to just noodle away and go nowhere, these guys understand the importance of delivering an explosive payoff after a tense build up. Their self titled debut LP contains many of these moments, and the band is just as good live. The band has done some sporadic touring and recently released a split LP with DeZafra Ridge, but has curtailed their live performances of late due to a line up change. They should be back in action before long.
For fans of: Morne, Light Bearer, the Atlas Moth
About a hundred other bands. Seriously, this state is crawling with death metal, crust, sludge, and hardcore at the moment. Some bands have been around for ages, while new ones pop up seemingly weekly. Despite not being the touring machine they once were, Vehemence continues to play shows and has plans for a new record soon. Landmine Marathon have established themselves nationally, and are constantly growing in popularity. Death metal continues to thrive, with great bands like Six Million Dead and Necrambulant building names for themselves both locally and nationally, while newcomers like Clawhammer Abortion are starting to pick up steam. The crust/grind scene always has new bands and crazy shows going on, with Biocidio, Oust, and Blodskam leading the way. Tucson has recently begun to challenge Phoenix as the state's heavy music capital. North has been a leader of the Tucson scene for quite awhile now, with several full lengths and national tours under their belts, plus up and coming acts like Methra, FDP, and Why Bother. Also, lets not forget the Southwest Terror Fest, which made its debut in Tucson just last month and will hopefully become a growing annual event celebrating all things heavy. Even Flagstaff is getting back in on the action. Once boasting a pretty cool scene, northern Arizona has been pretty quiet for a few years, until the metallic crust of Swamp Wolf began turning some heads over the last year.
In conclusion, I hope some people outside AZ read this and give some of these bands a chance. Arizona may have disgustingly hot weather, horrible sports teams, and laughable politics, but our music is awesome!