Monday, August 10, 2015

Weekend Warrior

     Let's be honest about something, every person in the world knows somebody who's in a band. Everyone. We're not in the 1950s anymore, when something like that was weird and shocking. It's everywhere. Any given city has literally hundreds of bands, of all different kinds, operating at any given moment. Everyone knows that guy in a band. Sometimes it's the guy who's a little older, works hard all week, then spends his weekends down at the local pub jamming Zeppelin covers with his buds. Or maybe it's the 20-something hipster, meticulously crafting synthesized backing tracks for his poetic lyrics that he pretends are too quirky for the mainstream, but secretly hopes for that lucrative record deal. Or it could be the metal guy, bashing away in his practice room, saving up money to buy his band on to that show that he just KNOWS is gonna be the one that finally breaks them, despite their style of music being horribly dated. Yes, everyone knows one of those people in a band.

     I'm not one of those fucking people.

     I have no delusions about having any sort of success. I don't work all week so I can go jam with my friends and have a good time. I jam with my friends because if I didn't, you'd all be fucking dead. I have so much pent up rage, so much crippling depression, so much unrequited love, that if I didn't have some way of letting it all out, they probably would have locked me up in some institution years ago. I have failed at every single thing I've ever set out to do. I've made horrible choices about every single aspect of life. My career path is a dead end. I'm going to be in debt until the day I finally meet my merciful end. The only thing I have is music. All those other guys will never understand the sickening beauty of those blast beats reverberating through my chest. Guitars that sound like raw noise to the average person's ears sound like salvation to mine. The feeling of my bass strings tearing at my fingers until the flesh is so raw they feel like they'll tear open and spill out my blood at any moment. Most importantly, they'll never know how it feels to open my mouth and let all the hatred, all the failure, all the sadness, all of it, the feeling of letting all that shit come exploding out. Better than any drug, any therapy, anything. Absolute catharsis.

     My music is not a fucking hobby.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Last Year's Funerals

     It's been over a year since I've written anything here. Life has been crazy. I've made a record, played some great shows, planned a tour, gotten a new job, and moved back into civilization. Along the way I've met some wonderful new people, and have also removed some terrible ones from my life. I've done a little bit of writing for a music website, but mostly just reviews, nothing really personal aside from the Dystopia piece that a few of you read.

     Over the course of the last week, there has been a lot of talk on the ugly subject of suicide among many people close to me. A local artist and musician chose to take his own life, and quite a few people I know have been left feeling hurt and confused. I did not know this man, though his name and face were familiar to me. I lost someone close to me to suicide many years ago, and after all this time there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't cross my mind. I held onto a lot of anger, and even more guilt, over his death for a over a decade.

     After all those years went by, I finally let go of a lot of those feelings in the only way I knew how, I wrote a song about it. While writing a song about suicide might seem like a depressing experience, this one actually has a story of hope surrounding it. It's a story about two people who will never meet, but they share the common bond of having made their attempt to end their life on the same date, 9 years apart.

     I've written about Phil on numerous occasions and I feel like most people know his story well enough. It's a part of the past that I will never fully come to terms with. I'll always wonder what could have been had he not chosen to end his young life. Years later, I had another friend who was dealing with a lot of stress and depression in her life. This was someone far away, someone I couldn't be there for as much as I would have liked. I tried hard to talk to her every day, but her life seemed to spiral more and more out of control every time we spoke. Despite everything, she would still let me know she was still there, even on the days that she was pissed off and didn't want to talk at all. Then came the ominous silence that I knew all too well. It was November 17, 2011, the 9th anniversary of Phil's death, and suddenly I felt like another person had left this world for good.

     I tried frantically to get some news, but it was hard since we didn't have many mutual friends. I finally received word the next day that she had been taken to a local hospital and was alive. After she was treated and stabilized, they kept her under supervision due to her mental state. It was a few weeks before I was able to talk to her. I couldn't even imagine what I'd say, even if I could talk to her. It had been so hard all those years before knowing I would never talk to Phil again, I never thought about what it would be like to speak to someone who had consciously made the decision to take their own life, yet were still alive.

     It was difficult at times, especially when I watched her continue to make the same bad decisions that had led her down that path to begin with. However, as time went by, I saw things start to change. Little things, usually, but noticeable to me. I watched her find new things that were important to her, find some direction and meaning for her life. Time went by and we remained close, despite some horrific fights on occasion. We both had our rough patches, but in the end of 2013 it had been two years since her suicide attempt and she was like a completely new person. I talked to her as I walked to work one day and she was telling me all about her plans for her upcoming wedding and all the great things she had going on. We had both lost some people and had a tough year, so it was nice to have such a positive conversation. I can't remember which of us said it, but I believe the exact words were, "isn't it nice to be talking about a wedding next year, instead of all of last year's funerals?"

     So that's where that song came from. I wanted to explain it, rather than just print the lyrics. The song is more about the negative effects, the questions and guilt I held onto over Phil's death all those years ago. I wanted everyone to know that it was written with an underlying theme of hope. That's what the title means to me. The point of all of this is that I know a lot of people who suffer from depression and anxiety. I think that's why I gravitate towards the people I do, I guess we're all a little self destructive in one way or another. I also know that there have been many, many times when I've felt like throwing in the towel, and the only reason I didn't was that I knew what it would do to those that I left behind. That knowledge will only keep you around for so long. At some point, for way too many people, there comes a time when worrying about others doesn't seem as important as worrying about all the things that seem to be suffocating you every waking moment. It's these times that you have to remember that one tiny change can make a whole world of difference. One little thing going right can turn everything around. There are gonna be times when that doesn't even seem possible at all, that there is no way anything will get better. These are the times when you need to reach out to someone and have them be the ones to keep you going. Every single person, I don't care who you are, every single person has someone whose life would be worse if they weren't around. The best thing you can do in life is learn who those people are. They'll get you through the worst parts of life and be there with you for the best.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Capitalist Casualties

    I moved to Arizona from New Jersey a few days before my 14th birthday. At the time, I was heavily into metal, mostly death and thrash, but I was starting to dabble in punk and hardcore. Within the first year of living in AZ, I started hanging out with more punk kids than metal kids, they were just more fun. I started going to a ton of punk shows at places like the Nile in Mesa. We hit the occasional death metal show too, my friends were into death metal before punk, just like me, but it was mostly punk and hardcore in those days.
     As I've previously delved into, I discovered the heavier side of punk rock through Logical Nonsense, and then grindcore through bands like Phobia and Brutal Truth. From there the floodgates were wide open. I started getting heavily into all the insanely fast hardcore bands being put out by labels like Sound Pollution and Slap A Ham. I loved stuff like Spazz, Capitalist Casualties, Assuck, Discordance Axis, Hellnation, and many other bands of that nature. My friends and I played in punk bands and went to shows whenever and wherever we could.
     For a short time in the late 90s, a bowling alley in Tempe became the center of our scene. We would go see local favorites like Unruh, Suicide Nation, and Carol Ann there regularly. My friends were in a great band called Misanthropic who played there several times, as did my band, Misled. I saw Converge there for the first time, as well as the mighty Assuck. In the summer of '98, Misanthropic and Carol Ann wound up on a bill with Hellnation and Capitalist Casualties there.
     The weekend of that particular show, I was attending a festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico to see Logical Nonsense, Noisear, the Fanatics, and many others. Myself and a few others left Santa Fe as soon as the fest ended and drove straight to Tempe without even stopping home, just so we wouldn't miss Hellnation and Capitalist Casualties. It was an awesome show. Hellnation was great, really fast and brutal, but Capitalist Casualties were the band of the night. They were everything I loved about hardcore at the time. They were fast and heavy, but they also had memorable songs that you could shout along to. I bought a t-shirt from them that I wore until it finally disintegrated just recently.
     16 years have passed since that show. Many of my friends have ceased being active members of the scene. I'm one of the only ones who still plays music regularly, at least here in AZ. Tons of bands have come and gone since then, but Capitalist Casualties are still going strong. They all live in different states, but still get together every few months to record a new 7" or do a quick tour or something. I saw them play at Maryland Deathfest back in 2010 and they were every bit as good as they were when I first saw them over a decade ago.
     So now it's 2014 and I'm at a strange point in life. I live out here in Surprise, which is pretty far from where anything fun happens in this state. I have a decent enough job that keeps me here, but my passion still lies with playing music. I know that I have no hope of ever making a living off of the stuff I enjoy playing, and I also know that I'd be miserable if I played something I didn't like just to make money. I've been playing and writing music for my band Sorrower since the summer of 2009 and we're just now getting in the studio to make our debut full length album. I just realized that something had to change. I needed to get out of the boondocks and relocate somewhere that I can play music far more often than I do. That means quitting my job and losing the small amount of security that I have.
     I had been wrestling with this for the last few months. I finally had enough at work after getting bitched out over something stupid for what seemed like the hundredth time, and I put in my notice. Not wanting to screw them over, I agreed to stay on until the end of our busy season in late May. Right around the same time, my old friend Shane, who I played in a band with for many years, called me up one night and asked if Sorrower would be interested in playing a show he was setting up for Capitalist Casualties. They were playing MDF again and were touring their way back across the US afterwards. Shane said we were the first band that he thought of when he agreed to book the show. I asked the guys if they were down to do it, and next thing you know, we were in.
     The show happened to coincide with my last day at work. I was scheduled to be done on May 31, we played the night before. As the date started approaching faster and faster, I seriously started to doubt myself and second guess my decision. What if I couldn't find another decent job in the city? Was it really worth it to give up my benefits and a steady paycheck at the age of 34, just so I could hit the jam pad one or two more times a week? I was in serious panic mode thinking about all the bills I had coming up, losing my insurance, everything a 34 year old man is told their whole life is supposed to be most important at that age.
     Then the night of the show came. We were a little rusty, since we had forgone regular practices in the month prior because we spent most of our time in the studio. We jammed out a quick set in the practice room, it sounded good enough so we packed up our gear and off we went. The spot Shane had chosen for the show was an outdoor area out on the Rez where some friends had held a punk and grind fest a few months back, but had been the site of little else since. We were worried that people might not venture out to a place so off the beaten path for this show, but we were pleasantly surprised to find quite a few people out there waiting for us. The overall vibe reminded me of the punk rock desert parties we used to go to when we were teenagers.
     A few other locals played before us, then we hit the makeshift stage for our brief set. We had only rehearsed 8 songs, so our set clocked in at a little less than 15 minutes. It wasn't half bad, in my opinion. After we finished, the stage was cleared for the legendary Capitalist Casualties. I had spent most of the evening before our set manning our merch table, which was right next to theirs. After some technical difficulties, they finally hit the stage and the four guys I had watched interact with each other and various people all night transformed into a violent whirlwind of speed and aggression. The place erupted. People were moshing, stage diving, a few people even climbed up on the roof to dive into the crowd! It was insane and awesome. Watching it unfold brought me right back to being a 17 year old kid watching them lay waste to a bowling alley all those years ago.
     After they finished, they turned back into the four guys that had been hanging out before the show. I chit chatted a bit with a couple of them and some various friends, then bought a shirt to replace my old, tattered one and headed out to unload gear and prepare for my final day of work. The next day, as I went through the motions at work, a strange calm came over me. I had somehow stopped being worried about what I was going to do and started feeling good about the reasons that I was doing what I was. I had just watched four guys, who were all probably about 10 years older than me, who had been in a band together for over two decades, who still did it out of sheer love of playing, and who all actually seemed to genuinely like each other and enjoy playing together still after all those years of grinding it out in cramped sweatboxes. There is no money in it, not for them, not for anyone who plays music like this. They just do it for the love of it, and 20 years from now there will be someone who was a kid at that show who remembers it as vividly and as fondly as I remember seeing them back in '98. That's what I want, to just play because I feel it in my heart. Jobs and money might come and go, but my love of picking up my bass and blasting away with good people will never fade.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

     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.

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

2012: The Filth and the Fury

     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.

10.) Grave "Endless Procession of Souls" If your idea of death metal is slick production, typewriter drums, sweep picking interspersed with breakdowns, prettyboys with their own stylists, and artwork that looks like a still shot from the latest video game, first of all, you don't like death metal. Second of all, Grave is not for you. This is ugly music for ugly people, and it shouldn't be any other way. Grave has had a few missteps in their 26 year career, but their last few records have seen them recapture the sound and fury of classics like "Into the Grave" and "You'll Never See." 2012's "Endless Procession of Souls" seems to be what they were building up to the last few years. Fast tempos rule on this record, but they're not afraid to slow it down into a groove on occasion. The guitar tone is fat and distorted, the riffs are simple and heavy. Everything about this record is exactly what should come to mind when one thinks of the words "death metal."

9.) P.O.O.R "Extinction of Trust" I am extremely picky about grindcore. In fact, despite it being my favorite sub-genre, I probably hate 99% of it. Hyperspeed crust with shitty production and generic songwriting just doesn't cut it for me. That's why I get so excited when I do hear a new band that I love as much as P.O.O.R. This album is pure musical violence from start to finish. The music flows seemlessly between brutal death groove, pulverizing blast beats, and punk inspired aggression, all topped off with a relentless dual vocal attack. This band is sure to join the likes of Phobia and Rotten Sound atop the pile of modern grindcore favorites. I'm expecting big things for them in 2013.

8.) Wolfbrigade "Damned" Nothing gets fists pumping like raging d-beat, and nobody does it better than the mighty Wolfbrigade. If you've heard any of this band's back catalogue, then you know what to expect from "Damned," and really, why would you want anything different? It's all here, the dirty guitar tone, the raspy, shouted vocals, the Motorhead leads, and d-beats. Tons of non-stop d-beats. Records like this make me want to drink copious amounts of alcohol, break bottles, and generally fuck shit up. Up the punx!

7.) Tim Barry "40 Miler" Nobody has ever been able to sum up life as perfectly for me in song as Tim Barry has. Whether he was fronting Avail, or performing his stripped down acoustic songs, his lyrics have always hit close to home. Songs about being broke, playing music for the love of it, and generally living outside of society and being happy about it will always strike a chord with me. Old punks picking up acoustic guitars and writing simple songs about life on the road has been a bit of a trend in the last few years, but Tim has been doing it longer and will still be doing it when the trend has gone away. He's also smart enough to recognize the trend and make light of it and himself on this record.

6.) Pallbearer "Sorrow and Extinction" This album was so hyped up that I actually avoided it for a long time, to save myself the disappointment of hearing yet another universally loved album that bored the shit out of me. Well, that was a mistake, because I have barely stopped listening to it since I finally took the plunge and got it. There's a skill that Pallbearer possesses that seems to have been lost on most other doom metal bands, the ability to write a memorable song. There isn't a single track on here under 8 minutes, yet I never wanted any of them to end. Pure ear candy.

5.) Bouncing Souls "Comet" The Bouncing Souls are a band that rarely lets me down. Anytime a new album drops, I can always count on it being a staple on my turntable and in my car for months, even years to come. This album is no different. While they are in no way re-inventing the wheel, "Comet" is chock full of the kind of uplifting pop-punk that the Souls excel at. I haven't gone more than a week without throwing this record on since it came out, and each time brings a smile to my face. "Fast Times," "Coin Toss Girl." and the title track are destined to become live staples for these guys.

4.) Black Breath "Sentenced To Life" I really didn't think they'd be able to top "Heavy Breathing," but on rare occasions I am wrong about certain things. This album is what it would sound like if a bunch of crust punks started a death metal band that was actually good, and well-financed. The production on this is flawless, the guitar sound is gnarly as fuck, but perfectly clear. The drumming is immaculate and keeps the whole record from descending into complete chaos. The energy level is unrelenting from the opening notes. The whole band just comes across like they're trying to destroy you through music. Oh, and "Endless Corpse" is in serious contention for song of the year.

3.) Propagandhi "Failed States" Every time I think Propagandhi have peaked, they come back with another record that blows the doors off their previous work. Their music is constantly evolving, while never losing the punk edge of their early material. On their sixth album, they take the punk/thrash fusion of their two prior albums and kick it up a notch. Second guitarist David Guillas has been fully integrated into the band and his interplay with Chris Hannah finally lays to rest any notion of this being a "pop-punk" band. Lyrically, Propagandhi will never be matched. When they're not making you go crazy with their music, they're making you think with their words. One of the best bands ever.

2.) Pig Destroyer "Book Burner" Sometimes a band releases a record early in their career that is so good, it makes you stop having high hopes for their subsequent releases, no matter how good they might be. This is how I've felt about Pig Destroyer since the release of 2001's "Prowler in the Yard." It didn't matter that "Terrifyer" and "Phantom Limb" were both excellent records, the fact that they weren't as good as "Prowler..." diminished my expectations for anything else they released. Maybe that's why I was so blown away by "Book Burner," because I wasn't prepared to be this floored. Scott Hull continues to be one of the greatest riff-masters of my generation, and new drummer Adam Jarvis delivers a truly awe-inspiring performance. JR Hayes is truly disturbing, both in lyrics and performance. I truly believe that if he didn't have Pig Destroyer as an outlet, he might be a very dangerous person.

1.) Napalm Death "Utilitarian" As far as I'm concerned, 2012 was the year of Napalm Death. Not only was their show at Rocky Point Cantina the highlight of a great year of shows, but they put out one of the best records in a catalogue that spans over 25 years. There are many out there who would argue that Napalm hasn't done anything truly great since the first 2-3 albums, but in my opinion their post-2000 material has been some of the strongest of their career. "Utilitarian" is pretty much the culmination of the last decade of Napalm Death. While I would no longer classify them as "grindcore," there are still enough blast beats to keep the faithful happy. This band has always experimented and expanded on their signature sound, with mixed results, but it seems they've finally found a way to incorporate new influences without it sounding forced, like some of their 90s material. The black metal and punk influences blend seemlessly into their one of a kind take on the death/grind genre. As always, Barney sounds exactly like Barney. Despite him not being the original vocalist, I find it hard to imagine Napalm with anyone else on the mic. Napalm Death is, was, and always will be the pinnacle of everything that grindcore/death metal should be. I wish they could last another 25 years.