Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Interview: JUCIFER/Amber Valentine

*unedited excerpt from my interview with Amber Valentine of Jucifer for RESOUND Magazine

How did you end up working with Relapse?

Over the years we've been touring, we have always
played with Relapse bands. I guess the label and our
band have existed for about the same amount of time,
so it kinda makes sense! We first met Matt Jacobson
when we were touring with High On Fire around 2002.
He was super cool to talk with, and kind enough to
give us a stack of cds. We kept in touch and
eventually were in a position to accept an offer from

It made sense to us because, though we're not a
straightforward metal band, our core is thick,
intense, heavy heavy sound and riffs, and Edgar's
drumming is just sick.

Our first two labels wanted to market us more as a
pop band- partly because I'm a girl singer, and partly
because we do write some pretty songs. But we would
go on tour and people expecting that would be
terrified of us- literally shrinking away from me as I
walked off stage at times!

Meanwhile whenever we played on metal bills, the
crowds would be loving it and driving us to be even
more insane. So we figured, not only is Relapse a
strong underground label that has survived, they also
can support the band we love being without trying to
cushion our edges. And we already had a lot of
friends among Relapse bands, so it just felt right.

You truly have an amazing voice – haunting, hypnotic, intimidating and
ethereal are all words that come to mind. How did you develop your
vocal technique? What made you want to become a singer?
Listening to your records, I'm reminded fairly strongly of Jarboe –
she also blended experimental, crushing sounds with strong yet very
feminine vocals and raw emotion. Would you cite her as an influence at
all? Are there any other female artists from whom you've drawn

Hypocritically, I never liked female singers too
much when I was growing up! My early vocal idols were
Henry Rollins and Ian MacKaye. I think I always
related to that power and release that were usually
reserved for males. I wanted to sonically kick
everyone's ass!

Over the years, I've learned to appreciate and
exploit my voice as an instrument. My goal as a
singer isn't to be showy or impress you (or even kick
your ass, haha). It's to drive home the song, to
color it with emotion, to make the character breathe
and walk.

I haven't heard a lot of Jarboe's music, but I know
enough about her to appreciate the comparison! She
seems to have been and be equally committed to her
art, and to the spectrum of being a person as opposed
to being a one-dimensional "girl".

Jucifer is always out on the road, traveling the country in your RV.
What is a typical day like for you when you when you're not playing a
show that night? Do you ever miss the stationary life?

A typical off day for us will sound pretty
mundane... but it's pretty much sleep, eat, shower,
clean, repair shit, try to catch up on communications!
Once in a while we get to stay somewhere with great
outdoors opportunities- we'll do a long hike or shoot
hoops or play tennis. We like to keep moving!

We miss people from the stationary places, but we
don't miss being stationary. We're addicted to
motion, and addicted to music, so living on the road
is good despite the hardships.

What kind of experience can one expect to have when seeing Jucifer
live? Your "wall of amps" aesthetic is a pretty important part of your
live show, yet you have some very soft, quiet parts to many of your
songs. I'm sure you've confused, shocked, and confounded more than
your fair share of audiences!

Confused, shocked, confounded, bedazzled, and
pissed off! People say it's a religious experience,
or they say we're not even playing music and we suck,
and everything in between. It seems like most people
who like our records like our band even more after
they see us live, which is great. We also get people
who say "I don't like this kind of music, but I
thought you guys were amazing". And we frequently
hear that we are the best show someone's ever seen-
which is a lot to live up to, but we try.

Then there's people (for some reason, often dudes
who have smaller amp rigs than me) who accuse us of
using fake gear. Others (usually girls) who say I'm
not actually playing guitar. Or that I can't play- I
guess because I'm doing what I want to hear rather
than doing all the same licks they've been taught
equals good guitar-playing.

And there's the metalheads who've been told we rule
heavy ass, then go listen to a sweet pop track from a
record and bitch online that we suck.

But the fans we get, who get us, are amazing. The
craziness of our band is challenging, and the people
who meet that challenge are the very best kind of
music fans. Often they've included some of the best
musicians among our contemporaries. If Matt Pike,
Buzz Osborne, Brent Hinds, Mike Watt, Joe Preston, and
the late Kurt Cobain dug my playing- I'm not gonna
worry about random dude!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Review: JESU, Lifeline

*soon to be published on

Fucking hell, Justin Broadrick is one prolific sonofabitch. In 2007 alone, he’s managed to put out a full-length album (Conqueror), two EPs, a split with like-minded ambient act Eluvium, and a rarities compilation (Pale Sketches), while (finally!) making it across the pond for his first U.S. tour. Even more impressively, all of the aforementioned releases are all quality pieces of work, with nary a dud among them and enough dusky drone-pop ambience to keep you lowering your eyelids and gently nodding your head until the cows slowly float home.

The most recent of these efforts, the four-song Lifeline EP (courtesy of Hydra Head Records), is a fairly typical Jesu release. You’ve got your soft shoegazey pop melodies, interwoven with diffused, faraway vocals and melded with that familiar quiet ambience wrapped around droning, looped riffs and flashes of brilliant heaviness; deceptively-simple song structures belie the true complexity buried beneath the dreaminess. Broadrick is a master of his craft – no one sounds like Jesu, yet Jesu is made up of so many other sounds and textures that almost anyone can find something to hold onto and appreciate. It’s a far cry from Godflesh, and an even farther one from Napalm Death, but Jesu very well may be Broadrick at his best, or at least, at his most fertile.

One of the defining characteristics of Lifeline is the guest appearance by former Swans vocalist/keyboardist and multi-faceted vocal icon Jarboe. A damn near legend in her own right, she seems to have a fondness for working with “difficult,” experimental bands (see her excellent collaborations with Neurosis, Byla and countless others – or, hell, have you HEARD the Swans? ‘Nuff said). Jarboe’s throaty, whispery, ethereal, and completely incomparable voice is so distinctive and powerful that one might expect it to overpower the song itself, but her performance manages to complement “Storm Comin’ On” much better than you may expect. Broadrick’s vague dashes of electronica and light-fingered industrial touches provide a subdued background of sleepy, minimal sound for Jarboe’s vocals to shine against, ensuring that few will forget “Storm Comin’ On” after those almost-six minutes creep by. As far as the rest of the EP goes, the title track, "Lifeline," stands out an especially beautiful exercise in ambience that ebbs and flows and gently washes over you in the nicest way possible. The other two songs on this effort are more standard Jesu fare – still lovely, still well-executed, just a bit shadowed by the Jarboe track and the genuine loveliness of "Lifeline."

Considering how much damn music Justin Broadrick puts out (he’s gotta be edging up on Xasthur’s similarly-ridiculous release record by now), I’m not sure if its really necessary to pick up this EP; he’ll probably have another full-length out tomorrow and follow it up with a couple dozen EPs just for good measure. However, EPs are generally pretty cheap anyway, and this one is chock full of some righteous tunes; I’d say that the Jarboe track alone makes it worth the purchase price, while the other three songs are just icing on the sonic cake. For those who are less familiar with the band, I’d recommend first checking out the self-titled debut album and Silver EP, then forging onwards at your leisure.

Jesu is breathtaking, and that’s really all you can say.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Upcoming press

So I've been ridiculously slack-arsed about updating this thing; blame midterms, work, and being busier than sin in general. Hopefully I'll have more time soon to post in here, 'cause there's a lot going on that could do with documentin'!

For now, some upcoming press stuff:

AMP Magazine feature (possibly a cover!) on Agnostic Front. The interview with Roger Miret went really well - he's a nice, genuine dude with an adorable little daughter and a penchant for emphasizing the importance of being "real."

Hails & Horns features on: Cannibal Corpse, Skeletonwitch, Krohm, Chthonic, Wolves in the Throne Room (double issue)

Metal Review upcoming reviews: Jesu, Dodsferd, Skeletonwitch, Ignitor

RESOUND Magazine features on: Fuck the Facts, Jucifer

Artists on tap for the next H+H: DARKTHRONE's Fenriz (one of only ten interviews, TEN, that they're doing to promote the new album. Talk about a dream come true!!!!), Svartsot, Syrach, Blut Aus Nord, Sear Bliss, Coheed & Cambia, Gojira, Light this City

Articles in progress: Nightwish, inaugural editions of my two new columns (Ravishing Grimness, a black/folk/doom/extreme metal news kind of thing, and an as-yet-unnamed column about what it's like to be a legitimate metal chick) and whatever else I manage to cook up.

Upcoming shows:
11/15 Suffocation/Immolation/Skinless
11/16 Alarm Clark! my buddies' folk punk band
11/17 Behemoth/Gojira (w/ Gojira interview)
11/18 Malevolent Creation/Vader/Cattle Decapitation/Light this City (w/ LTC interview)
11/28 CLUTCH/Coheed & Cambria (w/ C&C interview - only doing it to save admission price into the show, hah!)
12/2 Amon Amarth

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Addictions

Sick-awesome d-beat/crust; every self-respecting crusty in Philly has a Doom backpatch, for good fucking reason!

Crucial Blast does it again with this staggering slab of post-rock heaviness; I can't stop listening to this one.

First release from Darkthrone's very own Tyrant Syndicate Productions; near-legendary black/thrash for purists.

You'd think that I'd be spending less money on CDs now that I work for a record label, but...not so much. It's not my fault Candlelight has such a sick distro! *plug plug plug*

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Another Fallen Brother - R.I.P. Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka

By now, most of you have probably heard the sad, sad news of Witold "Vitek" Kieltyka's passing, following the accident that he and his bandmates in Decapitated were involved in a few days ago in Belarus. He was only twenty-three years old.

We'll miss you, brother. All hails, and may you rest in peace.

In honor of Vitek, Covan, and their grieving family, friends, and fans, I'm posting the most recent interview I did with the band - with Covan himself, actually. It appeared in Hails & Horns Magazine an issue or two ago, but I thought it'd be nice to revisit happier, more hopeful times for Decapitated. Enjoy.

Interview for Hails & Horns Magazine
Kim Kelly

Poland’s proud sons, Decapitated, really need no introduction. We all know the story – a bunch of long-haired youngsters get together, pick up some instruments, and hammer out some of the best technical death metal the world had ever seen…and then, once they’ve got time to take a breather and stop rockin’ for a month or two, they graduate high school and are finally fully unleashed upon an unsuspecting Earth. A few years later, they’re touring the world and selling thousands of albums, all without compromising their sound or sacrificing their brutality for commercial gain. Fresh off the Summer Slaughter tour and taking a much-needed rest before heading out on another European jaunt and recording their next album, Decapitated are already busily tinkering about in the studio, carefully constructing the skeleton of their next masterpiece. In the midst of all the excitement, frontman Covan was kind enough to take time out and answer a few questions for us. Read on to see what that ferocious voice has to say about touring, Poland, death metal, and what’s next for the band.

You guys have just returned from directly supporting Necrophagist on one of this past summer’s most
hotly-anticipated tours, Summer Slaughter. How did things go?

Well, it was great to tour with all those bands and experience their
music. We made a lot of friends and met cool new people. I think
this tour was unique in Decapitated’s history because all of the bands
represented different kinds of music.

How did you end up on the tour? Do you feel that it was a good fit for
your style of metal?

Yeah! I think that was cool idea to put us on the bill because a lot of fans
that listen to a little different kinds of metal were able to experience
Decapitated’s music. I think there is a new wave of Death Metal
fans in the U.S. - a new generation or maybe just a new fashion style for the fans, haha!

How did the crowd react to you guys? What kind of balance between old,
new, and brand-new songs did you create for the setlist?

Well it was funny, because more people reacted to the groovy songs that we
Played, like Spheres of Madness. In most places all the people were
going crazy, which was a big shock to us. I think new songs like
Postorganic and Day 69 were also taken very enthusiastically. In some
places old school death metal fans demanded very old songs. I think in
the future we will have to play more older songs but keep a balance, because
the band members like to play new songs! But that’s its typical for all the
musicians in the world.

When can we expect to see you guys release the follow-up to Organic Hallucinosis?

Currently we are taking a few weeks off after the tour. Some things
have changed in our personal lives during the tour, so we had to take care
of them here . But, I know Vogg and Vitek are jamming
together doing structures for the new songs; I heard two of them and
jammed with them before the tour. I must say that this stuff really
blew my head off. It was really good.

In what direction have you decided to take the new material? Have you added
any new elements or experimented with different sounds and sonic textures,
or can we expect more technical death metal in the vein of your previous work?
Hard to say at this time. What I can say is that what I heard in the
rehearsal room was like a continuation of Organic with some more
aggressive and weird guitar and drum parts.

Over the past few years, Decapitated has clawed their way to the very top of the
death metal heap, occupying a much-deserved spot in the upper echelon of
brutal, technical bands. To what do you attribute your great success?

I think it’s musical scholarship and experience. If you are young, you become
experienced faster and more easily, especially when you are put on
tour. Practicing, talent and a lot of luck are all things you need in this fucking
business. One day you can be up and then another you be get down - you can’t
forget that! We all try hard to stay on the ground. The best thing is to
work hard and focus on what you want to achieve. That’s my opinion.

What drives you to keep going, with the band and as an artist?

Music, fans and the excitement of knowing that you are creating something.

What was the main goal of Decapitated upon the band’s inception? What did
you set out to do with this band? Do you feel that you have accomplished it, or that you still have a ways to go?

There is a lot things that we want to do and have set as our goals. But
Mainly, it is that we want to play and enjoy the music that is being created.

Why do you play such heavy, aggressive music? Why death metal?

That’s Slayer and Sepultura’s fault! And I could probably
mention more and more bands that infected us with that virus!
In my case, I’m trying to let the bad things out from myself on stage and
on the records. There is a lot of shit that’s going on around this globe
that pisses me off. That’s why I love this kind of music and why I’m
doing this. Death metal is the best way to let out certain kinds of dark
emotions from yourself.

What are your thoughts on the current state of extreme metal?

I think it is changing. I think that the best times will come in few years.

Where does Decapitated fit into the death metal scene?
I think you as the journalist have more right to judge that. I don’t
know. I hate to name things and separate them. You know what I mean? I
treat bands and music simply as good and not good. That’s a subjective
opinion because I could like things that some people won’t like.

How did you first become interested and involved in the world of metal?

I think it was during primary school in Kuwait. Some dude from the Czech Republic
in my class gave me Iron Maiden and Slayer albums. Than I found Venom
and it all started.

Was it difficult to get your hands on music and find new bands
while living in Poland? What is the metal scene like over there? Are people
more accepting of this style of music there than they are here?

It was harder than in the US or western Europe. I remember times when all
the tapes ( there was no CDs at that time) in the early ‘90s were very cheap to
buy on the street or in music shops. They were all – especially metal tapes - they were just bootlegs. We could get the bands that were popular abroad at that time but not from the Polish metal scene. At that period of time I was tape trading or just buying demos straight from the

Why do you think that so many notable death and black metal bands have emerged from Poland? Why does this sort of music flourish in that particular place?

Because it is a hard, Catholic country! And there are a lot of metal fans and maniacs.

Are there any Polish bands that you feel aren’t getting enough exposure that you would care to mention? Any bands in general?

Well there are a lot of bands that need to be heard or seen. I think
Sceptic, Serpentia ,Crionics , Trauma are the bands that existed for
a long time releasing albums but did not have much chance to be heard
in a proper way abroad. But as I said, I’m not even mentioning all the bands
and believe me there are more and more really good bands in Polish metal
scene that are worth mentioning!

How does Decapitated go about writing your music?
That’s all Vogg and Vitek! I think this question should go to them, haha.
From what bands and sounds do you draw your main inspiration?

I can speak for myself, and say that for me its all kinds of music that are good
and innovative. I listen to plenty of different music. Sometimes silence
or ambient sounds can be inspiriting for me.

The Summer Slaughter Tour is something of an all-star lineup, as far as
technical/modern death metal and metalcore acts go. Who would you most want to play with, if you could share the stage with any band, past or present?

With all of them! Hahaha! Well, all the bands as I mentioned
were good friends to us. Currently we are trying to work on a tour in
Europe with Beneath The Massacre, Cephalic Carnage and Cattle
Decapitation. I hope that that works out! What I heard from some ‘heads
Was that maybe the Summer Slaughter tour will be transferred to European ground soon, but that could just be rumors which are not confirmed. But if that
would happen that would blast all the metal fans in Europe for sure!

What is next for Decapitated once this next tour wraps up?

Home. Chill out. And than preparing stuff for Decapitated, and for me I
must take care of my other projects Atrophia and Neurotoxic.

Any parting words or final thoughts?

I want to thank all the maniacs , fans and metal heads that made it to
Summer Slaughter Fest. It was great to play for you. Hope to see you on
tour with Amon Amarth & DECAPITATED in November/December in US/Canada!

Thanks so much for your time!

Thanx! Hail! And Horns Up Motherfuckers!!