Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview With: PLAGUE BRINGER

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine 2009

It’s 2009. Happy belated New Year! We’re now only three years away from 2012, and, if you believe in that sort of thing, the end of the world. Untold numbers of theories, prophecies and “facts” about the onset of the end times have been circulating for millennia; whether you buy into the Novelty Theory, watch the skies for signs of deadly asteroids, fear the return of the Annunaki, or simply watch the news, it’s apparent that the shit’s about to hit the fan. Something’s gotta give, and when it does…it won’t be pretty.

The apocalypse is nigh, and the Four Horsemen are drawing near, ushering in a new world order built upon ancient evils. The silent white horse of Pestilence – the Plague Bringer - eyes wild with triumph…the red horse of War, its slavering jaws stained crimson with the blood of a thousand battlefields…the black horse of Famine, bathed in the stench of rotting corpses…and finally, the pale green horse of Death, and the last days of humanity.

A depressing thought, no? Until those dark days are upon us (or, you know, until the next round of prophesies hit the tabloids), do yourself a favor: take a deep breath, kick back, pop open a cold one, and read on as I catch up with Greg Ratajczak of Chicago’s own apocalyptic riff machine, Plague Bringer.

“I came up with the name Plague Bringer; its origin (in this context) is kind of a long story involving Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu the Vampyre,” but the way we see it, the name translates to, mean “Enjoy today as if is your last...we're all going to die, make the most of your life.” I began writing music under the name Plague Bringer back in 2002. Originally, I had no intention of starting an actual band, I just wanted to write and play heavy music for my own enjoyment. I began writing some songs on whatever equipment I had lying around my apartment at the time. After a few months of writing, I came up with four, songs I felt satisfied enough with to present to Josh for him to write words for. The next thing we knew, we were being asked to play shows.”

Plague Bringer’s sound comes across as a vicious mishmash of grind, death, industrial, and electronic music, propelled by the drum machine from hell, Josh’s manic exhortations, and Greg’s own frenetic guitar playing.

“ People come up to us and say that they hear all kinds of stuff within our "sound". Everything from hip hop to industrial, death metal, and straight up pop! Its awesome. I love ALL music. There is not a genre that i don't listen to. Inevitably, some of those influences creep into my writing. I only ever wanted to write music that i enjoyed playing/listening to. As far as Plague Bringer's actual sound goes, i would say: equal parts TOOL, PIG DESTROYER and GODFLESH. In regards to using a drum machine instead of a human drummer – when Plague Bringer began, I was just doing what I could using what i had at the time and fell in love with the process! After all these years, the machine has become as significant to this project as both josh and myself. i have had more offers from drummers wanting to play with us than i can even recall, but i have no interest in changing the way that i work at this point in the game.”

Their set at Kuma’s Doom Fest this past winter was one of the most insane intense performances I’ve ever witnessed; the ‘Bringer are known for the barely-contained insanity of their live shows, yet rarely tour.

”I would love to go over seas. I've heard that it's actually easier to tour in Europe. Playing shows is a lot of work for us. We both have jobs and bills to pay so it's hard to find the time and money to travel sometimes. Another big reason we don't get out much is that our live rig has kinda become a part of the band! We have an ENORMOUS live rig! its our "band", if you will. it's 5 1/2 feet tall by about 10-12 feet wide. we've completely outgrown our touring vehicles and gas prices last summer made it virtually impossible to travel and not lose money. However, it is in the works to get it together to do some traveling and playing this summer; there is not a song on "Life Songs..." that we do not enjoy playing live because the songs are more dynamic and challenging, and I can't wait to play "One in Two Parts" live!”

HeWhoCorrupts Inc. released the record “Life Songs in a Land of Death” in 2008, and will also be unleashing its follow-up companion album later this year.

“The new record is titled "One In Two Parts". It is intended to be a companion release to "Life Songs...". It's basically one long track and like "Life Songs...", it is a complete thought. Every note/sound has been obsessed over and is absolutely intentional. I write and record all the music pretty much alone. All the while, Josh outlines ideas for the lyrics...alone! Did I mention that we live together?! HA! Obviously, we share our ideas, but it's usually only AFTER the music is finished, that Josh actually comes in and starts laying down ideas. I took over three years writing and recording both "Life Songs..." and "One in Two Parts". I really wanted to make an album (or two) that was more than just a collection of songs. I wanted the completed vision, when reflected upon, to make the listener think. I feel that we really accomplished something with these albums both musically and lyrically. That's not to discredit any of the music on our first record, "As the Ghosts...", but the biggest difference between our old and new material is that the new material is more dynamic and very conceptual.” “Our songs are generally about things that affect us every day. Love, death, fear, hope, addictions... They're about overcoming adversity and becoming a better person in the process. "Life Songs...", however, deals with a few very personal subjects and has a strong political tone to it. While writing the album, our dear friend Malachi Rischter, committed suicide by self immolation in protest of the war in Iraq ( The album contains two songs that are written for and dedicated to him. We also dedicated the entire record to his memory. We've never set out to be a preachy or politically inspired band, but as far as i see it, its hard to be American these days and not be affected by the situation we're in. The title basically represents everything that PB is about. The way we see it, the Life Songs are these uplifting and relatively positive ideas that we "sing" in order to stay sane in this Land of Death, which could be seen as either the actual WORLD or just the metal scene, depending on your perspective. Life Songs = Positive. Land of Death = Negative.”

A product of and well loved within Chicago’s hugely fertile metal scene (which is as individualistic as it is tight-knit), it comes as no surprise that Greg’s last words were of support for his city, his scene, and his friends.

”Ya know, i have no idea where all these great bands are coming from. One day i woke up and Chicago is this great metal town. Who would've thought? I think part of what makes our scene so great is that every band is doing something original and doesn't really sound like anything else. I think that goes a LONG way these days. Harpoon, Lord Mantis, Winters In Osaka, Bloodyminded, the Atlas Moth, Decrypt, Indian, and Dirty Dead are some local bands that could use some attention. I'm sure i forgot others, sorry guys!”

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Unsigned Band Profile: BATILLUS

What’s What: A New York band by birth, but heavy by the grace of the doom gods - behold, the power of Batillus. The band was formed in Brooklyn by three amplifier worshippers who met by chance; a mere twelve months later, Batillus had already self-released an EP and played with the likes of Withered, Tombs, Rosetta, The Gates of Slumber, Evoken, Bloody Panda, Hull, and Unearthly Trance. Lauded by the metal press as “shudderingly mighty” and blessed with some of the heaviest riffs this side of Dopethrone, Batillus describe their music as “dynamic, atmospheric blackened-doom.” If you like your songs loud, long, and lingering, Batillus’ eleven-minute epics will be right up your alley. They are currently working on a limited CDR version of their self-titled EP and plotting tour dates for the fall. Bring your earplugs.

Location: Brooklyn, NY

Current Release: Self-titled EP, self-released digitally January 16, 2009 (
Rocks Like: Electric Wizard, Graves at Sea, Samothrace, Zoroaster, Asunder


*additional questions by Jacob Round/asst. editor Hails & Horns;
answers by Geoff Summers/BATILLUS*


It's not a particularly fascinating story-- Greg and Willi met while working at a record store, then they found me on craigslist. We played together as a trio for the first time in February of '08 and it just gelled. Since then it's been a pretty fast ride-- we've played a dozen shows in half as many months with bands we respect and admire such as Withered, Tombs, Rosetta, The Gates of Slumber, Evoken, Bloody Panda, Hull, and Unearthly Trance. Revolver Magazine caught us at a show, describing our sound as "uber-slow, beyond-atmospheric blackened doom," and Invisible Oranges (written by Cosmo Lee of Decibel, Pitchfork, All Music Guide) described our EP as such: "trippy Sabbath-isms, mutated Helmet riffs, even black metal tremolo picking [...] shudderingly mighty."


Dynamic, atmospheric blackened-doom.


Well, at the end of the day, we're just a doom band. We're not saving the world-- we just like to play fucking loud and we hope people can find some enjoyment in that.

WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOUR BAND? (Specific tours, planning to record, etc.?)

We're currently working on a limited CDr version of our self-titled EP, which will be hand numbered (limited to 100), hand assembled, and contain a bonus track not included in the digital release. We're also in the beginning stages of planning our first tour, which is likely to be a two-three week affair along the east coast in September of this year. In the meantime, we'll continue to play local and regional shows, and we'll also be harassing our favorite labels until one of them succumbs and agrees to put out some wax for us!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview With: SUIDAKRA

On a Plain of Standing Stones: SUIDAKRA Hail Heritage

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine 2/2009

“Celtic metal,” eh? Sure an’ that seems like an unlikely combination – if you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, that is. With the folk metal explosion nearing critical mass and legions of conquering metal hordes storming our beaches armed with glockenspiels, warpaint, and bagpipes, if you’re listening to metal in 2009, chances are you’re familiar with (if not a ravenous consumer of) that feisty little subgenre dubbed “folk metal.” Skyclad’s legacy has held fast and spawned untold numbers of modern-day Vikings, city-dwelling rune-worshippers, and iPhone-wielding shamans; the voices of the past are calling, and it finally seems as though the general metal populace is heeding their call. Of course, folk metal and its affiliates (Viking metal, Celtic metal, all manner of regionally-specific tags, and something I, to my immense chagrin, heard referred to as “battle metal” – it’s a Turisas album, kids, not a genre) have been around for decades. Skyclad may have been one of the first, but they were predated by Mago de Oz and The Lord Weird Slough Feg, and followed closely by Cruachan, Orphaned Land, and Subway to Sally (comrades from Ireland, Israel, and Germany, respectively). One may even argue that folk metal’s first stirrings were felt in seminal “Viking metal” offerings from Bathory, Enslaved, and Amorphis. Leaving the history lesson behind, though, let’s shift our focus onto one of the original Celtic-focused folk metal bands – Suidakra, who formed in Germany in 1994. Blending melodic death, black, and power metal with traditional Irish folk and a healthy appreciation for melody, the band is often backed by a sixteen-member choir and have been releasing record and touring the world since the early nineties. Suidakra’s affable frontman Arcaduis “Akki” Antonik took some time to weigh in on some metallic (and not so metallic) issues and share some juicy details about their brand-new record, Crógacht.

On the folk metal explosion:

To be honest, I’ve no idea why Folk metal has become big lately… And we don’t care too much about it, because as all trends it will be gone as fast as it has come probably. Concerning ourselves, it’s just the music that comes out of us when writing songs; we like to combine joyful melodies and powerful metal tunes into our own style. For some reason, in private we do not even listen to many other bands that play this kind of music, at least no more than we do to other styles of metal or music in general…

On the band’s name and history:

“SuidAkrA was formed in Germany in 1994. We released a bunch of albums since then and the new -our ninth- album “Crógacht” will be released in the US on March, 3rd via Wacken Records / SPV. We consider ourselves to play Celtic Metal, but that’s just a shorter term for melodic death metal blended with Irish folk music which might describe our style a bit more precisely. The folk influence has been part of our sound since the very beginning and during the last years we introduced some new instruments like the bagpipes and the choir to have some more diversity. If you listen to our albums you’ll find some acoustic songs, but we like to keep the wilder stuff for the live shows. It’s a wide range that we’re covering.”

“There is no deeper meaning behind that name. Once we started to write our names backwards because it sounded quite funny, and my name Arkadius backwards is Suidakra. We called the band “Glorifcation” at that time and were not really satisfied with that so I said “Hey, let’s call the band SuidAkrA!” And that’s all, it has nothin’ to do with “dark” or “Suicide,” hehehe!”

On their upcoming US tour:

“We already had the opportunity last year to play six US shows as a special guest on the Pagan Fest USA Tour last year. It was a blast. We noticed that there are many SuidAkrA fans out there. We knew we would have to come back as soon as possible. After returning home we get the offer to play a “real” North American tour in March 2009. This time we will play about 4 weeks with Týr & Alestorm. This time we will use sound samples live to create the same atmosphere as we did on the records. It’s a new experience for all of us. Every single song from the new records has its own intensity and character, so we’re looking forward to play almost all songs off “Crógacht” live on stage. We’re really looking forward to meeting some friends and gaining some new SuidAkrA fans!”

On Crógacht, the new full-length:

Since 2005 we have been signed to Armageddon Music, a label that was transformed into Wacken Records / SPV last year. We’re happy so far because SPV can supply a much better distribution now than we had before. They are really providing their support for our band and our new album.

“I think the main differences between now and the earlier days lie in the sound of the production and in our musical and songwriting skills. Both have improved on every record and while the first releases sounded quite raw it changed to a kind “controlled power” on the newer ones. On “Crógacht” we experienced how it works to write music according to a concept. I guess this would not have succeeded in the early days. We told Kris Verwimp, our longtime graphic artist who was also responsible for the lyrical concept on ”Crógacht”, that the new album will include about 9 songs. He came up with the concept and its division into chapters. So, before we wrote the first song we knew what the whole story and album should be about to express. We sent him the first recordings from the rehearsal room and planned which song would fit to which lyric. It was a new way of songwriting for us. This time we had the oppurtunity to create certain moods and atmospheres according to the lyrics. It was more like writing music for a movie.
The recordings were also very special this time. We worked with Martin Buchwalter for the third time and he never gets bored with us, haha!
He likes to develop himself as a producer and to record bagpipes and other exotic instruments is very exciting for him. I knew that it’s gonna be hard to mix the sound, because at some parts of the songs there are so many different instruments and you have to do a good mix to give each element its own place so it can be heard! Martin managed it perfect.”

On lyrics and writing a concept record”

“Crógacht” is the Gaelic word for “valor” or “bravery”... First of all we came up with the idea to title the album “Valour” but in our opinion it didn’t sound that good, so we found the Irish word with the same meaning. We thought that would fit to the concept 100%.The concept concerns the Irish legend of the hero Cuchulainn. We focus on his journey to the Isle of Skye, where he seeks to learn the arts of war from the Scythian warrior woman Scáthach. His decisions set the events in motion that causes his son Conlaoch’s tragic fate... But I won’t tell you how the story ends haha! We had the idea that Kris could create a lyrical concept for us many years before when we found out that he also released pagan comics & books that tell Irish stories. The problem was that we always finished the songwriting a few weeks before we entered the studio so there wasn’t time left to work on that. After the “Caledonia” album was released, we met Kris at one of our shows in Germany and we asked him about our idea. He was very excited to work on such a big project. He came up with the idea of using that Irish legend and we gave him free space to create the story like he would like to.
This way we got Kris involved into the songwriting. After the recordings were finished and I asked Kris a few days ago if he would like to work with us in this way on the next album again and he said: “of course!” ;-)

On German metal (is it something in the beer?):

“Germany’s important role in metal probably started in the 80’s with Thrash metal bands like Kreator, Sodom etc. I think back then the foundation of a good working distribution of metal music was built that lasts until today and gets many people introduced into metal. And I agree with you that our beer plays an important role of course! Also, I’d like take the chance to say hi to our friends from Sirocco, a folk thrash band from Ireland. And we want to apologize to the American people for sending over the band Tokyo Hotel to tour the US… Hahaha!”

Parting shots:

What upcoming albums are you most looking forward to hearing in 2009?

Since we’re extremely busy at the moment because of our own upcoming album release, I’m not really up to date with what’s coming out soon… Maybe the next Guns ‘n Roses album?
What’ve you guys got planned for the rest of 2009? What’s next for Suidakra now that your latest record’s been completed?

First of all we want to play as much shows as we can when we return from the US tour and I think at the same time we will start to write new material for the next release. We can’t wait to record a new album! We hope to meet many people on our tour in March! Feel free to check out SuidAkrA on the net: so you know the lyrics to sing along or the correct timing to bang your heads off at the show! See you there!

Interview With: ENSLAVED

Inheritance of Fire, Inheritance of Frost: The Mighty ENSLAVED Speak

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine

This story has been months in the making, and were it not for the diligent efforts of Nuclear Blast’s intrepid press guru (hi Loana!), it probably would have never happened at all. It’s easy to forget that our heroes are human – that after those larger-than-life rockstars, dazzling divas, and snarling wildmen take their final bows for the night, they lay down their instruments and head backstage to peel off their sweaty clothes, shower, grab a beer and call their kids to say goodnight. At the end of the day, band dudes are still just dudes; they’ve got lives outside of music, and their schedules don’t always allow time for pesky journalist types like yours truly to pick their brains. Thankfully, a little bit of patience and a lot of good luck resulted in this interview finding its way back to me in time for us to squeeze it in this issue – just in time to remind you all about how awesome Enslaved’s new record, Vertebrae, is, and how stoked you should be for their upcoming tour with Opeth!

Enslaved are one of the most influential and highly-respected bands to ever emerge from Norway’s frozen core, and remain a powerful force within the extreme metal scene and beyond. I was lucky enough to exchange words with not one, but three of the bands’ members –Ivar Bjørnson,, Herbrand Larsen, and enigmatic frontman Grutle Kjellson – about their stellar new album, their black metal roots, and the future of Enslaved.

First off, I must say that it’s an absolute honor to speak with you and have the chance to pick your brain about your astonishing new record, Vertebrae. I can’t wait to hear all about the creation of the record. First off, what is the significance of the title, and how does it correspond to the cover art?

Grutle: The title symbolizes the building stones in humanity, both physical and mentally, psychologically and biologically. Everything is closely tied together. You can say that the physics are the individual consciousness while the psychics are the outer consciousness. Micro/Macro-cosmos. Explained within mythological terms as the struggle (and also unity) between the Aesir and the giants. The lyrics on Vertebrae deals a whole lot about the human potential that so very often drowns in greed, stupidity and hypocritical thoughts and actions.

On the cover you see the Vertebrae in the center, symbolizing the physical building stone. It stands alone to indicate both pride and that it is yet fragile. The blood veins that form the rune symbol (Mannar/Mannaz/Man) can be seen as the unity between mind and flesh.

2.Vertebrae seems like both a logical progression from Ruun, and at the same time, something entirely different. The 80’s prog-tinged keyboard intro was the first hint that this was not going to be Ruun Part II, and certain elements you used throughout the new album cemented that fact. Clean vocals, dreamy atmospheres, and an expansive, well-thought-out sense of space all contribute to a solid foray into uncharted territory for the band. You’ve used those elements before, but never in such large doses. How did the writing process for Vertebrae differ from that of your previous records?

Ivar: I agree with your views on Vertebrae’s relation to Ruun. How it became like that is not easy to trace to be honest. The whole Enslaved development is very gradual and seamless. We never really sit down and discuss where to go next and so on, it more or less just “happens”. The songwriting process for Vertebrae was much like the previous; since Below the Lights we have used much of the same pattern; I make the music and produce crude demos and preproduction, then the rest of the guys make their parts – especially the vocal arrangements coming from Herbrand and Grutle can bring about quite big changes in the songs. Then we place everything together in the rehearsal studio and with further demos and preproduction until the song feels 100% right to us.

3. How much of an effect did the enlistment of Joe Baresi and Greg Marino have on the final product?

Herbrand: I have to say that both of them did their share. Especially Joe Barresi. Greg Marino did a great mastering job, and managed to keep the sound dynamic and “analog”. Loud but not over-compressed. Joe Barresi understood what kind of sound and production we wanted this album to have and just did it. The man is a master when it comes to mixing! We produced the album ourselves but Joe did the last finish!

4.How do you feel about the album, now that it’s finished and has been getting rave reviews from all over the world? How do you feel it fits into your catalog?

Ivar: It feels incredible to see how well received the album has been from both media and fans – I have honestly never before seen response like this; the album seems to really hit people on a very personal level, which is the greatest honor a songwriter can have I think. I think Vertebrae fits perfectly into the entire catalogue. It is the one album, I think, that best link the roots of Enslaved with our newer influences. It makes the darkness and melody meet without one of them “killing” the other.

5. How would you personally chart the band’s progression from its early days (back to the Nema and Yggdrasill demos in 1991-92) up ‘til now? Did you ever think back then that you’d end up moving so far past your black metal roots and gaining this sort of international acclaim and awards? Would you consider Enslaved to be a black metal band at all anymore?

Grutle: You have to remember that we started 17 years ago, and that we of course have developed a lot since then. It would have been rather strange if we had not, hehe. On the other hand, there has been a natural progression all the way, and no album sounds the same as the former one. We´ve always had the urge to change and develop our sound. That has always been the essence in Enslaved. I don´t think the world needs ANOTHER band that sounds exactly the same on all albums, and I think our fans really appreciate that we change and develop! We´ve never considered ourselves as a black metal band, as our definition of black metal is any kind of metal with a satanic concept.

6.Do you follow the current black metal scene at all? Do you have any thoughts on the current state of the genre?

Ivar: Yeah, I try to stay a little updated, absolutely. It is quite interesting to see where it is going and the new directions the scene is taking. I am particularly interested in the “experimental” parts of the scene – bands like Virus, Negura Bunget, Ihsahn that break conventions are really interesting I think. Then again, some of the more traditionalist stuff like Taake and so on can be great to listen to too.

7.I know Vertebrae is described as a concept album; at a glance, the lyrics seem very dark and emotional, with a strong undercurrent of mortality. Could you explain some of the concepts behind the individual songs?

Grutle: As I mentioned, the lyrics deal with human strength and weakness. They describe how extremely fragile we are when it comes to matters such as materialism, religion, propaganda etc. Humans are extremely weak when it comes to individual behaviour, but we yet have a huge potential. This potential is often obscured somehow and the lyrics deals about different aspects of these matters, mine being the metaphorical/mythological while Ivar´s the Psycho-surreal ones.

8.The album was released by Indie Recordings, who have released records from a host of quality Norwegian acts like Iskald, Keep of Kalessin, Borknagar, and Audrey Horne. Why did you decide to work with Indie?

Herbrand: We knew all the guys from earlier on, and we knew that they would give 100% for us. They know their stuff and we know ours! Good combination!! He, he..

9.Speaking of Audrey Horne, the current members of Enslaved split their time between this band and numerous other projects. How do you guys manage to juggle your other bands and personal lives while still devoting time to Enslaved and being as productive as you’ve been over these past 17 years? Where do you see Enslaved and yourself personally in ten years? In twenty?

Herbrand: I had to quit Audrey Horne. That was not an easy decision but at that time I didn't see any other options. We're the best of friends and I played keys and mixed the latest album Le Fol. Icedale does both and is very happy with that. He is a working machine and is capable of giving both 100%. Not bad!
Enslaved in ten or twenty years? Hmmm....I really don't know. Hopefully we are still making the music that we want to and still playing shows all over the world. Musically I really don’t have a clue. He, he...

10.What was your goal for the band when you first brought it into being? How has that aim changed over the years, if at all?

Ivar: The goal was to put together a band that would make exactly the music we wanted to listen to ourselves… That is still the goal – and I think that is only “tangible” and defined goal we have had – the rest is intuition, cause and effect.

Interview With: INSECT WARFARE


Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine

Grindcore is ugly music for ugly people. Filthy production, merciless blastbeats, broken glass, razor-edged riffs swiped from your worst nightmare, and throat-shredding anti-everything lyrics about why the world is fucked – no breakdowns, no bullshit, just vitriol. Suicide Silence fans, chicks that listen to Daughters and pierce their septums, dudes with swoopy hair, and guys that wear tight pants (unless they’re filthy and covered in Dropdead and Assuck patches) need not apply. Yeah, I’m talking to YOU. You think you’re into grind? You can fuck right off, because chances are, you haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about. Do I seem overly hostile? Good.

Do you own Scum? Do you really, really wish Nasum were still around? Have you seen Brutal Truth, and if not, do you hate yourself for it? Were you super bummed when Repulsion dropped off MDF last year? Have you heard of Seige and Deep Wound? Do you dig powerviolence? How about noise? Do you know why Japanese bands rule?

No? Well, listen up, maggot - Insect Warfare are here to tell you exactly how much you suck, then rip your fucking face off for good measure. Earache’s reissuing their 2007 blasterpiece ,World Extermination, this spring, which means that shit will be available everywhere. Buy it or suck. Consider yourself warned.

First off – are you guys broken up or what? I remember hearing that the band was done, but you keep releasing material. What the fuck is going on?

Yes, the band is now completely over. See, the advantage of recording everything in your house is that you can record everything. We have tons of unreleased material, that’s why new stuff keeps coming out. Kind of like how Tupac manages to keep releasing records though he has been dead for quite a while now. Almost everything is released at this point now though so we can finally put this fucking thing to rest.

What other releases do you have coming up? I know you recently released material with Japan’s FID and with Agoraphobic Nosebleed.

Well, the only 2 things we have left are the Earache Records reissue of World Extermination on both CD and vinyl formats. There is also a 53 song noisecore session we recorded that will be released as a 1 sided LP on 625 Thrashcore around April.. Its 53 songs of pure noise that fans of Arse Destroyer, early Anal Cunt, 7 Minutes of Nausea, and World fans might appreciate. No Guitars, no bass. Just drums, vocals and noise. It should bum a few people out, which is good.

Can you give me a brief history of the band and provide some background info for those who are unfamiliar with Insect Warfare?

The band was basically formed to play the more traditional style of noisy grindcore, not this modern bullshit that is happening now. We also were fascinated with the Japanese scene and wanted to emulate the bands we listened to. Once we went to Japan, we felt no reason to carry on with the band, so we called it a day.

Who came up with the band name – why “Insect Warfare?” Is it seriously in reference to the pseudo-grind band the Locust? I really hope it is.

Rahi (singer) came up with the name. No, the shit with the Locust came later. The name was just something stupid he came up with and it was better than some horseshit like "this autum day girls die flowers".

How would you describe Insect Warfare to someone that had never heard your music before (besides the “elitist asshole grindcore band” tag, of course)?

Primitive, raw, and distorted grindcore that hails to the days of the early Earache releases.

I know you guys don’t tour or play shows very often; is there a reason for that beyond the usual scheduling issues that come with having a job/life outside of your band?

Because for quite sometime we hated being around people and hated the process of playing shows. We are pricks. We make no efforts to try to be hip, cool, part of the scene people. I don’t give a shit about that. I’d rather stay at my house and listen to noise than buy into some false idea of a large grind community. Give me a fucking break. Either you saw us live or you didn’t.

Earache is re-releasing ‘World Extermination’ in a few months. How did you hook up with Earache?

A few labels wrote with interest of doing a reissue but i blew them all off because to be honest, I didn’t give a fuck. I was more concerned with making noise/punk records on my little label than dealing with some label with reissue nonsense. Then Digby wrote me and it kind of stopped me in my tracks because he really was such an inspiration with his label by releasing so many great early titles that were integral to my musical upbringing. That made me reconsider, and here we are today.

What can you tell me about World Extermination? How does it differ from your earlier releases, and can you trace your progression as a band from your early days up to this last chapter in Insect Warfare history?

Well, I was feeling my most alienated, depressed, and angry during the sessions that produced that LP. That discontent echoes throughout the record and that’s why it sounds the way it does. Every other record was written with idea of "hey, lets make 10 more songs for a split". With World Extermination I was trying to channel the same power I got from such records as From Enslavement, Teen Ass Revolt, Ulterior, Anticapitol, and Kings of Punk. I am very happy with how the record came out.

What was the writing/recording process like this time around?

Pretty intense. We would practice almost every other day up until the recording working on trying to make the songs as fast as possible. I think that training paid off because we recorded the record in like 2 days and the intensity/speed was there. Then we overlaid the noisetracks, which alot of bands were not really doing at the time and thats what made it sound so scratchy and gritty. Thats why i like the record. There are parts of songs that arent even riffs, just noise.

What sort of subjects do you touch upon in your lyrics, and what is the meaning behind the album title? I mean, it seems pretty obvious, but I could be missing something.

Nope, just typical alienated hating everyone type themes. We are not a political band. We could care less about that kind of shit. There is no message other than one of just being unhappy with certain personal situations.

Why the fuck does Texas breed so many slam-death goregrind br00tal bands? Wasn’t Devourment enough?

Don’t really know. I don’t follow any of the scenes down here unless its noise or raw, 70s sounding punk rock. Anything else doesn’t hold my attention.

What upcoming albums, if any, are you most looking forward to in 2009?

The only thing that comes to mind is Rusted Shut's new LP on Load records. As far as grind goes: whenever RED says they will complete a new LP I will have something to look forward to.

What’ve you guys got planned for the rest of 2009?

Well, since the band is broken up there are no plans. I am going to spend lots of time at the local leather bars doing unspeakable things and making noise music.

Any parting thoughts?

If you don’t like Arsedestroyer then don’t bother writing me a letter.

*Some of the most fun I've ever had writing a story. Cheers, you assholes.

Interview With: SALOME

Black Tides of Destruction: SALOME

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine

Once in awhile, if you’re lucky, a band comes along that totally stops you in your tracks, blows your mind, and changes your life in some way. Some unfortunate people go through life without ever once feeling that indescribable rush of emotion that comes with discovering a piece or music that really speaks to them; a piece of music that resonates deep within the marrow and tendons and bones of their very being, and makes their heart stop for one – short -breath. I felt that way about the new Samothrace record, I felt that way the first time I heard Bathory, and I felt that way about Salome’s “Black Tides” the first time I heard it; I still get shivers whenever the song comes on. I’m almost afraid to see them play live…my heart might just explode. We’ll see how I hold up after seeing them twice this month – with Ocean and Batillus on February 15th as part of Brandon Stusoy’s Pitchfork-approved Show No Mercy series, and again at the Scion Rock Fest in Hotlanta. Until then, I’ll leave it to Salome’s drummer, Aaron, to tell their tale.

“There are three of us. Kat does the vocals, Rob plays the guitars, and I (Aaron) play the drums. We started playing together in 2006. Rob and I had played in other bands together previously. We heard Kat sing once and thought she was great. Then, Kat and I met at a music store and realized that we liked some of the same bands and were both interested in doing something slow and heavy, so we did. Kat brought in the name Salome. The whole story of Salome and John the Baptist is pretty awesome. Decapitation is totally metal. “ Salome is…
”Slow and heavy. I think the attempts to break down music into super specific categories and genres and sub-genres is kinda funny. There are just so many, it gets confusing. We don't really think about it. We are interested in so much different music, but I suppose some of the influences on the record would be Black Sabbath, Goatsnake, Boris, Cathedral, Neurosis and Isis.” Vendetta Records released Salome’s self-titled debut full-length fairly recently (summer 2008).

”Stefan from Vendetta heard us on myspace and made contact. We liked a lot of the other stuff he had released so it seemed like a good fit. The response has been great. The songs on the record really developed from the jams we had the first few times we got together as a band. We refined them over the course of a few months and then started recording at a friend's house. Then it became impossible for us to schedule with each other and it took awhile to get back on track. We ended up taking the tracks to another studio to finish up, where we re-recorded a few tracks and mixed it down. So it took us two or three months spread out over two years to get it done. It was totally ridiculous.”

Kat handles all the vocals and writes all of the lyrics for Salome, which she bases on life experience, history and mythology. Her cavernous roar and jagged shrieks complement the monolithic grooves and towering riffs found in Salome’s doomed jams perfectly, and also find a home on the other end of the extreme metal spectrum – spazzed-out grind (her vocals can be heard on the new Agoraphobic Nosebleed album).

In regards to sharing a vocalist:

“It hasn't been a problem so far. I'm sure that when people hear her vocals on the ANb stuff they'll be stoked. If people check us out that haven't heard us before after hearing her vocals on ANb, that's good for us. They're a great band.”

As far as touring goes…

We're still trying to work that out. We would like to play more this year, it's just a matter of working everybody's schedules out. We got an email a couple months ago asking if we'd be up for playing a free show headlined by Mastodon and Neurosis (Scion Rock Fest) and we said, "fuck yeah!" It's really hard to choose who we’re most excited to see, all of the bands playing are really great. I guess it will just depend on the schedule. Seeing Mastodon play some new songs will be pretty sweet.

Parting shots:

What songs on the new record are you most excited to play live?

”I like playing Black Tides. It's really heavy and it's simple and catchy, so it's a lot of fun to play. We're looking forward to playing some newer stuff as well.”

You guys hail from Virginia, which is well-known for its potent metal scene. From what I’ve seen and heard, it’s very tight-knit and supportive, and the bands themselves are killer! What is it about VA that breeds so much high-quality heavy metal?

”It probably has something to do with the traffic”

Can you name a few bands – Virginia-based or otherwise – that you feel deserve some more attention?

”Three Faces of Eve, Horsefang, King Giant. Check out the other bands on Vendetta as well. Black Shape of Nexus, Omega Massif, Mount Logan.”

Have you begun writing any new material? I know you’re doing a split with Thou soon – can you tell me what’s going on with that?

”We'll be recording our side of it in February. It will be one song we've been playing out live for awhile and one brand new song. We've played with Thou a few times and think they're really awesome, so we're looking forward to it.”

What upcoming records are you most looking forward to in 2009?

”Mastodon, Shrinebuilder, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, 16.”

Interview With: BATTLEFIELDS

Stained with the Blood of the Restless: BATTLEFIELDS

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine 2/2009

“ As we search to find the truth behind the illusion, who created the human race, or biogenetic experiment, we look to those who came from the stars, ancient astronauts, creational gods, for our answers. All is theory, virtual reality, consciousness, and for the most part not provable, subject to the interpretation of the researcher or experiencer,” quotes Rusty Steele. The laconic Battlefields vocalist may indeed possess an earth-shaking roar (one that he employs to great effect onstage and in the studio), but sometimes, it is his moments of soft-spoken lucidity that command the most attention.

“Lyrically Battlefields has come to be a middle finger to the ancestors that rewrote history, burned libraries and pulled humanity so far away from the possibly of knowing a truth. With the messages that were removed from man, there seems to be a definite cause for alarm.”

I first heard Battlefields a few months ago, when they played Kuma’s Doom Fest in Chicago, IL. It turned out that they were crashing with the same friend of mine that was putting me up for the weekend, so in addition to seeing them decimate the Double Door’s stage, I also got to know the guys a bit. After a few nights spent boozing, vinyl-hunting and generally debauching, they headed out to another show, and I headed back East to recover from the bitter Chicago cold and treat my record player to the gorgeously-packaged LP version of Battlefields’ last record, “Stained with the Blood of an Empire,” that the guys were kind enough to give me before we parted ways. It’s a simply massive record, and one that upped the ante considerably for other bands that seek to capture the simmering intensity that Battlefields conjure up so effortlessly.

Battlefields come armed with a name as monumental as their riffs. Thee band was originally christened “Battlefields Stained With the Blood of the Restless,” but made the wise decision to shorten their moniker.

“When I lived in Des Moines, our bands Eclipse of Eden, In Loving Memory and Rue Morgue had set out to create a band even more massive than Pg.99, which was all hypothetical, but consisted of most of the members from those three bands and had been given a hypothetical band name of “Battlefields Stained with the Blood of the Restless”. The name was always in the back of my head and brought it up at band practice, however “stained with the blood of the restless” wasn’t exactly taking...

“We wanted it to be called something more than just Battlefields, just in case someone else had used the name, we wanted to be safe and add all that onto it... knowing that people would hate saying such a long band name and just call us Battlefields. What actually happened was that Battlefields first album was called “Stained With the Blood of an Empire”.

Rusty Steele’s move farther north, from Iowa to Fargo, ND, spurred the conception of the band that would become Battlefields.

“When I moved to Fargo, I was attempting to fill a vocal spot on a local grind band with Battlefields guitarist Andrew Wallin. Andy had been a fan of my old band Dispensing of False Halos and had played as support when we were on tour. Once I moved up here I had already established friendships with local musicians. I was a manager at a local record store/head shop that often played a ton of great records with employees Matt and Rob. At that point, we were all kind of feeding off each others’ taste in heavy music and found a common ground. None of the guys knew each other, but they shared a mutual friendship with me.”

“There was definite chemistry and jamming continued for the next 7 months. After composing 3 songs / 27 minutes worth of music, we debuted our set at The Aquarium in Fargo, playing with Pelican. The music was very well thought out and as a band we commanded the attention of the locals, and demanded that they take note of how serious we were. For those 7 months our practices were very secretive; not even our friends were able to hear what was taking shape. By that first show we had a decently recorded demo, tshirts and stickers.

Battlefields’ sound draws from a variety of sonic landscapes – elements of post-hardcore, ambient, doom, post-rock and progressive sounds can all be heard in their sprawling, epic odes.

“Our sngs sway between pretty and cathartic, heavy and quiet. To the old folks at the random gas stations, we are something like a heavy metal version of Pink Floyd, but don’t we all say that shit? Between the members of Battlefields we all love 90’s screamo, pop punk, death metal and the modern “doom” bands.”

Translation Loss Records is gearing up to release their new record, ‘Thresholds Of Imbalance,” in March. Rusty weighs in on the album’s creation and the band’s relationship with Translation Loss:

“Drew had befriended us and watched our progression, which wouldn’t have came without the attention of our friends Rosetta. After a U.S. tour with them we had regular contact with Drew/TL. After teaming up with them and we are gearing up for a whole heap of projects, offers and help that we didn’t find previously.”

“This album was well thought out. Some of the songs were being put together and jammed on between tours a year before entering the studio. After touring Europe with Amen Ra, we decided to just stop touring until an entire album was put together. Rob did his apprenticeship at the Devil’s Workshop in Minneapolis and basically they granted us an exceptional amount of studio time free of charge so we spent from 11am-2am for 10 days in a row recording. “Stained with the Blood of an Empire” was recorded in Pro-tools and we later regretted... so thereafter committed to doing only analog recordings, which is the new record “Thresholds of Imbalance” was recorded.

As was previously mentioned, Battlefields hail from North Dakota, which seems pretty far-removed from the rest of the country (I say this from an East Coast perspective, though). Apparently, we’ve all been missing out; when questioned about the vitality (or existence, for that matter) of the Fargo metal scene, Rusty was ready with a long list of local favorites, some of which have been making names for themselves far past ND’s borders.

“There have been several successful bands from Fargo... Godheadsilo, Hammerhead... but many bands relocate to become a part of the Minneapolis local scene. There are a lot of great bands that people are hesitant to listen to because they are from North Dakota, such as Sleeping in Gethsemane, Gumbi, Vernal Pool, and our bassist’s black metal band, HØST, whose last album was ranked as one of Decibel’s Top 40 Albums of 2008.”

Battlefields recently announced the dates for an extensive US tour with labelmates Irrepress that include an appearance at the hipster haven of SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX. They’re also working on a 2009 European tour, and plan to appear at a handful of festivals as well. Fans of Isis, Coalesce, Neurosis, and Red Sparowes, keep an eye out for Battlefields’ Translation Loss debut (due out March 31), and make sure to catch them on tour when they hit your area.

Interview With: HARPOON

“It's just fast, aggressive, energetic music. You just have to feel the vibes and then decide if you're down with it or not.”

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine

Meet Harpoon. Harpoon hail from Chicago, IL, play violently abrasive grind/thrash, feature members of 7000 Dying Rats, and voted for Obama. They love the shit out of Megadeth, the Jesus Lizard and the Smiths, but their one sheet recommends them to fans of Pig Destroyer, Carcass, and, simply, “face-melting.” They’re insane live, named their new record after a skateboarding move, and boast one of the best tshirt designs I’ve ever seen. Interested yet? You should be. Harpoon sound like the bastard child of Napalm Death and Tragedy being roughed up by a gang of back-alley abortionists – menacing, blood-thirsty, and just a tad unbalanced – and they’re coming for you.

The band was started in 2007 by Dean Costello and Toney Vast-Binder (7000 Dying Rats) after previous projects (Gun Kata, Crazy Stallion, an earlier incarnation of Harpoon) went bottom up. In January of 2007, Dean approached Toney about starting a drum machine project; by May, they’d already recorded a nine-song demo with Sanford Parker, gotten Scott Hull to produce it, and planned to head out East for a summer tour. Fast forward a few months, and they’ve already added another member (DJ on bass) and finished another record - their debut LP, “Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide,” which is due out next month on Interloper Records.

DJ: When I was on tour this summer with Lair of the Minotaur, Toney brought burned CDs for Jamie, my partner in Interloper, and I, to a Chicago show I was playing. Jamie and I both immediately dug the songs. We had been looking for a band whose record we would be excited about putting out, and felt Harpoon was that band. We went to see them play a show and asked them if they'd be into doing a record with us. They were. Little did I know, I'd be joining the band in 3 months.

Toney: Before DJ joined the band; we would essentially have conversations via email about how the songs for Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide would sound. Dean would come up with a first draft of guitar parts and drum programming and then send me a rough cut. We would then talk about changes that should be made. After we felt like we had a keeper, I would write some lyrics. A couple songs on our demo were never played live before we did a take in the studio.

Dean: Toney is right on and I would like to add that, as stated earlier, the band started at the end of Crazy Stallion, so a few of the last Stallion songs became Harpoon songs. That was nice to get a little jump-start into 2007. At that point I would just try to come up with song ideas and I would play them with Adam Inverted (drummer of Stallion) on drums and me on guitar. He is a wonderful rock and roller so he would help me with the arrangements and transitions and all that. At that point I would program the song on drum machine (only after Adam programmed "Frogs, Boils, Locusts..." to give me a drum machine how-to lesson), record it with guitar and drum machine on my computer, email it to Toney, lurk Hotmail, and await further instructions.

KK: Who came up with the band name – why “Harpoon?”

Toney: I had started a two-piece; drum & bass project by the same name that was supposed to sound like a cross between Ruins & Godheadsilo. While I loved the name, the band never really caught the gear I was looking for. So when Dean approached me about this project, I suggested we use it. I mean, “poon,” right?

KK: Your sound is a ferocious blend of extreme metal influences, especially balls-out thrash and brutal grindcore. How would you describe Harpoon to someone that had never heard your music before?

: We (heart) Megadeth, The Jesus Lizard, & The Smiths.
Dean: I would just say it's just fast, aggressive, energetic music. You just have to feel the vibes and then decide if you're down with it or not.

KK: What sort of subjects do you touch upon in your lyrics, and what is the meaning behind the album title?
Toney: Lyrically, it’s all over the place: hapless union leaders, inept bee handlers, persecution complex sufferers…you name it, it’s in there.
Dean: The meaning of the album title is the name given to the most aggressive skateboarding move of all time, invented in summer of 2005 in Dekalb, Il at The Batcave.
Dekalb has some other great inventions such as barbed wire, and Cindy Crawford, but it is also home to some sad inventions such as Monsanto GMO corn, although I doubt that was actually invented in the Dekalb area.

KK: What songs on the new record are you most excited to play live?
Dean: Throngs is pretty cool. It's inspired by The Muzzler.
DJ: Lefty, just because I'm proud of myself when I play it right.

KK: What will you guys be doing to promote this record – do you have any plans to tour, either in the US or overseas?
Toney: Free hand jobs…and, of course, touring. We hope to get to Europe. We heard they totally love hand jobs over there.

KK: Several of Harpoon’s members pull double-duty in other bands – what other projects are you guys involved in, and how do you manage to balance them all?
Toney: I am currently working on a project with most of the guys from Hewhocorrupts, which promises to contain only figurative nudity.
Dean: I, personally, have no other side projects and much free time.
DJ: I'm playing guitar in a new band with a bunch of guys from other Chicago bands. We haven't decided on a name yet, so I can't tell it to you. Toney and I are both involved in 7000 Dying Rats, although that band is rarely active.

KK: I’ve gotta give you mad props for the baby seal T-shirt design – awesome on so many levels. You even used what I think of as “the Bathory font!”. Who does your artwork?
Toney: Nice eye! Yes, that shirt is a nod to Bathory. Glad you caught that. Vince Williams put that design together for us. Vince and I were in 7000 Dying Rats together for a brief period of time. He is now in a totally killer band from Detroit called Year Of The Pig.

KK: You guys hail from Chicago, where I was lucky enough to catch you onstage at Kuma’s Doom Fest. The Chi-town scene seems like more of a family than anything – from what I saw, it’s very tight-knit and supportive, and the bands themselves are killer! What is it about Chicago that breeds so much high-quality heavy metal? Is it the cold weather (‘cause goddamn was there a lot of it!) or what?
Toney: Not sure what it is, but you are correct. There is not a lot of ego, but because everyone is so good, it forces you to up the song-writing ante. Plus, everyone is kind of doing their own thing and not trying to cop each other’s sound. On any given week you can go see Lord Mantis, Plague Bringer, Minsk, Lair of the Minotaur, (Lone) Wolf and Cub, The Atlas Moth, Hewhocorrupts, or Sweet Cobra. All those bands are great, but they are also unique and that’s important for a healthy scene. It really is a good time to be playing metal in Chicago. As for the Doom Fest, Alex from Kuma’s and Steve from The Atlas Moth did an awesome job pulling that event together. Two days of excellent Chicago metal, not to mention some of the bands they were able to lure in from out of town. Samothrace (from Kansas) and Kongh (from Sweden) blew my mind. Both of those bands were absolutely strange and totally heavy.
Dean: Yeah, Toney is right. There are many different bands in Chicago and many of them are awesome. It's cool when the people you actually know can be pretty inspirational.
DJ: I think, for once, there are groups of people who like each other and respect each other. People are friends, and hang out and do non-music related things, as well as support each other’s bands. Unlike what happens in a traditional scene, though, pushing the boundaries, and experimentation are looked at as good things.

KK: Can you name a few bands – Chicago-based or otherwise – that you feel deserve some more attention?
Toney: More attention needs to be paid to The Muzzler. We have done a couple short tours with those guys and not only are the most solid dudes in the world, but they also will seriously fuck you up. Someone needs to put their record out now. Also, MZRCDXVL from Dekalb, IL. Their live shows are what most bands wish they could pull off. They are punishing…pure and simple.
Dean: Yes, definitely MZR and The Muzzler are really great bands. There is a band called Eyes that are local that are very unique and awesome. Also if you really want to hear something cool you should just go all out and check out The Oracles.

KK: What upcoming records are you most looking forward to in 2009?

Toney: I am hoping that this is the year for Joey Chestnut to finally take down Kobayashi at Nathan’s Famous. I also want to see someone crush Strom Thurmond’s record for the longest senate filibuster. The guy was piece of shit and doesn’t deserve that distinction.

Dean: I'm hoping that Obama will break the record for biggest swing in world approval rating for a country due to a transition in leadership. Maybe we can stop being stupid??

*I'll never know if they misunderstood the question or were simply fucking with me. Either way, well-played, guys!