Editor’s Choice July 2015
If you read one piece of music writing in July, I hope it was The Lost Girls, Jason Cherkis’s longform expose on The Huffington Post regarding the music career and rape of Jackie “Fox” Fuchs, bassist of The Runaways.
May this be the last time I ever link to The Huffington Post.
That article dropped the same week that Amanda Pearl Daniels, former bassist in metallic hardcore power trio Enabler, accused her ex-boyfriend and Enabler guitarist/vocalist Jeff Lohrber of sexual and physical abuse. That accusation came in the wake of an interview published with Lohrber as part of the ramping-up press cycle for Enabler’s upcoming album, Fail to Feel Safe. In this context, the name of the band and album each take on irony.
There’s no legal facts in either of these incidents yet, but former bandmates have corroborated Daniels’s depiction of events, and privately I’ve seen several people whom I respect speak in support of her character, even though Daniels and I have never met.
I featured Lohrber’s new work with Enabler in this column. I also interviewed him briefly at No Clean Singing, and also named his last album with Daniels in the band as one of my favorite records of last year. I stand by what I said about the merit of the music, but I will no longer be covering Enabler on this site.
I have a bad track record, as a writer, with supporting bands which later make negative headlines unrelated to their music: on this site I gave a positive review to the last Inquisition album. I’ve considered deleting that review before, but I selfishly feel it’s one of the strongest examples of my writing, so it remains.
At times, things like this lead me to wonder if there’s something pathological in my own psyche. Some people outside of the metal world feel that way about metal musicians and their supporters (though I suspect much of this mentality is rooted in religious conservatism). I also know of a few people involved in the metal corner of the music industry who feel the same: “this is fucked up music for fucked up people.”
There may be some truth in that. I’d like to hear all of your opinions.
I take more of a sociopolitical tack with my writing now than I did when I wrote that Inquisition review. For my part, I’ll stop writing about awful things when awful things stop happening.
There’s also an argument to be made that music writing should focus on the music itself, and that does carry some weight. Objectivity in writing is important—that’s one reason that I’m glad none of my advertisers are metal labels.
At the same time maybe the only power the independent music press has in 2015 is the ability to coax people into spending money on one person’s work over another’s. Reading about the deeds and beliefs of artists (which may not be expressed in the music) encourages people to be conscious consumers.
I’ve been remembering what my father taught me about campgrounds: you leave them in a better condition than the way you found them.
Maybe that’s why Fuchs is coming forward with her story years after the fact. If people learn from her, then she will have left the music industry a better place than the way she found it. Daniels is evidence of that fact: Fuchs’s former bandmates have not come out in support of her or her story, but musicians are crawling out of the woodwork to corroborate what Daniels says.
As important as it is to document injustice, it’s important to document incremental change for the better, too.
As a reward for slogging through my opinion, here’s some jams:
Frigid black metal feels less immediate in the middle of a drought-stricken Seattle summer. In general, high-energy metal with growled vocals barely suits clear blue skies and Coronas on the patio, but Soilwork’s new song, “The Ride Majestic,” taken from an upcoming album by the same name, gets the job done. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to one of the band’s full albums before, even though some friends swear by them. Out of all the Gothenburg death metal bands, they seem to have put out the most consistent discography (not that there's stiff competition), with no long absences or massive sound changes, despite frequent lineup changes. Speed Strid is the only remaining original member, and he’s also the best thing about “The Ride Majestic.” Every other facet of the song, from the guitars to the keys, serves to augment his voice or else provide another hook. I’ve grown to think of it as a melodic death metal take on the Def Leppard songwriting strategy circa Pyromania—make everything catchy and something will stick.
-Discovered via Press Release.
Metal labels have become a safe harbor for oddball rock artists, and this entry is exceptionally strange. GOLD is centered around guitarist Thomas Sciarone of The Devil’s Blood paired with Madball’s drummer and vocalist Milena Eva, who has a very high-pitched and piercing voice. She’s very—and I never use this word—twee. Normally I don’t like anything twee (I can’t even dig on Belle and Sebastian), but this is alright because of the obviously unhinged nature of the subject matter. That subject matter is echoed in this video, which features violent news footage superimposed with iPhone graphics like text boxes and emojis.
-Discovered via email from the band itself.
If we do indeed reach peak vinyl and the compact disc becomes the physical standard again, I hope that the sampler CD doesn’t rebound as well—the label sample is far better suited for a streaming service like Soundcloud. French black metal label Les Acteurs De L’Ombre’s Sampler MMXV is the first such collection to captivate my interest since I cancelled my old subscription to Terrorizer. The ten tracks include choice cuts by The Great Old Ones and In Cauda Venenum, whom I spotlighted last month, in addition to a few artists I intent to now follow closely. In particular, check out “Naufrage” by Deluge.
-Discovered via email from the label.
It’s difficult to tell how much goodwill Queensryche burned during their long and acrimonious split with original lead singer Geoff Tate. It doesn't help that, aside from Operation: Mindcrime the band’s output has been spotty, particularly since the departure of Chris DeGarmo. “Arrow of Time” offers a glimmer of hope for the future; it’s a classic-sounding Queensryche song, almost to a fault. It's nothing groundbreaking, though at this time Queensryche needs to prove that they can deliver a solid record before attempting something off the wall. Todd LaTore sounds great, more like vintage Tate than Tate himself now does—years in Crimson Glory will do that to you. Here’s hoping the rest of their upcoming album Condition Human is this good.
-Discovered via MetalSucks.
But when it comes to a modern Seattle band upholding the city’s classic metal lineage, Substratum is a name to remember. I first saw the band a few months ago at their first show with new vocalist Amy Lee Carson and guitarist Max Nazaryan at a locals bar called The Kraken, and they absolutely packed the place. Carson’s vocals in particular pack vibrato and dramatic punch. This three song demo showcases the band’s strengths—good hooks and interesting guitar interplay.”Last Voyage” and “Who Am I” are a little better than “By Any Means,” which loses itself in showboating a little, but overall this triptych of songs bodes well for a forthcoming debut LP.
-Discovered via local show.
I wonder how Swedish progressive black metal band Seeds in Barren Fields funded the recording of Let the Earth be Silent After Ye. Like the album art, the music looks to be composed of so many layers that one could strip away the most obvious sonic elements and still have a well-composed whole. Not that longform detail-oriented black metal with roots in folk, prog and punk music is in short supply. Seeds in Barren Fields use awareness of real-world events, particularly in the Middle East, to set themselves apart from their peers. I liked the music enough to run “اني اخترتك ياوطني” through Google translate ("I have chosen you Laotunai") and to brush up on the Deir Yassin massacre while listening to the album. For those not politically inclined, it still holds enough musical twists and turns to stay interesting through the multiple listens required to fully digest the songs.
-Discovered via email from the band.
Grave Pleasures, first touch of Dreamcrash - "Crying Wolves"
Get a first taste of the new album and pre-order it now!The first single and video from »Dreamcrash« will be out on July 31st. Until then, enjoy this very first taste of the new album, a song we call "Crying Wolves". Those of you who have seen us live this summer already know this one - it's one of our favourites in all its desperate glory. We hope the song - and the visuals - will take you to a place that is out of your control. Thank you for listening. Pre-order the album here from iTunes and get Crying Wolves as an mp3 straight away!http://sny.ms/DREAMCRASH_MP3(Aside from the US for now - North American pre-order coming soon!)Or grab a pre-order teeshirt/CD/LP bundle if you live in Finland, via Levykauppa Ax:http://www.levykauppax.fi/artist/grave_pleasures/dreamcrash/#cd-t-paitaMore pre-order links in different territories coming soon!Dreamcrash is out via Columbia on the 4th of September 2015Music video by Grave Pleasures performing Crying Wolves. (C) 2015 Grave Pleasures under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbHVisual Crew:Director: Ville HakonenProducer: Niina Virtanen & Grave PleasuresCinematography: Ville Hakonen & Jussi SandhuEditing: Jussi SandhuGrips: Joonas Halkola & Nalle MielonenAssistant Animator: Nina ForsmanProduction Company: Wacky Tie Films
Posted by Grave Pleasures on Saturday, July 18, 2015
Of course, I need to finish things up with my first taste of new music from Grave Pleasures, the band formerly known as Beastmilk, whose 2013 album Climax made my best of 2014 list by a technicality. Last year the band traded guitarist Johann Snell for Linnéa Olsson formerly of The Oath. The first Grave Pleasures song, “Crying Wolves” doesn’t show any of Olsson’s retro-doom sound and that’s a good thing. Instead it’s more gothic post-punk with driving guitars and Kvohst’s Danzig-esque mewling. A proper video is forthcoming, but the stop-motion promo suits the song fine—the bit where the camera zooms during the break before the final verse is a pure synthesis of song flow, lyrical content and visual presentation. Their upcoming LP Dreamcrash just leapt to the top of my anticipated records list.
-Discovered via Noisey.
This article has been edited to properly reflect translations from Arabic.