Simon Bonwick (drums), Jimbob Isaac (guitar/vocals), Nikolai Ribnikov (bass)
Hark’s debut full-length Crystalline is a heaving beast of an album that stretches out the bounderies of sludge metal. The songs on the disc are plenty complex with meticulous twists and turns oftentimes honed to perfection. The might of early Mastodon, Crowbar and High On Fire is combined with the technicality of progressive metal and a dash of hardcore pugnacity to dazzling effect. I’ve recently approached Hark’s frontman Jimbob Isaac to talk about the creation process of Crystalline, and his ongoing career as an illustration artist.
Hark is a new outfit, but you also fronted sludge metal luminaries Taint last decade. There’s a 5-year gap between the last Taint release (All Bees To The Sea EP) and Hark’s debut. Why did it take you so long to compose new music?
The space between releases is simple to explain. Forming a brand new band, with a new vision, new personalities and the high quality levels that we committed to producing, is certainly not a quick or whimsical process. Forming Hark was a total gamble, in terms of there being no guarantee as to whether Simon, Niko and myself would even be able to write music together. We worked solidly for 3.5 years, to form the band, and write music that genuinely moves us.
There are certainly some similarities between the sound of Taint and Hark. The sludgy, riff-based approach seems to be intact.…
Jonas Thire (drums), Torgeir Kjeldaas (bass), Espen Helvig (guitar), Larsh Kristensen (vocals, guitar)
Following a record that set out an impressive stall isn’t easy. Late Love was an invigorating debut that saw Oslo-based Wolves Like Us delving into dark post-hardcore with massive riffs, angular melodies and commendable tightness. It effectively revived the spirit of such acclaimed 1990s collectives as Quicksand and Drive Like Jehu, ditching the trends that have subverted the genre in the last 15 years. Black Soul Choir manages to sidestep the dreaded second album slump by expanding the quartet’s winning formula. The skeleton of the tracks still revolves around traditional post-hardcore attributes like throbbing bass lines and frenetic drum-beats, yet the focus is shifted towards atmospheric soundscapes that make the group’s brand of post-hardcore even more brooding. This shift also informs a more expansive approach to songwriting. The tracks usually take more time to unravel, which makes for a significantly more nuanced and moodier effort. Here’s my interview with the act’s charismatic frontman, Larsh Kristensen.
You’d played in lots of groups before forming Wolves Like Us. What compelled you to play together and form the band?
I think we all still had the desire to play. We all love playing music, and to a certain extent is is the only factor that has remained constant in my life. I’ve always played, and this band is just an extension of that. I don’t think I’ll ever stop playing music. So…
Chris Brooks (keys, vocals), Nate Bergman (vocals, guitar), Henry Upton (bass)
Here’s my interview with Henry Upton, the bassist for Maryland-based Lionize whose phenomenal new album Jetpack Soundtrack dropped on February 18th.
I’m of the opinion that people from many musical backgrounds can embrace your music as you combine so many styles. How would you describe your sound? Who do you think your target audience is?
I would probably call it groove rock. Or just rock music at this point. Our target audience is really anybody who is an avid music listener. I think we are accessible to the casual music fan as well, but we really covet the die-hard music enthusiast. Whatever genre that might be.
In the course of your decade-long career you’ve released five stylistically diverse albums. I guess the main shift was from the reggae-inspired Space Pope and the Glass Machine to Destruction Manual. What exactly dictated the change towards the heavy rock aesthetic?
Looking back it’s kind of hard to say. We were touring with reggae bands as well as rock acts. I think we just started to listen to different types of music and wanted to expand the sound of the band. We’ve always been big on Zeppelin, Sabbath, Deep Purple, etc. and grew into reflecting those influences. There was no conscious decision to change anything. It just happened.
You tour a lot, and have shared the stage with a multitude of different artists. What…
Austin-based Destroyer Of Light have just released their second EP, Bizarre Tales Vol. 2. While their lyrics still revolve around the ghastly horror stories, the quartet do a fine job of not repeating themselves musically. In contrast to their debut EP, which can be labelled as Black Sabbath-echoing traditional doom metal, the new release delves headfirst into a melodic sludge metal realm of Mastodon’s ilk. Instrumental opener ‘Battlefield Girth’ sounds monolithic due to its wondrous interplay of crushingly heavy riffs and hypnotic soloing, while the gloriously titled ‘Forbidden Zombi Ritual’ may be the band’s most accessible tune with infectious melodicism permeating both vocal harmonies and bewitching guitar leads. The remaining tracks see the band placing a greater focus on song progression while retaining a penchant for memorable riffs. Frontman Steve Colca augments the shift in style with howling vocals which sound more assured than before. In fact, Destroyer Of Light are growing rapidly as both songwriters and musicians, and Bizarre Tales Vol. 2 proves how versatile and expansive they can be. May the power of the riff compel you!
Here’s what singer/guitarist Steve Colca had to say about each number:
‘Battlefield Girth’ – It was one of the first Destroyer Of Light songs that we ever wrote, and decided to put it on this EP. We figured the song didn’t require vocals; so, we went with a heavy instrumental to start the album off.
Quebec City-based Sandveiss burst onto the stoner rock scene by dropping their excellent debut, Scream Queen, in December. Effectively blending strong booming riffs with a hefty dose of blues-echoing grooves, enticing melodies and rock’n’roll swagger, this young group have already made a name for themselves in the saturated scene. In between the rehearsals for their shows in and around Quebec, Canada, the band have found some time to answer a string of questions for SputnikMusic.
Luc Bourgeois – guitar, vocals
Daniel Girard – bass
Shawn Rice – guitar
Dzemal Trtak – drums
Since you guys are an emerging band, tell everyone how did the whole project start?
(Luc) The idea of the project was born in my head 6 or 7 years ago. As the years past, I found myself to jam my ideas with different musicians. After building a couple of song structures with another drummer, I met Dan Girard (bass) who rapidly joined the band. For the next couple of months we worked on arranging the songs as a trio. At a certain point we had no drummer and Dzemal Trtak joined in. A couple of weeks passed as a trio, we decided to recruit a lead singer, that person was François Couture. With this lineup, we recorded a 4 track EP (Dead Man Stare, Do You Really Know, Untie Me and Green For Gold). The name of the band was chosen right before the release of the EP in March…
26. Shugo Takumaru: “Katachi”
25. Gaytheist: “Stomach Pains”
24. Kvelertak: “Bruane Brenn”
23. Beastwars: “Realms”
22. Ghost B.C.: “Year Zero”
21. Darwin Deez: “You Can’t Be My Girl”
20. Dope Body: “Leather Head”
19. Coliseum: “Doing Time”
18. Meshuggah: “I Am Colossus”
17. M.I.A.: “Bring The Noize”
16. MGMT: “Your Life Is A Lie”
15. Oliver Wilde: “Perrett’s Brook”
14. Lord Dying: “Dreams Of Mercy”
13. Fiona Apple: “Hot Knife”
12. Deville: “Lava”
11. Janelle Monae: “Q.U.E.E.N.”
10. Gassaffelstein: “Pursuit”
9. Queens of the Stone Age: “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”
8. Kirin J. Callinan: “Victoria M.”
7. Portal: “Curtain”
6. Alice In Chains: “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”
5. Arcade Fire: “Reflektor”
4. The Body: “The Ebb and Flow of Tides in a Sea of Ash”
3. The Dillinger Escape Plan: “When I Lost My Bet”
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Sacrilege”
1. The Knife: “Full Of Fire”
Sam Levin (synth bass), Timo Ellis (guitar, vocals), Dave Burnett (drums)
Describing the music of Brooklyn-based Netherlands is hardly an easy task. Erik Wunder (of Cobalt and Man’s Gin), who gets the credit for introducing me to these guys, defines their style as “hyper-noise-punk-electro-psychedelic-metal.” This seemingly convoluted tag oddly fits the outfit that doesn’t shy away from embracing divergent styles in a high-octane manner. The trio’s second full-length Silicon Vapor is one of the most invigorating rock records of the year, juxtaposing eccentric musical ideas with enticing melodies deeply ingrained in the rock tradition. These qualities are combined with extremely fuzzed-out tunings of instruments that certainly distinguish Netherlands from the pack. Here’s my interview with Timo Ellis, the trio’s frontman whose impressive resume includes collaborations with Yoko Ono, Melvins and John Zorn over his extensive 20-year career as a session musician.
What motivated you to form Netherlands?
I’d had a band called Bird Of Doom in the early 2000s. After its natural dissolution, I really wanted to maintain an outlet for my weirder rock inclinations!
Your music is rather difficult to pin down as you combine many different subgenres of rock, punk and even metal. How would you define your style?
I’ve made loads of dramatically different types of records besides the rock stuff. I think I’m up to 33 albums at this point: 17 LPs and 16 EPs. So, I think other styles of music end up naturally coming out a…
Kim Pack (violin, vox), Christian Creek (bass), Rebecca Vernon (guitar, vox), Andy Patterson (drums), Sarah Pendleton (violin, vox)
There are enough qualities that distinguish Salt Lake City’s SubRosa from their doom metal brethren. Aside from ingeniously incorporating violins into their ultra-heavy sound, the quintet excels in songwriting that’s singular in its brutally honest depiction of tenebrous themes. Their new staggering full-length More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore) centers around the topic of Death and its numerous implications. Instead of alienating the listener with such a serious subject matter, the album manages to sound visceral throughout, delivering a series of expansive tunes that ebb and flow with admirable precision. Here’s my interview with the band’s charismatic mastermind, Rebecca Vernon.
What inspired you to be a musician? Were there any particular moments in your life when you thought that you couldn’t live without creating music or was the whole process of becoming a guitarist, singer and songwriter more fluid?
Music is my number one passion and has always been in my blood. There are times when I’ve been distracted by other things, but those periods never last long.
I started taking music lessons on violin at the age of 9, then learned piano and drums around age 12. I played these instruments in school orchestras and marching bands, and later, in college, real bands.
Becoming a guitarist, singer and songwriter, though, was very abrupt. I had wanted to start a band for about…
Wo Fat are one of the most acclaimed stoner rock acts today. The Texas-based trio have rapidly risen to the forefront of the genre, blending fat, fuzzed-out riffs with hints of psychedelia and Southern rock flavors. The success of their latest effort, The Black Code, allowed the band to reach a wider audience, touring Europe for the first time. Amid a busy schedule, guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump found time to answer a couple of questions for SputnikMusic.
For those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe it in a few words?
Basically speaking, our music is heavy, riff based, and blues influenced, but one thing that is a very important part of our music is the balance that we have between structured riffing and song writing on the one hand and improvisation and jamming on the other. Both things are important to us and we try to strike a balance between them. We also really believe in the importance of the groove, and, above all, we try to make music that grooves and feels organic and earthy. I think that some heavy music has lost that important primal element of funkiness and groove that originally came from the blues, and, which was really also a key part of the early days of heavy rock and metal. Listen to early Sabbath and it’s inescapable. That’s the roots of it all, and we try to keep that tradition going in our music.
I’m always curious to hear how others describe our…
“Anger and frustration can be really great vehicles to propel momentum and energy in music,” confesses Erik Wunder. He’s done precisely that with his two seemingly dissimilar projects. The sprawling progressive black metal of Cobalt and the potent dark Americana of Man’s Gin may occupy two different sonic spheres, yet they share the same sense of authentic, if bleak intensity. Erik’s latest accomplishment as Man’s Gin is aptly titled Rebellion Hymns. Adroitly elaborating on the outfit’s previous output, the album represents another resounding triumph for the Colorado native, ranking among the most powerful artistic statements in music this year. Here’s an in-depth interview that not only sheds light on the oeuvre of this immensely talented artist, but also depicts him as a fulfilled musician who’s genuinely committed to every endeavor he’s involved in.
I’ve always admired musicians who are able to divide their time between different projects. What was the reason behind forming Cobalt, and what motivated you to form Man’s Gin?
Well, Cobalt started out when Phil and I got back together and started working on new music after our previous band had broken up. We are both pretty intense, angry people. Especially in those days.
We had already been playing in bands together since we were young teenagers, playing punk/crust and metal music, so we already had a working relationship and obviously a friendship. Our prior projects had dissolved, with…
Antlered Man won me over last year with their debut full-length Giftes Parts 1 & 2. The London four-piece has an uncanny knack for combining dexterous heavy rock with decidedly Eastern melodicism. Their music has been likened to System Of A Down, Mr. Bungle and Future Of The Left, capitalizing on creativity rather than stale song structures. The band’s genre-bending tendencies find their presence felt on “GDZ.” The track integrates the massive walls of distortion with sudden moments of relief and an infectious bridge midway through, proving that Antlered Man can be irresistibly catchy in their wildly experimental output. Both gargantuan in scope and highly infectious, “GDZ” is a fantastic indicator of what’s going to follow on the outfit’s upcoming album The Devil Is Them set to be released on October 14th through New Heavy Sounds. Stream and download the song for free via bandcamp.
After hearing about the possibility of a new No-Man record coming up soon, I contacted Tim Bowness (singer, songwriter) to ask him about his latest projects, personal favorites and the new album in the works. For those unaccustomed to Bowness’ discography, he has released (besides No-Man of course, which started as a main project all the way back in 1987, with Steven Wilson) a myriad of collaborative records such as Flame (with Richard Barbieri), California, Norfolk (with Peter Chilvers), Warm Winter (with Giancarlo Erra of Nosound, under the moniker Memories Of Machines) or his latest, the second Henry Fool record, Men Singing, among many others. He has also released a solo album, entitled My Hotel Year, in 2004 and is in charge of Burning Shed, an independent record label.
- You have been active for over three decades in the music industry now. How much has the music world changed in your opinion? What do you like and dislike about these changes?
In some respects, it’s changed massively. The business of music and the technology involved in making it are almost unrecognizable from the early 1980s when I started.
In terms of recording, it’s been a change for the better. Studios can do more yet are far simpler to operate. The technology allows a much more direct way of capturing ideas.
The shifts on the business side have meant that it’s become harder to make a living from music for many people and that music itself has…
Swedish outfit Goatess may have just released their debut album on Svart Records, but they’re all experienced musicians. Most notably, vocalist Chritus Linderson has made a name for himself, performing with such renowned doom metal acts as Saint Vitus and Lord Vicar. The eponymous full-length release from Goatess fuses the meandering tempo of doom metal with stoner rock-channeling grooves and psychedelic vibes to great effect. Granted, this Sleep and Electric Wizard inspired style is hardly anything new, yet the album makes a profound impact mainly due to the strong vocal performance of Linderson. His traditionally melodic croons often lend the music its memorable quality. “Alpha Omega” is one of the record’s undoubted highlights, perefectly encapsulating the quartet’s desire to capture the all-consuming power of elephantine riffs.
The second full-length record from French metallic noise rockers Sofy Major, Idolize, is a testament to the trio’s perseverance. On October 29th, hurricane Sandy destroyed the Brooklyn studio in which the outfit was going to track, annihilating all the recording equipment and instruments. After a couple of days they luckily managed to start recording with the invaluable help of producer Andrew Schneider and Dave Curran of Unsane’s fame. The result is an aptly furious endeavour that encapsulates the feeling of powerlessness really well. Full of pummeling bass lines, dense drumming and sludgy riffs, this record is at once unabashedly groovy and punishing, showcasing the trio’s knack for crafting off-kilter noise rock that doesn’t steer clear of unexpected flourishes. Idolize is streaming over at Sofy Major’s bandcamp page.
Ryan Clark (bass), Paul Astick (vocals / guitar), Rob Stephens (guitar), Steve Wilson (drums)
Leeds-based heavy rockers Hawk Eyes are about to release their brand new four-track EP on August 19th. The quartet’s potent mesh-up of post-hardcore, sludge metal and alt rock landed their latest full-length Ideas the top spot on my 2012 year-end list. With the new fan-funded release, they do not disappoint either. Produced by Andy Hawkins, That’s What This Is further develops the quartet’s winning formula. The numbers are still disarmingly clever and noisy, except the hooks are even grander, the melodies even more powerful, and Paul Astic’s vocals vastly improved. Hawk Eyes are most definitely going in a more accessible direction, yet there’s enough songwriting dexterity on display to make their integrity intact. This short EP whets the appetite nicely before the outfit’s next full-length.
Cheap is a great indicator of what is going to follow. While the track is not nearly as melodic as the remaining cuts, it juxtaposes mathy verses with an abrasive noise-rock chorus and spaced-out bridge to thrilling effect.