Sunday, September 30, 2012

Black Sunday: Norska - Norska (2012)

A slab of sludge with the capacity to surprise, the purchase of which was spurred on by a recent appearance with Fister, the eponymous recorded debut from Norska on vinyl is a no-frills beauty courtesy of Brutal Panda Records. There's no gatefold, no ultra-heavy vinyl, no decals nor decor. There's Side I, Side II, a single-sided insert and a simple sleeve. The music does the talking here but the little nuances elevate the physical product a notch above the norm.

The sleeve itself, designed by Tim Wenzel, is a manipulation of a famous 1918 photograph by Eric Enstrom (I assume everyone had at least one grandparent with this in their home as it feels as though my grandmother had one in every room). I cannot pretend to understand the juxtaposition of what appears to be a mushroom cloud emanating from what were previously hands folded in prayer but it pairs, for me, a familiar and sedate image (and I imagine for some, a comforting one) with something more sinister. The unnatural angle of a cloud that is already an aberration is jarring to the eye and gives the entire sleeve an appropriate air of unease. The image repeats on the insert which also provides a lyric sheet for the record's five tracks.

The album saw 500 records pressed in total, 300 black and 200 split in olive and forest green. I acquired one of the split copies and am absolutely thrilled when a band and label take care to fit the colors to the feel of the actual content. Both shades mirror life and decay, perfectly pairing with the lyrical content of Norska's music. Close inspection reveals tiny wisps of red and blue which, while likely simply a nice addition to give the colors some depth, almost create a circulatory system of sorts, making the record all the more organic and, ultimately, mortal.

Norska's self-titled debut can be purchased directly from Brutal Panda and is also streaming at Bandcamp.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Morbid Angel • Dark Funeral • Grave • VadimVon • Dismemberment - September 23, 2012 - Screamin' Willies, Columbus, Ohio

Screamin' Willies is a hell of a haul from home - damn near ninety miles. For Sunday night's line up, though, it was worth the trip. Ohio's brightest keepers of the metal flame, Dismemberment were opening a five-band bill topped by none other than Morbid Angel. No way in hell I was going to miss this one. Today, ears still ringing, sleep-deprived and punch drunk from a full-scale riff assault, I'm still reeling from a spectacular show.

First, the venue. Screamin' Willies sits far on the east side of Columbus (think east like "Pennsylvania") and, apparently, usually splits its time between hip-hop and country. The metal showcase occupied a country side with plenty of genre decor and a large floor that one must guess sees a lot of line dancing. Facades aside, it was a large room with lots of space to sit or stand, everywhere a good view of a decent-sized stage. The sound in the room was good though most acts seemed to suffer from some woes in the set-up department. Acts switched in and out quickly and everything seemed to move smoothly across over five hours of music.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Black Sunday: High on Fire - The Art of Self Defense (2012)

High on Fire's debut, The Art of Self Defense, originally out in 2000, fell prey to label Man's Ruin's, er, ruin and, like many of its labelmates, quickly became a collectible in its original incarnation though, unlike many of those Man's Ruin records, it was available through Tee Pee Records as early as 2001 with two bonus tracks (as well as some lousy new cover art). Southern Lord, who also recently resurrected the definitive Dopesmoker, have breathed new life into Matt Pike's post-Sleep project's first release, remastered by Brad Boatright, who also handled the aforementioned effort.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Transparent Vinyl: FISTER’s Violence Sleeve Artwork, Colors Announced

Head on over to Gogmagogical Records for the official posting. The breakdown from this pressing of 500:

  I: Artwork by Coby Ellison
 (100 lavender base with black and white mixed vinyl)
 II: Artwork by Clark Medley
 (100 opaque white base with black mixed vinyl)
  III: Artwork by Travis Lawrence
 (100 translucent green base with yellow mixed vinyl)
  IV: Artwork by Scott Fogelbach
 (100 transparent dark red base with black mixed vinyl)
V: Artwork by Josh Rowan
 (100 transparent blue base with black and white mixed vinyl)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rush - September 20, 2012 - Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio

A longtime fan, never quite fanatic, Rush's Columbus, Ohio stop on their 2012 tour was my first time seeing the band live. Billed as "An Evening with Rush" with no supporting acts in tow, I was looking forward to what promised to be a long night's indoctrination into Rush on stage.

Pre-show, Rush fans were easy to spot in Columbus' Arena District as, frankly, they were probably the only ones there. They fit the Rush fan stereotype well (hell, so do I) and one could make a fascinating study of the band's tour shirts through history just by photographing their dedicated followers, each seemingly intent on besting the other with a shirt of finer vintage. When choosing my own at the merch stand I was disappointed in the blah-ness of design and, while Rush shirts are never exactly exciting, I have to admit I find the whole steampunk aesthetic just so... nerdy. I settled on a red shirt I'll never wear that has a design I cannot tie to the record but which was one of the only ones not to feature some kind of steam-powered dirigible. Disposable income, indeed.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Black Sunday: Horn of the Rhino - Weight of Coronation (2010)

Some records are heavy to hear and some are heavy to lift. Weight of Coronation, the double-LP debut (in name) by Horn of the Rhino (previously known simply as Rhino), is both. This was a "I must have it for its cover" blind purchase and, even at $30+ total, one I have not regretted. The Spanish band brings a High on Fire groove aesthetic topped with straight up hard rock vocals, crafting a grandiose stoner sound deserving of a big, fat vinyl vehicle. And that's exactly what Horn of the Rhino and Czech Republic label Doomentia deliver on Weight of Coronation.


This is Pirates Press vinyl and the quality is top-notch. The wax itself is hefty and clean and sounds downright killer. I am not sure if another source crafted the jacket but I simply do not own another record whose jacket is printed on stock this heavy. It's thick to a fault, all but guaranteeing a tear in the side of the records' sleeves if you tried to actually store them in the jacket. That said, the cover artwork, by Rafa Garres, is absolutely worthy of a frame and prominent display and it would not be unthinkable to order a second copy simply to do exactly that.

Doomentia offers purchase straight from their site though prices are all in Euros for those of us in the States and who can guess what shipping times would be? The site is fun as hell to browse, though, and anyone interested in colored vinyl and deluxe packaging will have their mouth watering immediately. All That is Heavy currently carries about twenty Doomentia titles including Weight of Coronation. They only made 400 of these. Buy two: one for the wall, one for your soul. Just be prepared to drop some serious postage: Weight of Coronation is heavy.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Transparent Vinyl: Perpetuating Violence

This is not Fister's first rodeo. I'll be perfectly honest: I'm still not 100% certain who connected them to my tweeted solicitation but, thus far, they have been a godsend. And by "they" I really have to credit bassist/vocalist Kenny Snarzyk, who has been my sole point of contact thus far.

First off, Kenny pointed out segments of the draft agreement I had posted that, while designed to appeal to the artist, would strain me financially. Upon first contact, he proposed a split of product that would tilt in favor of this fledgling label and offered an opportunity to press a project that already had proven success in the cassette format. We spoke almost immediately following the first few emails and Kenny understood I was inexperienced here and has offered invaluable experience and guidance every step of the way. I had inquiries from about a half-dozen acts, all of which have been humbling, but Fister were one of the few whose music I truly, truly enjoyed, which is absolutely essential.

We started with thoughts of a 10" but the length of each side was prohibitive for our preferred plant so we moved to 12" picture discs, got floored by the pricing and have come back to a 10". I love the 10" format and have been enamored with that idea from the start as every 10" I own is some neat, off-the-wall EP that just seems to deserve that mid-sized unique format. Violence on cassette came with a beautiful book featuring original artwork by by Coby Ellison, Clark Medley, Travis Lawrence, Scott Fogelbach, and Josh Rowan, each corresponding with one of the recording's five movements. As recreating the booklet for the vinyl format would be cost prohibitive, Kenny had the fantastic idea of limited runs of picture discs with each piece of artwork on the flipside. You can see a sample of the 12" dream as mocked up by Kenny below:

Damn, the cost got out of control fast. To change the image every 100 records adds a lot of expense. The overall budget here is definitely a concern, I won't lie. The larger concern, however, is to be able to offer an item at a cost that is reasonable for a record-buying fan. To paraphrase Kenny, Fister are "working man's metal" and a $20+ LP is a luxury most cannot afford. I wish I could take credit for the brainstorm but Kenny's solution was more creative than any I could come up with and speaks to his connections and industry experience. Plates for the record will be created by a mastering firm who can fit what we need onto a 10" (11-13 minutes per side). We'll keep the idea of five sets of 100 with the jackets now bearing the unique artwork and each run of 100 a different combination of colors. I'll share more specifics, samples of the final packaging and credit to all involved as we nail everything down but Kenny has brokered an arrangement with another artist/entrepreneur who is willing to barter printing materials, labor and their own expertise for a share of the pressing run. We'll stay under budget, we'll all get what we need and, above all, the record will remain extremely affordable.

So - tonight I have the WAV masters for the 10" in hand, edited now to two sidelong single tracks. I'll send CDs off tomorrow for mastering/plating and we're already prepped to place the order with the pressing plant as well. This thing is moving. I owe a hell of a lot to a fantastic band and a dedicated, motivated man who, up to now, have done all of the heavy lifting. And, damn, is this thing heavy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Black Sunday: Midnight - Satanic Royalty (2011) & Complete and Total Hell (2012)

Ohio's own Midnight only recently hit my radar and, even just a year removed from their full-length debut, Satanic Royalty, I feel way, way behind as these guys have apparently had a Venom-flavored portal to Hell open via Cleveland for nearly a decade. It was the release of their compilation of multiple EPs, Complete and Total Hell along with an excellent write-up on No Clean Singing that had me scrambling to Hell's Headbangers to grab this double-LP and flesh out the Midnight story.

Midnight have a strong visual aesthetic established and their presence is a consistent one across these records with a nice continuity in design and presentation. Satanic Royalty is certainly the glossier of the pair, literally so with a slick jacket as well as a beautiful heavy sleeve adorned with lyrics and bright blue artwork complementing both the cover and, in my case, the vinyl itself. The blue is dark enough to convey the royalty the album's title communicates and both gold and black were also pressed. Add in a spectacular 18x24" poster and Satanic Royalty is easily one of the favorite additions to my library in the last year.

Complete and Total Hell is a generous package. A double-LP, it feels as heavy as it sounds. The stock is matte and, sadly, the heavy sleeves are really too big to store in the jacket without bending and stretching so use care in handling this one. The gatefold itself has a great photograph in the interior with reproductions of the EP artwork and the sleeves themselves have handwritten lyrics. The entire package conveys a DIY feel often consistent with a band's embryonic releases yet still feels branded as Midnight. Available in silver or black, Complete and Total Hell feels like a lush, generous offering at $16.66. Add in superb sound and one absolutely cannot go wrong with a one-stop two-piece instant Midnight collection for just around thirty bucks total from Hell's Headbangers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Drink in Kingsblood's New "Hordes of the Night"

Kingsblood kicked off the Shrunken Head's Viking Night with a meaty set running through their filler-free repertoire. As usual, the band was utterly fantastic, with a presence nearly too big for the room (and, literally, too big for the stage - it's crowded up there for a five-piece). Experience, if you dare, their newest creation, the goblin-averse "Hordes of the Night:"

Black Sunday: Omen - Warning of Danger (1985)

As Metal Blade celebrates its 30th Anniversary, it seems fitting to dig deep to find the oldest of their albums on my shelf for this Black Sunday. Ironically, it's a record I attained only several weeks ago that dates back farthest, Omen's sophomore effort, the spectacular Warning of Danger, from 1985. As close as I have heard to a distinctly American Maiden, Omen sleeves terrified and titillated my younger self and any musical encounters I had with them in their heyday were solely of the "my pal's big brother has it and we can sneak in and check it out while he's gone" variety. I'm doing my best to track these jewels down in the present and Warning of Danger is a definite high point of recent record bin diving.

From its evil sleeve (and probably the most benign of the band's first three releases), to its no-nonsense band pics on the reverse, Warning of Danger as physical product could be really any heavy metal record I fondled and fawned over in the mid-80s. Seemingly as disposable as comic books at the time, there's little presumption present in the packaging though the record does include a lyric sheet as well as a mail-away offer for t-shirts and buttons. I consumed these sounds and images with little discrimination and, sadly, never followed (and quickly forgot) many of these bands. I'm fascinated today, musically, by how damn good Omen were and am left wondering two things: 1) what the hell happened to these guys? and 2) what's the story behind "Fuck Stick" and "Dick Dog?"