Four Letter Nerd

Category - Music

Black Metal 101

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I was about 15 or 16 the first time I was fully aware of what black metal was. As I’ve mentioned in probably 89 other articles, I grew up in a religious household, so I really wasn’t exposed to extreme music of any kind. Up to my mid-teenage years, the extent of my heavy metal knowledge was pretty much just Metallica and Pantera, with a little light Slayer thrown in for good measure. A dude I went to school with introduced me to Cradle of Filth (who will come up again later) and I was like, “OK, I dig the vibe, but the sound isn’t really grabbing me.” So then he put on some Dimmu Borgir (who will also come up again later)… “Aaaaaand I’m in.” The very first black metal album I ever really liked was Dimmu’s “Stormblåst.” After that, I began digging into everything black metal had to offer and I’m excited to share it with you!

Now, to clarify, this isn’t a necessarily intended to be a primer or a history lesson on black metal. If you need more history on the genre, and it’s origins, you could check out the Black Metal Wikipedia page or pick up a book on the genre (there’s also a great documentary you can watch called Until The Light Takes Us). This is simply a list of black metal artists and albums that you should check out if your interested in the genre but not sure where to start. I will offer some minor background info as I see fit, but I do strongly encourage you to look more into any band that might catch your attention.

For those of you who are metal fans and are only looking at this to see who I chose and if I know what I’m talking about, I promise you I know the differences between black metal, death metal, grindcore, thrash, etc. You’ll find some bands on here that blend genres but still qualify in the black metal category. Also, if you notice me describe something is a very simplistic fashion, please understand that it’s just so the newbies can understand it better.

OK, now that all that is out of the way, let’s hail Satan and get started!

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Credit: Keith Carlson, via Metal Injection

 

THE EIGHTIES

First you’ll want to go back to the beginning. Generally considered the Godfathers of Black Metal, Venom’s album “Black Metal” is a must listen, but you should also check out “Welcome to Hell” and “At War With Satan“.

 

There’s also, Mercyful Fate, and their lead vocalist King Diamond, who went on to solo career after the band separated. Check out “Abigail” by King Diamond , and “Melissa” by Mercyful Fate.

 

One of the greatest pioneers of black metal is Tom G. Warrior, who led both Hellhammer and Celtic Frost. The latter is important because they’ll actually pop up again later on as well, but for now, I’m going to recommend you check out their 1985 album, “To Mega Therion.”

 

Rounding out our 80’s black metal bands is none other than the almighty Bathory. I saved them for last because their self-titled debut album was a HUGE influence on the early 90’s black metal scene, but it was 1988’s Blood Fire Death that really solidified their place as juggernauts in black metal history.

 

THE NINETIES 

The 90’s were… a weird time for everyone. Black metal however, experienced some incredibly defining moments during the first half of the decade. Probably the most notorious band of the 90’s black metal scene was Mayhem (seriously, read up on them). While founded in the mid 80’s it wasn’t until 1994 that they put out one of the most influential black metal albums of all time, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”.

 

Dropping the same year, and equally as influential, was Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger.” (The album cover is the featured image for this article.) The band had previously released two fantastic albums, 1992’s “A Blaze in the Northern Sky” and 1993’s “Under a Funeral Moon” which you should also hear.

 

Another very influential album from the early 90’s era is “In the Nightside Eclipse” by Emperor. For me, this is definitely my favorite of all their records. The first time I heard the track “I Am The Black Wizards” it blew me away.

 

Burzum (which is basically just notorious black metal musician Varg Vikernes), was another important black metal band from the early 90’s. I recommend you check out “Hvis lyset tar oss.” It’s more atmospheric than the Mayhem and Darkthrone albums, and honestly more than a lot of the other early 90’s black metal albums, so if that’s more your thing than blast beat drumming and thrash guitar riffs, I think you’ll dig it.

 

If you prefer your metal more epic than raw I suggest you check out Immortal. Their best 90’s album, by far, was “Pure Holocaust”.

 

The last band I’m including in the 90’s section is Cradle of Filth, but I’d like to explain why. See, CoF gained most of their popularity in the 2000’s with well received albums like “Nymphetamine” in 2004, and “Thornography” in 2006. But it was 1998’s Cruelty and the Beast that the majority black metal fans will point at as a genre essential.

 

Before we move into the 2000’s, I’d like to include some “honorable mentions”, as it were. These artists and albums are in no way inferior to the ones listed above, I just can’t specifically list every single one that I’d really like.

GorgorothPentagram, and Antichrist

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Carpathian Forest – Black Shining Leather

Old Man’s Child – The Pagan Prosperity

 

THE TWO-THOUSAND’S

The early 2000’s saw many black metal bands who actually started in the 90’s start to put out some incredible albums, which in turn began to see the genre gain more legitimacy in the mainstream. Cradle of Filth’s “Godspeed on the Devil’s Thunder” (2008) peaked at #48 on the Billboard 200, and Dimmu Borgir’s “Abrahadabra” (2010) peaked at #42. Just two years before that, however, Dimmu’s “In Sorte Diaboli”, which is easily one of the best epic black metal albums of all time, peaked at #43 on the Billboard charts.

I really want to mention another Dimmu album too, before I move on. As I said before, their album “Stormblåst” was what really got me interested in black metal, but not long after I heard that they put out “Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia” (2001). This is one that you have to listen to if you’re even a little bit curious about black metal.

 

In 2001, British black metal band Anaal Nathrakh put out their first album, “The Codex Necro.” They’ve released several great albums since (most recently, just this year, “The Whole of the Law“), but this is one band that you definitely wanna start at the beginning for.

 

Also in 2001, US black metal band Averse Sefira dropped their sophomore album, “Battle’s Clarion.” It’s kind of hard to find but if you can you should jam it. Check out their final album, from 2008, “Advent Parallax.”

 

This next band is the one I’ve been eagerly waiting to tell you about. They are my absolute favorite black metal band in the whole f—ing world. BEHEMOTH. They the total black metal package. Blast beat drumming, but still melodic. They’re symphonic and dramatic, but never lose an ounce of raw, honest aggression. They make you feel their pure, unadulterated hatred without sacrificing the quality of their music. They ARE black metal. They started way back in the 90’s, however, while I think you should go back and listen to it all so that you can better understand how much they’ve evolved, I’m going to recommend, first, my favorite album, from 2004, Demigod, and, second, their most recent album, from 2014, The Satanist.

 

Again, I can’t list EVERY album and artist I really want to, or this article would never end. But here’s a couple more honorable mentions from between 2000 and 2010:

Celtic Frost – Monotheist. Most people will say that this 2006 album is closer to doom metal than black metal, and they’re not entirely wrong, but there’s still plenty of black for this to qualify.

Immortal – Sons of Northern Darkness. I mentioned Immortal previously, but I’m including this album from 2002 because it’s my personal favorite of theirs.

Belphegor – Pestapokalypse VI. I got to see Belphegor play live last year and it was incredible. This is their 2006 album, which was their third release with Nuclear Blast records.

Leviathan – Tentacles of Whorror. This 2004 album was one of the first ambient black metal albums I ever remember listening to. I feel like it’s best consumed by listening through headphones.

 

THE TWO-THOUSAND-TEN’S

The past several years have been interesting for black metal. The lines have definitely been more blurred on what most people constitute “black metal” to be. Still though, it’s not like every era has been *exactly* like the one before it. It started pretty theatrical, then got MORE theatrical while also getting more serious and intense, then the serious theatrics took a turn toward epic but with a focus on the sentiment instilled in the 90’s, and now we find ourselves in a place where it’s started mostly being about homage, and an unadulterated love of the genre. Maybe not *the first* but definitely leading the pack is Deafheaven, form San Francisco. While they are inherently very different bands, I love Deafheaven just as much as I love Behemoth. I’ve seen them three times in the past few years. Like a lot of other black metal bands these days, Deafheaven evenly blends shoegaze into their style. If you’re not familiar with shoegaze, it’s often described as “a wall of sound.” So… blackgaze…? Anyway, you HAVE to listen to their 2013 album Sunbather.

 

Pre-dating Deafheaven, another great modern black metal band you need to check out is Krallice. Their 2009 album Dimensional Bleedthrough is phenomenal, but you should also hear their newest project, 2015’s Ygg huur.

 

Up in NY, around 2008, emerged Liturgy. They push the boundaries of transcendental black metal in ways that no normal mind can fully fathom, and believe me, I’ve tried. Their 2011 album Aesthethica is an absolute masterpiece, and coincidentally was produced by Colin Marston, the guitarist for Krallice.

 

Probably one of the most unique and distinctive artists in black metal right now is Myrkur. Danish musician Amalie Bruun is the mind and voice behind this one-woman black metal project. It’s epic, it’s dark, and it’s absolutely beautiful. Listen to the 2015 album, M.

 

Next up is Washington’s Wolves In The Throne Room. These dudes have been around since 2003 and have had a huge impact on the most recent wave of black metal bands. Every single one of their albums is fantastic, especially their first, Diadem of 12 Stars, but for this I’m recommending their 2001 album, Celestial Lineage.

 

Full-disclosure… I actually have been periodically working on this piece for a few months and originally had ended this section with WITTR, but then I heard about Zeal & Ardor and a whole new world opened up to me. So, there’s quite a story behind this band, and I strongly encourage to read it here, but suffice to say, Zeal & Ardor blend black metal with old negro spirituals and blues, among other genres. When I heard it I was instantly hooked. It’s maybe the most brilliant genre-bending I’ve heard since… hell, it may be the best genre-bending I’ve EVER heard. Listen to/download the entire album here (I highly recommend “Blood in the River” and “Come On Down”), and check out the music video for “Devil is Fine” below.

 

Honorable mentions:

Ghost Bath – Moonlover. This band is also often considered “blackgaze.”

Coldworld – Autumn. Amazing new black metal band from Germany.

Svart Crown – Profane. Hailing from France, Svart Crown is a little closer to death metal than black, but that’s why they call it “blackened death metal.”

Young And In The Way – When Life Comes To Death. YAITW blend black metal and crust punk. They’re one of the most poetically bleak bands I’ve ever listened to. I saw them live and it was probably the only time I’ve ever felt genuine uneasiness while watching a band perform. I can’t really explain it well enough. You just have to see it for yourself. Trust me.

 

OK, so… I know there’s a lot here to consume and digest, but I sincerely hope that, if you are someone who wants to get into black metal, you feel like I’ve given you some adequate options on where to start. I know there’s a whole lot of bands here but, just like any genre, each one has nuances that set it apart from other black metal bands so maybe this will at least help you narrow down your interests to which style and era is most intriguing to you.

Finally, I want to say one more thing to those of you who are long-time, committed, and possible “purists” of the genre. I know I left of a shit ton of great bands, like Satyricon, and Watain, and Dark Funeral (there, I found a way to include them). It wasn’t necessarily on purpose. There’s just so many great ones that it’s damn near impossible to list them all. But also, part of the fun of becoming a fan of new music is discovering bands yourself, so my hope is that new fans will stumble upon bands we’ve all loved for years and be invigorated by their discovery. We all have to start somewhere. Like, perhaps, with Marduk…?

4LN Music Review – Okilly Dokilly: “Howdilly Doodilly”

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For a while now, word has been travelling far and wide of the best darn-diddly Ned Flanders themed metal band this side of Ogdenville. I think the first time I became aware of them was when this O.C. Weekly profile piece started trending about a year ago. As a long time metalhead, and even longer time as a Simpsons-head (that nickname needs work), I could not have been more excited. At the time the band only had some demo tracks available, but those showed how much potential the whole thing had. This past week, Okilly Dokilly released their first full-length album “Howdilly Doodilly”, and it’s clear those demos were barely scratching the surface of possibilities.

 

 

The band, (rumored to hail from North Haverbrook, “Where the Monorail is King!”) self-describes themselves as the world’s only Nedal band (Ned+metal). I would almost 100% agree this is true. Their commitment to the tribute is admirable, as the members all go by “Ned” as well. There’s Head Ned on vocals, Stead Ned on guitar, Red Ned handling synths and keyboards, Thread Ned slaps the bass, and Bled Ned pummels away at the drums. (Even their manager gets in on it, going by Reverend Killjoy.)

Per the band themselves, “The lyrics are 75% Ned quotes and 25% other characters/original.” So right off the bat this is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for Simpsons fans everywhere. If you are one of those die-hard Simpsons fans, you should consider getting the CD from their online store because in the liner’s they include exactly what season and episode each set of lyrics are from. With classics like “Ann Landers is a boring old biddy” and “I don’t want any damn vegetables”, you’ll be singing (screaming? growling?) along at the top of your lungs.

 

 

The spirit of the whole thing is probably somewhere between Tenacious D and Dethklok. It’s sort of parody and sort of homage, but they create something completely original out of it. Obviously their sound would fall closer to Dethklok, but there’s a playfulness that gives it that “Tribute” sense.

Musically, the band is pretty eclectic but, if I have to generalize, I’d say that overall the sound feels like “Burned Alive By Time“-era Evergreen Terrace mixed with some influence by 70’s Black Sabbath. It’s very early-mid 2000’s metalcore, but the synth and keys add a classic metal vibe to it. As I said though, it’s very eclectic, and you can pick out lots of different influences. For example, “You’re a Jerk” has a punk feel and sounds like it could’ve been a 90’s-era-AFI song,  “Press Destruct Button” reminded me of something off of Showbread’s “No Sir, Nihilism Is Not Practical“, and the song “Panic Room” starts with a ZZ Top-esque riff, but then when the “We’ll be safe inside our fortress when they come” verse kicks in the song hilariously changes to a Country Western style, borrowing from “She’ll be comin’ ’round the mountain when she comes.” (Sadly there are no noticeable Andy Williams influences on the record.)

The first single off of the album is “White Wine Spritzer”, which they also shot a music video for that you can see right here!

 

 

“Howdilly Doodilly” is everything you’d expect a Simpsons themed metal album to be, and more. I haven’t stopped listening to it all week long. It’s heavy, fun, and delvers plenty of catchy tunes that I guarantee you’ll find yourself singing randomly throughout your day, which is pretty much what we already do with Simpsons quotes anyway, only now they’ll have melodies to go along with them!

The band has made the album available on Spotify, but I would strongly encourage you to buy it directly from them through their Bandcamp or their online store, the “Online Leftorium Superstore“. They’re completely independent and it’s really important to support independent music so that the artists you love (be they parody or otherwise) can keep serving up great jams. Also, this would make make a great holiday gift for that Simpsons lover/metalhead in your life. Just sayin…

You can get the album from iTunes and Amazon as well.

They’ve also announced that they’ll be supporting Mac Sabbath and Metalachi on the “Mockstrosity 2017 Tour“, so make sure you head out and catch them if they roll through your town! I know I’m going to!

 

Scumdogs of the Multiverse: An Interview with GWAR Comics Writer Matt Miner

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I’m a huge GWAR fan. The first time I ever heard them was on the Universal Soldier: The Return soundtrack, when I was like 15. My dad took me to see the movie and afterwards we went looking for the soundtrack. Once we found it I noticed a few bands that I was sort of familiar with, like Megadeth and Anthrax, but most of them I didn’t really know. I grew up in a “religious” household so R-rated movies and heavy metal weren’t a part of my life until my teen years (which, come to think about it, might actually still be normal even for kids who didn’t grow up in church), and so this was a real turning point for me. After listening to the whole CD a few times I found a couple songs that I really gravitated toward. One was “Crush ‘Em” by Megadeth, and the other was “Sadam A Go-Go“, by GWAR. There was just something about it that I loved so much. I started buying GWAR albums every time I got allowance money, and I’ve been a “Bohab” ever since.

As you all probably already know, earlier this week it was announced that The Scumdogs of the Universe themselves, the unholy GWAR, would be putting out their very own comic! A Kickstarter was launched, and mass pandemonium ensued. Here at 4LN, we were lucky enough to get ahold of Mr. Matt Miner, who has assembled the creative team and is handling writing duties on GWAR the Comic, AKA “Orgasmageddon”, and we asked him about his career, how this gore-tastic project came to be, and coffee. Check out our convo below!

 

 

4LN: When did you first get into comics? Was it something you discovered as a kid, or later on in life?

Matt Miner: Like I presume is true with most comic readers, it’s something I got into as a kid. I was that quintessential bullied young kid who escaped into a world of comics, punk and heavy metal, cartoons, computers (before they were cool), D&D, and pretty much every other nerdy thing I could find.

 

4LN: How did you initially get started writing comics professionally?

Matt: A few years ago. I kind of had an epiphany that was like “hey, dummy, you’ve always wanted to write professionally and you love comics, so why the Hell aren’t you writing comics?” I bought a bunch of books on comic writing, comic art, screenwriting, etc – I went and took a class from Scott Snyder – I took it seriously and went all in.

 

4LN: Your newest project has set the internet all abuzz since it was announced. You’ve partnered with the almighty GWAR for a Kickstarter project that would see them spill their brutality into the comic book world. I’m dying to know how this collaboration came to be.

Matt: Well, remember when I said I was a bullied kid who was into nerdy shit? Enter my love of GWAR that has remained for more than half my life, now. Back when I got into comics I had this idea that I wanted to do GWAR comics some day, if there was any possible way. I knew I was too new in the comics world back then, but after a few years in and several series under my belt I decided the time was right to approach them. I went down to Richmond and a mutual friend made the intros and we went from there.

 

Issue 1 standard cover - art by Jonathan Brandon Sawyer, color by Josh Jensen

 

4LN: The preview pages look incredible, and those #1 variants are amazing. Can you tell us a little about the rest of the creative team you’re working with on “Orgasmageddon”?

Matt: Sure! Jonathan Brandon Sawyer is a buddy who worked with me on Critical Hit, a book we did at Black Mask. He’s a punk and metal guy and when I started getting serious about pitching a GWAR book to the band, I went to him first. I love working with him and I think we make good comics together. When looking for colorists in my circle of friends, my first question was “are you a GWAR fan?” before I’d continue – I wanted to be sure most everyone working on the book is a fan who “gets it.” Lo and behold, Marissa Louise digs GWAR and man, her colors are just something else, especially on Jonathan’s lines. Taylor Esposito is a pal and a hell talented letterer who’s working with me on another book right now and he brought some really cool stylistic choices to the GWAR pages to give folks like Sawborg Destructo and Mr. Perfect a really unique looking voice. The only person who wasn’t already a fan was the editor Brendan Wright, but that choice was by design. It’s important that people who aren’t familiar with the band, and are just fans of good comics, can jump right into these books and have a great time. I knew from his work editing Archie vs. Predator and the Grindhouse books that he’d understand the spirit of the GWAR books and be a great fit on the team.

 

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4LN: It seems like more bands and musicians are jumping into the comics world these days. Four Year Strong and The Devil Wears Prada both produced comics to go along with projects they put out, Gerard Way (My Chemical Romance) basically runs his own imprint at DC, and even Slayer have jumped into the game with a comic based on their album “Repentless” coming out later this year. Not to mention, your “Liberator” project with hardcore legends Earth Crisis from a couple of years ago. What do you think has caused this shift in the landscape for music and comics that has opened both mediums up for more collaborative pursuits?

Matt: A friend of mine nailed this down the other day – right now we’re at a time when punk rock and comics are kind of overlapping, and the people who were spiky haired punks in their youth are creating comics now. The venn diagram of comics fans and punk and metal fans is overlapping a lot and I love it. There’s not a lot I’m more passionate about than dog rescue, writing, and punk rock and metal music.

 

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4LN: This next set of questions is our Lightning Round (short, mostly random questions; gut answers) Well I obviously have to ask, what’s your favorite GWAR Album? (I have to go with “Violence Has Arrived“, personally.)
Matt: Mine’s still “Scumdogs of the Universe” though I really love “Battle Maximus”. Their sound evolves but stays true to its roots.

4LN: What current comic should people definitely be reading?
Matt: Gerard Way’s Doom Patrol is one that comes to mind right away. I like Gerard, I like his comics.

4LN: I couldn’t think of a good enough question to work them in, but do you remember Caninus?
Matt: More dogs in bands, please. Woof.

4LN: Who actually has “The World’s Best Cup Of Coffee”?
Matt: I make a pretty great cup, myself. In fact, it’s about that time.

4LN: What was the last horror movie you watched?
Matt: Last one was Wes Craven’s Shocker, but last new one was probably The Witch or Conjuring 2. Most fun I’ve had with a horror movie lately is Deathgasm, hands down. Any GWAR fan would love that one.

4LN: Finally, After having worked with both Earth Crisis and GWAR, if you had your choice of band to collaborate on a comic with who would you choose?
Matt: Iron Maiden. Right? Right.

 

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to Matt for chatting with us! Click that Kickstarter link up at the top of the page to support “Orgasmageddon” and help make GWAR comics a reality!

Live Music Review – The Spill Canvas: Requestour

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If this article could have a subtitle it would have to be, as my good friend (and photographer extraordinaire) Robbie Green suggested, “I Went To A Spill Canvas Show And All I Got Was A Hurt Back.” You see, I’m an old man of the ripe old age of 32, and I have back problems because of course I do. Literally as I was about to walk out the door and jump in the car with Robbie to head to the show I threw my back out cleaning up a mess in my 3yo’s room. I thought, “You’ve got to be kidding me. This is the last thing I need right now.” It wasn’t the worst it’s ever been,  but it wasn’t a walk in the park either. But being the ever-stubborn “tough guy” I am, I downed some ibuprofen and went anyway. I wasn’t gonna miss this band I’ve been a fan of for some 12 years or so.

 

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It was a long walk from the car to the venue…

 

So this tour is called “The RequesTour” because the set-list was voted on by fans. There are few, if any, other bands that would give back to their fans that way, by letting them actually choose the songs they want to hear. It speaks volumes to the band’s credit that they would give over that responsibility. I mean, there’s a lot that goes into creating the flow of a show and, as a fan, we don’t necessarily know what’s best but, god help us, we still yell out song titles we want to hear anyway. This was kind of a brilliant way to nip that s**t in the bud.

 

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The show was at the Exit/In, and the opening band was local boys Sound & Shape. I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of these guys before now but they were absolutely fantastic and you should definitely check them out.

The Spill Canvas took the stage to “Return of the Mack“, by Mark Morrison, and my actual note for this was “The band came on stage to ‘Return of the Mack.’ F**king Amazing.” Because it was.

Before opening the show with “Reckless Abandonment”, front man and Spill Canvas founder, Nick Thomas asked the audience if anyone had some gum. He said he’d follow up after the song and expected someone to deliver. The band kicked into the song and the immeasurable amount of energy they produced completely set the pace for the entire rest of the show. The exploded and rode the momentum. Nick made good on his promise and followed up with audience about that gum. He was quickly berated with what had to be at least two dozen sticks of gum, and he loved it.

 

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Even after more than a decade of playing shows, the band still clearly enjoys being on stage and you can see in their faces that they’re legitimately having fun. They’re not just phoning it in, they give 1000% of themselves and they love every second of it. It’s not just a “performance” for them.

Their authenticity is proven in how passionate the fans are. During “Polygraph, Right Now”, The band stopped for a few beats so the crowd could sing along A cappella and they probably could’ve just kept right on. You could literally hear the conviction in the choir of voices as they sang, “Fate is an elegant, cold-hearted whore. She loves salting my wounds, yes, she enjoys nothing more.” It was… kind of beautiful, actually.

 

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There’s a lot to be said for the band’s conviction too though. Nick sings with such emotional depth. You can tell that the feelings that birthed these song lyrics are ones he must relive every time he sings them again.

The band powered through a handful of songs, including gems like “Appreciation and The Bomb”, “Lust A Prima Vista”, and “The Truth.” Right before going into “This Is For Keeps”, Nick joked about how he wrote the song about a vampire boy falling in love with a human girl LONG before Twilight was even a book series. He summarizes by saying, “F**k Twilight.” To which the crowd jubilantly agrees, myself included. Cause, you know, f**k Twilight.

 

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After “This Is For Keeps”, the band brought up a girl from the crowd who was chosen at random, to come on stage and get a picture with the band. How many bands care about their fans enough to stop a show so they can take a picture with one?

 

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I also have to mention a really sincere moment that happen when Nick was on stage alone. Right before playing “Lullaby”, Nick dedicated it to his wife, and made a profoundly romantic point that all the love songs he had written hadn’t really been about anyone specific, but now they’re all about her. This got the crowd in our collective feels. Being on the receiving end of a song, and experiencing it through our own personal filter, we often fail to understand the place the writer was in when they wrote it and what it really means. This was a one of those rare moments when the curtain drops, if only briefly, and you get to see the real heart of a song and it’s writer.

 

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Overall, the show was an absolute blast. A set of complete feel-good songs; Ones you just can’t help but nod your head, tap your foot, sway back & forth, and sing along too. Even with the discomfort of back pain I still had so much fun and even forgot about the pain for a little while.

The RequesTour rolls through St. Louis tonight (10/4) and there’s still several other dates left for you to catch if they’re coming through your area. I highly recommend that you make plans to get out to one of these shows and see The Spill Canvas live, or keep an eye out for when they make it back around your way.

 

 

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(All photos by Robbie Green)

4LN Album Review: Frank Ocean – Blond

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Frank Ocean is a f**king genius. I’m not even willing to have an argument about this. There’s no conversation or dialogue to be had. This is a truth that you can either accept or simply get out of the way. There is no other R&B singer like him anywhere in the world. The closest you could maybe make a case for would be Childish Gambino, but I’d say he’s more Hip-Hop so it’s not a balanced comparison. (Because the Internet is a modern classic and I WON’T fight anyone who says different because liars aren’t worth wasting my energy over.)  Anyway, getting back to Frankie… the man is pure, unadulterated creativity. Having to wait 4 years between his critically acclaimed channel ORANGE and Blond has been all but physically painful. It’s finally here though, and it’s nothing short of a goddamn masterpiece.

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Now there’s a lot of industry-related controversy surrounding the release of Blond because he was previously signed to Def Jam/Universal but released a video album titled “Endless” that was put out 2 days before Blond, and reportedly satisfied his contract obligations with them. However… Endless is only available to stream on Apple Music. but Blond was released independently by Frank himself and is far more lucrative, potentially. It’s kind of a thing… So we’re just gonna pretend like Endless doesn’t exist because I feel like that’s the way Frank would want it.

The first single off the album is the first track, “Nikes”. It’s certainly not the type of song you’d imagine being a single, but Frank isn’t playing by traditional music business/label rules so if you understand that it makes complete sense. The track is addictive for sure, and stands out due to the high-pitched vocal effect Frank sings through for more than half the track. It almost gets into Chipmunks territory, but is grown-up enough lyrically that you stop hearing it that way after the initial listen.

 

The second track, “Ivy”, is one of my favorite songs on the whole album. It starts with a super catchy riff and adds some other atmospheric guitar parts, as well as a barely noticeable bass-line, throughout. There’s just something about the openness of the track. It’s not busy at all. Just the guitar maintaining the melody and Frank singing. Frank shows that he’s capable of crafting a great song without having to over-think it. It almost feels like it could’ve been a lost track from channel ORANGE. Or , maybe, it’s evidence of the evolution of Frank Ocean. The experimental qualities are more controlled and his voice sounds more matured. The lyrics express a lot of growth as well. The songs opens with, “I thought that I was dreamin’ when you said you loved me.” Later he sings, “I could hate you now. It’s quite alright to hate me now.” And, “I ain’t a kid no more. We’ll never be those kids again.” It’s not about lamenting the relationship, it’s about understanding what happened, how you’re honestly feeling, and accepting that when you grow apart it doesn’t matter how much you try to keep loving each other, you’re not the same people you were and that’s just a painful reality.

I’m not gonna do a track-by-track or anything, so tuck your fear of boredom away. I do want to mention the third track, “Pink + White” because to me it sounds like it could have been a track off of Tyler, the Creator’s Cherry Bomb that Tyler just forgot to jump in on. It’s a very pretty song with a light jazz vibe to it but a nice steady beat also. Maybe it just kind of reminds me a little of “Fucking Young” from that album. (Also, Tyler produced the song so, that’s probably… that’s DEFINITELY part of it.)

Moving down the album, we come to the song “Solo”, which, best I can tell, is just Frank and a B3 organ. This *might* be my favorite song on the entire record for 2 reasons. First, Frank’s voice sounds A-mazing on this track. Like, listening to it with headphones on and the volume cranked way up you can just really hear how much smoother he sounds and how his vocal control has improved significantly. There are plenty of other examples of that on the album, but this is just when I noticed it best. The other reason “Solo” is an “all-time fav” contender for me is because I. F**KING. LOVE. B3 ORGANS. For real. Like, my absolute favorite thing on Chance the Rapper’s whole Coloring Book album is this one little B3 part at the end of the “D.R.A.M. Sings Special” track. I guess it just takes me back to my childhood? When I’d go to church and the organ was a staple of praise & worship. That organ player would get to grooving and the choir would be singing and the church people would be shouting. Ah man. I may not be religious anymore, but, maybe it’s like a “you can take the boy out of the old-time gospel, but you can’t take the old-time gospel out of the boy” kind of thing. I’m getting tragically off-topic…

 

It’s tough for me to pick and choose tracks from this album to highlight because the entire thing is flawless, but I can’t talk about ALL of them cause I’ve had too much whiskey and need to go to bed, and you don’t have that much time to read. Unless you’re, like, reading this while you wait in line for the next available Best Buy Mobile “specialist” to assist you, in which case you have LOTS of time to read my extensive, “directors cut” ramblings about Blond with time left over to read Joe Hill’s phenomenal new 768-page novel “The Fireman” before anyone assists you. But I digress again…

The next stand-out track for me is “Self-Control.” It’s similar to “Ivy” in that it’s mostly just Frank and a guitar for the entirety of the song, but it’s different in that it doesn’t start off as experimental or atmospheric as “Ivy.” It feels like a mellow Eric Clapton track for the first half, but then it does pick up some of that wonderful organ I love so much and once that kicks in the track really opens up. Frank begins to sing, “I-I-I know you gotta leave-leave-leave. Take down some summer time. Give up, just tonight, night, night. I, I, I know you got someone comin’. You’re spitting game, oh you got it.” That small vocal bridge section is layered beautifully after the first time through and as soon as it hits you feel like the sky above you has opened up and that you’re being serenaded by angels. F**king ANGELS.

The track immediately following this one is called “Good Guy” and it’s a raw sounding interlude-type piece about a guy that Frank went on a blind date with (I’m guessing). That’s important because the whole album showcases Franks ambiguous sexuality. I presume he’d define himself as bisexual but I’m not gonna make any definitive statements regarding it cause it isn’t my place. He speaks well enough for himself through his art. Suffice to say, to be honest about your open sexuality in the arena of hip/hop and R&B culture you’d have to have balls the size of coconuts.

 

White Ferrari” is another beautiful song on the album. It borrows from the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere” and features British singer/songwriter James Blake. It’s just very laid back. Most of this album is super chill, honestly. I think that helps make it more unique when you consider how everything on the radio right now is about how trap you can be and when the beat drops. Blond isn’t beholden to either of those trends. One of the last tracks on the record is “Godspeed” and sees Frank singing joyfully alongside more of that soulful organ. His voice drips into your very spirit when he says, “I let go of my claim on you.” I’m listening to it right now and it gives me chills. That’s just not something that mainstream pop music is prepared for. Partner that creative mindset with Franks unapologetic attitude and you begin to see why he isn’t a star. He’s a creator. He will outlast fads and flavor-of-the-week’s. He’ll still be creating new things when today’s “stars” only are collecting dwindling royalty checks.  Blond is not a response to anything. It’s not an album that marks a new era for music. It’s completely original, a beautiful anomaly, and birthed from a very honest place. It’s a window into who Frank Ocean, an artist, is at this moment right now in time. It’s remarkable. It’s undefinable. It’s untouchable.

4LN’s Day At Warped Tour, As Told Through Pictures!

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Check out the photos we got of bands at this years Warped Tour including: Whitechapel, Four Year Strong, Sum 41, Yellowcard, From Ashes To New & Every Time I Die! We can’t wait to see what’s in store for next year!

4LN Does Warped Tour! (Band Interviews)

We had the chance to catch up with State Champs, Knuckle Puck, Real Friends, and From Ashes to New when Warped Tour stopped off in Nashville! We talk Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, baseball, RPGs, music, comics, life on tour and much more! Check out the interviews below!

New Music Friday 06/17: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gojira, & Nails

It’s New Music Friday! Check out our thoughts on 3 great new albums that just dropped this week!

 

Red Hot Chili Peppers – The Getaway

The Chili Peppers are a band that needs no introduction, and I probably don’t have to try and convince you to listen to their new album either, but I do want to tell you that it might not be what you’re expecting. I’ve only listened to the album one time through so far, and it is by far the most mellow album they’ve ever put out. Not in a “we’re getting old, let’s chill out” kind of way; it’s more of a “let’s make an album that just grooves smoothly and that people can jam when they’re hanging out in their backyard on a nice summer day” kind of mellow. Every song blends perfectly with the next one. Nothing feels forced or out of place. That’s the kind of musical intuition you only get from a band that’s 3 decades deep in professionalism. The title is very much a clue to the tone of the record if you look at it the right way. It’s not “Getaway” like you’re running for your life away from something. It’s a “getaway”, like taking a relaxing vacation. My favorite song so far has been “Encore”. It’s got a very smooth flow with an incredible bass line, and it picks up a little but never outpaces itself. I think long-time fans of the band especially will enjoy this record because it feels like they’re growing with us rather than trying to peddle some garbage music that desperately tries to be relevant, like most bands who’ve been around this long are doing these days. The Peppers don’t have to try to be relevant. They just always are.

 

Gojira – Magma

Some of you may be familiar with Gojira, and some of you may not. If you’re a fan of bands like Neurosis or Mastodon then you’ve probably already heard of them, but if you’re not then there’s still hope for you yet. I sort-of think of Gojira as the Alice in Chains of progressive metal. Not in musical style, but more in cultural placement. Alice in Chains was lumped in with the grunge scene of the early 90’s but they were always pretty different from any of those other bands. They could easily tour with Soundgarden or Nirvana, but never sounded anything like either of those bands, or any other grunge band for that matter. Gojira are a lot like that. They’ve shared the stage with a lot of metal bands, but they’ve always been incomparable. Magma, their 6th full-length album, releases today and I can’t recommend it enough. It’ll have you swaying one second and then headbanging the next. If you like your metal with a complex mix of slow, sludgy rhythms and heavy riffs, then you definitely need to check this out.

 

Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us

There is literally no way to speak eloquently about Nails. It would be pointless. First off, their blend of savage hardcore and brutal, grinding metal is about as far from eloquent as you can get. And secondly, they don’t give a f**k. About anything. I don’t mean that they don’t give a f**k in the way that some dirty, unwashed indie band doesn’t give a f**k; or how that one goth-rock band sings about how they don’t give a f**k, even though they spend hours on their makeup and costumes before taking the stage in front of 500 screaming girls and clearly give many f**ks. Nails legitimately, genuinely, and sincerely… DO. NOT. GIVE. A. F**K. You Will Never Be One Of Us is one of the albums I’ve been most anticipating this summer and it doesn’t disappoint. It is relentlessly vicious and plays like the soundtrack to a Kimbo Slice street fight. If you need something new to workout too, or you just really love fast, punishing metal, make sure to check out this album.

New Music Friday 05/20 – Weekend Nachos, Eternal Sleep, Suburban Scum.

We try to put out at least one music review a week, but this week there a few different albums I wanted to talk about to I figured I’d just put them all together. If you dig metal and hardcore bands, then here a few new albums you should definitely check out!

Weekend Nachos – Apology

Weekend Nachos are the Bill Brasky of hardcore music. They’re infamous, larger than life, and will not hesitate to throw a saddle on you and ride you around Wyoming for 3 days. The dudes recently decided it was time to hang up their five-panel hats and call it day, but not before one more album and a year full of shows. That album is titled Apology, and it’s a swansong for the ages. Heavier than 2-ton steel balls, and faster than an Olympic runner with IBS, Apology is Weekend Nachos way of saying, “Even though we’ve decided to shuffle off, we’re not done just yet and you will listen to every damn word we have to say!” There’s riffs, and breakdowns, and blast beats (OH MY)! There are tracks that smash in your face with a hammer (“Dust”, “Fake Political Song”), and then there are tracks that chug along all sludgey and groovy-like (“N.A.R.C.”, “POW MIA”). The final song on the album is also the title track, “Apology”, and it is a slow and heavy instrumental that descends into a beautiful and somewhat eerie piece of sound with piano and feedback before pounding back in with a big, thunderous ending. Go to Weekend Nachos’ Bandcamp if you’re interested in checking out Apology.

 

Eternal Sleep  – The Emptiness Of

Most metalcore bands sway either one way or the other. They’re either heavier on the metal, or heavier on the hardcore. The dudes in Pittsburg PA’s Eternal Sleep, though, do not conform to your archaic definitions of metal and hardcore. They blend the two so evenly and perfectly that you can’t tell where the metal ends and the core begins. For this reason you can’t label them “metalcore” (that seemed so roundabout huh?). What I mean is, they’re clearly equally influenced by both genres, and it blatantly shows in the music they write, but since metalcore bands are so watered-down and generic these days, it wouldn’t fair or accurate to lump Eternal Sleep in with them because they’re SO MUCH BETTER. I think that Eternal Sleep sounds like what Hatebreed would sound like if Hatebreed just came out today instead of over two decades ago. Check out The Emptiness Of here, and catch Eternal Sleep on tour later this summer with Blistered.

 

Suburban Scum – Ultimate Annihilation

“Notorious” is a word that comes to mind when I think about Suburban Scum. Other words that comes to mind: Relentless, brutal, and punishing. (In that respect they remind me a lot of one of my favorite hardcore bands of all time, All Out War.) I wouldn’t say that Suburban Scum are “plagued” with controversy or anything, but they’ve certainly spent their fair share of time in the spotlight over some dubious situations. Ultimate Annihilation is a testament to their ability to aggressively push past those circumstances and stand proud in the face of obstacle and, for better or worse, scream, “I am ready for war!”. Every track is just as vicious as the one before it leaving zero room to breathe. You will literally feel like you’re drowning in hardcore. What a way to go though, right? You can check out Ultimate Annihilation here.

4LN Album Review: Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow

When I first listened to Nothing, I didn’t like them. That’s the absolute truth. My good friend, and fellow 4LN writer, Bill Clark introduced me to them and I listened to their EP Downward Years to Come, but I just wasn’t sold. Soon after that their first full length album Guilty of Everything came out. One night after a few glasses of whiskey, and probably 20 minutes of trying to find something to listen to on Spotify, I decided to give the new album a shot. At first I just thought it was the whiskey that was making my brain thoroughly enjoy what I was hearing, but the next day when I was completely sober, I listened to it again and loved it just as much. Maybe more. It’s rare that things have to grow on me, but when they do it’s almost always something I end up becoming obsessed with. I’m obsessed with Nothing.

Tired of Tomorrow is only Nothing’s second full-length album, but it shows more personal growth in that small amount of time than some bands show in their entire careers. Guilty of Everything is incredible because Nothing showed that they can do the shoegaze sound on it’s own better than anybody else out there today. Sure, there are bands that mix the sound with something else, like black metal or indie rock, but Nothing made an album that is essentially just shoegaze from beginning to end and it never gets boring or exasperating. This new album though, while not definable as a “departure” is much more eclectic, and shows off a plethora of the bands influences.

The album opens with the pummeling, but gorgeous, “Fever Queen.” The album literally starts with just a wave, no… a tsunami of sound hammering your head. You slowly begin to hear the lead guitar melody come in and then eventually take over the track. The relentless beat changes pace some, but it doesn’t stop until the song ends. In some ways, it feels like a track that could’ve fit just as well into Guilty of Everything but more mature. That’s not to suggest that anything on GoE was immature, just that this advances things to a new level.

The first single off the album is “Vertigo Flowers”, and it’s a perfect example of how they’ve evolved. It has a lovely melody and some very heavenly guitar parts that make so you want to swat back and forth. Then there’s a musical bridge section that grooves so hard it makes you feel like you want to shake your fists along with it to the rhythm.

Even though the band shows off more developed creativity here, there is still plenty to keep current fans satisfied and happy. One of the first songs they put out from this record is “Eaten by Worms”, and, while it begins with a slow, mellow guitar strum, at around the 30 second mark it really comes crashing in heavy and pummels your ears through the verse until slowing down briefly for a really pretty section with vocals and piano, only to recommence the pummeling very quickly. Nowhere is safe from their onslaught of fuzz guitar tone.

Well, almost nowhere. The final track on the album is also the title track, “Tired of Tomorrow”. It’s, very truthfully, the most beautiful song I’ve heard in a long time. It starts with just a piano and vocals, but eventually there are some very elegant orchestral parts that add so much to the song. There’s a theme of self-realization to most all of Nothing’s songs, but this one is quintessential. Vocalist Domenic Palmermo sings through the chorus, “Stranded in today, clawing from the outside. And I’m tired of tomorrow on the inside.” It’s not pleading. It’s not desperate. It’s… hopelessly realistic. It feels like saying in a very matter-of-fact way, “This is my situation. I’ve been trying to change it but I’m doomed and I can’t do anything about it.” I respect that level of raw emotion and understanding.

The best way I can think of to relate Nothing’s growth from their first album to this one, is to compare it to The Jesus and Mary Chain. Their first album Psychocandy was the archetype for noise-pop and shoegaze, but then their next album, Darklands, was much more mature and less chaotic musically. It’s by no means a devolution. It’s just different. Not better, not worse. They made an album that almost sounds like a completely different band but with leftovers of their original sound. They just found ways to incorporate it less aggressively and the result was an album that was more commercially viable and accessible, without compromising their convictions or creativity. Nothing has essentially done the same thing.

The vocals are more prominent on Tired of Tomorrow, whereas in the past they’ve almost felt like background to the wall of sound, and that “wall of sound” now has more definition and structure. You can tell that these aren’t just some dudes making random, loud sounds with their instruments and calling it “art.” They’re artists. They’re incredible songwriters and they’re talented musicians. If you already love Nothing, then after you listen to this album you’ll still love Nothing. If you just kind of like Nothing, I think after you listen to this album you’ll love Nothing. If you’ve never heard of Nothing, then after you hear this album you’ll love Nothing.

Pick it up from their Bandcamp page here: Tired of Tomorrow