Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why Dontcha Die...Wontcha?

FALCON – “Die Wontcha” CD ’08 (Liquid Flames, US/Australia) – The first thing I have to say here is that I love the title of this album. Is it a take-off on the West, Bruce & Laing opus of years gone by, “Why Dontcha?” I’m not sure but if it is, that rules. Either way, this disc rules and, brother, I mean it rules…HARD! For those who don’t know, FALCON is the power trio that includes ex-Destiny’s End guitarist Perry Grayson & ex-Cirith Ungol bassist Greg Lindstrom. Their first album revealed a side to both these guys that was very welcome to me. As good as their previous bands had been, “Falcon” showed a decided move back in time toward a ‘70’s hard rock vibe. Visions of names like Budgie, Cactus & Mountain danced in my head as I listened to that debut a couple years ago and now, the 2 along with drummer Darin McCloskey have seriously upped the ante with an album that I didn’t even realize these cats had in ‘em. First off, you gotta check out the sound here. When Lindstrom’s bass & McCloskey’s drums lock into a groove, it is clear, dynamic and organic as friggin’ hell, so Grayson can lay that guitar tone right down on top. And let me tell you, Perry ol’ boy has a serious nasty tone going on with this disc. You want to talk about a Gibson into Marshalls? I don’t know what guitar he’s using on any particular song, as the insert pics show SG’s, Flying V’s and Les Pauls but you get the idea. That idea is the removal of the listener’s face. This is like KK Downing from 1976 or Mark Shelton from 1981! And man, what songs! From the opening riff-fest of “Jimmy Clark,” through the crushing instrumental of “The Wreck Of The John Deere” to the lengthy “Everything There Is To Know,” there are so many different kinds of riffs, speeds and interesting ideas here that I’m surely reminded of the classic records from no decade other than the marvelous early ‘70’s. Still, with all of that, my favourite cuts have to be “Elfland’s Daughter” and “Falcon.” The former blew me away instantly, not only with it’s wide array of riffs & changes, but with it’s very clear nod to a band near & dear to my heart, Thin Lizzy. Between the one riff that reminds me so much of the Eric Bell trilogy (the first 3 TL albums) to the heart-searing harmonized leads, this is one of the best songs I’ve heard since Survivor’s “All Your Pretty Moves” platter in 1979. Then, there’s “Falcon,” once again, not only telling a story with it’s lyrics but with it’s ornate chapters of riffs and a semi-acoustic section, the melody of which almost brings tears to my eyes in “Before The Dawn” style. Through it all, Grayson’s vocals take on a killer Liebling-like tone, his wah-wah leads destroy and current blazed by Lindstrom & McCloskey continues to crush. An awesome thing that FALCON do here is something I used to love so much about bands like Budgie & early Sabbath and, similarly, something few if anybody (save Ogre) does anymore. That’s the practice of ending a particular rhythm in mid-song and immediately diving headlong into another…and, magically it flows! Think what the Sabs did in something like “Snowblind” or “Hand Of Doom,” for instance. That kind of wailing shit is all over the place here. Truly, this is an album for the ages and we haven’t even talked about the blistering cover of Buffalo’s “Leader.” Interestingly, that Australian connection leads me to mention that Perry Grayson has now relocated to Australia. What that means for the future of FALCON (as Greg Lindstrom lives in California) remains to be seen but for now, this band has lain down a gauntlet that I’m not sure who is going to be able to pick up. Freaking awesome. 9.5

OBSCURE – “On Formaldehyde” CD ’08 (Dark Essence, Nor) – Well, maybe just maybe that gauntlet mentioned above landed somewhere near Norway, because this here OBSCURE crew sure as hell picked something up and decided to lay a whipping down with it. A four-piece with one guitarist who doubles as lead singer, the line-up will remind you of Bible Of The Devil and, yessum’s, that’s a pretty good parallel. “On Formaldehyde” came on a nice recommendation from The Ripple Effect ( and after having this little number kick my ass, I’ll take everything those guys say very seriously, I’ll tell you that! Much like BOTD, this crew supplies a mix of shorter, NWOBHM-style mashers like “Conversensation” and “Methamorphosis” (love those titles) plus longer, more involved dual-guitar devastators in the name of “Abra Macabra,” “Giants” & “Abraxas.” Here, Roy Kronheim & Tom Eide put on a performance that will have your head banging on the air-stage while your fingers work overtime trying to keep up with the but-busting six-string violence they’re laying down. Imagine Hoffman & crew’s “Warrior Fugue” to get a feel for what you’ll be in store for when you cue up the aforementioned “Abraxas.” Raw-ass metal with a bit of a quirky, psychy edge and crushing axe will fill your day right down to the mangling cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Massacre!” This is truly a killer discovery and I think that OBSCURE is going to be a band you’ll be hearing about again on this site. Let’s hope they get signed and make it to these shores, as they murder! 9.0

VAN MORRISON – “Keep It Simple” CD ’08 (Lost Highway, Ire) – It’s funny. Some people become icons and then rest on their laurels. VAN MORRISON has never been a guy who struck me that way. I mean, to begin with, if VAN’s not an icon then I’m not a music fan. Anybody who can include on their resume stuff like “Astral Weeks,” “Tupelo Honey” and “Moondance” has pretty much got icon-status wrapped up. But again, here’s a dude who has stuff like that to his credit and some 30-odd years later still is pouring his soul out. Most people would be dead if they even tried that. VAN, instead, issues an album like “Keep It Simple.” Such a wonderful statement, and such a wonderful sentiment for this man to still have. Is this stuff as mind-blowingly riveting as a cut like “Tupelo Honey,” arguably one of the greatest songs/vocal performances of all time? Well, probably not. There’s a lot more subtlety here in the laid-back, smoky room groove of “How Can A Poor Boy” or “No Thing.” The fact is, though, the songs are there, the passion is there and, yes, that voice…one of those that can never be duplicated is there, both conforting and cajoling as an old friend on a stool at the end of the bar. Nice. 8.0

BLOOD OF THE SUN – “Death Ride” CD ’08 (Vibra, US) – Ok, that some mo-fo is really swinging that gauntlet around, cause now the s.o.b. has landed in Texas and BLOOD OF THE SUN has reached for it with this, their 2nd effort. I was pretty taken with these boys’ debut effort awhile back, laced as it was with a total ‘70’s biker hard rock vibe and adorned with plenty nifty leads & analog keys. This time, the twist is that the lead vocals on nearly all of “Death Ride” are supplied by the one and only Derek St. Holmes. In case some of you are staring blankly at the screen saying “Ray, who the hell is Derek St. Holmes?” then, 2 things. First, I pity you. Secondly, take out your dog-eared copy of “Ted Nugent” (1975) and look. Yes, that Derek St. Holmes. And, as you might expect, he fits this music like the proverbial glove. I mean hell, a couple minutes into opening cut “One More For The Road,” when St. Holmes belts out the line “Caught you with another man!” I’m standing on the bed, clutching my air mic and wishing I had a ‘70’s Afro! But damn, I’m telling you, great vocals aside, these guys put the pedal to the metal hard as hell and just rawk like stinking dawgs for this entire album! There isn’t one dull cut, as numbers like “Edge Of The Sky,” “Shine” and “The Witchin Hour” prove. Check out guitarists Ty Tompkins & Eric Schmidt, as they simply “go off” on lead duels with keyboard man Dave Gryder. Hell, the insert pic looks like an outtake from The Allmans “Filmore East” and these guys jam like a hard rock version of Georgia’s best. Remember the days when a band wasn’t afraid to just open the jets during the middle of a song and let the guys solo like crazy?! Welcome home, chief, your ride is here. Ass-Kickin’ 101 is in session! 9.0

TARPIT – “There Is Nothing After Extinction” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Nice seeing some good stuff come out of the local B-more area these days and a very good example is this TARPIT I just fell into. The truth is that if you are in the mood for something melodic or something that will get you racing around the room in a wild burst of energy, well, this is just not going to be your cup of tea. TARPIT, you see, are (as their name implies) the soundtrack to something huge, dark and covered in gore to come crawling out of a hole in some far corner of the woods behind your house and lurch, brontosaurus-like toward your humble abode, growling, dripping blood and implying great harm. Think Noothgrush being given a handful of downers at a St. Vitus concert and then being told their mother suck co…well, you know. Thing is, songs like “Velociraptor,” “Basilosaurus” and “Compsognathus” are not going to do anything to help anyone who is already afraid of the dark or needs their mommy. Serious stuff and I’d love to check out these guys live. 8.0

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Poetry In Motion

TIFFANY APAN – “Poet” CD ’08 (Private, US) – There’s been a bit of a dearth of things Celtic, folk and the like showing up in the mailbox here at ol’ Castle ‘Realm lately, so it was nice to see this one come sliding out of the envelope a couple weeks ago. Hearing it once it hit the player was quite a bit better than simply “nice.” You see, it’s been since the last Maireid Sullivan disc, 2003’s “Never Drift Apart” that I’ve been this impressed with a Celtic vocalist. “Poet” is one of those “self-released” discs that I love so much because it has such a pure, vibrant and unfiltered air of passion. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain but as a listener over the years, I really get a feel for certain vibes & feelings. Some things you listen to are coming at you, but only after they pass through the ever-so-slightly (and sometimes moreso!) skewing lens of the producer, the record company, the management, etc. Ms. APAN’s disc is one that’s coming straight on, from the artist to you, with all feelings undiluted. Just listen to the opening cut, “Ghost.” TIFFANY has a voice that is both devastatingly powerful and contemplatively serene and uses this special instrument of her’s to great effect. She also has such confidence in her voice that she’s able to do some very unique things, like the part in “Porcelain Doll” where she seems to change the key in mid-song, adding a dynamic sense of tension/release. Another thing that’s very cool about this album is the fact that while it’s steeped in the haunting and ethereal, it also has a real bite instrumentally. Sure, there’s tons of acoustic guitar & keys, there’s also an abundance of heavy guitar work by Jason English, including some killer solos that sear to the bone. In this way, “Poet” really compares favourably to a classic Black Widow Records band, Crystal Phoenix and believe you me, that’s no faint praise. All through tracks like “Free,” “A Prayer” and “Black Forest,” APAN and her musicians create songs that become a musical landscape and succeed in blurring the lines between Celtic folk and rock in such a way that they become completely their own sound. In this regard, the album only grows stronger as it goes along, with the ending trio of cuts “Ashes To Dust,” Warrior (Soldier For Myself)” and “Whispers” melding to form something that’s simply startlingly good. The well-placed interpretation of “Scarborough Fair” fits like a glove and that says a lot about the original material in and of itself. Truly something out of the blue that I wasn’t anticipating at all, “Poet” is a breath of fresh air and easily one of the year’s very best albums. 9.5
NOTE: I highly recommend checking out TIFFANY APAN’s website. She is not only an exceptional vocalist and songwriter but also, apparently, has quite a career as an actress in the horror genre. Interesting stuff!

ON A PALE HORSE – “A Generation Of Vipers” CD (Corporate Punishment, US) – GPS turn-by-turn navigation, Blue Ray discs, Windows Vista, broadband access…do you ever get sick of it? Do you ever get tired of modern-day complications and just feel like throwing the cell phone away, throwing the tent in the old jeep and trundling out into the woods for a week of simplicity? I do. And the same goes for music…power prog, goth power, blackened folk metal…what the freaking hell, you know? Aren’t there times (and plenty of ‘em) when you just want to stick on an album that pummels your ass into oblivion? Meet Iowa’s ON A PALE HORSE, a band who with their 3rd release, “A Generation Of Vipers” has not only done that but, in the process issued a disc that stands among the very best of 2008 thusfar. Wanna know how they did it? Guitars, bass, drums & vocals, folks. Let’s stick to the meat & potatoes here. You can have your friggin’quiche, latte & whatever else, I’m going to the steakhouse with these guys! Right from the very opening power chords of “Sound The Alarm,” you know this is going right for the gut. The axe-hammering of Jas Spargur & Josh Brainard is raw, loud & in-your-face and Aaron Peltz’s vox are taking no prisoners. Tracks like “Soma Sema,” “The Legend Of John Doe” and “Eye In Hand” bring the rawk just as hard, and likewise are laced with more than enough melody to keep the songs swirling in your head for days. And that’s just the thing. While OAPH would surely rather bring a sledgehammer to the jobsite than a surgeon’s scalpel, they also haven’t forgotten the terms “songwriting” or “diversity.” Witness the cool, Southern-style bluesy intros to to numbers like the title cut, the DOWN-home subtle power of NOLA-styled…wait for it… “Down Home” or the perfectly structured epic “Release The Smoke,” ending with one of those guitar solos where you’ve just gotta put down the cup of Joe and play along on your Air “V.” Put it this way, since ON A PALE HORSE aren’t complicating things, neither will I. This is as good a metal album as you can buy today. So do it. 9.0
NOTE: Check out the interview with OAPH’s Aaron Peltz just added to the site!

STONERIDER – “Three Legs Of Trouble” CD ’07 (Trustkill, US) – Lately, I’ve noticed a particular phenomenon . It’s not a UFO album, but rather a societal, musical leaning marked by a growing number of young guys looking back past their so-called “roots.” You know, 20-somethings who actually can see further back into the past than Metallica’s “Black Album.” That’s good, in general, I think. After all, that’s how an album as spectacular as “Rise” by Ireland’s The Answer can come to fruition. Perhaps not quite as much a blinder but still impressive in this regard is the debut from Georgia’s STONERIDER. In fact, as opener “Rush Hour, Baby” kicks into butt-spanking wah-induced riffery, I’m inclined to think I may be listening to a new track from Eire’s fine young sons. And, it’s in pretty much this style that these Peach State boys continue through the disc, invoking influences that belie their years such as Free and the Zeps, with “Ramble Down” and “Juice Man” really getting the blood flowing. With such yin-ing comes a bit of yang-ing, however, and as the album draws into it’s 2nd half (much like another “stone” crew, Black Stone Cherry) the songwriting wears a trifle thin. Moreover, the inclusion of the cover of Nazareth’s “Hair Of The Dog” both lacks the bite of the McCaffrey-toothed original and nestles a tad uncomfortably close to the word “filler.” Still, these late-in-the-day complaints aside, STONERIDER is a nice listen, a band to watch and more proof that, as Priest once said, you don’t have to be old to be wise. 7.0

BACKWOODS PAYBACK – “Backwoods Payback” CD ’07 (Private, US) – It is my obligation, first and foremost, to sing the praises of any band who would entitle a song “Mickey Morandini.” As a baseball fan, and a closet Phillies fan from Baltimore (lemme tell ya, 1983 was a tough World Series for me!) I always dug Morandini. I’ll take a hard-nosed 2nd baseman with a dirty uniform over a steroid-stuffed homer-bionicle any day. So, when you entitle a song after this dude then include the line, “I’m a motherfucker,” well I’m on board already. And you know what? Cool as all that is, BACKWOODS PAYBACK are also a pretty damn good band. Here’s the skinny. You like heavy doses of sludge-ridden rawk like Pentagram but feel the love really coming on when you add in a steeped-in-the-still feel of the southern backwoods, this is for you. If you come out of your chair and start the air-jamming to “You Shittin’ Me” or “Baja 6 Pack,” that’s cool. If you feel a sublime sensation spreading over you when the ultra-cool organ washes in during “Brandywine,” well that’s even better. Bottom line is that if your musical tastes run anywhere from Earthride (yeah, that’s Dave Sherman guesting on one song) to Clutch to Molly Hatchet, this one’s a hit. And, you don’t even have to be a baseball fan.

TO-MERA – “Delusions” CD ’08 (Candlelight, Eng) – I’ll be the first to say that I don’t know what the name TO-MERA means. Call me lazy, but I didn’t look it up. I don’t know if these guys (and a lady) are going to a place called MERA or something else, but if they keep making albums like this one, they’ll be going quite far in the metal world, not to mention making Candlelight look more than just a sign-em-all money pit. Let’s get one thing straight. If your tastes run a gamut that extends from, say The Ramones to Motorhead, this is not going to be your cup of sunshine. TO-MERA are definitely about the musical dexterity. They can stop & make turns on a dime and, in fact, on cuts like “The Lie,” “Mirage” & “Asylum” a dime may be too cheap. There are more swerves, cuts, bobs & musical weaves in one of these cuts alone than on 695 in rush hour traffic. Still, dontcha go running off with horrifying visions of Dream Theater’s most annoying moments dancing in your head. TO-MERA can write songs that stick and they’re also a perfect vehicle for the vocals of Julie Kiss, which float smartly on the tide & never lose buoyancy in the maelstrom. Hell, there’s even a few laid-back jazzy interludes. While I’ll surely grant you, this isn’t an album for every mood or moment, it is a panorama of ideas that gels very nicely and I’ll wait with great interest for this band’s next work. 8.0

Thursday, May 15, 2008

ON A PALE HORSE Interview - Vipers on the loose!

I remember a day back in ’05 when I was sitting around, chewing the metal fat (damn, sounds good!) with the Peacedogman. I was singing the praises (as I always do) of Chicago metal merchants Bible Of The Devil & the Pooch guy was heard to say, “Man, talking about some killer straight-ahead metal, you oughta check out these guys from Iowa, ON A PALE HORSE!” Now, knowing Ray like I do (one of my personalities, you see), I wasn’t surprised to know that he went rushing out to grab the band’s 2 discs and place them in heavy rotation. For you see, they crushed living ass and Ray is totally liable to repeatedly play music that pillages. ON A PALE HORSE don’t fuck around. They deliver a killer brand of raw metal, not utterly removed from some ‘80’s gods like Pantera & Iron Maiden, laced with a Southern shot of Jack & augmented by some early day Seattle sounds. So, stop horsing around and read on for an education on OAPH with singer, Aaron Peltz.

RAY - ON A PALE HORSE…It struck me as a very cool, interesting name right from the first time I heard it. Then again, I enjoy watching ants crawl across the sidewalk, so…. Seriously, I believe it’s the name of a novel, is that correct? Fave book of somebody or did you just like the sound of it? Didn’t METAL CHURCH originally call one of the songs from “The Dark” something like “To Ride A Pale Horse” and then change it when the album came out? Doesn’t Ray ever shut up?!?!

AARON - On A Pale Horse was a song title from the band that morphed into OAPH and yes it was influenced from the Piers Anthony book of the same name. Nothing really other than it sounded cool. A lot of bands nowadays like to put a preposition at the start of their name, but I can safely say we didn’t do that to follow a trend since we’ve been together for 7 years. When I joined the band in ’04 I though it was an unusual name too. I’m not sure about the METAL CHURCH song, but I really dig me some, especially the first record.

RAY - I believe I’m correct in that one of the guitarists in OAPH was in SLIPKNOT early on? How did he come to leaving those Iowa down-tuned masked guys and what led to the formation of ON A PALE HORSE? You can feel free to go back as far as you want in the history of all this. I’ve always been a fan of history. I’ve also always been a fan of the Oakland Raiders, but then again, that’s my problem.

AARON - Yeah, Josh was in SLIPKNOT up to the end of the recording of there first record with Roadrunner and quit for personal reasons. The band was started though by guitarist Jerry and original bassist Jeremy Easley after they wanted a musical direction change from there previous band. They were really heavy and all of us came from a lot heavier bands, some border line death metal. The crazy thing was we wanted to do something like Down, Acid Bath, COC, Clutch, Kyuss, etc., but were unaware of how big that genre really is in the underground. I mean besides like Acid Bath and Jerry’s hero Wino we had no idea of the scope of the scene we were trying to enter. Around our hometown of Des Moines nobody was doing what we were doing, it was a bunch of nu-metal bands. When we started getting reviews back for the first record we were hearing references to ATP, Floodgate, and some other more indie bands and we were like “What! Who are they?!” Did some research and we understood what people were saying. That kinda made us do a 90 degree turn and think about how to stay within the genre, but be our own band and not be pidgeon-holed as copies of those bands. I mean, those are some very influential bands, but there can be only one Clutch, one COC, one Down, one Wino, etc..

RAY - So they’re sitting there thinking “Ok, when’s it coming? Where’s he going to hit us with the old ‘influences’ question?” The answer, my friends is: Now. What got you all bitten by the bug of playing music? What kinds of stuff did you dig from the old days? Anything happening these days float your individual or collective boats? I know this is sometimes one of those “pat” questions that dickhead interviewers always ask, but in your case, I am actually curious. With your stuff, I hear a lot of very heavy stuff, aggression and all that, yet there’s an underlying kinda bluesy, Southern-sorta feel that crops up in some of the intros, guitar parts, etc. It’s something I really dig as it puts me in mind at times of the later COC stuff, and DOWN for that matter. At the same time, I get a sense of melody from you guys, amid the heavy riffing, that hints at the songwriting skills of a band like Thin Lizzy.

AARON - We are just a culmination of all the various types of rock and metal that we liked growing up and were influenced by. From Slayer and Metallica to the Sabbathy type bands we are fans of. The simplicity and loudness of Motorhead to the structure and catchiness of Kiss. At the end of the day we want a song that you can hum along to, but yet not be mainstream. 3 of us are huge Slayer fans and I am one of those fans that yell “FUCKIN SLAYER” before the concert. Any concert for that matter. Like I said before this genre was new to most of us. My influences are steeped in underground thrash like Exodus (keep in mind I am an eighties guy so these bands were all underground back then for our young readers), Venom, Coroner, Kreator, Sepultura. I am also hugely influenced by Iron Maiden which is my favorite band of all time and was my first concert. The grunge movement was a also a big influence on me just for the fact that I was exposed to Soundgarden. I can’t deny the fact that Pantera and Down had an influence on us. COC also, I remember COC back in their hardcore days and was stunned when I heard “Blind” the first time. We also are big fans of GNR and AC/DC.

RAY - I was originally turned on to you guys by Mark from He’s an astute sort of guy. I remember I’d been talking to him about the new (at that time) BIBLE OF THE DEVIL disc, “Brutality Majesty Eternity” and, quoth he: “Man, you think that’s good, you oughta check out ON A PALE HORSE!” I found a copy of your self-titled 2005 opus and, by God, he was right! I also secured a copy of ‘04’s “Black Is Not The Darkest Colour.” Now, holding in my grimy hands a copy of your brand-new “A Generation Of Vipers,” I’m curious…is there any other OAPH material or have I secured it all?

AARON - Nope, that’s the small catalogue.

RAY - What do you see as the growth pattern between the 3 records? To me, the new one is easily the best, song and sound-wise. I like the fact that you guys are able to put so much into songs that are basically 3-4 minutes long. They seem longer in a sense (and no, not because I’ve done acid!) because there is a lot of cool riffing going on, yet they remain catchy because they’re concise. Obviously, the exception, time-wise is “Release The Smoke,” coming in at just over 7 minutes. Any commentary on any of this or am I just spending too much time with my stopwatch? Do you think we’ll ever see another track the length of “The Darkest Colour” on the first record?

AARON - I think the biggest thing that has helped us grow during each record was working with Warren Riker and also not being shy about using all of our influences. As far as the song lengths, if we get a chance to do more records I could see us doing another real long track like “The Darkest Colour”. “Release the Smoke” from the new one was going to be around 10 minutes and we decided to cut it back. To us it really only works for certain songs with the right vibe. I mean I can’t imagine listening to 6 minutes of “Sound the Alarm” it would just be too much.

RAY - Quick, a “Red Light Challenge!” What is the most common sight in rural section of Iowa? Idyllic families admiring fall foliage? Tough, frightening men playing violent heavy metal music in a shed while they skin something that looks relatively inhuman? College football coaches having illicit sex with polecats on school property? Or…is it something else altogether?

AARON - Probably big families getting together in a park or something like that, drinking beer and barbequing.

RAY - Lyrically, there seems to be more going on with you guys than let’s go party, screw some chicks, smoke some dope, all that. Not that I’m condemning anyone who’s done any of those things (as I myself never have, of course…ahem!). A couple tracks like “Soma Sema” and the aforementioned “Release The Smoke” seem to have a sort of philosophical, spiritual tone to them. Is this right?

AARON - First off, I have never considered myself a lyricist and when it comes to songwriting I prefer the guitar over the pen anyday. Of course ya gots to have the words. My biggest thing with content is not being fake and not telling stories that haven’t done or been a witness to. “Release the Smoke” is about going into a Native American sweat lodge and receiving visions. Jerry actually wrote that one since he’s native and I was really stoked with how it turned out. “Soma Sema” means “the body is a tomb” in latin and it’s about overcoming the fear of death and once you do that everything becomes clear.

RAY - Do you think that one philosopher (can’t place his name) who said that if you were born with a ping pong ball on your nose, you’d never notice it was right?

AARON - Not all because we’re conditioned by what we have seen since birth. Unless the ball was in your ass.

RAY - While we’re on a lyrical trip, could you take a couple more songs and give us a sort of thumbnail sketch on what they’re dealing with? Some of my readers can actually read, so they dig this stuff!

AARON - Sure. “The Legend of John Doe” is a song about the invisibility of the common man. Without the blue collar worker our societies wheels would fall off. “Ready to Burn” is about recognizing those internal scars that haunt you unless you can come to terms with it.

RAY - How did you hook up with Corporate Punishment Records? Does it look like they’re going to be able to get your disc into more people’s hands via retail stores, etc.? I haven’t seen it anywhere around here, but that may not mean anything because Baltimore generally sucks.

AARON - We were hooked up with CPR by our friend Chris Hamilton and right now I couldn’t even tell what stores or cities the disc is at. We’ve had sightings here of course and as far out as the east coast. I really hope we can get the record available in most stores, but it is on itunes.

RAY - How about touring? Have you done much outside your general area? Is Corporate Punishment going to get any bucks behind you to help out with this? What about the Baltimore area? We are having a dearth of real rock around here and it’s making me anxious. Do something before I do something crazy in my rawk-starved frenzy!

AARON - We’re on our own as far as touring and it’s going to mostly Midwest for now. Hopefully in the late summer we can get something together for a little trek out to the coasts and to the south.

RAY - Do you guys wear hearing protection onstage? Remember, even acoustic earplugs don’t guard against sexually-transmitted diseases!
AARON - I personally hate wearing earplugs, but know I should. I don’t think any of us wear them.

RAY - In this day and age, even the CD seems to be turning into a thing of the past. With downloads, mp3’s, etc. do you see a day when there will be virtually no physical medium for recorded music? What are your thoughts on all this, vinyl, discs, the internet, etc. with regard to a band like yourselves?

AARON - Digital downloading has really changed the music business. Back in the day if you were interested in a band you had to search it out and buy the whole damn thing even if it ended up sucking. I have tons of vinyl from thrash bands that are horrid, but the fun was in the risk. You’d see a cool album cover and be like “This is gonna be bad ass!” and then it would be terrible. Now everyone can preview your music and only buy one song. That’s a HUGE thing for the unsigned or indie band. The obstacle we have is trying to promote ourselves so people even know we have a record available and it has to be done on the internet which makes us have to sell over the internet. That brings us back to the selling of one song at a time…There’s really no escaping it. The bands just have to learn to adapt. Unfortunately bigger artists are now giving there material away for free which affects the smaller artist.

RAY - What do you see as the future of ON A PALE HORSE? Can you picture the day when you’ll make a 3 record concept album about something like “Nostradamus?”

AARON - Man, I would love to do something like “Mindcrime”. I loved what Voivod did with their records.

RAY - Ok, fun time! Go back through the annals (hey, that’s not a cuss word…get your mind out of the gutter!) of ON A PALE HORSE. Tell us all a story of something that has happened in the history of the band that is uproariously funny, completely disgusting, disturbingly weird or just plain entertaining…spare nothing, don’t hold back!

AARON - Last November we were headed up to Green Bay for a show after a night at a haunted house. No shit! The night before we had a show in Rockford and we stayed at a promoters old Victorian era house that was converted into a massage school. There were doors opening and shutting upstairs, things flying around the room. It was crazy. The next day we headed up to GB and as I was falling asleep the engine shutdown and smoke was filling up the van. We all got out and noticed fire dripping underneath the van. We didn’t have a fire extinguisher so we mad scrambled to get the trailer unhitched and save our equipment. 2 minutes later the van was engulfed.

RAY - Any final thoughts for the RAYSREALM readers

AARON - Thanks for the support from the people that have been following us and if you haven’t give us a chance and go check us out!

There ya go, RAYSREALM readers! You want your metal loud, heavy and loaded up with great songs and a deep, soulful vibe go no further than ON A PALE HORSE. “A Generation Of Vipers” rules!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered - The MATT EBERT Interview/Review

MATT EBERT – “R & Bewilderment” CD ’07 (Private, US) - You know what I really like? The fantasy of getting stuck on a desert island with my wife, copies of “Stained Class,” “Black Rose,” “Vol. 4” and possibly any Accused disc (with a CD player, of course), a lifetime supply of Squire’s Pizza, plenty of drink & sunscreen & a nice split-level beach house. In lieu of that, however, something that really floats my boat is getting a piece of playable musical plastic in the mail that takes me by surprise in a very pleasant way. I mean, let’s face it, there are some kinds of things I expect to get: metal, punk, stoner, folk…albums that follow the general paths of genres I ve trodden many a time…and rule. And yet, every so often, something shows up that comes from the proverbial realms of left field and does so in a very appealing way. Such is the case with this ’07 release from Georgia’s MATT EBERT. Yes, true to it’s very title, there is a good bit of the feeling of old soul & R&B that abounds in these grooves (ok, encodings). Take a little audio guzzle of the cover of the Four Tops “Ain’t No Woman.” Sticking to a fairly standard arrangement, it’s given a helluva shot in the arm by EBERT’s throaty Waits-like application. But sticking to the covers here for a minute, wait until you feast your hammers, anvils & stirrups on the molasses-sweet confectionary groove of “Communication Breakdown.” Yesiree, that’s the ol’ Zep manifesto and yet, here unencumbered with chugging compresso-Page chords, it sidles along with all the sexually-charged blues of a late night in CafĂ© Wah. Add to that the brooding lurk of Temple Of The Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” which suits MATT’s voice alarmingly well and…well, goddamn pardner, you’re not even on the 9 originals that form the bulk of this nice little piece of work. Going from the near desperation of “Sweet Nothing,” in which EBERT’s vox take on the awesome presence of a bit of early Peter Wolf (J Geils) to the raw, Tom W git-down of “Big Toe Blues” to moments that would make Capt. Beefheart take pause, this is as wide a palate as any artist should ever be asked to brush into a single painting and yet MATT does it with ease. Couple that with the fact that the guy does a lot of the instrumentation here as well, aided by his bud Allan Ray & you’ve got a disc that coulda, shoulda, hell woulda made my Tops of 2007 had I gotten it in time. Best news is, not only does an exclusive interview with the man himself follow, but this disc is available FOR FREE (!!!) at 9.5

RAY - One thing my dad always told me was to start at the beginning. This is something that has served me well in ventures across the board, from both calculus to sex. Anyway, so onto the beginning. What’s the story behind MATT EBERT? Who are you, where are you from, how did you get involved in music, influences, etc. How did it all get to the point of “R & Bewilderment?”

MATT - My name is Matthew James Ebert, born 8/7/80 in Atlanta, Georgia. My family(mom, dad, 2 sisters) lived in a declining part of ATL for the fist 7 years of my life, we then moved to my grandparents farm in north Georgia(Cumming, GA..he he) and that is where I grew up. We had a bunch of animals, we didn't really "farm" any of them. It was pretty much a petting zoo. During these "farm" years is when I started to develop as a musician. I started playing bass in middle school during the "grunge" deal. So, the Seattle bands were a big influence. Hendrix was always HUGE influence. My best friend and I were Hendrix fanatics. When I started High School I switched to playing drums. And we(my best friend and myself) started my 1st band. We played alot of Hendrix tunes....not the radio stuff but the deep cuts....playing "3rd stone from the sun" in the 10th grade. After high school I got really interested in Miles Davis and LSD. That combination really opened my mind to what was possible in music. I got really interested in writing my own stuff. So, with the help of Allan Ray my good friend, I recorded my 1st solo full lenth cd in 98-01. released it in 01. The album was almost entirely instrumental and didn't really get much response. SO, I decided I should probably do some singing on my next release to maybe get some attention. And that was kinda the 1st step for R&Bewilderment. I recorded it between projects in 01-06.

RAY - Where the heck is Gainesville, GA? I ve been in Gainesville FL, so at first I thought I d read it wrong. Ever heard of Ludowicki GA? I remember driving to Florida many, many years ago and I -95 wasn’t complete so you had to go on these little back roads. One of the towns you went thru was Ludowicki and it was a speed trap. Every block, the speed limit changed from like 40 to 35 to 30, back up to 35, down to 25, etc. They waited, pulled you over, then took you to the judges house and said “guilty” and made you pay right then. But, you’re from there & so are the Allmans, so that’s pretty good. :)

MATT - After H.S. I grew so tired of my dad bitching about my music and volume that I decided to save all my money and buy a house so I could freely create without interrupting peoples naps. Ended up moving to Gainesville ,Ga (poultry capital of the world). It was the cheapest house I could find that was close to my work and family. Gainesville, is about 40 min north of Atlanta and 60 min west of Athens. We got one of the largest man made lakes in the US. and the chicken deal and that’s about it. It is(g-ville) north ga, you must have been traveling in south Ga. Its too damn hot down there for me, however I did work in Macon for a while and visited Duane Allman and Barry Oakley's grave....they also got the Ga music hall of fame in Macon. But yeah alot of rough justice down there, that’s why I stay up north, little more civilized.

RAY - The first thing I noticed about your CD is that it’s a CD. That’s always good, makes playing it easier. The next thing I noticed, upon playing it, is that there is a tremendously wide range of material on it. I mean, you’ve got everything from a pretty straight-ahead (and very good!) interpretation of “Ain’t No Woman” to moments of out-on-the-edge bizarre-ness that have a decided Beefheart flavor. And yet, it all fits. How difficult is it to have a wide palette to work with and NOT have it sound like you smashed it all together with a jackhammer?

MATT - I wanted R&Bewilderment to display my different influences and styles ALSO it was recorded through a 5 year span so, sometimes I was in a blues song kinda showed what I was listening to at the time and maybe a musical growth/understanding. The majority of the instruments were played by myself and Allan Ray so I think that also helped tie it together. But even when I listen to an album, I like alot of variety of sounds. Gets kinda boring staying in one genre.

RAY - The cover of “Communications Breakdown” impressed me…possibly because with 5 kids and a business, I haven’t been out of the house for 3 years but I think it may also be that it’s pretty damn inventive. I had never imagined in my life, that song without an overdriven, chugging guitar rhythm but…there it is and it works like a charm. What led you to trying this arrangement?

MATT - Well, I was going for a James Brown take on the song But I don't feel like I got the vocal energy. I did the drums, bass, and vocals and turned it over to Allan with putting James Brown in mind and he really brought it altogether with his guitar playing. I could have put my own lyrics on it but it just sounded right with Zep's.

RAY - Your version of “Hunger Strike” is also quite interesting? I dig the shit out of it & was wondering if Chris Cornell had contacted you to offer his compliments? Reason I m asking is that when that bozo David Cook did Cornell’s version of “Billy Jean” on American-I-Suck-More-Than-Billy-Idol, he apparently called him the next day. Just sayin….

MATT - Haha good question---All the covers I had to pay royalties was only about 100$ per song. They have a web site set up( where you can buy rights to songs with your credit card according to how many cds your making etc. They got just about every song ever written on there...including really obscure artist. I bought the rights to Ain’t no and Com breakdown in like 5 min NO PROBLEM.....however they had no listing of "hunger strike". I called the company....Sony music...tried to contact Chris Cornell....couldn't figure it out..that was a hit song! I was about to say fuck it and leave it off the cd but a company I found said they could straighten it out. Turns out it was a glitch in the system and for some reason was not put up for purchase...but we got it taken care of and Chris Cornell got slightly richer.....ended up delaying the release about 3 months but hey after 5 years that ain't no big deal.....He probably owes me for getting that straightened out for him.

RAY - But hey, let’s not just talk about your readings of other people’s stuff. How’s about we look at a few of your’s? Can you take, say 3 of your originals on the disc and give us a little bit of your feelings on the music, the lyrics, what they mean to you, etc.? That would be cool…and I know you’re cool.

MATT - Alot of people mention the 7th track "Raymond" (shit, it’s my name…ed) ---I have a recorder hooked up to my phone that records one day while driving around at work I got an idea for a song....I called my house and my old girlfriend picked up and I told her to press record cause I had an idea. So that little thing is me driving around ATL beating on my steering wheel trying to remember an idea. I came across it on some old tapes and thought it was funny and put it on the album. Maybe I 'll have the finished song on the upcoming.

The 6th track "Demonic Hodown" is actually the fist song I made for the album. I was still coming out of my instrumental phase...I had meet this awesome sax player threw some mutual friends and asked him to play something on it. I really liked the end result and asked him to play on "the rise and fall of alagon". We did a maniacal version of the Little Richard song "keep a knocking" which he tore up!.....but I lost the master in a computer crash(forgot to back up the file). I have never seen or heard from that guy since we sat down to record all that 4 years ago. Never even got to give him a copy of the cd....i've looked for him every where. He owes me 50 bucks too.

The 3rd Track "The top of Gainesville" I wrote about the strip club in Gainesville of the same name. The 1st time I went there the 1st thing I saw was a pregnant stripper.....and it went down hill from there. That joint is the nastiest, funkiest(yet very entertaining), place on earth and I think my song really takes the listener threw a night at "the top".

RAY - You do a lot of the instrumentation on “R & B…” and a lot of it is done by Allan Ray. Do you consider this record to be a solo album or a “band” project of any sort? Do you basically get people who you think will work best on each track or what you’d like to handle yourself? Or am I just pissing in the wind, making no sense whatsoever? Like I usually do…

MATT - Well, alot of times I would have an idea on an instrument that I couldn't play. So Allan(being the multi-instrumentalist) sometimes would try to play what I hummed out for him or I would just give him a song and he'd write his own parts. That’s why on some originals he's credited for writing w/ me and some he's not...however I could not have made this cd with out him. So, I believe it to be a joint effort between the 2 of us. The guest artist(not allan or m.e.) are people that I had in mind as I wrote the song. For example the 1st track I wrote especially for Journee B to sing back up...otherwise there's no song. And the cover of "hunger strike" I begged my friend Josh Looper to lend his southern twang(vocals,banjo, guitar). Basically the album is directed by myself but I need the supporting cast to make it work. The tile should be "directions in music by matt ebert"

RAY- Back to Georgia, and Gainesville in particular…. What’s it like there as far as doing live shows? Do you do live shows? I m just assuming…. If so, are there places that will let you play or are most of the establishments there more respectable than that? :) How far outside the greater Gainesville Metroplex have you strayed to ply your wares? Any chance of THE MATT EBERT EXPERIENCE making a touchdown in Baltimore? Trust me, we haven’t gotten the Ravens to do that lately.

MATT - Gainesville has no original music scene. Any band worth a damn from here have left for Athens or Atlanta long ago. There has been some patches of talent around town but I think since some local clubs have shut down the original scene has died.--- I have tried NUMEROUS times to start a band in which I front and sing in. But I can't ever get the musicians together due to flakiness or lack of interest(money). But I haven't given up yet. However, I have played drums for several different groups around Atlanta and Athens threw the years...toured up to Chicago and Virginia. Currently I 'm playing drums for the eccentric Doug Knight. I 'll keep ya posted on the matt ebert exp-i envision a high energy Motown meets grunge type of show.

RAY - What’s next on the agenda for you, Matt? I think I saw on your site where you’ve got plans for a new disc in 2008? How’s that going, any new songs/ideas in the works/in the can yet?

MATT - Yes, I PLAN on getting something out before 09. But I only have 1 track complete currently. I got the whole album in my head...we just gotta convert it to the studio and probably more like 09....unless I start doing music full time(not likely).

RAY - Ok, delve deep into your darkest corners here….tell us a story from the story of MATT EBERT as a musical artist that is simply one of the funniest, weirdest, most controversial or disturbing things that’s happened to you in regard to this business.

MATT - HAHA yeah I got a few good stories, there's ups and downs....fights on stage...attacks by cooks in parking lots...noted female vocalist peeing on ....banned from 2 clubs and 1 amusement park. BUT I won't go into those.....but I will tell you any show that I 'm involved with will be entertaining.

RAY - Any final commentary for the readership?

MATT - I 'd just like to say that my cd is available for free on my web site and you can contact me there for new music and shows and pictures of my misadventures.

Well, what more can I say!? Besides being the undisputed King Of Lower Case making me as an editor realize I m not being paid enough to be an editor…J), he is also the author of one simply fantastic piece of work in “R & Bewilderment.” You need it. And it’s free. You know what the hell to do.