Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rawk In A Place Called Richmond! The RPG interview!

RPG is a kick-ass rawk band from Richmond, VA. That may sound pretty simple, but you know what? It’s a pretty high compliment. Their new disc, “Worth The Weight” doesn’t give you one minute to take cover. Much like “Kick Out The Jams”-era MC5 or the real Acca Dacca with Bon, this record impressed me with it’s ability to simply beat me senseless with raw, no frills hard rock, front-to-back. Nary a ballad in sight and short on apologies to the mainstream, this is the sonic equivalent of a punch to the gut…with melody! Read my interview with lead guitarist/vocalist Matt Conner below to find out more about what makes this musical grenade explode.

RAY - You guys are from Richmond, VA. I can honestly say I don’t know a whole lot about Richmond. I went through it a couple times on my way south and what I could see from I-95 hit me as looking something like Baltimore. Christ, for your sake, I hope it’s better than that, as Baltimore has never been a great music city (a few good bands over the years). Tell us something about Richmond?

MATT - Richmond is home to lots of great bands, great people, great food, great drugs, great booze, etc. Basically the polar opposite of Baltimore. You can get anywhere in the city from anywhere in the city in twenty minutes or less, which is great if you deliver pizzas.

RAY - What on earth possessed you to all come together into the current RPG format with what seems to be the express purpose of creating an unholy racket like “Worth The Weight?” Hey, you know, it’s the old “influences” question in sheep’s clothing! Hell, even go back to your childhood. Might work as some sort of therapy, never know.

MATT - As a collective band we like music such as Silverhead, 45 Grave, Fear, Grand Funk, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, The Frogs, Pocket Fishermen, Spirit, The Wipers, The Saints, James Gang, Feederz and many others that we will keep in the holds of secrecy.

RAY - Does the name RPG mean something I should know about?

MATT - The name RPG stands for Rocket Propelled Grenade. It might also stand for truth, justice and the american way.

RAY - Is “Worth The Weight” your 2nd disc? I haven’t heard the previous one(s). Tell me what your impressions are of the differences, progressions, etc. from the last one to this one.

MATT - "Worth the Weight" is our second official release. The first one is titled "Full Time" and was released by Arclight Records in 2003. WTW is a little more involved as far as songwriting is concerned, but considering that it took us almost two entire years to complete as opposed to "Full Time", which was done in a week, we got a lot more critical of making sure that everything was the exact way we thought it should be. We really wanted to take our time and make a record that we wouldn't listen to later and think "Man, I wish that was different" or "I wish that wasn't there" or what have you. I think we met our goal. We may have lost our minds a few times when we were making it, but sometimes that's what you have to go through to get what you want.

RAY - Did you know that Canadian metal band ANVIL had an album called “Worth The Weight?” They had this whole thing going with alliteration, like “Forged In Fire,” “Metal On Metal,” etc. Think you might adopt this with something like “Richmond Is Radical” the next time?

MATT - Never really got into ANVIL, but love the homoerotic tribute band MANVIL. If we adopt anything, it will be children from foreign lands. These dishes aren't washing themselves.

RAY - I dig the whole vibe of “Worth…” but the thing that struck me the most is the absolute relentlessness of it. It just goes from one song to the next, without hardly any break, no time to think, no loss of energy. It’s kinda like a couple times when I was a kid, watching Muhammed Ali and he hit a guy, and as he was falling to the mat he actually hit him like 2 or 3 more times on the way down, he was swinging so fast. Obviously I have such pleasant childhood memories. Any comments on this or just relentlessness in general?

MATT - The name Rocket Propelled Grenade is no coincidence. It would be unfortunate to have a band named after a weapon that can blow up a tank making music that was anything less than relentless. Also keep in mind that this music is one hundred percent based on hate.

RAY - I saw a quote in some review about “Worth The Weight” online that cracked me up. It said something to the effect that they lyrics were surprising for a bunch of southern hair farmers. What say you on that one?

MATT - I'm glad the man that wrote that review was smart enough to figure that out. I've always been of the opinion that it's better to be smarter than you look. It's much better than being less intelligent than you look, which unfortunately is much more common.

RAY - In line with the last one, do you consider yourselves as having any connection to southern rock? Do you think southern rock is ever stereotyped unfairly? I’ve seen it connected with terms like racism, bigotry, old-boy ideologies, etc.

MATT - We are southern rock to the extent that we are a rock band that lives in the southern portion of the United States. Ever been to a Skynyrd show? Take a look at the crowd and you'll see why those terms are thrown around. Of course, those terms don't apply to every fan or member of every Capricorn Records release, but it's much easier to focus on the negative. People love blanket statements. They keep them warm.

RAY - Speaking of lyrics, could you take a couple of your songs and give us a little insight into them? If you don’t want to, that is understandable, I know some writers don’t like to do this. One I was wondering about in particular is “Joanne & Joshua.” The Soviet Union-Afghanistan reference is interesting.

MATT - "Joanne and Joshua" is an analogy. Joanne is to Joshua as Afghanistan is to the former Soviet Union. It's also quite similar to the myth of Sisyphus. Joshua would really like Joanne to accept his numerous advances, and even though he is a bigger, stronger entity, he just can't seem to make it come to fruition. He gets close, but the stone just rolls back down the hill. Not presenting anything new here, just putting it in an 80's context so kids with tight pants will like it. I hear the 80's are popular now.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Choice here. RPG is playing a kick-ass set at some dive and in walks A) Angelina Jolie and B) The President of Budweiser. A) Angelina Jolie says, “Matt, I’m done with Brad Pitt and I worship RPG. I want to go home with you after the set.” B) The P of B says “If you come with me after the set, I’m going to drive you to my office and give you a voucher for a lifetime of free Bud.” Which one do you choose?

MATT - Beer trumps all. Exept vodka.

RAY - The internet has made a serious impact on the music scene, according to a lot of people. What do you make of all this? What do you think of all the downloading, mp3’s, all that as opposed to CD’s, vinyl, etc. Is the physical musical medium as we know it in jeopardy?

MATT - The internet makes this whole music thing a lot easier. I think downloads are great because it levels the field tremendously. If you can get our record for free somewhere, do it. If you can get a major label release for free, absolutely do it. I honestly hope it brings the music industry to its knees. CD's will soon be souveniers you get from going to shows. Vinyl will always be the best way to listen to and visually delight yourself musically.

RAY - On a related note, what are your plans for the next project RPG undertakes? Are you going to go full-force into another self-released disc or are you going to shop anything to a label? Do you think that the “self-release” route is more attractive these days than several years back?

MATT - Most likely it will be self-released, but anything is possible. We all have a pretty hearty disdain for record labels and all they entail, although if the right situation came along we'd be willing to negotiate I'd imagine. We make music that we like to make; if there are people out there that enjoy it and like hearing it that is great. If not, the songs will still get made. If they don't, they'll get all wadded up in our heads and we'll end up killing people.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Do they still have these restaurants called AUNT SARAHS along I-95 when you head down into the south? If so, do they still have those games on the tables where you try to jump the golf tees and end up with just one left? Name a comical alternate use for the game board and golf tees?

MATT - Yes, Aunt Sarah's still exists, complete with those golf tee games. I'm pretty sure those games could be made into some type of marijuana smoking utensil without much effort.

RAY - What’s on the agenda for live work by RPG? Have you been to the Baltimore area? Please?

MATT - We play as many live shows as we can. Turn us on to somewhere worthwhile to play in Baltimore and we'll be there. Our efforts thus far have been unfruitful. We played the Ottobar with Ironboss years ago. It was less than successful.

RAY - Here’s one I always laugh about. They then usually put me in my “room” for awhile to calm down. Grace us with one of the most funny, revolting, hideous or just plain hilarious things that has ever happened to you guys, either on the road, in the studio, at a 7-11, whatever.

MATT - On tour in Albequreque, NM a few years back. We pull up to the bar with zero dollars. They said that we couldn't come in until they remodeled the bathroom. Being the resourceful, handsome young men that we are, we offered to do it for them for the paltry sum of two pizzas and two cases of beer. We demoed all the walls of the men's room and hung new walls just in time for the club to open and have a stunning rock show. Then the cops shot some guy out front later in the evening. There was also the time when we were on our way from Oakland to Salt Lake City on Easter Sunday and we got pulled over in Carlin, NV under the suspicion of being meth mules. It did not help that our drummer didn't have the registration for our van, but for a truck he no longer owned. We told the DEA guys that we liked Grand Funk and that was essentially our ticket to freedom. Happy Easter, Carlin.

RAY - Any final comments?

MATT - Don't Fuck With Us.

Sounds like a warning to me! But I think what you all better do, that is if you claim to be real bona fide readers of this here RAYSREALM site is to go to RPG’s site and hit it hard! Order “Worth The Weight” and crank it to 11 ½ because a finer slab of in-your-face, unadulterated rawk is pretty damn hard to find! And don’t fuck with me, either!


Saturday, October 25, 2008


LOUDMOUTH – “Loudmouth” CD ’99 (Hollywood, US) – You want to know something funny about LOUDMOUTH’s self-titled 1999 release? Seems that after it’s release, a certain well-known Bay Area metal unit was heard touting it’s merits far & wide. And…hmm…let me think….1999. Wasn’t that somewhere in between “Reload” & “St. Anger?” Pretty damn funny, if you ask me, that at their absolute nadir, the worst point of their career, they still knew what the fuck was good to listen to. That’s a belly-laugh! The only thing is, there’s nothing funny about this little hunk of plastic called “Loudmouth.” Granted, the cover art would never attract your attention. You’d skip right over that baby in a flip through any budget bin and in doing so, like myself, you’d miss a prime injection of pure hard rawkin’ metal. That’s what I’d done until my buddy Peacedogman chided me for not keeping my eyes open. Yeah, this is the goods from front to back, like if you jacked up a Les Paul through about 6 Laneys, squeezed the results into a syringe & mainlined it. Just take one of my personal faves, “Rats In The Maze.” Where the hell do you come up with that kind of riff and it’s one that somebody like Jimmy Page, Dimebag Darrell (R.I.P.) or Bruce Franklin hasn’t already authored? Well, Bob Fedderson found the motherlode when he put his LOUDMOUTH gang together for this album. Man, and just staying with “Rats…” what about that solo?! You know Tony McQuaid was rushed to the emergency room with friction blisters on his hand after recording the one…um…TWO scorching lead bloodbaths in this one, right? This is one of those albums that is not complicated, it’s not painted with layers of progressive shadings, it’s not something your girlfriend will sigh about, saying “Fedderson’s so sensitive!” No, right down to Bob’s throaty mid-ranged vox, this is the kind of record that is designed to do one thing: remove your face. The more I listen to this record, even today, close to 10 years later, it’s magnificent windows-down foot-up-your-ass power is undiminished by an iota. What are you waiting for, go find one in a thrift store near you for $1.99 like I did. I’ll betcha James Hetfield paid more for his copy than that. 10.0

NOTE: Bob Fedderson re-appeared in 2003 with a band/album entitled METALHEAD – “Metal Bands Only.” To be honest, it wasn’t on a par with the above-worshipped sucker but it’s still excellent straight-ahead metal & well-worth checking out.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's Words Worth?

RPG – “Worth The Weight” CD ’08 (Private, US) – Canada’s great metal defenders, Anvil, once had an album called “Worth The Weight.” RPG, on the other hand, has never had one called “Metal On Metal.” But you know what? That’s ok. Reason being, this one here is good as shit. Basically, this bunch from Richmond VA turn on, crank up and simply kick out the jams for a sweet 30 minutes of in-your-face, hard rawkin’ roll. You want subtlety? Go look somewhere else because this sounds like the bastard child of Bon-era AC/DC, The MC5 and maybe the best local punk band from your hometown who were too snotty to ever get signed. Interestingly, these guys are actually even better than all that because their singer sounds almost as much like Bon as Ogre’s Ed Cunningham and their lyrics have way more depth than you might suspect on first blush…read ‘em and see. Check out “(She Thinks) She’s Tough” and “Joanne and Joshua” as examples but don’t forget to duck or you’re liable to be decapitated by flying Angus/Kramer-styled riff shrapnel. Simply put, “Worth The Weight” is a top-notch hard-rawkin’ blast of energy and RPG has put themselves right in the middle of my map. They’re not only a band to watch in the future but one to get into right now. No excuses! 9.0

JOE BONAMASSA – “Sloe Gin” CD ’07 (The Blues Foundation, US) – I was sitting here, listening to this album and musing about how funny coincidences can be. I know, I’m 50 years old and I’m sitting around musing. So put me in a friggin’ retirement home, already! Thing is, I had just been chewing the fat with a buddy of mine about why Gary Moore can’t get the hell out of his rut and make a rock album for once, stuck like he is in the quicksand of his blues jaunt that he’s never come back from. Truly, I understand that Gary loves the blues, but damn! Ok, we get it! Problem is, the dude’s done the same album 20 times now trying to show us that. The funny thing is, as sick as I am of Moore’s forays into trying to re-invent the wheel, this blues record by JOE BONAMASSA has gone down real well with me. Of course, it’s the first disc I’ve ever heard by this New York six-string-slinger but, even so, there’s a freshness about it that I can’t help but feel in all it’s cuts. Interestingly enough, BONAMASSA’s work here, both on the guitar and vocally reminds me a good bit of some of the solo Leslie West stuff (another New Yorker) and that’s quite a compliment, considering the “Fat Man” is one of my all-time faves. Everything from the no-fooling-around “Ball Peen Hammer” and “Jelly Roll” to the more pensive “Seagull” & “India” bristle with a kind of rough-yet-loving edge that works so well. See, I think the deal is that while a guy like Gary Moore has a love for the blues, it may not be “him” per se. With JOE BONAMASSA, this kind of music is in his soul and consequently it flows out of him & into the listener’s ear like a nice “Sloe Gin.” I know…ouch. Good record! 7.5

THE KOFFIN KATS – “Drunk In The Daylight” CD ’08 (Hairball 8, US) – I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know a whole lot about horror punk, psychobilly, etc. Get me started on NWOBHM, ‘70’s hard rock, ‘80’s thrash or Celtic folk and I’ll take my chances with anybody, even Lars Ulrich. Still, I do feel qualified to speak on Detroit’s KOFFIN KATS simply because I know what I like when I hear it and I like this. First off, I like the fact that these “kats” come from Detroit, which from all reports has always been a pretty damn good rock & roll city. Secondly, the high-adrenalin punk vibe present here, from stem to stern, is real…refreshing, honest and invigorating. Certainly not least, however, are the songs. From “Storm Ahead” through “Battery Acid Baby” and on to “Our Faded Funeral,” the quality never dips although your head will be bopping & weaving & your toes will be banging to the infectious and top-notch hooks all round. There’s a gothic vibe to cuts like “A Vampire’s 2084” for sure, but this is in a completely cool sense, not high-school-ish I’m-so-miserable-leaching-off-my-suburban-parents-trendiness. In fact, this whole record, highlighted for me also by the demon-Elvis vocal stylings of Vic Victor and the friction-axe-burns of Tommy Koffin, is purely a no-holds-barred fun listen. Drunk, sober, day or night, you’re going to enjoy this one! 8.5

BISON B.C. – “Quiet Earth” CD ’08 (Metal Blade, US) – From Vancouver B.C. come BISON B.C. and there’s no question that their name befits their style. Crunching riffs dwell alongside guttural vocals and the occasionally surprising Iommi-ish lead overlays, all centering around the 3-part epic “Wendigo Pt. 1/These Are My Dress Clothes/Wendigo Pt. 2.” Still, not nearly as punishing as High On Fire nor close to the startling innovation of Mastodon, BISON B.C. currently reside in that middle ground also occupied by The Sword. It’s there that, without a real push toward more identity, these guys will musically languish. 5.0

AC/DC – “Black Ice” CD ’08 (Columbia, Aus) – Well, hot on the heels of Journey’s “Revelation,” we have another major label release available exclusively at Wal*Mart/Sam’s Club. Makes you feel all warm & fuzzy inside, doesn’t it? To be fair, as much as it made my hands feel a tad dirty, my purchase of said Journey disc awhile back yielded a very pleasant surprise: The AOR giant’s best effort since “Frontiers” and a record that’s been very hard to get out of my player. Has the result been the same with ACCA DACCA? Um…not exactly. If there’s been one thing about Angus & Co. over the last umpteen years, from “For Those About To Rock” on, it’s that their mediocrity can be counted on like an abacus. Through records like “Fly On The Wall,” “Flick Of The Switch,” “Razor’s Edge” & “Stiff Upper Lip,” the one constant has been a collection of songs that, for the most part, all sound alike. That is to say, mid-paced rock based around the same few chords, Brian Johnson’s increasingly appalling vocal deterioration and spiced up only by Angus’ alarmingly good leads. Does “Black Ice” continue this decades-long yawner of a trend? Well, to some extent. First, the surprises. “Wheels,” without any fanfare, is the best song AC/DC have done since “Back In Black.” This one includes the kind of chorus that would fit in with something as high-energy as “Shoot To Thrill.” “Black Ice” itself, saved for the end of the album, is a worthy title cut. While not even a patch on “Back In Black’s” namesake song, it still has a mean riff, meaner leads and stands out as one you’ll want to hear again. Moreover, there are also a couple trax that gave me pause as sounding like decent CCR numbers, which is as pleasing as it is odd. But, the fact remains that “Black Ice” contains some 15 songs and the majority of them, while not bad, simply blend in with each other. They see the band reverting to that tried & true formula of a few re-arranged bluesy power chords and Johnson, albeit sounding better than he has in awhile, dishing out very familiar vocal lines. So, what I find myself thinking about “Black Ice” (now into about my 5th listen) is that it’s a decent listen. You can put it on, nod your head to it and every great once in awhile, be a bit surprised by a bit of cream rising to the top. But if you want a classic, or even a great album, stick with the Bon stuff or “Back In Black.” 6.0

MARTONE – “Clean” CD ’08 (Magna Carta, US) – I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been really big on the so-called “shredder” genre. Sure, I dug Yngwie in the early days when those mystical Rising Force demos were making their way around the trading circles. I was even known to buy a Tony MacAlpine album or own a Vinnie Moore cassette or two, although I submit the latter has showed a lot more depth to his playing of recent years with UFO. And before you say anything, Uli Jon Roth & Eric Johnson are not shredders, they are Gods! Point is, when it comes to those studious looking guys with Julliard diplomas on their walls, PRS guitars in their hands and more notes than Carter’s got liver pills on their CD’s, well, I usually run the other way, deeply in search of the blusier guys with more feeling (see the Joe Bonamassa review). All that being said, when this here MARTONE disc came my way, I had to admit a bit of a pleasant surprise. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping on the internet trying to track down every slice of round digital plastic that contains the talents of guitarist Dave Martone (and apparently, he has several). I’m just saying that the variety here, running the gamut from full-on speed exhibitions to bluesy workouts to a few nearly bluegrass-inspired numbers is impressive and actually makes for an enjoyable listen. Joined by his band (Daniel Adair – drums & David Spidel – bass) and a bevy of guests like Joe Satriani, Billy Sheehan & Jennifer Batten, MARTONE manages to take a genre that I’ve had virtually no interest in and make it a worthwhile endeavor. Kudos for that, as this must be one of the best of the style. 6.5

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bump In The Night

I just threw this disc in today and was really getting into it...so much so that I decided to give it a good old fashioned bump, jostle and nudge right to the top. Read and rawk!

BLOOD ISLAND RAIDERS - "Blood Island Raiders" CD '07 (Inava, Eng) - Anybody remember the old NWOBHM battlecry, "Wwwwoooaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!!!!?" Well, this baby echoes those sentiments super large time. I happened to spy this little disc thumbing through a local CD emporium's metal section &, remembering a glowing review I'd read, plunked down the $12 it took to make it mine. Any regrets? Not unless you consider about a size 12 boot-print square in the forehead, laced with sometimes Schenker-esque lead shards piercing your eyeballs a bad thing...um, that's not a bad thing, is it? From "I Am The King" and "Demon" (Sheezus, what an opening salvo) to "Blade Of Vengeance" & "God's Breath Is Steel" (that title sounds like a collaboration between Paul Chain & Manowar), this is pure freaking English metal the way it's supposed to be done, peppered with some blue-collar American & leathered Swedish vibes as well without sounding derivative. In fact, imagine if Steve Harris & Glenn Danzig had some sort of run-in with Entombed behind a hardware store over who's getting the last air compressor. Yeah man, this is sweet stuff that is as fresh as it is getting better every time it spins in my player. The real deal. 9.0

Monday, October 13, 2008


WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND – “White Boy And The Average Rat Band” LP ’80 (Tradewind, US) – Ok, I know the first thing you’re going to say: “What the hell kind of a stupid name is that for a band?!” Hold your tongue, honcho, because this innocuous-looking record with the weird-ass name is probably a dang-side heavier than just about any in your collection. Doubt it? Read on. WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND’s only album was recorded at Magnum Studios in Richland Virginia (a state spawning great stuff right up till today, with Valkyrie & RPG among others). It was released in 1980 and features the following line-up: Mike Matney – lead guitar, vocals; Seth Kelly – rhythm guitar; Tommy Altizer – bass; Tim Gilbert – drums. It’s housed in a simple black & white cover showing 4 pretty un-threatening-looking dudes and a back displaying rather spare info. Hell, 1980, and you’re thinking “This could be a Cars album” were it not for the quote near the bottom: “This album goes out to all the heavy metal rats everywhere with all hopes of an alternate acceptance.” Even that, combined with the year in question, speaks of what might be a “British Steel” clone. Put this mutha on the turntable and find out just what a pansy-ass record “British Steel” is in comparison.

Side One opens with “Prelude” and as the minute & a half of shimmering synths plays, you’re still not sure what’s on offer. Tell me you’re not sure, though, when the 5 minute chunk called “Neon Warriors” comes blasting out of the speakers. Frankly, I’m not sure exactly what you call Mike Matney’s guitar tone here except to say that it is as corrosive and caustic as a 10 year old car battery, pried open, set on fire and poured into your auditory canal. The vocals are mid-ranged & throaty, fitting the garage recording perfectly and the lead guitarwork reminds you of Poobah’s Jim Gustafson sitting behind the controls of a car crusher at the junk yard. And then, what’s this to follow, “Sector 387.” Mounted with rusty screws to an off-time, neck-aching rhythm, the jagged guitars are this time laced with weird stabs of synth and vocals that could be straight from a Sci-Fi channel B-movie. The first side comes lurching to an end with the pumping metallic text of “Maybe I’m A Fool.” Why is it that the words “buzz saw” keep coming to my mind?

I know, I know. You keep looking at the cover, shaking your head, asking how guys this human-looking can create this kind of unholy racket. But you still go ahead and flip it over to Side Two, only to have your head removed by “Prophet Song.” This is 4 ½ minutes of super-fuzzed-out proto-NWOBHM hell that features one of the catchiest vocal lines available and would easily be the best song on most albums. But that honor for “White Boy And The Average Rat Band” is yet to come. In the meantime, the carnage continues with the shorter, albeit nearly-as-lethal “Leaving Tonight On Vacation,” in which Matney gives a prelude of his lead guitar tour d’force coming shortly. The best records often contain surprises that still fit like a glove and it’s here that this one unveils it’s unexpected turn, “Blue Moon.” A 4 ½ minute detour down into some twisted, dark Louisiana bayou, this track shows a whole different side of Mike Matney’s guitar playing. It’s a brilliant, dynamic-raising piece similar to Iommi’s inclusions of things like “Embryo” and “Don’t Start (Too Late).” And then, finally, the stakes get raised in a way that only happens on the best albums. WHITE BOY AND THE AVERAGE RAT BAND finish off their masterpiece with a gem-within-a-gem, the violently heavy skull-crusher, some 6 ½ minutes of molten lava called “Oriental Doctors.” Truly one of my favourite songs of all-time, this mid-paced monster is deceptively simple yet so goddamn heavy that you’d need a tow motor to lift it an inch off the ground. Between a few verses and readings of the super catchy chorus in which Matney laments a woman who “Needed a doctor, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could say,” he peppers the listener with seemingly endless lead runs volatile enough to cause internal bleeding. Seriously, my friends, this is one of the rare paths an artist takes where they make it to the top of the mountain. There they stand, holding a growling Flying V over their head, it’s cord running through a series of Big Muffs and plugged into a bank of Marshalls as far as they eye can see. This is simply the goods. Rare as hell, quirky as I don’t know what and worth every penny you’d have to pay to get a copy. Awesome! 10.0

Friday, October 10, 2008


U8 – “Pegasus 1001” LP ’82 (PPM, Austria)
U8 – “The Shaber” LP ’84 (EMI, Austria) – The thing I love about being into obscure metal and hard rock is that there’s always something to be discovered, something that has been buried for years that suddenly comes to light. Find it and you’ve got another cool album to add to your collection that stands on it’s own, with it’s own personality, style and sound. Every once in a great while, however, a record comes your way that goes well beyond being the typical obscurity. It’s the platter that not only is unknown and pretty good, but one that’s unknown and totally freaking amazing! Names like Winterhawk, Legend, Slauter Xstroyes, they come to mind – the elite of the elite, LP’s that are, yes, sacredly rare gems but are also as good as if not better than anything produced by the known masters. Several years ago, I came upon a situation like this. It’s one that takes things to an even higher level still, due to the fact that the band in question delivered not one but TWO collectible and obscure LP’s and both are awesome.

U8. A deceptively simply name, a letter and a number. Kinda like U2, only obviously one helluva lot heavier & better, after all, their number is 6 higher, right?! Anyway, a cool guy named Paul Rote from back in the old days sent me a tape of U8’s 2 albums many years ago and after playing it, I went on a quest to find these records at all cost. Listen as I explain.

U8 was from Austria, not a country known to be prolific in generating great metal or hard rock (although Gallows Pole is nothing to sneeze at…but that’s an article for another day). The band were a 4-piece, at the time of these records, composed of Gunter Maier – guitar, Erich Enzinger –vocals, Pter Werhan bass and Kurt Rumpf – drums. Their first full length effort was the strangely entitled “Pegasus 1001” issued in 1982 on the German label PPM (Powerplay Music, cat. # 400.152). This record has a classically primitive/obscure cover design. The black background is adorned by a simple pinkish-red drawing of the winged horse, Pegasus. To the upper left of the animal is the band name in block letters of the same colour and below, the album title. On the back is the same drawing in reverse, accompanied by the member’s names, song titles & technical stats. No band photos or lyrics are included. What is included is a barnstormer of an album!
Side One of “Pegasus 1001” opens with “God Of The Highway.” Instantly, it’s obvious that this is straight-forward world class metal. It’s nothing complicated, just kick-ass memorable riffs and slicing guitarwork courtesy of Gunter Maier. But this song, like “The Power and The Majesty” to follow, has the intangible element that sets it apart for me. It includes melodies that stick in your head and a powerful drive that makes you want to hit the open road with the windows down. Sort of like vintage Riot or Thin Lizzy, and yea, it’s THAT good. With the third song, the Sabbath-heavy “Sherpin’ Man,” another key element of U8 begins to emerge: the voice of Erich Enzinger. This guy is not an operatic wizard like early Halfor or the late David Byron, but just listen to his intensity on this song! A sick cross between early Klaus Meine and Nazareth’s Dan McCafferty is about as close as I can come. Purely original and wickedly cool. Side One closes with “Fly Away,” which, at nearly 7 minutes, unveils U8’s ability to stretch beyond typical song-structuring. Not lost among the changes and subtleties, however, are those all-important points – great melodies and killer riffs – the stuff that makes it rawk!
Blasting into Side Two comes “Straight Into The Night,” another kick-ass slice of metal/hard rock crossover. Speranza/Reale, Gorham/Lynott. Schenker/Mogg: they would all happily have led off any of their LP sides with a beauty like this. And, masters of versatility themselves, neither would they have minded authoring “Long Nights.” It’s a song that, while probably the least “heavy” per se, is still majorly cool in terms of melody and memorability. “Fantasy For Dreamers,” which follows, however, is an all-timer, something U8 would end up producing a few of before their days were numbered. It’s a heavy ballad, reminiscent of early Scorpions, that the whole band shines on. Still, as it metal’s nature, the vocalist and guitarist steal the show. Enzinger runs the gamut here, from pensive, quiet crooning over the acoustic sections to howling emotion when it gets heavy. Maier is on fire, his searing leads echoing the feelings dealt by Erich’s vocals. The saddest thing is that if this song had been given any airplay on the US FM stations that were playing Scorpions & Priest at the time, these guys would have probably become huge. Oh well…. Versatility is on the offer once again, as U8 switches gears for “Fast Driving Mama.” An up-tempo rocker, it reminds me quite a bit of Riot, circa. “Rock City,” with some more scalding guitarwork included. Finally, the album comes to a close with the massive title track. More akin to heavy progressive rock than metal, with maybe a little Wishbone Ash thrown in, “Pegasus 1001” is just one of “those” songs. Layered with lush melodies and ethereal lyrics, the vocals and guitarwork here are simply glorious. What a fucking cut, and with it U8 complete one of the hallowed obscurities of our time. The only thing is, unlike most bands who dwelt far beneath the surface, they would get the chance to do a 2nd. Incredibly, it would be even better!

Before we get ahead of ourselves here, however, it must be noted that around the time of “Pegasus 1001,” U8 also issued at least two 7” singles. Oddly (from what I’ve been told, as I only have the vinyl of the 2 LP’s) they both are composed of cuts from the album, and they are not alternative versions. Strange that there was not at least one non-LP b-side, especially with a band of this capability. Well, I guess we can’t be greedy!

We can talk about what was next on the agenda for U8, however. In 1984, they released their 2nd album, this time on EMI Records. This might sound like a great thing in that one may suspect such a label brought the band some exposure, at least in Europe if not the globe. Unfortunately, as has been seen in other instances, signing to a major does not always help. If the record is only issued in one country (in this case, Austria) and is not heavily promoted, with the band being sent out on a support slot with a bigger act…. Well, let’s just say they might as well have put this one out on PPM also, as today it seems just as rare as the debut.

U8’s sophomore offering is entitled “The Shaber.” On the front is a photo of a concrete floor with “The Shaber” scrawled graffiti-style in white and “U8” in a red box in the upper right. On the back FINALLY a group photo of the band is lain over the upper right corner and the songs listed toward the lower left. For some reason, this cover reminds me of about a hundred others I remember seeing in my travels through the metal import sections between Baltimore & New York in the early/mid ‘80’s. It’s nothing spectacular looking, just a sort of typical “threatening/heavy” design that would have blended in with all the others. I could easily see many people (including your’s truly) picking it up and thinking, “Been there, heard that” before sitting it down again. Of course, we all should know that a cover does not always represent the enormity of what lays within. In this case, that theory is borne out in exponential form.

“The Shaber” opens with with the rather basic cut entitled “’s I’m Ready.” Already the name of the song alone points out another thing I love about this band, their quirkiness. What the title means is that when you say “Yes, I’m ready,” you kind of gloss over the “Y” and “e” in “Yes” and the sentence comes out sounding like “’s I’m Ready.” Of course, it’s one thing for this to be just a part of speech but 999 out of 1,000 people would have simply called the song”Yes I’m Ready.” For these guys to have actually written down the title like that is just plain fucking weird and I love it! Musically, the number is a simple hard rocker with an almost AC/DC-ish feel, but the melodies injected into it by Enzinger’s vocals give it a life all it’s own. Of course, it just figures that U8 would follow this one with the 5 ½ minute “Song For A Lonely Werewolf.” I told you this bunch was not cut from typical fabric! Anything but simple or basic, this cut is one of those classic early ‘80’s metal epics, filled with twists & turns yet remaining totally memorable. The part where it begins picking up speed, like a steam locomotive, heading into Maier’s ripping solo is something out of a “Great Moments In Metal Art” textbook! Next up is “Out Of Control.” Shorter than it’s predecessor, it’s a mid-paced pulverisor, just heavy as total hell. There is a very odd thing about this song, however. It features a rhythm that calls to mind the guitar riffing in Budgie’s “In For The Kill.” Now you might say, “Ray, what the hell is so odd about that?” The weird thing is that on Hank Shermann’s (Mercyful Fate) side project Gutrix CD (self-titled, private ’97) there is also a song called “Out Of Control” and guess what? The main riff in it is also very similar to “In For The Kil!!!” Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Hank and by no means am I accusing him of intentionally copping a riff from a 13 year old album. But isn’t that weird, just the same?!? Personally, I just think it’s some kind of very bizarre coincidence and so strange that I had to mention it.

OK, OK, no I must address the last song on Side One and yes, I am dedicating an entire paragraph to it. A full page may actually be more of what it requires. Or come to think of it, if somebody actually could write a complete book about the song “Louie Louie” (no shit, somebody really did that) then what would this deserve? “The Shaber” is a 9 ½ minute epic that simply defines everything there is about the great band U8. I hesitate to say that it’s their “best” song because that can be such a misleading term. To say that it is their crowning achievement may be more appropriate. Opening with a ominous, slow drum beat and a demonically evil riff, the song finds Enzinger evoking a lower range than normal. The effect makes this segment nearly doom metal as he tells of this horrifying creature named “The Shaber.” Suddenly, U8 erupts inot a hard-riffing section which is about as infectiously catchy as it gets. In in, Erich pleads to be spared from the demon clawing at his door, “For the victims of The Shaber lose their sight.” I don’t know what “The Shaber” is, exactly, if this is part of Austrian folklore or just a product of some very creative imaginations but I don’t think I want to meet this thing any time soon! The band moves out of this butt-busting movement and slides effortlessly into a melodic, orchestrated part in which Enzinger is simply breathtaking. This is a mammoth vocal performance, and the hairs on my arms are standing up every time I hear it. Finally, the slow grueling pace of the opening piece returns accompanied by a blood-curdling scream and a hideous voice announcing "I AM THE SHABER!” as the number plunders to it’s conclusion. Whew, what a song! You may notice that during the discussion of this one, I never mentioned any massive solos by Gunter Maier. That’s because, believe it or not, there is not one traditional guitar solo within the nearly 10 minutes that comprises this cut! It’s a fact that puts this masterpiece in the unique company of another favourite of mine, also from Austria, Gallow’s Pole’s “In Rock We Trust” (which is also due for a Grand Halls write-up). In both of these, the respective guitarists exhibit their ability to rise beyond that of merely shredding machines and to the level of composers and musicians of the highest order. The creation of a song like this and the subtleties of his rhythms and chordal shadings make “The Shaber” a vast palette for Maier to display a deeper level of art than most metal guitarists ever dream of.

With the dawning of Side Two, U8 go back to good, old full-throttle metal with “Stop The War.” Maier overlays his rhythms for almost the entirety of the song with a biting single-note lead that emphasizes the driving power. Keeping the listener on their toes, the band next opt to cover the Led Zeppelin classic, “Rock & Roll.” While this has been done to death by bar bands the world over, I think it fits very well here. It serves to confirm a point that U8 so well understand: complexity is cool but you MUST have ideas that will stick in the listener’s head to be great. To further drive this point home, the band next unveil “Turn It On,” a punchy riff-rocker that, again, reminds me a bit of Scorpions, in the Uli days when they used to be truly great. Think “Virgin Killer” and some of the classic, memorable metal songs within it’s hallowed grooves. This is stuff on that level, not a copy by any means but worthy of equal status. At last, U8 lays their final gauntlet down with the mighty 7 ½ minute “Till The End Of The World.” Sort of a sister song to Side One’s lengthy ending opus, this is another complete classic. Beginning slow-to-mid-paced and laced with ominous lyrics about “signing the contract,” the song explodes and barrels home like a runaway train, Enzinger reaching a crescendo and Maier layering lead on top of lead. There is a point during this building, tidal onslaught in which Gunter inserts a chunka-chunka machine gun riff that brings me to my knees every time. It’s quick, only about 3 seconds of actual time but it’s the kind of flourish only the best bands think of and that only the elite among them employ with such impeccable timing.

U8 went on to record more material into the middle ‘80’s, cool songs like “She’s Already Ready” “Skyline,” “Touch of Fire,” “Sailor,” etc. Unfortunately, though great cuts, none of these reached the vinyl (or CD) stages and the band broke up in the late ‘80’s. However, brain trust Gunter Maier and Erich Enzinger have gone on to produce more cool music. Maier formed a band that played a scintillating mixture of power and traditional metal called (at their last formation) STYGMA IV who released several excellent releases, finally disbanding in 2005 due to their drummers debilitating back problem. All their discs (some under alternate, earlier names like STIGMATA IV) are worth hunting down. Erich Enzinger has been involved in several bands, including No Bros, Schuber, Speedy Weekend Band and Word Wild Web. I’ve got a CD by the latter and while no U8, it’s surely one of the most powerful examples of so-called “modern” metal I’ve yet to hear. People like Disturbed could eat their pathetic hearts out.

My conclusion, however, is simple. Austria’s U8 was one of the very greatest metal bands of all-time and their works are absolutely essential for anyone reading RAYSREALM. Hunt these down with no hesitation. This is hard-to-find vinyl, for sure, but worth every penny.
“Pegasus 1001” 9.5
“The Shaber” 10.0

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rock Mountain High With SMAUG

SMAUG – “…As My Blood Runs Cold” CD ’08 (Fire And Gold, US) – SMAUG is a character from “The Hobbit.” SMAUG is also a band from Colorado who are about as metal as you can get. You know what I’m talking about. Long hair, beards, Les Pauls & SG’s plugged into Marshalls & Laneys. And it’s only then that this debut album starts getting really interesting! 6 songs, and 3 of ‘em over 8 minutes. Skulls & axes & shit all over the place in the cover art. Ok! Now we’re talking! So shove the mutha in the CD player and let’s see what we’ve got going on here! Yeah, man…heavy-ass, chugging rhythms, powerful vocal screams & lead guitar out the ass…and that’s just in the first song, which is the only one under 7 minutes! Check out the next one, “Mind Hunter.” This sum-bitch is 10 minutes of all kinds of riffs, twisted together like the branches of a gnarled old oak. Hell, that one rhythm that comes up reminds me of Budgie and the leads go from a slicing Gibson snarl to a sweet, cream Strat-like tone. Dang, sorta like “Sad Wings...” when the minute Glen & KK traded off you knew who was who. A little bit later, this 7 ½ min ditty called “Negative Wave” comes wending your way and my-oh-my if this isn’t a metal-coated ‘70’s hard rock nugget supreme. Seriously, that’s tasty enough that Taco Bell needs to make it an extra value meal. I really like this debut by SMAUG. They’re as metal as fuck and they don’t mind reveling in that very fact. They also know how to write riffs, mold ‘em into long songs you can remember and they like to include lots of guitar solos! I could live off stuff like this! 9.0

And now that you’ve gone to the above address and contacted this bunch about getting their metalized rawk monster CD, read on for an interview I did with guitarist Jeffe & singer Alton.

RAY - SMAUG is a character from “The Hobbit,” if I’m not mistaken? Are you guys some serious Tolkien freaks? Or are you just freaks?

JEFFE - Yes, Smaug the Golden. However, it wasn’t a name we picked out of fascination of the Middle Earth Stories. I wanted to use the name because me and our old Drummer Ty were trying to reform our previous band IRONKIND back together. Of course, it didn’t happen. So me and him stuck together and wrote new songs. Then we were talking about The Hobbit one day and I was mimicking the Smaug voice from the old cartoon, and that was what we eventually came to agreement with as far as the name of the band. I’m not a die hard Tolkien freak.
I’m more into Robert E. Howard and his Conan Books as well as his continuation of the Chthulu mythos. August Derleth And of Course, H.P. Lovecraft.

RAY - I understand that you guys were in some bands of differing styles before you formed SMAUG? What can you tell us about that and how did it lead you to where you are now with this band? Wasn’t one of those groups called CATHETER? I had one of them once, damn, it hurt like shit!

JEFFE - I still do Catheter. It is funny that when people ask me of what bands that I play in, every time I mention Catheter, they always say “Ouch!“. But we have all been in Grindcore, Thrash and Punk bands Before. Smaug is a band that I always wanted to do but could never find the right musicians to do it. Most of my friends come from Punk and the Hardcore and Crust influence. So it’s been hard to find like-minded people to start up a Metal band in that scene. But we are all getting older now and we all wanted a change of pace by actually doing a band that has melody and rhythm. I have never lost my touch with Metal and have still collected Metal records through the years. It will always be my first love.

ALTON - I used to be in Forced Instinct with Jeffe....and later Aberrant. I've always loved metal but never had the opportunity to try my hand vocally, luckily Jeffe and I had jammed together before so he was willing to try me out for
Smaug....they've been putting up with me since!

RAY - If you didn’t get to this in the previous question, then humor me while I play the typical, vanilla interviewer for a minute and ask you about how you got into music, your influences, etc. To turn things upside down, also, was there any band, when you were coming along, that you said, “Christ if I ever do anything that sounds like that, somebody please kill me!”?

JEFFE - HAH!! Yeah, there was a decade when Cable TV was still young and VCR’s were the new format for recording TV. Being only 12 years old I usually wasn’t allowed to stay up at night and watch MTV and “Night Flight” when they showed all the metal videos so luckily, My older brother or sisters would record it. That’s one of the ways that I got into Metal. I had a sister that was really into Thrash and Power Metal in the 80's and she introduced me to a lot of music.
Then I had another sister that grew up through the 70’s and had a lot of bands like April Wine, The Sweet, Slade and stuff like that as well as my older brother. So I guess you could say that it was the older siblings that corrupted me. I can tell you that the first time I wanted to play guitar; I was watching MTV and a Dokken Video for “In My Dreams” was on. When I saw and heard George Lynch do the lead for that song, I wanted to get a guitar so bad just so I could learn to play that lead.

ALTON - It was the neighbors that did it... the babysitter when I was a kid was all into Motley Crue and Judas Priest...so I picked it up from there and ran with it.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE! Ok, Colorado guys…If you send a piece of mail simply to
Coors, Golden, Colorado…no other address..will it get there, like they say? Has Coors approached SMAUG for a major endorsement at this point? More pointedly, does their beer suck?

JEFFE – I kind of have my doubts about it getting there. And I’m not sure if I want to sell my soul to a Big Corporation. Plus I’ve heard those bands that get endorsed only get like a case of their product. Yet you have to put their banner up wherever you play. Well whooptee Shit!!. I don’t want any association with that bull. But that’s just me. And any Native of Colorado knows not to touch that beer. We know what comes in Rocky Mountain water.

ALTON - Jeffes' right Coors blows and Pete Coors is a fuckin hypocrite... buying his way out of DUIs and shit.... what a fuckin clown. We drink Pabst Blue Ribbon motherfuckers...

RAY - One of the first things I noticed when I turned the SMAUG CD over, aside from the cool skull thing, was that there were only 6 songs. I actually assumed this was an EP until I put it in the player and saw the times. The interesting thing is, the songs are constructed in a way that makes them seem nowhere near as long as they are. When you write, is this just how things naturally come out? Or, did you say, we’re going to show Rush & Metallica a thing or two? Or did you simply have a new stopwatch and a hankering to put it to some good use?

JEFFE - When we wrote those songs, we weren’t expecting them to be so long. That’s just how we wrote them. We were pretty surprised too. But also our music on AMBRC is not really fast either. So the structure is drawn out more. But, Just like you said, we looked at the time’s and we considered it an LP. That’s fine, I think my attention span for listening to an album clocks in about 20 to 30 minutes before I start thinking and doing something else. I like short albums.

RAY - Something I find interesting about what you do is that, while it’s pure metal through and through, other things come out & yet blend very nicely. For instance, the 4th track I think it was, “Negative Waves” had a real ‘70’s hard rock feel. Care to comment?

JEFFE - We are very much influenced by a lot of 70’s hard rock/ metal. I think that whole decade spanned a whole lot of bands that were just as great as Zeppelin, Sabbath and Deep Purple. They just never got the recognition. But even back at that time those bands were called Heavy Metal. So really it’s all relative, just that the style progressed into something different. For instance, Judas Priest. You listen to them from the “Rocka-Rolla” era up to “British Steel”. You notice a big difference in progression.

RAY - Another thing I like…freaking guitar solos! You guys have 2 lead guitar players and something I dig is the fact that you will each do solos in the same song and you can tell them apart! That reminds me of the old Priest days. You always knew if it was Glenn or KK. Spill your guts on this, but please don’t get anything on my keyboard.

JEFFE - Awesome!! Thanks for recognizing. I think it’s essential in metal to have dual guitar solos just like Wishbone Ash, Thin Lizzy, Maiden etc. Yeah me and Keith have different styles and I have always been a fan of dual leads. And I like to keep the leads old school like Maiden and Priest. It’s kind of like tag team wrestling if you really think about it.

RAY - With that in mind, can you give us the gear run-down for SMAUG? What kinds of ear-destroying stuff are you guys running?

JEFFE - Nothing too Fancy, I try to keep it simple and guilt free if I break anything. I have a Laney AOR Series Pro Tube Lead 100. And that runs 2 4x12 cabinets. For effects I have a Boss GT-6 floor pedal processor. For Guitars I use an Epiphone Les Paul Standard tuned to Standard B tuning. And a Epiphone SG tuned to standard E tuning.

Keith Has a Marshall 100/100 rack mounted tube head with a Marshall rack distotion processor. A BBE sonic maximizer, two Marshall 4x12 Cabs, a gt-3 floor processor. A Gibson Les Paul Custom from the 50’s tuned to standard B tuning and a Ibanez tuned to standard E tuning.

Ted is running a Peavey bass head through an Ampeg 8x10 Cabinet. A Fender P-Jazz bass in standard E tuning and a fender P-Lite bass in standard E tuning.

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: What do you rate Jay Cutler’s chances of being the NFL
MVP this year?

JEFFE - Hmm. It’s hard to say this early of the season. I think a lot of people
are expecting him to be.

ALTON - Who??

RAY - Is there a lyrical concept running through your CD? I ask this because the album begins & ends with “AMBRC Pt. 1” and “AMBRC Pt. 2.” I also ask this because I’m running out of questions. Just kidding.

ALTON - Well when I joined the band Ty already had vocal parts for Mindhunter,
Negative, Mother Earth, and Worshipper....Mother Earth was about the LOTR theme death by the steel....honour, loyality...etc. Since the band was named Smaug I went with that and Parts 1&2 are in the theme of LOTR... the songs are about the battle at Helms Deep.... feeling overwelmed by the oncoming foe, realizing that death is certain... you put your back to the wall, protect the king and vow to fight until your blood runs cold.....

RAY - At 50, my eyesight has gotten poor and with that in mind, the lyrics have defied my attempts to read them. So, (if you didn’t touch on this with the last question) are songs like “Negative Waves” & “Mother Earth” anything in the sci-fi direction or are they fantasy-type stuff? Or are they neither, and I’m just a dick?

ALTON - NW was written before I was in the band but I relate with the lyrics as I'm sure everyone else can as well. The track is about that person that is involved in everyone’s life, the people that are never happy unless they are putting other people down. That seems to be a serious problems in todays world. ME has the LOTR theme as well as AMBRC 1&2... the direction that I seem to be taking with the newer songs covers a lot of mythos, fantasy type stuff. I was always so into Maiden with the epic song subjects I wanted to go that route with the stuff that I got to write for the band.

RAY - I noticed that Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin makes an appearance on your disc.
I knew he was from Colorado, Jag Panzer & all that. Have you been friends with him long?

JEFFE - I have always been a fan of Jag Panzer since I first heard them. But he did the appearance in favor of our Producer. I have talked to him a few times and when I heard that he was going to make an appearance I was pretty excited. But mostly, I have seen them numerous times but don‘t have a any close friendship with them.

RAY - What’s touring like for SMAUG? Do you get a lot of gigs in the state of Colorado? How about further afield, how far have you guys taken the SMAUG attack?

JEFFE: We always get gigs in Colorado no Problem. It’s really easy to get gigs for touring bands here with us as well. Touring is something that we have planned if and when we can get a vehicle to tour in. But right now we have been broke. So we are pretty much focusing on writing new material at the moment. But once we get the van, I’ll be on the out of town gigging like white on Rice.

ALTON: The furthest that we've gotten at this point is into New Mexico...we played Albuquerque and Las Cruces. It was a blast and the band was well recieved, but like Jeff said we are vehicleless...any dealerships want to sponser Smaug?...HAHA

RAY - On a related note, is it a common-place occurrence at gigs for a blonde Colorado snow bunny to approach you, comment on the manliness of your beard and then offer to accompany you, post-show, back to the SMAUG van?

JEFFE - No, It’s more like the other way around. And all the snow bunnies here have beards and live in holes in the mountains.

RAY - On an even further-related note, is facial hair a pre-requisite for being a SMAUG member?

JEFFE - Well, I haven’t noticed until you just mentioned it. I only grow a beard
to cover my double chin.

ALTON - HAHA...Excuse me I need to shave.....

RAY - What is next for SMAUG? Any new songs written? Are any shorter than 8 minutes? Any longer than 20 mintues?

JEFFE - We almost got enough material for another Lp. We are right now working with a new drummer and are working out the kinks with him . We need a few more songs and we’ll hit the studio again. The new songs are definitely shorter and more faster, But we still try to keep the heaviness in there as much as possible.

ALTON - The new stuff fuckin brutalizes.....here's a quick run down...Antedeluvian: about the fall of Atlantis...Onward to Glory:a soldiers cronicles of battle....Aurora Borealis: a story about a crazed ship captain obsessed with finding the gate to the inner world, following the popular belief that the world was hollow and the entrance was located at the poles....Path of the Crow: if a warrior dies in battle and no one is there to leave coins on his eyes for the boatman, does the crow take him home??? Dragon People: from the perspective of the native americans as they witnessed the Vikings dock at their shores and slaughter their people....and another in the works that touches on the Knights Templar and the Masons..... and I do belive that they are all shorter than 8 minutes..... but well see.

RAY - Since your disc is a “self-release,” is that what you plan on for #2? Or are you trying to get signed (how ‘bout Cruz Del Sur?)? What are your feelings, overall, on the music industry, the future of CD’s/vinyl, downloads, etc.

JEFFE - Hopefully we’ll shop for a label to release the second album. Cruz Del
Sur would be an awesome label to be on no doubt ‘cause some of my favorite bands are on that label like Slough Feg and Battleroar. I think that vinyl will never die. It’s such a novelty anymore because of the layout and format is so big that you can see the detail of the art and photos. And all the added bonuses you get from vinyl like Posters, colored vinyl, stickers, patches and etc.. I think downloads are essential too because it doesn’t come with all that added things like CD’s and vinyl does. So it makes the buyer want to get the real deal. For me downloads are the incentive to eventually get the original copy. And hopefully for my sake they release it on vinyl.

ALTON - Someone needs to release this one on vinyl.....and the next one.....come on do it!!!

RAY - RED LIGHT CHALLENGE: Quick…the top 10 completely buried, totally obscure metal albums of all time:

JEFFE - I’ll do my best!

Darxon - Killed In Action
Nightshade - Dead Of Night
Manilla Road - Crystal logic
Ethel the Frog - S/T
Dark Wizard - Reign of Evil
Bow wow - Charge
Cirith Ungol - King of the Dead
Brocas Helm - Black Death
Loudness - The Birthday Eve
Sortilege - Self Titled

ALTON - Damn Jeffe your my hero!!!! You forgot Razor though....

RAY - Tell us an interesting, perplexing, violent, obscene or merely amusing story from the history of your time in SMAUG?

ALTON - We have to take the 5th on that kind of stuff..... Keith and I were on the way home from practice....we live in Denver @ 90 miles from where we practice.... we were smoking a joint and speeding...aparently cuz a cop pulled behind us. We tossed the J and pulled over. I couldn't find my insurance and we were going @ 20 over and the truck reeked like herb. The cop came to the window I could still taste the weed... I told him I had left the insurance card in the copy machine at work and he let us go, no ticket. maybe he burns too!

RAY - Any final comments?

JEFFE - Thanks a lot Ray for the interview. Look out for Smaug in the future, you can buy our debut CD on Game Two Records at www.gametwo.com. To check out smaug go to:


Email us at: ourhollowdeath@yahoo.com

Stay Heavy, Stay Metal!

What more can I say?! You love metal, you’ve gotta get this album. A band like Manowar can talk the ol’ metal game till they’re blue in the face, but SMAUG lives it, breathes it and IS IT!