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Midnight: No Mercy for Mayhem

MidnightNo Mercy for Mayhem

(Hells Headbangers)

 by John Serba

Midnight’s formula, agenda, modus operandi and philosophy can be summed up thusly: fuck you. Its compositions consist of a half-dozen chords played by loose wrists, gangland choruses shouting outrageous nonsense lyrics and arrangements stripped down to either the skin, because nudity is fucking awesome, or the bones, because skeletons are fucking cool. The band is the perfect Motörhead/Venom hybrid, welding the former’s greasy, lubricated OTT-speedball rock to the latter’s great and dreadful dumbass slop. You can picture any palm-muted chug-riff brought to Midnight’s rehearsal space being immediately hung, drawn and quartered and fed to the rats. Its sound is also smeared with the grime of shitty punk rock - just enough to make it good, since punk rock sucks and is boring in execution, but needs to exist so it can influence things that are better than it, e.g., Midnight. I honestly believe stuff this amazing and filthy and crass could only be played by guys from Cleveland. In fact, Midnight sounds exactly how those of us from outside Cleveland think a band from Cleveland should sound: loud, pissed off, aggressive, mean and stupid as hell. 

Midnight is essentially Athenar - real name: Jamie Walters - who plays all instruments on studio recordings, and trots out some literally hooded stooges to back him up for its raucous, fist-pumping live gigs. No Mercy for Mayhem is Midnight’s second full-length in a discography apparently inspired by those similar in slop and fury, Japan’s Sabbat, or fellow dwellers in America’s Armpit, Nunslaughter: lotsa 7-inches, splits, demos, EPs and bullshit live albums. (Go ahead and try to collect ‘em all, asshole.) Debut album Satanic Royalty released eight years after Midnight’s inception, is a front-to-back ripper, 10 songs, every one of them nasty and hook-laden, ugly verses wedded to sticky choruses in unholy matrimony. It’s the perfect communion of Ace of Spades and Black Metal, a collection of concise cuts, no filler, no dicking around. No Mercy for Mayhem is the sister record to Satanic Royalty, which is a nice way of saying it’s the same shit, different album cover. This is not a bad thing. Not in the least. Motörhead’s zero-percent sonic progression over 40 years is an insane achievement in steel-headed stubbornness, and they’re revered for it, deservingly so. They have about six different song templates, if you give enough of a shit to split that hair under the electron microscope - and while you’re peering through the eyepiece, you’ll notice some microscopic refinement of the formula, so the songs are catchier, beefier, punchier, more effective and impactful.Midnight is on a similar track, and obviously, doing as Lemmy does means you’re doing things right.

After a couple dozen compulsive repeat listens, No Mercy for Mayhem shows the slightest hint of NWOBHM influence, not immediately present on its predecessor. Otherwise, it’s just hammers pounding nails into holes, and if that’s a sloppy analogy, it’s absolutely in the spirit of the record’s lyrical content, which is far beyond metaphor, far beyond civility, far beyond sense. “Evil Like a Knife,” “Try Suicide” and the anthemic title track are lethal spikes on the bat, superb combinations of hook and riff, their profoundly stoopid werds transcending commonality to become idiot poetry, a higgledy-piggledy tossed salad of heavy metal cliches strung together, as if Cleveland has its own colloquial usage of terms such as death, curse, evil, leather, destruction, darkness, apocalypse. Other standouts are “Prowling Leather” (leather doesn’t prowl unless it’s still attached to the animal from whence it derived), “Aggressive Crucifixion” (when is crucifixion ever non-aggressive?) and closer/CD-only bonus track “Destroy Tsunami’s Power” (beware, only madness dwells here). “Whiplash Disaster” is the buried classic, a one-chord Motörhead battery with a soaring and melodic extended bridge and solo - as soaring and melodic as brash, gutter-trash metal from Cleveland gets, anyway. Without exception, every track is efficient and powerful, and the irony is, one of the grittiest, nastiest acts in the American underground displays serious pop sensibilities in its songwriting. Blasphemy? Fuck you.

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SfB Podcast Episode 007: Terence Hannum

For this episode, SfB talks to special guest Terence Hannum of experimental noise group Locrian about the band’s new material as well as his own work as a visual artist and solo musician. Hannum was kind enough to share a few examples of his artwork as well as a track below from his upcoming solo record Via Negativa set to be released August 16th on Utech Records


Phase II | Cassette Tape and Magnetic Cassette Tape Coating on Panel | 51” x 51” | 2014


Abscissa | Magnetic Cassette Tape Coating on Panel | 20” Diameter | 2014


Sustain | Cassette Tape, Leader Tape and Magnetic Cassette Tape Coating on Panel | 24” x 30” | 2014 (PRIVATE COLLECTION)




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Bloodbath in Paradise: A Conversation With Belphegor

Austrian blackened death metallers Belphegor will release their tenth full-length next month with Conjuring the Dead. Though the three year space between the new release and 2011’s Blood Magick Necromance isn’t a terribly long gap between album cycles, it’s worth noting the band’s brief hiatus after vocalist/guitarist Helmuth was infected with Typhoid Fever shortly after that album’s release just three years ago. In the same fashion as others in the metal community who’ve looked mortality in the face and lived to tell the tale, Helmuth and Belphegor wasted little time in writing new music and returning to the darkness that first spewed them out over twenty years ago. SfB asked Helmuth a few questions about the upcoming release and how much of a role his illness played in creating the new material in this special feature interview. 

There were some challenges for you health-wise after the release of 2011’s Blood Magick Necromance, Helmuth. Did that experience of dealing with the illness and surgery influence you creatively coming intoConjuring the Dead?

Yes, it was a rough ride to get back with lots of setbacks on the way. It all started when I was forced to take a break for over a year as I recovered from both the illness and the operation which saved my life in early October 2011. I give my thanks to the doctors. I was 6 hours dead, only able to survive through machines and cables that went in and out of my body. A struggle with death..

I had to delay this new album a few times and work slower than usual. I could not play guitar for as many hours as I used to, which was frustrating. This experience did inspire some of the content on the new album, however. I worked harder on this than I ever have on any other release.

For the first time, my body showed me borders and how fast it can be that your life can fully change within a few days, or worse, how easily it can end instantly. It changed my outlook and lifestyle a lot, I have to take way better care of myself. I’m well now, though and it feels great. I’m able to shred guitar and front my band again! Working on this LP helped me to recover and it pulled me out of that hole that I was in.

I guess people that want hear extreme music will dig it and understand the Death Metal approach. Don’t want to end up as an epic or melodic band. It just was time to return to our roots and celebrate and glorify aggressive Death music. Conjuring the Dead sounds like like two machine guns fucking and firing together with full capacity.

 

 

Belphegor have been a band now for over twenty years, and during that time a great deal has changed with regards to extreme music reaching a much wider audience thanks to things like the Internet. From your perspective, has the exposure that comes with social media and the Internet undone a bit of the mystery and intrigue on which so much of heavy metal has been built?

I don’t care that much about social media. I know that nowadays it’s important for a band. I don’t waste too much time with it. I channel my strength into the Musick and things that I really like. I couldn’t say if social media has greatly affected our exposure. I mean, we are still consistent and true to our music, I think any intrigue will remain as we are very direct with our musical content.

It’s unreal to me when I look back on my band, my career. We worked, practiced, rehearsed hard to get the band there were it is now, never capitulated, always marched on and on, without compromising anything. The reward was that we were allowed to travel the world a few times, played hundreds of unforgettable shows, visited loads of magickal places worldwide, played with almost all the bands that I like and met so many interesting people worldwide, a pleasure and I am thankful for it. Yes. The sacrifices were worth it.

 

Looking back at 1991 and the genesis of Belphegor, what was your mindset coming into the band’s very beginnings, and how have you seen that perspective or relationship to the music you create evolve over time to where you are now?

At the beginning we wanted to create the most brutal sounding band on the planet. Probably like 100.000 other bands, hahar. Raw,  primitive, obscene and against all and everything. I guess we did it. Brutal artwork, obscene anti-god lyrics, aggressive sounds. We developed a lot since then, got better on the instruments, tighter as band, played hundreds rituals worldwide. We have never strayed far from those roots and Conjuring the Dead is proof of that. What should I say man, it’s great. Belphegor is still like a world war tank, rolling in worldwide.

 

 

The idea of “extreme” is constantly evolving over time with artists and musicians continually pushing those boundaries with regards to what’s “normal” or “acceptable” by societal standards. From your perspective as someone who’s obviously had a great deal of influence on extreme music today, how have you seen what we regard as extreme art and music evolve, and have you seen that affecting your creative process in any way?

I never paid attention to what everyone defines “extreme” as. Thing is, also the Death/ Black Metal scene is full of shitty attitudes and mainstream sounds recently. The rebellious brutal approach, the fuck you all attitude, resisted against everything went to the dogs, long time ago.  That’s how we see our role, to be different in this stale scene.

What anyone else thinks won’t affect me. I just do my own thing, walk my own path and decide for myself by my own rules, in my own world. Some people like it, and support us, what I really appreciate..and a bi/ hugh honor to me. Some hate it or are offended, all fine by me. I’m not a rotting priest who prays…oh, please sell my Cd´s. Fukk off to those marketing whore bands…

On the new album, you get all the trademarks we are known for. For me this is one of our brutal and strongest releases ever. We created some really complex, technical death tracks like “Conjuring the Dead”, the exalted “Rex Tremendae Majestatis” and “Legions of Destruction”. We approached the music more maturely than ever before. All was very serious this time because of my health issues.

 

 

Longevity is oftentimes a rare commodity with bands. In your mind, what’s been the primary reason for Belphegor’s ability to continue creating new and exciting extreme music over the years?

We dig what we are doing here. There was always passion for this kind of music and possession in Belphegor in all sorts of ways, and still is.

Next year, it’ll have been 20 years since we released The Last Supper beginning 1995. Each time when we start a project we try to challenge ourselves, get the compositions on the next level. We’ve changed studios, producers, tried new things – keep it fresh, it’s always exciting and the fire of passion to create extreme music keeps burning.

 

 

Where did your musical journey first begin, Helmuth? Was there a specific band or song or sound in your youth that worked as that initial creative catalyst for you?

KISS and AC/ DC were the reasons why I wanted to play guitar. Back then there wasn’t that many bands around. Later on the ingenious NWOBHM got my full attention, which I still really like. I’d say Belphegor at the beginning was mainly inspired by artists such as: Death, Autopsy, Mayhem, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Motörhead, to just name a few. Regarding Rock/ Metal, however you wanna call it, it’s music for the elite. I’m open minded, my musical traveling started with bands as Rolling Stones, The Who, Twisted Sister, Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix…and I still adore and listen to those bands, let’s call them “mentors”. Also classical composers caught my attention. We always have a lot of classical tones/ atmospheres on our LPs.

For example, on “Rex Tremendae Majestatis” we added a lot classical tones in the guitar department. The title is taken from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s last composition, before he died. He wrote “Requiem” in his deathbed. He knew he would die soon and that his time was up. The song has influences by this composition when it comes to the intensity of the atmosphere, the immense orchestration. I have to be careful with such statements, I don’t want to be, as often as it happens, misinterpreted. I’m not a composer like Mozart, he was a genius. This  track is exactly what I felt, which my aim was, as I started creating “Rex Tremendae Majestatis” and when I listen to “Requiem”.

"The Eyes" is a guitar intermezzo, you hear classic acoustic guitars and a lead guitar screaming over it. It calms everything down after the first five brutal sound collages, to get some breath and be ready for the next assault entitled, "Legions of Destruction", which destroys everything. With guest vocals from Mr. Attila Csihar of Mayhem and Mr. Glen Benton of Deicide.


 

How have you seen yourself evolve as a musician since that first moment, and what’s been the most significant point of growth from your perspective?

Each time when we start a project we try to challenge ourselves. Sometimes we are successful, sometimes not. I think this release is the one of our strongest in our discography.

As I started creating the new sound collages I had a goal.  I wanted to put some of the more epic elements aside and concentrate more to the point- direct and aggressive Death Metal with our trademarking obscure melodies. That’s why we decided for Erik Rutan as producer and tracked all in Florida.

Collaboration was just awesome, way better than I ever expected. He brought some ideas here and there, and motivated us to track ultra tight performances. My guitars never sounded that precise on a Belphegor album. If you turn the volume all the way up, it’s as if the band is in the same room with you and blasting the shit outta hell.


What lies ahead for Belphegor in 2014 as far as touring goes?

In Europe we’re concentrate on festivals for 2014-2015. We are doing approximately 20 open airs indoor festivals this year. Norway, Sweden, Jakarta, France, Germania are already successfully conquered. There is a lot coming on the map like Japan, China, South Africa. Always great to march into new territories, big challenges. Mid-September through mid-October we’re doing our 9th North American tour. First time that we headline a full tour in the US, I’m really excited about it. On the last tours we did some headliner shows here and there, and it worked good. So i hope ppl came out and attend those rituals. Rotting Christ from Greece, Beheaded from Malta and Svart Crown from France are also a part of the bill. At the end of the year, a festival tour through South America. Each Belphegor concert is a surprise, we are known for brutal stage rituals, and still celebrate Diabolical Death Musick.

Conjuring the Dead gets unleashed in North America 5th August, so it’s been three years and over seven months since our predecessor Blood Magick Necromance first saw the light of day. I hope people didn’t forget about us and will still support our legacy and check the new record. Metal soldiers are loyal as fuck, that’s a great thing.. Join the pit, conjuring the dead and go to hell with us.


Thanks to Helmuth for his time.


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Diabolos Biblos: A Review of Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s ‘Heavy Metal Movies’

Diabolos Biblos will be a running SfB feature focusing on literature inspired by and inspirational to all things heavy music. 

by Craig Hayes

Heavy Metal Movies: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos & Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big-Scream Films Ever!

By Mike “McBeardo” McPadden. (Bazillion Points)

Heavyweight books about metal aren’t in short supply. However, without a doubt, the reigning champion of all those thundering tomes is the one, the only, Metalion: The Slayer Mag Diaries. Published in 2011, Jon Kristiansen’s mammoth collection draws its riotous content directly from the pages of his celebrated Slayer zine, and Metalion isan exhaustive romp, across decades of metal. As a historical document, Metalion has enormous value, and the same can be said about Only Death is Real, Thomas Gabriel Fischer’s deeply personal account of Hellhammer’s emergence, and the early years of Celtic Frost.

Harald Oimeon and Brian Lew’s photo journal, Murder in the Front Row, serves a similar role too, highlighting the Bay Area thrash scene at a crucial stage in its development. Daniel Ekeroth’s Swedish Death Metal also shines a spotlight on the history of a particular corner of the metal world,in much the same way as Jeff Wagner’s Mean Deviation welcoming illuminates four decades of progressive metal. All of those aforementioned books offer indispensable perspectives on heavy metal’s evolution, and, of course, its sociocultural and musical significance. However, there’s one other connection that all those books share, and that’s the fact that they’ve all been published by Bazillion Points.

Founded in 2007, by author Ian Christie, Bazillion Points has published a phenomenal run of books over the past seven years. Many of them have perfectly captured crucial moments in the annals of heavy metal or punk rock, and one of the key reasons they’d done that so successfully, is that those books are authored by individuals who are wholly immersed in the noisy realms. There are no temperate observers of metal or punk in Bazillion Points’ ranks, and that’s meant that everything the publisher has released so far has also come with a strong sense of a shared allegiance.

 

That’s meant, much like our favourite underground record labels, Bazillion Points has come to be seen as a trusted ally. Fans of the publisher cleary respect Bazillion Points, because Bazillion Points clearly respects their fanbase. That’s why, before opening a page of Mike “McBeardo” McPadden’s Heavy Metal Movies, you could safely guess that the latest publication from Bazillion Points is going to be fan-fucking-tastic. And, as luck would have it, the ins and outs of fandom and fucking is something McPadden happens to be very familiar with.

McPadden’s lengthy time peddling smut for adult websites, filmmakers, and magazines certainly makes him a connoisseur of rumpy pumpy, and that’s clearly been crucial fieldwork for the vice and vulgarity he highlights in his guidebook to the wondrous world of celluloid nastiness. Still, it’s not all nooky for McPadden, he’s clearly also a dedicated fan of tasteless thrillers, crazed sci-fi, B-grade horror, debauched documentaries, R-rated riots, and over-the-top action spectaculars too. Because Heavy Metal Movies is packed with headbanger-friendly hijinks and crowning glories of filmmaking trash from across the spectrum.

The link between heavy metal and movies has been evident since Black Sabbath plucked their name from the title of an Italian horror film, and it’s been big screen bonding, VHS canoodling, DVD snuggling, and now, download one-nighters galore for metal fans ever since. Metal and movies obviously make for an ideal couple too, chiefly because metal is no stranger to taking bombastic theatrics to their nth degree. Just like many of the filmmakers featured in Heavy Metal Movies, many a metal band also shares artistic goals encompassing massive amounts of excess and exaggeration, even if, similarly, the budget only stretches to a few old leftover bones from the butcher, and a bucket of fake blood.

Of course, the clearest link between metal and movies is that both appeal to pernickety nerds, like me. Folks who love nothing more than a great big list to trawl through, and also happen to think that Mad Max and Manowar, or Panopticon and Planet of the Apes, are equally kick ass. I’d hazard a guess, if you’re reading this, that you might fall into that category too, and all of us, at some stage, would have experienced the same kind of soul-stirring epiphany that McPadden felt when he first saw the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It might not have been that same film — although, in my case, it definitely was — but somewhere out there is the movie that’s likely to have sparked the intoxicating realisation that music, film, and a heady sense of pleasure all occupy the same continuum.

That’s exactly the kind of ecstatic buzz you’ll find in Heavy Metal Movies. The book features the kinds of high-and-low-class filmmaking that tickles your gratification glands, and kudos to McPadden for no doubt risking an overdose of self-indulgence as he’s plowed through a gigantic series of films that would appeal to the metal crowd.

Gathered here are well over the 666 Tinseltown, Nobudgetville, and handheld shaky cam treasures promised on the cover, and McPadden shoves plenty of bold as brass, and frequently hilarious, commentary into capsule explanations of each and every pick. Overall, McPadden’s curated a catalogue featuring grim documentaries; slasher superstars; sword-waving barbarians; supernatural freak-outs; apocalyptic and dystopian romps; classic concert films; a zillion heavy metal cameos; untold stomach churning horror films; and plenty of other nightmare visions for the midnight crowds. His criteria for selecting films to include in Heavy Metal Movies boils down to anything that could possibly be linked to, intertwined with, or has a sniff of being associated with metal’s aesthetic archetypes. That means a diverse range of films appear, including many of the expected classics, like The Exorcist, Cannibal Holocaust, Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead, The Wicker Man, Halloween, RoboCop, The Road Warrior, Blade Runner, The Warriors, Caligula, This Is Spinal Tap, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, The Decline and Fall of Western Civilization: Part Two, The Toxic Avenger… and on and on and on it goes. 

McPadden spent three-and-a-half-years compiling Heavy Metal Movies, and lord knows how many other years just frying his eyeballs for fun, so you can imagine how thoroughly exhaustive an inventory of late-night cult flicks and a few timeless big-screen adventures are collected here. McPadden tops-off his capsule descriptions with category reference points, like demonic possession, necrophilia, sorcery, satanic panic, goblins, zombies, mutants, backwards messaging, haunted houses, and many more, just to underscore the metal connections too.

Some might find a few of the connections made in Heavy Metal Movies to be a little tenuous, but McPadden certainly stamps his choices with sound reasonings for them being included. Even his more well-known picks are still damn entertaining to read about, because of McPadden’s often irreverent descriptions of them. However, it’s the forgotten flicks, those missed foreign films, or those obscure, low-budget video nasties that are going to be of the most interest in Heavy Metal Movies. Thankfully, there are scores of underappreciated or unremembered riches of filmmaking to be discovered in the book’s encyclopedic pages. In fact, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to be noting films down from virtually every page.

It’s really McPadden’s utter obsessiveness in tracking down those lost gems that’s going to resonate with the anorak wearing metal fan in all of us, because there’s plenty of fresh movie meat to gorge on here, even for the most dedicated metal/movie gourmand. Obviously, there are also bound to be omissions in Heavy Metal Movies that are going to get a few of celluloid savants cranky too; but that’s no bad thing. Half the fun of reading customized compendiums like Heavy Metal Movies is knowing that they are going to provoke hot-blooded debates, and as metal fans, we do like a solid dose of ten or twenty of those everyday. That’s a welcome feature of the book, because while there are hundreds and hundreds of films to add to your must watch list here, any extra chatter about who is or isn’t here is likely to reveal even more hidden treasures. Win-win.

You can definitely mark Heavy Metal Movies down as yet another essential Bazillion Points purchase, because just like all the other superlative releases from the publisher, Heavy Metal Movies vividly highlights metal’s inspirations, and the genre’s widespread cultural influence. McPadden makes for the perfect tour guide through the world of crass and crazed celluloid wonders, and Heavy Metal Movies is hugely informative, and endlessly uproarious. Best of all, Heavy Metal Movies reaffirms what we all know to be true about metal and movies; that beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder, and that lowbrow adventures are often the most satisfying of all. 

                                   

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