2015 BEST LOCAL LIVE PERFORMANCE WINNER: MINX -

(originally published 12/15/15 13:47 MST)

This year’s 2015 UandU Best Local Live Performance (Non-Metal) Award Winner is MiNX and their performance at the 2015 Utah Dark Arts Festival!

Congratulations!

Below is the original review that was written about the event to fully illustrate why this band was so amazing. From the great musical presentation, to a visual presentation that was second-to-none, their show was enthralling and enticed me to check them out again since then.

Up first was MiNX. A two piece composed of vocalist Ischa and guitarist Raffi. They started the night out in a most deliciously twisted way. Their music was heavy electronica with the guitar being more of a textural component, yet still audible in the mix and definitely completed their songs, much in the vein of Peaches meets Divine. Lyrically, all of the songs told a story that accompanied the film they had playing behind them during their set. Immediately, the cohesion of most of the performing acts that night began to take shape, incredible eye-candy. The outline of the story involves a hooker: One day while at “work,” she meets a John and falls in love. She then meets a second John who beats her badly. She kills him accidentally, steals all of his cash, and then buries him. She takes all of the money to the first John in an attempt to win his heart. Things don’t go as planned, I can assure you. If you want to see what happens next, head over to http://minxband.com/videos. Trust me, it’s worth your time, not only for the movie, but also for the ability to hear the music for yourself and know what I am telling you is the truth … this band is flat-out bitchin’. Their song “Eleven,” was definitely my favorite and a great example of their sound, but most importantly, it introduces you to the amazing vocal talents of Ischa. She may be small, but she has a HUGE, soulful voice. Not only that, but she put every bit of her heart on that stage. Because of her performance, I had to go home and watch the video again. I could NOT take my eyes off of her. The band is amazing and she is a star.

A few months after this performance, I got to speak to the band, and here are a few excerpts from that piece illustrating what makes this band tick -

MiNX was formed a few years ago when vocalist/art director Ischa and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Raffi broke off from a band they were currently in together at that time to put together a complete entertainment package. "The presentation in general is such a ... it's not even something I think about, it's something that just happens" says Ischa. "We build [our shows] with cardboard and wood, we build with computers and digital effects." She says that if the entire package that is MiNX could be described in three words, it would be: "very raw, creative." 

This level of commitment to their art has certainly paid some very impressive dividends over the last three months. Since September of this year, MiNX has performed their entire concept album "Together Forever" concept album (complete with movie) from start to finish at the 2015 Utah Dark Arts Festival (as reviewed above), played two shows in New Orleans, taped a performance for Park City TV, and singing the national anthem at Rio Tinto Stadium before a Real Salt Lake home game. 

MiNX can be caught the first Friday of every month for Ladies Night at The Woodshed in Salt Lake City. It's a show that is a total blast, and shouldn't be missed!

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CANDY'S RIVER HOUSE CD RELEASE @ THE URBAN LOUNGE; 12/09/15 SHOW REVIEW - 

(originally published 12/13/15 15:33 MST)

Having witnessed and reviewed Crook & The Bluff before (http://www.slugmag.com/show-reviews/timmy-the-teeth-urban-lounge-0516-with-tvskgypsy-cab-crook-the-bluff-ruru/) - which led them to being awarded the 2015 UandU Best Live Performance (Non-Metal) Honorable Mention, but by also having replaced one member of the group with two from another band (Electric Cathedral), I felt that it would be appropriate to see them perform again.

Taking place on December 9th, 2015 at The Urban Lounge, the event was put together to celebrate the release of headliner’s Candy’s River House new album “Another Night.” With a complete lineup including Candy’s River House and opener’s The Weekenders and Crook & The Bluff, it was a night that was geared to those who are a fan of blues-based rock.

Setting the mood was Crook & The Bluff. With a new lineup of lead vocalist/guitarist Kirk Dath, drummer/vocalist Sarah DeGraw and newcomers guitarist/vocalist Ryan Arnold and bassist/vocalist Kevin Schultz, I can say, without reservation, that they took an already magnanimous sound and made it fuller and somewhat heavier. With the smoke machine and some intense lighting effects, these guys were the kings of atmosphere in the stage presence department. Their trademark spacey, blues-rock sound is even more intensified with the new musicians. I now believe that their musical depth now matches their visual presentation. The band was tight and firing on all cylinders throughout the set. What impressed me the most was when they ended their show with a new song called “Wah-Weep.” It showcased the parts of both bands that I loved—a dancing bass line with an up-tempo back-beat combined with blues guitar that would tread into the arena of funk—in a seamless transition. Something that I hope is a glimpse of the future output of this group. Kudos!

The Weekenders continued the vibes laid out by Crook & The Bluff. They did have a lot of the same base construct to their music, but these guys had a lot more edge. They reminded me of a heavier, and somewhat progressive, rock version of The Black Crows. With vocalist/guitarist Rob Reinfurt, bassist Mike Torgerson, drummer Shaun Thomas, and lead guitarist Mike Sasich, there was not a weak link to the group. The most compelling part of their music was the amount of melodic textures that were present between the guitars of Reinfurt and Sasich. One would play open chords as a rhythm while the other would put heavily affected arpeggiated chord progression that added to both the music itself and the texture of the set. There were times with the effects and textures would remind me of some of the tricks heard on many of The Beatles records. My personal favorite song of the night was “20 Armed Men,” a song which was based on a true event that happened to one of the members. I was sucked in by the uplifted chorus and the lead guitar work on the track is stunning. This is a band I will look out for in the future.

Candy's River House is a great band to have a couple of beers to, open up the windows to the front of your home, and share the music of this great southern-influenced rock band with EVERYONE (including the dead). What's great about them is their party atmosphere of the 70's rock bands that's meant to get an entire crowd to the front of the stage while floating their cares away ... which is exactly what happened. There are about 20 or 30 bands I could compare them to, but they had a sound reminiscent of a Molly Hatchet (minus the Kermit The Frog vocals) meets Golden Earring. A lot of groove and heavy rock vibe in both their music and energetic performance. What was really entertaining during their set was when vocalist/guitarist Jordan Young brought out a four-string electric cigar-box guitar that was made of steel, and played it using a slide. The metal instrument really added a gritty tone to their sound that I liked a lot. Young played it with incredible precision and feel. Playing both newer and older material, there wasn't a song that I didn't think fit the bill perfectly. 

This was a great show that not only got me in touch with a favorite band that I hadn’t viewed in a while, but it also introduced me to a few new contenders for next year’s awards.  

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2015 BEST LIVE PERFORMANCE (NON-METAL) WINNER: ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA! WITH HONORABLE MENTION WINNER: THAT 1 GUY - 

(originally published 12/11/15 13:54 MST)

From December 2014 through November 2015, I had the pleasure of reviewing over 100 bands for various publications, with over 120 show for the year. After being exposed to so much talent, I decided to highlight a few of those artists who I felt really brought something special to their performance or recordings, and wanted to acknowledge those artists that are truly exemplifying why underground music is some of the best in the world.

So far, Underground and Undertow (UandU) Music has given out all of the metal-based performance awards. It’s time to shift focus as today UandU is proud to give out the award for the 2015 Best Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Non-Metal) to:

Zappa Plays Zappa and their performance at The Depot on April 24th, 2015!

Congratulations!

Although it was an extremely close race between this show and the Honorable Mention winner below, it really came down to the Zappa show had more of a performance based set. Musically, both were amazing. I have included the original review of the Zappa Plays Zappa show to exemplify why the music of this legend, played by an extremely talented group, stood above all the others to gain the title this year. Great job!

Zappa Plays Zappa @ The Depot! -

Since the first play-back of music on an audio-recording device in 1887, I believe there have only been three true "musical geniuses": Devin Townsend, Buckethead, and Frank Zappa. Yes, only three in over 125 years. The reason is simple: I don't toss the word genius around when it comes to music, my qualifiers are pretty harsh to be considered. Listed below are my qualifiers for genius listing and I believe that an artist must hit at least four out the five.

First - Artists must write, perform, record, and produce AT LEAST 95% of their own music, not just the lyrics.

Second - An artist must have released an album or have had a large portion of their musical catalog be comprised of at least four DISTINCT genres. If they play thrash metal as their primary genre, death metal doesn’t count as a second. It would have to include, but not limited to, the stylings of jazz, country, classical, and/or metal.

Third - Artists must have released AT LEAST 20 different studio albums.

Fourth - An artist must have produced at least two artists other than themselves.

Fifth - Artists must know how to read and write sheet music proficiently. Unfortunately, this means that everybody's favorite musical genius, Kanye West, and his utter brilliance would not be included. I'd be surprised if he fits into even two of the above-mentioned categories ... but I digress.

Suffice it to say, when I found out Zappa Plays Zappa was coming to Salt Lake City, and that Dweezil Zappa and his ensemble would be playing the entire "One Size Fits All" album (which also happens to be my number one favorite FZ album in his discography); I was first in line at Smith's Tix to get my pass to this night of musical brilliance.

Honestly, there are not too many things in life that can compete with hearing some of the most difficult music ever written and played by a group of incredibly talented musicians. Scheila Gonzalez (vocals, keyboards, flute, saxophone), Ben Thomas (vocals, hand percussion, trombone, harmonica, rhythm guitar), Chris Norton (vocals, keyboards), Kurt Morgan (bass, vocals), and Ryan Brown (drums) joined Zappa on stage and played with such unity and precision that you would be forced to believe that they were paid like they were in a professional orchestra.

From the opening notes of "Inca Roads" to the last goodnights of "Muffin Man," Zappa and his band had the entire audience under their spell. Zappa mentioned that he too, was under the spell of the audience by letting us know, on multiple occasions, that we smelled like "donuts." He spoke of how Salt Lake City had the most diverse age-range of any city that they had played so far, making it the most energetic by far. This was certainly reciprocated by the band and their performance. At various points in the show, it was not uncommon to see Gonzalez, Thomas, and Morgan breaking into dance while playing their instruments with huge smiles. Everybody in the band was sporting grins through most of their performance.

"Who Needs The Peace Corps?," "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama," and "The Grand Wazoo" were all highlights, especially the last song during which Gonzalez broke into an extended saxophone solo that took the already epic piece to even greater heights. As much as I love and admire Zappa and his fathers' material, Gonzalez stole the show with her prowess. There was one point where she had one hand on a saxophone and the other on her keyboard, playing both simultaneously. It's hard living in a world where one has to fashion reasons why such talent is so grossly underrated.

Although there are no inclinations to play "One Size Fits All," or any other albums in their entirety after this tour, I can promise you that no matter what the setlist is, the Zappa Plays Zappa troupe are always on the road. It is a show that combines humor, wit, and incredible music with a huge amount of fun. As a fan, I cannot thank Dweezil Zappa enough for keeping the legacy of his father alive. I hope that not only he, but you as the reader, have the opportunity to cross paths during one of his shows. It will be one you'll never forget.    

The Zappa Plays Zappa tour is one that is always on the road. I’m unsure of their plans for 2016, however I can guarantee you that whatever setlist they choose, it will be one of the most impressive musical events you will ever witness.

The 2015 Underground and Undertow (UandU) Music Best Live Performance (Non-Metal) Honorable Mention goes to: That 1 Guy and his performance at The Urban Lounge on March 22nd, 2015!

Congratulations!

The number one thing heard among those who are witnessing That 1 Guy (a.k.a. Mike Silverman) for the first time goes something like this: “My God! How is it that not everyone in the world knows who this guy is?” Followed by: “He’s AMAZING!” This is a question that I have asked myself every time I had the opportunity to see him perform; his is a show brimming with talent and tons of fun.

With various common items like a boot, saw, and a giant 7-foot pipe with various trigger points that either play a sound or beat (all made with his hands and ingenuity), his eccentric musical and rhythmic instruments play heavy funk and dance influenced music. The lyrics are about everything from aquatic life to coffee beans. You often find yourself asking “What’s next?”

Playing a set that included songs like “Whale Race” and “Infinite Depths at the Bottom of the Sea,”—both taken from his latest release, 2014’s “Poseidon’s Deep Water Adventure Friends”—Silverman was able to set a perfect, oceanic feel. Because he decided to forego a larger, more visual production (in reality, watching him jump around and flail about in order to perform all of his music unaccompanied) it allowed the audience to focus on the nuances of the music, especially the lyrics.

Debuting the new track “Bomb Dignity” and playing fan favorites like “Buttmachine” and “Mustaches,” there was never a moment when a booty wasn’t on the dance floor shaking; through dancing or the occasional eruption of laughter from the crowd brought about by the upbeat and occasional silliness of Silverman’s prose. Taking his musical abilities and letting them shine while he played the saw during a cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” allowed everyone to see that they were dealing with a seriously talented musician at the core, and definitely not one to be taken lightly.

By the end of the final notes of his cover of Cameo’s “Word Up,” there wasn’t a single person who left without either a smile or an opportunity to talk to Silverman, he stayed at his merch table and spoke to every single person who was in line … a true class act and one that I can guarantee will provide you with the funnest night of your life.  

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH WRITER/MUSICAL ICON HENRY ROLLINS -

(originally published 12/08/15 11:58 MST)

One of the great things about music is how transcendent it is. How vibrations in the air can ring true to people of every color, nationality, and creed while breaking through any and every possible dialect to connect one human to the other. As obscenely and impossibly romantic as that all sounds, it’s true. One of the things that’s important to the sustainability of underground music is that we should not only look in our backyards for talent, but to also look for talent in the farthest reaches of the globe. UandU Music felt that the most appropriate person to discuss such matters with was an icon—writer, performer, actor, musical legend—who has travelled the world more times than just about anyone I have ever known, Henry Rollins, and asked him a few questions about the state of the world of underground music from a global perspective. As much as I wanted to put together some lengthy, overly-poetic diatribe (much like the one used above), the answers given by Rollins are too good by themselves to cut, or reprocess. I will say this though: there is definitely an entire universe of music out there that I will be geeking out on over the next couple of months.

UandU Music:  I know you travel to many countries and have stated previously that you like to check out the local record shops for new music. In the US, there has been a huge decline in the number of record shops left (20 years ago, Salt Lake City had over 20 record stores, now we have maybe one-fourth of that). Is this something that you’ve seen in other countries, or is it vastly different and much easier to locate record stores worldwide?

Henry Rollins: I have noticed that all around, there are less record stores. As far as I can tell, less so in Europe. Also, a lot of the European stores are not online. I asked a couple of owners a few years ago and both basically said that they want you to come into the shop, see the record and buy it. It seemed that the idea of selling something from a website was anathema to them. I really like this ethic, as much as I buy records online, I like the idea that there are some stores that you can potentially pull out something really special. More and more, that is happening less and less, for me at least.  

U&U: I recently viewed the documentary called “Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam” and was fascinated to see their interpretation of punk music. Are there any other countries or musical movements elsewhere that have taken a style of music (not punk specifically), and shaped it in a unique way that has caught your attention? 

HR: The one example that comes to mind was from a recent trip to Chile. In Santiago, I found out there is a big Psych scene there. I ended up getting a bunch of records that are really great. Before I had gone there, I had never heard of any of these bands. Chicos de Nazca and La Hell Gang stand out. Some of the bands have records out through Sacred Bones and Mexican Summer but a lot of the records are damn hard to find. If I would have known that I was going to like this music so much, I would have purchased more of these records. I think what is interesting is that some bands find their way to alternative music but the records they listened to growing up are not the ones you would have thought would have gotten them into a punk or indie band. You hear some hard music from somewhere that sounds like it’s [Frank] Zappa doing it, but you find out that the main songwriter was raised on his father’s Zappa Records when he was growing up in Belgrade. 

U&U: Since this is a site dedicated to a large variety of different styles of music, are there any genres that may not be widely known in the US that you think would appeal to an open-minded audience?

HR: None that I can think of. This is probably because there is a ton of music happening that I am not aware of. There are probably a lot of artists that are not all that well known but that’s where the internet really works. There is a lot of stuff happening in Japan, avant stuff, like what Hisato Higuchi, Suzuki Junzo are doing. Their records are not all that easy to find. Most of the time, I mail order the records from the artist. There are bands and artists from all over the world that don’t fit into genres all that easily. Uton and a ton of other stuff out of Finland, Vlubä, Asian Women on the Telephone, There are so many amazing groups and artists way out there. It’s all on the internet, if you’re truly curious, you have no good excuse. 

U&U: The holidays are around the corner. Many countries celebrate each holiday in their own, unique way. However, many cultures have certain types of music that are prevalent during this time of year. What are some genres that are big in other countries that immediately put you in a holiday mood (good or bad)?

HR: I’m not a holiday / Christmas person. However, I heard some wicked percussion jams in Uzbekistan last December at a wedding I went to. Those guys were killing it.

U&U: As someone who is extremely busy, if you are going to an area where you aren’t overly-familiar with the local tastes and musicians, do you ever vet bands in an area, or do you just show up and start talking to people to get an idea? And is this a methodology that you would recommend to anyone traveling?

HR: Anywhere I go, I am looking for the record store. I am in Argentina today. I will be out later looking around. I look at all the music posters, I ask questions, whatever I can do to hear something that might be cool. It’s slightly random but it seems to get me in touch with a lot of music. Sometimes, it’s happening on the street, which is always cool.

U&U: One of the trademarks to the early punk movement was the DIY ethos. Now with technology being what it is, along with its widespread availability, do you see this as a positive or negative? Does it allow those with true musical talent to have opportunities to create art that is utterly amazing, or does it allow those who are mediocre at best to flood the world and make it more difficult to come across quality music?

HR: I think it’s both. It is true that there is a ton of mediocre material, but there has always been. On that front, it doesn’t help that it’s easier for the blah material to get out there. But I think it’s great that at least people are making art. It doesn’t all have to be great. The world is a better place with more music in it, even if it’s not all fantastic. It’s one of the upsides of the internet. I get sent some really sub-par material, but it’s better that people are motivated in that way.   

Rollins new book, “Before The Chop II: LA Weekly Articles 2013-2014,” is available now at all fine booksellers. He will be on tour from January 4th, 2016 to February 14th, 2016 hitting most of Europe, and a few dates in the states, including two special shows on 12/11/15 and 12/12/15 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. If you have never seen Rollins and his spoken word performances, I implore you to do so … it will be three hours of the most fun you will ever have in your life.

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THE 2015 BEST LIVE PERFORMANCE (METAL) WINNER: KING DIAMOND! WITH HONORABLE MENTION WINNER: WATAIN -

(Originally published 12/04/15 19:00 MST)

From December 2014 through November 2015, I had the pleasure of reviewing over 100 bands for various publications, with a grand total of over 120 show for the year. I have also reviewed over 50 albums for various publications, press releases, biographies, etc. Not to mention the number of albums I would stream after being introduced to a new band through a live performance. After being exposed to so much talent, I decided to highlight a few of those artists who I felt really brought something special to their performance or recordings, and wanted to acknowledge those artists that are truly exemplifying why underground music is some of the best in the world.

So far, Underground and Undertow (UandU) Music has given out the award for the 2015 Best Local Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Metal) to: Wulf Blitzer/Drunk As Shit. Today UandU is proud to give out the award for the 2015 Best Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Metal) to:

King Diamond and his/their performance at The Complex on October 31st, 2015!

Congratulations!

Below I have included the original review of that show to exemplify why this metal legend stood above all the others to gain the title this year. Great job!

King Diamond @ The Complex!

(Originally published 11/02/15) -

During the change of the stage setup from Exodus to King Diamond, I paid close attention to see how it would be modified from the infamous 2014 tour. Diamond has said in recent interviews that the 2014 production was his largest, yet he was going to make it even bigger this year along with a slightly modified setlist from the last tour. Really, the only difference to the stage—a large two-tiered affair with stairs on both sides of the drummer, giant mirrors immediately flanking the drummer before the stairs that were adorned with giant gargoyles on their tops, as well as lanterns being placed on the stairs—was in the gargoyles and lanterns. Everything else from the backdrops that would change after every few songs, to the giant illuminated sigil of Baphomet hanging behind the second tier with illuminated upside-down crosses on each side was the same as the last tour. So having seen the 2014 tour … it was nice seeing some of the changes, but it really wasn’t so different as to tout it as really anything new. With that said, the entire stage design worked perfectly for the mood and atmosphere that was set, as when the lights finally went down and the band hit the stage, you could clearly tell you were in his world.

The show began with a seven-song set that had some of the songs as the last tour, including fan favorites like “Welcome Home,” “Time For Tea,” and “Sleepless Nights.” But it was the new songs to the set that got the audience REALLY going. “Halloween,” and “The Spider’s Lullabye” were both greeted with much fanfare, but the largest response came when the band performed the Mercyful Fate classic “Melissa” in its entirety—which was also given a visual treatment when a priest put a woman playing “Melissa” on a large circular lighting system with smoke underneath that when lit, made her look like she was burning alive, bringing the songs’ lyrics to life. After finishing “Come To The Sabbath” the band walked offstage for a moment as the roadies prepared the stage for the main attraction, hearing the “Abigail” album from start-to-finish as well as having various actors and actresses bring the story of Abigail to life.

Over the next hour the audience was treated to a complete experience. Telling the tale of Abigail, a baby who was cursed and put to death at her birth, only to come back later as a living entity when the main female of the story, Miriam Natias, becomes pregnant with the reincarnated body of Abigail. The story twists and turns from there with love, death, and demonic possession. As someone who finds this album as their favorite of Diamond’s catalog, I went into the show prepared to give much scrutiny to this portion of the set. I am more than pleased to say they played the album flawlessly. Every song was not only performed spot-on, but it was also great having a visual interpretation to the music that had been nothing more than a movie in my mind while I would listen to the album.

With the band playing as well as they are, and considering that “Abigail” is still Diamond’s highest-selling album, I can’t see anyone who is a fan walking away from this show feeling disappointed. To be perfectly honest, it really doesn’t matter the similarities to the last tour and this one, as it is a different show by design and is guaranteed to entertain regardless.  

The Honorable Mention for the 2015 Best Live Performance (Metal) is:

Watain and their performance at The Complex on November 17th, 2015!

Congratulations!

Below is the original article that was written in regards to this performance. I must say kudos to The Complex for putting on some of the best shows of the year during 2015. Hoping that 2016 will be just as great!

Watain @ The Complex!

(Originally published 11/19/15 10:51 MST) -

Watain is about as authentically Satanic as you can get. Their stage was designed with two large banners emblazoned with their logo on the front-ends of the stage; two large, upside down crosses with rotting pig’s heads impaled on them (yes, they were real: when they were brought out, the stench of death filled the venue); behind the banners and parallel to the drum-kit were two giant skeletons on crosses that had lines of bones connecting them to the drum-kit itself; a giant banner of a Roman colosseum; and a Satanic altar placed in front of the drum riser. It looked like the underworld which was created by the Sawyer family in the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 … in Rome. As creepy classical music played in the background, vocalist Erik Danielsson came out and lit the candles on the altar, kneeled, and began an opening ritual. At his conclusion, the band tore into a set that was designed to do nothing more than summon one of Lucifer’s minions from the fertile womb of Hell to exile those who are of a God-fearing order on Earth. Musically, they are one of the few black metal bands that never wavered from a traditional sound (much in the vein of early Satyricon and early Bathory), perfectly matching the musical intensity with theatrics. Not only were all members wearing ghoulishly-designed corpse-paint, but during the song “Under The Black Flame,” Danielsson performed an incantation during the break-down and burned what appeared to be a Holy text. During the show, the audience had pig’s blood thrown on them from a human skull adorned with goat horns. During a pause in the song “On Horns Impaled,” Danielsson made the declaration: “From all of us to you, GO FUCK YOUR MORMON GOD!” Finally, Danielsson finished his ritual alone as more classical music played in the background. As they left the stage, I realized that not only had I just seen the most blasphemous show in my lifetime, but it was also one of the greatest pieces of stagecraft that has passed before my eyes as well. A show that I will not miss in the future.


Great job to both bands. It was extremely difficult deciding this contest, there were so many great metal acts throughout the year. With some of the events upcoming for 2016, I can say without hesitation that 2016 should be another great year for hard rock and heavy metal music.

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THE 2015 BEST LOCAL LIVE PERFORMANCE (METAL) WINNER: WULF BLITZER! WITH HONORABLE MENTION WINNER: DRUNK AS SHIT -

(originally published 12/01/15 17:09 MST)

From December 2014 through November 2015, I had the pleasure of reviewing over 100 bands for various publications; including the bands I witnessed during non-published shows, the grand total for the year is over 120. During this time, I also reviewed over 50 albums for various publications, press releases, biographies, etc. Not to mention the number of albums I would stream after being introduced to a new band through a live performance. After being exposed to so much talent, I decided to highlight a few of those artists who I felt really brought something special to their performance, or recordings, and wanted to acknowledge those artists that are truly exemplifying why underground music is some of the best in the world. Due to the large number of genres I have written about, I had to come up with a few different genres, and sub-categories. The awards are as such:

Best Local Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Metal)

Best Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Metal)

Best Local Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Non-Metal)

Best Live Performance/Honorable Mention (Non-Metal)

Top 3 Albums Of The Year (Metal)

Top Local Album Of The Year (Metal)

Top 3 Albums Of The Year (Non-Metal)

Top Local Album Of The Year (Non-Metal)

The article for each award winner will be placed in the New Articles/Reviews section of the site for one week before being placed in a new section called Best Of 2015 Awards.

Up first, I am pleased to announce the winner of the Best Local Live Performance (Metal) for 2015: 

Wulf Blitzer and their performance at Kilby Court on June 13th, 2015!

CONGRATULATIONS!

The original review I wrote for them can be found at this location: <http://www.slugmag.com/articles/10127/Zombiecock-Kilby-Court-0613-with-Wolf-Blitzer-Breaux-CVPITVLS.html>

Having recently recorded a song called "VVitches" with producer Andy Patterson, it's apparent that this juggernaut of intensity is going to be carried from the stage to the studio fairly seamlessly. The song is utterly brutal from second one. Combining certain elements of bands like Brujeria with the dissonant chord progressions of "L.D. 50"-era Mudvayne and a dash of heavy-riffing found in early-90's groove-metal, played behind scream vocals that constantly walk the line between pain and rage, this is a band that epitomizes ferocity. 

Comprised of vocalist Nicholas Finch, guitarist Ryan Nahvi, bassist Mike Bates, and drummer Jose Morales; Wulf Blitzer is a tight machine that has big plans for 2016, including the release of a new E.P. in the spring (which may or may not include "VVitches") and potential tours with other local bands. For those who read the article linked above and MUST experience this band sooner rather than later, you're in luck as not only will their new single be released in the next couple of weeks, but they will also be performing with Tiger Fang, CVPITVLS, and Turbo Chugg on December 18th at The Woodshed in Salt Lake City. 

The Honorable Mention for Best Local Live Performance (Metal) is:

Drunk As Shit and their performance at The Loading Dock on December 13th, 2014! 

Drunk As Shit, a band that guitarist JD says plays "punk drunk thrash" (coincidentally the name of their first album), is definitely that, and more. Having had the opportunity to see many local and touring acts that claim to be "real punk," and watching them fail at that, these guys picked up the punk-ball, added some incredibly intricate thrash-based rhythms to it, and then ran over your face with it. Their music is the real deal. From the first moment, to the very end of their set, they NEVER STOPPED with their musical onslaught of extremely fast, thrash-influenced punk. What I loved most about their music is it never once entered the realm of the predictable three-chord passages that most punk bands employ, making them sound like a warmed-over Ramones. If anything, their music is the antithesis of the pop-punk movement, but it never strays into the realm of the unlistenable. Whether you take it or not, they couldn't care less. They're having too good of a time to worry about it.    

Even more than just their music—which was so impressive that within the week I had purchased the aforementioned album—they were nothing short of a complete hurricane of energy on stage. Every one of the members jumped and flailed about with such reckless abandon that I was utterly convinced by song two that one of them was going to hyperventilate and pass out. I was close, one member told me after the set that he almost puked on stage because of a combination of a hellaciously bad hangover and the rapid movements. Vocalist Kevin Ferro played the role of insanely tortured punk frontman through his screams and movements about the stage as well. There wasn't a weak link to their show. This group doesn't play as much as they used to, making the importance of going out to see them when possible a huge priority. 

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THE HISTORY OF KEVIN KIRK AND THE HEAVY METAL SHOP PART III - 

(originally published 11/27/15 10:18 MST)

“There will be a day, I imagine [that the shop will close]. I don’t like to think of that, either. I’m hoping I just die in this chair.”—Kevin Kirk

The music industry was heavily impacted by downloading starting at the turn of the century. From record companies to artists, managers to merchandising, as well as record stores (including the world-famous Tower Records in Los Angeles, California, who shut its doors after decades of existence); it seemed that EVERYONE involved in the industry was feeling the sting of lost revenue from the newer (and cheaper) means of music acquisition. This was when owner Kevin Kirk was forced to do something he never imagined possible; moving the shop. This wasn’t done by free will, the landlord had cancelled the renewal of the lease. Most businesses in this type of changing climate would have folded, but not Kirk’s. The Heavy Metal Shop temporarily moved to the Redman building in Sugar House, Utah, eventually leading to its current home in downtown Salt Lake City.  

Kirk believes that the reason downloading has become so successful, especially in younger generations, is due to a disconnect between the cost of convenience versus the intangible costs that many don’t see—underground bands losing support used to perpetuate their careers. “It’s different how [Millennials] get their music too. They’re not buying the album with all of the shit. They’re getting a download of it, so they’re missing out on all [the artwork] and the liner notes.”

Kirk has been able to weather many storms, claiming it’s due to the need his shop fills. “There’s always been a lot of crap, a lot of crap that just gets out there and the masses eat it up. Then there’s these cool bands that are on the fringe.” However, it wasn’t until late 2014 when he found himself in trouble, that he got to witness just how much the community appreciated his efforts.

Many of the items that were in his Sugar House store could not fit in the downtown location, causing Kirk to store them in his basement. In late November/early December of 2014, he began cleaning it out; since the last time he had been here, there was a lot of dust and mold that had accumulated. He admits that he “foolishly” did the cleaning without wearing a respirator. A week went by and he began to show flu-like symptoms. On December 15th, he ended up finally seeing a doctor because he couldn’t move or breathe. The doctor found that Kirk had a collapsed lung. He ended up getting the lung re-filled, but again found himself in the hospital three days later: it had collapsed again and it was worse than before. After scoping his lung with a camera, the doctors found a tear in the lung itself. They closed the tear, but Kirk had to stay in recovery for weeks during the busiest shopping time of the year. Although he was upset about the time he wouldn’t be able to attend to his duties at the shop, he did feel fortunate to be alive. “I’m glad I lived, you know? I’ve seen a lot of good shows since last December.”  

During his recovery the local metal community, as well as friends and family, banded together to help the most dedicated person anyone has ever known to the world of hard rock and heavy metal. His friends managed a schedule with their own jobs so they could watch the shop and make sure it was open for the shopping season. Even more than that, a bunch of local bands came together and set up two separate benefit shows in his honor.  

Although Kirk says he has no idea of what the next five years of the shop holds, he thinks it will still be around. “Really, it was [having] a passion of music first, and I think maybe that’s why [the shop] has lasted so long. I think people know it’s real.”

When asked about the end of the shop, Kirk’s immediate response illustrated that it’s clearly a topic that is not one of his favorites: “There will be a day, I imagine,” he says. “I don’t like to think of that, either. I’m hoping I just die in this chair.”

Friday, November 27th is National Record Store Day. If you have read any or all of this three-part biography, I encourage you to go to 63 S. Exchange Pl, Salt Lake City, and say hello to one of the most metal people on the planet. Show your support for not only the shop itself, but to the underground music community in general, and pick something up.

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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH TELOCH OF MAYHEM - 

(originally published 11/23/15 15:50 MST)

After witnessing the events of the Black Metal Warfare II show at The Complex on November 17th of this year, I felt it necessary to reach out to Mayhem’s guitarist Teloch to find out what fans can expect from the remaining dates of the tour and the band’s future plans.

UandU Music: This is the second leg of the Black Metal Warfare II tour. Was the second leg of the tour originally planned, or was it set up due to the success of the initial leg?

Teloch: No, we did not really think of a second leg until late in the first one. [It] seemed the tour was going so well, so why the hell not? So far the second leg has been as good as the first one.

UandU: One thing Mayhem are known for are their intense live shows (rotting pig heads, vocalist Attila), yet not every member dresses, or looks the same. Is this a conscious part of the package, or is it more about each individual member being able to express themselves as they choose?

Teloch: It’s more [of] an individual thing. People can do whatever they want, up to a point of course. It’s just a role you grow into I guess. As for myself, I started with nothing special on [the] stage clothing side; as long as it was black, it was OK. But after a while I felt something was missing. So I started with this hoodie thing. It’s perfect for me really, because I'm not very important in the Mayhem history and it lets me keep in the background.

UandU: Has the band been working on any new music during this tour?

Teloch: No new music has been written. We have other stuff to focus on right now, like we want to do a pure “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas” tour next year. But of course we talk all the time about what the next album should be.

UandU: Many fans felt that during the album "Ordo Ad Chao," the band went in a different, darker direction. Since you have been in the band, the album "Esoteric Warfare" has been released and continued that trend. Do you see this sound continuing on the next release?

Teloch: It’s hard to plan anything in this band. Right now, we want to do something completely different than Ordo and Esoteric. But who the hell knows, things change all the time. 

UandU: What can fans expect to see and hear from Mayhem during the shows?

Teloch: You'll probably get to see one of your favourite Mayhem songs, played by the band itself (grin). I don’t know, we do what we do and hope you'll like it. If not, fuck off.

UandU: One of the things that Utah is known for are the mountains and nature. With the date of the show and changing of the seasons, do the shows here ever remind you of home?

Teloch: Nah, not really. We haven't seen much other than our bus bunk so far. No hiking or shit like that. We play our show, party a bit after the show, sleep all day. Repeat.


The tour ends on Saturday, November 28th in Atlanta, GA. With ongoing shows on the East Coast, I cannot stress enough the importance of making it out to this show. If you need further convincing, read the review of their show on this site, as well as check out the Photo Gallery section!

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BLACK METAL WARFARE II TOUR FEATURING MAYHEM, WATAIN, AND ROTTING CHRIST @ THE COMPLEX; NOVEMBER 17TH, 2015 - 

(originally published 11/19/15 10:51 MST)

Warning: If you are someone who is a member of any belief system that involves God, Jesus Christ, or The Holy Bible in ANY way, this article will offend you. With that said, it was a pretty good show, so you may want to risk it …

Let me preface this piece by saying that this is a music site; I’m not going to get into politics. However, there have been recent events that certainly played a role in my outlook on the show. With all of the shenanigans that organized religion has been involved with recently—both in our backyard with the LDS (Mormon) faith and recent events worldwide—the Mayhem/Watain/Rotting Christ show at The Complex was actually filled with catharsis. Many in attendance, myself included, don’t espouse any one specific belief system necessarily; but it was nice to be able to look at a room with many people that share the same frustrations as you do, and to be able to focus those frustrations towards one target: religion … more specifically, Christianity. 

Rotting Christ kicked the evening off in a way that can only be described as astounding. For a band that began in Greece during the mid-80’s, they are a force that shows absolutely no wear and tear. Most put this band in the category of “black metal”, and with many of their lyrics focusing on Satan, the lies of Christianity, and other dark and evil topics, it’s easy to see why. However, placing that tag on them is really an injustice because they are so much more. They are filled with the blast-beats, howling-scream vocals, and staccato guitar parts that border on insanity that are all trademarks of black metal, but they also incorporate gothic-inspired symphonic elements, a touch of early thrash, and melodies that border on the progressive. I think the best example of their use of dynamics was during “In Yumen- Xibalba;” a piece that plays on the fast/slow dichotomy perfectly. This was one of those rare occasions when I wanted the opening band to stay on stage as long as they physically could, just because of how unpredictable their musical senses could be. This is a legendary band. If you are unfamiliar with them and love extreme metal, you need to go get one of their albums ASAP.

Watain is about as authentically Satanic as you can get. Their stage was designed with two large banners emblazoned with their logo on the front-ends of the stage; two large, upside down crosses with rotting pig’s heads impaled on them (yes, they were real: when they were brought out, the stench of death filled the venue); behind the banners and parallel to the drum-kit were two giant skeletons on crosses that had lines of bones connecting them to the drum-kit itself; a giant banner of a Roman colosseum; and a Satanic altar placed in front of the drum riser. It looked like the underworld which was created by the Sawyer family in the film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 … in Rome. As creepy classical music played in the background, vocalist Erik Danielsson came out and lit the candles on the altar, kneeled, and began an opening ritual. At his conclusion, the band tore into a set that was designed to do nothing more than summon one of Lucifer’s minions from the fertile womb of Hell to exile those who are of a God-fearing order on Earth. Musically, they are one of the few black metal bands that never wavered from a traditional sound (much in the vein of early Satyricon and early Bathory), perfectly matching the musical intensity with theatrics. Not only were all members wearing ghoulishly-designed corpse-paint, but during the song “Under The Black Flame,” Danielsson performed an incantation during the break-down and burned what appeared to be a Holy text. During the show, the audience had pig’s blood thrown on them from a human skull adorned with goat horns. During a pause in the song “On Horns Impaled,” Danielsson made the declaration: “From all of us to you, GO FUCK YOUR MORMON GOD!” Finally, Danielsson finished his ritual alone as more classical music played in the background. As they left the stage, I realized that not only had I just seen the most blasphemous show in my lifetime, but it was also one of the greatest pieces of stagecraft that has passed before my eyes as well. A show that I will not miss in the future. 

Where Watain had the more grandiose stage presentation, Mayhem relied more heavily on intensity. They have been around for over 30 years and their music is the epitome of black metal in both old and new school theories. Their set was geared towards older, hardcore fans with a more subdued visual presentation (four upside down crosses with pig heads as well—thankfully all much fresher than Watain’s). It was the sheer force and stage-presence of vocalist Attila Csihar that fixed the crowd’s attention throughout their show. Csihar is easily the most creepy and yet alluring frontmen I have ever seen. The only member of the band that wears the traditional corpse-paint, it’s not merely his appearance that inspires awe. He utilized a litany of props including a metal lighting piece, a noose, and a (real) human skull which he would stare-down and scream at during songs like “Deathcrush.” He constantly made eye-contact with the audience and lurked about like a madman; it was difficult not to be sucked in. Not to say that the band was unable to hold their own, I have never seen the band tighter. On “Funeral Fog,” “Chainsaw Gutsfuck,” and the set-closer “Pure Fucking Armageddon,” they were unstoppable. It was great hearing their new material like “Psywar,” but my only complaint was that there was not enough new stuff. Overall, their performance shows why they are considered legends in the world of extreme metal.

Some may ask why anyone would want to smell rotting meat, be doused with pig’s blood, and hear music that is played in both volumes and speeds that are completely unnecessary. My answer is simple: with everyone in the world affected by religion in some way, I would rather see someone go to that kind of a show and get their rage out that way instead of them mowing down a bunch of people … but that’s just me.      

 

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W.A.S.P. - "GOLGOTHA" ALBUM REVIEW - 

(originally published 11/17/15 15:32 MST)

W.A.S.P.—“Golgotha”

Nuclear Blast Records; 10/02/15

As a fan of W.A.S.P. since 1989, owning all of their albums at one point or another, and having seen them live, I was more than excited to hear that vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Blackie Lawless and his crew were releasing a new album after a six-year absence. My expectations were both exceeded and let-down. The first half is utterly amazing: “Scream,” “The Last Runaway,” and “Shotgun” all have a similar tone to the “Dominator” album, if mixed with their 80’s material (specifically “Harder Faster”). Easily the most technically complex songwriting since “The Headless Children” album, it’s easy to say that this is some of Lawless’ best songwriting … possibly ever. The second half is where it goes downhill. Lawless has a songwriting style that tends to paint by numbers. Verse, pre-chorus, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, etc. The material is extremely derivative as well. “Slaves Of The New World Order” is a modernized “Chainsaw Charlie,” and both “Miss You,” (which is so melodramatic I thought Lawless was going to start sobbing) and “Golgotha” are “The Idol,” with the latter being completely about Jesus and God … great for some, not me. Overall an album that will please both long-time W.A.S.P. fans and those that haven’t heard from the band in a while.  

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THE DEPARTURE - "GATEWAYS" E.P. REVIEW - 

(originally published 11/16/15 15:57 MST)

The Departure—“Gateways” E.P.

Self-Released; 11/14/15

The Departure, and their E.P. “Gateways,” has made me re-think what punk (pop-punk more specifically) can be. After listening to it a few times, I realized it was the first time the term “prog-punk” was conjured for me. Yes, an oxymoron of terms since the foundations of both genres stand for what the other is against, but they pull it off well. At times you’ll get the anthemic three-chord rock of “Ocean Avenue” era Yellowcard with extremely complex arpeggio’s played by both guitars, keyboards, and drums in perfect sync … then toss in a little screamcore for the hell of it, all offset by incredibly intricate melodic passages (especially the classic intro to “Lonely Eyes”), and you have their sound. The album highlight is “The Sea Pt. II.” Beginning with space-laden effects that lead into an extremely melodic metal that is held together by sweeping orchestration provided by the keyboards. Really, the only negative to the album is in the volume normalization … but that could be the files. Overall though, there is no reason to avoid this album, especially if creativity is your thing.

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THE HISTORY OF KEVIN KIRK AND THE HEAVY METAL SHOP PART II -

(originally published 11/13/15 10:25 MST

“In fact [during the 90’s], Circus magazine did a thing on heavy record stores and they put my store in there, and that brought a lot of people too.”Kevin Kirk

The 90’s were indeed the “Golden Age” of The Heavy Metal Shop. Everyone living in the Salt Lake City area knew about the place, even if they weren’t a fan of heavy metal. The notoriety stemmed from a marketing tool that was conceived more as a joke than anything else. “I didn’t really market [The Heavy Metal Shop shirts]. Bands were wearing them,” says Kirk. “I didn’t open my store and say ‘I’m going to sell a bunch of shirts.’ When I printed shirts, I figured I’d know everybody that wore them. It would be my family and friends, a few die-hard metal dudes.” However, something unexpected happened—the shirts caught on. During the 90’s, it wasn’t uncommon to open the pages of various metal magazines and see a picture of a band like Slayer, Megadeth, or Alice Cooper wearing one of Kirk’s creations. This was something the humble shop owner never expected. “I never pictured that Slayer would be wearing my stuff. And bands would be wearing my stuff in magazines.”

To quote Kirk: “The 90’s kicked ass.” For The Heavy Metal Shop, the decade was rife with one success after another. “Circus magazine did a thing on heavy record stores and they put my store in there, and that brought a lot of people too.” This exposure also lead to the shop entertaining quite a few celebrities (and their fans) from the world of hard rock and heavy metal that would stop by to say hello to Kirk. Acts like the aforementioned Slayer and Megadeth, as well as bands with members who have gone on to rock and roll heaven; GWAR and Type O Negative, to name a few. “We did a lot of big in-stores. In fact, that was back before they do these VIP things now, so they don’t do as many in-stores because they can charge people $500 to go meet them at the show. Slayer did these in-stores and it wasn’t like anybody had to pay for anything.”

According to Kirk, the shop “peaked in ’96. That was insane. We did a lot of good biz.” Business was so good in fact, Kirk had to hire three employees. It was at the end of the decade that not only Kirk, but the rest of the record store industry, began to feel the cold wind of change. On the horizon was hurricane “Napster.” File sharing was originally what many had thought to be the reason that The Heavy Metal Shop moved in 1999 from its most memorable (if not most famous) location in Sugarhouse, a half-block east to what is known as the Redman Building. Kirk claims that this is not the reason for the decline from 1998 to 2000, stating: “It was gradual. Things changed, so I kind of changed with things too. I don’t carry as much music; that was gradual too. I just kind of cut back on that. People wanted more of my merchandise, so I put more into that and less into the music inventory.”

Even when the murmurings of the effects of file sharing from other record stores would catch his ear, Kirk would listen, but he never wavered from his steadfast resolve: The metal community is one of family. It’s one of using individuality as a weapon that’s often expressed through loud, aggressive music. That there will always be people who reside on the fringe elements of life, on the outside of what is trendy, or “cool.” That, above all, there is an authenticity which is found in metal music that can’t be found anywhere else. In the world of the outsiders, you know what it’s like to be ostracized for not wearing the right kinds of clothing or that you’re not “beautiful.” That the quality and character of someone is something that can’t be bought or sold. And although this may sound like a bunch of grandstanding, Kirk actually put his money where his mouth is. “[The Shop] remained credible ... because I didn’t really ever sell out. I had somebody from JMR (clothing retailer) [that] came in years ago, a manager, and wanted me to sell my shirts in their store. Nothing against JMR, but that would kill it.”

As Newton’s Third Law Of Motion states, “what goes up, must come down.” So it was to be with The Heavy Metal Shop. In the third and final part of the biography, we’ll look at downloading, the current state of the music industry, and what the future holds for Kevin Kirk.

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"HOWL" 2015 NORTH AMERICAN TOUR FEATURING NIGHT RIOTS, DRAEMINGS, STRANGE FAMILY, AND TED ALLEN'S FORCES @ KILBY COURT - 

 (originally published 11/11/15 16:48 MST)

It was (mostly) '80s night on February 26th, 2015 at Kilby Court. Every band that played had an element of their sound which was shared by a 1980's pop-icon. Some might hear “1980’s” along with “pop-icon” and have a certain amount of trepidation, and it's easy to see why: There were a lot of pop acts in that decade that one must look back with a certain amount of terror (Milli Vanilli anyone?). The good news on this night, none of that nonsense was present and the show was enjoyed by all.

I have found that outside of the amazing shows that begin with a bang and never lets go of an audience until the final note echoing off the walls of a concert hall fades into oblivion, to ones that can't end quickly enough, by and large most concerts fall into two major categories: they start off with a bang, hit a lull in the middle, and end on a high note; or they start off slow and build to a crescendo. This was the latter.

The first band, Ted Allen's Forces, had a sound that combined the tones of the '80s group The Waitresses along with '70s punk band Television. They ended their set with a song called "Crime Lord," and it's ... you know ... about being a crime lord, and I absolutely loved it. It was upbeat, bouncy, and fun—the elements I like from the bands their sound is crafted from. The rest of their set kept with that musical theme and unfortunately held many of the bad elements of the bands previously mentioned before, as well. Their rhythm section was solid, but there were times the vocalist was nowhere near anything that could be seen as a "key." They did leave me with a song that stayed with me for a while, and that is what's important.

Next was Strange Family. I must say I liked them quite a bit. Their '80s counterpart would be a U2/Thompson Twins hybrid. Although you could pick up some of the traces of the two bands, it was the song structures and presentation you noticed, not the over-the-top-cheese. Mixed with some "Weather Systems" Anathema, and you have a good idea of how this band came across. The only complaint I had was the points when vocalist Garret Williams' voice would break when he would try to hit some notes in a higher-register. The good thing was that this wasn't often and didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the band.

Dræmings came on with a disclaimer: Due to technical issues with some of their equipment, they were not able to use keyboard backing tracks, which is typically part of their music. They made it clear to the audience this meant that their set would be "subdued" and slightly different than how they typically sound. Dræmings is the kind of band that gives me faith that there are still amazing songwriters in Los Angeles: they were spellbinding. Combining one of my '80s favorites, Concrete Blonde, with musical references to Veruca Salt and certain musical aesthetics of solo Stevie Nicks, they captured the audience’s attention. Their remaining set never let go either. During their first song, vocalist and songwriter Kimi, sounded shaky and off at points. This, I am sure, is due to having to play to music that is different than what you are accustomed to. However, by song two, she was on the money. From then until the end, she put forth a performance that was both passionate and full of energy, as did the rest of the band. After seeing them, I did go home to hear the difference between live and record. Same feel as above, just toss a little Depeche Mode into the mix, and you've got it.

From their response, a clear majority of the audience was present to see Night Riots, who are on tour supporting their “Howl” E.P. After seeing them, it's easy to see why they were the main attraction: they are completely designed to perform. Vocalist Travis Hawley had the audience under his complete command the entire performance. In fact, all the members put 110% of themselves on the stage and left completely drained. Sonically, they fit the theme of the night, drawing inspiration from the likes of Simply Red and early '90s The Cure, and taking in modern elements of like Fun and Jimmy Eat World. However, as much as I loved them live, they were not my thing musically. I'm simply not a huge fan of a lot of those bands. With that said, they have incredible energy. I will admit there were parts where I was singing along just as loudly as the 16-year-old girls standing beside me. Would I see them again? Sure. Along with Dræmings, I can’t see spending an evening doing something better than seeing either band.

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LADIES NIGHT FEATURING STRANGEHERS, MINX, AND REBEKAH O @ THE WOODSHED; NOVEMBER 6TH, 2015 SHOW REVIEW -

(originally published 11/08/15 11:53 MST)

The Woodshed was definitely the place to be on Friday, November 6th; the drinks were flowing and the music was designed to get everyone on the dance floor. Although it was Ladies Night, there were enough men in attendance to round out the party. If people were there to forget their problems and be whisked away to a respite from life’s daily grind—with an incredible soundtrack and visual presentation to boot—I can promise you that wish was granted, gender be damned!

Up first was singer-songwriter Rebekah O. Playing both the piano and the guitar as her primary musical accompaniment, her sound was both pure and filled with emotion. Her music and voice fell into a style that reminded me of early 2000’s pop-rock in the vein of Donna Lewis meets the Dresden Dolls. What was most impressive about her set was her ability to get in-touch with the more morose elements of the human experience, amazingly illustrated during her song, and my personal favorite of her set, “Inside Of Me.” With just her and a piano, she was able to attune everyone in the audience to the same emotional plane. It’s not easy to do, and something I respect immensely. The only negative to her show was during the first half when she was struck by nerves, making a couple of noticeable mistakes. I spoke to her after the show and she admitted that she hadn’t played live in a while. She did eventually find her footing to finish out the set, exuding a confidence that was ensnaring. I hope she gets out there more in the future; when she has it together, she’s the complete package.  

I try to avoid focusing on the same bands time and time again. Yes, there are some truly great musicians out there that deserve repeat attendance at their shows; but you can only explain the same things in different ways so many times. I had been to a show by MiNX at the 2015 Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival a few months ago and have already written a review. What made this show impossible to pass up was a completely different set and visual show. I was sold. At the Dark Arts Festival, they played their album and accompanying film, “Together Forever.” At Ladies Night, they opted to do a “greatest hits” set. They began with a “mini-acoustic set” that featured both an original and a modified cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” which quickly moved to their electronic presentation. With a smaller projection screen in the back on the floor showing bits and pieces of various footage from the band’s other music videos, not only were the visuals different that the last show, but their music was as well. Vocalist Ischa has a set of pipes that I swear should be in the body of a large southern black woman, leading the local Church’s gospel singing group. Guitarist Raffi played a string of licks and melodies that tied everything together gorgeously. “Together Forever” had a somewhat psychotic/somber overtone to the electronica backing because of the narrative of the lyrics. The show at The Woodshed was focused on dancing and having a good time while being the musical equivalent of a funky Republica. They did premier a significant amount of new material, including the set highlight (and song that had just been released earlier that day) “It’s All Over Now.” With MiNX playing the first Friday of every month at this venue, it’s time I can’t see better spent anywhere else.  

On paper, StrangeHers would not be a band that I would typically enjoy. With a sound that included some of the more rock elements of groups like Indigo Girls combined with The Velvet Underground and a vocalist that reminded me of Jewel (with a clearer tone and less “frogginess”), I am a fan of only one of the three. Even so, I have to admit that by the end of the set, I was sold. None of the aforementioned musical trifecta overshadowed the other. All the members—vocalist/guitarist M, bassist Bones, keyboardist Li, and drummer Maz—were able to blend their sound perfectly to fully incorporate the more indie pop-rock elements to the brooding melodies associated with Lou Reed’s writing. The funny thing is the best song of their night was their most upbeat number (the first the band had written together): “Spring Song.” I think it also helped that the pre-song banter had everyone in the audience booing the impending winter that is at our doorstep. It also helped that EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the club LOVED this band and this tune. At the end of the show, the audience was calling for an encore, but, most unfortunately, the band ran out of material. I may not ever develop a liking for certain types of indie-rock, but this band has at least got my foot in the door.

Every act was in top form this evening and I am sure I will be catching one or two of them in the near future … I know where one of them will be the first Friday of every month.  

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ZAPPA PLAYS ZAPPA "ONE SIZE FITS ALL" 40TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW REVIEW @ THE DEPOT -

 (Author’s Note: Although this show happened a few months ago, this tour is still going strong until December 12th, 2015. The events contained herein are still relevant, so please make it out if possible)

(originally published 11/06/15 16:07 MST)

Since the first play-back of music on an audio-recording device in 1887, I believe there have only been three true "musical geniuses": Devin Townsend, Buckethead, and Frank Zappa. Yes, only three in over 125 years. The reason is simple: I don't toss the word genius around when it comes to music, my qualifiers are pretty harsh to be considered. Listed below are my qualifiers for genius listing and I believe that an artist must hit at least four out the five.

First - Artists must write, perform, record, and produce AT LEAST 95% of their own music, not just the lyrics.

Second - An artist must have released an album or have had a large portion of their musical catalog be comprised of at least four DISTINCT genres. If they play thrash metal as their primary genre, death metal doesn’t count as a second. It would have to include, but not limited to, the stylings of jazz, country, classical, and/or metal.

Third - Artists must have released AT LEAST 20 different studio albums.

Fourth - An artist must have produced at least two artists other than themselves.

Fifth - Artists must know how to read and write sheet music proficiently. Unfortunately, this means that everybody's favorite musical genius, Kanye West, and his utter brilliance would not be included. I'd be surprised if he fits into even two of the above-mentioned categories ... but I digress.

Suffice it to say, when I found out Zappa Plays Zappa was coming to Salt Lake City, and that Dweezil Zappa and his ensemble would be playing the entire "One Size Fits All" album (which also happens to be my number one favorite FZ album in his discography); I was first in line at Smith's Tix to get my pass to this night of musical brilliance.

Honestly, there are not too many things in life that can compete with hearing some of the most difficult music ever written and played by a group of incredibly talented musicians. Scheila Gonzalez (vocals, keyboards, flute, saxophone), Ben Thomas (vocals, hand percussion, trombone, harmonica, rhythm guitar), Chris Norton (vocals, keyboards), Kurt Morgan (bass, vocals), and Ryan Brown (drums) joined Zappa on stage and played with such unity and precision that you would be forced to believe that they were paid like they were in a professional orchestra.

From the opening notes of "Inca Roads" to the last goodnights of "Muffin Man," Zappa and his band had the entire audience under their spell. Zappa mentioned that he too, was under the spell of the audience by letting us know, on multiple occasions, that we smelled like "donuts." He spoke of how Salt Lake City had the most diverse age-range of any city that they had played so far, making it the most energetic by far. This was certainly reciprocated by the band and their performance. At various points in the show, it was not uncommon to see Gonzalez, Thomas, and Morgan breaking into dance while playing their instruments with huge smiles. Everybody in the band was sporting grins through most of their performance.

"Who Needs The Peace Corps?," "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama," and "The Grand Wazoo" were all highlights, especially the last song during which Gonzalez broke into an extended saxophone solo that took the already epic piece to even greater heights. As much as I love and admire Zappa and his fathers' material, Gonzalez stole the show with her prowess. There was one point where she had one hand on a saxophone and the other on her keyboard, playing both simultaneously. It's hard living in a world where one has to fashion reasons why such talent is so grossly underrated.

Although there are no inclinations to play "One Size Fits All," or any other albums in their entirety after this tour, I can promise you that no matter what the setlist is, the Zappa Plays Zappa troupe are always on the road. It is a show that combines humor, wit, and incredible music with a huge amount of fun. As a fan, I cannot thank Dweezil Zappa enough for keeping the legacy of his father alive. I hope that not only he, but you as the reader, have the opportunity to cross paths during one of his shows. It will be one you'll never forget. 

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LADIES NIGHT @ THE WOODSHED; 11/06/15, PRE-SHOW INTERVIEW WITH MINX -

(originally published 11/04/15 15:56 MST)

Friday, November 6th is Ladies Night at The Woodshed in downtown Salt Lake City. Not only is admission free for the ladies, but it also means that every act performing that night - StrangeHers, MiNX, and Rebekah O - are all fronted by women. Although this is an event that is not new to either the city or The Woodshed, there are still a surprising number of people who are unaware of this monthly display of talent. This is a plight that may soon come to an end after finding out what's in store for those who plan on attending.

MiNX is a band who was formed a few years ago when vocalist/art director Ischa and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Raffi broke off from a band they were currently in together at that time to put together a complete entertainment package. “The visual presentation in general is just such a … it’s not even something I think about, it’s something that just happens” says Ischa. “We build [our shows] with cardboard and wood, we build with computers and digital effects.” She says that if the entire package that is MiNX could be described in three words, it would be: “very raw, creative.”

This brand of creativity will be in full display as a set designed with a lit marquee with the band’s name center stage and a giant projector behind them playing vignettes and other films that use the music for its inspiration. “We should always project footage behind us because we have all of this footage and media that we have at our disposal” Ischa states.

This level of commitment to their art has certainly paid some very impressive dividends over the last three months. Since September of this year, MiNX  has performed their entire “Together Forever” concept album (complete with movie) from start to finish at the 2015 Utah Dark Arts Festival, played two shows in New Orleans, and singing the national anthem at Rio Tinto Stadium before a Real Salt Lake home game.  

However, having a great stage-show is nothing if the music doesn’t work. With a sound that contains elements of electronica, rock, goth, and gorgeously written ballads, all with soulful vocals, they plan on barraging the audience with a set that will allow all styles to be fully showcased. As far as the set is concerned, Ischa says, “We probably will be playing our new material.” Raffi adding, “It will be a mix. We kind of like to call it our ‘hits set,’ where we pick out our favorite songs.” To ensure that the transition between all three acts will be smooth, there is one plan that Ischa states MiNX always comes prepared with; “One of the other things we like to do is see what the bands that we’re playing with are like; so if the first band is acoustic, and the last band is a thrasher band or whatever, sometimes in the middle then, we’ll start with an acoustic song or two, and then go to our heaviest shit towards the end to kind of lead into what’s happening.”

If you think that there is nothing to do this weekend, I can assure you that spending a Friday night surrounded by a bevy of ladies and being treated to an assortment of multi-media audio and visual candies is something I can’t see many turning down.

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KING DIAMOND WITH EXODUS @ THE COMPLEX; HALLOWEEN SHOW REVIEW - 

(originally published 11/02/15 16:53 MST)

As an adult, I have found that many of the things I held dear as a child have slipped away as the years have progressed. Though one thing that has never lost its touch with my heart is Halloween. I can say that the events at The Complex on this unholiest of holidays was nothing more than an auditory and visual companion to the largest amount of darkness to invade our city in a very long time: King Diamond performing his masterpiece album “Abigail” in its entirety.

Before the self-professed LaVeyan Satanist hit the stage, the audience was treated to the high-octane thrash-metal from one of the founding fathers of the genre: Exodus. On their “30th Anniversary Tour” of the release of their debut album “Bonded By Blood,” their set was designed to cover all eras of the band. 

Reaching back to the vaults, to the joy of long-time fans, they tore through a blistering set that included classics like “Bonded By Blood” and “Toxic Waltz” as well as touching on their 90s output with “Impaler” and “Blacklist.” They also included more recent cuts like “Body Harness” from their 2014 release “Blood In, Blood Out.” As someone who has never had the opportunity to see them previously, the set was well chosen to allow newbies like myself to get a taste for a large swath of their material.

The thing that's great about Exodus is their technical proficiency. For a band that was originall formed by Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett, you know the music is going to be played at a breakneck tempo, have incredibly difficult time changes, and feature guitar work which is second-to-none. And yes, all of those trademarks were definitely present throughout their set. The only thing I could not get into, and has been my issue with the band from day one, were the vocals. From original vocalist Paul Baloff (R.I.P.) to current front-man Steve "Zetro" Souza, their vocals have always been a consistent factor as to why I believe these guys never made it to the title of the "Big 4." If you are a fan of this band, then this is a tour that will surely treat as they leave no stone unturned. If you are not familiar with them, then check them out to see one of the legends in the metal world. 

During the change of the stage setup from Exodus to King Diamond, I paid close attention to see how it would be modified from the infamous 2014 tour. Diamond has said in recent interviews that the 2014 production was his largest, but this year he was going to make it even bigger and with a slightly modified setlist from the last tour. The only difference that I noticed to the large, two-tiered affair with stairs on both sides of the drummer were the giant mirrors flanking him adorned with giant gargoyles and and lanterns covering the stairs. Everything else from the changing backdrops to the giant illuminated sigil of Baphomet with illuminated upside-down crosses was the same as the previous tour. Having seen the 2014 tour, it was nice seeing the changes, but it really wasn't different enough to tout it as anything new. Even so, the design worked perfectly for the mood and atmosphere that was set; when the lights finally went down and the band hit the stage, you could clearly tell you were in his world.

The show began with a seven-song set with some fan favorites like “Welcome Home,” “Time For Tea,” and “Sleepless Nights.” But it was the new additions to the set that got the audience REALLY going. “Halloween” and “The Spider’s Lullabye” were both greeted with much fanfare, but the largest response came when the band performed the Mercyful Fate classic “Melissa” in its entirety. We were given a visual treat when a priest put a woman playing Melissa on a large circular lighting system with smoke underneath that when lit, made her look like she was burning alive, bringing the lyrics to life. After finishing “Come To The Sabbath,” the band walked offstage for a moment as the roadies prepared the stage for the main attraction: the “Abigail” album from start-to-finish with actors and actresses bringing the story of Abigail to life. 

Over the next hour, the audience was treated to a wondrous experience: The tale of Abigail. A baby who was cursed and put to death at her birth comes back as a living entity when the main female of the story, Miriam Natias, becomes pregnant with the reincarnated soul of Abigail. The story twists and turns from there with the tale of love, death, and demonic possession. As someone who finds this album as their favorite of Diamond’s catalog, I went into the show prepared to give a lot of scrutiny to this portion of the set. I am more than pleased to say that the album was played flawlessly. Every song was not only performed spot-on, but it was also great having a visual interpretation to the music that had been nothing more than a movie in my mind while I would listen to the album. The main thing that held up most admirably was Diamond’s voice. Not only was it full of power, but there wasn’t a point in the set where he was off-key. For a man who has been doing it as long as he has, and still has the vocal chops to pull it off, I say kudos!

With the band playing as well as they are, and considering that “Abigail” is still Diamond’s highest-selling album, I can’t see anyone walking away from this show feeling disappointed. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter about the similarities to the last tour, it is a different show by design and is guaranteed to entertain.

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BACK FROM THE DEAD 2 FEATURING ACCIDENTE, ARMPIGS, I BURIED A BOX WITH YOUR NAME, AND FOLK HOGAN @ THE METRO; OCTOBER 30TH, 2015 SHOW REVIEW -

(originally published 11/02/15 16:14 MST)

Listed under the categories of Halloween Costume event and Cover's Show, the Back From The Dead 2 event had a little bit of everything for those who were up for hearing some great music. Everyone was thrown head-first into the holidays while being served drinks by a bartender dressed up as "Burger King Diamond." A stage that was shrouded in black, a backdrop that contained a painting of Baphomet flanked by two upside-down crosses, and two giant ghoulish skeleton creatures hanging from the ceiling on each side of the stage, the place definitely screamed "dark and evil."

Up first came the band Folk Hogan, who opened the set with a bluegrass inspired five-part harmony as the introduction to the song "Killing In The Name Of," before tearing into the breakdown and leaving the audience stunned. With Kameron Anton on banjo, Nick Passey on guitar, Moses McKinley on mandolin, Jared Hayes on bass, J Curtis Stahl on drums, and Canyon Elliot on accordion, most traded vocals at one point or another during the set. One thing I truly enjoyed was that this was the first time I had ever heard a band walk such a fine line between keeping to the original score and making it their own. There were accordion solos, mandolin solos, and even banjo-bits. Almost every song was executed perfectly. The only downfall was some technical issues with the banjo, which was a shame since it was the featured instrument during "Bulls On Parade" during the "wah" section. They really set a great tone for the evening. 

There was a part during the set of I Buried A Box With Your Name, where one of the vocalists said "The room is clear. The Blood Brothers will do that." I couldn't agree more. To be perfectly honest, it’s somewhat difficult for me to be completely unbiased in this section of the review. When it comes to the band that was being covered (Blood Brothers), they are one that I “never got.” They always sounded like a more hardcore version of the first Ween record, minus the humor. With that said, I must agree with much of what I heard coming from other audience participants: they NAILED it. From the insane time changes to frenetic vocals, and “melodies” that often times have nothing to do with each other, the band was spot-on. I can also say that they, like every other band of the evening, had an energy level that was through the roof. It’s difficult to say that their performance wasn’t amazing. I just wish they had a different well to draw from. 

I was really a fan of the next band, Armpigs. With their set split between covers (Scissor Fight as the source) and originals, their set was the one of the shortest. Even though their time on stage was short, I felt had the most “congealed” show of the night. Comprised of members Josh Devenport on vocals, Mike Doepner on guitar and vocals, Skyler Goddard on bass, Carl Ball on guitar, and Clayton Holyoak on drums, they began with two originals which have yet to be named, and finished with the covers of “Backwoods” and “Blizzards, Buzzards, Bastards.” Their set was not only filled with music in the realm of hardcore with metal overtones, but their originals had enough distinct melody to keep me interested enough to see what they will be releasing in the future. Theirs was also a set filled with technical issues; so much so that by the end, one of the guitar heads had blown, and the band apologized to the audience for the lack of time they had in preparing a longer, and more proper set. I thought that they pulled it off well, all things considering. 

Ending the evening was Accidente doing The Jesus Lizard. A four piece with Peter Makowski on vocals, Josh Asher on guitar, Ben Dodds on bass, and Jarom Bischoff on drums, they also opted to do a set of both covers and originals. They ended the show perfectly. They were the only band who had a drummer wearing a pink bunny costume complete with feet and pounding Pabst while pounding out rhythms. Although the section of their set dedicated to covers would surely have pleased any fan of The Jesus Lizard, especially their version of “Mouth Breather,” the thing that I enjoyed most was their original material. In fact, out of the bands that had originals, I felt that those by Accidente were the strongest, though there wasn’t anything really “weak” in that arena. Their sound has a riff-heavy experimental alternative metal with hardcore vocals sound to it that is truly unique.

This entire event was a complete blast and I certainly hope that Bischoff decides to do another cover show next year ... I mean, it wouldn't be Halloween without it, right?

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ACT OF DEFIANCE, ALLEGAEON, OSSATURA, AND DISENGAGED @ AREA 51; OCTOBER 28TH, 2015 SHOW REVIEW -

(originally published, 10/30/15 11:45 MST)

I must begin this review with an apology geared to those who are fans of heavy metal music and did not attend the Act of Defiance show at Area 51 on October 28th. It was easily one of the best shows that has blessed the world of live entertainment this year. Outside of a single minor issue with one of the bands, this was a show that was impossible to leave feeling anything other than pure elation. 

DiseNgaged opened the show with an onslaught of metal goodness that makes one wonder why these guys aren't on a national headlining tour. With a sound that is reminiscent of a more groove-heavy Coal Chamber crossed with the riffing of Lamb of God, combined with Coldcock whiskey (who sponsors the band and is co-owned by Slayer's Kerry King), and scream vocals (in fact, every band had this element to their sound - with the exception of Ossatura and Act of Defiance, who would add clean vocals occasionally), they are metal to the core. Every member of the band was in top-form, including fill-in guitarist Tyler Gehman. Their technical abilities along with the group leaving every ounce of energy on stage, had them setting the bar very high for all the bands that followed. If you plan on checking these guys out, which I highly recommend you do, then listen to the song "I Am The Devil." I must warn you though: please put duct tape around your face - it will be blown off your head.

I have seen the next band, Ossatura, a number of times and I can say that their performance was easily the best that I have ever witnessed. Even though their music is all over the map (containing elements of thrash, traditional, and Nu-metal), drummer Brian Wilkinson, bassist Spencer Knott, and guitarists Nolan Platt and Erix Sparx were completely locked in together and provided an almost flawless set. The ONLY part of the entire show that had any issues was a little strain at the end from vocalist Ryan Pigott. Because the band wanted to make this their best show ever, Ryan told me he had spent the week screaming/practicing repeatedly. Although his scream vocals were great, by the end of the set when he would clean sing and go into a higher registry, he would struggle just a bit. Frankly, this was nothing more than a minor hiccup and didn't take away from the set overall. The highlight was when the band unveiled a new song called "What Is Wrong With Me?" It was the heaviest number of their performance and definitely had a groove-metal feel. If this new song is any indication of their next release, I can't see it being anything short of spectacular.

Allegaeon is a band that I had not heard before, and I can say that I am kicking myself over it. This band flat-out KILLS IT. With a sound that is firmly entrenched in extreme progressive metal, they perfectly execute insanely technical passages that walk a fine line between inspired melodies and utter brutality. The songs "Tartessos: The Hidden Xenocryst," and "Grey Matter Mechanics" (the latter being a new song they are previewing on this tour which will be on their upcoming 2016 release) were not only set highlights, but both of these songs showcased all of the best elements of their work. What was really impressive was was how in-sync they were. During a complicated finger-tapping section to a riff, both the guitarists and bassist would play in perfect unison. If ANYBODY was off, it would be immediately noticed. But nope, flawless. More than that, they didn't rely on just their musical talents to entertain. Not only were all members giving it their all physically throughout the show, but during the song "1.618," they had someone dressed up as a giant lobster join them onstage for a joint headbanging session. If the purpose of touring is to not only play in front of your already established fans, but to also bring new fans into the mix; then Allegaeon, I have two words: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

For those who go to see Act of Defiance thinking that they are going to be treated to music that has a similar sound to Megadeth (the band guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover used to call "home"), I regret to inform you that you will be disappointed. Now if you are going to see them expecting to hear some amazing thrash-core metal with truly inspired musicianship, then you have found the right band. With the lineup rounded out by vocalist Henry Derek and bassist Matt Bachand, there is not a weak link to this group. From the set highlights of "Obey The Fallen," and the title-track from their release "Birth and the Burial," never once were eyes or ears taken off from them. One of the reasons for their success, in a musical sense, is that the music never JUST in the realm of extreme heavy metal. Oftentimes bands will "paint by numbers" and write every song to gain the most brutality and do it with breathtaking execution. Yes, Broderick is a virtuoso. Yes, there were many in attendance who were guitar nerds that hung on to every note in a full-blown geek. And yes, there was a large portion of shredding, especially in the perfectly played solos. Yet the thing that stood out most about Act of Defiance was that they would incorporate really interesting melodic transitions in portions of the songs that wouldn't immediately be apparent. They would flow in such a way that the progression seemed natural, even necessary to the piece as a whole. This is a band I hope to get to see in the future.

Considering both Act of Defiance and Allegaeon are still on tour - but not together for too much longer - if you are a fan of metal music and amazing guitar playing, then please treat yourself to one of the best underground shows you will ever see and check these bands out! 

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BACK FROM THE DEAD 2 HALLOWEEN PRE-SHOW INTERVIEW WITH JAROM BISCHOFF -

(originally published 10/27/15)

There are some cultures who believe that during the time around Halloween is a prime time for spiritual re-awakenings to occur, including contact with the dead. The Back From The Dead 2 show at The Metro in Salt Lake City on Friday, October 30th may not have the same spiritual connotations attached to it that this time of the year is famous for, but it will definitely allow for the musical re-awakening of bands that have travelled to the other side of the rock and roll grave. 

Featuring Day Of Less as NirvanaAccidente as The Jesus LizardArmpigs as Scissor FightI Buried The Box With Your Name as The Blood Brothers, and Folk Hogan as Rage Against The Machine for the entertainment, half-off discount if you come in costume (making entry $5, instead of $10), along with the club being decorated for the holiday - this is an event that is designed for maximum entertainment. 

This being the second installment of the "Back From The Dead" series, some may not be overly familiar with its predecessor. The reason for this is, explains founder/promoter/drummer of Accidente Jarom Bischoff is simple: "The first [Back From The Dead], I think was four years ago. So I haven't done it every year or anything like that." What began its resurrection (pun intended) was when he said that he had a change of focus. "After CrucialFest this year, I just decided to get into doing more shows and different projects and stuff, so this is the one that I am doing [for Halloween]."

Bischoff states that Halloween shows with a theme of "dead bands" isn't a new one. With this in mind, he wanted to add a couple of different factors to keep things interesting. The first was by allowing the bands to play a certain amount of original material. "Accidente is going to play two originals, and Day Of Less may do that, as well. I've just told bands 'you can do all covers, or you can do half originals/half covers.'" However, he says that he has re-thought this idea and plans on contacting the different acts to have their sets focus on the covers more than anything else, but allowing the bands to to add their own spin to the covers they choose. "The bands that are playing the songs are totally at liberty to also, sort-of make [the songs] their own, and do them in their own style." But are the bands required to participate in the Halloween spirit? "They're invited to [dress like the bands]." But he adds, "It'll be an optional thing." Bischoff does state that there may be a costume contest for the audience, one that he states he will judge to prevent it from becoming nothing more than a popularity contest. So if you come dressed up ... originality reigns supreme!

Most importantly for Bischoff, what the entire event comes down to is people having a good time. "If people want to drink beer and watch bands, they can do whatever they want."

In addition to the Back From The Dead 2 event, Bischoff is always busy with other events upcoming as well. "There's a show with Eagle Twin, Elder, and Spirit Caravan at The Underground, which is a spot at downtown music [Salt Lake City] that's being used for shows. It's on Friday the 13th [in November]." He's also looking forward to events upcoming in 2016, including helping his wife Tiffany Bischoff with her own festival which had its inaugural run October 17th of this year. "[The Snowbrush Herb Festival] was Tiffany's herb festival that she's doing now. She's going to do it every fall." During the interim, Bischoff states that he's going to begin work on the festival which he is most famous for: "It's time for me to get back in full swing in for CrucialFest stuff. So that's mainly what I'm looking at."

There may be many Halloween and other costume-type parties this weekend. However, I can promise you that the one this Friday at The Metro is one that is sure to RAISE THE DEAD properly for your ghoulish weekend plans. (Yes ... so cheesy it hurts). 

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LOCRIAN - "INFINITE DISSOLUTION" ALBUM REVIEW--

Relapse Records; 07/24/15 

If you are someone who has never enjoyed experimental music before, I believe Locrian's "Infinite Dissolution" will change that. This release is truly unique. It combine's Mamiffer's lush keyboard tone and Emperor's extremely fast blast-beats and melodies in the realm of symphonic black metal - with a little shoegaze tossed in - to create something both serenely beautiful and incredibly chaotic. It constantly leaves you asking "What's next?" The 90% instrumental tapestry that Locrian weaves is a juxtaposition of of loud and quiet that throws the listener from one extreme mood to the next. This is achieved through the use of heavily modified sound and keyboard effects, as well as soundscapes and textural work in the vein of Brian Eno. The effects help to shield from the jarring of the sonic movements to ensure that the flow is never ruined. So far, this is the front-runner for "Album Of The Year" ... At least in my opinion.    

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ENTOMB THE WICKED - "MORTEM" ALBUM REVIEW--

Self-Released; 10/31/15

Sounding like a cross between Strapping Young Lad and Cattle DecapitationMortem is a melodic progressive deathcore concept album. The lyrics are about a serial killer whose mind fragments and unleashes a demon within that necessitates an exorcism. I cannot imagine a better soundtrack, as the album is irreproachable. The flawless production, brilliant construction of the songs, as well as guitarist Tyler Bromberg’s tone being one of the sickest I’ve ever heard, made the brutal heavier, more morose, and with the addition of sweeping melodic passages filled with clean guitar, one could also call the album “beautiful.” Those tones and the multiple sonic dynamics of the album bring the lyrics to full, psychotic life. This is an album that will be hard to pass up, as it is one of the best of the year so far. I truly hope that it will make it big nationally.  

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INTERVIEW WITH OSSATURA W/PRE-SHOW ARTICLE FOR ACT OF DEFIANCE, ALLEGAEON, AND DISENGAGED @ AREA 51 -

(originally published 10/22/15)

For fans of heavy metal, and more specifically those with a love for great guitar playing, the upcoming show at Area 51 on Wednesday, October 28th featuring former Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover’s new band Act of Defiance with openers AllegaeonDiseNgaged, and Ossatura, is one you can’t afford to miss. I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ossatura about their upcoming show and what fans can expect.

Knowing full well the stakes of opening for an act with such well-known name recognition in the underground metal community, Ossatura promises a show that will be a complete entertainment onslaught. Including events like “brutal story time,” the combination of metal and funk for certain in-between song activities, guitarist Eric Sparx plays while being walked around the stage hoisted on vocalist Ryan Pigott’s shoulders and the audience getting doused by a giant confetti cannon, as well as previewing a new song called “What Is Wrong With Me?” There is something for both old and new fans alike.  

About the new song, Pigott says: “We’ve been putting a lot of time and effort on [it]. I came to realize that people in our situation - tattooed, piercings, wearing black all the time - we always have to dress appropriate to go to these things we’re forced to be “normal” in a sense, just to get lighter sentences.” This is referring to the court appearances and other proceedings following an event that took place two months earlier when all the members of the band were arrested at a Slipknot concert for various drug and alcohol related offenses.

“What’s wrong with being who I am and existing the way I do?” Guitarist Nolan Platt says, reiterating the message at the song’s core.

Even more than the new music and new stage show, this event is also the preview of a new tour. In the final stages of planning and preparation for a semi-North American tour in the Spring of 2016 with DiseNgaged, Ossatura realizes the importance of not only having their set be as big of a success as possible, but that the show overall helps to create a buzz for their future plans. There is a bit of irony to be found in how the lineup for this show came about, even though there is a lot of importance placed on it; Ossatura wasn’t even aware of the lineup when they contacted the promoter about booking the gig.

“I was just kind of browsing around Facebook on my phone one morning, and I saw the event page for the Act of Defiance show, and this was a show I just wanted to go and attend,” says Platt. “I saw a little email address, and it was like ‘Hey, submissions for openers are being accepted here.’ So I contacted a gentleman named Jimmy Parks who works at Area 51, and just said ‘Hey, we’re really interested in playing this show, if there’s any way that we need to submit you some material or something to be considered, we’d really like to know what steps need to be taken.’” Says Platt.

They were contacted the next day and offered the gig.

As someone who has seen Ossatura a number of times, as well as knowing the talent level of all the bands performing at this show, I can promise you that it will be one that will not easily be forgotten. For those of you who live in the area, head over to www.smithstix.com now and get your ticket! And for those of you outside the area but are in a town where the spring tour will be playing (more details to be announced here later), check out the review of the show that will be published here and see exactly why you should attend!   

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PUNK ROCK PUPPET SHOW FEATURING GREEN JELLY/THE FABULOUS MISS WENDY/SOUNDS TO SUBVERT/SORROW FOR VIRTUE @ THE METRO; OCTOBER 17TH, 2015 -

(Originally published 10/19/15)

Although I was a huge fan of the band Green Jellÿ during the 1990’s, I was too young to see the band in all of their theatrical glory. Having to wait over 20 years before getting to witness the spectacle that is the Punk Rock Puppet Show, my expectations were set pretty high. The good news is: I can definitely say that it was well worth the wait.

Up first was the band Sorrow For Virtue. Their set held elements that were both great and confusing. Where the band shined the most was during their heavier numbers. With a sound that reminded me of a hardcore Alice In Chains, they had a tight rhythm section, riff-heavy guitar work, and screaming that rivals any metal band that is signed and on tour. The low point of the band was during the more mellow pieces which would conflict with the heaviness. Instead of achieving a good mix of soft-to-loud, it seemed forced at points. Vocalist Sivart VonDead’s voice was somewhat hit-and-miss, as well. When he sang, he had great tone overall, however when the melody lines would go into a higher registry, he sounded strained. Overall a good band, and one that I would like to see some of what they have done in the studio.

Before Sounds To Subvert went on stage, I spoke to vocalist Bradley Blue about his band. He told me that they had more of a melodic-punk sound, and as a fan of Elvis Costello, he felt that their strength lay in their songwriting. He was half-right. They were punk from the word go, but they never revealed any “pop” or strong melodic elements to their set. Musically, it was like listening to early Black Flag meets The Germs with vocals being provided by Beefcake The Mighty from GWAR, except with a little more bass. Bassist Ken Takeno and drummer Jason Thompson were completely locked in with each other, which was impressive considering how fast some of the songs were. Guitarist Josh Leland played with complete reckless abandon, yet never strayed from the cohesiveness of the unit as a whole. From the second the first song began until the last notes died out, they were a ball of pure energy. In fact, by the end of the set, Blue’s voice was beginning to lose power and tone due to how much of himself he was leaving on the stage. If you are into hardcore-infused punk, then please check this band out, specifically the song “Let The Wolves In,” it being the best song of their set.

The Fabulous Miss Wendy is really “truth in advertising.” From her vocals to her guitar work and her ability to gel with her bassist and drummer she created some truly kick-ass punk-n-roll. There is very little about her that isn’t fabulous, including the fact that she’s drop-dead gorgeous. With her pink hair, leopard-print guitar, and bravado that could fill a stadium, it’s no surprise finding out she had worked closely with producer and Svengali Kim Fowley. At one point, she jumped off of the stage during a guitar solo and rolled around on the floor in the middle of the crowd. Barring her larger-than-life persona, her music had some of those Fowley-type calling-cards: high-energy punk rock with great songwriting, hooks, and songs about all the rock cliché’s, but don’t take this as me saying that her sound that is derivative, no. From hearing her tear up the guitar during her solos, to the personality of each tune, it is clear that Miss Wendy is truly her own, uniquely individual musician with a bunch of talent. In all honesty, the only downside to her performance—one that would plague both the sets of Sounds To Subvert, as well as Green Jellÿ—was because of how much energy she put out on the stage, by the end of the set, during the last song “Kick Out The Jams” by the MC5, Wendy’s voice was shot and going in and out. Normally, I would criticize vocalists for not being prepared. But with how good everyone sounded when they were at their best, coupled with how truly amazing the performances were, I’m going to be a little more lenient than I may otherwise be. Outside of that, her show was truly entertaining.

When Bill Manspeaker hit the stage in a shirt, combat boots, and what appeared to be black boxer-briefs, followed by his band (a drummer, three guitarists, and two bassists) dressed as the Village People, the audience knew they were in for something special. Shortly after coming out, eight audience volunteers followed (which I will refer to as “cast”) dressed as various characters from Green Jellÿ’s songs—i.e. the Cowgod, Toucan “Son Of Sam,” and one of the pigs—filling the stage while the band broke into the song “Green Jellÿ Suxx.” From there, the band went into an over 10-minute long version of “Three Little Pigs” while Manspeaker had the cast on stage and audience sit down for “story time” in the middle of the song as part of a musical breakdown. During this time, he went into an extended version of the story of the Big Bad Wolf and asked audience members questions. If they got the answer wrong, they’d be castigated. Eventually, everyone returned upright as the song ended, returning to "concert mode." One of the announcements made before the band went on the stage was that the show would be heavy on audience participation. If the show sucked, it was the fault of the audience. Never was a statement more true. Through most of the set, there was ZERO division between band, cast, and audience. During the song “Anarchy In Bedrock,” the cast jumped off the stage and started a giant most-circle with the audience. Another illustration of this breaking-down of the fourth-wall was during “Anthem” (my personal favorite song of the night), when Manspeaker had a make-shift stage placed in the center of the audience where he would sing to one audience member after another, before instructing the cast to mosh again. By the end of the set, Manspeaker, the band, the cast, and even the audience were all participating in the show on some level. It was truly one of the most fun concert-going experiences I’ve ever had.

This was the first “fully-interactive” show I’ve ever attended. Knowing that Green Jellÿ will be coming back to town someday, I am sure that it will not be the last. 

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Kevin kirk and the history of the heavy metal shop, part one--

(Originally published 10/16/15)

“I saw Alice Cooper on TV when I was young, like sixth grade, and me and my sister were up late, [and] it was on “In Concert.” He was singing “Sick Things,” and he had the snake but you couldn’t see it right off because there was the smoke, and then the snake comes around and my sister screamed. I was hooked from the very beginning with Alice.” –Kevin Kirk.

Unofficially, that night is when The Heavy Metal Shop began. Although Kirk was only a youngster, the images—along with the joy he felt from watching such a visceral reaction from his sibling—were burned into his mind that night. They were the seeds that eventually bore the fruit of one of the few truly independent record stores, not only in the state of Utah, but in the entirety of the United States. This biography is not only meant to shed light on a heavy metal institution that has seen the fall of many due to the rise of the online industry, but to also pay homage to a man who has lived the American dream of building his life around his love.

“I was in it for the music, the passion. If we could make some money, I’d love that to be my livelihood but I was more a fan of [the] music first. I wasn’t like ‘Oh, I’m going to go make a bunch of money.’ It was like—I love music, if I could make a living doing this, great!” –Kevin Kirk  

The Heavy Metal Shop began as a record store in 1986. It sold a variety of styles of music under the names of “CD World,” then “The CD Shop.” In 1987, Kirk fired his co-investor due to a complete lack of desire for the music part of the business; a move which he admits was one of the best decisions that he ever made, “I would never recommend a partner in business.” The store officially changed its name to The Heavy Metal Shop and moved from Salt Lake City to Sandy. Initially, Kirk wanted to open the shop in Sugar House, a location it would eventually call home during the 1990’s, but he wasn’t able to get the building he wanted. The owner had leased it out to the Blue Boutique, forcing Kirk to call Sandy home for the first two years until the Sugar House lease became available. Although the shop would become internationally famous a number of years later, in the beginning, it wasn’t exactly the days of wine and roses. “It was tough out there,” he continues, “[I] was sitting around a lot, no [business] you know? Thinking I’m just going to have to go back to cutting meat at Smith’s in the butcher counter (author’s note: his original day job), I’m not going to be able to do this.”

What saved the shop was a random meeting with a program director named Gene from AM Z-Rock, a syndicated radio station from Texas that played hard rock and heavy metal music. Due to prior negative experiences with his former business partner and a local FM rock radio station, Kirk was reluctant to travel down the same path he had before with radio promotion. That acts like Slayer, among others whose CD’s were sold in the shop, were not using commercial radio contributed to his hesitation. After listening to Kirk’s initial objections, Gene made a request; “Come out to my car and just listen for a minute and see what you think.” Once he began to listen, Kirk could immediately tell that this station played music that catered to his world. “I heard UFOIron Maiden … I listened for a little while and it was one good [band after another].” Yet, as much as Kirk saw this as a golden opportunity, he couldn’t afford it. Seeing his passion for music, Gene made Kirk an offer; “Tell you what, I’ll do ads on there. We’ll put an ad together. I’ll do remotes with you.  When you make money, pay me what you think is fair.” Kirk jumped at the offer. “I would give him a hundred bucks, two hundred bucks, you know, when I started doing better, and we did that for at least a year out there.” It was through this radio station and its promotional devices that the shop and its customer base really started to kick into high-gear. “That Z-Rock really helped. That really brought a lot of people out and it made people aware of the shop. When he did those remotes, I mean, the store would be packed with people.”

Within the first two years of The Heavy Metal Shop opening, Kirk saw a business relationship dissolve, the business move to two separate locations, as well as a beginning that had him doubting what the future of his business held. But through a chance meeting and some amazing promotion, the shop had finally found its legs and began to race into what would be considered the “Golden Age of The Heavy Metal Shop” … the 1990’s.

To Be Continued …

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FAUN FABLES/SALA & THE SHAKEDOWN/TESS COMRIE @ KILBY COURT; JULY 22ND, 2015--

It’s rare that I leave a show with the feeling of a sense of spirituality. By that I mean, feeling like there's something greater out there that you are a part of, and it leaves you feeling complete. The Faun Fables show at Kilby Court was definitely one of these.

The first act was Tess Comrie. Equipped with only her voice, a keyboard, and an effects pedal, hers was a set built off of minimalism, yet was powerful enough to keep the full attention of everyone in attendance. The core of her music would begin with a simple three­ or four­-note melody line on the keyboard using a clean tone. These were usually mellow, pretty affairs. The effects pedal was more of a loop, the introductory melody would typically play throughout the entire song. At times, she would add another keyboard part on top of the base, but most often she would keep her playing, and songs, in a somewhat repetitive state. The technical precision of her compositions was very simplistic, and the keyboard was the core of her music, but the entire show was really designed to be a catalyst for Comrie's voice. The audience and I were perfectly OK with this because her voice is so transcendentally beautiful that it was as if Mother Nature herself had graced us with her singing. Another benefit to her looping effect was that it was hooked into the microphone, which allowed her to sing a base melody and then add her own harmonies, sometimes going into four or five-part, utilizing them to maximum effect. At those times, the only thought I had was that I had been transported to Homer's Odyssey and was listening to the Sirens. I am hoping to relive this experience at another one of her shows.

Sala & The Shakedow was a band that, on paper, should have had issues with their set. Two of their members were not present and had their spots filled by friends of the band: bassist Eric Blood, and lead guitarist Jake Ryan Shepard. Normally, when half of a band is new there tends to be timing issues, set issues, and any number of other problems. Yet they pulled off a set that looked like they had been playing for years. I partially credit this to drummer Gordon Strang and his ability to keep an extremely tight pocket. Vocalist/rhythm guitarist Sala as not only an extremely up­beat and fun frontwoman, she can sing her ass off. Her voice had a lot of soul to it, but when required, had enough edge to show off some impressive rock chops. These abilities served the overall feel and mood of the music extremely well. Their sound had a great funk­/groove, which made Blood, as a non­-permanent member, even more impressive in my mind. Minor guitar chords hovered over the music, making it teeter between country, jazz, and blues. The set had a chorus with an upbeat and fun major key and a guitar solo that was in the vein of Scotty Moore. The only songs that deviated from this formula were "Hey Mama" (a country­rocker) and, my personal favorite of the night, "Time To Dream," which had an old school rock/country vibe. It was like listening to a Patsy Cline record that was produced by Phil Spector. This band made a majority of the crowd dance, smile, and have a great time.

Faun Fables is a band that I have been wanting to see for a long time This is due to the connections that vocalist/guitarist Nils Frykdahl as to Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (a band which I adore), and Idiot Flesh. For those familiar with his other projects, but not Faun Fables, there are many similarities, and MANY differences. Their music has its roots in old Celtic and folk traditions, yet also includes many odd time signatures, chord progressions, and sound effects. To be honest, the only way I can describe their sound is by comparing it to the time I ate four grams of magic mushrooms and watched the 1973 Christopher Lee classic The Wicker Man­­—mood lifting, yet strange. Familiarity that is turned on its ear, shattering the predictability of old-­world melodies. What helped make this such a spiritual experience lies in the fact that a lot of their lyrics focus on Pagan beliefs. One example is the song "Widdershins," which was written by Frykdahl in a witch’s garden as a lullaby to his daughter, who was joined by her two siblings on stage to help with the last two songs of the night. But really, what made it such a spiritual experience wasn't only the lyrics, but also the delivery with the songbird voice of vocalist/percussionist/guitarist Dawn McCarthy. Her’s is such a gorgeous tone and somewhat reminds me of Candice Night, but with a larger range. It's such an emotionally driven sound that it immediately wraps you up in a warm blanket of comfort. The best example of this was during my favorite song of the night, "Goodbye," which will be on their upcoming fall/winter release. It was truly a spellbinding set. I hope they return soon, and I hope they bring back a little of their magic ...

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EXclusive interview with phil "landphil" hall from cannabis corpse! 10/12/15

One doesn't need to smoke pot to appreciate the music of Cannabis Corpse; with its intricate speed­-picked guitar work, aggressive basslines, and break­neck tempo and time ­changes. No, but being stoned does however provide a certain amount of levity when it comes to enjoying the content of their lyrics (which range from topics of bongwater logged corpses, people-­eating weed plants, and an ancient tome called the "necronomichron"). But to just look at this band in those terms would mean that you are missing out on the bigger picture as Cannabis Corpse is much, much more than just a weed-­themed death­ metal band from Richmond, Virginia. Formed in 2006 by bassist/vocalist Phil "Landphil" Hall and drummer Josh "HallHammer" Hall, they set out to produce the most technically proficient death metal music with a decidedly herbal twist. All of their music and lyrics are original with song titles being weed inspired take­offs from other death metal acts (Cannibal Corpse­- "Reefer Stashed Place," Morbid Angel-­ "Where The Kind Live," and Deicide­- "Dead by Bong"). During a recent interview, when asked if it's constraining to have lyrics that all center around one topic, Phil stated, "I don't ever feel inhibited by incorporating weed into our lyrics because there's so many different things you can do with it." He continues, "In fact, it almost helps creatively because I at least know that I have a starting point. I know the song is going to have weed in it somewhere." But don't let the topic of their songs fool you into thinking this band isn't one of the most musically talented machines to ever come out of the metal underground. With songs topping over 240 beats per minute and having six or seven complete rhythmic changes, they are the antithesis of what the world would perceive as lazy stoners. Says Phil, "Well, when I smoke weed, I want to start working. In fact, I'm the opposite; when I get high I can't just sit there on the couch. It's not in my nature." And looking back at this year, there is no disputing this fact. They released the album "From Wisdom To Baked", a complete tour­-de-­force of sheer metal brutality, on their new label, Seasons of Mist; they embarked on a European tour with co­-Richmond alumni Ghoul, followed by a North American tour, and finally ending with both Hall brothers performing on—with Phil co-writing all of the music for—the Six Feet Under album “Crypt Of The Devil.” Not bad for a little over a years’ time.

With marijuana legalization making front­ page headlines, and almost every rock musician making front ­page news with one political stance after another, it's somewhat surprising that the band is dedicated to (mostly) keeping their opinions to themselves. "I don't take much time thinking about this whole legalization matter," continues Phil. "But I do feel like weed is one of the lesser problems on Earth. All it really does is help people live life, and help people get through all the shitty things that you have to go through in life. I don't see how it's such a bad thing. If alcohol can be legal, which causes so many horrible problems in the world, and weed isn't [legal], it just seems very strange to me." The one thing that can be said about Cannabis Corpse is that the only thing they care more about than weed, is their fans. When asked about their next release, Phil made it clear that they are going to pull out all the stops. "There are a lot of different things I did to make [the new album] better than our previous output. For instance, having all these guest musicians on the record like Chris Barnes, Trevor Strnad from The Black Dahlia Murder, and we have Ralph Santolla from Death, and Kevin from Deicide." Phil continues, "We just want to keep it real for the fans, and make sure they know that we love the fans and we love the fact that they're into it, so we don't want to half­-ass it with anything that we do." Look for Cannabis Corpse, as well as all of the other projects involving the Hall brothers over the next year, and I promise you won’t be disappointed. 

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2015 Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival, Day Three Recap with Hocico/Reaxion Guerrilla/Vain Machine/Vengeance Tampon/Intra-Venus & the Cosmonauts/MiNX @ Area 51; September 13th, 2015--

 

(Author’s Note: Because this was the final night of a three-night recap, and because it was the inaugural show to be reviewed for this site, I thought I might make it a little special … you’ll see later)

It was not only the final most sentimental night of the 2015 Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival Sunday evening, it was also the most visually intense and most exciting night of the three, ending with an explosion of awesome. 

Up first was MiNX. A two piece composed of vocalist Ischa and guitarist Raffi. They started the night out in a most deliciously twisted way. Their music was heavy electronica with the guitar being more of a textural component, yet still audible in the mix and definitely completed their songs, much in the vein of Peaches meets Divine. Lyrically, all of the songs told a story that accompanied the film they had playing behind them during their set. Immediately, the cohesion of most of the performing acts that night began to take shape, incredible eye-candy. The outline of the story involves a hooker: One day while at “work,” she meets a John and falls in love. She then meets a second John who beats her badly. She kills him accidentally, steals all of his cash, and then buries him. She takes all of the money to the first John in an attempt to win his heart. Things don’t go as planned, I can assure you. If you want to see what happens next, head over to http://minxband.com/videos. Trust me, it’s worth your time, not only for the movie, but also for the ability to hear the music for yourself and know what I am telling you is the truth … this band is flat-out bitchin’. Their song “Eleven,” was definitely my favorite and a great example of their sound, but most importantly, it introduces you to the amazing vocal talents of Ischa. She may be small, but she has a HUGE, soulful voice. Not only that, but she put every bit of her heart on that stage. Because of her performance, I had to go home and watch the video again. I could NOT take my eyes off of her. The band is amazing and she is a star.

Intra-Venus & the Cosmonauts kept the spirit alive by having some members dress up as aliens and space pirates, complete with sparkly eye-patch. I really like this band a lot. Their sound takes elements of 1960’s radio-rock, 1980’s New Wave, and a genre I can only describe as “alien alternative” (spacey guitar elements and eerie science fiction soundscapes added to a style of rock reminiscent of early 90’s grunge) and throws them together into a sound that is not only new and unique, but is also played at a very high level. My favorite song was “After The Fire,” a song off of their release “Forgotten Stars” which was produced by David J. of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets fame. It is a song that takes the listener for an emotional ride of hope and promise through the use of the uplifting melodic progression that rises during the chorus. A band that really shouldn’t missed … even if you’re not into aliens.

Before I write this next review, I must first give a disclaimer: I was informed, after the set, that this band—Vengeance Tampon—only really gets together to play for Dark Arts and doesn’t spend a whole lot of time on stage. With that said: they were all dressed to the nine’s with looks ranging from huge-dyed spiked hair to glasses, a button-up flannel shirt, and jeans; which helped to maintain the ocular feast. The musical portion of the set wasn’t an issue, being slower-tempo punk with a hint of death rock overtones, and you could tell they were genuinely having a blast and had their hearts in it. The issue arose with how tight the band was: they play so infrequently, they never really gelled. That, and the fact that whenever the drummer would go into a fill, she would lose time. There were a number of songs where you’d be jamming along mentally with the band and then hitting a speed-bump. There’s a lot of potential in this group, they just need to play together more.

Vain Machine had a similar issue as Vengeance Tampon—certain aspects were mind-blowing, others … not so much. A two piece with vocalist Omar Quinones, and drummer Beau Baker. They had some really great music: heavy techno with a touch of rock, played extremely well, especially Baker, the man is a MONSTER on the drums. But some of the vocals were not so great. I’m not sure if Quinones was winded due to the high-altitude or what, but when he sang, it would be off-key and sounded strained. It didn’t help that he was also running around like he was possessed, trying to deliver a truly memorable show (which he did, unfortunately for the wrong reasons). Perhaps next time when they play in mountainous areas, he should arrive a day or two beforehand to adjust. It’s a shame too … musically, they had something I really enjoyed.

Reaxion Guerrilla was an act that completely and totally threw me off guard … and I can’t thank them enough. Wow. Not only was the music a total and complete onslaught of the senses, an electronica base that combines some of the heavy edge of hardstyle techno with elements of goth-rock and metal, but they really upped the ante on presentation. Performed by programmer Nadia and vocalist Carlos, who sounded like Maniac (former vocalist of the Norwegian black metal band Mayhem), wearing a leather-spiked outfit (reminding me of Beetlejuice) and carrying around a metal grinder that he would use to shoot sparks into the audience, Carlos commanded the stage. Wearing makeup that was applied to accentuate certain features and make him look as ghoulish as possible, pacing the stage with a nervous energy, he was the poster-child for intensity. With the sound that was left on stage, most of the audience was spent like they had just witnessed the headliner. But trust me, it didn’t take long for that energy to resume once the actual headliner hit the stage … Hocico.

I must say that after absorbing the final two bands of the festival, the comparison to show quality that keeps popping in my mind is that of the differences between Alice Cooper and KISS.

Confused yet?

Like Alice Cooper and KISS, both Hocico and Reaxion Guerrilla have similar musical styles, an electronica base that implements goth-rock and metal with scream vocals. But that’s where the similarities end. Reaxion Guerrilla had a stage presence that emitted insanity and unease—so much so that you thought that Carlos was going to jump off of the stage and stab someone in the audience, like the intensity of a Cooper concert. Hocico made you want to jump up into the air and either pound your fists, or break out into dancing. They also had the ultimate show designed to leave an audience completely transfixed on the stage, much like a KISS concert. The thing that also helped give their show that “grandiose” feeling was them also having the largest crowd of all three days, making it clear that the audience was there to see THEM. From the two giant projections on the back walls of death, carnage, war, and a host of other unpleasant imagery, to vocalist Aircrag constantly bringing the audience to its feet and pulling out of them all remaining bits of life - which wasn’t difficult, considering the audience may have done it more out of intimidation due to the fact that he was wearing an outfit and mask that looked like it came from the new “Mad Max” film during the first few songs of the set. Even keyboardist Racso Agroyam was physically putting himself out there as much as he could. After two encores, they released their spell on the audience, allowing us to pass out.

Before Hocico took the stage, DJ Evil K went up and spoke of how he started going to clubs (specifically the many-years defunct Impulse) and how it was his experiences there that helped shape what the Dark Arts Festival was to be about. Dark Arts was set up to be a place where you could be anyone, or anything. That no matter who or what you were, you were the commander in control of how your life should be led. With as much conviction and passion that he could muster from days of little sleep making sure everything went smoothly, his sentiment resonated with all of us. For a moment we looked around and realized that we were attending the largest family reunion that many of us had probably ever been a part of.

And that, my good creatures of the dark, was Dark Arts Festival 2015. I wanted to thank DJ Evil K, his wife, all of the bands, and all of the people at Area 51 that made the event so successful. Most importantly, I want to thank you for taking time out to read this recap. Without you, these words mean nothing. 

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2015 Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival, Day Two Recap with Angelspit/Gothsicles/Adrian H & the Wounds/Red Death Romantics/Valerie Rose Sterrett @ Area 51; September 12th, 2015--

 

The second night of this year’s Dark Arts Festival was certainly the most eclectic so far. From the belly dancing/burlesque show that was happening on the stage of the second floor of the club, to the bands that performed, nothing was usual—and that says a lot considering that the was hardly one that could be construed as “normal.”

The first act up was the wife and husband duo (performing under her name) of vocalist/keyboardist Valerie Rose Sterrett and percussionist B.C. Sterrett. Dressed in attire that could be seen as a classical look with some Steampunk influence and incorporating a custom light show, it was hard not to be drawn into their world based off of looks alone. But it was when Sterrett opened her mouth to sing to the accompanying music a few measures in, that there was absolutely no way you were going to escape her clutches. It sucks you in immediately. Her voice has a Tori Amos quality to it. There was one thing that she did that I had never before heard in the context of goth music—yodeling (and yes, she pulled it off perfectly). The musical portion of their set was broken in half; the first being a menagerie of symphonic keyboards, odd percussive and melodic instruments (a wine glass tapped with a mallet and a musical saw played with a bow), and soundscapes of wind blowing and inclement weather. The musical portion of their set immediately transported me to an old haunted house somewhere in Europe. The various styles and moods accompanying the soundscapes told the history of the house ranging from the Baroque, to a gothic-inspired 1920s jazz age, to modern day. The second half was when Sterrett took the stage alone and performed a more electronic set. Basically, take the same moods during the first half, remove the soundscapes and percussive instruments, add a more traditional dance-infused beat, and you have the sound pretty well pegged. The only song that was really out of place was the song “Dots.” I’m sure it would do well in some dance club in New York, but it was out of place during their show (an opinion which was shared by Sterrett when I spoke to her afterwards). Overall though, a band I hope to see again.

I love the Red Death Romantics. They are everything that is good in the world of kitschy death-rock … actually, since that’s a genre I’ve never really heard of before, I believe they are the ONLY group in that world. Rest assured, it’s a pretty awesome place to visit. Containing vocalist DJ Evil K, bassist/keyboardist/electric drummer Billy Bones, and guitarist/bassist Hex, their sound is a truly unique take on the genre of death rock. While most lyrical topics of death rock reside in the “evil” category, Red Death Romantics go into complete over-the-top absurdity and add somewhat goofy melody lines over it all. An example of what all the generalizations would be is 45 Grave mixed with the B-52’s … seriously. There was one song that was performed that has yet to have a title, and with the way it’s composed, I told DJ Evil K that it should be called “Goth Lobster.” The thing I loved most about them was every member brought something unique to the band. Both Bones and Hex were able to pull of some pretty awesome things, not only in their melodies, but also their switching instruments between songs. Although I wouldn’t call DJ Evil K a “vocal virtuoso,” I really cannot imagine hearing the band in any way without his voice. This is a band you can’t walk away from and still be in a bad mood.

Sigh … I don’t like giving negative reviews. Honestly, I take absolutely zero joy in writing them. As I’ve stated numerous times, this site is designed to help bring attention to bands that may not be able to get it otherwise, and so I always try to look at the positives in every performance I see. Yet, I owe it to you, my readers, to inform you of that which may be unpleasant …

Adrian H & the Wounds was a band that had some very strong points (primarily in the rhythm section), and some that were not. Incorporating both a live drummer and a drum-machine allowed for some extremely interesting rhythmic patterns that could not have been accomplished by one person alone, and the basslines being fairly simplistic providing a very dense, very stable foundation, comes in the keyboards and vocals. They keyboards completely change the dynamic of the music, and oftentimes the piece gets steered down a very dissonant path. Combining these elements and then adding a vocal style on top that sounds like Regan after she being possessed by the devil in “The Exorcist,” made for a very confusing sound.

The Gothsicles was a two-piece that seemed to win over a majority of the audience, though unfortunately, I was not one of them. With a musical base of generic techno and a vocal style that sounds like a bad Moronic Dictator from Green Jellÿ, focusing the lyrics to be about comics, video games, and superheroes, it only got more grating as time progressed. Some people really loved them, but I was not one of them.

Closing the set was Angelspit, a group that could not have been better chosen to rescue me. With the musical portion of the show—a complete onslaught of heavy industrial-goth metal—being handled by programmer/keyboardist Matt Slegel, and the intense, often times screamed vocals of Zoog Von Rock, their set was designed to destroy and leave the audience with them solidly attached to our brains. Every part of the show was bathed in wickedness. With lyrics covering topics ranging from sex to cannibalism, and a stage design that included a veil that gave one of the group the illusion of being encased by a spider's webbing. They had the audience in their grasp through the entire set and it wasn’t until the fan-favorite “100%” that the grip was loosened to let the audience join the mayhem by singing as loud as possible, all screaming the line: “This time, you’re 100 percent fucked!” From the moment they walked on that stage until the when they left, they owned it. A stellar ending to day two.

Some highs, some lows … now it’s on to Day Three …

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2015 Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival, Day One Recap with Firewinder/Creature From Jekyll Island/Image Down/Tragic Black/Voicecoil/Aesthetic Perfection @ Area 51; September 11th, 2015

Vampires, transgendered individuals, goths, punks, and wild ones of all ages (well, actually 18 and up) congregated at Area 51 on Friday night to welcome in the beginning of the 2015 Salt Lake City Dark Arts Festival.

I must admit, although I have been involved in the goth community for many years, I have never been to the annual Dark Arts Festival held at Area 51. This year, however, was to be different. And I must say, if what I witnessed was only the beginning of my weekend basking in the dark and macabre … then I am in for a wonderfully devilish ride.

The Festival is really that: not just a conglomeration of goth/industrial/electronica bands playing to a crowd of those that enjoy the darker sides of life, outside were tents for Vegan Boundary (fetish gear), Salt Lake Pagan Society (offering a variety of readings), Nightwind Glass Arts, Wicked Wonders (jewelry and lotions), Wild Graphics (advertising company), food being sold by Wild Mushroom Pizza (get their pepperoni, it was great), and a booth that was doing piercings—trust me, the festival has a little bit of everything for everyone.

The first act up was Firewinder. An instrumental two-piece comprised of main-man and keyboardist Kevin Tolman, with assistance from keyboardist Brandon Callahan, who opened the event perfectly. Visually, they seemed a bit out of place (both of them wearing jeans, t-shirts, and hats), but musically, they were not only well within the accepted genres of the evening—in their case, electronic goth—but they were one of the best bands of the evening. The thing I loved about them was that although their music definitely held a steady rhythm, key in any kind of good electronica, they had programmed all of their drum beats to be in really odd time-signatures in the vein of tribal drumming. Layered over that were heavily effected keyboard parts that, at times, had almost no discernible melodic content. They really sounded like a gothier Throbbing Gristle. No matter how odd some of what they played would get, it was definitely unique and something I’d like to hear again.

Creature From Jekyll Island had some amazing points, others that were not particularly mind-blowing. The biggest thing I liked about the band was how out there they were—and I don’t mean because their drummer was dressed like a space alien, the bassist was a drag-queen, and the vocalist looked like a lounge singer. Their song “Pepsi Christ” sounded like the symphonic elements of the Dracula score with a dark funk bass line and drumming that would go from tribal in the verse to swing in the chorus. At times, their concoctions were interesting. Others, like the banjo-infused “The Lion and the Vulture,” were bordering on train-wreck. To be honest, the best thing about the band was their bassist, Low-End Lucy's musicianship. The basslines I witnessed being graced on that instrument were utterly brilliant. From funk to jazz to melody lines … flawless. My only wish is that the rest of the band were as good, and cohesive, as their bassist.

Image Down—comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Scott Wilson, keyboardist/vocalist Maria Wilson, and bassist Scot Wilson—was probably the one band that had the most nostalgia factor for me. Their music was within the realm of synth-based 1980s new wave, but it never sounded derivative. It was like hearing Sisters Of Mercy for the first time all over again. The highlight of the evening was the song “This Can’t End Well.” Like most of their fare, it was an upbeat dance number, but what made it so great was that both Wilson vocalists were featured on the song. When the elder Wilson would sing solo, his voice would be a little suspect, never off-key, but at points, a little shaky. But when his wife joined him, it created a really inviting harmony.

I know, I said earlier it was all “dark and macabre,” and so far you’ve been missing that … wait no more.

Adorned in leather outfits, huge, hair-sprayed dyed hair, and an assortment of masks and makeup, Tragic Black was the most visually intense band of the evening. These guys are the epitome of great hard industrial-goth-rock. Members Vision (lead vocals), Stich (guitars/vocals), and Vyle (bass/vocals) brought a set that was designed to please old fans—who have been with them since they formed in 2001—as well as bringing a spotlight to some of their newer material. It was one of their new songs, the title track from their upcoming release “Nostalgia,” that was easily the best out of their newer crop. It’s a song that not only maintains their industrial-goth roots, but adds a really dissonant guitar, giving the song an incredibly creepy feel. Trust me, check out their new stuff, you won’t be disappointed.

Voicecoil's set is when the show took a lull for me. They definitely have talent, vocalist Mark Sousa was probably the best singer of the evening. However, their music isn’t anything that hasn't been heard before. Combine some New Order, Pet Shop Boys, and add a chunk of techno-based rhythm tracks you would find at E.D.C., and you’ve got it.  

The show ended with Aesthetic Perfection and they KILLED IT. A two piece with Daniel Graves on vocal, and David Dutton on keyboards, they have electronica influenced goth down pat. The thing I found so unique about them was their utilization of a lot of major chord progressions. In the underworld that is goth music, most bands rely on minor keys to add an element of darkness. Because of this, Aesthetic Perfection was easily the most accessible or “commercial” band of the night. They owned the stage with frenetic energy and left the crowd completely drained. Well done good sirs.

With two more days to go, and seeing the upcoming lineup for both days, I cannot expect anything less than this year’s Dark Arts Festival being a complete smash.