Thursday, March 15, 2012

Eluveitie's "Helvetios" - The Rise of Anna Murphey

Eluveitie never cease to impress me with their special brand of folk metal. I love almost anything they put out. I even loved the acoustic album they put out. My opinion may be a little skewed just based on my love for this band but I honestly believe Helvetios is one of the best albums to come out this year so far. Even by Eluveitie's normally high standards this is a great album. I'm not say Everything Remains... was bad album but this album here is much, much better. The songs have much more of a "replay value" than that of their last album. Even the album's intro is a step out of the norm for the band. Normally their albums open with an instrumental folk piece, normally about 2 or 3 minutes long. This album, however opens with an epic spoken word, seamlessly flowing into the first track on the album. Almost like you're watching the opening credits and then the first battle scene of an epic medieval-themed movie. It sucks you into the album immediately.

Now, I call this the rise of Anna Murphey because she has a tremendous presence on the album. The first single from the album, "A Rose For Epona" was sung almost entirely by her. And allow me to say it's one of my favorite songs on the album. Her voice is definitely growing and it's just a super catchy rock song in the middle of the folk-metal madness that is the rest of the album. Now, that's not her only part, either. She has prominent parts in a few songs. Including my personal favorite song on the album (right now, subject to change) "Luxtos." As far as the straight metal songs go, that is easily the catchiest on the album. I don't know the language but I find myself struggling to sing along anyway while I'm blasting it going down the highway. Anna also shares the spotlight on the song "Alesia" in which her and Chirgal go back and forth on the vocals. Much the same way they did for "Slanias Song" from the album Slania.

If there was one thing I would change about the album, and really the band as a whole, it would be to ad a guitar solo once in a while. I mean, the flute solos are cool and all but I wanna see what the guitarists are capable of. As opposed to just adding riffage to the flute and bagpipe and various other folk instrument parts. Maybe even a compromise would be to have a duel solo. Where the flute or whathaveyou and the guitar go back and forth, battling almost. Or even have them mimic each other. These are just my ideas.

Anywho, I believe you have figured out my overall take on the album. It's a great album. You should buy it right now. Right now. Do it. Do it. Do it. You will thank me, I promise. And I will sit back and watch as Eluveitie continue to be one of the most interesting band in the metal landscape today.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

My Exclusive Interview With Nathan Ells (Sunlit Ether, ex-The Human Abstract)

It's no secret that The Human Abstract have been one of my favorites for a long time. Due in no small part to Nathan Ells' vocal talent. The man has an amazing range and brings such emotion and energy to the songs he sings. And when I got the news that he was fired from The Human Abstract I was pretty bummed. Not only did I love his voice, but I thought that Midheaven was some of their best work. Not only for him as a vocalist but creatively as a band. But my opinion was apparently not that of most metal fans. So they got A.J. Minette back in the band. Yeah, that's all cool and stuff. He's a very talented guitar player but to be perfectly honest his song writing is a little weak to me. And they hired whatsisface from From First To Last. Who has arguably one of the most generic voices around.

But that's my little rant. Obviously I'm still slightly bitter over the death of a once-great band. But Nathan has a new project now, Sunlit Ether. This band is in it's first stages of evolution but I personally foresee great things coming from this. The songs are catchy and of course you got his voice and song writing ability. So we clearly haven't heard the last of Nathan Ells. And now here's my exclusive interview with the man himself.

What was the full story behind your departure from The Human Abstract? I remember you wrote a blog on MySpace and Dean Herrara also wrote something but that was a few years ago and if I recall didn't really answer a whole lot of questions.

What was most difficult about getting kicked out of THA was that I didn't get the full story myself from them on that day. Times were hard on the road, mostly because members of the band couldn't seem to enjoy themselves, especially AJ, who was always quiet and nervous constantly, and seemed to have a lot of trouble with his girlfriend back home during the time we were both in the band. When AJ quit, Brett Powell (drummer) blamed me for his departure, because AJ and I were such polar opposites as people, he thought my very prescence ran him off. He became very obsessed with this idea. I remember the transitional time between Nocturne and Midheaven was a very difficult time for Brett, and he would always come to me with any negative comments he'd found on the internet from fans.. I've always disregarded any negativity from haters about my art, and have always felt very strongly about doing so. One of Brett Powell's favorite things to say while I was in the band was, "Give the people what they want and take their money." He'd say it over and over. With that in mind, it's very obvious why we didn't get along. Add Dean Herrera, a Mormon, and AJ Minette, a very fundamentalist Christian, all of these people from Los Angeles in their first band ever, and then me, born and raised in Nashville, TN, coming in with 10 years of experience (THA being my 6th band). It was a recipe for disaster. There are really endless reasons, too many to list why it didn't work.

Would you rejoin The Human Abstract if given the chance?

Well, firstly, The Human Abstract broke up:

But that said, I'd like it to be known that when Travis Richter quit the band (after less than one record cycle), I wrote both AJ and Brett to touch base and see how they felt about the idea of possibly doing a fourth album together. Neither of them responded. Not even a "fuck you".

I didn't wanna spend too much time on The Human Abstract, and I'm sure you feel the same way so I'm gonna shift focus now to your new band, Sunlit Ether. First off, do you feel that this is a new musical step for you?

Its definitely not a new musical step for me in the sense that most of the members of Sunlit are members of a band I was in before THA, Tricoma. We played lots of live shows in Southern California, but never got the chance to record together. I always got along with them and the writing I did with them was among my very favorite of all the bands I've been in, so it's been great to reconnect with them and start making new music with old friends.

How do your influences on Sunlit Ether vary from that of The Human Abstract and your solo music?

Well, I don't want to speak too much for the other members as far as influences are concerned, but Hex (guitarist) and I both really like old Helmet and a lot of the riff-driven heavier bands of the early Alternative movement. Fugazi and Quicksand are another couple of bands of that era thatSunlit Ether could be compared to. We definitely love the bands, At The Drive In and Refused, also, and it shows in the overall sound of the band, I'd say.

I know you've been looking into some labels (or, at least the last time we talked you were) so are there any labels you feel would best represent Sunlit Ether?

I don't want to say too much, but we've been talking back and forth with the really great people at Razor and Tie (All That Remains, Saves The Day, etc.). Razor and Tie is one of the biggest independent labels in America, and is distributed by Sony and Red. We're definitely interested in each other. lol

Is a full length album expected anytime in the near future for that project?

Again, I don't want to say too much, but we're about to hook up with a great producer and get to work on that in the months to come.

Shifting back to your musical influences for a second, it's no mystery that you personally love hip-hop, and rave music and things of that nature. And that you were classically trained in vocals (I can't seem to remember a specific style), and that in fact you don't listen to much metal. So how did you get into writing metal music in the first place?

Well, I grew up listening to early Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, and later Deftones and Tool were huge influences on me. When I started doing live heavy shows, though, I was hooked forever.. Nothing beats a screaming crowd of people and an agressive pit. That said, I love the wordplay and groove of Hip Hop, and I was going to oldschool raves when most of these scenekids were in diapers. I can't change my past or what I love. That said, I'm really excited to see organized parties and electro making a comeback.

Can we expect any more solo music from you? And will that maybe incorporate more electro or hip-hop styles?

Yes sir.. I've been doing some production work for Nikki Williams, a vocalist making a debut on Island/Def Jam, and I just finished a mix of "I Wanna Kill You" for UK artist Nells which I think turned out especially well. I'm going to try and get out a new NRE album this year as well as a compilation of some of the artists I've been able to work with recently, including Nikki Williams, Smoke - a world-touring Hip Hop artist from Nashville, Nells, and Soul E - a vocalist from Nigeria I recently signed to my publishing/management company, Binary Trust. So look out for Dancehall Assassins this year as well as a new NRE release.

That's all the questions I have for you so I'd like to thank you once again for doing this for me. And would you like to say anything else to your fans?

Just this:
And.. endless thanks to all those fans and friends out there that have stuck with me through the years. This year's going to be a great one.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

"What makes us write good metal music is that we listen to non-metal music."

The above quote was taken from an interview with prolific mastermind behind a few bands, the most notable of which of course being Opeth, Mikael Ă…kefeldt (pictured above). The interview was taken from Opeth's 20th anniversary DVD/CD set In Live Concert At The Royal Albert Hall. This quote really got me thinking about how good metal music is produced. How important is it to have diverse influences? Sure you listen to a lot of Slayer and that's obviously gonna influence your music but without the added influence of different styles of music you're just gonna end up with a band that sounds just like Slayer. That's great but so what? if I wanted to listen to a band that sounded like Slayer I would listen to Slayer.

The problem we have here is that in today's metal culture, you have the people that claim that if you're not listening to metal all the time then you're not a true metal head. There seems to be a mentality that if you listen to a little bit of pop music your love for metal is called into question. But it's when you are exposed to many types of music the music you produce tends to be more unique.

Talk to most bads, not just metal, and ask them what their influences are they normally give you the same answer. Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin, The Beatles, etc... It's naive of anyone to think that these are the only bands that are influencing a bands music. I'm sure the classic bands do influence these artists but I think it's more that bands don't want to admit that they're influenced by modern bands or modern styles of music. But that's why we have new styles of music, it's the natural evolution of things.

The problem I have with the current metal scene these days is that bands seem to have run out of creative influences. Bands are afraid of being labeled as non-metal if the branch out a tiny little bit. So they keep writing the same old thrash metal riff and keep playing the same blast-beat drum pattern without venturing outside the proven formula. Now, of course in the case of straight death metal bands, you're probably not gonna find pop elements in the music. Unless, of course you're in Sweden. But it's not really that that bothers me. Of course death metal is always gonna be death metal. But there is still room for growth. Listen to the original death metal of 90's and compare that to the latest Black Dahlia Murder album. There is a world of difference.

Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with a band staying true to their sound. But you also have to be sure that the music your band is producing doesn't get boring. Find more diverse influences. You might not consciously change the sound of the band but listening to more styles of music will eventually change the way you perceive the music you are writing and hopefully you will grow as an artist.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pop Metal And It's Place In The Metal Community

Everybody in the metal community loves to argue about pop metal. Do pop metal bands have a place? Should they even be called metal? The argument is usually made that the pop metal bands act as gateway bands. The kid that is listening to Avenged Sevenfold today will be listening to Cannibal Corpse tomorrow. This may very well be true. That's how I was when I was 13 and 14 listening to Korn, Slipknot, and Linkin Park. By the time I was 16 and 17 I was into Cannibal Corpse, Kataklysm, and Bloodbath. But does this happen in every case? Absolutely not. Most of the time, especially these days, the bands like like Five Finger Death Punch, Bullet For My Valentine, and Disturbed attract a UFC style fanbase of douche bags. But of course you have that risk with every movement. While the kids that were into nu metal when they were younger, like me grew up to like true metal. The adults that got into nu metal went a very different direction, Getting tribal tattoos and corn rows.

But there is a difference between good and bad pop metal. There are the bands that have serious talent like Avenged Sevenfold and Killswitch Engage that just happen to write catchy songs with an edge. And then you have Black Veil Brides and Five Finger Death Punch who are just so annoying you can't imagine this music doing anything good for anybody. But those bands will eventually die out and we'll be left with the talented ones that will do nostalgia tours 10 years from now.

But what about deathcore? Beyond the radio side of pop metal you have deathcore which is basically the Hot Topic side of pop metal. It attracts a very similar fanbase and has very similar effects as far as getting kids to listen to real metal. The good thing about deathcore is that it gives the bands the opportunity to evolve into a real death metal bands. The Black Dahlia Murder, Job For A Cowboy, Through The Eyes Of The Dead, these are all bands that have distanced themselves from the deathcore movement while managing to keep their original fans and through going on tour with real death metal bands, have turned their fans onto the world outside the brightly colored shirts, the hardcore dancing and the basketball shorts. This is where I see the merit of deathcore.

But then, of course you have the bands who have no merit whatsoever. Sadly these are the bands most associated with the movement. When talking about deathcore Bring Me The Horizon is the first band to come to mind. And that band is absolutely terrible. Luckily for us this movement seems to be on it's way out. I mean, when was the last time you heard a new BMTH song? Or saw someone wearing an Attack Attack! shirt? Unlike the pop metal bands, when the bad deathcore bands die out we aren't really left with "good" deathcore bands. We'll just be left with bands their were deathcore but have evolved their sound to traditional death metal. And isn't that we are really hoping for?