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An Evening with Loud Night: The Mixtape

“Loud Night started as an outlet for us to write blistering punk songs with shitloads of guitar harmonies that were dumb enough we could play them blind drunk,” drummer Jonah Livingston tells Decibel — and the Richmond, Virginia quartet certainly lives up to that Rachtman-esque one-foot-in-the-gutter-one-fist-in-the-gold moniker/goal (and then some!) on its rousing, swaggering, thrash-tastic debut full-length Mindnumbing Pleasure.

“Kallen, Ben and I had all been in a band together for years” — that would be underground crossover heroes Ramming Speed — “but we wanted to try playing music more influenced by the classic records we had worn out on our turntables,” Livingston continues. “There are albums that as a rock n roll fan you will always go back to — Motorhead, Priest, Thin Lizzy, etcetera — and we wanted to try to write music that would have that kind of re-play value. So we told our long-time heavy metal bud Andy Horn from Battlemaster that we were trying to do a band that sounded like our take on catchy, ripping D-beat. Me and Kallen listen to tons of Disfear and Martyrdod, Ben listens to lots of Goth and Japanese Punk, and Andy is like…steeped in the leather and filth of Venom. He’s a complete heavy metal maniac, the dude showers with aviators on, it’s insane.”

Mindnumbing Pleasure by Loud Night

“So the four of us just started slashing away at this stuff in my basement and we couldn’t be happier that we were able to get this first LP out despite the entire fucking world falling apart. Shout out to Bobby at Vinyl Conflict for taking a chance on this given the circumstances. Now we’re just sitting around chewing gunpowder and waiting until it makes sense to hit the road again. This isn’t music you want to practice too much — it’s music that sounds best in a different city every night.”

Mindnumbing Pleasure by Loud Night

To celebrate the release of Mindnumbing Pleasure, Livingston kindly curated the following mixtape for readers also perhaps “just sitting around chewing gunpowder” and wondering what it might be like to ride that highway to Hell with these heavy metal marauders…

Paintbox: “Oneside Surprise”

Venom: “Die Hard”

Mindnumbing Pleasure by Loud Night

Photo: Melissa Suarez

Judgement: “Kick Them Over”

Judas Priest: “Desert Plains”

Tank: LIVE

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Full EP Premiere: Sun in Shadows & Soul Remnants — “Collection of Skulls: A Tribute to Sepultura”

Under a pale gray sky killer covers shall arise…

Fucking hell. It is no small task to do justice to legendary jams like “Inner Self” and “Dead Embryonic Cells,” but Sun in Shadows — the heavy metal melting pot stirrers extraordinaire we previously wrote about here — and ultra-sick blackened death metallers Soul Remnants more than rise to the occasion with Collection of Skulls: A Tribute to Sepultura, paying honest homage to the originals from the Brazilian death thrash game-changers while injecting a bit of their own unique flair and expanse.

Decibel is pleased to exclusively stream the EP below — out today — below, but first here are a few words about the origin of the project from Sun in Shadows mastermind Nick Heigelmann…

“There is no doubting the influence Sepultura had on so many. The riffs were always punishing and the lyrics always had a dope message — be it cerebral, philosophical, or social. They’re one of those bands that has that nostalgic vibe for me. These tunes were great for having on while doing just about anything. Skating, driving, doing homework, or just crankin’ tapes in the bedroom and headbanging! Brings me back to those days for sure!

“I was planning on doing a cover song just to keep active and randomly talked to Tom from Soul Remnants who mentioned they had just recorded a cover of ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ for their upcoming LP. Long story short, I pretty much glommed onto their idea and they ended up being down to do a Sepultura cover split. Then we came up with the idea to do a limited cassette version and that was that!

“Since Soul Remnants had a cover from Arise already, I figured I would go older and try something off Beneath the Remains. It was between ‘Mass Hypnosis’ and ‘Inner Self.’ The groove and the vocals that I am able to accomplish fit better with ‘Inner Self’ after trying both songs out. The riffs were fun to learn, there are a lot of changes to track but would be really fun to do live if we ever get the chance!”

Collection of Skulls – Tribute to Sepultura by Soul Remnants and Sun in Shadows

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Iggor Cavalera On Petbrick Collaboration with LG Petrov; Proceeds to Benefit Iconic Frontman’s Cancer Treatment Fund

Think kismet always arrives with a stock soundtrack of orchestral strings or angelic choirs swelling in the background?

Think again.

Case in point: One night, not so long ago, Iggor Cavalera laid down an old school black metal blast beat in his practice space. He brought it home on a sampler, and then, along with his power electronics partner in crime/Petbrick bandmate Wayne Adams, slowly began to add layers of synth noise and glitchy, chopped melodies. The resulting semi-controlled sonic chaos was killer as it stood, sure, but also clearly missing that transcendent element — that X-factor — to fully actualize the song.

Then came the epiphany: Call fellow metal legend and longtime friend LG Petrov, the iconic voice of Entombed/Entombed A.D.

“LG was stoked on the idea for the same reason I was — no one would see it coming,” Cavalera tells Decibel. “Like me, he’s into experimental stuff and, more generally, just enjoys anything weird and not so commercial that pushes boundaries — I mean, Entombed has been proving that forever, from the death metal days to Wolverine Blues and beyond — but, while LG is someone I’ve always admired as both a great person and a forward-thinking artist, he’s not known for doing stuff in the breakcore or electronic scene. So, to me, that made it even more exciting and interesting to bring him in on something like this.”

Petrov, predictably, set the whole damn song on fire, raising the track — “Lonely Souls,” which you can check out below — to those empyrean extreme music heights.

Pet Sounds Vol.1 by PETBRICK

It was only a few weeks later that Cavalera saw the news that Petrov had been diagnosed with incurable bile duct cancer — and quickly realized his friend already in the battle again the illness as he laid down the vocals for “Lonely Souls.”

“He’s such a warrior, man,” Cavalera marvels. “A true artist — not letting anything stop him from moving forward and expressing himself. It’s inspiring. And I started to think a lot about how if you love someone or love their art, it’s important to let them know and do things for them now. Because you never know. This life of ours, it’s short and it’s crazy. No tomorrow is guaranteed. You have to act now — in friendship, in art, in life, in everything.”

In that spirit — and summoning that aforementioned kismet — “Lonely Souls” arrives today as part of Petbrick’s Pet Sounds Vol​.​1 EP, with all profits from the EP and related merch bundles going directly to the GoFundMe set up to support Petrov during his treatment.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can do something to help a friend,” Cavalera says. “LG is going to bring a lot of strength to this fight. He’s in good spirits and has a great mindset. Very positive. But it is also important to support someone that has been in the scene for such a long time — always, of course, but especially during this crazy moment where, like most musicians in the pandemic, he hasn’t been able to earn a living in the usual way for a long time now. Luckily, this isn’t a situation where we’re doing a tribute thing when it’s already too late. We can help LG right now. Make a difference right now. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

The record itself will also likely serve as something of a revelation for those on familiar with the heavy meta/Sepultura side of Cavalera’s art. But the divide, he points out, in not so great as some may presume.

“I totally think that energy-wise, power electronics and metal walk side by side, you know?” he says, citing his early experience with sampling and drum machines on the 1994 Nailbomb classic Point Blank as a watershed moment for him. “Some of this breakcore stuff, it’s as extreme as a grindcore band. So for me, it’s just different kinds of sonic aggression. Sometime I do achieve that with a live band and sometimes by distorting and chopping and manipulating sounds into this whole other animal, which can be also fun and very weird in a way to some people who never heard. I mean, I’ve played this project for some friends who were like, ‘What the fuck is this?’ It sounds like the end of the world to them — and I have to say it’s quite a good feeling when I hear things like this.”

Speaking of “whole other animals,” the cover artwork of the EP is quite clever as well.

“It was funny because the name of the project is Petbrick I had a folder on my computer called ‘Pet Sounds’ and one day it hit me: ‘Holy shit, that’s one of the most famous records ever!’ So we decided to do a bit of a homage, dragging the Beach Boys into the dark world of heavy music with the goat and everything. Part of Petbrick is not taking ourselves too seriously. It’s something that we love, but also we have fun with it.”

As excited as he is for people to hear the Petbrick material, however, Cavalera is eager throughout our conversation to circle back around to the friend he’s bonded with over riffs, beats, and innumerable football watching sessions.

“If you’ve ever seen an interview with LG, you know how much of a cool and thoughtful guy he is,” Cavalera says. “That’s him. He’s not playing a character. He’s just a very passionate and transparent guy who loves his music, loves metal, and is exactly the kind of person you want to have around when you’re creating or touring or even just watching a football game. I’m glad he’s in my life and I want him to stay there.”

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Demo:listen: Fire Magic

Today we premiere Burning Gold, the three-song demo from anonymous stateside black metal duo Fire Magic. Little is known about Fire Magic, but what was revealed concerning this new force in the underground some weeks ago via the Stygian Black Hand Bandcamp, e.g. their sound, their song titles, their demo title, their logo, their name, their mere existence, was all promising enough almost to guarantee that the other two-thirds of Burning Gold would likewise deliver some raging fiery majesty as what’s displayed prominently on “Tribulations Upon their Flesh.”

Of course we reached out. Tried to find out what we could about these two calling themselves Fire Magic.

They assure us, “The anonymity is quite intentional.” They confirm: “There are two of us.”

They continue, expounding on what inspired their coming together to make black metal. “While we did not set out to write in a certain style, intrinsically the melodies and themes of the music we create will be characterized by bands that have come before us,” Fire Magic say. “There are plenty of contemporary bands that both of us enjoy, but we are not trying to replicate any of it. Of all the old guard, Bathory is our Polaris.”

Burning Gold

Burning Gold by Fire Magic

Fire Magic’s demo is available today on pro-tape from Stygian Black Hand.

Their name “came to [them] in the infancy of the writing process,” they say. “It seemed fitting, given our approach, to have a title that conjures feelings of mysticism and power.”

The album title, Burning Gold “is the passion of existence,” they say. “It is the wild heart that drives us to go past the point of pain or reason.”

According to Fire Magic, Burning Gold is actually “the second set of songs” they’ve written since assuming this name. “The first set, while no less furious, will be released at a later date,” they say. “Our writing process is simple. We act as conduit for the ideas we wish to express. At times the music has seemed to be already written and, with concentration and persistence, we can discern the songs in their entirety from the first few notes.” 

Regarding the recording process for their demo, Fire Magic say, “We decided early on that we would record everything ourselves. Intentionally, little attention is spent towards the minutiae of guitar tone or drum sound. Recording ‘quality’ does not interest us as much as capturing the raw energy of the songs. Obviously, there is a level of fidelity that we try to maintain in the mixing and mastering process, but we prefer to let the material manifest itself without our interference. As our intent in the creation of these releases is quite primitive, we follow that ethos in how we record.’

And their amazing logo, Fire Magic inform us “was created by Amalantrah Workings.” They say, “We feel it perfectly captures the blazing soul of our craft and are grateful for their involvement in this regard.”

Looking ahead, Fire Magic say, “We are slowly writing a follow up to the demo. As far as the future is concerned, we will continue writing and releasing music as long as we want to. Our motivations are purely internal. As such, we are not beholden to any idea of being a ‘band.’ Expect more of the same.”

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Frozen Soul to Release Exclusive New Track “Tormented by Time” Via Decibel Flexi Series

Hot off our announcement that Canadian innovators in grind Wake will be contributing an exclusive flexi disc to next month’s issue of Decibel, we’ve decided to cool things down–way, way down. Defenders of the old-school faith and recent Century Media signing Frozen Soul have arrived on the scene courtesy of the Decibel Flexi Series. The only guaranteed way to get your hands on this chilling, exclusive non-album track is by signing up for a deluxe Decibel subscription by Monday, October 5 at noon EDT. Don’t miss out on our first flexi double header, lest you find yourself tormented by wasted time.

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Exclusive Excerpt: Exhumed Mastermind Matt Harvey’s Gore-Drenched Cosmic Horror Novelette “The Vessel”

From getting deep into the “Matter of the Splatter” via inventive, evocative lyrics penned for Exhumed and Gruesome to the text bubbles of the wild comic Howl a few years back, Matt Harvey has been on a delightfully deranged creative journey. But none of what has come before will quite prepare you for “The Vessel,” the death-metal-bar-raiser-turned-author’s brilliantly rendered mind-bending, reality-refracting cosmic horror novelette which appears alongside equally masterful spine-tinglers courtesy A.S. Coomer and Lucas Mangum in the must-own Grindhouse Press anthology Horrorama — edited by the great C.V. Hunt no less! (Out tomorrow; purchase direct from Exhumed’s Official Gore Emporium, Grindhouse Press, or over at the Amazon-dot-com.)

“I’ve always written for fun — and I’ve been doing a lot more of it the last few years,” Harvey tells Decibel. “I’ve found it’s a great way to pass time on tour, especially on the many interminable van/plane/bus rides that fill up so much of my time. A couple of years ago, I befriended an Exhumed fan who is an excellent writer named Rachel Deering — seriously, track down her stuff, I highly recommend it. Her novella Husk is a great place to start. We became buds I ended up officiating her wedding, where she introduced me to a friend of hers at Grindhouse Press. Her introduction was something like, ‘Harv’s a writer, you should publish one of his stories.’ I sheepishly explained that I wasn’t really a writer, but they published the story anyway, so I guess in hindsight, that was a lie, because now I am a writer.

“I developed ‘The Vessel’ from a shorter story I had sketched out about a deprogrammer and a Lovecraftian cult, and it sort of took on a life of its own from there. It was a lot of fun and a really exciting challenge to come up with the story. There are few things more satisfying than typing “the end” when you complete a written work. If I were to describe the story, I’d say it’s a cosmic horror / detective tale with more than its fair share of gore. Shocker, right?”

And now…the excerpt!

Slowly, the assembled Heralds of Celestial Ascension began to speak. Some of the neophytes mumbled haltingly at first, as the words were strange and hard to master. But as they repeated them, they grew strong and clear.

Ek Mynehli Shabba Kekh—Emerge!

Venth Mynehli Eb Supptu Kekh—Emerge!

Venth Nahi

Venth Ypskellum

Venth Inkhum

Emerge!

With each repetition Annika’s tongue wrapped itself around the strange words more and more adeptly, her voice merging with the others, the chant filling her with a calm openness. Their voices coa- lesced into one, and with each repetition, she felt herself slipping away, being subsumed by the words. “Love is letting go,” the Elder had told her—letting go of expectations, of the ego, of the person she had been to embrace a truer reality — something deep and important. Whatever barely remembered doubts she had completely evaporated. All that remained was a warm, enveloping haze that was as close to love as she had ever experienced.

At her feet was the cause of her fading apprehensions, a naked cadaver, once a pretty brunette, trim and tall. Now her skin was a glacial blue, her eyes yellowing, pupils occluded with a milky glaze. Those dead, dull eyes gazed emptily up at nothing, oblivious to the figures that encircled their corpse and watched over it for the better part of a day. None of them looked at the dead woman’s eyes though—they watched her abdomen. Something was moving inside her, sending spasmodic ripples fluttering across her bluing flesh. At last, their Master was stirring.

All at once, from within the corpse’s thorax came a wet, gurgled chomp. The body’s lower half convulsed fitfully, legs twitching in a flurry of spasms. The chewing became more insistent, each bite accompanied by an oozing, billowing motion across the dead woman’s stomach, like watching a ripple across a lake from underwater. Her corpse twitched more and more violently now, threshing in mute convulsions. The legs splayed out in unnatural angles, and the bones snapped with a sound like twigs trampled underfoot as the contor- tions whiplashed through her extremities.

The carcass’s legs having been wrenched sufficiently akimbo, the thrashing ceased. Before long, a moist sucking sound emanated from the corpse’s distended abdomen, a gurgling, gagging swallow of some foul-smelling fluid. Then, all at once, a gush of blackened ooze erupted with tremendous force from between the body’s legs, spurting through the birth canal like an aberrant mockery of a pregnant woman’s water breaking. This deluge of filth was followed by a wet, belching slosh. After the initial ejaculation, the foul-hued gunk con- tinued to leak slowly from between her splattered thighs, dripping onto the floor and filling the room with an overpowering reek. Warm and acidic, the smell was of something older and more wretched than decay. The gnawing continued to increase in volume as their Master drew closer, bite following bite more rapidly, gnashing toward a repugnant crescendo. The sounds of splintering bone and cartilage filled the room and one of the neophytes dropped their corner of the cradle and vomited. As the malodorous atmosphere and nerve-wracking clangor of the chewing reached an intolerable zenith, the corpse’s pelvis burst open with a final, wrenching creak. Shards of bone, sinew, and a torrent of polluted blood, sultry with the remnants of the black ooze, sprayed all over the room. The cradle and the remaining neophyte bearing it were drenched in the thick, syrupy fluid, and the one who vomited fainted dead away in a corner, collapsing into the puddle of still-warm sick at their feet.

The flesh that remained of the corpse’s pelvis, blossomed like the petals of some hideous, malformed flower, was hanging on the shards of the ilia, glistening with blood befouled by the black secre- tion. It dripped from the shredded cartilage and sinew like morning dew on blades of grass. From this gore-soaked aperture, the Master of these hooded devotees finally emerged. For some of them, this was their first time laying eyes upon the creature. Whatever they were told to expect was insufficient to prepare them.

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Exclusive Interview: The Faith/Embrace Drummer Ivor Hanson Talks “Live at CBGBs”

From the wild careening of the songs to the constant serendipity of the shouldn’t-work-out-but-does travel and band “business” described in the rousing, revelatory accompanying liner notes, Live at CBGBs — capturing an absolutely scorching late 1981 set by DC Hardcore game-changers The Faith opening for the Bad Brains — really does feel like a brief in favor of the magic that can happen when one does not place boundaries on oneself; on liberation and art through chaos, essentially.

Ivor Hanson — drummer of The Faith as well as the equally legendary Embrace and author of the acclaimed memoir Life on the Ledge: Reflections of a New York City Window Cleaner — was kind enough to chat with Decibel about the way that show and moment in time continues to reverberate throughout his life — and, in doing in such a thoughtful and incisive way, helps explain why the music and movement he helped create continues to reverberate through ours…

Returning to this nearly forty years later, do you find that freedom and heat inspiring in the context of your current life and the world we’re all attempting to navigate?

“Liberation and art through chaos” describes and frames that show so well. And though not in the same way, I do find that “freedom and heat” inspiring my current life, which, with two kids in hybrid schooling, can easily be described as at least a fair bit chaotic.

I have to say that I find it hard to believe that my daughter, at 15, is just a few years younger than I was at that show, while my son, at 10, is just slightly older than I was when I knew that I wanted — no, needed — to play the drums. And though neither is into punk rock — at least not yet! — I so want them to experience an equivalent “magic” in their lives, with her drawing and his playing the flute. Fingers crossed…

As for me, this past year, I’ve been writing fiction for the first time and am enjoying how serendipity and this-shouldn’t-be-working-but-is are informing the story in terms of details, plot, characters, and such. The difference, of course, is that while I can rework this or that chapter, you can’t do over a live show. Still, the power of that music, that scene, does work for me still. Distorted guitars by Michael (“Don’t Tell Me”), or Dr. Know (“Big Take Over”) — or, for matter, Paul Fox of The Ruts (“S.U.S.”) — will always put me in the mindset to do anything I set my mind to.

As for navigating the world as it currently is, the pandemic has thrown up so many boundaries — Zooming school and work; masks and social distancing; no shows and small gatherings — that it’s not a matter of foolishly and selfishly throwing them off, but simply living through them, living despite them. By doing so, even as we grapple with this new kind of chaos, we also arrive at new kinds of art, new kinds of lives. At least that’s the hope. But, man, breathing through an N95 mask takes some getting used to!

On a personal level that show will be, as you write in the liner notes, a “seminal experience,” but it must be gratifying — surreal perhaps? — to have something you did while in high school put back into the world for others to experience.

It is indeed gratifying and totally surreal to have this long-ago seminal experience put out into the world. Believe me, while we knew that fellow punks in the DC scene liked the band, and we had gone over well at our handful of out of town shows — as I recall, we played in New York City three times, Bridgeport, and Detroit — the band’s lasting impact, influence, resonance, or however you want to describe it, has always been a surprise. A welcome surprise, for sure, but a surprise. I mean, we knew were good, but we didn’t know we would last.

And, yes, the show was undoubtedly a very long time ago. But whereas the Faith/Void album, the Subject to Change EP, and even the first Faith demo have been out for a long time now, because this recording has never been released before, an event nearly forty years old possesses a newness nonetheless. At least to me!

How did this release come about?

Live at CBGB’s came about by Michael and John (Pastore of Outer Battery Records) hanging out discussing what tapes they’d each been digitizing. When Michael mentioned that he had a cassette off the soundboard of our show opening for the Bad Brains at CB’s, John made clear he really would like to put it out and, well, that was that. So, pretty simple. That serendipity once more.

Revisiting this material, were there any particular songs that took on new or different meaning for you?

I have to say that when I first listened to the tape I’d forgotten that we’d ever played “Steppin’ Stone” at all — in practice or at any show, let alone this one. I’d forgotten that we were already playing “Don’t Tell Me” and “Outlet,” as I thought those songs came along a bit later.

But to answer your question, I have to say that revisiting had me looking at our songs as a whole in terms of the band’s continued resonance. What is it about them that’s made them remain relevant, that’s made them still speak? The answer can, I think, be found in what J. Mascis recently said about the band: “The Faith were singing my life in their songs.” So, you could say, the personal becomes…if not universal, then at least appealing and applicable to other people, to many people.

In that light, lines like, “I know what I want and I take what I need” from “It’s Time”; “Never want to be trapped in your circles” from “Trapped”; “I’ve come too far to go back/I’m gonna find out what’s in the black” from “In The Black”; “Feel the pain inside of me/Suffering in agony” from “Nightmare”; and the questions from “What’s Wrong With Me?” — “Why do I care when you don’t?/Why can’t I see you don’t want me?/How come it’s me that’s always hurt?/How come it’s me that feels like shit?” — relay feelings and thoughts that people — teens, punks, and all the rest — can readily relate to. Add to that the sound of the songs, which express the anger, and frustration, and passion, and all the rest in Alec’s vocals, Michael’s guitar, Chris’s bass, and my drumming and you can begin to see why Faith has the fans that it does and why Live at CBGB’s has come out.

Like most other people with a grounding in the punk or hardcore music scenes, the liner notes express a lot of reverence for the Bad Brains. Did opening for them push this show into a higher, more kinetic gear for you? Not in the “want to impress our heroes” sense but just in the sense that energy feeds energy and greatness encourages greatness?

Totally, totally, totally. It was never a matter of impressing our heroes, but being inspired by them. I will always be in awe of the Bad Brains. Their precise rawness, their power, their tightness, their… Fill in the blank with what a band does to transform you and they were that. And I’m just talking about listening to Banned in D.C., their ROIR cassette that came out two months after this show. And live? Bad Brains shows were legendary then, of course. With their performances, they created this other world that didn’t need to grab you even though it did, since you were already grabbing it with the first chord. And that world was a place where you belonged, where you needed to be. Sure, it was loud and aggressive and unpredictable, but that was the point, along with being exhilarating and feeling invincible. You were with the band, you were in their songs, the punk tunes taking you to the brink, the reggae jams bringing you back.

As for that show, it wasn’t a situation where we felt compelled to up our game, as the saying goes. Adrenaline, amazement, luckiness, just the sheer I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening put us in that “higher” gear. Everything felt charged, intense: the sound, the lights, the stage, the crowd.

And even though, we knew, of course, that we were going to get blown off the stage by the Bad Brains, that didn’t matter: every band that opened for the Bad Brains got blown off the stage by them. But not every band opened for them.

And opening for them meant being able to see them sound-check and that was so, so special. Of course, the crowd responding to their songs added an incredible dimension to their shows. But seeing them sound check on their own, you saw that they were just as powerful, if not more so, since they didn’t need stage diving and slam dancing to be the best band around. Their formidable power — how could just a guitar, a bass, some drums, and vocals do that?! — just was there, visceral, unbound, pure. Just them playing, just us watching. What a privilege.

You just felt lucky to be associated with the Bad Brains. And here they had asked us not only to play with them — Us? Our third show? — but to do so at CB’s. Incredible. And on top of all that, they went along with us using their equipment. Incredibly cool. In light of the show taking place on December 26th, they had given us a wonderful Christmas present.

The DC scene was at the verge of a sharp, wild ascent that would prove highly influential across the globe — and Faith was there at ground zero. As you continued to make music and the world took note and DC blossomed and evolved, how did things change for you in the aftermath of the era this CBGB show captures? And how much does that moment of ignition continue to inform how you share and create?

Well, in light of this being our third show – our first, the month before, had been at a high school gym; our second, in early December, we opened for Black Flag at the 9:30 Club — I am happy to say we got tighter. Not Bad Brains tight, or Minor Threat tight, but tighter. And we came up with more songs. One, “Face to Face”, we worked out in one practice and performed the next night. We played more shows in DC, mostly with other DC bands. But we also played with the Bad Brains again, and we played with Dead Kennedys and other bands that I can’t recall. Best of all, we added Eddie (Janney) on guitar, so we got an even fuller, deeper sound. That’s why Subject To Change sounds so good. As for myself, I graduated from high school and was so happy with how things were going that I put off going to college by a year.

In regards to the DC scene taking off, it was wild to be a part of something that really began getting a lot of attention. So, you’d read about the scene in Thrasher and Maximum Rock and Roll or DC’s City Paper and even The Washington Post. You felt like, “We” — as in the DC scene — “must be doing something right!” At the same time, because it was happening to us — as in the DC scene — it seemed pretty normal. But it really wasn’t normal to have all these bands happening, and shows, and punks, and a label supporting the scene, and all the rest.

For me, playing the drums quickly came to mean being in a band that was part of a scene, that played shows, and recorded. If it wasn’t real like that, then forget it. Beyond that, being in the DC punk scene helped me realize that I could take myself seriously as an artist. And so a good many years later when I knew I wanted — no, needed — to write a book about my experiences as a New York City window cleaner, I did it. And the same with the fiction I’m working on now. Nothing should stop you, you know?

Finally, it’s a bit strange hearing such a vibrant record in the middle of a global pandemic that has all but halted live music. This, to me, is a fantastic reminder of how essential the live experience is and why it should be nurtured and rebuilt once this is over.

Experiencing live music is just as primal as wanting to play music. That sense of community, of communion, is so important to the musicians and the fans. You take it for granted and then — poof! — it’s gone. Such a loss; such a hole. It’s been amazing to see the remarkable ways that artists and audiences have responded to the pandemic. Online shows, socially distanced shows, songs worked on and simply put out there. You just see musicians and audiences seeking each other in any way they can.

I read about the UK’s first socially-distanced outdoor music festival that took place in August that featured 500 metal decks, or pods, for up to five people per deck, set six feet part; images of the event brought to mind the cover of the Pink Floyd album Momentary Lapse of Reason with all those empty beds in a field. So perhaps that’s a way to go.

I think that venues need to receive assistance, just as ways to safely put on shows need to be arrived at. For it’s more than just livelihoods at stake — musicians, club owners, roadies, and all the rest — part of what it means to be human is at stake as well.

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Track Premiere: Subzero — “House of Grief”

Subzero is one of the most unique, multi-dimensional, enlivening acts to ever grind its way out of the legendary New York hardcore scene, period. And so when word came down earlier this year that the somewhat elusive underground legends would be taking some new jams from the suspended animation cryogenics tank into the recording studio it was, of course, welcome news.

Still, to be real, I don’t think even longtime fans are prepared for the fury and awesomeness the band harnessed in those sessions. Forget treading water, forget maintaining a legacy. The aspirations are much, much larger here. In fact, after more than three decades of overall existence and with the band’s last release fourteen years in the rearview mirror — 2006’s The Suffering of Man — Subzero has put the elements of its past work/evolutions together in a sharper, defter way than ever before and now returns, perhaps improbably, with some of the best material of its storied career.

Ahead of a six song EP later this year, Subzero will drop the two song 7-inch House of Grief on October 30, but we’ve got an exclusive stream of the title track for you to check out right fucking now. You can preorder or pre-save the release — which also features a monstrous re-recording of “Necropolis/City of the Damned” (!) — courtesy Upstate Record here and here, respectively.

Subzero – “House Of Grief” by UPSTATE RECORDS

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Album Review: Svalbard – ‘When I Die, Will I Get Better?’

Death magnetic

Despite the fulminations of the more self-confident and messianic among us, no one can definitively answer the question posed in the title of Svalbard’s third full-length. Still, if it all ends tomorrow—whether by personal, political or environmental apocalypse; take your pick at this point—the Bristol, U.K. trio can rest in peace knowing they didn’t merely make a better record than 2018’s solid It’s Hard to Have Hope, but delivered the first truly great album of their career.

Which is to say, When I Die, Will I Get Better? finds the many various seeds of greatness germinating in the Svalbard back catalog at last fully, gorgeously blossoming. To torture the metaphor a bit more, it’s as if Alcest, post-Jane Doe Converge, Rainer Maria and Poison the Well started working overlapping plots in the same community garden—and the results are fucking awesome. There is just so much more nuance and texture here than in the past; a more fully evolved and expanded sense of grandeur and transcendence. On previous albums, the base of the band’s sound was well-executed, but a bit stock and buoyed by the exhalating flourishes and experimentations at the edge. Now those flourishes and that sense of adventure is the foundation, while guitarists/vocalists Serena Cherry and Liam Phelan have become more adept at defining and intertwining their respective voices.

If you’ve enjoyed Svalbard in the past, get ready to have your expectations subverted and mind blown. If you’ve been lukewarm previously, it’s time to give the band another spin. A most welcome surprise.

Review taken from the October 2020 issue of Decibel, which is available here

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Track Premiere: Strangelight — “Digressions from Sierra Leone”

Remember in the Twisted Sister “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video when that totally feral dad played by Neidermeyer from Animal House screams at his preteen son, “What do you want to do with your life?” and the spawn replies “I wanna rock” and the first chord the kid hits sends his dad flying out the window and rocking commences?

Of course you do.

I don’t exactly want to call the twisty, smart, enlivening, and all around killer debut from post-hardcore expanders Strangelight the Grendel to Dee Snider’s 1894 Beowulf, but, much like John Gardner helping us better understand the monster by shifting the story to its perspective, Adult Themes rather brilliantly refracts the beauty and tension of keeping your fret-hand in the underground culture of your youth while dealing with the (well, for non-crust punks, anyway) inevitable evolutions and challenges of “grown up” life. Hence, the juxtaposition of song titles such as “The Samsara of Secondary Markets,” “Object Permanence,” “Gold Rolex,” “Adjustable Rate,” and “Alienation Part 2” with a sonic attack that combines the best aspects of the members other bands (Transistor Transistor, Kowloon Walled City, True Cross) with a extremely welcome and heavy dose of Propagandhi and Hot Snakes-esque rock n’ roll perversion.

Maybe there’s some empathy to be had for Neidermeyer after all?

Anyway, Adult Themes a real contender for punk hardcore album of the year, which is why it’s such a pleasure to exclusively premiere the track “Digressions from Sierra Leone” a month ahead of the album’s October 23 release date. (Preorder here.)

“[Digressions from Sierra Leone] is about musicians, actors, celebrities, whoever, benefiting from ‘bringing attention’ to an issue while not really doing anything to help it, if not benefiting from its underlying causes — and the irony of how the issue helps out the artist in question more than vice versa,” vocalist/guitarist Nat Coghlan tells Decibel. “It was written over ten years ago, before I even had a smartphone. So it’s really more of a cynical observation than a topical one. When we started working on the song again I thought about writing new lyrics, but if anything they were more applicable than when they were written. I am also very, very lazy.”

Adult Themes by STRANGELIGHT

And more:

Adult Themes by STRANGELIGHT

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