Blind Guardian – Imaginations From the Other Side

Furor Teutonicus
The making of Blind Guardian’s Imaginations From the Other Side

Blind Guardian’s journey to their fifth album, Imaginations From the Other Side, wasn’t all that different from most bands of their era. Formed as Lucifer’s Heritage in 1984, the quartet—featuring bassist/vocalist Hansi Kürsch, guitarists André Olbrich and Marcus Siepen, and drummer Thomen Stauch—bent the tenets of speed metal to their Teutonic will on two demos, Symphonies of Doom (1985) and Battalions of Fear (1986). For all intents and purposes, the Ruhr Valley residents were just another blue-collar rust belt band. A moniker change from Lucifer’s Heritage to Blind Guardian—and a deal with German indie No Remorse Records—changed all that in 1987.

With the release of Blind Guardian’s debut Battalions of Fear in 1987 and its follow-up, Follow the Blind, two years later, the Germans had set much of the framework that would reinforce Imaginations From the Other Side’s compositional bombast, conceptual depth, masterly musicianship and overall attitude. Kürsch funneled his zest for sci-fi, fantasy, horror and history into the lyrics. For example, “Guardian of the Blind” was inspired by Stephen King’s novel It, while “Banish From Sanctuary” was based on Judean preacher John the Baptist. Both releases were unvarnished (if highly spirited) speed metal courtesy of Olbrich and Kürsch’s twentysomething fury.

Hard work, home studio investments and exponential musical development culminated in Tales From the Twilight World in 1990 and appeared to zenith on Somewhere Far Beyond in 1992, respectively. Blind Guardian were no longer just a speed metal act, but evolving into something more, a sound entirely their own. Speed metal, power metal, classical music, folk music, and a penchant for classic and old-school rock ‘n’ roll coalesced instinctively. “Welcome to Dying,” “Lord of the Rings” and “The Bard’s Song – In the Forest” reinforced the group’s burgeoning individuality, prompting heavy interest in Germany and near-fanatical worship in Japan.

When Imaginations landed in 1995, it was met with acclaim. Launch single “A Past and Future Secret,” combined with the mighty title track, were portals into a wild new world. The aggression of the past had manifested in an intensely epic fashion. “I’m Alive,” “Born in a Mourning Hall” and “Another Holy War” were undeniable bolters, the pummeling drums of Stauch warring with Olbrich and Siepen’s cyclopean rhythms and wild-eyed melodicisms only complemented Kürsch’s big-voiced admonitions to society as lensed through a fantasy-based perspective. The expansiveness of “The Script for My Requiem,” the blend into “Mordred’s Song” and the second single, “Bright Eyes,” winged Blind Guardian into the stratosphere.

Truly, the Germans had ascended not to Iron Maiden levels of yesteryear, but beyond anything they could’ve imagined in 1987. The production of famed studio ace Flemming Rasmussen bolstered everything he touched. Imaginations From the Other Side, replete with stunningly meticulous cover art by Andreas Marschall, not only exemplified the New Wave of German Heavy Metal—a term coined by German Metal Hammer in 1987—but set the high-water mark for everything at the time, and all that was to come after it.

Imaginations From the Other Side celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020. We’re belated in hoisting Blind Guardian’s grandiloquent banner, but considering we embarked on this induction in 2019, completing the Hall of Fame all these years later makes up for missing out on the group’s birthday cake silver. Time to jump through the mirror with Blind Guardian.

Need more classic Blind Guardian? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on Imaginations From the Other Side, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.

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Insect Warfare – World Extermination

Locust Abortion Technicians
The making of Insect Warfare’s World Extermination

When discussing game-changing late-’00s grindcore platters, conversation usually gets a bit awkward, people quickly trying to piece together Pig Destroyer’s discography in their head, wondering what year that band’s thrash started being more noteworthy than their grind. Sure, on a smaller, regional scale, bands were still blasting with as much passion as ever, but the global grindcore scene was in a bit of a post-Nasum depression in terms of seismic shifts.

But there was one massive record, and it alone signalled a huge wake-up call to the grind scene, even though it had everything going against it: It was nearly all lost due to a recording-session computer crash, the band broke up shortly after its release and Earache Records got involved, which unfortunately when it comes to extreme music, rarely seems to end well.

That record was World Extermination, the only full-length by Houston, TX’s Insect Warfare.

The band—Beau Beasley on guitars and, on record, bass; vocalist Rahi Geramifar; octopus-man drummer Dobber Beverly—managed to rectify the computer crash situation and release the beast, 20 songs of massive, streamlined grindcore destruction that came out on the always-reliable 625 Thrashcore label in October 2007. The breakup in mid-2008 may have quieted the album’s impact at the time, but Earache brought it back to a wider audience the next year, and to a wider array of stress about legalities that no grindcore band should ever need to worry about. The band reunited to spread the good word in 2009, again in 2016 and one final time in 2017.

Today, we’re honored to let this record—20 songs, 22 and a half minutes, as it should be—steamroll its way into our Hall of Fame, standing tall next to kindred spirits like Discordance Axis, who, along with a huge dose of powerviolence bands, were a massive influence on Insect Warfare.

Today, the sounds of World Extermination force the Hall’s gates open, reminding us all of what matters: extremity matters; pure intent and focus matter; grindcore matters. It’s the never-ending campaign for musical destruction, and, in 2007, Insect Warfare were carrying the torch for it, then destroying the torch, and then making sure things were still not loud enough, still not fast enough. And it mattered.

Today, and always, World Extermination matters.

Need more classic Insect Warfare? To read the entire seven-page story, featuring interviews with the members who performed on World Extermination, purchase the print issue from our store, or digitally via our app for iPhone/iPad or Android.

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Video Premiere: The Monarch – “When Death Finds You”

Just in time for Halloween, we present the appropriately titled “When Death Finds You” video from The Monarch.

The song is from their forthcoming album, A Moment to Lose Your Breath, out November 17 via Art is War Records. Featuring former members of Soulfly and current members of Ill Niño, Static-X, and Soulfly, the new song is heavy, proggy, melodic, with just enough classic influence to still be grounded in the very roots of metal. And fittingly for this holiday, this song is told from the perspective of death itself.

“This is a perspective of death… from death’s perspective if death were really a figure,” the band explain. “Death knows all and is the only one true certain fact of life. All of us, no matter how good, bad, rich, poor… will all face death eventually. The element of fate is already deep inside of all of us. Death lives inside every living breathing being. It’s just a matter of how you live your life and how you choose to welcome death that determines when the element of fate will manifest itself.

“We shouldn’t fear death. Otherwise, life is just a waste, as death is certain and final. In the video, ‘Death’ is portrayed by the beauty. She is strong and all-knowing. ‘The innocent’ meets and is welcomed into the arms of death. The current ‘element of fate’ has served her time on the black horizon, and now it is time to name a successor. This being of ‘Death’ crowns ‘The Monarch’ and is given her final task… a ride to the end with wide open arms. ‘The Monarch’ now helms life’s process. It’s all a metaphor, and it’s your job as the listener to make it your own.”

Preorder the album here. 

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Track Premiere: Drowned – “Chryseos Vas”

Fabled German death metallers Drowned return from their years-long, self-imposed slumber to rain death, doom, and destruction upon mankind once more. New song “Chryseos Vas” picks up the mummified corpse right where the group’s macabre 2014 debut Idola Specus left off. It’s both a nod to Drowned’s origins–the group formed in Berlin in 1992–and the group’s doomed-out march into oblivion. Featuring Greg Circum (also The Ruins of Beverast), Tlmnn (ex-Necros Christos), and Tobias Engl (Corrode, also Englsound), Drowned pull at all the right heartstrings.

With death from above and doom in our eyes, Drowned close out the week with “Chryseos Vas.” Prepare…

** Drowned’s new album, Procul His, is out soon on Sepulchral Voice Records. Pre-orders are not yet live, but visit both Drowned’s Bandcamp (HERE) or Sepulchral Voice’s webshop (HERE) for more. Drown in sorrow…

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Q&A: Max Fox (The Boneless Ones) Rages Full-On In Europe

The Boneless Ones, featuring Max Fox (vocals), Troy Takaki (bass), Chris Kontos (drums), and Craig Locicero (guitars), returned from a 35-year absence to bring skate rock (or crossover, if you like) back to the masses. While the group had popularity via Thrasher Magazine in the ’80s, with “Skate for the Devil” (from the album of the same name) labeled as “one of the greatest skate rock songs of all time,” it’s their recent resurgence that’s caught skate rats, circle-pit maniacs, and punks/metalheads off guard. The Boneless Ones’ sophomore album, Back to the Grind, picks right up where their 1986 debut left off. There’s wild leads, courtesy of ace Locicero, crazy drum runs thanks to Kontos, and Fox and Takaki’s trademark twofers of Easy Bay spittin’, deck splitting, and homie rallying.

Now, The Boneless Ones aim for Europe, specifically a once-in-a-lifetime set at the legendary Dynamo Festival in Eindhoven, Netherlands. Decibel caught up with Fox as he and team prep for their first-ever bombing raid (and subsequent bonelesses, of course) of Europe.

Craig [Locicero] and Chris [Kontos] have history with Dynamo in their past lives in Forbidden and Machine Head, respectively. Tell me about The Boneless Ones’ journey to Dynamo.
Max Fox: You know what really rings true for when I think of Dynamo? It’s Paul Baloff and Exodus. When came back in the band, he was all haggard, but that at that show, he’s just incredible. In a way, it’s full circle for me—and The Boneless ones. Like Exodus, we get to represent Berkeley, the East Bay. We were a Berkeley band growing up with Exodus. We’re like brothers. It’s a huge shot in the arm to be able to play at Dynamo. It’s all about skateboarding, punk rock—in a festival setting—which is incredible. I couldn’t be prouder to represent all that. We’re going to be fully representing our new album, Back to the Grind. I mean, we have a 22-foot banner of our green logo, plus stage skrims of the album cover, which will be across the amps. They’ll be juxtaposed against one another. We’re definitely looking forward to promoting The Boneless Ones in Europe.

How long did the Dynamo deal take to materialize? Back to the Grind has been out a year now.
Max Fox: Craig, as you’ve probably realized already, has a long relationship with Dynamo. They go back a long way. Plus, the Dynamo team were really big on the Bay Area—Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco—thrash movement that was going on when we were all kids. They were into the Ruthie’s Inn scene. So, yeah, Craig pulled us in. He’s the one who proposed for us to come over and play. I mean, he’s obviously our guitarist, as well as the main guy in Forbidden. But prior to that, Dynamo had Craig’s other band, Dress the Dead, play last year. So, it’s all been building up. We’re not a thrash band, though. We’re what’s referred to as “crossover,” which I think everybody knows. We toured with The Circle Jerks and D.R.I. back in the day. Naturally, we pull from both punk and metal genres. We did it in the ‘80s and we’re doing it now. We play right before Sepultura. I can’t wait.

Are you only doing Dynamo?
Max Fox: I’m so glad you asked that. No, it just happens that there is a big punk rock tour that’s going on at the same time with the skateboard band Stalag 13. And then another one of our brother bands, Fang, from the ‘80s—we were on Boner Records, which was run by Fang’s Tom Flynn—is also on that tour. So, we’re gonna play a show with Stalag 13 and Fang two days before Dynamo. It’s an enormous place—kinda of an industrial complex. That’s gonna be in front of 2,000 people. That’s our warm-up show. Forbidden, who are also with the same management company, will do something similar, a warm-up show in Europe right before Dynamo. We couldn’t be happier.

So, these are The Boneless Ones’ first European shows in history, right?
Max Fox: That’s correct. We never went in the ‘80s.

What’s the setlist going to look like?
Max Fox: You know, our setlist is always a mix of old and new. I mean, yes, we’re representing the new album—we’re playing all of the more popular songs off of it like “Bones for Rock” and “Back to the Grind.” I’m really, really looking forward to showcasing them. We’re playing a couple of the old songs off Skate for the Devil, too. I mean, that’s kind of iconic not just to our history but to the whole skate-punk movement. Skate for the Devil mostly rings true to our affiliation with Thrasher Magazine in the ‘80s. Mofo [aka Mörizen Föche], the photo editor, was a huge supporter of The Boneless Ones. He’s the one who coined the term “skate rock.” So, yeah, we’re gonna play older songs. We can’t wait to let 20,000 people scream “Keg Kept A Flowin’”. We’re gonna drop away and let the crowd participate, which is how it should be.

Matt Winegar (Primus) mixed Back to the Grind. Will he be Front of House (FOH) at Dynamo?
Max Fox: Oh, no. Dynamo will be doing that. Matt’s a big shot, who recently won a Grammy with Fantastic Negrito. He’s down in Austin anyway.

OK, will you be bringing any of your crazy merch—wheels, decks, and stuff—to Europe?
Max Fox: No, we’re having merch manufactured, working with Dynamo, in Europe. I look forward to seeing what it’s all gonna look like. I own a merchandising company though. I’m gonna bring some “gifts.” [Laughs] I think that these shows are a response to us getting back together. We stopped playing for 35 years. Now, we’re back, Troy, Craig, Chris, and me. We’re playing for the people.

I know Dom Lawson’s (Metal Hammer, ex-Kerrang!) a fan. He called The Boneless Ones “balls-out, goofy fun.” Which side of the band will fans see?
Max Fox: We’re gonna put our game face on. [Laughs] We’ve had some recent shows with The Accüsed and the Mendo-Lake metalfest—with Hirax, Blind Illusion to name a few—to give us some practice. Sure, Troy will be on the floor, throwing faces like he always does. He’ll throw his bass around. That kinda Cinderella thing. [Laughs] So, it’ll be goofy, but we’re there to play some serious skate rock.

Are you working on the follow-up to Back to the Grind?
Max Fox: We are, but it’s kind of yes and no. There’s a lot of stuff going on inside and outside of the band. We’re all just super-busy. What I’d like to do—and I think the other guys think I’m crazy—is a 7-inch. They’re like, “Do they even make 7-inchs anymore?” I know they do, but it’ll probably be digital-only, two songs. That would be next year. Before then, we’ll do Punk in the Park and Punk in Drublic, which Fat Mike from NOFX puts on. We’re then going to focus on more metal-oriented shows. There’s some cool shows coming up in Southern California that we’re looking forward to.

Do you plan to get out to the East Coast?
Max Fox: We have talked about it. So, do we have plans to do it? We don’t have plans. We’re open to do it. It would be another one of these two-day gig things, where we’d fly in on Saturday and do a gig, or fly in on Friday, do a gig Friday and do a gig Saturday. It doesn’t look too possible to do touring right now with how busy everybody is. You got some guys in our 50s. A couple of us have day-to-day jobs. So, I don’t think we can get in a van with dirty socks and go drive around at this point. [Laughs]


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Atheist and Cynic Members Go Deep On The A Piece of Time Podcast

Progressive (death) metal visionaries Atheist and Cynic will embark on their 30th Anniversary tour of the US called “Focus and Presence.” The jaunt will celebrate Atheist’s Unquestionable Presence (released in 1991) and Cynic’s Focus (released in 1993) — both Decibel Hall of Fame albums (HERE and HERE). Actually, Atheist will be performing not just tracks off Unquestionable Presence, but also Piece of Time (released in 1990) and Elements (released in 1993).

As a primer for the tour, Atheist and Cynic frontmen Kelly Shaefer and Paul Masvidal sat down for an in-depth and honest conversation through Shaefer’s podcast called A Piece of Time Podcast. The talk, which lasts just over two hours, puts the two technical (death) metal masterminds into historical and very personal perspective. A Piece of Time Podcast started in 2022, and currently has Episode 1 (with Suffocation’s Terrance Hobbs) live, with Episode 3 ready for publication via YouTube.

Said Shaefer of the “Focus and Presence” tour: “This has been something that Paul and I have been talking about in some capacity since we were in our early 20s. It’s surreal to share a 30 year milestone together, and this tour will showcase for us a chance to play songs from our first three records as a special trilogy anniversary set, including songs not performed live in decades. Two titans of technical progressive metal coming together for a unicorn of a tour… one you will not want to miss!”

Masvidal adds: “Come join us for a night of Cynic/Atheist magic! We’ll be celebrating our lifelong journey together with a night of progressive music and timeless memories. Don’t miss it!”

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Kelly Shaefer & Steve DiGiorgio Cover Alice In Chains “Rotten Apple”

Atheist’s Kelly Shaefer and Testament’s Steve DiGiorgio have teamed up with guitarist/producer Ryan Vincent (Legend) and drummer Sean Rehmer (Dejector/Mercurial) for a stunning cover of Alice In Chains’ “Rotten Apple,” off the group’s 1994 EP Jar of Flies. While the track is already in rotation at Corridor of Covers on Liquid Metal on SiriusXM, Decibel got the exclusive video.

The origin of how long-time friends/collaborators Shaefer and DiGiorgio found Vincent and Rehmer went a little like this: “This song came together as a result of my friend and studio owner Ryan Vincent at Apollo Audio Alt in Missouri,” says Shaefer. “Over COVID times, he had done some cool collab covers and produced ’em from his studio. So, he and drummer Sean Rehmer had laid this down, and I think initially they had another singer, and it didn’t work out, so Ryan and I had worked together on my new band Till The Dirt. Steve DiGiorgio plays on the title track [from our upcoming debut album], so we were all sort of already working together on that. As a result, Ryan asked me to sing on the track. I immediately thought of that bass line, and how cool it would be to have my old friend and bass player extraordinaire Steve DiGiorgio play fretless on it. He agreed, and I think it came out really cool. We are all AIC fans, as anyone with good hearing should be, so it was a lot of fun, as well as a tribute to one of the most brilliantly unique bands of the ’90s. The video has that ’90s vibe as well. We hope we did it justice.”

Adds DiGiorgio: “Kelly hit me up for some bass on a track for his new band, Till The Dirt, and being a fan of his music I was all up for it. Not only that we share the same old-school first wave of thrash time way back when, he is also one of the original king screamers. Some time after that he hit me up for another track, but this time a cover of Alice In Chains. Fuck yes! His voice is also very versatile and fits this particular band’s sound perfectly. Also, have to mention that Mike Inez wrote an awesome bass line that was fun to interpret and put my personal fretless touch to. The video shows a nice tribute to the late Layne Staley, who was very influential with that unique voice and style of his.”

“What I see is unreal
I’ve written my own part
Eat of the apple, so young
I’m crawling back to start”

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EP Premiere: Experiencing Repulsion with Phantom Lung’s Abhorrent Entity

I originally discovered Toronto’s Phantom Lung and their roughhousing take on death ’n’ thrash metal infused grindcore via an appearance in a past Throw Me a Frickin’ Bone column. For this particular appearance in what I think is considered one of Decibel’s “socials,” the band was supposed to record and provide a pair of new tracks originally designed and expressly prepared for exclusive airing in this very spot. But because solar flares, broken guitar strings and grindcore not paying the bills are still things, that plan went the way of the playoff hopes of their city’s oft-celebrated loveable losers, the Toronto Maple Leafs. 

We still think Phantom Lung is a band you should lend an ear to. So, in lieu of new material you’re not going to hear, we present the band’s Abhorrent Entity EP, a quintet of songs you likely haven’t heard either, despite being released back in March. When asked about the band’s latest release, they offer the following: “Phantom Lung unapologetically delivers overwhelmingly heavy and sonic torment right off the jump beginning with the opening notes of their brand new EP, Abhorrent Entity. Nobody asks you to take a seat and listen. You get tied to a chair and proceed to be audibly assaulted for ten ruthlessly violent minutes. The drums get to work immediately and do not give you a second to catch your breath. Riffs that will make you bang your head one second and groove the next [are] drowned by Scandinavian-inspired HM-2 guitar tones capable of giving you Stockholm Syndrome because you don’t want to escape it. Phantom Lung manages to take the most attractive and brutal aspects of numerous sub genres of metal, golden age grindcore and hardcore and blend it all together to make something that is uniquely their own.”

Here’s your chance to check it out and be the judge.

Abhorrent Entity by Phantom Lung


Track listing:

1. The Idle Mind is the Devils Playground

2. Heel

3. Mea Culpa

4. Leave No Doubt

5. Ennui

Follow Phantom Lung via one of the many links in their linktree.


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Get Crossover Crushers DEAD HEAT’s New EP on Limited Edition Colored Vinyl: Pre-Order NOW!

Cali crossover thrashers Dead Heat have returned with their brand new five-track EP Endless Torment, and the Decibel staff was so stoked on these rippers that we had to snag 125 copies on limited-edition Green inside Ultra Clear with Green & Red Splatter vinyl, courtesy of Tankcrimes and Triple B Records!

Recorded by Armand John Anthony (Cirith Ungol, Bewitcher, Night Demon) and mixed and mastered by the archetypal Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Municipal Waste, Kreator), this cocktail-olive looking 12-inch comes housed in a 3mm spine jacket complete with lyric and photo collage insert and a screen printed B-side. Cover art comes courtesy of the hellacious Hayden Hall aka Sick Slice (Devil Master, Gatecreeper).

Don’t be left to suffer, pre-order your copy today or wait for death!

NOTE: This is a preorder that is due to be released on or around July 28, 2023. All details, including release date, are subject to change.

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Track Premiere: Mayan Bull (ft. members of Trappist & Despise You) “Kid Cleveland”

It’s not often that a band forms after being offered an opportunity to write music for a film, but that’s exactly what happened with L.A.’s Mayan Bull. Back in 2011, drummer/keyboardist Phil Vera (Trappist, Despise You), guitarist Kurk Stevens and bassist Chris Walters were approached by director Todd Hickey to write a song for the soundtrack of Takedowns and Falls, his documentary about high-school wrestling in Pennsylvania. The trio recorded 10-minute instrumental “A Dangerous Gun” in Vera’s living room with producer Paul Fig (Alice In Chains, Deftones), and Mayan Bull was born. “We had so much fun recording the song that we kept practicing and came up with new songs,” Vera says.

One of those songs is “Kid Cleveland,” which we’re premiering here today. The propulsive track is all the more impressive given that instrumental music is a distinct departure for the members of Mayan Bull. Stevens plays in the noise rock band Kevarra, Walters plays shoegaze in The Slow Signal Fades and Vera plays an entirely different instrument—guitar—in L.A. powerviolence kings Despise You and Crom. “We discussed Mayan Bull as being a project that we could do for decades to come, something that isn’t pinned down to any particular genre of music but will grow over time,” Stevens says. “We want people to hear us and watch this project evolve.”

Mayan Bull by Mayan Bull

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