Omar Rodríguez-López is a busy man. Not only is the guitarist releasing Octahedron, the new record from his award-winning experimental rock band the Mars Volta, but he also recently dropped Cryptonesia, the first of three albums recorded in 2004 by side project El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. Top that all off with multiples high profile tours and production jobs, and you've got one full plate. Somehow Rodríguez-López found a few minutes to talk to Revolver about his forthcoming projects and his band's rabid fan base.
REVOLVER How was touring in March with the Omar Rodríguez-López group?
OMAR RODRÍGUEZ-LÓPEZ The tour was great. I got to go to Athens and Moscow for the first time—in 15 years of touring, I've never been there. Moscow was incredible! They're a very passionate people. It's something both very similar and different to playing for Latin countries—very loud, very excited, very passionate. It felt like people there absorbing every moment of music they could, which, nowadays, is a very rare thing.
El Grupo Nuevo de Omar Rodríguez-López just released Cryptonesia, which was part of a triptych recorded in 2004. Why release it now?
If you look at any of the releases that I have, none of them are current. I make a lot of music, and a lot of it ends up on my drive closet. I'm not thinking about a record as a means to an end, you know? And once I'm done, I'm chasing the next high—"That was that, now something new!" And then there comes a time where I want to put out a record, and then I go and dig it up and put it out. A great example is last year: I started having a lot of nostalgia for Jeremy [Michael Ward, the late Mars Volta sound tech]. I thought, Whatever happened to that record he and I made together? It'd be really nice to put that out. So I had to look in the closet and look all the way to where the stuff from 2001 is and find the record, and looking there, I see this whole other record that I'd completely forgotten about, and while Jeremy didn't play on it, I remember that he was in the studio the whole time—the experience, the problems, where we ate when we were done at 3 in the morning. It's a reliving experience, because it's the other parts of making a record—putting together a lyrics sheet, making the artwork, that type of stuff.
What, then, were/are you trying to get out with Cryptonesia that you weren't getting out in your other projects?
…I don't know! For me, it was sort of like a little vacation. At that time, I had just released Amputechture [the Mars Volta's 2006 album] and I had just begun working on the music that would eventually become Bedlam, and I just had this primordial urge to take it away from that… I sort of consider Cryptonesia my "punk record." It's a very generic term, but I wanted to get away from writing horn sections, string sections, all these different parts, and get back to this guttural, aggressive thing with just guitars. I wanted to strip things down for myself and write very simply. Plus, I was dying to play with Zach [Hill of Hella and Team Sleep]; I really wanted to do a lot of collaborations together.
The Cryptonesia press release says you're "quick to point out that the Mars Volta is your top priority." Do you ever feel like other projects might encroach on the Mars Volta?
No, not at all, but I think when you work a certain way, people start to create hysteria, like this swine flu bullshit. If you show someone that you have a new group, they're like, "OhmygodtheMarsVoltaisbreakingup!" and they run away with their imagination and project everything on you that they want to. So this was me saying, "Look, let's make it clear, so there's no room for your fantasies: the Mars Volta is my baby and my pride and joy. And nothing will tear me away from it beside the point where I lose interest in it."
Are your fans the rabid, rumor-prone type?
Yeah, they're completely fucking insane. I think it's really great—I remember being 15 and being completely obsessed, so I understand that aspect of it. But it's really insane how much they read into things. And it wouldn't effect me 'cause I don't read reviews or what people are saying, but it effects me in that I'm walking around in Los Angeles and someone comes up to me and says, "Hey, I love your music." Oh, great! 'So is it true that…" For me, it's just coming out of left field because I don't live in that world, and so when I hear some of the insane perceptions people have, you have to sort of sift through them.
Do you ever feel a reluctance to take part in the press side of being in the Mars Volta?
…I see it as part of the equation. We are a band on a major label that's in the public eye, and we're touring, and…I get to do this for a living. I don't take that for granted. You can either say, "Fuck the press! How uncool! How un-rock and roll!" Or you can say, "Fuck, man, I make music for a living! I don't have to make pizzas anymore! All I gotta do is talk to somebody about what I'm doing? Hook me up!"
After 2008's The Bedlam in Goliath was so well-received, how are you feeling about Octahedron? What can we expect from it?
You can expect that it's different. That's always a problem with music—everyone loves your first record? Good! If it ain't broke, don't fix it! For me, it doesn't work that way. You made it, now destroy it and start over. Bedlam was the most violent record we'd made to date. When I think of it, I think of fire, claustrophobia, asphyxiation, darkness, no space—when I think of making that record, I think of a small crawlspace. So when I got out of that and life started changing, I looked to the polar opposites. Water, light, big open spaces, sky, these kind of elements. That's what Octahedron is to me. It feels so good to be in a different space like that.
Interview by Chris Krovatin
Think you're a slob? You ain't a slob. Acacia Strain frontman Vincent Bennett and his friends are slobs, and they're proud of it, as they illustrate in this trailer for the band's upcoming Revolver-sponsored Summer Slob Tour.
The idea that metal legends Iron Maiden, a band who has built a loyal fanbase with little help from radio and TV over the past three decades, would tour the world in its own airplane came easily.
What has since become the setting of a new documentary about the band and its tour, Iron Maiden: Flight 666, the Film (Banger/UMe), came as a spark of inspiration sometime during the group's Death on the Road tour, circa 2005. The band was discussing all the cities in the world to where they'd like to travel. Frontman Bruce Dickinson said (here, in the words of drummer Nicko McBrain), "Well, we need our own bloody jet airliner, don't we?" After the group agreed, they worked out the logistics—including Dickinson, an accomplished pilot in his private life, electing himself to fly the plane—and it wasn't soon after that that they were boarding a 757 dubbed "Ed Force One" to cruise the world. "We were like, 'We don't have to pay for a captain!'" McBrain says. "Like, did we not realize that we still had to pay him to fly the freakin' thing. [Laughs]"
At the insistence of their manager, Rod Smallwood, Iron Maiden hired Canadian filmmakers Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen, who previously worked together on the documentaries Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and Global Metal, to film the tour 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The documentarians took full advantage of having unprecedented access to the band members, who are notorious for rarely opening up their private lives, for some candid sequences, as well as the opportunity to connect with the group's fans. The band didn't always take kindly to the observation, but it paid off. "There was a time when I wanted to kick the guys off the plane at 35,000 feet," McBrain says. "I said, 'See that exit over there? I'm gonna open that door and I will throw your camera out, and you're gonna be following it.' It was wonderful in the end, though." The film, which is out Tuesday on DVD, will air on VH1 Classic and Palladia on Saturday, June 6, at 9 p.m. EST., and also on regular VH1, Saturday at midnight (technically Sunday, June 7). Looking at the process of making the film now, McBrain says he's happy with the results.
REVOLVER Iron Maiden have done so many concert films, documentaries, and music-video DVDs over the years. Other than the jet, what makes Flight 666 special for you?
NICKO McBRAIN It's a bit of the agony and the ecstasy on this one. It was the first time that we had had 24-7 cameras with us. Not just filming the backstage stuff and the concert; it was filming us going to work and coming from work, while we're at work, and then when we're not working. We were always a very private band. We never were and we still aren't a band that would chase the limelight, chase the paparazzi. We steer clear of places where we knew people would be at to take photographs for OK magazine. When you look at the film…they had 500 hours worth of film to edit from. And there's a lot of it [laughs] that are those sort of things that you didn't want people to see that's on the cutting-room floor. They did a fantastic job.
Why did you want to pull the curtain back now?
Good point. We've had many opportunities. There was a documentary on the making of the last record. It didn't go away from the studio, per se. It didn't go into our private lives, but you still got an idea of what we're all about as individuals as well as collectively as Iron Maiden. To answer your question, it was something we were talked into doing, and I'm so glad that we did it, because the proof in the film is 100 percent right there.
When you watch the film, was there anything that made it to the final cut that makes you cringe?
There was one golf shot where I missed a putt, and I wished they hadn't put it in it. [Laughs] It was the money putt. But there wasn't anything in there that was, "Oh, my Lord." We all had the option that if there was something we weren't happy with, we could point that out and they could make some changes if they wanted to.
In the beginning of the film, someone hands you a bottle of wine, as you're boarding the plane for the first time. Later, Bruce teases you about it. What was so special about that bottle?
When I got on the plane, this geezer comes up and he hands me this bottle of Château Palmer. And I thought, Oh, I thought it was a gift. As you noticed, I was exuberant. I get up the top of the stairs. And what you didn't see after that, when I got on the plane, was [production manager] Dicky Bell came up and said, "Oh, I see you've got your wine there. That's one of the bottles. We just wanted to check that it's the right one that you ordered." I had ordered like three dozen bottles of this Palmer and some lovely red wines for the duration of the tour to drink on the plane. So not only was my bubble burst, because I thought someone was actually handing me a going-away gift, but it was actually one of the bottles that I'd paid for! And when Bruce got on the plane before we took off, he knew I was a bit disgruntled about this, and he was going, "Oh, and we can drink all of Nicko's wine that he got." [Laughs]
At least you were able to enjoy the wine, even if it wasn't special.
Yes, we certainly did. There's quite a few of the journeys where more than one or two bottles were consumed.
Later in the film, there's a shot of a man in Colombia crying because he caught one of your drumsticks. How did that make you feel to see?
I had mixed emotions when I first saw it. I thought, Now, hang on a minute, was he crying because he wanted one of Dave [Murray's] or Adrian [Smith's] or Janick [Gers'] guitar picks? Was he crying because the gig was over? Which is probably what it was. Was he crying just because he did get my drumstick? It was probably the last two. We have since met that lad.
The wonderful endearment of that scene is it's not just that you focus on the guy who's holding that stick…the girl behind him starts crying, and the bloke behind the girl starts crying. And they're not looking at one another. And I'm thinking, There's a contagious vibe going. And that's that kind of passion that these Latin American audiences—they're just so passionate. And the Crying Man—we called him the Crying Man—as I said, I did get to meet him in the last two months, when we did the Ed Force One trip again. We got to meet him and take care of him, and I got to say hi to him, and I gave him another drumstick, so he had a pair then. He had a left-hand stick, and now he has a right one. [Laughs] He was grateful. Lovely bloke, too.
Is Bruce's piloting as smooth-sailing as it looks on DVD?
Oh, my Lord, yeah. Bruce's flying prowess is unquestionable without a doubt. It got to the state where people got rather complacent after the first few weeks, and unless it was something that was a little bit too heavy, they'd go, "Oh, that's out of ooorder." [Laughs] But he's great pilot.
It looks like you had so much gear in the back. Did any get lost?
When we first started talking about putting this together, one of my key mumblings and grumblings about things was that I had to take my drums out of the flight case and put them into individual boxes. My point was, something's gonna go missing, and what the heck's gonna happen if we're in Australia or Argentina somewhere and one of my drums is stolen. How am I gonna get a replacement? What happened was we had a guy named Jeremy from Rocket Cargo, and it was done stringently.
But having said that, they did lose one of my drums, but from my little practice kit. We had just started in South America, and one of my drum techs said, "I've got a bit of bad news." I said, "Oh yeah, what's that?" He said, "We've lost a bit of your drum set." And I went crazy. And he said, "No, no, no. It's from your main kit, it's from your little practice kit." And I went, "It doesn't matter." It did matter—of course it matters, but it wasn't my touring kit. But there was a little bit of worrying about how to keep an eye on so much when we're playing so many shows around the world. We were very, very fortunate. They kept a great eye on everything.
Looking at pictures of your kit, you must have had several individual packages.
Yeah, I've got 11 drums and 15 cymbals, plus all the spare bits and bobs. And all the hardware had to go in individual cases, hard cases.
One thing that stood out in the video was, do you play barefoot?
Yes, I do. It's something I used to do when I was a kid. As I started playing stronger, heavier, hard-hitting music as I got into my teenage and into my adult life, I started using a Ludwig Speed King pedal. You can't play one of them in bare feet, because it's not very smooth; there are holes in it. So I went to using boxing boots, and so over the years of my drumming, I went from barefoot to boxing boots to back to bare feet when I switched to a DW pedal. And I've been playing barefoot for, I don't know, eight or nine years. The only reason I like to play in bare feet is because I have more freedom.
Final question: Is Iron Maiden working on a new album?
We start working on a new record in November. We've got November and the first couple of weeks of December booked into writing. We're gonna do a new album in January 2010, and we should tour with that in late summer, fall time. That's the plan. Hopefully, God willing, everybody's health is good and we can get on with it and get out there again.
Interview by Kory Grow
There are a few countries have become well known, if not fetishized, for specific types of extreme metal.
England has doom metal and grindcore, the U.S. and Sweden have distinct kinds of death metal and, of course, Norway has black metal. But as the world focuses on the black and white—or in this case just the black—it's easy to overlook some of Norway's pretty cool death-metal accomplishments. Although the country blazed into prominence (literally) in the early '90s, when bands like Mayhem, Darkthrone, and Burzum reignited music fans' interest in black metal—and although their neighbor to the east, Sweden, has gotten far more credit for death metal—the country of corpse paint and fjords already had a sturdy foundation in great death metal. With that, I hope to draw some attention to some grievously overlooked, and unfortunately many out-of-print, "True Norwegian Death Metal" albums (ranked in order of quality). Enjoy these however you can.
1) Molested, Blod Draum (Effigy, 1995)
Between the violin, didgeridoo-type sounds, and mouth harp(!), Blod Drom is as intriguing as it is terrifying. Even when they stayed traditional, Bergen's Molested created some of the best, most forward-thinking death metal of any country during the '90s, bolstered by the relentless riffs and bilious growls of Borknagar frontman Øystein G. Brun and some breakneck, off-time blast beats by sometime Gorgoroth drummer Erlend "Sersjant" Erichsen. Utterly essential. (Ars Magna Recordings is planning a re-release of all of Molested's albums this year, click here for more info.)
2) Obliteration, Perpetual Decay (Tyrant Syndicate, 2007)
Influenced by U.S. death-metal bands, the members of Kolbotn's Obliteration were too young to experience death metal's original masters in their prime, firsthand. It just happened that some members of the band got to know Apollyon, of Cadaver and Aura Noir fame, who turned them on to Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse. Their debut, Perpetual Decay, so far stands as one of the best death-metal records I've heard all decade.
3) Darkthrone, Soulside Journey (Peaceville, 1991)
It's too easy to dismiss Darkthrone's early death-metal output, if only because they so vehemently dismissed it when they became a black-metal band on the following year's A Blaze in the Northern Sky. The Kolbotn-based band's members originally played in another death-metal band called Black Death (their Trash Core is nothing to write home about), but somewhere along the way the group discovered Stockholm, Sweden's Nihilist and picked up on its melodic, technical aspects, which they claim for their own on Soulside Journey. Listening to it now, you'd swear they really were Swedish.
4) Cadaver, …In Pains (Earache, 1992)
Featuring two members who would go on to playing in any number of Norway's influential black-metal bands (Immortal, Gorgoroth, Satyricon, Ulver, etc.), the Råde/Fredrikstad-based Cadaver played the sort of death metal those bands were protesting: unsentimental rhythm-heavy blasts of buzz-saw guitar and rattling drums. This works in the group's favor on their second LP, …In Pains, mostly because of the way bassist-vocalist Apollyon's snarls lead the rhythmic assault.
5) Mayhem, Deathcrush (Posercorpse, 1987)
Like Darkthrone, Oslo-based Mayhem began as a death-metal band—and a good one at that. Although the music on Deathcrush is nowhere near as revolutionary as what would come out on their 1994 black-metal studio debut, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, it's still a venomous (pun intended) tribute to the underground death metal that was coming of age worldwide around the time. The current lineup—with only one original Deathcrush member (bassist Necrobutcher)—still resurrects cuts from this record live.
6) Fester, Winter of Sin (No Fashion, 1992)
Vocalist-guitarists Bjørn "Tiger" Mathisen and Rolf Tommy Simonsen could be poster children for proper throat care, their voices are so raw and blood-curdling throughout Winter of Sin. The Askim-based quartet released only two albums (1994's Silence is as good as this, though a little monotonous) and defined the fast-paced, crunchy sound Aura Noir would capture in later albums. Bassist Jørgen Skjolden tragically died of an overdose in 2000 preventing any reunions. R.I.P.
7) Algol, Entering the Woods of Enchantment (Effigy, 1996)
The sole full-length from the Varteig/Sarpsborg quartet (once known as Buttocks!) is an odd, if not intriguing record. The final release from Effigy Records (Molested's label), Entering the Woods of Enchantment reflects the 1996's disparate metal zeitgeists perfectly: Vocalist-guitarist Thomas Andresen's growls in a way that would make Carcass frontman Jeff Walker cry plagiarism (this was after Heartwork, after all), the riffs owe a debt to Stockholm death-metal groups like Entombed, and the drums are most akin to their native country's black metal. Algol sounds as hypnotizing as they do bloodthirsty.
8) Thou Shalt Suffer, Open the Mysteries of Your Creation 7-inch (Distorted Harmony, 1991)
Consisting of only two songs, Open the Mysteries of Your Creation presents a through-the-looking-glass death-metal version of Norwegian black metallers Emperor's two chief songwriters, Ihsahn and Samoth (performing as Ygg and Samot, respectively, here). Ihsahn has maintained it was his solo outlet (which is why he kept the TSS name when he released some symphonic music years later), but the chunky riffs and horror-movie keyboards—similar to Entombed's Phantasm rip on Left Hand Path—reveal a greater collective consciousness of the death-metal scene at the time.
9) Blood Red Throne, Affiliated With the Suffering (Hammerheart, 2003)
More mechanical and precise than the Kristiansand quintet's 2001 debut, Monument of Death, Blood Red Throne's album takes its cues from U.S. death-metal groups like Obituary, whom they cover here, and Cannibal Corpse (dig the gory cover art). Rigid riffs and guttural grunts are the band's currency on the album, even though some copies quizzically contain a cover of M.O.D.'s "Hate Tank."
10) Myrkskog, Superior Massacre (Candlelight, 2002)
Centered around Zyklon guitarist Thor "Destructhor" Myhren, who has also played in Florida death metallers Morbid Angel and Norwegian corpse-paint commandos 1349, Myrkskog features a rhythm section that is looser, the guitar solos that are more melodic, and songs that are more chaotic than anything his other band has created. Zyklon, who is incidentally another death-metal band featuring Emperor guitarist Samoth, may be the more obvious choice for a list like this, but there's a freedom and originality to Myrkskog's music that doesn't exist in Myhren's other work, which rarely sounds this dark.
As soon as the members of Finnish pagan-metal band Moonsorrow introduce themselves at Spinefeast 2009, Revolver Associate Editor Kory Grow knows he's in for an interesting chat. Vocalist-keyboardist Henri "Trollhorn" Sorvali, who also plays in pagan-metal phenoms Finntroll, calls himself "John Longhorn." Vocalist-bassist Ville Sorvali (Henri's cousin) says, "Just call me 'Nashville.'" (Henri adds "Son of Dolemite" to Nasvhille's name.) Luckily guitarist-vocalist Mitja Harvilahti gives his real name. What follows is just as tongue-in-cheek as the band's introductions.
REVOLVER None of the bands on this boat sound alike. What is it about Finland that produces such a wide variety of metal?
VILLE SORVALI It wasn't always like that. It changed in the late '90s when some bands started making—
MITJA HARVILAHTI Their own music instead of copying each other.
VILLE Yeah. My words exactly. [Laughs] Glad you said it. We should fire you.
HENRI SORVALI But wait a minute, I take it back. We'll rehire you. Finland in '92 was, music-wise, Poland in '83. It wasn't bands doing their own music…I think we all could agree that HIM were the first ones to open the vision of Finnish bands and labels to realize that Finnish people can also do their own sounding music and still succeed, and not to copycat foreign bands.
HARVILAHTI And after, like, Children of Bodom and Nightwish got bigger.
HENRI Yeah, those were two pioneers.
HARVILAHTI So there's a lot of skill in the Finnish metal scene. There are a lot of really good musicians.
HENRI There are good and bad bands.
HARVILAHTI Let's leave the bad bands out of this.
HENRI [Annoyed] Yeah, I know. [Mocking voice] Don't mention it.
Didn't Moonsorrow form in 1995?
VILLE Oh, you mentioned the name. [All laugh]
HARVILAHTI These guys formed the band in 1995.
That's a little bit before HIM was popular, at least worldwide.
HENRI Yeah. The thing is, the black-metal scene was in its own little world, which was famous. It was like a parallel world; there was this commercial world and the black-metal world. Something that would be a huge hit in the black-metal scene would not affect anything in mainstream metal. Being mainstream in any goth genre doesn't have anything to do with us. We were in a different league, so to speak. We just wanted to play.
But since then, obviously Moonsorrow has gotten popular. We recently did a feature on pagan metal, and many of the bands cite you as an influence.
VILLE Yeah, yeah. I've noticed it. Some years ago, it wasn't big in the States yet, but Finntroll got very big there. And folk metal and pagan metal are still the only new genres of metal that have come up in the last 10 years. So there's no reason why you wouldn't catch on in the USA.
HENRI The new thrash metal, death metal, black metal.
VILLE Then folk metal, pagan metal, whatever.
HENRI What I said in an interview before is that people are feeling ruthless these days with all this plastic culture surrounding us and reality TV shows and culture, blah, blah, blah. That's why people are searching for something more deep and more profound.
HARVILAHTI I've seen bad examples of that as well. Folk metal in central Europe is such a big trend. A lot of people make folk metal by adding stupid fiddle melodies on top of Bathory.
HENRI [Mocking voice] We are descendents of Vikings. Yes! I do Viking metal, jah! [Normal voice] I'm not referring to any specific countries, but you can read between the lines. Jaaaah.
Have you been surprised by the interest in the US?
VILLE Yes and no. We're surprised that it's so big already. I thought probably in the next five years it would catch up.
HENRI I thought it wasn't that big but two interviewers from the States have stated that it's big over there. I have to rethink my thinking.
VILLE Well, you're the guy behind Finntroll, but you haven't toured the United States.
HENRI Well, I don't fly.
VILLE Finntroll was definitely the first ones. They have been opening up doors there for a couple years already.
Before we wrap up, Henri. I understand you have a joke to tell.
HENRI A kick drum, snare, and a crash cymbal fell off from a cliff. Bu-dump-tsh.
While at Spinefeast 2009, a festival for Finnish label Spinefarm held on a cruise ship, Revolver Associate Editor Kory Grow sat down with Rotten Sound vocalist Keijo Niinimaa and bassist Toni Pihlaja to talk about metal in Finland before the grindcore band's blistering set. Somewhat reserved at first, the pair opened up when Grow asked them about touring with Carcass. Enjoy!
REVOLVER What is it about Finland that produces such a wide variety of bands?
TONI PIHLAJA We're pretty close to Sweden, and they've got lots of really good bands in every genre.
KEIJO NIINIMAA I think we're the oddballs in Europe…A lot of Swedish bands steal a bit more from the UK.
PIHLAJA But we're stealing from a lot of old UK grindcore.
NIINIMAA That's true.
PIHLAJA So probably everybody [in Finland] is influenced by UK music. Originally.
You just toured with Carcass. How long did it take you to recover from that tour?
NIINIMAA Three months. [Laughs] The actual recovery was one or two weeks. The length of the tour that's how long it took.
PIHLAJA Great tour.
They're obviously an influence on you. What did you take from seeing them every night?
PIHLAJA Obviously we've heard their records before. [Laughs]
NIINIMAA I was just bummed we could not see them every night, because the drives were quite long. But we saw them a couple of times and that was great.
A couple of years ago, your Consume to Contaminate EP was No. 2 on the Finnish sales charts.
PIHLAJA The singles chart. They didn't sell too many records that week.
That's a big accomplishment. What do you think it is about that record?
NIINIMAA It was a big accident.
PIHLAJA There wasn't any singles out that week.
NIINIMAA We didn't write songs to go there. That wasn't the reason.
PIHLAJA The reason we did that was because we had just done a new record and we had a bunch of new songs. It had been, like, two years since we did the Exit album.
NIINIMAA We just wanted to get Toni in the band and try out some new studios. So it happened accidentally.
Have you gotten that kind of chart success since then?
NIINIMAA Cycles was OK. The singles is—I don't want to say it's easier, because it's not our thing to go there. The Exit album was 22nd on the charts. Cycles was 12, so the next album is gonna be second on the chart. [Smiles] But the album sales have been reduced as much as everywhere else. Probably, there are a few fanatics that want to get it early.
PIHLAJA We aren't on the charts for too long.
Since you just mentioned Cycles, I was wondering what's going on on the cover to that album.
PIHLAJA The graphic designer said it's representing man decomposing through his own stupidity.
NIINIMAA We sent him lyrics. He did the cover for the Consume to Contaminate EP and we liked what he did, so he was the first we went to for this album cover. He sent us a few more different variations from it. The other thing that we liked is that it's a light cover. If you go through grindcore and black-metal albums, they're all black covers.
Are you working on anything new right now?
PIHLAJA Yes. We want it to be more aggressive.
NIINIMAA I hope it's gonna be better songs. I hope it's gonna be aggressive.
But what is "better songs"?
PIHLAJA I think we're gonna step back and write shorter songs. You never can tell. We have less than half an album. Whatever feels right.
What inspires you guys to do what you do after all those years?
NIINIMAA It's really quite easy to find topics. On the next album, I want to focus on the reasons why everything goes so wrong all the time. The meaning of stupidity.
That's a good album title, The Meaning of Stupidity.
NIINIMAA Too long. For us at least. [Laughs]
Between cheaper prices for European beer and, uh, three-dollar cups of coffee, traveling is usually full of highs and lows without much in between. As such, when Revolver Associate Editor Kory Grow went to Helsinki, Finland, for the Spinefeast at Sea 2009 concert cruise from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia, the choppy waves in the Gulf of Finland weren't the only ups and downs he experienced. Here's his list of the best and worst things about taking a metal cruise:
Best Signs on the Way into Helsinki From the Airport: TECHNOPOLIS (which I can only imagine is the most badass set of music cops around or the worst Greek-named city in Europe) and BAUHAUS (not in reference to the Peter Murphy-fronted goth-rock band or German art school, but something similar to Home Depot)
Best Place to Buy Deep Purple CDs (in Probably the Whole World): Music Hunter in Helsinki. The store had an entire fixture dedicated to Deep Purple-related CDs. Who knew Joe Lynn Turner was so popular?
Coolest Roadside Fake Store: God's Gas (brought to you by the Blood Covenant Brothers). OK!
Most Metal (and, Incidentally, the Most Famous) Painting in Atheneum, the Art Museum: The Wounded Angel, by Hugo Simberg. Whether you feel shame from it or something more voyeuristic, you're not feeling good. And what's more metal than a "wounded angel"?
Most Pagan Metal Painting in Atheneum, the Art Museum: Aino Myth, Triptych, by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Yo, is that the Korpiklaani dude accosting that naked maiden?
Most Metal Finnish Tradition: Bear claws, not of the pastry variety. In pagan Finland, parents put bear claws under sleeping children's pillows to keep them from crying in the night. And, if that wasn't awesome enough, young girls kept bear claws in their pockets to become "more amorous," according to a pamphlet at the Finnish National Museum.
ON THE BOAT
Most amazing sight: Watching a couple thousand metalheads board a Titanic-sized sealiner.
Best Finnish Concert Custom: Gambling! At Dante's Highlight, where I saw Amorphis perform, they had blackjack tables in the back… and teens played 21… while drinking beer. Less surprising was the blackjack tables in the cabaret on the boat, but the fact that people were gambling during the show then, too, was pretty cool by itself.
Weirdest MCs for a Metal Fest: A man in a moose suit and a man in a sailor suit. 'Nuff said.
Best Reason to Avoid Watching Prog-Metal Band Entwine: The 2002 Cuba-Gooding-Jr.-with-a-pack-of-huskies vehicle Snow Dogs, subtitled in Finnish, being broadcast upstairs on the lighting guy's monitor. Hey, he seemed to like it.
Best T-Shirt on a Fan: Eternal Erection
Only Finnish (Curse) Word I Learned: "Baska," which means "shit." (Even though Abbath once told me never to drop names—cue rim shot—I have to credit Rotten Sound vocalist Keijo Niinimaa with teaching me this one.)
Best Bagpipers to Make You Forget Korn: Metsatöll. Thank God they don't have nu-metal in Estonia.
Most Unpleasant Beverage Surprise: Gin in a can. Much to my surprise, this is not gin, the alcohol, but a Sparks-like fermented ginger ale, perfect for puking off the side of ships.
Most Pleasant Beverage Surprise: Vodka in a can. Sure, it tastes like shit, but it's vodka! In a can!
Most Unpleasant "How Do You Do": The light pouring into the cabaret the second day of the fest as Celesty and Kiuas play. Never have I seen so many hungover rock zombies.
Best Metal Trooper During Kiuas' Sunlight-Drenched Set: Mikko Laime. This dude was not only wearing a crusted Manowar T-shirt and heavily spiked armbands, which he snuck in, but also pink furry handcuffs hanging from his rock belt. Why was he wearing pink furry handcuffs? "To piss these people off. It shows I'm soft on the inside."
Best (Only?) Instance of Recognizable English Spoken by a Band Onstage: Kiuas' singer as he introduces "Race With the Falcons": "My money is on the falcons!"
Most Over-the-Top Performance by a Finnish Prog-Metal Band: Kiuas again. I've never seen more ball-grabbing, in-audience guitar solos, or audience-band chug contests in the middle of the afternoon on a boat in the Baltic before in my life.
Grossest Breakfast of the Trip: A ham sandwich and strawberry yogurt (not together). Still, it looked better than the green piece of pizza one of my metal-journo compatriots ingested.
Most Disgusting Canned Food: Is that fucking boar?!
Most Shocking Moment: The Finnish or Estonian or Whatever stewardess who burst in on me while I was changing in my cabin on the cruise. The relevant fact is that she didn't speak English and she absolutely, without protest wanted me out of the room right then and there so she could change the sheets. I screamed, I gesticulated, I spoke slowly and she just continued to yell at me in her native tongue. Eventually she pulled out her cell phone, typed in "30"—which I took to mean "Get the hell out of the room in 30 minutes…or else!"—and left. I've never laced my belt and buckled it so quick. The room sure was clean, though, when I got back.
Best Way to Show Your Love for Mötley Crüe: Tattües!
Most Offensive Question a Finn Asked Me (While Very, Very Drunk): "Now that you have a black president, what are you going to do? Invade Finland?" Uhh…
Coolest Finnish National Concept: Sisu. The way the same drunk Finn explained it, it's sort of like guts or balls: "Seeing someone assassinate your entire family right in front of you, and then when the killer points the gun at you, you flip him off." Apparently years of being invaded by the Russians and the Swedes and the Germans can have that effect on a country.
Oddest Point of National Pride: Nokia is a Finnish company. Not Japanese. I don't know how many people told me this, but now I know. Incidentally, the Nokia phone belonging to the one dude who told me this fact uncountable times didn't work. Ouch.
Most Metal Way off the Ship in Case of Emergency: The VIKING Evacuation Chute.
Worst Disappointment About Taking a Metal Cruise From Helsinki to Estonia: The ship didn't dock! Oh look, there's Estonia. I'm still saying I made it to Tallinn, because my cell-phone company charged me Estonian rates ($1.99/min.!) for my calls on the boat.
BACK IN HELSINKI
Coolest Regular Nightclub Night That Should Be More Widespread in America: Heavy metal karaoke. At a bar called the Heavy Corner across the street from my hotel, every Saturday night, the Finns hold this ritual. They even have a Spinefarm-specific karaoke disc, which includes songs by Nightwish and Children of Bodom—which people choose to sing. Quite often. Best moment at heavy metal karaoke? The Finn shouting, "Scream or me, California," midway through Iron Maiden's "2 Minutes to Midnight."
Most Metal Metal Statue at the Heavy Corner: This flying demon completing the perfect trifecta: Holding a pitchfork, holding a flying-V guitar, and flipping you off!
Shop in Helsinki's Vantaa Airport That I Wish Was in Every Airport: Wine & View. Basically, for only a few Euros, you can taste some of the finest, rarest wines in the world. Granted, they serve you the drink in a thimble, but with some Brie cheese it's a pretty cool experience.
Coolest Art Installation at the Contemporary Art Museum: This book floating in water. If only the security there looked away long enough that I could have snuck a Revolver in the tank with it.
When Finnish metal label Spinefarm invited Revolver to attend its annual Spinefeast at Sea festival, we couldn't say no. In addition to our coverage in the May issue of Revolver, below is Associate Editor Kory Grow's review of the festival. Over the next couple of days, we'll post his decidedly un-pagan list of superlatives from the event and interviews with Spinefeast performers Rotten Sound and Moonsorrow.
The Baltic Princess cruise ship can carry roughly three quarters of the passengers who boarded the Titanic. Unlike on that fateful journey, though, the would-be mariners who held tickets for Spinefeast at Sea 2009—Finnish record label Spinefarm's annual showcase, held on the Baltic Princess this year—can be thankful none of the eight metal bands providing the entertainment had to play their blast beats as the ship sank.
Traveling roundtrip from Helsinki, Finland, to Tallinn, Estonia's harbor (the cruise didn't dock) over two days in late January, the captive black-T-shirtted audience was lucky enough to have a diverse group of mostly Finnish bands to command its headbanging. With outside temperatures in the low 20s, the likes of pagan metallers Moonsorrow, grindcore group Rotten Sound, and suicide rockers Entwine, among others, provided warm respite from the frosty climate outside.
Performing in a cabaret, each set was distinctly surreal. After a "sea captain" and a man in a moose suit introduced each band (in Finnish, natch), the performances were no holds barred. From Moonsorrow's blood-doused costumes to Rotten Sound's epileptic convulsions to Estonian folk-metal ensemble Metsatöll's tasteful late-night bagpiping (which lasted close to 3 AM), each band played a show that could carry some appeal to everyone.
Complementing the variety of bands, the moshpit denizens varied for each artist. The fairer sex, for instance, really, really liked Entwine's dreadlocked frontman, Mika Tauriainen, while sweaty shirtless men comprised the surprisingly small turnout for Rotten Sound, and yet the dance floor was never empty. Even on the second day, the tepid rays of sunlight pouring into the theater couldn't discourage fans from showing up to watch Finnish power-metal bands Celesty and Kiuas close out the fest, hangovers be damned.
What made this voyage special, though, weren't the bands themselves, but the relationship and understanding the bands and audience shared. With artists sharing laughs with concertgoers from the stage, it felt like a community. Sure, there was a barricade, but there were no other borders between fans and musicians. And judging from the bands' interaction with the audience, you got the impression they felt like kings of the world.
After 20-some-odd years, Cannibal Corpse are among the longest-running of the original death-metal bands. Better yet, they're among some of the most consistent, writing one blistering paean to gore after another. On their latest, Evisceration Plague (Metal Blade; which you can win from Revolver by entering here), they've come as close to mastering the genre as any group. When we checked in with the band for Revolver's April issue, available now, frontman George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher and bassist Alex Webster talked about the songs on the album, and why they're among the most precise Cannibal Corpse have written so far. Since they're the sort of band that always has a lot to say, we decided to give them their druthers once more in this interview. Just like their music, what they might say below may shock you—not because of the disgusting artwork and brutal music they say inspire them, but because even they set limits for themselves
You've been in Cannibal Corpse for over 13 years now. How does that affect how you think about the group?
GEORGE "CORPSEGRINDER" FISHER It's very different. I mean, 13 years [Corpsegrinder replaced original vocalist Chris Barnes in 1995]. I remember when I got the phone call from Alex, like it's yesterday. I really go, Wow, man. Mid-October of this year will be 14 years I've been in the band. That's twice as long as Chris was. I've never sat and thought about the magnitude, the amount of years. It's been 13 but I mean, 13 years. It's a long time.
There are probably 13 year olds who look up to you.
CORPSEGRINDER People speak of us in certain terms, and it's like, Wow, are we really that? And I don't think any of us feel like that. But people say, "You guys are legends," but we're just dudes in a band. If people view that way, it's cool, and we've got to live up to that. I don't think we try, like, here's a blueprint, here's a checklist, did we do all this today? Yeah? Good, we're still legends, we're cool. We just are who we are.
Cannibal Corpse is pretty stable, then.
CORPSEGRINDER As long as nobody has a radical change in life and finds the meaning of life and goes off to the wilderness looking for it, then we're OK.
I think Evisceration Plauge better than your last record, Kill.
ALEX WEBSTER I thought that Kill was the best record we'd done so far. Evisceration Plague, it did take a little work to go beyond what we had already accomplished with Kill, because we were really satisfied with that. It was a little bit more of a challenge to try and beat it this time around.
There's almost a different stylistic feel between each song.
WEBSTER That's something we try to do. We try to give each song an individual character, by having songs that are different tempos and songs that are written with different scales and have different rhythmic ideas within them and different arrangements. We really don't want it to be one of those albums that—and this is my age talking here—where you could drop the needle on it anywhere and you can't tell what song it is.
What were you listening to when you made this album?
WEBSTER I've been listening to a lot of newer death metal, but then I still break out the classics, too. I'd also been listening to some extreme metal that wasn't necessarily death or black. Like, I like the new Meshuggah album. But I don't think that any of the stuff I do sounds at all like Meshuggah. I try not to let any of the stuff I listen to influence my music.
Corpsegrinder, in our interview for the mag, you talk about how your kids like death metal. Do they like Cannibal?
CORPSEGRINDER Um, if I play it, they'll listen to it and they're OK with it, but Aeon's their favorite. We're backseat. I mean, hey, if you're gonna pick somebody over us, that's one of the best new death-metal bands. That album [Bleeding the False] is one of the best, death-metal-wise, in the past 15 years. That album kicks fuckin' ass, man.
The artwork on this album isn't as gory as past ones. What kind of direction did you give Vincent Locke for the album art?
WEBSTER Well, Paul Mazurkiewicz in the band is the only guy that talks to Vince. We just told him [to make] something dark and evil. And for the interior, we can have something gory. CD sales are not what they used to be. In order for us to not really complicate matters by getting our album banned, it's still a situation where we get to have our cake and eat it, too. We get the goriest piece of artwork we want, but we just put it on the inside. So you have this foreboding cover with these zombies coming at you because it's dark, but when you open it, you get the whole scene of carnage and chaos.
Well, the art is pretty creepy.
WEBSTER I actually like it better than the gory part, myself. I love gory stuff, too, of course—I mean, I'm in Cannibal Corpse, how could I not? But some of my favorite album covers we've done are the darker, scarier looking ones. I like the censored cover of Gallery of Suicide, where it shows that big tower, and I like the censored cover for Gore Obsessed where you see the zombie about to stab somebody, but you can't see who he's gonna stab, you just see a hand sticking up. And the cover for Evisceration Plague, I like a lot because the suggestion of something bad is sometimes more frightening than seeing it depicted. The scary parts are what you don't see, when you're allowed to use your imagination.
Speaking of using your imagination, you were just putting on cartoons when Revolver called earlier. Are your girls a fan of Metalacolypse, which you do voices for?
CORPSEGRINDER [Laughs] No. The oldest is 4. They're not watching that anytime soon. But it would be nice if they were into it later on. It's a very good cartoon.
I'm sure they'd be proud.
CORPSEGRINDER Maybe not. Maybe they'd just be like, "Dad's a dork." I mean, you would think if your dad was in a band and semi-famous or whatever, I guess it depends on what they listen to when they grow up. I guess KISS is cool to the younger kids these days. I don't know. I'm not putting us in the same echelon, popularity-wise, but kids are still going and they're old dudes, you know. People look at them, and it's just, they're KISS. Hopefully it's not the Rolling Stones, where we're 9 million years old looking.
Interview by Kory Grow
When I asked Satyr, frontman for Norwegian black metallers Satyricon, what his favorite songs were on the band's latest, The Age of Nero (Koch), he was noticeably hesitant. He considers the album an indivisible work of art. But after explaining the nature of the "Choice Cuts" interview I was conducting, he warmed up, and that portion of the Q&A is what we published in the latest issue of Revolver, on stands now. For the rest of the interview, Satyr (pictured below, front) was relaxed, good-natured and, somewhat surprising, very funny, even despite the fact we caught him on the band's most strenuous tour to date. Turns out, as I learned below, if you want Satyr to open up, just offer him a Diet Coke.
—Associate Editor Kory Grow
REVOLVER You are in Poland right now on your European tour. How has it been going?
SATYR It's been extremely good. I think November and December 2008 is probably the toughest competition I've ever seen in my 16 years of doing Satyricon in the touring market. Right now in Europe, we have the Unholy Alliance tour with Slayer, Trivium, Mastodon, and Amon Amarth. Slipknot is out with Machine Head and Children of Bodom. Morbid Angel is out there with, like, a seven-band bill with themselves as headliners. A German thrash-metal band, Destruction, is out on tour. The Norwegian band Enslaved is out on a headlining tour. And then Cradle of Filth and Gorgoroth are out on tour. And we're all hitting the same cities if not on the same day, then the day before, the day after, the same week. Things like that. The fans only have so much money, so they have to make some choices.
Sounds tough. Has it been going well for you?
Out of all these tours, it's by far Satyricon who has the most obscure billing. It's basically just Satyricon as an established band and then we have a young band from Sweden on Century Media, which nobody really knows, meaning we have to do all the ticket sales ourselves. And despite all this, we seem to do much better than all the other acts that it's natural for us to compare ourselves to, in terms of ticket sales from talking to promoters every day. We're really happy. We have great attendance. And all the songs from The Age of Nero seems to go down with the old songs, if not even better. Things couldn't be better for us right now. The only problem we're facing right now is that we have to kill our agent when we get back home due to the total lack of off-days on this tour. [Laughs]
Has that been wearing on you?
Tomorrow, we've been out for a month, and so far we've had one travel day and one off day. At this stage of the tour, it doesn't take much to piss one of us off. If there's one thing missing from the rider, even if I don't want it, I go to the tour manager and say, "Hey, what's this?!" But it's all right. You spend your whole day thinking, God, this sucks, but as soon as the show starts, I'm thinking it's all good.
What's something that was missing from your rider recently?
It's mostly when it's stupid stuff. If you say, "Oh, can we have some Diet Cokes like it says in the rider?" And they say, "Sure, no problem." And then they come back with Coke. And I say, "I hate sodas with sugar in it. I don't want anything with sugar in it." And they're like, "What's the problem? How?" But it's fine. We're really having a great tour.
How do you make it worthwhile for you on the road?
We play every show as if it was the last show that we're ever gonna play. It's been awhile since we were thinking that one show isn't as important as the next one. We've made some adjustments that have been quite interesting on this tour. Before we went out, I called the tour manager and I said, "Get rid of all the alcohol from the rider." Satyricon has never been a band that's had any drinking problems. Satyricon consists of real wine lovers. We really, really like wine. I even collect wine, myself. It's just, with a schedule like this, anything that can get in the way of doing my job is something I want to get rid of. So our tour manager asked me, "What do you want instead of the alcohol?" I said, "Well, we've got shitloads of new wireless systems for the stage, so tell them to get batteries instead and get day passes to a local gym for everyone in the band." We respect our fans enough to make sure that we're as prepared as we can be to deliver.
It sounds like your fans are reciprocating.
Almost on a daily basis, I have fans coming up to me after the show, showing me their Satyricon tattoos. It's like I said jokingly to [Satyricon drummer] Frost the other day, "What should we do? Give them money?" [Laughs] You think it's cool, because it's such an extreme sign of dedication, but at the same time you almost feel like you really owe them in a way when they decided to put this permanent thing on their body like a Satyricon logo or some of them with Norwegian flags or some even more extreme like they've tattooed a band photo.
You initially resisted talking about specific songs for our "Choice Cuts" feature. Why is that?
On The Age of Nero, there are eight songs. There isn't a ninth, 10th, or 11th track. Those were the eight songs that we felt made one great musical journey lasting for 45 minutes or whatever it is. As much as I enjoy all the songs, I really like to listen to the album from beginning to end. In order for them to make sense, I have to listen to them as a part. You could say for example that a song like "Den Siste," the final song on the album, is hard to listen to by itself for me. I have to see it as the completion; I have to listen to it from beginning to end. I like it better as a musical journey, not like an iPod journey, best of this, best of that.
When we were talking about "Black Crow on a Tombstone," you mention seeing just that scene from Thorns guitarist Snorre Ruch's kitchen. So, uh, Snorre lives next to a cemetery?
Yeah, he does! It's a kind of funny place, man—he doesn't really have a living room, 'cause his living room is a studio. He's got an apartment, and he's got a bedroom and a kitchen, bathroom, and a studio, because he just built his living room into a home studio apartment with soundproofing and recording equipment. So sometimes when I want to get away from everything, I'll just take some of my stuff on a disk and fly up north to Trondheim and spent the weekend at Snorre's place and trade recording ideas. He's good with those kinds of things, and I don't really have the patience or the equipment, so it's good to have Snorre. He's a complete geek when it comes to stuff like that. He's got a really different perspective; I'm a little more street-smart, but I like the musical training that Snorre has. We have complimentary skills that've let me help him out with his music in the past, and he's made a really solid contribution to Satyricon in the last few years. He's also been a catalyst between me and Frost.
How is that?
Despite the fact that the chemistry between me and Frost has always been good, with Snorre coming in from the outside, it makes a big difference. Imagine something I'd say again and again and again to Frost, and he disagrees—it doesn't work anymore. I can still say it, but it has no effect. But if someone comes in from the outside and says something I've said for five years for the first time, Frost'll go, "Uh huh!" And he'll do things differently. I'll say, "Hey, I've said this for five years," and he'll say, "Man, you never said that. Fuck you." [Laughs] And it's been the other way around, too. Snorre has let me see things more in Frost's way, because he comes in from the outside and says Frost's things in a way that's easier for me to relate to. So we had a lot of fun making The Age of Nero, even though it's dark as fuck, the darkest record we've ever made, we had a lot of fun, and I think that's audible on the record as well.
How does The Age of Nero tie into Satyricon's connective thread throughout all of your albums?
Musically, I think I'd join Frost in saying it's the ultimate Satyricon album. As you can imagine, I'm extremely passionate about this album, and even more so Frost. The Age of Nero is everything we've learned through 16 years, perfected. It's a powerful, authoritative, muscular album, yet it's still extremely atmospheric. That, to me, is the first and foremost quality—its atmosphere. It's a dynamical record, It's got good variety, and to me it's a real album, it's not just a compilation of songs. And I think it's gonna age well. A lot of people tell me it takes quite a few spins for them to get really into it, and I thought, "Aw, that's good." I have a number of people who've told me that they enjoy it, but it took them 20-plus spins to really get into it, to get all the subtleties and the nuances throughout the record, and I just feel that that's a good sign.
What about thematically?
Nero wasn't only the last emperor of greatest empire that's ever existed, it's also the Italian word for black. So it's also a reference to the age that we live in, which is to me, clearly, the apocalyptic age, and it has really affected me as a songwriter, making my music in such a dark world. Armageddon doesn't seem like a mythical thing in rock music off in the distance anymore, though it's fascinated people in rock and music and religion throughout history. I guess most people never really believe that it's coming. It just seemed like a really fascinating subject, but now…now, with war on just about every continent, escalating religious and cultural conflicts, and one natural disaster taking more human life than the last, and most importantly, little will to fight the downward spiral that we're in, where all of this is heading. I've thought a lot about that.
I think even if everyone got together on the same page and decided that we have to stop this evolution or progression towards where we are heading—even if we all did that, it'd be really, really difficult because of the state of the earth, you know? But what makes it any worse is that I can't see any real will to do it. Nonetheless, Satyricon isn't a band of social commentary; we're a band of spirituality. All I'm saying is, all of this has affected me as any artist, who writes a book, paints a painting, makes music. What you see gets processed and gets reflected in your thinking, and if you do art, it'll be reflected in your art.