Showing posts with label metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label metal. Show all posts

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mapping Witch Mountain

Witch Mountain has one of those stories that just writes itself.

The Portland doom outfit is suddenly taking off after 15 years (minus some hiatus time) as a band. It's an extremely unique career arc and detailed in this story I wrote for The Oregonian.

The piece focuses on their recent ascent and glosses over several previous break ups and reunions, but one is worth mentioning here. When Witch Mountain came back together in 2006, three members of the band at the time had all recently gotten divorces. Guitarist Rob Wrong told me, "Nothing quite spells doom like having all your wives leave you in a two year period."

This was the time I first discovered Witch Mountain. I liked what they were going for, but it was just lacking something. Turns out that something was singer Uta Plotkin, who joined the band 12 years into its existence.

The thing that struck me when I first saw Witch Mountain was bassist Dave Hoopaugh. He's very tall, I'd guess 6'5", with grey hair. Paired with the slight frame of drummer Nate Carson, the band kind of looked like a D&D adventure party with an ogre and an elf.

I was sorry to see Dave leave the band last year, but the new record is so phenomenal, I'm looking forward to seeing new bassist Neal Munson for the first time at the CD release show tonight.

Image: Sketch by Shaun Peace of the 2011 lineup.

Monday, May 7, 2012

That Metal Weekend

Last weekend, Eddie Trunk, Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine, the hosts of the longest-running and highest-rated show on VH1 Classic, "That Metal Show," came to Seattle and Portland and did their first ever live performances together. I was entrusted with handling the media coverage and the media was very kind to us.

Eddie and Jim appeared on KISW 99.9 Seattle twice. Once on their metal show, "The Metal Shop," and again on "The BJ Shea Morning Experience."

Portland freelance writer Bob Ham did a great Q&A with Eddie for Willamette Week in which they break down all the important metal issues of the day. The Portland Mercury ran a preview, humorous as always. This morning, The Mercury's music blog has a detailed review of the show by Mark Lore, who also took the picture above.

Next up, Don, Jim and Eddie head to Chicago and Detroit June 15 & 16.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Top 10 of 2011

I, like most critics, have a top 10 list for the end of the year. See my choices below or take a look at my ballot on the Village Voice's poll.

1. Bright Eyes - The People's Key. For the first time ever, a fairly mainstream band tops my list. This was definitely my most-listened-to album of the year and I had the pleasure of reviewing it and a live performance of it.

2. Workout - Workout. I went to college with this Brooklyn glam outfit, but they have really blossomed this year with this fun music video. I recently listened to this album while having teeth pulled.

3. Radiation City - The Hands That Take You. This arty and vintage-fuzzy local indie band is blowing up. You heard it here first.

4. Mr. Gnome - Madness in Miniature. One of the most creative bands playing today reinvented themselves this year with a stripped-down rock 'n' roll sound.

5. YOB - Atma. The band that is putting Oregon metal on the map has done it again with an album you probably shouldn't listen to at night by yourself.

6. The Tomorrow People - Rose City Rose. I'm honored to be the first to review this extremely well-crafted album that emerged from a closet-sized studio in St. Johns.

7. Dirty Mittens - Heart of Town. I'm glad this class act finished their much-anticipated first full length before breaking up. Their shows were legendary, and it would have been tragic for their music not to be captured in an album that, when I reviewed it, made their future look so bright.

8. Witch Mountain - South of Salem. Portland's oldest and best doom metal outfit was way overdue for a second album. The cover alone makes it a classic, which is why I actually recommended it as a Christmas gift.

9. Cool Nutz - The Cook Up. The best known rapper in Portland made a foray into hipster crossover last year. Like many critics, I really enjoyed it. But in 2011, he quietly released a fully bad-ass return to basics. Versatility is the name of the game for this experienced MC.

10. Wizard Rifle - Speak Loud Say Nothing. The young duo that keeps Portland metal fresh gave the underground metal community a shot of irreverence this year with their debut album. Hard to believe I was their first interview ever. This is definitely a band to watch in 2012.

Image: Workout by Sunny Shokrae.

Best of:

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pagan Holiday Gifts

I contributed to the Holiday Gift Guide in Friday's Oregonian. It occurs to me that some of the gifts I recommended aren't terribly festive. But everyone needs something for the bah-humbugger in their life.

First of all, I'm pretty stoked I got the phrase "Satanic map of Oregon" in the gift guide. Though the analysis of Witch Mountain's new album that "Amy Winehouse didn't die; Uta Plotkin ate her soul" was shaved off. Ah well. Couple that with The Walking Dead DVD I also recommend and you have a pretty brutal night on your hands!

There wound up not being a food or wine section in the guide, hence the absence of this bit on Montinore Estate's Frolic:

Almost too rich for summer, this Gew├╝rztraminer dessert wine out of Forest Grove is the sunrise after any dark winter meal. It melts over the tongue singing of honey and fruit. Warning: this nectar may cause you to strip naked and join deer in any nearby snowy meadows.

This brings me to the final two, less overtly Pagan, gift ideas. Both the debut record by Radiation City and the wildly fun cookbook by CakeSpy are more fun and joy than any monotheistic god would like you to have. Enough said.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Is For Metal

It's fall, and for the fourth year in a row, that means it's time for Fall Into Darkness, Portland's underground metal festival. I took the opportunity to do a bit of a Portland metal scene report in The Oregonian this week, and music scribe Bob Ham invited festival organizer Nathan Carson, metal booker Carly Henry and yours truly to be guests on the latest edition (episode 6) of his podcast, For The Ears.

Basically, everyone agreed that metal is on the rise in Portland. Here's a bit of the A&E story that got cut for space that supports this notional as well:
Jason Leivian co-curated a currently running Oregon Historical Society exhibit called “Oregon Rocks! A History of Popular Music in Oregon.” Carson helped out, and when he commented on the lack of metal, Leivian says he told him, “It's actually happening now. If there's another retrospective 10 or 15 years later, they're definitely going to look at bands like Red Rang, Agalloch and Witch Mountain.”

Grimace for the history books this weekend.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Black Scorpion

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Acrassicauda--the only metal band from Iraq--reminds us why rock is important. I was honored to get to do an extended phone interview with vocalist Faisal Mustafa for this story in The Oregonian.

A lot of good material didn't make it into the story, so I posted it below. In preparing for this interview, I listened to Acrassicauda's 2010 EP Only The Dead See The End Of War many times and was really pleased that once they finally were able to practice regularly, they produced good material. I'm looking forward to their forthcoming full length and to continue to learn of their development because what impresses me most about this band is that they're all in. They've risked a lot to do this and hopefully, when they play Portland tomorrow, they'll remind us--a city in which it seems like everyone is in two or three bands--not to take being in a band for granted.


If you'd like more background about Acrassicauda (like the meaning of their band name--hint, it's the title of this post), you can stream the film about the band, Heavy Metal in Baghdad, on Hulu.

Now on to the Q&A.

Simms: What is the most surprising thing so far about touring?

Faisal: The most surprising thing is each country you hit, it's like a new, different world. You will be shocked if you're a stranger. Everyone acts in a different way, different rules. They're all nice to you, but when it comes to protecting their own town and their traditions, it's like a very restricted area. But whenever it contains music, they're all the same rules. Everyone from the east to the west, they all give you that tension. Especially in the west. People actually pay attention to music. I'll tell you the truth. I'm a musician, but I know if I'm going to a live concert for, for example, Dream Theater on Thursday, it will be very hard for me to go to Megadeth on Friday. Some people call it, "Oh, you're just a wuss." But people actually are capable of doing that for the whole time of the week, you know? This is their life: "OK, I will be working in the morning and hitting another show at night."

I noticed in the film about you, there weren't many women at your shows in Iraq. Is it different playing for women now?

I thought all women, whoever is going to come here, is going to be very aggressive, but now I saw both sides of women in my shows. I've seen the aggressive, and I've seen the very mellow, very gentle and nice girl that she want to have fun, she want to have relax, she want to come with her friends and meet the band or whatever. Women are fine. In my opinion, they are the most beautiful thing. They can combine with you anywhere in any type of lifestyle. And I thought that our lifestyle wouldn't bring women in the past. But now, my idea has been totally changed.

I know a lot of American soldiers like metal. I was surprised I didn't see them at your shows in the movie. Did you know American soldiers in Iraq? Did they like your music?

I used to be working in the Iraqi government in the past. For almost two years, I worked in the Women's Right's Ministry and it was more opening and I had to meet a lot of American soldiers because I was in charge of a lot of logistic stuff in the office and I had to be communicating with American Army so I can make sure everyone who is going to be coming to the Ministry or whenever we're making conferences and press conferences around the Green Zone, will be just fine to be escorted. I had to make a lot of friends from small soldiers to big generals. You can see how simple and humble they are because they don't pay attention much to the rank. They will be like, "Hell yeah, I know Slayer! Yeah!"

Have you met Iraq War veterans here in the US?

Yes, I did. Yes, we did. One of them actually gave us his shirt as a matter of proudness and how much he hates being a soldier in a war and killing innocents. I don't remember the words, but it was something like, "Congratulations Acrassicauda for what you did. We are very proud of you, and remember, not all of us are actually thirsty for bloodshed and I think what you guys accomplish is a matter of high proud to us." It was very wise words to us. The guy's name is Bobby. He was a soldier and now he's demonstrating against war all over the States. he came to a show or two in Texas.

Then there were a couple of guys that came to me in and Virginia and they're about to go to Iraq and they came to us and were like, "I just wanted to talk to you guys about what is this like." It was shocking for me because I don't know what should I tell him.

You hadn't been to Iraq for a long time.

It's not just that. This soldier came to me as an Iraqi and asking me if he gonna survive. It's just another polite way to say, "Am I gonna survive?" And I will be like, "You know what dude, war is war no matter where you at or where you're fighting for and if you're gonna do that, just remember one thing: you won't leave this area with a bad conscience. You have to believe that you're doing it for the right reasons, and if you believe in that so hard, then go for it, but if you don't, it will backfire on you eventually and will hurt you.

That's good advice.

He was like, "Awesome. Thank you, man. Thank you." And I was like, "No, thank you for doing the right thing, man." I really appreciate and respect this kind of people because some people doesn't give a shit--they just want to fire a gun. One of these guys, we were sleeping over and he was showing us his hunting weapons. Some of the other guys were touching it, checking it out. and he was like, "Hey, Faisal, do you want to check it out?" And I was like, "Dude, I promised I'm not going to carry a gun. I promised myself that." And he was like, "I respect you for that."

I had heard that guys had to carry guns to practice in Iraq for protection.

Some of the guys usually carry their own personal piece. There was three of us actually carrying a gun. I've been chased like three times. The last time was like nine days before I get my passport and get the hell out of there. I was actually carrying a piece with me because I've been chased, jumping over roofs, hiding myself in a trash can for hours. By the time I get back, the electricity was already off and my family was chilling out, and I was a little far away from them so they couldn't smell the trash over my skin and they were like, "Hey, where the hell you been?" And I was like, "Just chilling out with the some friends." My folks are too old to handle such a news. Before I leave, I hand my piece back to my department, and I was like, "You know what? I'm out of here."

And you haven't held a gun since then.

I haven't and I'm not actually willing to.

Who was chasing you?

What I remember is there were three grey Beamers full of covered guys no showing their face and screaming, "There he is!" I'm trying to hit the dirt and I made a choice: either I'm going to be surrendering, but I have the power to run, why I shouldn't? And I started running.

Why were they chasing you?

I've been chased because of the band and I've been chased because of my work so I wouldn't judge on which point it was. I had to quit my job and leave with the band if I wanted to keep something going on.

Was it worth it?

I don't know much about politics, but I'm really hoping for the best and that everyone will realize this world doesn't contain only bloodshedding and killing each other. It's wider and bigger and that's where we try to experience. We came all the way to spread the love and music. You can see that in your lives, in our story. It's not very easy to leave your homeland without knowing if you can return to it soon, leave your own home and your own family behind, but you have to fight for what is right.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bands To Know: Radiation City and Wizard Rifle

In the last few weeks, I've been able to profile two fantastic new Portland bands for The Oregonian, both of which just released their first full-length albums, and neither of which sounds anything like the other.
Even before I saw Radiation City play last winter at Rontoms, I could have complimented them on having some good looking vintage gear. They rocked those tube amps and electric pianos in a way that really drew in the chatty crowd. It was the release party for a compilation they put out on their cassette label, Apes Tapes, and I found myself listening to it over and over afterwards. When I interviewed them for this story, I discovered the passion their sublime music radiated (yeah, yeah) was hard earned.
In last year's Best New Bands poll, Wizard Rifle was my number-one selection. This young metal duo came out of nowhere and brings it so hard that love 'em or hate 'em, you will never forget 'em once you've seen 'em. It was an honor to be the first journalist ever to interview the band for this story. I was pleased to learn their show at SXSW went well.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall Into Darkness 2010

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This weekend, Portland's best metal festival, Fall Into Darkness, has taken over Berbati's Pan and I wrote a preview of it for the Oregonian. Unlike festivals where every band sounds and looks the same, Fall Into Darkness features diverse and creative bands with common heavy and dark elements. Last night, Fauna gave a performance that was half ritual, half concert, spreading leaves through the venue and passing out candles to the audience during acoustic interludes between black metal songs.

Influential Olympia queercore duo, the Need, also wowed the crowd last night with a really high energy set. I had never seen them before, and their music was heavier live than it is recorded, and just as sinuous. Drummer Rachel Carns pounds out some pretty awesome beats from a standing position, which gives hopes to would-be drummers like me who just can't seem to coordinate the feet.

Tonight, Fell Voices, a black metal band generating a lot of buzz in the deep underground plays around 10pm. Like many bands on the festival this year, Fell Voices features both female and queer members. I briefly spoke to drummer Michael Rekevics by phone. He offered this quote, which was cut from the piece for space: “I love plenty of meathead metal, but what I find so compelling about black metal is the trance.” When you take the macho out of metal, some interesting things happen.

Full festival lineup listed here.

Photo: Rekevics by brandi666

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hel Ain't a Bad Place


Last night I had a good time at what started as one of the most mellow metal shows I've ever been to and ended in a full-on mind blowing at the hands of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. 'Twas the first night of the Day of Hel Fest at Berbati's, and you can read of my adventures in the Oregonian here. It continues tonight and is recommended!

Image: Atriarch, who also slayed last night.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Wanted: American Folk Metal Musicians


I recorded these two songs with my friend Mark Jackson-Weaver last year, and despite the fact that I think they're the best songs I've recorded so far, this is the first daylight they've seen. I wanted to put out a call for musicians to play this style of music with me (Mark lives in Albuquerque) but I didn't know what to call it or how to describe it or even what I was going for really. But tonight I figured it out. I want to start an American folk metal band.

European metal bands that draw on Norse folk traditions are common. But why not look to blues and country? Could a metal band incorporate elements of doom and thrash as well as Negro spirituals and traditional American folk songs like the ones that inspired Bob Dylan? Is it possible to be brutal and lyrical? I think without realizing it, that's where I was heading here, if subtly.

The King of Pentacles

Motel Paraiso

I'll take care of guitar and lead vocals. Would you like to play drums, bass, piano, fiddle, pedal steel, banjo, washboard, harmonica or something else?

Image: If Deadwood had a doom band, this would be it.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

OK Human

My faith is restored. Sometimes a music critic just needs to write 1000 words about a band he or she thinks is really important and exciting in order to have faith in the world again.

So God bless Michael Byrne and his City Paper of Baltimore for giving me the pleasure of writing this feature on electro-metal trio Genghis Tron. I got to be pretentious and academic and play with pace and use a little poetry. It’s doubtful that you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, but give it a shot anyway.

I recently cut all the fluff from my freelance assignments, picked up a few more hours at another gig, and am now doing my best to only write about things I care about. I think the change and my new habit of reading the Bible will make for one healthy soul.

Photo: Press shot of Genghis T0rn.