Demonic Death Judge – “Skygods”

Demonic Death Judge – “Skygods” (Inverse Records)

Wow – talk about a throwback to the 90s! These Finns remind me a lot of Brit noise sludge crew Iron Monkey during their “Our Problem” era. Ultra heavy stoner noise thick riffs, Stonehenge drumming, and most of all, screaming-like-no-tomorrow vocals! If that wasn’t enough to smash some decibels into your fried out brain, DDJ also chuck in some Shamanic melodies which is enough to send songs like ‘Aqua Hiatus’, ‘Nemesis’ and ‘Cyberprick’ right out into the far beyond, cos that is what they are – totally fuckin massive man, you can feel the earth shake as the gods fall outta the sky on this one – RIP Johnny Morrow, you got the last laff after all mate!

Pteroglyph – “Found”

Pteroglyph – “Found” EP (http://www.facebook.com/Pteroglyph)

Pteroglyph is the solo project of vocalist Jimmy MacGregor, who was in UK alt metallers Mishkin. That it is nothing like his former band is perhaps to be mourned, but his new work is something else! For a 5 tracker it contains a dazzling array of styles and combinations indicating that Jimmy has been on a journey to find his final sound, but to his credit has made excellent work of songs like ‘Emerge’, ‘Earth’ and ‘Endeavour’ (yes, they all begin with ‘E’). From chopping raw guitar riffs to fabulous warbling guitar melodies, from clean soulful vocals to screamo to deathlike growls, I wouldn’t waste your time in pondering comparisons as the one consistency of all his music is just how plainly beautiful it all is.

Tantara – “Based On Evil”

Tantara – “Based On Evil” (Indie Recordings)

With no less than Flemming Rasmussen producing this album, it comes as no surprise that this young Norwegian band sound uncannily like late 80s Metallica! But given that old school thrash be Tantara’s game, then sounding like ‘Liberty…’ era thrash is certainly a way to make a name, especially if you chuck in some evil Slayer riffs, Sean Killian (Vio-lence) style screaming vocals and some fine Norge melodies. Tantara certainly make a good show of it all, effortlessly melding those distinct styles into fast, chugging songs that pile on riff after catchy riff on songs like ‘Mass Murder’, ‘Trapped In Bodies’ and ‘Prejudice Of Violence’. Whilst I doubt if Flemming has discovered the next successor to Ulrich & co, I bet the energy and thrash style of Tantara certainly brings back a few pleasant memories for him! Had “Based On Evil” come out during that time, I would imagine Tantara would be thrash gods now lol but alas they will haveta contend presently in being diligent students albeit with the talent for more to be heard from them.

Rex Shachath – “Sepulchral Torment”

Rex Shachath – “Sepulchral Torment” MCD (PRC / Hostile Media)

These Belfast bruisers only formed last year but play old school US style death metal taking us right back to the 80s of Death, Cannibal Corpse and Massacre! Loads of diddly dee warblings, chainsaw riffing, wailing wang bar solos and slow crushing interspersed passages feature on songs like ‘Follow The Bastard Prophet’, ‘Statues Of Death’ and ‘Seven Serpents’. Completing it all comes Dave Connolly’s throat gargling vocals that certainly owe more than a tribute to the legendary Evil Chuck. Original it ain’t but true to form it definitely is so I’ll gladly put away any thoughts of plagiarism and enjoy this mini album for the memories it evokes!

Coralspin – “Honey And Lava”

Coralspin – “Honey And Lava” (Altrospire Records)

This is the mellow prog band that’s turning heads this side of the Atlantic. This Brit trio are fronted by Kate Bush inspired voice major Ellie Blythe, who brings an interesting classical / operatic (as well as feminine) dimension to Blake McQueen’s Yes inspired keyboards and Jake Simmons’s Rush like guitarwork. It’s all very ethereal in its sound, which was recorded in Blake’s own studio so I’m guessing Ellie must be the ‘lava’ in this group lol! Still, the musicianship is outstanding on songs like ‘Sons Of The Sleeping Giant’, ‘Sky’s End’ and ‘Songbird’ that reflect quintessential English quaintness as well as embody the legacy of 70s hippie prog spirit on this rich and very smooth album.

S-Core – “Into The Deepest”

S-Core – “Into The Deepest” (Noisehead Records)

French metalcore band were formed in the late 90s so it comes as no surprise that they sound a lot like Pro Pain, Skinlab or even Crowbar! Hoarse, guttural vocals, heavy punk dervish riffs and sledgehammer rhythm pummel your senses on songs like ‘Handful of Nails’, ‘Crossing The Line’ and ‘A Better Half Of Us’. Although I wouldn’t call it grade A material it’s definitely played well and with conviction so little wonder S-Core are a big hit on the French metal scene as well as being an established regular on the European touring and festival circuit!

ALTAR OF OBLIVION

Danish metal will always have a special place in my metal heart. And it’s not just because I 20 minutes from Denmark with a ferry but because some of the greatest metal bands have been Danish. ALTAR OF OBLIVION’ Martin Mendelssohn Sparvath answered my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

I gotta ask what it was that made you want to play the kind of doomy metal you play? What was the major contributing factor to your sound?
-When Allan Larsen (drums) and I (guitars/vocals) started rehearsing together back in 2004, I had only been playing the guitar for half a year and Allan had just picked up the drum sticks for the first time. That obviously caused some limitations on the technical level which resulted in some simple and slow tracks, so I guess it was out of “necessity” rather than playing a style we both loved. As time went by, and we developed our technical skills we somehow stuck to that simple doom metal style even though none of us actually listen to doom metal.

Is it a plus to come from Denmark when you play metal? Do people still remember all the great metal that has come from Denmark?
-It’s really hard to say whether it is an advantage to come from Denmark or not in that regard. I have never given it much thought. I have never been that fond of the Danish (metal) scene as to me has always been inferior to the scenes of the great countries surrounding us, namely Norway, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Especially Swedish musicians have always seemed to have an extraordinary ability to craft brilliant music, not merely within the metal genre.
If some people remember great metal bands from Denmark, they must have a very poor recollection or a very bad musical taste, haha. Joke aside; of course, good acts have emerged from the surface of Denmark, but apart from the brilliant Mercyful Fate, I can’t think of any band that really made a difference worth mentioning.

In the 80s if I wanted to see great metal acts I had to go to Copenhagen to do so. That was the closest to Sweden they would come. How much did the gigs with international acts play in forming the sound of the Danish metal scene and how much of it still lives on today?

I guess my answer to this question will be based on mere conjecture and speculation rather than facts. If that many great and influential international acts played in Denmark and “avoided” Sweden, it is a mystery to me why the Swedes ended up with almost all the high-quality bands, haha. If the fact that many international bands visiting Denmark played any role, it, in my humble opinion, must have resulted in watered down copies of the Danish bands’ sources of inspiration. Do you agree with me on this or how do you see the Swedish scene compared to the Danish? Is it a traditional case of the grass being greener on the other side, perhaps?

I’m not gonna get too stuck in the past for much longer but I just wonder what it is like to have such great bands as Mercyful Fate and Evil to look back on? What did they mean to the sound of the Danish metal?
-A walk down metal memory lane is not to be sneezed at, haha. The past can be a wonderful refuge and safe haven at times. I am very proud and honored to have been born in the same country that raised Mercyful Fate which released some ground-breaking and innovative masterpieces before breaking up. They were truly way out of most musicians’ league and I consider it very unlikely that anything that good will emerge from Denmark ever again. Mercyful Fate were very visionary and unique which are qualities lacking in most Danish music today. As for Evil, they never really reached their full potential and their tiny back catalogue speaks for itself. Nowadays, I tend to put on the 1984 “Evil’s Message” EP but it stills falls under the category “B-metal” to me, and “Evil” couldn’t compete with mighty Mercyful Fate in terms of song-writing and originality: not many bands are/were capable of that, haha.
Mercyful Fate still to this day inspire young acts, and they have without a doubt had a huge influence on both national and international bands, even Metallica. As Evil never made it that big, I guess not that many artists claim to be inspired from them.

We live in an age where borders don’t seem to exist but what is it like to be a Danish band on small American label? What are the benefits as opposed to doing it yourself?
-I am very glad we signed with Shadow Kingdom Records as they have proved to be an utmost professional label which doesn’t compromise with the quality of its releases. I have been very satisfied with the cooperation thus far, and I am looking forward to be working with them in the future.
Also, the distribution network of Shadow Kingdom Records is constantly expanding, as they are conquering new territory all the time. They are spending more and more money on promotion and our musical endeavours have reached the attention of a great number of passionate doomsters thanks to this label.
It takes a lot of time to promote your music all by yourself, and it costs a lot of money and I would rather spend my time creating new music, and my money buying new equipment. Without a competent label on our side, we would surely be doomed, haha.

When you want to record an album how hard is it to find people to work with that understands your vision of what you want to achieve?
-Actually, good producers of Epic Doom Metal in general are hard to come by, I think. I am glad we hooked up with Lars Strøm who besides producing our second full-length “Grand Gesture of Defiance” also produced our debut album. He is by far the best musician I have had the pleasure to be working with as he has an all-round understanding of our music. I hope we will be able to record more music with him in the future as I can’t think of any other Danish producer who could pull it off.
That said, our bassist is also a producer and has among other things produced our 2007 demo and our newly released EP “Salvation” and he is getting better all the time. In other words, I would feel very comfortable recording more Altar of Oblivion material with him so we have different possibilities when it comes to recording.

When you are in a metal band does it feel like you are a part of something larger? Is there a global metal community to speak of?
-We are all addicted to music and couldn’t live without it. I think I speak on behalf of all AoO-members when I say that one of the best feelings in life is when we spend time together before, during and after rehearsals plus spending time in the studio plus playing live. What I consider being a great trademark of metal, is that you have this global community and it is always “great fun” to be talking to metal people from countries all around the world. In addition, it is cool to see that Altar of Oblivion are selling records in far away countries such as Japan, India, Colombia, Bangladesh etc.

When you are a smaller band on the way up what kind of live scene is there to be a part of? How well do you choose when to play live or do you just play at any given opportunity?
-Actually, before even having released our demo back in 2007, we were offered to play live and it has never been a problem finding concerts at all. I think our fans have been good at spreading the doomy word of Altar of Oblivion and in general, I think venues have been open to our musical style. As we are one of few bands (if not the only one) playing traditional/epic doom metal in Denmark, we don’t have a doom metal scene, and apart from our gig at the 2012 “Heavy Days in Doomtown” festival in Copenhagen, we have been sharing the stage with bands with a style much different than ours. I am just glad that that many people seem to have embraced our style. I didn’t see that coming a couple of years back. In the beginning, we would play at any given opportunity but nowadays, we are far more selective. We are a five-piece who live in four different cities spread all over Denmark, and it is rather expensive to meet and if we will lose too much money on transportation or we feel that we would be better off spending the time rehearsing new material for forthcoming releases, we have to decline.
That being said, we love playing live and hopefully, the future will bring us far more concerts, both national and international.

How much do you think about the way to present the band? Is it important to present the band in the right kind of environment?
Actually, we haven’t given our presentation much thought as we are just five people who enjoys spending time together and who love playing music. In other words, we just to what comes natural to us. On the other hand, we are well aware that we one way or the other have to look “good” on band pictures and onstage, and that our looks have to reflect our musical style which I hope is the case, haha.

What would you like to see the future hold for Altar Of Oblivion?
-I would like the future to hold much more albums, gigs, adventures and good fortune, in general. I hope our present line up will last till the end of doom as I couldn’t image cooler people to share the stage and daily life with. For the time being, I live in Greenland which has taught me a lot of things, broadened my horizon and helped put things into perspective. Being away from Denmark really make me realize what is important in life and what is not, and what I miss the most is without a shadow of a doubt my musical endeavors back home. Personally, I think Altar of Oblivion contain a lot of unreleased potential and I hope the future will unfold the true treasures of the band. So far, we have only seen the tip of the iceberg and in order for us to make it bigger, we just have to believe in our music, word hard, be lucky and work even harder.
Thank you for the interesting questions: it has been great fun to answer them. I always enjoy talking about Altar of Oblivion and music, in general. I hope my answers have brought the readers at least a little enlightenment.

DARKEND

I was so impressed by DARKEND’s new CD that I just had to find out more. Hence this interview. Hopefully it will answer some of your questions too. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

How conscious is the choice of band name? What is it that you are trying to say by combining the two words dark and end?
-It was very conscious. You should know that the moniker “Darkend” derives first of all from an artifice commonly used in the esoteric tradition either to conceal the truth or to convey to the reader a message that transcends the written text: the Anagram. The name of the band (which we have changed by stitching together the terms “dark” and “end” to remain faithful to the above stated principle) as it is used symbolizes the Abyss, the unconscious opening its doors to mystery and dream, while anagrammed and stripped of its appearance, this name reveals its REAL meaning: in fact it is a key term used in an ancient Sumerian transmigration prayer that we will reveal in the lyrics of the song closing our fifth full-length.

Your music is not strictly this or that. Where do you find inspiration from for it? How limited are you in what works and does not work musically?
-Our main inspirations are our Souls and the vibrations that we receive from the earthly and unearthly spheres: the impalpable mist that bleakly wraps the Ghosts and that sulphur kind of Black, Obscure, Dark & Heavy litanies; those lost graveyard laments echoing of funereal chant and the Grand Guignol himself, with his miserable cult of Death; the fascinating, bleeding, corrupting Thorns and the XIX century’s massive Classical curses; the screams, the decrepit Spirits and oh, of course… the Horror. We let the music flow through our Spirits without limitations, everything that comes straight from the inside works just perfectly for us and for what we want to reach.

I get a feeling that there is a concept to your album. What can you tell us about the album?
-Yes, like all the previous DARKEND albums “Grand Guignol” is a concept album in it takes his name from a theatrical movement born in Paris at the end of the XIX° century and specialized in naturalistic terror and macabre shows, where more than often reality and fantasy become one. We decided to use its name for 2 main reason: because it describes perfectly the nature of what is the core of the whole DARKEND philosophy (what we use to call “THE THEATRE OF HORRORS”) and because it is metaphorically connected to the main concept of the album: in fact, lyrically, this third opus takes its moves from a conscious and profound esoteric/philosophical research exploring through a rich narrative plot the common roots of occultism and spiritualism, self-martyrdom and black magic ceremonies. There, behind the curtain, you will hear a conceptual tale of sanctified sins and loathed purity, of mercy and murder, of gentle wickedness and dismal virtue, where everything is melted with its contrary: a theatre of abominations in which humanity roams unconscious of the highest cosmos’ secrets.

Is there a greater freedom not being signed to a larger label when it comes to being creative?
-We always had the maximum freedom in our artistic choices, and it always will be like that on DARKEND. We would simply refuse contracts or deals that should limit us as “creative beings”. DARKEND will always remain free at 100%, no matter how large our label will be.
How do you find the people that will make your visions come true? Is it hard to find the right kind of people to work with? Hmm, no, we are very lucky about this, I have to admit. After some delusions (you know, the music business is full of maggots and it’s quite impossible to don’t meet one of them once) now we have around some great people full of passion and that fully believe on DARKEND. They are first of all fans of our music, and this is just perfect. It’s the way it should always be, I think.

How much time and effort have you spent on the album? What would you consider a success and what would be a failure?
-A lot of effort and time. When we start to work on a new album, it completely absorb us for month. It’s like to be in a parallel, dark dimension. Our idea of success is this: being able to express the abysses of our Souls with crystalline purity and, through this, moving our fans not only to listen but to Feel. On the other hand, failure in not contemplated: if we will not be able to express ourselves with such passion and sincerity, DARKEND will cease to exist.

What part do the social media play in promoting a band and what do you get out of promoting the band through social media?
-We use social media a lot, especially Facebook is helping us very much in keeping contacts with fans, spreading our news, reviews, interviews and everything that concern DARKEND. Also youTube is great, every day we receive enthusiastic messages of guys that had discovered our music on it and that then decide to buy our albums through our digital stores.

I often wonder how you put together a set list for a gig when you have a concept album to promote. What songs do you pick and how important does the concept become in a live environment?
-Actually we don’t chose the live songs referring on the concept but only to their musical characteristics. Especially when we are on tour, we don’t have enough time on stage to represent an entire concept, but for sure it will be good and we will do something like this in the future: probably, when “Grand Guignol – Book II” will be released, we will try to set up something similar to a theatrical representation to play both concepts together.

What future do you envision for Darkend?
-An European tour with Cradle Of Filth and Rotting Christ (it will begin the first week of November), a new album in 2013 and a lot of new project to work on, climbing up to the highest peaks!

DOGBANE

There is nothing as great as a really good heavy metal album. Lately I’ve come upon some really great traditional heavy metal. Mitch Allred of American heavy metal band DOGBANE was kind enough to answer my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

I still haven’t managed to decipher the title to your latest album. What does it mean and why the choice of that title?
MA: “Residual Alcatraz” is a song about an inmate locked away in the notorious Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary. The man spends night after night scraping away at the prison walls plotting his escape. During the night of his escape attempt the man dies. His earthly spirit now condemned to repeat this process over and over for eternity. The song is basically about a residual haunting. The track was chosen for the album title because of its length. Our songs usually average about five minutes or so in length while “Residual Alcatraz” comes in at just over three. The song was the perfect length for video trailers and short enough to hopefully make the audience want more.

How much time and effort do you guys put on finding the right album and song titles? Is it important that the titles say something?
MA: I would say an immense amount of time and effort. Each song is basically its own story and their titles and content should take on a life of their own. It can be very tough to capture the essence of a song or a complete body of work in one or two words. Honestly you are not the first to seem somewhat confused at our album title. Perhaps we weren’t as coherent as we should have been? If people have to ask you, you in turn must ask yourself. I do feel the lyrics and the songwriting are there though, at least for the type of music we are presenting.

When you are an American heavy metal band how much of an uphill battle is it to get noticed?
MA: Well it is certainly no cake walk, but I’m not so sure it is any more or less of an uphill battle than in any of the other genres of music. Basically here in the states there is not really a music industry anymore. The era of the rock star is pretty much over. You can’t even find a record store over here for the most part. Except for a few FYE stores in the local mall and they are the height of crap. The main problem you face is trying to stand out in a sea of average. Through modern technology most bands/artists have to ability to record from their living rooms whether they should or not. Now distributors such as CD Baby have the whole market flooded with every garage act from around the world. It is basically the same mentality as “I have a camera, I’m a photographer” or “I’ve got Photoshop, I must be a graphic designer.” To be completely honest I still don’t have it figured out myself, but what success Dogbane has had comes from being on a label with some decent distribution, and working with a PR firm who knows where to send your product. Anything short of this and you better be blazing a new trail, or packing people into venues at such a rate someone notices. Outside of that you will never get seen.

Is it frustrating that trendy shit gets more attention than the true stuff does? How fickle is the music scene in America?
MA: Sure it is frustrating, but hasn’t that always been the case? I tend to look at it from the stand point of what I consider as “true” should never be acceptable or trend setting for the masses. When things appeal to these so called masses you are catering to the lowest common denominator. True heavy metal should never be relegated to that. In regards to the music scene America is very fickle, people do seem to be more trend oriented here; that has always been the case, but make no mistake, heavy metal is still a very important part of our culture. Admittedly it has become increasingly difficult to get people to shows. To be fair, we are in the middle of a deep economic recession that has been going on for several years now. If one adds fuel costs, ticket prices, and the lure of easily accessible social media (facebook, youtube, etc.), perhaps this is what keeps people away. I can’t say for sure.

Would you say that the Europeans are more loyal in general? What kind of responses have you had to your music so far?
MA: I can say our best responses have been from Europe. In Germany especially, and we are very appreciative. France has also been most hospitable. We would certainly like to go over and play if that becomes a possibility. Norway doesn’t seem to care much for us, if you take the reviews at face value. Maybe we should kill something? (laughs)

We live in a time and age that seem to be more about instant fixes than longevity. How do you build a name for yourself when people seem to lose interest from day to day?
MA: Anyone who loses interest in things from day to day are not the types of people we should be writing music for. First and foremost you write for yourself. As a band Dogbane writes from a formula that is special to us, a formula which we hold dear and that inspires us. Those who listen to and appreciate what we do understand this. Our detractors never will. We will build our name because what we do is true. We work extremely hard and come from an honest place.

When you play in a band do you have a grand plan as to what you want to achieve? Why do you play in a band?
MA: Well it is no secret that Dogbane is a mature band. I am the youngest member and I celebrated my 42nd birthday back in June. I think our drummer Jerry is the oldest (we’re really not that far apart, honestly), but I won’t disclose his age at the risk of retribution (laughs). All of our members have been playing since our teens. Each of us has dreamed every dream one could possibly imagine when it comes to being in a band. Honestly, most of those dreams have never been realized. Realistically, they may never come true. The thing that sets us apart from everyone else is that it has never occurred to any of us to quit. As some of you already know we lost one of our founding members (David Ellenburg) a little over a month ago, due to a severe stroke. While this has been extremely tough; our resolve remains strong. My “brothers” and I play in a band because we have a mutual love of music. We play in a band because we don’t know how to do otherwise.

Does it matter if you do things on your own or if you are backed by a label today? What is the upside of having a label backing you?
MA: Well for the majority of our collective musical careers we have done things on our own. We do have a leg up over most bands in this department as our bass player Kevin D. Davis is our recording engineer. I myself have a degree in advertising and graphic design, and our vocalist Jeff Neal works in the print industry. Additionally my girlfriend Linda Ronsick is a graphic designer, and has helped to brand Dogbane very effectively. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by very talented people. With that being said, I still can’t overstate the importance of being on a label that has decent distribution and the drive to push you. We could have put the product together, but it did take our affiliation with Jeremy Golden and Heaven and Hell Records to get our record into the proper areas. It was also through the label that we were introduced to Clawhammer PR. What good is it to have a room full of CD’s if you have nowhere to go with them? That is the upside to being on a label. I can’t stress that importance enough.

How important is playing live in building a bands name and what kind of opportunities are there to play live to build the band’s name?
MA: It can be very important if you can get on the right shows and in the appropriate venues. This poses a special kind of dilemma for us. We are from a very rural part of North Carolina and good venues are hard to come by. We basically have to travel to bigger cities in the area, like either Raleigh or Charlotte for the best shows. Then because of the lack of good venues you have to play a political game with the club owners and their local favorites. This scenario has played out to our chagrin on more than one occasion. We would love to be afforded the chance to tour, but the support money is not there at the present moment. There has been some talk through our label and PR firm about some possible festival shows in the future. I really think this may be the best way to go. Our best shows so far have usually been performed with our label-mates.

What are your future plans?
MA: Dogbane will be going into the studio over the next week or two and begin laying down tracks for a Kiss Tribute album. The title is called Rock n Roll All Nite: A Millenium Tribute to Kiss 1974-2013. The album is slated for a winter 2012 release on Versailles Records. We will be covering “Charisma” off the 1979 “Dynasty” album. Once that project is complete work begins on our follow up to “Residual Alcatraz.” Hopefully our sophomore effort will be released in mid-2013. We do not plan on a whole lot of downtime.

HELLWELL

I have nothing against side projects. It is not for me to judge. I’m happy as long as I get another dose of metal. As with HELLWELL. A band that can be traced back to Manilla Road. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

Could you tell us why you felt a need to do Hellwell? What are the intentions with this band?
Shark: I started Hellwell for a couple of reasons. First because I have been trying to put out a side project for years and seem to have always been swayed from releasing said projects because they always turn into Manilla Road albums instead of what they were intended to be. Circus Maximus is my best example of this. So it is good to finally accomplish an actual side project that the labels did not turn into a MR album haha. The other reason is that I was starting to feel the urge to write more horror oriented material and I did not feel that Manilla Road was the proper outlet for such material. Manilla Road has dabbled in the horror topics many times but there is usually a positive moral attitude to the lyrics even though the topics are dark in nature. When MR did Playground of the Damned it was some of that deranged horror attitude was starting to seep into the music and lyrics. When we started Hellwell the idea was to have a classic horror approach to most of the topics and not necessarily worry about good prevailing in the end. obviously since I am in the band writing and performing there will always be a bit of the MR sound in the music but because of the keyboards and synthesizers and a little more speed/thrash/doom approach to the drums the style is not exactly the same as the Road. Let’s face anything that I do will have a bit of that epic approach that I just can’t seem to get away from so there will always be similarities to the Road because of that.

When you sign with a smaller label is there more freedom to doing things your way? Do you feel that you get more deciding power?
Shark: Yep you do get a little more control over everything when you are on a smaller label. The only way you get to have more control like that with larger labels is to have the clout to negotiate because the demand for the artist is bigger than some other bands. Since this is the first Hellwell project to be released the band is not established yet except for the fact that we are getting a bit of publicity due to the Manilla Road connection. You do get more deciding power and usually I make sure now days that I have complete control over certain aspects of the releases like the artwork and the direction of the music. The choice of topics and overall concepts are for me to decide only. I’m sort of a power monger when it comes to the directional choices for any of my bands.

When you play in more than one band how do you keep them separated? Are there never any risks of you getting them mixed up?
Shark: It does not seem to be much of an issue for us. We are all one big family of musicians here. All of the MR members except for Neudi have appeared on Beyond the Boundaries of Sin. E.C. was the bass player on Playground of the Damned filling in for Vince who developed physical problems with his hand during the recording of the album. So the only thing that becomes an issue for us with the two bands is that everyone wants to be on a Hellwell album now hahaha. What’s different now is that when I write a new song we all approach it with a which band is this for attitude. I’m sort of kidding there. I usually have an idea already in my head when writing a new song but sometimes something just flies out of my fingers and we have to sit down and figure out which band it would work best with.

Hardrock/heavy metal in a more traditional style isn’t that big in the States. How much does all the trendy shit that we get force fed with suck? What is classic hardrock/metal to you?
Shark: I usually try and take a it’s all music approach to any style of music. But I must admit it is really hard to stick to that when everyone in the industry is putting genre markers on everything. Classic hard rock and metal to me is the style that led us into the metal years that we are in now. Lost to the youth of today are some of the great masters of what was the beginnings of the metal style. Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Jimi Hendrix, Rush, UFO, Scorpions, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden just to name a very few. It was a much more artistic approach with bands like those. Epic topics were the norm back then and the lyrics were not just about sex, drugs and rock n roll. You also have to have solos in the music. I just can’t seem to call it true metal unless there are some cool guitar solos in the songs. Also you have to actually sing and not just scream and growl when it comes to the vocals. So many bands now days just have this screaming growling thing going on and that is it. Gets sort of monotonous after a bit. You can scream and growl in Classic Metal but you also have to sing as well. It can’t just all be death metal vocals. It is also a stylistic approach to the creation of the music that makes it classic in nature. And that is what is probably the most important aspect to the difference between classic metal and now day metal.

When you’ve been doing this for as long as you have does it feel great to know that you?ve stuck by it for so long?
Shark: Oh yea it does. I remember saying to myself long ago that if I was determined enough and stayed with it long enough that someone would eventually have to take notice hahah. I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go in my day and most of the bands that tried to follow the trends instead of sticking to their guns failed epically. Now there are a few bands that changed direction with the times a bit and remained very successful. Metallica comes to mind there. They sort of lost their original audience but gained a shitload of new fans when they started to get a little more accessible with their sound. So it worked out really good for them but that is not usually the case when you forsake your main fan base. I told myself, when I first started making albums, that I would not sell out to accessibility for the sake of money. I’m really glad that I stuck to my guns on that one because I think it has brought us an immense amount of respect amongst our fans. It has also seemed to bring us respect in the general market place as well. Sometimes it pays to be stubborn haha. I’ve been doing this for 35 years now and it is really good to feel that I never traded in my spurs for an apron.

So how hard was it to write this Hellwell album? Did it all come as running water or did you have to think long and hard to make it happen?
Shark: Well it did take an amount of work converting the Acheronomicon story to music and lyrics but since Ernie wrote the story it was not that difficult of a job for me. Most of the music came like the running water you were talking about. This project just sort of poured out of me. I think we were all really ready to work on Hellwell and we were all really pumped about it too. I think that was because of it being a new band and a chance to be unbridled with no worries about how the project would be received by our fans. Since it is a new band we don’t really have any fans yet so it was sort of like whatever we wanted to do was fair game. I could get as gruesome as I wanted with the topics and lyrics and basically it was a no holds barred type of thing that set a really cool environment for us to create this kind of album in. We had only one rule between us all when we were writing and recording the project and that was “NO CHEESE”. What that meant to us was that everything was cool but nothing sounding cheesy could go onto the project. Nothing but brutal concepts and intense music. And of course it had to be dark in nature because of the idea of the band but that never felt like a restriction to us. We actually wrote and recorded the album in about 7 or 8 months time. That’s pretty good for us considering all the other stuff that was going on at the time. So I would have to say that this Hellwell project came together much easier and faster than most. We must have been really ready to work on something like this because we were all on point when it came to getting things done on this album. Even the guys in MR were and are still really excited about Hellwell and looking forward to what we do next.

What kind of process do you work by when writing songs? Do you and try to think up new stuff?
Shark: I usually come up with the concept for the song first. Then I start working on the rhythm parts while I’m sort of coming up with vocal melodies at the same time. Once I have all the riffs written and a strong arrangement put together that is when I will start writing the lyrics. I used to write the lyrics first and then try and come up with music to match but I learned over time that I did a lot better with the writing process if I did the lyrics last. It just seems to be easier to match the lyrics to the music than the other way around. That way the meter of the lyrics does not drive the music but instead the music drives the meter of the lyrics. As for the topics and lyrics I always do a fair amount of research on whatever topic I am writing about. It is necessary to know what the hell I am talking about before I start trying to put the lyrics together. It depends upon the concept of the song as to whether I have to spend lots of time researching the topic or not. If the topic is something that I am really familiar with then there is little time spent on research and knowledge searching. Like with the song Eaters of the Dead I was already a big fan of the book and the movie (The 13th Warrior) so it did not take long to come up with those lyrics at all. But songs like The Strange Case of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes or Keepers of the Devils Inn caused me to do a lot of studying and research before ever putting pen to paper. Even though I already knew a lot about those songs topics I wanted to make sure that I had all the facts straight before I started working on the lyrics. For the most part Beyond the Boundaries of Sin was a relatively easy album to create.

I sometime wonder how you guys can come up with news stuff all the time. You are after all dealing with a limited amount of chords and there are only so many words you can write lyrics with. How do you do it?
Shark: Yep there are only 12 notes in a chromatic scale so there is a limit to the amount of notes and chords that you can use. Luckily there are many different chord voices that one can use to get the same chord out there in a slightly different sounding way. It is the arranging of the chords and notes that makes the most difference in letting a song sound new and original. As for the words there are a multitude of stories, myths, legends and a vast amount of history that I have to fall back on for the topic ideas. I could probably do this for 100 years and still have plenty of topics and ideas for more songs. As for how I do it…well let’s put it this way I have had put upon me the blessed curse of the muse. Sometimes I don’t even feel like it is me writing the stuff but something guiding my hand. I must admit I don’t have a lot of time to myself because of all the irons that I have in the fire but it is all worth it to me. You see music is my life and what drives me on. It is the one and only true communication source that speaks to all of us without world conflict tethered to it. Music is universal for all of us and the only pure magik that still exists in the world. As long as there is music there is still hope for mankind.

Is Hellwell a touring band? How will you find time to do everything you do?
Shark: Right now Hellwell is not a touring band. If the demand is big enough for Hellwell to get out on the road then we will cross that bridge when the time comes. Ernie is not really into touring that much. He had a chance to sign on with Manilla Road permanently but turned down the opportunity because he did not really want to tour. As a matter of fact he is sort of a reclusive type of guy and hides out at his place working on stories or music. He does not really like technology except for the musical type. He does not even have a facebook page…can’t say that I blame him there. I don’t like fb or tweeter either but it is a necessary evil for the promotion of the music. Ernie does not even have a cell phone and is not on the internet. Hell I don’t think he even owns a computer. It might be difficult getting him to really go on tour but even if he does not want to go on tour we have several other bass players that can rise to the challenge. I don’t know that many good keyboard players though and that might be an issue but if Hellwell really got big enough to worry about touring I am sure that we can work all of it out so that we can put on great shows. As for having enough time to do it all I think I will have myself cloned so that I can have as many hands as I do irons in the fire.

What future do you see for Hellwell
Shark: Well I am just now finishing the final touches on the mix for the new Manilla Road album and as soon as that is done I will be back to working on a couple of side projects which Hellwell is one of. I have another band that I sing in called Myskatonia and we are just now finishing up on that album. Not going to be a live band at all. Just a project for the hell of it. But with Hellwell we have already written and recorded 3 new songs for the next album. So obviously I will be doing another Hellwell album and I hope to finish that before I take off on the Manilla Road world tour for 2013. The Road is playing in Canada in late September and then in Greece headlining the Up The Hammers festival in Athens in the middle of October. After that I will be working on the next Hellwell album until MR goes back out on tour around April of 2013. So the future for Hellwell is another album to be released sometime in 2013 and we will just have to see how well Beyond the Boundaries of Sin and the next project are received. If the reception of Hellwell so far is any preview for us then I would have to say that Hellwell will be around for a long time to come.

Thanks to you and all our fans for the support that has been given to us. We can’t do it without our friends and fans. Down The Nails
Shark