Shagrath needs more people to fire

"You're fired!"

"You're fired!"

Today was a busy day for Shagrath’s Human Resources department.

First, Nuclear Blast let the world know that Shagrath’s main band Dimmu Borgir, had fired not one but two members – bassist/clean vocalist I.C.S. Vortex and keyboardist Mustis. Just a few hours later, Nuclear Blast put out a second release, saying Shagrath’s other band, Chrome Division, had given the boot to vocalist Eddie Guz.

The Chrome Division release says the parting with Guz was amicable. Maybe, but the split in the Dimmu camp was apparently not nearly as happy. The word on the street (or, rather, from Blabbermouth.net)  from Mustis is that he was fired via text message.

The Blabberposts sound like Mustis got his dark-soul-feelings hurt. I guess there’s nothing more harsh and grim than getting a pink slip sent to your BlackBerry.

Frankly, I’m more disappointed about Guz getting kicked out of Chrome Division. That guy has a voice roughened by years of bourbon, cigarettes, inhaled burned rubber and bike fumes. He’ll be hard to replace. The band has already hired Shady Blue (aka Athera of the band Susperia) … to which I say, “who?”

As for Vortex and Mustis … well, the world is full of classically trained keyboardists who wanna play black metal. I’ve no doubt that Ashley- formerly of Abigail Williams before recently jumping to Cradle of Filth – is already polishing her resume, readying herself for her next big step up in the world of symphonic not-quite black metal. Vortex is a bigger loss: Having a “clean” vocalist in the band added an extra dimension to the Dimmu sound. They were best with the operatic stuff, so going back is not an option: There are scores of other bands that do “grim” and “lo-fi” better.

I expect to hear more on the Dimmu breakup pretty soon (Mustis claimed later he wasn’t getting proper credit for songs he’d written). Meanwhile, who’s next in Shagrath’s cross-hairs? The maid better polish Shagrath’s “Addams Family” harpsichord to a bright sheen today …

Metal Mood Stabilizer Song of the Day: Pelican, “A Delicate Sense of Balance”

It’s the weekend and it’s been a long, stressful week. Time to chill out.

This will help. It’s not broootal … but that’s all right. It’s good to relax sometimes. Besides, Pelican are awesome and put on one hell of a great live show.

By the way, Pelican have a new album, “What We All Come To Need,” hitting the record stores this fall. You can check out a new track on their MySpace page right here.

Happy weekend to you, dangit.

Factory Damage to play Louisville show with Powerman 5000

Owensboro’s Factory Damage will be returning to Louisville in November, to help open the show for Powerman 5000.

The show is scheduled for Nov. 8 at Headliners Music Hall. Also on the bill are Left With Scars, The Dead Hours and Birth Of A Zealot.

This is more good news for the our local thrashers. Last year, the band was picked to open for Warbringer in Louisville.

Tix are $12. You can purchase them at www.ticketweb.com … OR you can get them directly from the band by e-mailing guitarist Ed Young at moofaster@hotmail.com.

To check out some of Factory Damage’s work visit their MySpace page here.

Did you know you could win two free passes to see In Flames in Louisville??

In case you missed the announcement, you could win two free passes to see the Sept. 30 In Flames show at Expo 5.

The Swedish masters will be joined by 3 Inches of Blood, Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless and a group of regional bands on the second stage. The free passes come courtesy of metal promoter Terry Harper.

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Just send an e-mail with “In Flames” in the subject line to: jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com and I will pick a winner at random on Monday, Sept. 14.

Good luck.

Essential Albums #6: Manowar “Into Glory Ride”

Today, I say “hail” to an album that blew me away when I heard it for the first time more than 20 years ago – Manowar’s rough 1983 epic, “Into Glory Ride.”

Now wait. Stop rolling your eyes. I know Manowar has done some goofy things before – like posing in loin cloth and leather and getting themselves in the Guinness Book of World Records for “world’s loudest band” and such – but none of that matters. A lot of bands have gimmicks: What’s important is how a band sounds, and whether their music is worth repeat listens.

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By those criteria, “Into Glory Ride” is more than worthy. Guitarist Ross “The Boss” Friedman and bassist Joey DeMaio shred until their fingers bleed and vocalist Eric Adams hits glass-shattering notes. Scott Columbus beats thunder out of his drums and the lo-fi production makes the whole album sound rude and savage.

The album opens with a ridiculous intro of a young man and woman having sex. Her parents intrude (“She’s only 16!” “Come here, you!”), the dumb kid is thrown through the window and goes running off into the night, laughing hysterically.

What does that have to do with the rest of the album? Beats me. But I remember my young teenage self blown away by how subversive it was … but then again, I was a teenage doofus for whom sex was a mystery I was sure I was never going to get close enough to a woman to discover. Just the sound of people screwing in that intro knocked me out.

The “intro” immediately leads into “Warlord,” a bike ’til you die song that roars out the gate with a speedy riff and Adams’ operatic screams. The chorus is singalong fun and everything is moving along nicely – and then Ross The Boss really throws the song into overdrive with an off the scales chart solo that obeys none of the established rules of guitar playing. Before forming Manowar, Ross was a member of The Dictators, a NYC punk band, and Ross brought a punk edge to “Warlord” and much of “Into Glory Ride.”

“Secret of Steel” is the first sword and sorcery epic of the disc. While Adams again sings his lungs out, the real standout here is DeMaio, who solos on his bass throughout. DeMaio, who was also the band’s main songwriter, wasn’t content to help shore up the beat with his bass: The man throws out bass lines that are pure shock and awe. The song is slower and more majestic than “Warlord,”with a big Adams chorus and a few high notes that cause dogs to howl. At the solo, Ross plays every single note on his guitar – in a good way.

“Gloves of Metal” was no doubt intended as a concert singalong. A song of praise to all things metal, Adams brings in a chorus of biker dudes for the huge chorus. It’s not the best song on the album – it’s probably the only really disposable song here – but it’s certainly full of fire.

“Gates of Valhalla” starts with a intense 12-string intro and a vocal performance by Adams that sends chills down my spine. A keyboard kicks in, adding a nice layer of solemnity to the song … then, predictably, all hell breaks lose. Adams is really impassioned throughout and Ross The Boss conquers and obliterates all with his guitar solo. At the end, the song flies off the rails with some major guitar hammering by Ross. This song was Epic before the rest of the metal community knew what “epic” meant. Manowar may not have written many classics, but “Gates” was certainly one of those few.

“Hatred,” for lack of a more succinct term, is absolutely frikkin’ weird. The slow tempo is almost doomy (although doom metal hadn’t been invented at that point) and Adams growls through the verses like he’s ready to really cut out an enemy’s heart and eat the thing while gore runs down his chin. The tempo change for the chorus is disconcerting, Adams’ screams are vicious and deadly – and then! Good god! The midsection is just wrong. I can’t describe it, other than to say I’ve never heard “singing” like that on any album, before or since. Ross doesn’t solo as much as torture his guitar and then, holy crap, it’s the midsection again – but this time it sounds like someone lit Adams on fire and recorded him while he bellowed in pain. At the climax, DeMaio surely destroyed his bass with the frenetic hammering. It’s exhausting and when Adams lets out a happy, relieved “whoo!” at the end, you’ll understand how he feels.

“Revelation (Death’s Angel)” is a big Biblical tale of fire and destruction. It’s a good song … but perhaps it’s a bit anticlimactic after the ear-blowing bombast of “Hatred.” Listen to it yourself.

“March For Revenge (By the Soldiers of Death)” ends the album with an eight and an half minute blast of murderous, epic sword play. Ross and DeMaio lay down a heavy riff, Columbus fleshes out the beat with fills and rolls and the choruses are huge and heavy. After the second chorus, the beat stops entirely and the song goes into an acoustic interlude, with Adams singing over a single guitar and a keyboard line. Is it corny to say the interlude is moving? It is? Well, then so be it … and when the drums kick back in and Ross lays down the power chord, the hair on your neck will stand up, buddy.

I know Manowar isn’t hip – I’m sure there’s a hipster out there somewhere walking around in a Manowar T-shirt, thinking he’s being ironic. To that all I can say is: Hipsters are lame, irony is for smirking pencil-necks and anyone who thinks they’re too cool for “Into Glory Ride” can come bite me. I’m not arguing it’s the best album ever – but Manowar obviously set out to make the heaviest album they could. In terms of passion and delivery, they succeeded.

Review: Ex Deo “Romulus”

Today, I’m gonna do something I never do – I’m going to write a short, short CD review.

I’m not a huge Kataklysm fan – I’ve seen them perform live, have interviewed frontman Maurizio Iacono and have heard plenty of their songs and albums – but they just don’t grab me. They’re not terrible, certainly … but they’re not not at all memorable, either, at least not to me.

So, I find myself pleasantly surprised by Ex Deo’s “Romulus,” Iacono’s side project/concept album. It’s a bit corny in places – and aren’t almost all concept albums just a little hokey? – but the strong music and Iacono’s vocals save the day.

A word about the concept: As the title suggests, “Romulus” is a mishmash, whirlwind tour through Roman history, focusing mostly on Julius Caesar. As history, I can’t vouch for the accuracy: The songs seem to jump back and forth in time and “Surrender The Sun” seems more influenced by the movie “Gladiator” than anything else. But so what? If you want Roman history, go read a book.

But the project was apparently intensely personal to Iacono and the man sells the disc with his performance. Iacono wrote all the material and bellows his throat out.

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The songs are well written and arranged – “Surrender The Sun” has a Maidenesque twist that reminds me of “Powerslave” – and Iacono mostly nails the larger-than-life vibe he’s attempting to achieve throughout. Almost all of the tracks are fun, with only “The Final War (Battle Of Actium)” dragging the album down a bit.

The best tracks are the epic “Romulus,” Surrender The Sun,” “Storm the Gates of Alesia,” “Cruor Nostri Abbas,” “Cry Havoc” and “Invictus.” Meanwhile, “In Her Dark Embrace,” “Legio XIII” and “Blood, Courage And The Gods that Walk The Earth” more than hold their own.

The final track, “The Pantheon (Jupiter’s Reign),” is pretty much an extended outro and doesn’t count as a metal track in my book. So the final tally is nine very solid songs, one so-so song and one skippable outro. Nine scores out of 11 attempts is pretty much a victory for Iacono, I’d say.

In terms of performance, the band – guitarists J-F Dagenais and Stephane Barbe, bassist Francois Mongrain, drummer Maxime Duhamel and keyboardist Jonathan Leduc – is certainly up to the task. Dagenais and Barbe aren’t given too much to do – although they are given room to shred impressively on “Blood, Courage And The Gods That Walk The Earth” – and the rest of the musicians turn in solid performances. Iacono’s vocals are the best part of the disc, which again surprises me: Perhaps there was something to Kataklysm that I missed all those years?

There are a few drawbacks, but they were mostly caused by the low production budget. Iacono wanted a big sound, but had to use keyboards for his orchestrations and choruses. As a result, the orchestra and chorus sound rather plastic. I’m left to wonder how much better “Romulus” could have been had the funding been available to work with a real symphony orchestra. Couldn’t Iacoco and Nuclear Blast find an eastern European orchestra down on its luck and willing to sit in for a few bucks? Also, “The Pantheon” goes on longer than necessary, but it’s easy to just hit the “skip” button and move on.

I have one other quibble. Occasionally, Iacono does some spoken – well, shouted – work that’s a little goofy. Listening to Iacoco scream, “By order of the Senate! I command you to fight until death!” or “I declare Gaul province of Rome!” or “Remus! Defy me and I shall strike down upon those who defy me!” causes me to giggle a little bit. I know, he’s trying to be dramatic, but the spoken word dialogue is rather silly. Sue me.

I promised a short review, so I’ll wrap up by saying “Romulus” is an entertaining piece of death metal, which showcases Iacoco’s prowess as a vocalist and songwriter. I wish Kataklysm albums were this impassioned.

For a taste, here’s the video for “Romulus.” You can also hear more by visiting Ex Deo’s MySpace page.

Metal Mood Stabilizer Song of the Day: In Flames “Colony”

Since I’m giving away tix to see In Flames next month in Louisville, it seemed like a good time to show off the band’s live skills, with a live performance of “Colony.”

Look here to find out how to win the tickets.