Tix for the Megadeth-Slayer show in Louisville are on sale now

Tickets for the Feb. 2 “American Carnage” show in Louisville, featuring Megadeth, Slayer and Testament went on sale today. I’d previously reported the tix would go on sale Dec. 4. Sorry about the mistake.

The show is at Broadbent Arena. The “recession proof” $10 tickets are in the arena’s upper levels, while seats in the lower level and on the floor are $40 and $50. Tickets are on sale at www.ticketmaster.com.

I imagine both Slayer and Megadeth will bring their A-game to the tour: Kerry King and MegaDave both have huge egos, so neither will want to get upstaged by the other. We’ll see.

Varg Vikerness denounces black metal and minorities, thus demonstrating he’s an idiot

Apparently, I can’t follow my own advice.

Several months back when it was announced Norwegian black metal boogeyman Varg Vikernes was being released from prison, I suggested the best thing the metal community could do was ignore him. The hope was Vikernes would fade quietly into obscurity so the metal community wouldn’t be tainted by his loony outbursts.

Well, naturally that was too much to hope for, because now the man is free and shooting off his mouth. If Vikernes simply wanted to diss modern black metal and talk up his upcoming musical project, that would be fine. But no: The doofus had to fire off a rant filled with racist and homophobic garbage.

So it’s time to respond. Silence is consent, after all – and we don’t want the entire metal world to be tainted by Varg’s nutball rants.

If you’re not up on your black metal history, you might be wondering, “Who is Varg Virkernes?” At one time he was Count Grishnackh, bass player for Mayhem, Norway’s most important (at the time) black metal band. In addition, Vikernes also produced several albums of his own as Burzum.

The big deal is this: In 1993, Vikernes stabbed to death Mayhem guitarist Euronymous, who was the founder of the Norwegian black metal scene. A variety of reasons have been floated for the crime, ranging from a dispute over a girlfriend to the theory that Virkenes believed Euronymous wasn’t truly as “evil” as he claimed. Motive is immaterial now: Vikernes stabbed Euronymous 23 times and was arrested a short time later. He was convicted of murder and arson for his involvement in three of the many church burnings that swept Norway during the black metal years. Then, he was sent off to rot in a Norwegian prison until he was paroled earlier this year.

In prison, Vikernes became a Nazi sympathizer and wrote his own version of “Mein Kampf,” called “Vargsmal” – which I guess means “Varg’s War” or “Varg’s Battle” or something equally epic sounding … as if stabbing a guy 23 times is the foundation on which great philosophy is built.

Anyhoo, all those  years in prison apparently haven’t mellowed Vikernes’ unsavory bigoted beliefs. Here’s a bit of blog entry Varg wrote a few days ago about the upcoming Burzum album “Den Hvite Guden,” – which translates as – wait for it – “The White God.” The post was picked up by Blabbermouth.net.

“As you might already know, my dear ladies and gentlemen, and others individuals too, I am no friend of the modern so-called black metal culture. It is a tasteless, low-brow parody of Norwegian so-called black metal anno 1991-1992, and if it was up to me, it would meet its dishonourable end as soon as possible.

“However, rather than abandon my own music, only because others have soiled its name by claiming to have something in common with it, I will stick to it. The ‘black metallers’ will probably continue to ‘get loaded,’ ‘get high,’ and in all other manners too behave like the stereotypical Negro; they will probably continue to get foreign tribal tattoos, dress, walk, talk, look and act like homosexuals, and so forth.”

Oh boy. What a load of crap.

For the record, I do own the Burzum album “Filosofem” and think it is a very strong piece of ambient black metal. “Filosofem” was the best piece of music Vikernes ever produced and it’s hard to ignore the influence the album had on other black metal bands … but let’s also be completely honest: “Filosofem”  isn’t in the same league as Euronymous’ best work on Mayhem’s “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas.” Euronymous apparently had more talent in his finger than Vikernes had in his entire body. My theory on the murder: Vikernes killed Euronymous out of professional jealousy.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge Vikernes is … well, was … an important figure in the creation of the black metal sound. Unfortunately, he’s also a racist, bigoted dolt.

When you look at Norway’s demographics, it seems obvious Vikernes knows absolutely nothing about cultures other than his own. Norway has almost no minorities … which is a another way of saying they’re all white as ghosts up there by the North Pole.

Varg grew up surrounded by light-skinned people like himself. He’s never experienced any other culture than his own. He’s ignorant.

Does ignorance excuse racism, however? No. Ignorance is cured through education – by consciously working to learn about cultures and ways of life that are unfamiliar to you. Racism can be based on ignorance – but it also involves a deliberate decision to not educate yourself about other cultures. That’s not valiant or laudatory: That’s hiding your head in the sand, or in Vikernes’ case, in the snow.

If Vikernes wants to be ignorant and willfully delusional, no one can force him to do otherwise. But it would be nice if Vikernes didn’t blast his pig-headed stupidity all over the Internet: Somewhere out there, someone is going to read Vikernes’ screed and paint the entire black metal community with the entire racist brush. That’s not what metal fans need, because it’s not an accurate picture of who most of us are. 

I don’t listen to National Socialist Black Metal and I know no metalheads who are also racists. None. Zero. Yes, I know metal fans who dislike hip-hop music, but hating a form of music isn’t the same as hating a culture or people based on superficial differences in skin color.

While metal was once predominately a white boy’s genre, that has changed quite a bit over the years. Look at bands like God Forbid, or Suffocation or even Living Colour (who may not exactly be metal, but are certainly heavy). Metal isn’t weakened when it draws on other cultures, it’s made stronger. Sepultura, Orphaned Land and Acrassicauda prove that traditional Arabic and South American music can be blended with metal to create something powerful.

Across Africa, I imagine metal bands are working with traditional African music to create a unique style of their own. If those bands already exist on the Web, let me know, because I’d like to hear them.

As for Vikernes’ jibe about homosexuals, I have two words: Rob Halford. In a fight (without Vikernes’ trusty knife, of course), I imagine the Judas Priest frontman would beat Varg V. black and blue and then stuff his scrawny ass down a garbage disposal. When Halford came out, the metal world didn’t throw a fit. We shrugged, moved on and welcomed Halford back when he finally reunited with Priest.

Perhaps I’m sheltered, but I don’t know any homophobic metal fans. Neither do I know metal fans who hate Jews, Arabs, Native Americans or people from Asian or Central-South American cultures. We’re smarter than to fall for that crap … largely because metalheads are usually outsiders and underdogs themselves. We don’t hate the “other,” because we identify ourselves as part of the “other.” To be corny as hell, metal accepts all cultures, creeds and sexual orientations under its black umbrella of unified outsiderness. We have difference preferences in metal subgenres … but we’re all united under the music. There’s no other musical culture in the world that can make that claim, but we can, with complete honesty.

Again, if Varg wants to hate gay people, no one can really stop him … but good lord, keep your homophobe garbage to yourself. Dummy.

Black metal doesn’t need Vikernes soiling our name. I hope he keeps disowning us, because I don’t want us to be dirtied by the association.

In short. Vikernes, shut up and go away. That is all.

Cynic and Devin Townsend! Cynic and Devin Townsend! Cynic and Devin Freaking Townsend!

Oh yeah, Between the Buried and Me is also on the bill. Take a look.

BTBAM_tourposterLayered-vi

Holy crap. I thought Cynic would never come this close to the region. But lo and behold, Terry Harper is bring them to Headliners in Louisville with The Devin Townsend Project. Again I say: Holy crap.

If you don’t know who Cynic are, you should. They are one of the founders of what folks call “progressive death metal.” You can read a Noise Pollution interview with frontman Paul Masdival here.

I’ve seen Devin Townsend once with the Devin Townsend Band (also in Louisville, when he opened for Opeth) and the man is a wunderkind. Just to see Devin back onstage is a shocker: After his retirement from the road in 2007, I thought the man would never perform live again.

Devin released “Ki” earlier this year and the second DTP disc, “Addicted,” hits record stores next week. You can read a NP interview with Devin here.

I keep forgetting BTBAM. Sure, I like Between The Buried And Me just fine … but after an evening of Cynic and Devin Townsend, I’ll spend the BTBAM set at the bar, thanks.

Tickets are a paltry $15 and on sale at Ticketweb. Go to this show, I tell you. You won’t be sorry.

Interview: Nile guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade discusses “Those Whom The Gods Detest”

Nile

When drummer George Kollias joined the Egyptian-themed death metal band Nile in 2004, the band moved away from the intricate compositions that had categorized earlier albums and embraced a more traditional death metal style.

The move was intentional, and made because Kollias was such a monumental death metal drummer. Mixing Middle Eastern instrumentation, chanting and sound effects into songs “is something that Nile has always done, and we’d kind of gotten away from it,” guitarist Dallas Toler-Wade said. “Since 2004, we’d been playing with George Kollias and there was a lot of fire there. Karl (Sanders) didn’t want to screw with that. He just wanted to play.”

But, when Sanders and Toler-Wade began assembling songs for the band’s new album “Those Whom The Gods Detest,” they wanted to return to the epic, cinematic feel of albums such as “In Their Darkened Shrines.”

“Karl has a lot of great ideas when it comes to songs he writes and the soundscape,” Toler-Wade said. ” … It just came naturally. Karl would bring in demos of whole songs and that stuff was already arranged on the original demo..”

“Those Whom The Gods Detest” is crushingly heavy – with incredibly fast drumming and riffs and solos from Sanders and Toler-Wade that are impossibly intricate. If that were the only weapon in Nile’s technical death metal arsenal, it would be enough: But the band uses Middle Eastern arrangements, clean vocals, Egyptian and Muslim prayers, sound effects and ambient noise to make “Those Whom The Gods Detest” a larger than life death metal assault.

Sanders and Toler-Wade are co-vocalists, releasing metal growls that cause windows and furniture to shake. Sanders, who is the band’s chief lyricist, does extensive research into his song material. The liner notes for the new album are extensive, as Sanders discusses the history behind songs such as “Hittite Dung Incantation,” “The Eye of Ra” and “Permitting the Noble Dead to Descend into the Underworld.” While metal bands have been drawing on history and literature at least since Iron Maiden, Sanders takes song research to a new level.

Toler-Wade, who wrote the music for three of the songs on “Those Whom The Gods Detest,” said the songs are built around the ideas in the lyrics.

“Usually, Karl will write all the lyrics first and we work from that,” Toler-Wade said. “The lyrics paint a picture in our minds of what we’re trying to do with the song. “… We want to be able to (merge the idea) to the music in a way that flows pretty naturally.”

Toler-Wade said the songs the band creates are often difficult to play. “On a more technical aspect, Karl and I practice quite frequently,” he said.

For the recording, the band again worked with producer Neil  Kernon, who produced the band’s last two albums. For the drum tracks, the band brought in Erik Rutan – who has performed with Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal and produced albums by Cannibal Corpse, Goatwhore, Six Feet Under and Vital Remains.

“We had been listening to some of the stuff Erik had been doing,” Toler-Wade said. For the drum tracks, the band went to Rutan’s studio in Florida. Rutan brought several ideas to the recording session, Toler-Wade said.

“When Erik walks in the room, the place turns into metal,” Toler-Wade said. “He has a lot of great ideas … It’s just good to have him around for spirit … but his technical knowledge is good, too.”

Parts of the album were also recorded in Sanders’ home in South Carolina and in Chicago. With perfectionists such as Kernon and Rutan on board, the recording was challenging, Toler-Wade said.

“The saying on this album was: “That was a perfect take. Do it again,'” Toler-Wade said. “Even though it was irritating, they’ll get the best performance out of you.”

With Nile, it’s easy to read the lyrics, which often come straight out of Egyptian history, and make modern connections. “Hittite Dung Incantation,” a song about people who believe they have been possessed by demons – and the lengths they’ll go to be free of the possession – is very funny … until one remembers that people are just as prone to superstition today.

“As individuals, we all have those kinds of ideas about things and I think those can surface in the lyrics sometimes,” Toler-Wade said. “The old saying is, ‘history repeats itself.'”

As a guitarist, Toler-Wade has never stopped learning. Toler-Wade said he studied music theory in high school, but now learns new methods through instructional videos and YouTube.

“Know your (guitar) neck … There are a lot of possibilities there,” Toler-Wade said. To aspiring guitarists, Toler-Wade said the best advice is to simply “play what you like.”

Nile’s guitar style is unconventional. “What’s cool about the way Karl plays is (he’s) leaping out of the fret board a little bit – not sticking to notes and frets but bending a little bit to give it an anguished feel,” Toler-Wade said.

The band is preparing for an extensive touring schedule that will take them across the world this fall and in 2010.

“So far, we’re going to be leaving the 15th of this month to go to Europe (for a tour) that’s going to cover all of Europe,” Toler-Wade said. In mid-January, the band will embark on a U.S. tour that will take them to Headliners Music Hall in Louisville on Feb. 13.

“There’s talk of South America, Japan and Australia in May and hopefully festivals in the summer in Europe,” Toler-Wade said. Touring can be grueling, but is not as brutal as the average person thinks, he said.

“It’s not the easiest way to live, but it’s not that bad,” Toler-Wade said. “You definitely can’t be a pansy a** to survive out there, but it’s not that bad. Do you know what happens backstage now? Everybody sits backstage with their laptops.”

To hear songs from “Those Whom The Gods Detest” and other Nile albums, visit the band’s MySpace page here.

Review: Pelican “What We All Come To Need”

Pelican

The music of Chicago’s Pelican is a bit of an acquired taste. While there’s something musically there for every metal fan, the songs are, if anything, so varied that they likely turn off those fundamentalist metal fans who judge all music solely on whether it is “brutal” or not.

Which is too bad, because Pelican makes consistently interesting, entertaining albums, with each new record a distinct evolution over the last.

The (mostly) all-instrumental band isn’t flashy or virtuosic ala Dragonforce. There are no “shredders” here: Rather, Pelican guitarists Trevor de Brauw and Laurent Schroeder-Lebec are restrained to the point of not bothering with “solos” at all. And instead of a riff-bridge-riff songwriting formula, the band creates ambient sonic structures that twist like smoke rings in the wind and last as long as 10 minutes at a time.

The band is heavy and often crosses over into metal territory, but refuses to be confined by the “rules” of metal composition. I don’t know if that makes Pelican “post-metal” (as they were once dubbed by the New York Times), or simply progressive in the best way. 

“What We All Come To Need,” the band’s new album, is by and large, darker than the previous “City Of Echoes.” There’s a stoner rock/doom aura throughout, although the songs here can hardly be categorized as straight “stoner rock” or “doom”. The heaviness, both in sound and feel is evident … but doing song by song comparisons to gauge the level of “heaviness” misses the point. “What We All Come To Need” is one work in several movements, where the overall feel of the whole is more important than the parts. That aura is hopeful in places but shrouded with a darkness that is surprising, considering previous Pelican efforts.

“Glimmer” begins the album with a downtuned riff and heavy, intricate rhythms from drummer Larry Herweg. At the midway point, however, the tempo suddenly slows and the distortion cuts out, to be replaced by a soothing, heavily reverbed melody over keyboard ambiance and intertwining bass lines from Bryan Herweg. The band manages such juxtaposition very well, and the shift in tone from frenetic to summer lake calm is handled effortlessly.

A track by track description is unnecessary … although particular album highlights include, “The Creeper,” a lumbering colossus with a Sunn O))) vibe and “Strung Up From The Sky.” “Specks of Light” is particularly beautiful – fast and relentless to start, with a driving bass line … until the beat collapses for a quiet guitar interlude before the march resumes.  

The title track, a ray of psychedelic sunshine, is another standout track. The closer, “Final Breath” deserves special mention, since it marks the first time Pelican has used vocals on a studio album. “Final Breath” is a hazy, doom-infused beauty, with a bridge that sounds remarkably like something Dave Grohl would’ve written for the Foo Fighters.

The musicianship is solid throughout. de Brauw and Schroeder-Lebec weave guitar lines together in such intricate patterns it takes several listens to consciously hear all the melodies. The rhythm section doesn’t get as much notice, but both drummer Larry Herweg and bassist Bryan Herweg shine at moments throughout. 

While the band doesn’t experiment much with its sound here, “What We All Come To Need” does reveal Pelican’s darker, more somber side. It may be too experimental and “unmetal” for some, but it’s an album that will reward listeners who look for more than blast beats and power chords. You can hear the entire album on the band’s MySpace page here.