Author Archives: Jon Pacella

Conan: Herculean Doom Metal from Liverpool

The genre of doom metal has just undergone a serious upgrade courtesy of the U.K.’s Conan. The trio from Liverpool, England are best known for their herculean sound and guitars tuned so low that they may have quite possibly summoned the Old Gods from the deep, bringing about the end of all mankind.

Both their live shows and their latest album, 2014’s Blood Eagle, have been hailed by critics and fans alike—of which I am both. Their set was one of the more sonically powerful sets at Psycho California this year—their heavy chords like iron shaking the rafters of the venue. Amidst the chaos of the fest in Santa Ana, I had a chance to break away for a few minutes and talk to vocalist-guitarist Jon Davis and drummer Rich Lewis about all that is Conan.

How’s Psycho California going so far for you guys?

Jon Davis: It’s been great! We almost felt like we couldn’t settle down before we got here and we went onstage pretty much straight away. We’re looking forward to relaxing and having a few beers.

Sounds excellent. Do you think the set went well?

JD: Oh yeah, I think so. [to Rich Lewis] What’d you think?

Rich Lewis: Yeah, we had a great sound on stage and I think we played pretty cool.

Pretty good crowd reaction?

RL: Yeah, yeah. It was good watching them and sort of putting it back in.

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Death,
The TVD Interview

Heralded as “the band who was punk before punk was punk,” Death was ahead of their time, the most influential band that no one had heard of. Their unique brand of proto-punk pre-dated the Ramones by two years, but in their unwillingness to kowtow to record executives who demanded they change their name (“Death” was considered a taboo, unmarketable band name in the early ’70s), the band was literally shelved. The master tapes would sit in a suitcase in an attic, lying in wait to be unleashed upon the world.

Their tale was told in the 2012 documentary, A Band Called Death, a heartfelt, emotional, and inspiring film chronicling the band’s history leading to their subsequent revival. I watched the film with a smile and an occasional tear in my eye, and made it my mission to tell as many people about Death as humanly possible. Their story needed to be told, their music needed to be heard. My chance had come, and I finally had the opportunity to see them live at the Black Cat in Washington, DC.

After the show, Death stayed for a meet-and-greet, sticking around until the last person got their pictures, autographs, and conversation with the band. We made our way to the dressing room and what followed was as joyous and inspiring a conversation as I could have hoped for. Forty years later, Death has finally found their moment to shine.

So, this was your first time playing DC? How’d it go?

Bobby Hackney: It was a big success! We enjoyed it, people came out, and it was great. Ever since we’ve been here we’ve just had a wonderful time hanging out. They say it’s Washington, DC, but this is Georgetown, right?

No, we’re in DC proper.

BH: This is awesome. We really had a wonderful time, we love Washington, DC. We definitely plan to come back. It was a great time.

What was your initial reaction to the huge response to the A Band Called Death documentary? Did you ever expect it to have that kind of impact?

BH: Well, when we saw the end result of it, we knew that it was something good. We didn’t know how the public would take it, but it’s been wonderful, man. It’s like a surreal dream and it’s what we’re living.

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Anti-Flag’s Chris #2,
The TVD Interview

At its core, the heart of punk rock music is, and always has been, rebellion. Rebellion against social and political injustices, the Man, and the ire of those wrongs and those who have been wronged have become the fuel for countless punk anthems over the years. No punk band today brings those issues front and center more than Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag. The quartet is now in its twentieth year and is celebrating the release of their tenth album, American Spring.

The new album is a sharp effort and a scathing look at some of the most polarizing issues in the world today. Taking their social commentary even further, the band has included an essay with each song, speaking in-depth to the inspirations and motivations for each one.

We had a chance to talk to bassist Chris Barker, aka Chris #2. The passion for fighting for what is right comes through clearly with every word, and it was apparent that Chris and Anti-Flag have their work cut out for them when it comes to making relevant, socially aware punk music.

Your tenth album, American Spring comes out at the end of this month, just shy of your twentieth year. How do you feel the band and the music have progressed from back in the beginning to now?

Well, I think that we’re talking about a lot of history, and a real, honest discussion amongst ourselves about whether or not we even make a new record. We did celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the band. This is our tenth record, and you look at your history, and you look at the things that you’ve created in the past, and we recognize that if we wanted to, we could tour much of the world playing songs from Die for the Government, which was our first record or The Terror State, or For Blood and Empire, which have been kind of tent pole records in our band’s life that people seem to identify and connect with.

We had this real lengthy talk about the work that would need to go into making a tenth record, and how diligent we would have to be as both songwriters and also as people who are looking to be found on the right side of history whenever it comes to things like racism, or the current administration’s drone strike program, the largest gap ever between wealthy and poor in our nation’s history, and the police violence that we see on a day-to-day basis.

We knew that if we made this collection of songs, that it would be something that people could look back on and say, “There were people who were caring more about the world than they were themselves.” So, when you go and you kind of scan over the history of the band, I think the biggest difference between record one and record ten is how self-aware we are of the ability of music to transcend borders.

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TVD Live: Psycho California, Day Three at the Observatory OC, 5/17

PsychoCA_-Pentagram-25

TVD spent a weekend at Psycho California in May and we’ve brought you a full report of all that happened at this unique music festival. Our coverage has been split into three parts, so you can take it all in one day at a time. If you were there, we hope you can relive that amazing weekend—and if you weren’t, here’s a detailed account of what you missed. Coverage of Day One can be found here and Day Two can be found here.—Ed.

Day two had gotten off to a sparse beginning, and day three wasn’t much better. As I sat and ate lunch and chatted with the guys from Wo-Fat, we watched the bleary-eyed metalheads wander into the lot little by little, like aimless walkers on the Walking Dead looking for food. Today’s menu was metal, and the feast was on its way.

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I wandered in a little after 12:30 and Montreal’s Tumbleweed Dealer had already begun their set on the main stage. I walked around the venue a bit, somewhat enjoying the last moments that I would be able to move around this freely from room to room. Red Wizard finished up their opening set on the side stage and Loom followed behind them. The dual guitar attack of Hippy Goods and Ricky Rodriguez filled the venue sonically as more people filed in to fill it spatially.

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TVD Live: Psycho California, Day Two at the Observatory OC, 5/16

TVD spent a weekend at Psycho California in May and we’ll be bringing you a full report of all that happened at this unique music festival. Our coverage will be split into three parts, so you can take it all in one day at a time. If you were there, we hope you can relive that amazing weekend—and if you weren’t, here’s a detailed account of what you missed. Coverage of Day One can be found here.—Ed.

After a rare California rain on Friday, day two began with absolutely picture perfect sunny California weather. There was no line outside of the Observatory OC today, as the crowd started a bit smaller than on Friday, no doubt from overindulgence and festivities from the previous night. The grogginess of the concertgoers soon wore off, with the help of food and drink at the venue—and copious amounts of weed and metal.

Moments after the doors opened, the line for merch had already grown to epic proportions extending all the way back into the building. The setup for merch probably sounded better in theory than in the execution—entering the tent in a single file line caused an enormous backup.

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Things got off to a great start on the main stage as the self-proclaimed “Halloween metal” band Acid Witch started the day off right. With singer Slasher Dave doubling on keyboards, he led the band through an awesome set full of songs about Halloween, religion, the occult, and, of course, weed. Acid Witch hands down won the Best Song Title award for the weekend, with “Metal Movie Marijuana Massacre Meltdown.”

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TVD Live: Psycho California, Day One at the Observatory OC, 5/15

TVD spent a weekend at Psycho California in May and we’ll be bringing you a full report of all that happened at this unique music festival. Our coverage will be split into three parts, so you can take it all in one day at a time. If you were there, we hope you can relive that amazing weekend—and if you weren’t, here’s a detailed account of what you missed.—Ed.

Metal festivals have been the norm in Europe for years and are finally catching on over here in the States. This year, the first edition of Psycho California landed at the Observatory OC in Santa Ana, CA. Three days of some of the best stoner, doom, and sludge bands that music has to offer were on hand, pouring their souls out to the eager fans from two stages. Many fans had made the pilgrimage from near and far, coming from all points of the U.S. and countries like Brazil, England, and Australia just to name a few.

Inside, the music was split between two areas: The Grizzly Stage served as the side stage and was in a smaller side room near the front of the venue. When I say “smaller,” what I mean to say is “hotter than hell cramped tiny room that would be impossible to even get into at times throughout the weekend.” Not that that would detract from the quality of the music coming from that room, it just made seeing some cherished bands a bit tough. The second are was the large main room where the Monarch Stage would serve as the main stage for the event.

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Outside, there were multiple smoking areas, an area of the parking lot barricaded off for some pretty fantastic food trucks, and a back lot that was a place to relax and catch your breath, get in line for the big merchandise tent, or even see some of the Grizzly Stage bands—more on that to come.

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TVD Live: Death at the Black Cat, 5/28

Let’s face it. Amidst the constant stream of news as to what the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse have been doing around the world, who doesn’t welcome a feel-good story now and then? That is exactly what the world was exposed to when they learned of a band call Death. Thursday at the Black Cat in D.C., fans finally got to experience Death live in their first trip to the nation’s capital. 

Regarded as “the band who was punk before punk was punk,” Death was ahead of their time, the most influential band that no one had heard of. Their story was well-documented in the 2012 film, A Band Called Death, and with a new album and tour, forty years later Death’s time has finally come.

The evening began with a whimper, as most of the upper main floor of the Black Cat was empty save for a few early-comers hanging around the fringes of the room. That quickly changed as Obnox took the stage to open the show, it was a steadily growing stream of people from then on.

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Torche’s Steve Brooks,
The TVD Interview

For over ten years, Miami, Florida’s Torche has been defying any rules and boundaries set by rock and metal norms. The band has crafted a truly unique, genre-defying sound, and if they have changed at all over the years, it’s been strictly on their own terms. Their latest release, Restarter, is a brilliant, artistic journey through a heavy soundscape, and will surely stand out as a top release this year.

We had a chance to sit down with singer/guitarist Steve Brooks before their show at DC9 in Washington, DC. It was a loose, interesting discussion, taking us through the ins and outs of Torche’s music, from writing to recording, and to which color vinyl to release it on. Steve also happened to be celebrating his 41st birthday, and being the same age, reminisced about Kiss, vinyl, and destroying our toys in our youth.

Restarter has been out for a month. Are you pleased with the feedback you’ve been getting on the album?

Yeah, more than pleased. You never know how anyone’s going to react to a record, so you just write a bunch of songs, record it, and you end up putting it out. It could be either good or bad reaction, it’s a crap shoot, but as long as we like what we’re doing, that’s all that matters. People are going to like or they’ll hate it, or they’re going to be a bit of both every time, so you can’t win. There’s no winning situation. It’s either, they’ll complain about one thing, and then you’ll do something that is kind of like what they wanted on the last record, but we didn’t necessarily do that.

You either grew too much or not enough.

Yeah, you either change too much, or didn’t change enough. It’s like, you know, we’re just gonna write a bunch of songs, and sometimes it’ll go on a seven-inch, and it won’t be as hyped up as it is on a record.

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Crobot’s Brandon Yeagley, The TVD Interview

Crobot’s unique brand of stoner-tinged, no-nonsense hard rock is catching on like wildfire and their latest album, Something Supernatural is garnering rave reviews from all sides. 

A rigorous touring schedule is helping to spread the gospel of Pennsylvania’s Crobot, and we caught up with singer Brandon Yeagley while the band was cruising through the European countryside. Brandon offered up his perspective on vinyl, touring, and starting life in a rural Pennsylvania town.

Everywhere I turn on the web—whether it’s album or live reviews or YouTube comments—I read how much your sound harkens back to the grandfathers of hard rock like Zeppelin or the Who. What’s your take on these reactions?

Honestly, it’s definitely an honor to be in the same sentence as those bands, let alone compared to them, sound-wise. Those are the bands that we look up to and definitely look for inspiration from. We’re not reinventing the wheel by any means out here. That’s definitely a cool thing to hear.

Who is one artist that made you want to do this for a living?

I guess it’s been a lot of different artists, a hodgepodge if you will. We love Zeppelin and Sabbath. I grew up listening to Rainbow, and Dio was a huge inspiration on what I do. There are a lot of awesome bands out there right now doing some really cool things. Queens of the Stone Age has been one that’s been out there for the last ten years. Clutch, bands like that, have really taken that sound and made it into something their own as well. I really look up to those bands.

Speaking of Clutch, you have shared the stage with road veterans like Clutch and Anthrax just to name a couple. What have you taken away from your time on the road with those bands?

Well, I tell you what, most often than not out here, everybody is really down to earth, very cool, and there aren’t many egos when it comes to touring, especially with the successful bands. I think that other than a lot of other things that we’ve learned just from touring in general, I think that’s the constant now—that nobody’s out here being bigger than anybody else, you know? We’re all on the same merry-go-round, we’re all here to help each other out. I think it’s really cool to see the other musicians when they’re all on the same page, everybody fighting the same fight. It’s definitely cool to see throughout the tours.

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Kirk Von Hammett’s
Fear FestEvil at Rockbar Theater, 4/11 and 4/12

There are possibly no two things in this world that go so perfectly well together, aside from maybe peanut butter and chocolate, than heavy metal and horror movies. There is one man in metal who stands above the rest at that crossroads, and that is Kirk Hammett, guitarist of Metallica. For years, Kirk’s obsession with all things horror-related has been well-known, and the collection of horror artifacts that he has amassed over the years has grown to astounding proportions.

For the second year in a row, Kirk has put together a weekend celebrating the unity of these two worlds, known as Kirk Von Hammett’s Fear FestEvil. This year’s fest was held at the Rockbar Theater in San Jose, CA. Two days of metal bands, horror luminaries, and more made for one interesting and fantastic weekend in California.

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I arrived at Rockbar mid-afternoon, and a carnivalesque midway was already in full swing. Grotesque costumed figures wandered the premises and vendors hocked their wares, selling horror memorabilia, t-shirts, face painting, and other distinctive homemade goods. A personal highlight here was meeting John Russo, co-writer of the infamous horror classic Night of the Living Dead.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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