Entries in heavy (10)


Mnemic - they're not your Mnemesis

When I took over KGLT's "Loud Rock Director" responsibilities, my first week was an adventure in new music. I suddenly had access to the latest metal releases, days or even weeks before the general public. One of the albums that showed up as an "add" for the upcoming week was Mnemic's "Mnemesis". Denmark's self described "future metal" band has carved out a unique blend of styles over the years, and their latest release hammers home the point.

When I listen to Mnemic, I hear many things. They combine elements of the Gothenburg sound associated with In Flames and Engel with some shock rock textures that are more at home in the music of Marilyn MansonWhite Zombie and Powerman 5000. They bludgeon you like the best death metal band and then cross check you with soaring, textural hooks. "I've Been You" is a great example of that contrast, starting with pounding industrial death metal and finishing up with spacious textures and vocal harmonies.

"Transcend", the first single from "Mnemesis" is a great place to start exploring Mnemic's material. From there, I recommend listening to "Pattern Platform" and "There's No Tomorrow" to get a sense for the band's range. It's hard to say whether there's a time of day or mood that's best suited to experiencing Mnemic. They sound great when they're loud, but the more surreal elements of their songs would work just as well for those introspective cloudy days. I highly recommend exploring Mnemic's work in-depth. They are unique, deep and refreshing and I hope you enjoy the discovery.


Scattershock - A History: Part 1

Scattershock's roots go back many years ago to when Steve Rosenthal and I met during my Junior year in high school. Not long before, Ben Ulrich, a great friend and great drummer had decided to go in a different direction, leaving me with the makings of a band minus a drummer. Fortunately for me, chance occurrences aligned and I met Steve, a hard hitting drummer and huge fan of Phil RuddJohn Bonham and Keith Moon. Steve joined me, my sister, Leslie (on vocals) and Amir Zitro (on bass) in Saber, a heavy rock band that split time between covers and originals. We gigged at a few parties and booked our own show upstairs in the Oakland Auditorium ballroom, a show that had little audience but remains the biggest hall I've ever played. I still have the recording of that show stashed away somewhere, including some great stage banter. Our original songs were heavily influenced by Iron Maidenthe Scorpions, and Rainbow. In retrospect, that might be obvious to many of you considering such titles as "Crazed Marauder", "Beyond The Line" and "Unusually Strange".

At some point we discovered a British band that was calling themselves Saber (or maybe "Sabre") and decided to change our name to Onyx. Then Steve and I graduated from high school and, after a false start at UC Berkeley, I decided to attend G.I.T. in Hollywood for a year. During the two years after high school, including the year I was at G.I.T., the Saber/Onyx lineup remained the same but we changed the name to Exposé, got some professional publicity shots done and moved up a notch in the Bay Area club scene, playing the likes of the Chi Chi Club, La Peña and the Berkeley Square. It was during that time that I began my interest in recording, acquiring a Fostex 250 4-track recorder and using it to track various early compositions. Sometime during that period, Steve, Leslie and I did our first studio recording at Saver Sound in Oakland, recording a song that I'd written called "Can't You See".

Then I made a decision that marked the demise of Exposé and started a new path that would eventually merge back with Steve and lead to Scattershock. I chose to start my undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. For my first year, I landed in the dorms, off campus in Williams Village. As luck would have it, I ended up with a room right next to Mike Levine, a bass player who had grown up in nearby Arvada. We very quickly realized how much overlap we had in musical interests, sharing bands like Van Halen, the Scorpions, and Iron Maiden. Mike had a close friend named Grant Bolinger, a great great guy and accomplished drummer, who finished off our rhythm section. Mike, Grant and I used to rehearse in Mike's basement, although on any given day that only lasted until Mike's dad opened the basement door, flicked the lights on and off a couple times and then as soon as we quieted down just enough, he'd yell "It's Over!!!".

During my second year at CU, Mike, Grant and I ended up renting a house in Boulder out near the Table Mesa Shopping Center. I had a big bedroom in the basement, adjacent to another big room we used for rehearsing and recording. I was still tracking to the Fostex 4-track, which was the heart of a couple really memorable recording sessions: a 4-song demo for a local band called "Toy" and our own "Billy and the Boingers" song, featuring Toy's lead vocalist, Ron Foxhoven, which we submitted to the Bloom County theme song competition. I also formed a cover band called "In Progress" with Grant and we played one very long and memorable gig at the Dark Horse in Boulder. It was a pretty busy year musically, but I had made the decision to return to Berkeley to finish my undergraduate studies, and figured that meant the end of my musical collaborations with Mike and Grant.

In my next article, I'll explain how my Boulder and Berkeley paths came back together, setting the stage for the eventual birth of Scattershock.


Director of Loud Rock!

We all have had an opportunity drop out of the sky, completely unexpected. Usually, looking back later in life we see those opportunities as the key building blocks to what differentiates us. Well, a couple weeks ago, I ran into another of those opportunities. Jim Kehoe, the music director at KGLT bumped into me in the studio while I was prepping my show. Out of the blue, he said, "Hey, how'd you like to take over as Loud Rock Director?". The student who had previously handled loud rock wrapped up her studies at MSU this term and was moving on to other things. It sure sounded really cool and important but, beneath the surface, Jim's question made a ton of sense.

This summer, KGLT is down to only one DJ that focuses on loud rock. You're reading his words right now. There are definitely other DJs that play loud rock but their shows tend to mix things up more, while my show is 99% based on the content of KGLT's "Loud Rock" drawers and my own collection. Our loud rock broadcasting took a significant hit when Cara Paul and Jodi Metzler left at the end of the Spring term. I'm not sure there's anyone else that even makes sense at the moment, so Jim knew what he was doing.

So, this wasn't exactly the result of an exhaustive talent search; perhaps this is meaningless, one of those "little" titles that we take on that has no real significance. Although I've joked about getting business cards made, or many a T-shirt, I probably will refrain for now. However, there definitely is substance to this opportunity and it will immediately impact my radio show, as well as any loud rock that's played at KGLT.

Y'see, now I'm the guy deciding what gets added to our loud rock collection and what isn't. I'm the one that interacts with the radio promoters for the various loud rock labels, and I'm the guy they ask to play their current "high priority" releases. No longer do I have to questions why certain albums never make it into the KGLT collection. If it's not there, it's my fault and I'm happy to take on the responsibility of keeping us well stocked. I also need to prepare weekly Top-10 Loud Rock reports for the College Music Journal (CMJ). That way they know what we've got in "heavy rotation" even if that's currently limited to my biweekly show.

There's more to it than that. I've been thinking lately the only real way to give metal and other heavy music a fair shake here in Bozeman is take the bull by the horns and actually make it available, on the radio, in the clubs, etc. I've been talking to some of my friends about forming some type of Heavy support group here in Bozeman, one that can help make sure that Heavy bands aren't missing opportunities or being overlooked. I see this opportunity at KGLT as a chance to really make sure we're shining a bright spotlight on great Heavy music.

You might also think I'd be feeling a bit lonely these days, the lonely loud rock guy amidst an ocean of country, blues, Americana, bluegrass, electronica, hip hop, jazz, etc. When Cara and Jodi left, I benefitted because my biweekly show shifted from midnight on Fridays to 9pm on Saturdays. That made my sleep cycle a lot more manageable, but it meant I was no longer part of a solid block of loud rock DJs (Cara at 6pm, Adam Kish at 9pm and yours truly at midnight. It also means I no longer have the chance to hang out with Adam at the end of his show, talking Iron MaidenThin Lizzy and heavy music in general.

Having told you that, you're probably asking yourself, "Why aren't you lonely, David?". On the surface I've got some good reasons to be lonely but that's before you factor in my good friend and fellow guitarist, Jake Quittschreiber. Thanks to a perfect bit of timing on Jake's part, I've got more company in KGLT loud rock than ever before. Jake is taking the summer DJ apprentice class and has been spending time with me on my show. Much like Adam did for me, I was quick to get Jake on mic and behind the console. It's always better to dive in and not think/worry too much about being on the air. Jake's a star student and has added fun and excitement to my last few shows. Better yet, Jake gives me even more motivation in my new role as Loud Rock Director.

Now I'm not just populating the loud rock library for myself, I'm also doing it for Jake. I fully expect Jake to take over his own radio show after he finishes the apprentice class. When that happens, there'll be two of us loud rock DJs and that much more reason for a well-stocked collection. Better yet, Jake's taste overlaps quite a bit with mine, but he also covers areas of metal that supplement my own tastes. He loves death metal and knows that genre way better than I do. Because of that, my first week as Loud Rock Director was incredibly rewarding. Jake and I worked together to identify CDs we wanted to review and then sat together in the studio annex, reviewing songs together. Jake will join me for my show again next Saturday, and through our collaboration, around two thirds of the show will be new loud rock releases. It will also be fun because it truly was a joint effort to prepare it and I'm hoping we'll be able to present the show to all of you as a joint effort.

I am also optimistic and excited that this may just be the beginning for Jake and me. I'm really looking forward to working closely with him to raise the Heavy bar at KGLT, as well as promote heavier music in Bozeman. I also see my Loud Rock Director role as an opportunity to get you, the audience, more involved in the show. Both Jake and I believe strongly in the steady flow of new music, the ever-changing evolution that keeps us exposed to new ideas and experiences. We both like playing new music because we're sharing songs and bands with our audience that perhaps would otherwise go unnoticed. On the flip side, I hope that there will be times when you share new music with us. Comment here on the blog or send me a message and tell me about new musical discoveries you've made in the land of Heavy. Now I'm the guy who's responsible for getting those into KGLT's library...


Amaranthe - Why are they stuck in my head?

Honestly, I don't remember the exact moment when I discovered Amaranthe. At some point in the last year, as I was wandering around the Internet, I ran across them. At first I viewed them as an interesting new band from the Nordic part of the world that generates much of the music I love. They have the unique twist of 3 separate vocalists, a female clean lead (Elize Ryd), a male clean lead (Jake E) and a male guttural specialist (Andreas Solveström). And, they have a great melodic death metal rhythm section (Olof Mörck - guitar & keys, Johan Andreassen - bass, Morten Løwe Sørensen - drums).

So, that explains why I like them. I like heavy, melodic music and just about any metal that has some reasonable amount of pitch variation in the vocals. But that doesn't explain why they get stuck in my head so readily. I find myself whistling the melodies from their songs at the strangest times. And once I start, it's hard to make it stop.

Fortunately, I figured out why. Oddly enough, it's just like ABBA, a band I never listened to in depth and yet I still hear "Waterloo" in my head, clear as day. It always amazed me how catchy and universal ABBA's melodies are. They churned out a string of hits that bore into your head and never leave. The songs I know are all upbeat and musically motivating, and only in later years did the song themes become more introspective.

Amaranthe touches me in the same way and has the benefit of being right in the middle of my wheelhouse. The music is clearly edgier than ABBA but at the same time revels in sweeping melodies, and layered vocal harmonies that are infectious. They capture exactly what I love about heavy music - this deeply moving energy that gets your heart pumping no matter whether the lyrical message is incredibly upbeat (e.g. power metal) or immersed in death (e.g. goth metal).

If you've heard Amaranthe and love them, you know what I mean. If you haven't, be sure to check out their self-named debut album (Amaranthe). And for those of you that have heard them and found they don't do much for you, I dare you to listen to the album a couple times. See if you don't wake up in the morning with "Hunger", "1,000,000 Lightyears" or "Automatic" stuck in your head. I dare you...


The Anguish of the SLoT

I first ran across the SLoT when their latest album, "Break The Code" showed up in the "New Loud Rock" bin at KGLT. I hadn't heard of them previously but I'm religious about previewing all the new albums in my part of the archives. I popped the disc into a player and took a listen. At first I wasn't sure; often guttural vocals are a negative factor for me and the opening sections of various songs made it clear that gutturals are significant part of the SLoT's repertoire. But the music kept me listening long enough that I reached a section where Dariya Stavrovich's vocals kick in.

Oh my, that settled things. I honestly don't think I've ever heard anyone that can express sheer anguish the way Dariya does. She can sing her heart out as well but it's the emotional outpouring that channels through her vocals that really sets them apart. Sebastian Bach was able to do that, particularly on Skid Row's second ("Slave To The Grind") and third albums ("Subhuman Race"). The appeal is similar in that both vocalists balance melody and outright scream but I get even more of the pure anguish from Dariya.

I suspect many of you have never heard of the SLoT. I hadn't until a few months ago. If not, you've gotta give their music a spin and make sure you listen to "Bullet", "Lego" and "Vamp" all the way through the choruses. If that's not anguish embodied, I'm not sure what is. I don't know if I'll get to see the SLoT live but I am hopeful that they will grow their influence worldwide and tour here in North America soon. They are a band that I'd happily travel miles to see. Maybe I'll see you at one of their shows...