Saturday, December 31, 2011

Important Announcement for the New Year

After a decade of bitter infighting and rancour between two ideologically polarized camps within ICHQ, I am delighted to announce the grand opening of IllCon East, a new subdivision of IC Enterprises which is charged with ensuring East Coast considerations are factored into decision-making around marketing, product development, and systems change. This venture comes on the coattails of a debate that has been percolating beneath the surface of everyday business and has made working alongside one another no longer possible. I now present to you IllCon East's mission statement:

Allow me to explain...

Here on the East Coast, being metal is a fucking chore. You have to work at it. If you're a metalhead and come from anywhere East of Sanford Parker's fiefdom, Ohio, you're already handicapped. You're fucked. You have to ship in all your bullet belts and patches from El Salvador. Out on the West Coast every other day Wormrot is playing in LA, fucking Brocas Helm is playing Gilman or whatever it's called, blah fucking blah.

2nd one from left is 9th grade me

I was just talking to These a Beast, who lives in Jersey, about what shows we'd been to recently and it was downright scornful. The only show either of has had been to in the last month was the same goddamn show, one night apart from each other. Granted, it was Inquisition, and they fucking killed, but still. West Coast's got the labels, the communal groundswell, the bands, the venues, AND legal kush. It's like the metal is being handed to you on a silver plate; all you need to do is MOSH.

And don't get me started on Black Metal. How do you have all these awesome goddamn black metal bands on the West Coast? What do YOU know about Black Metal? Any 'banger worth his Nargaroth back patch knows Black Metal is all about winter, midnight vision quests through frost-choked ravines, taking your shirt off, and takin' a pic for the album cover. What does the West Coast know about winter? Where I'm from we're living an Immortal album 30% of the entire year while your metal bands are playing flutes around the bonfire, fucking celebrating the harvest, and yukking it up over a sack of northern lights.

er, we're not all like this, promise

(Speaking of New Jersey, that's probably the most metal places on the planet ain't it? Fuck sylven forests of primordial hardwoods and awe-inspiring ocean vistas, forget Norway...New Fucking Jersey man. It's basically built on top of toxic sludge and car parts. Anyone who elects to live there voluntarily earns their spike cuffs automatically.)

is more metal than

The East Coast always seems to get left out of conversations about metal (New Yorker notwithstanding), perhaps due to regional metal xenophobia, perhaps ignorance, perhaps its the smaller profiles of the bands, maybe a combination of all this. We gave you NYDM, Dio, Grief...the nascent scuzz-BM scene (see Mutilation Rites) is giving the Black Twilight Circle a run for their money IMHO...hell we've got Florida so right there we've buttoned up 90% of the American Death Metal legacy.


i know u like my layout skills

Now, I'm not saying we're completely infallible. In fact, we owe you a couple of apologies: namely Liturgy, the whole Savannah/Atlanta thing (seriously, what the fuck is up with the whole Kylesa/Baroness/Mastodon scene? can someone fill me in plz thx). We MIGHT be single-handedly responsible for metalcore also, now that I think about it. Whoops lol. I hereby apologise for all our past transgressions.

So anyway, yeah, this:

i detect your pose
all the way from here


I rest my case.

You are cordially invited to the ceremonial ribbon cutting of the brand-new, 230 acre IllCon East campus, featuring an exclusive Evoken and Cannibal Corpse showcase*, and we will vote on IllCon East's new charter. I hereby lay down the gauntlet, West Coast pussies. The metal world is overdue for a good beef with all the trimmings, don't you think? Infantile posturing in album intros, threats of violence via YouTube, all that. How great would that be? Minus the assassinations, Varg.

*not verified

Friday, December 30, 2011


Seems like a pretty safe time to put out a 'Top Eleven of 2011', right? I mean, unless Inquisition puts out a new album within the next 30 hours or so, all entries have been accounted for and all the votes have been tallied--we're in the clear. Now, I know most of you are probably hoping for some sort of '20 Shittiest'-esque fiasco this year, but I regret to inform you that no such shit-talking will happen this time around: I was too busy listening to Joe Rogan and Giorgio Tsoukalos argue about ancient aliens to even listen to 20 "new" albums in their entirety this year, much less write about them.
It's true. I basically gave up music blogging in 2011, but that doesn't mean I can't shit out a quick dozen recommendations for you, does it? I still listen to metal on occasion. I don't by any means keep up with new music like I used to, but people are still constantly sending me stuff to listen to (despite my protests), so why not?

These "year end" lists are basically bullshit, and full of weird politics anyways. I mean, I thought the new Vektor album was great, but I never got a chance to fully digest the whole thing. Does that go on the list? Nah. The new Cruciamentum EP kills, but I'm bored of it already. Does that go on the list? Nah. I guess what you're looking at here is a small, somewhat inaccurate gathering of releases that actually held my attention this year, and no matter how many times I tell you guys I'm unqualified to write it, you'll still comment to tell me what I left out. Whatever. I know my taste in music sucks. That already puts me ahead of the pack. Fuck it.

Where was I? Oh yeah, the list.
Let's do this.


There is much to be said for the type of Hessian bro that would rock a Voltron shirt in his band photo, as there is also much to be said for the type of Hessian bro that would (somewhat befuddlingly) entitle a song "Suspended In Cubes of Torment". This is GIGAN in a nutshell--insane, quasi-psychedelic riffs, extended noise loops, and biomechanical-octopus musicianship aside. Much hate has been thrown at the "tech" sub-genre in recent years, but I remain a firm supporter--as long as actual ideas are present. Despite the machine-gun drumming and tapping solos, these fuckers know how to write a goddamn SONG. Every jam on Quasi-Hallucinogenic has some sort of catchy section, several repeating (sometimes to the point of hypnotic) riffs, and a vocal hook (or at least what qualifies for one in death metal), and as a result, I've been stuck on it since its release earlier this year.
I've said before that I enjoy tech-death because it is the perfect union of the visceral and the cerebral. Gigan drive that point home--with the fury and precision of a marauding Mechagodzilla on DMT.



Is the guy from France's Peste Noire a Nazi? Fuck if I know, or care. Either way, L'Ordure à l'état Pur is an epic mindfuck of a black metal album, mixing weird, psuedo-techno beats, farm animal noises, and bleak, misanthropic nihilism into a startling broth that managed to push boundaries even in the over-saturated BM market of 2011. There is plenty that I don't like about this album (see the aforementioned "techno" beats, 20-minute song times, NSBM leanings, etc etc) but the all-encompassing WEIRDNESS contained herein has made it a mainstay in the trusty ol' iPod, and the fact that Peste Noire can still keep me guessing after repeat listenings has to count for something.
If Abbath and Horgh commandeered Gogol Bordello and toured the catacombs of Paris, it might sound something like L'Ordure à l'état Pur. But until that happens, we'll just have to settle for this oddball gem, NS bullshit be damned.



JGD introduced me to Australia's Entrails Eradicated just recently, but I don't feel the least bit hesitant adding them here after such a short honeymoon. Sure, the extensive noise intros are overkill for this EP's brief runtime, but Viralocity is the band's first release, and this much talent deserves a little room to fuck up. Like Gigan, EE temper sweep-picked insanity with tasteful, catchy vocals and recognizable song structures, making them an instant favorite here at ICHQ.
Be forewarned: this year's Top 11 is chock-full of "techy" shit, but that's what seems to be sounding good to me these days. Perhaps technical death metal has finally tired of chasing its own tail, and is now settling into a pattern of "good songwriting" and "realistic production". But maybe it's just wishful thinking. Either way, Entrails Eradicated are doing something right, so here's to hoping that they don't perpetuate that "one EP and done" cycle so many other promising shredders have fallen prey to (see: Viraemia, Slaughterbox, etc).
Oh, and nice windmills too, guys.



Another obscure, tasteful tech gem, this time from the hoary wastes of Vancouver, Canada. These fellas seem to conform more to the shaved-heads-and-basketball-shorts school of uber-athletic bro-wanking, which, if you know ol' Cobras, is a major bonus. Shattering expectations by shunning any sort of melodic vocal pattern and/or Autotuned mosh breakdown, Archspire hit hard and fast, thoroughly annihilating your facial region with an onslaught of seven-string wizardry and hyperspeed blasting, all the while maintaining a crunchy, sing-along-with-Cookie-Monster feel that would make the Swedish DM Gods proud.
It should be duly noted that All Shall Align (like Viralocity) is Archspire's first release and mission statement--hinting that perhaps this is a band we should all be paying attention to in the future... Then again, maybe not--I saw one of their guitarists rocking a Dream Theater shirt in a live video.

Also, LOL:



I've included Vast Aire's long-awaited opus Ox 2010: A Street Odyssey as a sorbet, to cleanse the palate. After all, if you don't mix it up and take a break from metal every now and then, you'll end up as one of those sad, defensive, sheltered pussies that hangs out in MetalSucks comments sections all day, writing things like "+1" and "^this".
All kidding aside, though, Vast Aire's solo follow up to his old duo Cannibal Ox's 2001 oddball classic The Cold Vein is 100% worth the wait, bursting at the seams with both streetwise, guns-and-dope poetry and abstract, artsy philosophy. It sucks that Vorghul Mega wasn't around for this one, but FUCK, Ox 2010 is a great album, and has been getting just as much stereo time here at ICHQ as anything the "metal" realm produced in 2011.

Last.FM: Vast Aire/Cannibal Ox

Brought to you by IllCon Animation Studios, Inc.


2011 was the year that I took the wise words BEHEAD THOSE THAT INSULT SLAM as my own personal motto, recognizing as it were the odd correlation between "slam-insulting" and "fun-hating". I mean, seriously: I know "slam metal" is by far the most testosterone-driven form of DM, appealing to the most socially-and-intellectually-inept camo-shorters amongst us, but if you can't see the reason for its base appeal (i.e. sweet fucking grooves that make you mosh your balls off) then you are all but dead to me.
Sure, Realms of The Ungodly is standard-issue slam with the quality and riffsmanship levels bumped up a couple notches. But the sole fact that Condemned is comprised of 40 to 60% of the same dudes from the almighty CEPHALOTRIPSY? That connection alone bumps them up to #6.
PS: The new Cephalotripsy promo stuff that came out this year deserves its own spot on this list, but I figure I'll just save the #1 spot for their upcoming full-length on my Top 12 of '12 list next year. Fair enough.

Also, some new Cephalo jams in case you slept on 'em:



Baltimore's own Visceral Disgorge have occupied their own little corner of my iPod's memory for the latter half of 2011, remaining both relevant and welcome with each "shuffle" cycle. Their low-brow sex-and-gore samples? Gold. Their mixed-too-low, monotone vocals? Yes please. "Force Fed Shredded Genitalia"? 10-4. "Colostomy Bag Asphyxiation"? Roger that. This is a band that will remind any Hessian warrior worth his spikes to never take him(or her)self too seriously, with enough tech-y, brain-melting pitt riffment to still qualify as "smart". Did I mention that this, too, is their first release?
More please.



Often derided as hipster BM (thanks to a record deal with Southern Lord), Sweden's Craft have nonetheless delivered quality album after quality album since their inception in 1999 (Pro Tip: get 2000's Total Soul Rape and 2002's Terror Propaganda RIGHT HERE), with Void being their best so far. Few bands can rival Craft for pure, unadulterated misanthropy and hatred, but it's their innovative musicianship that really tickles my nuts.
This album represents Craft's Pokemon-esque evolution into a bigger, better, and more menacing creature--the Blastoise to Fuck The Universe's Wartortle. It's a shame that they'll inevitably have to go and kill themselves in the near future, depriving us of more classics like this one.

Best Song 2011?:



Whenever I wish to judge a new Absu offering, I simply hold it up to their track off the 1997 Gummo OST, "The Gold Torques of Ulaid". Where does this new recording land on The Ulaid Scale? Is it 'not nearly as good'? 'Almost as good'? 'Better' (just kidding, no one will ever write a song better than that one)? The way I see it, said jam is the apex of the Absu pantheon, showcasing both their talent for complex, busy riffing, and obscure, transcendental mythologizing.
How gleeful was I, then, to find upon the arrival of their 2011 opus Abzu, that the WHOLE GODDAMN THING scored 'as good as' on The Ulaid Scale? I mean, FUCK, the opening track "Earth Ripper" alone packs an album's-worth of blackened, thrashy, cosmic goodness--but by the time the 15-minute closing track rolls around, one's mind is left as nothing but an amorphous pool of humiliated sludge.
Weird enough that these dudes would title their 2011 album Abzu after calling their 2009 release Absu--but hey, it's no secret that this band is on a different plane (they're from fucking Texas, man!), and should be treated as other-wordly beings. Far be it from me to pass judgment.

Obviously, Sir Proscriptor is on some next-level intergalactic karate-chop lamé-headband shit.



At the risk of sounding douchey or name-droppy, allow me to share a brief story about an encounter I had earlier this year with Paul Ryan, guitarist and main songwriter for longtime IllCon favorites Origin:

Sometime around February, I was making the rounds in SF, handing out flyers for the first (and last?) annual IC Black/Death Fest. I stopped by the ol' Guitar Center on Van Ness (where Paul works as a salesbro) to drop off some handbills, at which point homeboy pulled me aside and asked if I'd like to hear a track off the new (as of then unreleased) Origin album. Well yeah, of course, duh.
Anyhow, long story short, Paul took me back into the dark recesses of their PA department, where he proceeded to completely melt my face and brain by playing Entity's opening track "Expulsion of Fury" through a fucking WALL of speakers. I pretty much knew right then and there that the new album was going to be one of the best (if not THE best) albums of the year, and upon its official arrival in July, my suspicions were confirmed. Origin just blows the doors off of EVERYONE with this one. Case closed.


Unanimous winner: Best animated .gif 2011

So now it's time, folks... A whole year of metal, all boiled down to ONE amazing release. My NUMBER ONE pick of 2011, an album that changed lives, made us laugh, made us think, made us cry.
Without further ado, the Illogical Contraption Number One Album of the Year:


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hemlock - Funeral Mask (1997)

Last week I did a post that consisted of a "mix-tape" of sorts for y'all. Actually it was more of a "digital-mix" but nonetheless the premise remains the same. The mix featured USBM bands and within it I had a song from the obscure and occult band, HEMLOCK. Not much info is out there on the band and their material isn't exactly easy to acquire, so I thought it would be appropriate to feature the band.

HEMLOCK hailed from New York, NY and surfaced in 1992 as the "second wave of Black Metal" that emerged from Norway began to make headlines. Funeral Mask was released in the year 1997. HEMLOCK split up shortly after their second full-length release in 1999 titled Lust for Fire. Supposedly, they had ties with the Norwegian scene. I'm not sure to what extent their ties were but I remember reading that one of the members in the band's earlier days was in contact with Euronymous. They subsequently landed a deal with Head Not Found Records which was owned by Metalion of Slayer Magazine fame. So the connection was significant enough apparently.

Now I'm not a usually a huge fan of noisy, incoherent, under-produced metal, especially when it comes to black metal. It took me a few listens to really get into this album. The production is rough, true, but not entirely shit. The vocals are grating and often indecipherable at times; upon introduction, they were just annoying enough to almost quit listening all together, however I found myself getting used to them. The guitar work and drumming are what kept my attention though. I can't begin to describe this album as it is all over the place in parts and where some of the songs would normally be an immediate turnoff for me due to the vocals, they throw in a riff or drum fill or change in the rhythm that kept me interested. This album carries with it all the early hallmarks of black metal but elements of punk and thrash are also heard, and even doom if I dare say (check out the title track).

All of this makes for a highly volatile, rough, misanthropic sound. Just when you have come to terms with what this band is trying to convey or conjure up and are beginning to enjoy it, they take it from you, chew it up, and spit it back in your face all the while smashing your head in.

While it took some listening to - after many, many beers of course - I came to appreciate Funeral Mask and it's raw, dirty production. I feel the reviews for this album by others are somewhat inaccurate. In my opinion, this is a highly underrated album and a worthy listen for anyone remotely into black metal that came from the United States. If anything, this is truly a worthy listen. If this caught the interest of Norway's best back in the early '90s, this surely will appeal to those interested in a sound and a time that has since passed.

Tracks that stand out: Way Of The Wolf, Necrofuck, Loyal To Evil, and Funeral Mask.

Listen first
Purchase here

Metallum / Last.FM

ADDENDUM: As DoomUnicorn pointed out, which I apparently forgot to mention, this band features members that are/were/have been in other more prominent bands such as Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth, Exumer, Dim Mak, and Incantation to name a few.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Does the name Dale Schacker mean anything to you? Have you ever heard of such forgotten in time, animation cell wasting fodder as Denver The Last Dinosaur? Twinkle The Dream Being? How about Mr Bogus? If you answered "who the fuck cares" to any of those questions then fair play..
Dale Schacker was a musician and composer for the above mentioned cartoons as well as for the early 80's US version of Voltron. High on the success of Voltron : Defender Of The Universe, the studio, World Events Productions, bought up a Japanese anime titled Star Musketeer Bismarck. After altering key plot points, adding scenes, modifying content and basically dicking around with the format they released it onto TV screens as Saber Rider And The Star Sheriffs in 1987.
Now, I will admit I had no clue whatsoever about this cartoon prior to becoming acquainted with the soundtrack about 3 years ago. In all honesty the actual series is pretty standard when compared to other 80's, space cowboy classics such as Bravestarr and Galaxy Rangers. What makes it, is the awesome soundtrack by Mr Dale Schacker. Awesome because he was granted full creative control to compose an entire score that would give the series its own identity and awesome for sounding like Bal-Sagoth playing Stan Bush songs while home invading Nickelodeon.
Schacker packs the soundtrack with a ton of shredding, uber-processed 80's guitar, dramatic build ups, Morricone-esque motifs featuring harmonica and whip cracks, a slight touch of synthpop melody and various pieces of music that sound like those bits in The A-Team when they are building a tank out of a toaster and a lawn mower. Basically, its a pretty sweet compilation of tons of things most Illcon followers approve of. Need music to soundtrack those crappy chores? Here you go. Need music to soundtrack ignoring your girlfriend? Here you go. Need music to get ripped to? here you go. Saber Rider covers all your needs.

Need further convincing? Then wrap your ears around the awesome....

If your not sold yet then there really is something wrong with you, so included as bonus tracks are the French and Japanese theme tunes, a whole host of metal and rock versions of the main theme, a couple of remixes and a pretty boring interview with Schacker that they could have done without really. 

P.S. The Saber Rider team had a huge robot cowboy thing titled Ramrod ( Bismarck in the original anime). As a kid, I had a catalogue for the inferior-to-Transformers GoBots which I am pretty sure featured a robot called Bismarck that was identical to the Saber Rider version. Can anyone shed any light on the Gobot connection?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Near Death Condition - The Disembodied - In Spiritual Spheres

Now that Christmas cheer is no longer getting crammed down our every orifice I feel we need to hit 'reset' here at IllCon. Maybe a nugget of techy brutal death metal with bits of doom and some synths thrown in will do the trick. Perhaps it's because the band in question is from the land of eternal neutrality--Switzerland--that they're able to toe the line of so many sub-sub-genres without seeming contrived. On their newest release, The Disembodied - In Spiritual Spheres, Near Death Condition take a shotgun blast approach to brutal death, throwing elements of Suffocation (the musicianship), Coffins (the delivery), and Morbid Angel (the riffs) at the listener and hoping something sticks. Well, almost everything sticks. Two albums into their young career I'm keeping a close eye on Near Death Condition, and so should you. Don't let the board shorts or political disposition towards neutrality fool you, these are evil motherfuckers.

Monday, December 26, 2011

MONDAY MORNING SCIENCE CORNER: Armillaria solidipes AKA The Most Metal Thing You've Ever Read

Wikipedia: Armillaria solidipes (formerly Armillaria ostoyae) is a species of fungus in the Physalacriaceae family. It is the most common variant in the western U.S., of the group of species that all used to share the name Armillaria mellea. Armillaria solidipes is quite common on both hardwood and conifer wood in forests west of the Cascade crest. The mycelium attacks the sapwood and is able to travel great distances under the bark or between trees in the form of black rhizomorphs ("shoestrings").

Here's where it gets heavy:

It is known to be one of the largest living organisms, where scientists have estimated a single specimen found in Malheur National Forest in Oregon to have been growing for some 2,400 years, covering 3.4 square miles. Armillaria solidipes grows and spreads primarily underground and the bulk of the organism lies in the ground, out of sight. Therefore, the organism is not visible to anyone viewing from the surface. It is only in the autumn when this organism will bloom “honey mushrooms”, visible evidence of the organism lying beneath. Low competition for land and nutrients have allowed this organism to grow so huge and become arguably the largest living organism.

That's 2,200 ACRES.
That's 94,786,560 SQUARE FEET.

Biologists estimate the weight of the colony to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 600 tons. That's the equivalent weight of three pregnant, adult blue whales, the world's largest known mammal.

Is your brain okay?

Maybe you should cool down by watching this video--depicting an Armillaria mellea mycelium bioluminescence display in time-lapse (condensed from one week to 18 seconds)--on repeat for a little while:

Now go 'Like' Armillaria solidipes on Facebook! (I was the third person to do so, get in now before it's "cool"!)

Don't say we never give you nuthin'

Not content with finishing off my Eno series with style, verve, moxie, chutzpah and aplomb, I have also taken it upon myself to give you good good people a couple of small christmas gifts. Call it a token of our esteem from us here at the IllCon compound for it is, after all, the season of goodwill and so forth.

I did sneakily foreshadow this post in my last one, mentioning, as I did,'writing bollocks about massively overlooked bands from New Zealand' and my enthusiasm for the TV cartoon 'Adventure Time WIth Finn & Jake', so that may well give you a clue as to at least some of the content herein.

So, my first gift here- just a small one really - is an alternate version of the theme tune to 'Adventure Time'. I find the main theme to be the weakest thing about the show - far too indie and twee for my sensitive ears - so coming across this version that borders on Fancy Metal was pretty darned algebraic for me...

Now, I'm sure there'll be the usual naysayers out there slinging the 'H' word around and blah blah blah, but to those people I say 'SHUT THE FUCK UP'. You soulless cunts, you probably don't like the goddamn Muppets either, and I don't fucking trust people who don't like the goddamn Muppets.

...aaaaaand relax.

My main present is something that I'm pretty damn sure isn't currently to be found anywhere else on t'internet. That's right people, we got us an EXCLUSIVE. First, though, I gotta ask, does the name 'Shihad' mean anything to anyone?

If your answer is 'yes', then you probably already know just how damn good their first few records were and you may well already have a copy of the recording(s) that I'm about post.
However, if your answer is a no then I think you're in for a treat. Here's a wee taster to whet your whistle...

Pretty damn rockin' huh? Kinda 'Helmet-y' y'think? Hell, have another...

Yup. I dig 'em.

Both tracks come from 'Killjoy', Shihad's second LP, which was released back in 1995 and is one of my all-time favourite records.
Their debut EP 'Devolve' and their first LP, and first international release, 'Churn' (produced by Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman, fact fans!) were pretty decent, but 'Killjoy' is just a BEAST. Blessed with a rhythm section that pumps like the engine on an exceptionally fine ship-of-the-line and some right noisy guitars, 'Killjoy' totally rocks my world. Hell, those guitars that crash back in at 3.24 during 'Bitter' sound less like guitars and more like heavy steel cables lashing against one another. KILLER.

I was lucky enough to see them live on their European tour in support of 'Killjoy'- although not, alas, in their Faith No More support slot - and can wholeheartedly say that they were a fucking fantastic live band too.

As I said earlier, I haven't been able to find this posted ANYWHERE else on the internet, so consider yourselves very lucky boys and girls. I've even added the two B-sides from the 'You Again' CD Single - one of which is a cover of Bowie's 'Boys Keep Swinging' - AND the two Shihad tracks from their 'Happy Families' Split CD with fellow Kiwi lunatics Head Like A Hole. These are all from my own personal, deeply cherished, CDs so you'd damn well better appreciate 'em!

Get 'Killjoy' by Shihad Here.

Now, just before I leave you to slip further into your Turkey/Tofurkey-with-all-the-trimmings induced comas, I'd just like to add that Shihad still exist - their website can be found here - but they have done nothing of worth since their highly divisive 1996 self-titled LP, so if you decide to go digging around online after getting all fired up by 'Killjoy', don't say I didn't warn you.