Share It


Thursday, June 12, 2014

The stories behind, and transcriptions for, "Open The Abscess" and "Sickened"

Hello, guitar nerds. Here's some more tablature for you, and for those of you not so guitardedly inclined... Here's a little background info on the tunes.

Open The Abscess

When we were writing "Gore Metal" Col and I were deeply obsessed with German Thrash, constantly blasting Sodom, Destruction, Assassin, Protector, and Kreator and shaming anyone who wasn't as excited about wearing multiple bullet-belts as we were. We were zealots, and like all zealots, we were kind of dicks about the whole thing, but our enthusiasm shone through in the record - our "musicianship" definitely didn't. When we were working on "Open The Abscess" I envisioned it being our "Bestial Devastation," which I suppose is sort of Destruction's "Whiplash."

In the spirit of the Death Metal / Thrash crossover we were embracing, I stole the title from a lyric in "Out of the Body" by Pestilence - "No time to waste, just open the abscess, will you please help me?" Ross and I split the lyrics on this one, like most of the songs on "Gore Metal," although my memory is a bit hazy on who did more of it (probably Ross?). From the get-go, this was my favorite song on the album and we've played it live countless times throughout the varying incarnations of the band that have ensued since '98.

Here's a blast (beat) from the past. "Open The Abscess" live from our tour with Mortician back in 2001. Warts and all. Actually more warts than anything else.


Sickened went through a weird process before making its way onto Necrocracy. Original Exhumed drummer Col Jones and I have a Thrash Metal band called Dekapitator and at different times, we've talked about taking the band in various tangential directions. In fact, after we did the first album "We Will Destroy... You Will Obey" in '99, we wanted to become a vicious, hyperspeed Sadus / Kreator hybrid, but then Hypnosia came out with their debut EP that was in that vein and impossibly great, so we scrapped that. At another point, we were considering getting a melodic vocalist and heading in a more Power / Thrash direction a la early Helloween.

Anyway, I was thinking of taking the band in a more dark Death / Thrash direction when I wrote what would eventually become "Sickened" for Dekapitator. After it became clear that nothing was really going on with that band (Col's busy with Cretin and Repulsion as well as adult stuff like a marriage and a career), I brought it to Gravehill when Rob and I were still in the band and we were writing for When All Roads Lead To Hell. We learned the song, with a different bridge and no blast beats, but Rhett "Thorgrimm" Davis decided the arrangement wasn't particularly Gravehill, which I suppose is true in hindsight.

I always liked the riffs for the song, and when I was listening back through my old pre-production recordings while writing Necrocracy I rediscovered this tune. After replacing a few polka beats with blast beats and re-tooling the bridge, I had a "new" Exhumed song. Like a lot of our more recent songs that seem to catch on, I thought this was kind of a throwaway tune that would be relegated to being a bonus track or something. Rob immediately pegged it as his favorite song on the album, and it's become a staple of our live set. It also got some nice mentions in reviews, which was cool, and more importantly, it's become one of the key "circle-pit" moments of our whole set, which is very satisfying.

Here's a cool video someone crafted for "Sickened" using clips from the new Evil Dead movie. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the remake. Certainly the goriest theatrical release movie I've seen in years. If I was 14 and seeing that, I'd want to start a Death Metal band all over again.
So here are the transcriptions for these. I use Guitar Pro 6 to transcribe well, pretty much everything at this point. I've posted the .gpx files from that program and .pdfs of the tab for those who don't have it. 
So here are the Guitar Pro files first.
And here are the .pdf files.
As far as playing these tunes, they're far from our most technical, Open The Abscess is really just difficult to hear on the recording, which I suppose is why folks have requested the transcription. The tempo shifts are very, ahem... "organic" on the record so don't pay too much attention to the tempos on the transcription.
Sickened is a pretty straightforward Death / Thrash kind of thing, lots of speed-picking going on. I've included the tapping sequence that's my "solo" and the harmony for it. When we recorded Necrocracy, this was the first song Bud recorded a lead for, and what you hear on the album is literally his first take. I have no idea what he did (and he probably doesn't either) but it's definitely beyond my ability to play or transcribe, so... good luck on that one, haha!  Anyway, enjoy.
Harvey and the usual gang of idiots

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Let's talk about Leprosy

So, full disclosure, this post isn't about Exhumed really at all. If you wanna read about Exhumed, I'm working on some new posts, I swear. 

After getting the deluxe reissue of “Leprosy” in the mail, I immediately headed for the liner notes. What can I say, I'm a liner notes guy, and I've heard the album hundreds and hundreds of times by this point, so this was something new to dig into (I did enjoy the rehearsal disc quite a bit though). I liked them, but I felt like I didn't quite get what I was looking for out of them, so I decided to write my own. That may seem unnecessary, or pompous, or both (probably both), but hey, it's my blog, so fuck it. I'm going to reitereate some thoughts that I shared with Death / Schuldiner intellectual property manager / lawyer (also Relapse's lawyer) Eric Grief when I met him the first time in Calgary. Eric booked our show there, and we chatted for quite a while about his involvement with bands like Morbid Saint, Viogression, Morta Skuld, Num Skull, and the early days of the Milwaukee Metalfest, but his management of Death was the topic I was the most interested in. The reason this is noteworthy is that my conversation with Eric is (I think?) one of the things that eventually led to my getting contacted to be part of the initial incarnation of the Death To All tour – I'd like to think that that was in part due to the thoughts on Chuck and the band's legacy in general, and Leprosy in particular that I shared with Eric that night. At any rate, let's talk Leprosy.

I got this flyer outside my first metal show, Anthrax, Exodus, and Helloween at the Henry J. Kaiser Auditorium in April 1989. Although my parents didn't let me go see Dark Angel and Death, I had the foresight to hold onto the flyer. I also unfortunately colored it in with crayons - because I was 13 years old. Kids. Sheesh.
When Leprosy came out in 1988, Death Metal was still predominantly a tape-trading phenomenon. With the dissolution of the genre's originators Possessed the preceding year, there was definitely a sort of Death Metal “Power Vacuum.” Up to that point, Possessed (along with Celtic Frost) had been the most visible Death Metal band, even though their swansong “The Eyes Of Horror” was more Thrash than Death Metal and their sophomore album “Beyond The Gates” was hampered by terrible production. Other (signed) bands that were arguably part of the seminal generation of Death Metal acts like Celtic Frost, Onslaught, Sodom, Kreator, and Sacrifice (yes, I know they're all considered “Thrash” now, but I'm talking about 1987 “Death Metal”) had unilaterally moved on to less extreme pastures by 1988. Thrash Metal had successfully broken through to a much wider audience in 1986, and people were waking up to seek out sounds heavier than Metallica.

That was the overall climate that greeted Leprosy – a golden opportunity for the right band to step up and put the burgeoning Death Metal scene on the map. There were thousands of rabid headbangers slinging demo tapes through the mail from Necrovore, Slaughter, Morbid Angel, Desecration, Necrophagia, Insanity, Genocide / Repulsion, Master / Deathstrike, Devastation (Chicago), Sadus and Autopsy, but Death had a serious leg up on the rest of the genre – a record deal. That may not sound like much in 2014, but this was the 80s, and to get out of the tape-trading scene and into the underground proper, a deal on a label like Combat Records (Metal Blade or Noise Records would have done as well) was essential. With all of those factors in place, Chuck and the recently co-opted Massacre line-up (minus vocalist and former Death drummer / vocalist Kam Lee) made what is referred to in the biz as “the right record at the right time.”
Press clipping from "Power Metal," sometime in 1988. "Power Metal" was Hit Parader's Thrash Metal magazine, and every issue featured Metallica, Megadeth or some combination thereof. The "writing" was terrible, but you could find out about new albums and get neat pictures to keep in a box for 26 years and then post on your blog later. Also, Chuck's quote there is endearing. 
Scream Bloody Gore had been comprised mostly of marginally re-worked (see the no-longer-Satanic lyrics to “Infernal Death”) tunes from the band's demo days, but newer tunes like “Denial of Life” and the title hinted at Chuck's musical ambition. Those tendencies were prominently displayed on Leprosy - the album was easily the band's most “musical” record. It represented, for all intents and purposes, a quantum leap forward in musicality for Death, with articulate solos (and also solos by Rick Rozz), novel drum parts, occasional unorthodox time signatures, and sophisticated (for 1988) production values. That the album sounds so grimy and old-school in hindsight is a testament to the level of sophistication that (for better or for worse) has made its way into the genre in the ensuing years. This was the first widely available Death Metal album that was difficult for Thrash Metal fans to laugh off as noise – not only due to the album's comparative refinement, but also thanks to Slayer's Reign In Blood, which had readied the Thrash Metal audience's ears for harsher sounds.

A couple of observations regarding musicality and extremity in Death Metal circa 1988 are helpful to keep things in perspective, lest we start to laud Leprosy with unrealistic levels of praise. One thing that's disturbing is the cult of posthumous "Chuck-worship" that now clouds serious analysis of the band's musical catalog - I love Death, but crediting them with the "invention" or "revolution" of Death Metal in the 1980's is at it's most accurate, a drastic oversimplification. They were certainly the breakthrough band of the genre, but it's worth noting that None Shall Defy by Infernal Majesty pre-dates Leprosy by a year and boasts a level of musical sophistication and clarity well beyond Death and Possessed albums of the same time (in fact, their demo sounds much better production-wise than Scream Bloody Gore or Seven Churches). For whatever reasons, be it bad promotion / distribution, line-up problems, atrocious cover art, a stupid-looking logo, goofy band photos, or just being a Canadian band, they never caught on the way Death did. I've often wondered if some of the riffs on Leprosy and Spiritual Healing are indebted to Infernal Majesty. Furthermore, by the time Leprosy was released, Napalm Death (on their way to co-opting the Death Metal scene that would shortly return the favor) and Carcass were already cranking out far heavier, harsher sounds across the Atlantic, but wouldn't resonate with American Thrash Metal audiences for a couple more years (Carcass' tour supporting Death didn't hurt in that regard). Ultimately, Death was extreme enough to be musically shocking and something "new" to the larger Thrash Metal audience, but was still within the average Slayer fan's musical "comfort zone."
Let's be honest, this cover totally sucks. Great record, but... damn. 
Not only was the album sonically in the right spot, it featured professional cover art and an extensive cassette j-card, that even featured the logos of the band's instrument endorsers. There was no doubt from top to bottom that this wasn't just another tape-trading basement racket (as much as the aforementioned Leprosy-era rehearsals might put that statement to the lie at the songs' core) – this was a real band. 

Leprosy and Scream Bloody Gore J-cards compared. 
Leprosy (above) and Scream Bloody Gore (below)
J-cards, interior comparison
To be fair, I suppose both of the Death J-Cards are nicer than most Death Metal cassettes of the era, which looked like this - a thumbnail of the square LP cover with the logo and album title below.
That perception was cemented by their inclusion on the Ultimate Revenge II video tape. At the time, music videos for Thrash Metal bands, even those on major labels, were scarce, so a music video for a Death Metal band would be unthinkable. Now, not only were Death included on a video, which was rare enough, their performance was actually moderately competent in comparison with the other, more ostensibly "accessible" bands featured (certainly tighter than Dark Angel's, although they lacked the polish and flash of Forbidden). Most importantly they certainly stood out as the heaviest footage on offering. Again, all of these factors, along with positive press coverage at a time when most Death Metal bands' demos were mercilessly slagged by the press, were telltale signs that this was a legitimate band to be taken seriously by Metal fans, a feat as yet unaccomplished by a pure Death Metal band at the time.

Ultimate Revenge 2 in all its analog glory, on VHS and Cassette. And yes, I just happen to have this crap lying around after 25 years. Don't fuckin' worry about it.

"Forgotten Past" from the Ultimate Revenge 2
Leprosy era article in Metal Mania from sometime in 1988. I had this on the wall at our rehearsal room when we were practicing for Anatomy is Destiny. We practiced so often I used to literally read the article while we were jamming.
The lyrics also had achieved a level of comparative "maturity" – gone were Scream Bloody Gore's lurid nursery rhymes about “Vomit for a mind, maggots for a cock.” In their place were cautionary (but still morbid - see what I did there?) tales about deadly disease, death by misadventure, and the inevitability of death and it's impact on life. Okay, well “Choke On It” may not have had much depth, but the fact that any of the lyrics had any depth was something in and of itself. Until Leprosy, the entire Death Metal genre's lyrics (except for Master's quasi-political, apocalyptic material) had consisted of two topics: Satanism (or occultism in general) and horror movies. Here was somebody at least saying something. Sure, the nursery rhyme aspect was still there, but lines like:

Life will never be the same
Death can never be explained
It's their time to go beyond
Empty feeling when they're gone”
(From "Open Casket")
had more to say than:

Trying to escape
They torture you by cutting off your cock
When you're dead, Upon your bones they'll feast
Your brains they'll eat and chop.”
(From "Torn To Pieces")

In the end, I suppose terms like “listenablity” or “maturity” are all academic if the album sucks. And Leprosy categorically does not suck. Front to back, it's all killer and no filler. Every tune oozes aggression and maintains a gloomy, morbid vibe. In short, it sounds the way Death Metal is supposed to sound, but clear. And the clarity of the recording only makes it heavier and more authentic. Where Scream Bloody Gore sounded like it was recorded in a warehouse in between bong hits (mostly because it was), Leprosy boasts a clear, balanced and powerful mix. Bill Andrews' precise and creative (at least in terms of where Death Metal was in 1988) drumming and Terry Butler's dutifully clanking bass-lines fall seamlessly into alignment with Chuck's cranked Marshall. Songs like “Leprosy” and “Pull The Plug” exercise a degree of restraint absent in most Death Metal up to that point, allowing riffs to develop and build effectively (effectively being the operative word) rather than plunging hell-for-leather into chaos. Sure, speed was still there, but the band's sound had filled out and found a heaviness that hadn't been as prevalent since the Mantas days of bludgeoning Hellhammer-esque riffs. Was Scream Bloody Gore more deranged? Absolutely. Was it more evil? Sure, in fact it's still my all-time favorite Death album. But was it as good as Leprosy? Objectively, no fucking way. 

To top it all off, Chuck's leads were downright classy for a Death or even Thrash Metal band of the day (and were certainly miles ahead of leads by Slayer and Kreator at the time in terms of being “musical”). But just in case things were threatening to get "pretty" or overtly "melodic," Chuck was counterbalanced by Rick Rozz's frenzied divebombs and whammy bar abuse. A quick word about Rick Rozz's oft-maligned guitar-work: the guy knows how to phrase a catchy, memorable solo, which is no mean feat when 90% of his stuff is just tremelo bar pull-ups and dives. His absence on subsequent albums helped cement the band's reputation for musicality and guitar heroics, but at the cost of aggression in the leads. Rick Rozz fucking rules, end of story. And no, I'm not gonna call him DeLilo. To me, he will always be Rick Rozz. At any rate, the songs managed to tick all the musical boxes: heaviness; speed; skill; and they even managed the Death Metal genre's first real vocal hook with perennial crowd-pleaser “Pull The Plug.” My personal favorite track is still “Left To Die” which features my favorite Chuck vocals of all time and the best kick-snare beat turnaround since “Battery.”
So basically, what I'm saying is: "Nice job, these guys"
Now, twenty-six years later (Holy shit! I'm old!) it's painfully clear that Leprosy was the album that not only cemented Death's reputation, but put the entire genre of Death Metal, the Florida Death Metal scene, and Morrisound Studios on the map. Two years later, as Thrash Metal largely dried up creatively (and soon after commercially) the Death Metal genre was moving from strength to strength. A host of bands emerged from the same tape-trading scene that had devoured Death's “Back From The Dead” and “Mutilation” demos, and the whole movement had finally gained serious traction among underground Metal labels and fans alike.

By 1990, Thrash Metal had been rendered completely irrelevant to my circle of friends and I, and to many other like-minded kids around the world. New and more commercial albums from bands like Metallica, Slayer, Kreator and Testament were met by a collective shrug - our fandom had been wholly subsumed by the Death Metal movement that began taking the underground by storm with the release of Leprosy

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fresh Blood - (Some of) Exhumed's favorite opening bands

As a guy that plays in a heavy metal band, I hear a lot of heavy metal. Because Exhumed is always on the road, I'm attending about 150 shows a year. So one thing that I don't really do is track down new heavy shit to listen to because I just get to be totally saturated with it – just like the guy that works at the Twinkie factory probably doesn't eat that many Twinkies. Okay, who am I kidding? That guy probably eats Twinkies morning noon and night – I know I would. Anyway, to balance out the heavy shit I'm bombarded by day after day, I listen to a bunch of different music – some of it sentimental, some of it funny, some of it atmospheric, some of it funky, whatever. That said, I always love listening to the classics, many of which I covered a couple of blogs ago, and every so often I come across a new band that really catches my ear. I've decided to dedicate a blog to spreading the love for some of the coolest regional openers (not bands we're touring with, you should hopefully know who they are by now) we've come across that are unsigned, marginally signed, or just not that well known. Hopefully I've talked enough about our original drummer's band with our old guitarist Mike Beams Mortuous enough that some of you have checked them out and the Decibel review for my buddies in P.O.O.R. should have nudged you in their direction (I also did a couple solos on their record), so I kept this to bands that we've played with since last summer. There are always more that I could mention, but I thought 11 was good for the sake of readability, and I'm sure I'm forgetting some of my faves, so please don't think this list is totally comprehensive. One of the questions I get a lot is, "what new bands are you into?" so here's the answer(s). If any of these guys tickle your fancy, please support 'em. They're all good dudes making good music, so whatever my endorsement is worth, these bands have it.
- Matt and the usual gang of idiots

Angelust – we played with Angelust in the unlikely locale of Peoria, IL – yes, Exhumed plays all the hotspots! Anyway, these dudes were a lot of fun live with their punky Black Thrash. Their demo is a bit lopsided, but the first track “Rock and Roll Funeral” was on heavy rotation in our van after the show for a couple weeks, which is pretty unusual - in a good way. If they can keep writing songs this good, Midnight may have some competition on their hands. Let's hope so, cos I can't really get enough of rock-infused Black Thrash.

Bastard Deceiver – I'm pretty sure this band broke up, which is too bad. If not, please let me know and I'll edit this post. This Tampa-based Grind band fused a lot of early Bolt Thrower into their sound, which was a cool contrast to the Terrorizer and D-Beat stuff that comprises most of their sound. Their “Normal Life Provides Nothing” EP is a fucking ripper. You can check it out at their Bandcamp page and download it for free (or pay if you're a nice person). We played with them twice in 2012, once in Tampa and once in Houston, and both times, they totally ruled. Yes, they have a female singer, does it really fucking matter? It's 2014 people. Anyway, check these guys (and girl) out.

Coffin Dust – We've become pretty good friends with Coffin Dust guitarist / vocalist Matt “Slime” Ferri. We prevailed upon him to design our recent “Ravening” shirt, as well as to tattoo Bud, Rob and myself with the Ghostbusters logo, which capped off one of the funnest nights in memory. But even if I didn't know him, I'd still think his band was awesome. Taking thrashy Goregrind into weird arrangements with killer melodies, their debut “This Cemetery, My Kingdom” is a kickass Death Metal album that you can actually sink your teeth into and get some repeated listens out of. Check it out for a measly $5 here. The songs are kind of long, but in a good way, each riff and melody gets some time to develop and be enjoyed. Very fucking cool stuff. If you meet Matt, ask him to show you his epic Slayer tramp stamp. Seriously.

Kaliya – I actually gave Kaliya guitarist Ben Cooper some guitar lessons and the more he told me about his band, the more I figured they must be pretty good. I was right. Metalized D-Beat with a nice touch of melody is what these guys are all about, and they do it really well. We played with them in Dallas on the Dying Fetus tour, and they were killer live as well. I was grinning with pride like I had something to do with it all night, saying “that guy took a couple guitar lessons from me, his band is awesome!” To clear the air, they were awesome before I had ever heard of 'em. If this sound is something you're into, give these dudes a listen.

Madrost – from a bit closer to home, these guys are an up and coming Orange County Death / Thrash band well worth checking out. After chatting with a couple of the guys before our show at Chain Reaction with Iron Reagan, they asked me to check out some of their set. They were really nice, sincere dudes, so I agreed just to be polite. To be honest, I get so burnt on checking out bands, I have a hard time getting the motivation to watch the locals, especially in an alcohol-free venue like the Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Anyway, I made sure to check them out and not be a totally jaded dick, and ended up being really impressed. The demo / EP CD they gave me was also killer, with nods to SBG / Leprosy era Death and mid-period Kreator, stuff I still listen to like it was brand new, 25 years later.  You can check out their "Maleficent" (wasn't the villain chick in "Sleeping Beauty?" Why do I know that?!?) here. Their riffs are nice and simple, which keeps things catchy and makes it easy to get into these guys right away. Killer stuff.

Mangled (Atlanta) – Not to be confused with the Dutch band of the same name - We ended up partying with these guys all day before the show we did with them in Atlanta in December of 2013, and they were great dudes. We all got along really well and they had killer taste in music, so I was really hoping I liked their band. It's always awkward when you get along with someone but don't like their band. Anyway, I didn't have to worry about that in this case at all. Their “Sewer Metal” EP is killer – shades of Engorged are present, as well as early (like, really early) Cannibal Corpse that make this the kind of crossover-infused, horror-obsessed Death Metal that I really like. Check out their demo for free (or pay for it if you're a nice person) here. These guys should be making a lot of noise, literally and figuratively in the scene very soon.

Maniac – We played a gig with these guys in Madrid in 2013, and we ended up enjoying the shit out of them. These guys (and girl drummer!) churn out Black / Thrash with a serious “Kill 'em All” edge, employing a barrage of killer riffs. Open A string grinding with power chords and tons of attitude always sound great. After their set, I had to pick up their “Black Legion” 12” at the show and I think you should too. Not sure where you can find it, but you can listen to it here. I have no idea what they're up to next, but I bet it's gonna be awesome.

Necrot - Our original drummer, Col Jones, is notoriously picky and pretty much hates every band that's not Repulsion, Iron Maiden, or Sodom. He introduced these guys to me as "the best Death Metal band in the Bay Area." Needless to say, that set the bar pretty high in my mind. These guys undeniably fucking rule and they're one of my favorite new Death Metal acts. Down-tuned, Swedish / Finnish early 90s style darkness that you can pick up for a mere $3 here

Seprevation – this Bristol, UK based Death / Thrash hybrid played all the UK dates with us on our 2013 tour, which were several – London, Newcastle, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Dublin, and Cork if memory serves, so we got a chance to see them a bunch of times and I enjoyed every one of their shows. Evoking all the right stuff – early Sadus, Death, Atheist, Kreator, MassacraDead Head (with occasional tinges of Megadeth and even Morbid Angel) and the like, while managing just the right touch of occasionally 'progressive' bits to keep things interesting, these guys are a great updated take on the most vicious thrash sounds of 1989, which is right up my alley. They have a great EP called "Ritual Abuse" (not to be confused with the classic Num Skull album of the same name, although I bet Num Skull fans would LOVE these guys) that you can get here, and a new album called “Consumed” coming out very soon that I would urge anyone into aggressive, energetic Thrash / Death metal to check out. The EP is really fucking good and the album is even better. If there's any justice, these guys should be a lot more well-known in a year from now. They even made a nifty official video you can watch below.

Teething – we did a couple shows with these guys in Spain in 2013 and they blew me away with their ferocious, hardcore (not like Hatebreed, the old, fast kind) infused Grind. Filtered through the notorious HM-2 pedal, Teething push everything into the red and keep it there. They brought a ton of energy to the stage and their records are just as good. Highly recommended grind, and you can download their excellent split for free with Ravage Ritual at their bandcamp page! It's fucking free, check it out! They also have some of the best shirt designs I've seen in years and are really good dudes, so win-win-win. 

Xingaia – We partied with these guys in Spokane after our show there with Suffocation and had a great time. They kind of remind me of Mangled (or vice versa, since I heard Xingaia first), but they're a bit more brutal, with some pretty blistering tempos and some quirky, non-typical technical riffs here and there. Again, I got a bit of an Engorged vibe from their kickass self-released full-length (not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination) from these dudes, especially with the samples between songs and shit (the Aqua Teen Hunger Force sample here is genius) but they're definitely doing their own thing, and ruling the shit out of it. You can preview the record here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Inside the Electric Circus: Exhumed's life on the Intoxicated Holocaust US tour, Part I

Exhumed Intoxicated Holocaust tour diary: the US leg part I

When we were approached about this tour, we were on board as soon as we heard about the killer line-up. Toxic Holocaust, Ramming Speed and MammothGrinder are bands that I actually listen to, which is pretty rare for bands formed after 1985. I liked that all the bands were different, Toxic doing their crust-thrash thing, Ramming Speed doing their NWOBHM-infused crossover, and Mammoth Grinder with their down and dirty caveman-level death metal. After all the touring we've done, it's become obvious that a good package helps to get people in the door – we'd already played all these markets with Dying Fetus in October and then played half of them again with Iron Reagan in December. We had our customary weekend of rehearsals before embarking on the road. We added “Your Funeral, My Feast” to the set – it was the last song on All Guts... we had yet to play live so we figured we should go for the complete set. We also worked out “Carrion Call” from Necrocracy for this tour but it wasn't coming across live the way we wanted it to, so we dropped it after a few shows.
"Your Funeral, My Feast" and "Limb From Limb" live in Santa Ana January 2014

Mike, freshly relocated to Tampa, Florida, flew into San Francisco, as did Bud, albeit from North Carolina. Rob took a train from Santa Ana to Grover Beach and hung out with my visiting girlfriend and I (speaking of commuting, she's from the UK) for a night before the inimitable Dr. Philthy came and picked us up in our battered van. Our van's sliding side door didn't open and neither did one of the back doors, and it quickly developed an oil leak which you'll hear more about later. So we started the tour in a rolling death-trap.

We drove north to San Jose to rehearse in the Cretin (featuring Exhumed alumnus Col Jones and Matt Widener) jam space, which was empty since they were recording their new album “Stranger.” Bud's parents still live in San Jose, in the same neighborhood I and all the original Exhumed guys grew up in, so we crashed there for a couple of nights. After scraping the rust off on during the first day's rehearsal and raiding Bud's parents' liquor cabinet that night, we dropped my girl off at the airport and went back in early for the second (and final) rehearsal so we would be done in time to catch the 49ers / Seahawks NFC championship game. The rehearsal was a success, the game not so much, but the pizza and beer more than made up for it. After plundering Bud's folks' liquor again I decided to call it a night when Rob and Bud's wrestling resulted in cracking one of the walls. The next morning I was feeling pretty hungover as we headed north to Chico for the pre-tour warm up gig we had scheduled for Monday night.

Our Monday night gig turned out far better than we had expected, with a hundred people coming out and making us feel very welcome in their small college town. We headed to the promoter's pad to crash where we enjoyed his very large dogs and semi-functioning hot tub. We had the following day off to drive up to Seattle to start the "official" tour, which we spent touring the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico. The tour is free, informative and most importantly they give you tastes of different beers. All you have to do is book a tour in advance (we booked it the day before). One caveat, make sure your ID is valid, because mine is expired and I didn't bring my passport, which meant I wasn't able to taste any of the beers. Ouch. We grabbed In-and-Out Burger and spent the rest of the day and night in the van.

The badge of shame I had to wear since I didn't have a valid ID with me.

L to R, Bud, Dylan, and Rob testing hops at Sierra Nevada.

Mike with the Sierra Nevada vats as beer gets heated (if I remember correctly) along the way to deliciousness.

Yes, that big copper thing behind Mike is full of beer.

The Sierra Nevada brewing facility is disturbingly clean and sterile.

Entrance to the shwag store.

The view from the taproom where I enjoyed some really delicious... lemonade.

We arrived in Seattle with plenty of time to spare and were soon met by the Ramming Speed guys in their patented rusted-out short-bus. We had met them at the end of the Dying Fetus tour when we did a one-off show with them in Raleigh. We hit it off with them swimmingly, by that I mean we drank until about 4:00 am with them, shouting Iron Maiden melodies. We were very familiar with the venue, Studio Seven, which has become our go-to venue in Seattle, so as soon as doors opened we loaded in, grabbed showers, and made ourselves at home. We play there so much we've become friends with the owners and always have a great time there. The Mammoth Grinder dudes rolled up in Toyota, which was a bit unusual, but we learned that Mammoth Grinder and Toxic Holocaust were using Ramming Speed's backline – so we were carrying about four times the gear of all the other bands combined. It was the same case when we toured with Fetus , I guess we're stuck in the 80s mindset that excessive guitar cabinets and elaborate drumsets are essential. I can live with that

The Seattle show was predictably killer and we ended up partying at the venue until about 5:00am. The next day, the other bands headed to Canada for the Vancouver tour stop. We opted to play it safe and stay in the good ol' US of A, even though we were admitted into Canada last year with Fetus, we felt it was too dicey to risk for one show after getting turned away in 2012 (on our tour with Municipal Waste and Napalm Death). Even if the Canadian border cops decided to allow us in the country, we could potentially be charged $800 just to cross the border (Mike, Bud, the good Doctor and myself all have drunk driving convictions – leading the Canadian government to require us to each to purchase “Temporary Residence Permits” each time we enter the country for $200/person, or potentially not let us in at all as happened ) so we opted out and instead headed to Spokane, Washington to do our own show.

My favorite thing about playing the Hop in Spokane is the shop Time Bomb across the street. When we played Spokane with Suffocation in April, I had spent $60 on Marvel Super Heroes Slurpee cups from the 1970s. Yes I have a girlfriend, and no she isn't imaginary, I swear. This time however, Time Bomb was closed, but a sister store, GiantNerd Books, had opened next door. I was able to pick up a couple of very rare Jack Kirby comic mags from the 70s – SpiritWorld and Days of the Mob. To say my day was made would be a dramatic understatement. The show was pretty decent, our friends in Xingaia supported (and Christine, one of their girlfriends, their pr person and all around fun gal brought us insanely delicious baked goods to munch on again, which ruled), playing their thrash-infused hyper Death Metal with a sneer and some hilarious samples spliced in. We went to one of their houses for a party afterward, but I bowed out relatively early after a rapid succession of vodka-and-something shots. The next day I was still in pretty rough shape.

Our van was also in pretty rough shape. The oil leak we'd spotted hadn't improved - in fact it had gotten worse. We went to a mechanic who fixed the leak, and then informed us that our transmssion was in terrible shape – which we kind of knew already. The mechanics were literally shocked that we intended to drive from Portland to Oakland the following day and predicted categorically that we'd be broken down on the side of the road than to be enjoying a juicy Nations hamburger in the home of our favorite football team. Sufficiently spooked, we seriously considered that our semi-faithful van (we had already put a new engine in it) might not pull through. We scrambled for options, and ended up finding a rental van in Portland through Bandago – who specialize in renting vans to touring bands. Their services aren't cheap, but inlcude a decent amount of mileage, roadside assitance and brand new, perfectly maintained vehicles. We decided to bite the bullet and spend the cash on the rental van, which meant that we'd all be going home with a significantly smaller amount of money than expected at the end of this tour, especially since we were planning on buying our plane tickets for our already-scheduled European tour with Toxic Holocaust out of the profits from this tour. But we simply couldn't afford to drop a new transmission in the van right at that moment (we didn't have time to anyway) and we couldn't risk not being able to finish the tour in our old van. We hitched the trailer to the rental van, and decided to drop off our van in San Jose at Bud's parents (who are total lifesavers). The Portland show was fun, but because my ID was expired, I wasn't able to drink any beer at all again (I think between that night and the brewery tour, I've learned my lesson) and we ended up at Sizzle Pie, the pizza joint owned by Matt Jacobson (who also owns Relapse Records, you might have heard of them?) for some complimentary slices. We finally left town about 3:00am with both vans, and headed to the Bay Area.

The Oakland Metro Opera House before the show

Mike Hamilton, booze advisor

Turning garbage into gold: Mike's old drum head with some of my scribbles, an old set list (that was there already) and our signatures. This netted us dozens of... cents at the merch table.

I love the Oakland Metro, love the city, love seeing old friends, hanging with Mike's brothers and assorted family members and even just driving by the Oakland Coliseum makes me a little misty-eyed, even if it's been 12 years since I've had reason to be optimistic about a Raiders season (and yes 510 purists, I know I'm from the suburbs!). We did end up enjoying that delicious Nations cheeseburger after all (salmon burger in my case, if you wanna get technical about it) before the show, enjoying an East Bay tradition. We had played the Metro with Iron Reagan and local support from the awesome Necrot on a Monday night in December and it had been a solid show, even after having been in San Francisco five weeks eariler with Fetus, so we were anxious to see how it would go on a Saturday night with a fully stacked tour package. Suffice it to say, the night did not disappoint.

We had to split fairly soon afterwards, to drop our ailing van off at Bud's folks in San Jose and then stop by my place in Arroyo Grande to drop off some gear and pick up some other gear before the following day's in-store at Grill 'Em All in Alahambra and show at the Joint in Los Angeles. We had a great time and a great meal at Grill 'Em All, who added their first vegan item to the menu for Toxic Holocaust (Joel's been a vegan for four years or so), some TH-themed fries. I went for the spicy Napalm Death-themed burger and did not regret it at all (as much as my underwear might disagree). The staff were awesome, welcoming, and generously pulling pints of beer, so it was a great warm-up. The show at the Joint (where we had hosted our Necrocracy listening party night) was destined to be packed – the venue was woefully undersized, really more of a bar than anything and it was quickly sold out. While we played, I could see kids looking in through the windows, watching the show from outside. It was a trip. We partied with tons of friends and familiar faces, then after the show we headed further south to Santa Ana to crash at Rob's.
The line at Grill 'em All.

Exhumed, immediately after gaining 8 pounds at Grill 'em All in Alhambra. 8 delicious pounds.

Mike was up early the next day to pick up our sound-guy for this tour, Cephalic Carnage guitarist Brian Hopp who was in town for the NAMM convention. While he was being productive, I dragged my carcass down the street to Charlie's Best, the local taqueria / burger joint for some much-needed greasy fare. Soon we were back at the Constellation Room in Santa Ana, where we had just played a sold-out show with Dying Fetus in October, and even after that, we had played locally with Iron Reagan in Anaheim in December which was a killer show in its own right, so we figured that the show would be a corker. Before the gig we shared a dressing room with the Toxic guys and got a taste of just how much they loved awful music (maybe even more than us??). After being treated to some obscure christian metal jams from the '80s courtesy of Joel and Phil (Nick just sort of hung his head dejctedly and said “welcome to the last four years of my life” as Joel and Phil delighted in knowing every cringe-worthy lyric), we had a killer set, feeling much more at ease with a seasoned guy behind the board.
"Sickened," "Gravewalker" and "The Matter of Splatter" in Santa Ana

After the gig, we piled in the (admittedly much more comfortable) rental van and headed for Phoenix, where we predictably showed up at Ryan Butler's doorstep at 9 in the morning. Ryan is a saint, aside from engineering and co-producing our last two records and playing guitar in the awesome Landmine Marathon, he lets us hang out at his place every time we roll through on tour (which is about five or six times a year), watch cable TV, shower, do laundry and hang out with his dog Leia (who makes an appearance on our split EP with Iron Reagan). We had played in the area just five weeks earlier with Iron Reagan and had a good show, even after just playing there in October with Fetus, so we felt like we were pretty much a glorified local band at this point. We'd been having consistently good shows in Phoenix, and the package was killer, so we weren't too worried. Our confidence was rewarded, and the energy in Phoenix was killer. 

We always swing next door to Asylum Records to hang out and check out the stock, and I somehow resisted the temptation to buy the Japanese pressing of Spellbound by Tygers of Pan Tang that they had there, remembering how much extra we were spending on the rental van. At any rate, we made our traditional stop for late night Mexican at Filberto's with Buter and a few friends before packing back into the van to drive to Albuquerque for the following day's show. But that, as they say, is a tale for another blog.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Tabs from the slab continued...

Here's more guitar tablature for you guys to chew on. This time, I've tabbed out the first track from All Guts, No Glory, "As Hammer to Anvil" for you.  It's a pretty straightforward tune construction-wise. The verse, chorus and beginning of the bridge is all built around deconstructing the intro riff, which features a bit of string-skipping alternate picking that's pretty easy to master once you get the hang of it. I got the idea years ago after reading something by Erik Rutan talking about string-skipping exercises he did. The transitions are simple hammer-on ascensions that are our takes on the opening licks in "Back in the Village" by Maiden - or as we referred to it - the "...And Justice for All" lick backwards. Playing it much faster and against F# key of the song (technically C# in our tuning) gives it a different feel than either the Maiden or Metallica takes on the lick (that are in Am and Em respectively). The timing of the chorus riff is loosely based off the chorus riff in "Hypertension" by Razor and the bridge features pretty obvious nods first to Slayer (a bit similar to "Captor of Sin") and then to Carcass (riffing off the chorus in "Swarming Vulgar Mass of Infected Virulency").

I've included the transcription for my solo (or a very close facsimile thereof) here. In doing this, as often happens, I've realized how far what I've been playing live every night has wandered from the initial recording. The first half has some typical stuff that I do a lot, interspersing Adrian Smith-worship minor stuff with occasional spurts of bluesy bits with lots of hammer-ons, pull-offs and triplet timing, and then it goes into a total "Creeping Death" type descent that was just too easy and fun to do, before rounding it out with a quarter-note triplet melody stuff that I so often fall back on for feel and vibe. I'm not sure what Wes played here, but his solo is a killer. If you run into him, ask him for me.

The file I posted here is a Guitar Pro 6 file, which is what we use to send transcriptions back and forth internally. I'm not sure if there's a free way to open the (.gpx) files as I'm not the most internet-savvy guy out there, but the program itself is pretty reasonable - something like $45. I highly recommend it for any guitarists, I use it to write midi drum patterns and all kinds of shit. I tried exporting the file as a .pdf, but it turns into a ridiculously long thing that is of no use to anyone, so... Hopefully you have the program if you're interested.

And for those of you who aren't guitar players out there that are still reading (anyone?  hello?), I wrote an alternate draft of liner notes for All Guts, No Glory that featured a track-by-track breakdown. Here's what I had for "As Hammer..." circa 2011:

I wrote five or six songs for a new album back in 2005, and this is one of the two that we actually recorded for “All Guts, No Glory” (the other being “Cold Caress”). Even at the time, the consensus was that this was the strongest track I had come up with, and it's held up well. Getting it ready for this record, I did tighten up the arrangement (originally there was a weird tempo shift where things slowed to a crawl and there was some atmospheric whammy bar stuff that didn't work that well even then, and definitely didn't jive with the zeitgeist of things in 2011) and shorten the song a little bit to keep it taut and aggressive. One part I kept was one of Mike Beams' old riffs as the tail to the bridge part. I originally wrote this song right before he left the band, and this particular bit was something from his early 90's death metal band Burial. They were a great band, chock full of Mike's amazing riffs, and really good friends of ours in the early days. Their singer, Mark Smith recorded the “Cadaveric Splatter Platter” demo with us back in 1993. Mike was a true gentleman about the riff and was stoked that we used it on the record. Leon actually inspired the title years ago. When Satyricon's “Nemesis Divina” album came out, Leon would always quote the line “I am the hammer, you are the (you have to say this with an exaggerated Scandinavian accent) anwil” which would crack me up. So I had some kind of Hammer / Anvil thing in mind – plus we had already spoofed the band Anvil with “Forged In Fire” back on “Slaughtercult”, so it kind of fit an ongoing motif. I had written lyrics back in '05, but lost them somewhere in the many moves I've undertaken since then, so I just kept the title and vocal patterns (as best I could remember them) and wrote new ones that are probably pretty similar, in all honesty. The bridge part is a little homage to a Tolkein poem about dwarves and their “hammer fells like ringing bells” or something like that, haha!

All right guys, enjoy. Tour updates and photos are coming here soon - here's the link to get the tab.

"As Hammer To Anvil" Live at the Roxy at the Scion / Relapse showcase in early 2012