Can’t believe that half of this year is gone already. With an every increasing writing staff here at Transcending Obscurity, our tastes have become much more diverse as evidenced by this month end list here. As always, we have tried to keep things a bit obscure, so as to cover ground not often tread by metal blogs in general. Here’s what’s been keeping the TO scribes occupied over the past month. ~Shrivatsan R
Aether Realm (USA) – Tarot (Melodic Death / Folk Metal, Self Released)
Deceased are a staff favourite over at Transcending Obscurity. They’ve released some excellent albums over the years and have developed an unmistakable sound and identity as a death/thrash metal band. Our label division even put out an official reissue of their 1997 album ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ over HERE. With a new album slated to come out in the foreseeable future titled ‘Ghostly White’, guest interviewer Tyler Brooks talks to King Fowley about that and the band’s illustrious past.
Transcending Obscurity (Tyler Brooks): You were the first band to ever sign with Relapse records, a label that would become a powerhouse at the peak of early 90’s death metal. What were those early days like?
Deceased (King Fowley): Working with them early on was fun. We were all gung ho and ready to rock. As the label got bigger and successful they sadly lost their way and it got harder to deal with them on a business level. But those early days we will always cheer and thank Relapse for giving us a shot!
TO: You made a flyer that you promised you were going to “out-thrash Slayer” at one point in the early days. Do you feel like you achieved this?
Deceased: Yes! We are still playing 100% deceased music while Slayer to me is playing hot topic metal for a paycheck and a past glory gratification! No thanks!
TO: Many fans consider your third album, ‘Fearless Undead Machines’ to be the album that solidified the Deceased style for years to come. What is it about this album, or the circumstances surrounding its recording, that you feel make it so powerful?
Deceased: I just think it was a heavy metal record in a time when heavy metal was a bad word. We didn’t care; we just lined it up and knocked it down! The songs are very strong on it. I think a lot of metal people related to the horror tinged theme of it. It’s my third favorite Deceased record behind ‘Supernatural Addiction’ and ‘Surreal Overdose’.
TO: Everyone has a favorite Deceased album, and I believe yours is ‘Supernatural Addiction’; ‘The Weird Travel On’ happens to be mine. Do you think that says anything about yourself or the people that choose other albums?
Deceased: It’s always neat to hear why someone has favorite record, details of it etc. To each their own I always say. We all have different names for a reason~!
TO: Modern day death/thrash seems to be used as an excuse for death metal bands to play traditional death metal riffs at hyper fast speeds, but Deceased has always held the thrash side of the moniker in high regard. What is the secret to blending so may influences into a coherent product, while still retaining quality songwriting?
Deceased: Passion for the styles and influences tenfold. You gotta believe! People sadly a lot of times toss shit together to hope its unique when it comes off kitchen sink or half assed. Neither is a good thing. Deceased really does where our metal heart on our sleeve. I arrange everything and I love hooks in songs and memorable music in general. Mindless song writing is a horrible thing. Wasted music as I call it, what a shame
TO: Speaking of influences, you’ve made it pretty evident where your influences lie. It’s clear from the plethora of covers of everything from Cro-Mags and Bad Brains, to Running Wild and Voivod. Why do you feel so compelled to show reverence to so many classics when others may relegate one or two song to their influencers?
Deceased: It’s just a part of it. We take Deceased very seriously in our albums. To let up and have some fun amongst the song writing usually means a cover song tribute to a band or moment in time to us. We have lots of influences so we show it as often as we can!
TO: In 1988, tragedy struck when Rob Sterzel, then the bassist, lost his life in an accident. Many bands are incapable of continuing on from something like that. What helped you to get through dark times in your formative early years?
Deceased: It’s all we knew! Music was our lives and we had to trudge on. Rob would have demanded it. Rob’s death was awful and it floored us. But we took from negativity and made positivity out of a dire situation.
TO: Your style of melodic death/thrash pre-dates even those bands from the Swedish Sunlight Studios period. At a time when melody was probably a dirty word, what drove you towards it?
Deceased: A love for it. I know it’s a big part of my music heart. A good melody is so inspirational to me. We always had hints even at our dirtiest sounds. But it took time to grow as musicians both song writing and playing wise. When it fell into place I was thrilled!
TO: Deceased has consistently released excellent music almost yearly since 1986, whether it be through singles, EP’s, demos, or compilations. How do you keep so relevant years later without burning out?
Deceased: Again you gotta believe. You gotta want it. People that really listen or follow a band can almost always know when a band is mailing it in. We don’t rush into new records or toss out 8 new songs a year just to call it our new record. We got into writing music because it is dear to our hearts. And all these years later it still is!
TO: You’ve said in an interview that you love performing live shows. How does playing live differ from writing in the studio?
Deceased: The studio is a very serious thing at times. You have to keep your mind right. On stage you get to perform your tuned in front of a crowd there (well a good bunch of them) to hear your music. You give it your all and it’s one big thrill ride. I love to entertain and getting on a stage and going for it really makes me happy!
TO: You’ve had numerous lineup changes over the years, mostly stemming from members living all over the country. Les and Mike seem to be such constants throughout most of your timeline. What kind of relationship is necessary between the three of you?
Deceased: Understanding is the key. We are all older now and things like family, work etc come into the mix as you get older. Everyone still rocks when it’s time to do so. Mike didn’t want to play live anymore late 2000’s and we worked it out so he could continue as a studio guy while turning over his live presence to someone else. Les married a gal and moved to Texas. He is still part of the studio band and plays out live with us as often as he can. Being around since 1985 life tosses stuff at ya it’s how ya deal with it that keeps it moving forward.
TO: For ‘Rotten to the Core’, Dave “Scarface” Castillo took over behind the drum kit for live performances. Was this something you had been seeking to do for a while, or was Dave just the perfect fit?
Deceased: After playing on stage as front man in October 31 it just felt right to be upfront. I always found it constricting live to sit behind a drum set on a stool and front a show. Dave is a dear friend and fit right in.
TO: Iron Maiden, or Judas Priest?
Deceased: IRON MAIDEN WITH EASE! Judas priest should have walked away mid-80s for all the following of musical trends to stay current they did. Iron Maiden just keeps on doing their own thing!
TO: Do you have anything to tell the fans about upcoming performance, or the highly anticipated seventh full-length album, ‘Ghostly White’?
Deceased: It’s almost complete song writing wise then the will record. A lot of time and effort has gone into this one. I’m really digging the tunes. It’s very heavy metal this go round with a lot of emphasis on melody, reminds me in spots of ‘Supernatural Addiction’. We are all very pleased!
We’re thrilled to sign Toby Knapp’s black/thrash metal band Affliktor from US. He’s a world class guitar player and is a part of several bands, but his take on a style that’s more often than not associated with lo-fi aesthetics and ‘alcohol-driven’ music is thoroughly refreshing. The debut full length with artworks from a common friend in Mark Riddick will see a release around mid-2017. Watch out for this one.
Transcending Obscurity Records owner Kunal Choksi states, “Toby Knapp is a world-renowned guitar virtuoso and is involved in the creation of music of all styles since the ’90s. He’s been a part of bands like Godless Rising and of late Waxen, Where Evil Follows, Sue’s Idol, Onward, not to mention his prolific eponymous solo band. I first came to know about him when he contributed leads to the recent Fetid Zombie album. When I heard his new black/thrash metal band Affliktor, I was blown. It was refreshing because he’s using his famed method of guitar shredding to play an underground style of music without taking away the intensity or genre’s inherent harshness. The outcome is stunning and I’m pleased to be working with the debut full length of Affliktor. The artworks have been made by none other than Mark Riddick and you can expect a stunning package for this one.”
Toby Knapp adds, “The Affliktor album was originally intended to be a pure thrash album, so the first layer of music is thrashing speed metal riffs. As time went on the album started developing into a new sound. Once the solos and atmospheric guitar effects were recorded the album called for sickening black/death metal vocals. The final result was kind of a technical Black Thrash Metal hybrid. I have been fortunate to have my work released by some of the best labels in the world and with Kunal and Transcending Obscurity Records- the tradition continues.”
In a first, Arallu from Israel sign to the Indian label Transcending Obscurity Records. They happen to be the first band from Israel to be associated with Transcending Obscurity Records and we couldn’t be happier. Their music is scathing black/thrash metal (not too unlike Rudra) and even bears Middle Eastern influences in their music. Their upcoming album ‘Six’ is easily their best yet and is scheduled for a mid-2017 release date tentatively on various formats including box sets and vinyl.
Transcending Obscurity owner Kunal Choksi states, “It is my utmost pleasure to sign my first band from Israel. I’ve always felt a connection to that place and it’s quite fortuitous to receive an email from the mighty band Arallu. It’s just what I was expecting – genuine, vicious yet folk-tinged black/thrash metal music with no compromise whatsoever. The members have been very cooperative and enthusiastic and I’m sure we can do great things together with the new album which should be out in around mid-2017 on Transcending Obscurity Records. Along with Rudra, they’re a great fit and here’s hoping we get to watch the band live soon too!”
Arallu comment, “We would like to thank Kunal and Transcending Obscurity Records for the new record deal. We are looking forward to a great and intense cooporation and we are sure that we made the right choice. We are happy to work with a record label that believes in the ability and the music of Arallu. We confirm our new pre album tour via Metal Gate booking agency and hope to see you all off the stage around east Europe in April 2017! Now we are ready to hit the studio and record our new album titled ‘Six’.”
Yay! We’ve completed yet another revolution around our home star! While we celebrate this cosmically insignificant milestone by resetting our man made Gregorian calendars, the staff here at Trasncending Obscurity wanted to call attention to some of their favorite records from 2016. This combined list is split into Black, Thrash, Death, Doom / Sludge, Post Metal and Grindcore sections to reflect the tastes and preferences of our scribes in a better way. I’m sure even with all of us working together, we will not be accounting for every single standout release. So why don’t you comment below and tell us whether you agree with this list or if you had better albums in mind? ~ Shrivatsan R
Follow flight through his recent experience at this trendy Portland theater with one of melodeath's most celebrated acts. What did they play? Have they still got the magic? Find out here. Supporting acts include Swallow The Sun, Enforcer, Starkill, Increate, and Von Doom.
After working several Australian bands, it made sense to also look into New Zealand, and having worked with Exordium Mors for promotional purposes, it was imperative to reach out and have our first band in the black/thrash style. Their ferocity coupled with their superior songwriting skills make them a band to watch out for.
Kunal Choksi states, “I’m a sucker for black/thrash like early Destroyer 666 but just when I thought those days were gone, I came across Exordium Mors from New Zealand and was astonished not only at their potency but also their progressive leanings. They manage to weave together excellent song structures without diminishing the intensity. The awesome attitude doesn’t hurt either. I’m thrilled to work with this band, my first from New Zealand, for their upcoming full length which promises to be a gnarly affair. One of their songs will also be part of the 2016 label sampler.”
Exordium Mors comment, “We are very pleased to be on Transcending Obscurity Records’ roster, who in our opinion, represents what underground metal should be about. No bullshit, no compromises – just passion for the music and spreading the noise like a virulent disease!
Our debut with Transcending Obscurity Records will be our second full-length, and although it will have the same foundation of frenetic guitar-work, ripping basslines, destructive war-drums and manic vocals; the sound has progressed to a more triumphant and epic sound akin to a great warrior’s death march.
Long time followers of the band will hear new things musically, vocally and lyrically in this album. Simply put, we are very excited for our followers to witness our death-hymns, and believe Transcending Obscurity is the right label for this piece of black art to manifest into physical form. Hail Kunal! Hail Transcending Obscurity! Hail Death!”
As many modern metal bands are striving to play it technical and make metal more intricate and complicated, bands like Colombia’s Witchtrap are proudly waving the old school flag. Having released 3 full lengths and a series of EP’s and splits, Witchtrap’s music has some not so subtle nods to the old guards like Venom, Motorhead, Sodom etc. The band’s most recent full length effort ‘Trap the Witch‘ originally came out last year through the band’s very own Dirty Sounds Records. This album is now being given a wider release courtesy of Hells Headbangers who will be releasing CD, Vinyl and Tape formats of the album on the 11th of November.
Impressed by the denim and leather based old school metal attack, we talked to the band’s drummer Witchhammer about the band’s history and the metal scene in their native land of Colombia. Also, we have ‘Trap the Witch’ streaming in it’s entirety below! So put on your battle jackets, crack open a beer and get lost in the old school charm of Witchtrap.
Who or what is Murashita? Well, if you like sharply-delivered melodic thrash/death metal with a technical edge and good songwriting, then I suggest you check out the below interview with the man himself, preferably while blaring out ‘Inescapable Damnation’ at full volume.
Transcending Obscurity: Introduce us to yourself
I’m Masaki Murashita, singer/guitarist of Los Angeles Melodic Death/Thrash group Murashita (ex-Hemoptysis). I’m also the touring guitarist for Voice of Dissent, and a recording engineer/mixer. I was in a melodic thrash band, Hemoptysis in Phoenix AZ for 7 years, and after after Hemoptysis parted ways, I relocated to LA in late 2013 to begin my solo project, Murashita. The ‘Inescapable Damnation’ EP in was released in October, 2015, and we followed with a Japan tour last September, and are doing dates in the U.S. this summer!
TO: What are your influences?
Definitely classic Metal bands such as Megadeth,Iron Maiden, old Metallica, Exodus, Testament, Slayer,Black Sabbath, etc. Like most metalheads, I grew up listening to their music and they were the bands that opened the door to metal for me. Megadeth inspired me to pick up the guitar and play metal, and Dave Mustaine is definitely a huge influence on me as a guitarist. All the timeless classic metal songs have good memorable riffs, solos, vocal melodies and hooks. As a songwriter, these are very important to me and my ultimate goal is write some songs that will be considered classic Metal songs maybe few decades later.
TO: Name five things you’ve listened to recently that you’d recommend
My recent favourites are:
Voice of Dissent – ‘Hellbent (Left Hand Path)’
Black Fast – ‘I Conspire’
Death Angel – ‘Hatred United / United Hate’
D.R.I. – ‘Against Me’
Sargon – ‘In Contempt’
TO: Tell us about your debut release – Inescapable Damnation
I wanted to make a solo record for about a year before I left Hemoptysis, and my original plan was doing both the solo project and Hemoptysis. However, the band ended right before I hit the studio for the new record, so this solo project became my new main band.
Looking back now, it was definitely a transition time for me. I quit and lost the band that I’ve given everything to for 7 years, moved to LA to start over. A lot of people left when the band was getting close to the end, and it became a major struggle to keep going. I was ready to give up and move back home to Japan, but I just could not give up without putting out something once more, especially since the record that was supposed to happen with Hemoptysis didn’t due to the disagreement of direction with the other members. I wanted to make a record with full creative control and work with the talents that I wanted to work with and have fun with it.
Everything that happened during this period inspired me to write this record.
All experiences whether good or bad turned into a part of these songs as inspiration.
There were times that were really frustrating where things didn’t go the way I wanted. Sometimes the biggest enemy is within yourself and it’s your own emotions. That became a theme of the song, ‘Conquer The Foe’. Emotion could kill someone else or yourself and it’s very scary. We need the discipline to keep them under control which is sometimes difficult to do. ‘Retribution’ and ‘Inescapable Damnation’ are revenge themed songs, but not in negative way. It’s easy to be pissed off and just sit and whine. I converted all my anger and frustration into fuel for motivation and inspiration. Many people are going through difficult times while they are working hard to achieve their dream, and so am I. It’s easy to just give up, but ‘This Show Must Go On’. Not all hard work pays off, but unless you try and put in some effort, nothing will happen.
TO: What’s the process you use for writing songs?
I usually set up a new session on Pro Tools in my studio, and start tracking the ideas there whenever I come up with new riffs and put the basic drums ideas behind it. Then I polish the song to completion. Sometimes I run the drum beat and try some ideas, but usually the songs come out naturally. I don’t try to force writing because whatever comes out naturally is always the best and something you like. Yes, sometimes it takes time to come up with some great ideas, but it’s worth the wait for me!
TO: What’s your favourite song on the album and why?
I like all of them, but Retribution is definitely a special one because it was the first song I wrote as Murashita. Also, it’s the fastest song I’ve written and it shows how pissed off I was at the time! Hahaha!
TO: You have a lot of high-profile guests on this release – how did they come about?
I’ve wanted to work with the musician friends that I respect…I had pretty much no experience working with other musicians besides the band members when I was in Hemoptysis. I was always curious about what other musicians would do with my music.
I was inspired for the whole idea from seeing fusion/jazz artists that I work with as the Directer of Artist Relations at Providence Pedals & Cables including Michael Landau, Steve Lukather, and Larry Carlton, and more. Their live lineup isn’t consistent all the time in a good way. There’s a chemistry in each lineup and have different vibe and that’s part of the excitement. Seeing their shows definitely gave me an outside of box view.
Before I left Hemoptysis, I already had an idea of making a solo record and started writing Retribution. I contacted Kevin Talley to do drums, and he did superb job! At the time, I was still in Arizona, and I knew Kelly Conlon (Death, Monstrosity) already by sharing the stage with the bands he was in then. I’ve seen him playing live, and knowing he was part of the emergence of death metal in Florida back in the day, I was curious what he would do to the song. It was fun recording the track at my studio. We both threw out the ideas and had a blast! It came out great, and it brought the fun of making music back. Having David Ellefson (Megadeth) playing on one of my songs was dream come true. Sometimes it’s still hard to believe it happened, but when I wrote the song, Inescapable Damnation, I wanted him to play bass, so I reached out to him and asked. I’ve known him since he was in a band called F5 while he was out of Megadeth, and have worked with him several times before in the production end. It’s super cool that listening to that song, you can hear him playing. He has that signature sound! Rodney McGlothlin (Voice of Dissent) has been one of my closest friends for few years. I’ve known him since before I move to LA, and I’ve always respected him as a bassist and songwriter, so I asked him to play on few songs on this record. Just like working with Kelly, it was fun working with him at the recording session and he totally rocked it. He now plays bass with this band for shows and we went to Japan together for a tour last September. I never knew we would be playing together when we became friends first. I now play guitar for his band, Voice of Dissent for their shows too!
TO: How was the cover artwork chosen?
I was surfing the web to see some cool artworks and came across Remy at Headsplit Design. He has done some cool artwork and shirt design and I reached out to him and told him my ideas for the artwork. A few weeks later, he came back with that cover art and I was beyond happy how it came out. He is super talented and I get a lot of people saying that it’s badass artwork!
TO: How do you think your music will progress in the future?
I would say let’s see what happens. For me, I don’t try to write to sound a certain way. Whatever the riff or ideas that I come up with and sound good to me is going to be the song, so I honestly don’t know how my music will progress in the future. All I know is I wouldn’t release it unless I feel confident, so it is the best I can offer!
TO: Tell us about your upcoming live shows
Yes, we have a show at the Viper Room in Hollywood on August 8th, and currently booking more shows for rest of the year. These will be announced soon. I’m also working on some out of states and international dates!
TO: Do you prefer your music to be digital or physical?
Physical. The music should be an experience and a form of art. I am probably the last generation of people who used to buy records by the design of the cover art to find new music, put it on the stereo, and read the lyrics and credits. There are metalheads who still do that and appreciate the artists who still consider the cover art, album layout, lyrics page, etc as a part of the product. Printing physical copies isn’t cheap, especially for an EP, and I do not want to compromise when I do it, like printing just the 2 pages panel as I don’t think it’s fair to people who actually bought a physical copy. I don’t feel like I made a record and accomplished a completed project unless I have a physical copy too. I personally never buy music digital unless it’s only available in digital. I like to own a physical copy and read lyrics and credits! As an engineer, I’m always curious to see who was involved in production too.
TO: What’s you view on the current state of the music industry in 2016?
I think we are returning to the early days. Just like everybody says, the record sales are declining and bands need to play shows and sell merch to survive. The chance of getting signed with a label with a decent deal is slim to none unless you are already highly established. That’s basically how it was back in the day. Yes, labels screw bands, but it’s not something new. Read the contract, negotiate and don’t sign it just for the sake of saying we are signed. You are responsible for what you signed. It will never change, just like the pay to play unless bands stop taking it.
I feel the teamwork is lacking and people are just pessimistic about the whole industry and not trying to do anything to improve the situation. Labels don’t have money? Stop signing hundreds of band to make short term profit, then drop them and use them like a disposal camera. Invest and develop the few artists you truly believe in. Bands that complain about why they aren’t going anywhere? Nobody wants to invest in you unless they feel you are worth their time and money. Write good music, have a killer quality record, embrace the online and social media, hire a publicist to promote your songs, work on stage performance, etc. You have to earn it. Labels don’t want to take a risk signing you if you don’t have a good work ethic. Why do your favourite bands not tour often or have disbanded? Buy CDs and merch, and go to shows with friends!
Everybody wants what they want, but we need to work together. It’s time to end the vicious circle and start working together for better future and metal community.
TO: Playing live – essential or pointless?
Essential. Live is an experience and where artists get to interact with their audience and share the moment with their music. Every gig is different and one of a kind. We all get to meet friends and make new friends at the show and have a great time.
TO: What are you up to for the rest of the year?
We will be playing more shows while I’ve started writing new songs for next record.
I’m super happy with the current live lineup and I can’t wait to play more! I also have some shows with Voice of Dissent, so I’m pretty busy the rest of the year.
TO: Any final words?
Thanks for the opportunity and I appreciate everyone who took the time to read this interview. I hope you like the music and if you do, please suggest that your fellow metalheads give it a listen and I hope to get to see many of you soon at the shows! \m/ Don’t forget to follow me on facebook at www.facebook.com/murashitamusic and you can pickup a copy of ‘Inescapable Damnation’ directly from me at http://masakimurashita.bigcartel.com Horns up!