Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Munsens Interview

The Munsens have been earning regular play in the stereos of The Burning Beard's staff since their first EP, Weight of Night, was released back in 2014, and with the appearance of the follow-up Abbey Rose EP, they set themselves even deeper into the pantheon of bands we've been thrilled to discover.  After their recent US tour, The Munsens were kind enough to share some time with us and answer a few questions, shedding light on the band's background and giving some indications of what they've got planned for the future.


The Burning Beard:  Hi, and thanks for taking some time to field our questions!  First off, how did The Munsens initially come together as a band?

The Munsens:  The Munsens started a handful of years ago in Asbury Park, New Jersey.  At the onset, we weren’t a band in any official sense, we would just jam in our original guitarist’s basement after the bar, generally just playing one riff forever, and then another riff forever, and then another…  Over time it evolved into whatever it is now.  It was slow moving, however; for the first few years Shaun (current guitarist) and I lived in Denver, while our former guitarist, Jon, still lived in New Jersey.  He would come out west for a chunk of time and we would tour or play locally or record.  Whatever the time allowed for.  It was hectic.

Following the release of the Weight of Night EP and subsequent tour, we didn’t play for quite a while, as our original guitarist, Jon, decided he was going to live in Asbury Park, NJ full time and wasn’t going to be able to come out to Denver to join us permanently (or even periodically as we’d done throughout the history of the band).  Shaun and I continued to write and were set on finding the right person to join us, rather than rush a new lineup together.  Ultimately we decided Shaun would move from drums to guitar and we would bring in a new drummer.  We met our current drummer Graham through our friends in Cloud Catcher and we’ve been running with it from there.  We are thrilled to have him in the band.


TBB:  What are the musical backgrounds of each of the members?

Mike:  Shaun and I (we are brothers, in case that’s not clear) grew up playing piano, and then come middle school or so we began playing guitar and bass and playing in shitty “bands” with our friends.  Once I moved to Colorado in 2007 (Shaun in 2009) and we got our own place we started jamming more frequently, with more people, picking up different instruments along the way.

Graham:  I grew up in a musical family and picked up drums at a young age.  I played in garage bands through high school and a couple bands in the Denver area after that.

TBB:  Around what age did each of you start developing a taste for doom metal?

Shaun:  I was always into heavy ‘70s stuff like Sabbath, Zeppelin, and Cream, but I think it wasn’t until I was about 18 when I started listening to more modern doom.  Bongripper's Hate Ashbury and Satan Worshipping Doom were very influential albums for me.  I was really into the way they would build their riffs into these epic climaxes.  That really stuck with me in my songwriting.

Mike:  Somewhere in my teens as well.  I was pretty into faster genres of metal, punk and rock and roll when I was younger.  Got into Pentagram, Witchcraft and some of the better known bands that lean to the doomier side at first, and it rolled on from there.

Graham:  Around the age of 14 or 15, after flipping through my parents records and taking a liking to the imagery and sound of my mom’s Sabbath records.  After that I honed in my taste with heavier bands like the Melvins, Eyehategod, Grief, etc.

TBB:  What are some of the members' favorite bands?  And what are some bands that you think fans of The Munsens would be surprised to know that you dig?

Shaun:  I've been on a ‘60s-‘70s Argentinian rock n' roll kick lately.  Bands like Pappo's Blues, Vox Dei, Color Humano, Manal, etc.  I've listened to an extremely wide range of genres throughout my life, but perhaps some of the more unexpected might be classical compositions from Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner, and New York hip-hop such as The Diplomats (Dipset).

Mike:  Favorites are tough.  I’ve been all over the map, but two that come immediately to mind and I will always hold dear are Pentagram and Lightnin’ Hopkins.  Turbonegro - particularly the Ass Cobra album - is another I am always coming back to.  Denim fuckin’ Demon!

Currently, I am really into a band from Portland called Lonesome Shack.  And to throw out two random ones that people might find surprising, one from the past and one I just came upon - The Chariot and Lebanon Hanover.

Graham:  Some of favorites include The Clash, Converge, Melvins, Annihilation Time.  And not to mention my guy Phil Collins and a love for mainstream hip-hop.

TBB:  Are there any other bands which you feel have probably had an influence on The Munsens as a band, whether in musical style, album presentation, or other ways?

TM:  Neil Percival Young.  That’s the first which comes to mind.  In our early days, Electric Wizard, Witchfinder General, Weedeater, and those sort of legends for sure, though the influence grew far wider as the band evolved.  We listen to and play all kinds of music these days, and I think that bleeds through in our music.  In terms of overall approach, we’ve always respected the DIY avenue that bands like Bongripper take.

TBB:  How did you settle on the name 'The Munsens'?  And is it, as I've always kind of assumed, meant to be like the Manson family meets the Munsters?  Or am I totally off-base with that?

TM:  We’ve yet to hear that one!  But that’s pretty good!  When we moved to Colorado, we had a few friends using “Munsen” all the time, like, “Look at this fucking Munsen” in reference to someone they found ridiculous or someone who was blowing it.  Presumably they got it from the movie Kingpin and the character Roy Munson and the implication that comes with it: “A born loser, a real Munson.”  “To have the whole world in the palm of your hand and then blow it.”  We found it fitting.


TBB:  What was the experience of recording Weight of Night like?

TM:  Recording Weight of Night was a blast.  We worked with our buddy Mike Moebius at his former studio, Moonlight Mile in Jersey City, recording it live and adding vocals and another guitar track afterword.  We recorded that one to tape in a room without air conditioning in the middle of the summer.  Every once in a while we’d have to let the machine cool down and we’d walk to the corner store for beers and pizza.  It was all-time and an experience we will never forget.

As with most of the Munsens stuff from that time, we were on a tight time frame.  I think we went in for two and a half days or something in that range.  Mixing was a bit more tedious as we had to to it all over email with Mike since none of us were staying in New Jersey.  He crushed it regardless and we are psyched on the whole thing.  HOPE YOU’VE GOT SOME FREE TIME THIS SUMMER, MIKE!

TBB:  Looking back, are there any adjustments or full changes you'd like to have made in putting it together?

TM:  Sonically, we were thrilled with that EP.  As far as any wholesale adjustments, it’s always been wishing we had more time to experiment with different sounds and ideas.  If I remember correctly we had to put all the vocals down pretty quickly (no time for pause once the voices were going) and then do the mixing and mastering via email because I was heading to work a job in France and Shaun was headed back to Colorado.

TBB:  How did the process of making Abbey Rose compare to creating that first release?

TM:  We recorded Abbey Rose in Denver with Jamie Hillyer at Module Overload, which was also a good time.  We did this one live as well in the same way as Weight of Night but recorded it digitally and in a smaller space this time around.  The equipment used on this one was all completely different - different amps, different cabs, different drums.  Jamie has a lot of cool equipment so we messed around with some of the stuff he had in studio.

Again there was the time issue due to some of us traveling, and ultimately that is why we released Abbey Rose as an EP.  Though it may be longer in running length than a traditional EP, we weren’t able to put all the time we wanted into it since a couple of us were heading out of town.  We wanted to get it out before we toured this past January, and liked what we had so that’s the path we settled on.  We will put out a full album this summer.

TBB:  What led you to make a part two for “The Hunt”?  Was that something you had planned from the start?

Shaun:  It was an idea shortly after we released the first one.  Both the ending riffs are more or less modeled after each other.  They are very similar in structure.  It’s a bit of a mini story, with The Hunt I being the first half. but they were both just meant to be long, monumental songs.  It was a song we had written before the other three on the EP, and that’s why it kind of sounds a bit different and doesn’t mesh with the theme as cohesively as the others.


TBB:  Since you recently toured the US West Coast, how did you feel about the audience reactions?  Any particularly memorable experiences from that or previous live shows you wanna share?

TM:  This recent tour was hands down the best we’ve done.  Thank you to everyone who came out and to all the bands who helped us out.  Y’all rule.  The last show in Tempe at the Palo Verde Lounge was particularly memorable, both in show and venue.  We’ve played Palo Verde once before and this time we were lucky enough to play with Goya, Twingiant and Grey Gallows.  We were familiar with the former two, but Grey Gallows caught us by surprise and blew us away.  Also, hosted us, so thanks a ton for that!

The show was insane, in our opinion.  Getting to see everyone play on the floor face to face with the audience was so cool.  Reminded me of basement shows we used to attend in New Jersey when we were younger.  One of the regulars at the bar, perhaps an employee but I have no idea, was running some sort of scam there where she overcharged people and just kept all the money.  Not the margin she overcharged.  All of it.  When Shaun called her out on it she denied and denied and denied keeping our $20 for three PBRs.  Finally she folded, pulled the money out of her bra and looked me in the eyes.  “Fine, steal from my children.”

TBB:  You released both Weight of Night and Abbey Rose on cassette.  Was that due to a special fondness for the format, or was it just the best-suited option for a physical release for the band both times?  Any interest in putting either or both out on vinyl/CD/8-track/whatever else?

TM:  More than anything, we couldn’t afford to press a record, and preferred tapes to CDs.  Having some sort of physical product was most important, though I think we all do really like tapes.  We are certainly hoping to put our upcoming release out on vinyl.

TBB:  Both releases were also mastered by Dennis Pleckham of Bongripper, at Comatose Studio(s).  What was that experience like, and how much input did you give him on what you wanted the end product to sound like?

TM:  Dennis is the man!  Both were done via email, and the beauty of working with Dennis is that he knows exactly the sound we are after.  We provided a couple examples and a bit of input and he has nailed both of them.


TBB:  In a world where visas, booking fees, and the like were of no importance, what would be The Munsens' dream gig line-up in which to play?

TM:  We’d take our buddies in TOKE and play an end of the world party in a castle somewhere in Eastern Europe.

TBB:  On a similar but more realistic note, any currently-active bands out there with which you'd be interested in doing a split or collaboration?

TM:  Oh man, so many.  We’d be humbled to be included with any number of bands.  Hopefully we can cut an extra song for something like that.  I was just introduced to a Slovenian band called The Canyon Observer - for the sake of staying topical, let’s say them.

TBB:  So what are The Munsens' plans for the near future?

TM:  We will be headed on a short tour this March on the way to SXSW, starting in Denver for a handful of dates with our friends in Cloud Catcher.  We will be playing a couple Denver shows after that, including Electric Funeral Fest, June 16-17, before we head back on tour in July.  I’d love to say our new record will be out by then, but realistically, that will probably happen a bit later in the summer.  There are a few other dates we are booked on, yet we are unable to announce just yet.

TBB:  Anything else you'd like to say to our readers?

Mike:  Personally, read more.  Don’t get caught up in all the bullshit that is flying around.  Read books.  Make your own decisions.

TBB:  Thanks very much for your time and the excellent music, can't wait to hear what you'll have for us in the future!

TM:  Thank you for taking time for this!

~ Interview by Gabriel

Friday, February 24, 2017

Cartographers Of Nihilism...

Kingnomad - Mapping the Inner Void (2017)


'Swedish psychedelic doom' is a phrase that's pretty reliable for piquing my interest, so when the promo notice for Kingnomad arrived bearing that affiliation, I was geared up to have a good time. And while I was thinking they'd be delivering the psych doom in metal form, the heavy rock I got instead proved just as enjoyable as I'd hoped, with the '70s influences channeled to strong effect without sinking the band into uninventive homage.
There's a bit of a Ghost dynamic to the vocals, but punched up to a less glam/poppy shape, while the guitar swaddles itself in fuzz and the drums work sustained grooves more than sharp snaps. Bass is abundant, naturally, but the band shows restraint with its wielding, preferring to build the harmonies and then use bass for embellishment, rather than setting it as the cornerstone for everything. I was also happy to hear some obscure vocal samples, usually in an occult vein, adding further flavor to the tracks, which bear titles linking the content to Lovecraft, Christianity, and general wizardry for a good-humored melange of doom sauces.
So if you've been wanting something that's heavy and heady, but also shows the band behind it clearly having a good time while playing their tunes, check out this debut album. Ripple Music are handling the release, which is happening today, so hit them up to snag a copy if the sounds appeal to your musical tastes.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Druglord, Ghost, Merlin, Mist, Psychedelic Witchcraft




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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Psycho Foxy Killer...

Strato's - Lo Sbirro, La Liceale, Il Maniaco (2016)


Now here's a cool concept for an album. Recognizing how much awesome music was made for the '70s films of their home country, the Italian quintet of Strato's decided to make three tracks each for some of the biggest genres of that time.
First up is the “Lo Sbirro” trio, covering the style of poliziottesco, which can be roughly thought of as police-focused action/drama films. Hard-driving bass kicks, sharp piano accents, gnarly guitar, jazzy drums, and saucy keyboard come together in a brassy assault of funky rock that fires deep grooves and intricate twists into fantastic form, bringing the energy of the associated films with an undercurrent of their violence.
The second trilogy, “La Liceale”, handles sexy comedies, sounding both sultry and sweet with the mellower arrangements of the first track in this section, “Aperitivio”. The keyboardist, again, does a fantastic job emulating the sounds that inspired the project while bringing more than a few breaths of fresh life to the playing. As that's happening, the rest of the band is getting their groove on, something they get to pick up to wilder, summer-vibe heights with the following track, “Un Goffo Pretendente”, and send into lusty mod jazz territory with “Rossella” after that.
And lastly, “Il Maniaco” digs into the giallo/thriller vein. While there's a few big nods to Goblin, Strato's take things in much more of a melting pot direction, combining influences from a wide stretch of composers and films. For instance, there's the tense guitar-string tapping towards the start of “Delirio Paranoide” leading into a keyboard-charged bridge, back through the tapping, and on into sharp stabs from the keyboard, amped up to near-screaming power. Think murder mysteries, cannibal movies, slashers, invincible monster-men horror; if it was scary or gory, had great music, and came out of Italy in the '70s, you can probably find some tip of the hat to it in this section.
Taken all together, it shows amazing range, skill, style, and song-writing technique from this group. Even without the framework given by the movie homages, it's a great set of songs, but with that context in the mix, it makes for a fantastic concept album that meets and exceeds the ambition of that initial idea. Strato's deserve big recognition for what they've put together here, and even more so for this being their first album. I can't wait to hear what else they'll create, and to get my mitts on a physical copy of this LP.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Arti & Mestieri, Fabio Frizzi, The GTVs, The Rococo Bang, Riz Ortolani




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Friday, February 17, 2017

Fire In The Altar...

Stone Angels - Patterns in the Ashes (2017)


Hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand, Stone Angels bring a brand of slow, steady, old-school sludge with a hint of progress, but never taking a hit in intensity.  Upon purchase, the record is available in three tracks or one long, continuous 20:54 piece.  A nice touch.  
“White Light, White Noise II” opens as an intro with a hail to Lucifer and a set of atmospheric echo from deep within a cavern.  Slow and steady, Stone Angels trudge along as another set of double-tracked guitar rolls in, giving off hints of post-rock without sacrificing intensity.  Stand-out track “Signed in Blood” takes a darker tone as we're brought back into the howling cavern that follows the album through its entirety.  Delicious C-tuned string bends abound throughout the intro, leading into a heavy deluge of great vocal work, heavy on that old school sludge echo.  Anybody longing for the days of '98-2004-era sludge is going to eat this up!  
Rolling right into “For The Glory Of None”, hail Lucifer and we’re dropped right into our heaviest track yet.  Heavy blasts on the ride with a heavy low end as guitars octave above the top of the track, dropping us right back into that blast.  The production throughout the entire record is top-notch, giving it that sound of something that walked out of 2004, but this can really be heard on the starts and stops of “For The Glory Of None”.  Great, dark, heavy, old-school sludge here.
~ Dan

For Fans Of; YOB, Hela, Saint Vitus, Pentagram




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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Null and Void...

Frowning - Extinct (2017)


Swiss band Palmer come to us with their third release Surrounding the Void, a swaying, emotive growler.  Twinkling chords, noodling guitars, and reverb-heavy atmospherics find themselves paired with sludgy riffs and strident vocals as Palmer deftly weave through both light and dark territories with equal parts skill and passion.
The album opens with a snarl of downtuned guitars and heavy drumwork, with occasional dissonant chords disturbing the flow, spiking the riffs with just a dash of pique.  The second track, "Misery", takes things in a decidedly more affecting direction, redirecting the initial angry energy toward the mournful.  Another twist comes in "Artein"'s soft, downplayed moodiness, featuring clean reverb and driving snares.  This is Surrounding the Void's M.O.: overwhelm with heavy, solid songs, then relax and lift with atmosphere.  The two modes play well off each otherthe heavy songs will please any fan of sludge while being nicely melodic, and the atmospheric interludes lend texture to an eminently approachable album.  Fear not, the heaviness is emotive without being saccharine.  Everything in its place.
Every note, every chord, every scream feels distinct and intentionally placed, at odds with Palmer's self-ascribed 'Swiss jazz' influences.  My lack of familiarity with Swiss jazz may be showing here, but these structured songs do not evoke the improvisation that I typically associate with jazz.  If you squint really hard you can hear some of the jazz influences, primarily in the more free form songwriting of the middle portion of the album contrasted by the very tightly structured front and back ("Digital Individual" in particular features some jazz-like solo work) but by and large this is a post-metal release with clear nods to Isis and fellow Swiss group Knut.  Solid on all fronts, Surrounding the Void is not to be missed.
Chris

For Fans Of; Cult of Luna, Knut, Neurosis, Isis, The Atlas Moth

Saturday, February 11, 2017

No Pallid Mask...

Goya - Harvester of Bongloads (2017)


Here at TBB, we've been digging on Goya's releases since the days of their demo, so to say that anticipation has been high for this new album would be a bit of an understatement.  Hearing them grow through their split with Wounded Giant, assorted singles and EPs, and the mammoth concept album of Obelisk (still hungering for a reissue of 777, guys!), I was curious to hear how they'd top previous efforts, and I was not disappointed.
Harvester of Bongloads opens with the three-part, twenty-minute “Omen” (which'll take up the whole A-side on vinyl copies), a shape-changing monster of doom, passing through raging assaults, withdrawn reflections, savory riffs, and flirtations with unhinged outpourings.  Trying to assign too many specifics to it would just be underselling the song, so I've got to resort to simply saying 'hear it on your own, then listen to it again.'  There's a real sense of Goya's song-writing maturation here; while they've capably wrangled big tracks before (go back and listen to “No Place in the Sky” again if it's managed to slip your memory), weaving the moods and sections together as they do here shows them driving to a new level, and imagining what it would be like to hear it played live has my head spinning in overload.
In the second half, “Germination” provides a brief set-up of doom in a more feedback-loaded vein, before “Misanthropy on High” swings in on a sustain transition to snarl and spit its back-broken sense of weight and pain.  It's like hearing sludge's rawest attitude channeled through doom metal arrangements, and the band makes that fusion fucking glow like a black-light poster seen through mushroomed eyes.  The slide into melancholy, almost poignant chording around the two-thirds mark only adds to the feeling that Goya are pushing themselves past the point of familiar comforts in crafting their songs, and if I ever wore a hat, it'd be snapped right off to them for that work.
With “Disease”, the last track of the album, they spin those efforts into some of the album's meanest-sounding material, embracing the sludge-via-doom dynamic in all its violent grandeur, and churning to its disintegrating finish with loads of style.   It's one Hell of an album, in short, with Goya utterly rejecting the impulse to rehash old territory that claims and drags down so many promising doom bands.  Their stars are burning bright and hot, and if doom that doesn't play it safe intrigues you, you need to get yourself a copy of this as soon as possible (official release date's March 3rd, so mark your calendar!).
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bitchcraft, Bomg, Dopelord, Ufomammut, Wounded Giant



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