Sacred Reich Look to the Past While Striding Into the Future

Phoenix metal veterans Sacred Reich are reissuing their first two albums — Ignorance and The American Way — plus the 1988 Surf Nicaragua EP through Metal Blade Records, three slabs of old school thrash that have dated remarkably well. Meanwhile, frontman Phil Rind remains a positive force online — never afraid to make his progressive politics public. We chatted with Rind about it all.

BRETT CALLWOOD: You’ve just reissued the first two albums and the first EP — why now?

PHIL RIND: We get a lot of requests for these things to be reissued, and we had the ability to do it. It’s something that we’ve been pursuing for a while, there’s some contractual bullshit that we had to deal with, that we’ve sorted. So that’s why now. As far as mastering, I think The Ignorance and Surf… are a little bit louder, and we pretty much left The American Way alone. We’ve talked about maybe doing some deluxe versions down the road, we’ll see. But for now, this is for the people that are interested in buying this stuff and not buying a ton of money because it was out of print.

It’s a funny story — that’s kinda how we got back together in 2007. Someone said, hey have you looked up your records on eBay, and I said what’s eBay? At the time I had no idea. We looked up Surf and it was going for $50 or $60. I was like, that’s such a rip-off. So I spoke with Brian Slagel and we talked about putting out the records. We did The Ignorance and Surf… packaged together, but it was just import because we had some legal issues. So the idea was being able to put out the record for people who want to hear it, at a reasonable price. That’s what had us starting getting together as a band again in 2007.

When you’re revisiting, how do you feel about the old material?

It’s cool. I haven’t gone back and listened to those records in quite a while. It’s always interesting when we post stuff and to see what people’s reactions are. There’s a group of people that really love The Ignorance because it’s probably our heaviest and thrashiest record. We wrote that record when we were 16 and 17 years old. So there are people that really love that record, and then there’s people that like Surf…, and then there’s people that like The American Way. It’s just fun to see what people react to.

It’s strange to think that what you did as a teen is still out there, being judged…

I think about writing those songs in high school, sitting in my class and writing lyrics. It’s funny that it still comes up.

What do you think of the state of thrash metal today?

I think it’s really great. There’s a lot of newer bands, and then there’s older bands still working and putting out records. I think it’s great. I think there’s so much music out there that no matter what you like, there’s probably something for you.

You’ve stuck with L.A. label Metal Blade — does it just feel like the perfect home for your band?

Yeah. I mean, we’ve had a relationship with them since 1986, and Brian’s always been a big champion of the band. Everybody that works there — metal is their life and we have a great relationship with them. That’s why we’re there. We just trust them and believe in them. That’s what I think it’s important to have relationships based on.

It was disheartening for many metal fans to see Jon Schaffer from Iced Earth invading the Capitol. Any thoughts on that?

I never listened to Iced Earth. I don’t know much about them. Our tour manager toured with them. People believe whatever they want, they do whatever they want, I think it’s nutty but it seems like probably a third of the population of the United States probably agrees with him. That’s the really nutty part if you ask me. That people really believe that stuff. I dunno — crazy times. Between that and a worldwide pandemic, people can’t even agree to wear a mask and that it’s real, I don’t really know where we go from here.

You’ve never hidden your progressive politics though, despite the inevitable mixed reaction. You posted about Black Lives Matter recently, and received a mix of support and abuse. Are you used to that?

I am now. We are a pre-internet band, and so when the last record came out and having been on social media for a while, it’s interesting getting to see everyone’s opinions. I frankly was surprised that there would be so many right-leaning people that like our band. I would have thought that we may have turned them off by now if they had paid attention. Years and years ago, 1988, when we put out “One Nation” [a song on the Surf Nicaragua EP], I remember getting an actual letter from a skinhead. He was upset about “One Nation” — he didn’t understand what the first record was about, apparently. He said that he broke our record and burned our shirt. I just thought, how can you really get it so wrong? Continually, I’m always surprised because I thought people knew where we were coming from and I thought if you liked our band, you probably agreed with our lyrics which obviously isn’t the case either. People like stuff for all kinds of reasons. And plenty of people probably couldn’t give two shits about what we write about, or read it or any of that stuff. I’m surprised still, and that’s just how it is. If people want to like us, I don’t really give a shit. I don’t necessarily turn off Ted Nugent when he comes on the radio, just because I don’t agree with him. I just don’t listen to what he has to say about that stuff, but I still like “Stranglehold.”

Nugent doesn’t sing about politics though — that seems to be the difference. He sings about girls. But if he was preaching his hate in his lyrics, it might be more difficult to overlook. Yet you get right-wingers listening to Rage Against the Machine…

Look how many people don’t believe facts. Look how many people have a hard time deciphering what the truth is. We live in a post-truth world, that people will believe whatever they want no matter how outrageous.

What does Sacred Reich have penciled in for 2021?

We have a bunch of tour dates and we’re hoping to play some of them. I don’t know what’s going to happen in Europe this summer. I don’t really think they’ll allow 50,000 people festivals to happen. But we’ll have to see. We have a tour next November in Europe with Sepultura that’s on the books. We’ll see what happens with that. We’re supposed to go to Australia in October, and Australia is fine with it. Whether they let us in is another thing. But they have it pretty well under control. If we get vaccinated by then and that works — I don’t know, I guess we’re all in this thing together. We’ll figure it out as it goes. We’re just looking forward to getting back out. I’m sure that everyone is looking forward to getting back to their regular lives and going to concerts. All the things that we’ve been missing. We have to hope for the best. Hopefully the one thing that comes out of all this we all just appreciate things a little more. It’s easy to take things for granted. Hopefully it’ll just be a big party when we can come together and enjoy each others’ company and live music. It’ll be wonderful. ❖

Sacred Reich’s The Ignorance, The American Way and Surf Nicaragua reissues are available now from Metal Blade. 

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The Seldom-Seen Band: For Valkyrie, ‘It’s All About Quality Over Quantity’

Virginia-based heavy rock band Valkyrie may not be a household name, but now that they’ve signed with Brooklyn-based Relapse Records, they’ve gotten a lot more publicity for their newest full-length, 2015’s Shadows. Brothers Jake and Pete Adams trade solos and harmonize guitar riffs effortlessly, and the band’s guitar-driven heft, fiery solos, and clean vocals are accessible well beyond their mostly metalhead fanbase.

Jake, the band’s founder and principal songwriter, is a full-time eighth-grade teacher, so Valkyrie is a school-break band, recording and touring during the summer and holiday seasons. When Jake’s teaching, Pete often tours with Savannah sludge band Baroness, which he joined in 2008.

In anticipation of Valkyrie’s show at Saint Vitus on Wednesday, the Voice spoke with Jake to discuss growing up in Virginia, the dynamic of a sibling band, and how he balances Valkyrie with his career as a social studies teacher.

Village Voice: Shadows came out quite a number of years after your previous album, 2008’s Man of Two Visions. What were you guys up to during the seven years in between?

Jake Adams: That was a busy time! My wife and I had two kids, we lived in Honduras for a while, my brother joined Baroness, I finished school, and I got my teacher’s license and started teaching public school. When Pete joined Baroness, they started touring constantly. [It was] a limited time frame [to make music as Valkyrie]. But it gave us time to let the songs stew and ferment. And we would tweak them, so when we recorded Shadows, it just happened really fast. We recorded it in four and a half days. So it was a long time; it’s really not good from a commercial standpoint or maybe even the fans’ standpoint, but it was good for us and the music itself.

I‘ve seen a few different genres thrown around for Valkyrie; how do you describe your music?

Generally I say “classic hard rock.” Sometimes “classic heavy metal.” It’s classic just because our main influences are older, like [a] late-Seventies/early-Eighties type vibe, but at the same time we’re not and never were trying to be a retro band. Especially not compared to the retro bands of the modern age, because we don’t have that aesthetic. We don’t buy all of our clothes at vintage clothing stores and dress like we’re from the Seventies and have Seventies mustaches and everything. We’re not a retro band. But we do have those influences.

I’ve also seen you called a doom band, and that’s not quite right either.

Well, I think at times we’ve described ourselves as “traditional doom,” but, ehhh [laughs]. Virtually all the bands that we started playing with when we were seeking out like-minded bands were all self-identified as doom. The Maryland doom scene is where we got our footing, [with the band] Spirit Caravan being a major influence. But then I realized later, we’re way too positive and upbeat to be labeled as doom. One reason we stopped using [that description] so much is because we played with a lot of bands calling themselves doom, and it was just a snoozefest.

You guys actually played a few shows with Spirit Caravan last year.

Yeah! That was amazing for us — we played two shows one weekend with them. That was a major milestone for us because they were a primary influence when we got started. Even the decision to play music like this was partly inspired by listening to Spirit Caravan, and just being like, man, we gotta get back to this. Pete and I grew up listening to all of our parents’ records, Zeppelin and Sabbath and Hendrix and all this riffy blues-based type stuff, but at the time when I first heard Spirit Caravan I was playing more garage-y, spacey, Wipers/post-Nirvana type rock. And it was just like, man, I’ve got to get back to this.

Did you guys grow up playing music together, or were you each playing and doing your own thing?

We shared a bedroom growing up, and when I learned how to play guitar, I quickly taught him — he’s a couple years younger — and he picked it right up. I mean, his learning curve was much quicker than mine, and he just really ran with it and started mastering all kinds of different styles. We started off with basic punk and rock ‘n’ roll, and then he got into rockabilly and learned a lot of that technique. But we jammed together, we played all the same stuff. [This happened in] the early Nineties, so we were lucky that all the music then was just three chords — we could just play a million songs.

So at what point did you and Pete start writing music together instead of just messing around with covers?

Almost immediately. Even when I only knew how to play power chords, I was writing music, and he was doing the same, right from the start. But we were writing. We had a band together with [John] Baizley from Baroness. He was the drummer, Pete was the bass player, and I was the guitar player, and it was called JAB. I was about fifteen, so my brother would’ve been twelve.

You started Valkyrie in 2002, and Pete joined a few years later. Did you think he’d join the band when you started it?

I definitely didn’t start it thinking, “Oh, Pete’s going to join this band,” because Pete was stationed in Savannah — he was in the Army. And then he got shipped off to Iraq. I sent him our first demo in Baghdad. And he was listening to it over there.

[Before going to Iraq], he was working with Baizley and Summer Welch and Alan Blickle, who founded Baroness. [But] the stuff that Baizley was writing when Pete came back was totally different, so Pete was not really feeling it. So it was natural for him to just do what his brother was doing. It’s just funny how, many years later, Baizley would call on him again and be like, “Do you want to go on tour with High on Fire and Opeth?” and Pete was like, “Uhhh, yeah!” He called me [to ask if it was OK] and I said, “Dude! Who am I to tell you not to do that? C’mon. Thank you for asking, but of course you need to go on tour with High on Fire and Opeth.”

When he then ultimately joined Baroness full-time. Was there ever a time where you thought that he might leave Valkyrie?

No, I don’t think so. I think Valkyrie always has a special place in Pete’s heart. He’s making money doing [Baroness], he’s been making a living off it for a while, so it’s a good gig. But [leaving Valkyrie] was really never part of the conversation. I’m teaching anyway, and I was in Honduras. We have these small windows of time where Valkyrie is available and so we might get a cool offer, but it might conflict with something Baroness already has planned or will soon have planned. I think Pete feels bad about that, but it’s all gravy. It’s all about quality over quantity with us anyway. I’ve been on that academic schedule for my whole life pretty much, where it’s semesters and summer breaks. I’m not trying to make a living off this band; this isn’t my main thing, so it works.

Valkyrie play Saint Vitus on Wednesday, June 15. This interview has been edited and condensed.


Japan’s Babymetal Just Slayed New York With Sweetness

There’s a rabid, swirling moshpit of sweaty dudes with bushy beards, decked out in rock-band T-shirts, and an aggro, two-guitar lineup sporting corpse paint and spewing growly, speedy metallic riffs atop double kick drums. Fans’ fists thrust into the air in salute. But they’re not making the classic metal horns — they’re making the sign of the “Fox God,” the “patron saint” of Japanese idol band Babymetal.

The group is three teenage girls — Moametal, 16, Su-metal, 18 and Yuimetal, 16 — who sing, dance and are unbearably adorable all over the stage, backed by a very talented band. Think of it as Disney-era Britney Spears fronting Slayer. Plus an extra side of cuteness, minus creepy underage sexiness.

Is it a gimmick? Yes. Does it work? Definitely. Babymetal sing almost exclusively in Japanese, and one can imagine, as with Menudo, if the girls “age” out of the band, equally precious and endearing hopefuls will be waiting to don sparkly tights, pigtails, and petticoat skirts. With the giant team of Amuse, Inc. behind them, plus lyricists and songwriters Tsubometal and Kitsune of Metal God, Babymetal have won over, and then slayed, crowds across the world. The 2,100-person-capacity Playstation Theater sold out weeks in advance; overseas, the band headlines London’s Wembley Arena (capacity: 12,500) and Tokyo Dome (55,000) back home in Japan.

But their New York crowd — an eclectic mix of Japanese fans, middle-aged white guys, and cotton-candy-haired girls in cat-ear headphones, all of whom are uniformly mesmerized and enthusiastic — swooned, almost literally, when the girls spoke a few words in English. (One utterance: “You make me happy!”) The NYC audience didn’t care if they didn’t speak Japanese; Babymetal prove music is really the universal language, even if translation uncovers less-than-revelatory lyrics. “Doki Doki Morning,” according to the band’s website, goes: “Straight, straight/My bangs’ end makes a straight line/It’s a cutie style…. Today’s lip gloss shall be that? This? That? Which?” Not exactly Anthrax, but it works.

One of the band’s best-known tunes, “Gimme Chocolate!!,” begs the question: Are Babymetal too saccharine? Thankfully, due in no small part to the exceptional metal chops of their band, and the winning contrast between the heavy music and the girls’ seemingly genuine glee, they manage never to be cloying. They’ve even won over big names in the metal world: Much of the metal press loves them, as do Dragonforce and Metallica.

Coming out for their encore in shiny hooded cloaks, Babymetal, flashing their dimpled grins and Fox God signs, looked like an adorable coven of teen witches, the drama, energy, and theatrics of the fourteen-song set — with tightly choreographed, aerobically challenging routines — entirely fitting for the concert’s Broadway location. Even the most jaded concertgoer must have left with a growing Grinch heart, and probably a Fox God T-shirt, too.


Greenpoint Heavy: Five Years of Metal Worship at Saint Vitus

The exterior wall of Saint Vitus Bar is black, and there is no sign outside marking the entrance. To passersby, the only clue to its contents is the occasional line of fans wearing black shirts with indecipherable band logos. To those in the know, this is New York’s home for metal, hardcore, and otherwise dark and heavy music. “We like the speakeasy appeal,” explains George Souleidis, a co-owner of the venue. “If you know you’re supposed to be there, you go in.”

But Saint Vitus is far from exclusive, and thanks to its fans-and-bands-first practices, the bar has thrived since opening five years ago. It celebrates the accomplishment this week with five nights of shows, beginning April 13. Headlining are Corrosion of Conformity, Pallbearer, Royal Thunder, and 13th Chime — several of which rarely play such small rooms, except in this beloved case.

Pallbearer, an internationally popular doom band set to appear on the fifteenth and seventeenth, made their New York debut at Saint Vitus in 2012. Although the band is from Arkansas, Saint Vitus talent buyer David Castillo sensed promise and flew them in for their first show. “They had just released a demo that was catching fire in the underground and we really liked them at the bar,” he remembers. “It seemed like they were poised for big things.”

Castillo was right: Pallbearer are now bona fide metal crossover stars, getting play on NPR and nods in Pitchfork in addition to metal scene dedication. Bassist Joseph D. Rowland remembers the first Vitus show as “an incredible and memorable time for all of us.” They’re looking forward to coming back, he writes via email. “It’s awesome [to] take part in the anniversary festivities. It’s become sort of a second home — even when we aren’t playing [there] when we play New York, we always make a point to stop in and get drinks.”

Headliners hanging out before or after their shows with regulars is common practice at Saint Vitus, because it’s a venue built for bands to love. “We want to create an experience that’ll be good for musicians,” says Castillo, who along with both his co-owners has played in bands for years. “It’s really not the hardest thing in the world to do; there’s just some decency involved.” Rowland says this is why Pallbearer keep coming back. “The guys that run Saint Vitus make a serious effort to make the experience better for the bands and the fans. They’ve made sound upgrades and space renovations since they opened, and it just keeps getting better.” This is unusual, he explains. “It’s not all that common to find a venue whose entire staff cares as much as they do.”

For all the consideration about improving the concertgoing and -playing experience, though, Saint Vitus wasn’t supposed to be a venue. Burned out from years of touring, neither Souleidis nor Arty Shepherd, the third co-owner, wanted to be around live music every day. But, as Shepherd says, “In New York, when you find a space, your space dictates your business.” The former plumbing school they fell in love with happened to have a back room that would be perfect for a stage, so they built one out, filling the space underneath with several tons of sand to dampen excessive resonance.

Still, the owners planned to host events only occasionally until, in November of 2011, Castillo unexpectedly nabbed Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi for a book signing. It drew a crowd, and with that confidence boost, Saint Vitus became a full-fledged venue. Iommi, meanwhile, became a catchphrase. “Any time we had a dream of something we wanted to do, we’d just say, ‘Tony Iommi,'” Shepherd explains. “It was like, ‘We made that happen, so we could make anything happen. Let’s do it.'”

The bar’s reputation has since reached music-industry echelons that only larger venues usually penetrate. When Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, Saint Vitus hosted the secret-show after-party. The show featured Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and, taking turns filling in for Kurt Cobain on vocals, Joan Jett, St. Vincent, J. Mascis, and Kim Gordon. It turned out that a producer on Foo Fighters’ HBO documentary series had played Saint Vitus with his band. He liked it so much he suggested it for the concert.

Going back to its origins as an only-sometimes-venue, Saint Vitus also hosts events that draw in a larger community. There are weekly metal-soundtracked yoga sessions, karaoke every Friday and Saturday (bands often stick around to sing), pop-up art shows, and music-related book readings in conjunction with Greenpoint bookstore WORD. Michelle Chen, who runs events for the bookstore, says, “We have a huge music-loving customer base, so partnering with [Saint Vitus] is a no-brainer for us.” Bookings are musically diverse, too, since the co-owners are insistent that they book only good bands, rather than only metal bands, some of which are inevitably bad. They point to CBGB, which despite being known as a punk icon hosted all sorts of music at one point or another.

As Saint Vitus moves into its next five years, a changing Greenpoint looms. Condo developments are multiplying, so the owners have added extra soundproofing in preparation for new neighbors who might be inclined to file noise complaints. But rather than being wary, Shepherd and his co-owners welcome them all. “I want people to walk out and go, ‘That’s the best place I’ve ever seen a show,'” he says. “All I ever wanted was for [everyone] to have a fucking amazing experience.”


Hearts of Darkness: Finding Love, the Metal Way, at Saint Vitus Bar

“I’m slutty and weird. Is that strange I’m telling you that?” asks single gal Rachel during the first-ever edition of Speed Metal Dating, at Saint Vitus Bar. She’s come straight from Wiffle ball and is thus clad in sporty leggings, but most other participants — about 76 in all — are in black, a near-uniform mass of leather jackets, jeans, band T-shirts, and tattoos. Rachel, apparently an active dater, spotted another metalhead she’d matched with before on Tinder. Despite their mutual interest, it hadn’t worked out, yet here they were again, both hoping to have better luck this evening, among their people.

The second hopefuls I met were two bald buds from the Newark, New Jersey, area. DJ Dirty Teddy, a self-proclaimed internet troll, was wearing his Sephora-purchased Gucci Guilty cologne to entice the ladies, pairing the scent with torn shorts and a septum ring. Teddy introduced me to his roommate Sean, referencing the powerful vocalist of Judas Priest: “He’s a not-gay Rob Halford.” Sean wore a Venom T-shirt and had written “Dad” on his name tag. His main criterion for a date: “no cocaine.”

While Sean’s shirt went over well with many in attendance, knowledge of that band’s catalog (or those of other speed metal acts, like Judas Priest or Blind Guardian) was not a requirement: This was metal-themed speed dating, not speed-metal-exclusive dating, an important distinction considering the clientele.

As the front bar filled with lovelorn metalheads, there were some shy sidelong glances, but more booze-ordering and phone-staring than true pre-gaming. Hip attendees knew to ask for a “Lemmy” when they wanted a tall Jack & Coke, a recent renaming of the dearly departed Motörhead frontman’s preferred apertif. Those saving pennies for the first dates they hoped to leave with stuck to wallet-friendly PBRs.

While I eavesdropped on the proceedings, an engaging shaggy-haired dude in a sleeveless Batman T-shirt sidled over to the bar: James, 33, guitarist. When he found himself speaking to a reporter rather than a potential hookup, he went into promo mode, pitching me his band, Tower, as “classic metal with a girl singer.” His name tag, which he’d stuck onto a toned bicep, read “Jimbo Slice.” If there are any interested ladies reading this, he would like you to know that he has a sixteen-year-old cat he loves very much and that his band is playing Saint Vitus this Saturday, April 16.

By 7:22 p.m., organizers had filled Saint Vitus’s concert floor with rows of folding chairs, to be occupied for the length of a heavy song song — say, Slayer’s “Angel of Death” (4:51) or “Clean My Wounds” by Corrosion of Conformity (3:33). The first participant to sign up and receive his “Hello I’m…” badge was a buff, clean-cut, short-haired dude; next in the queue was an elegant woman with long hair and black nails. All the name tags were modified to read simply “Hell,” festooned with between one and four hand-drawn inverted crosses.

Setting the mood for love with “not all kinds of metal, only good metal” was emcee and DJ Dave Hill, who co-hosts the Web series Metal Grasshopper with former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo. Musing before the event, Hill suggested that a potential icebreaker might be, “Do you like Dio-era or Ozzy Black Sabbath better?” (Hill’s answer: Ozzy, but both singers were “amazing.”) Smiling as he turned on the fog machine, he predicted, “I imagine tonight will devolve into chaos. If it goes well, we’ll do it again; if it goes horribly, we’ll do it again sooner.”

As Hill cranked the metal, hopeful hookers-up chatted, laughed, and debated the merits of their respective favorite bands. Thomas, newly single and the proud owner of a “loud lounge” (his nickname for the metal version of a “man cave”), was nervous but seemed to do well as he switched partners, per Hill’s instructions: “Ladies, stay put — let the men come to you!”

By the third song, a joking shout of “Back off, she’s mine” could be heard, but all in all, the chatters were serious, intent, and clearly, it seemed, having fun. One girl wore a helmet; after all, dating can be dangerous. I overheard another musing — “I was thinking about how I needed a will” — to a starry-eyed potential suitor.

After at least two hours of “dating,” Sean, his Venom tee now a bit sweaty, emerged from his dating escapade looking dazed and muttered, simply, “Brutal.” Still, he came out of the evening with a couple of numbers for (hopefully cocaine-free) ladies.

Zora, a fan of Mongolian folk-metal band Tengger Cavalry, and many of the other women in attendance were genuine metal lovers who came with “low expectations” but left pleasantly surprised. A few memorable mishaps transpired, both wonderfully metal: one drink thrown in a dude’s face for a rude comment, and one offer of bestiality. But even the pit bull’s owner, Marisa, left happy. “He’s going back to Scotland tomorrow,” she explained, “so I think my dog’s safe.”

As Hill concluded after he’d called the final round, “If a grindcore person can get along with a stoner metal person, maybe we can all get along.” Cheers.


The Sword Dish Out Road Wisdom: Drink Hotel Coffee, Order Your Synth on eBay

“I hope you have your marijuana screen up,” says the band manager as he opens the door to the greenroom at Webster Hall. Inside, three-fourths of the Sword — John D. Cronise, Bryan Richie, and Kyle Shutt — huddle around a guy counting out piles of cash. (It wasn’t a drug deal.) Onstage, Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III sound-checks his drums, sending shockwaves of thunder through the empty venue three hours before the show.

“Do you want some Coke or ginger ale?” Richie asks. “We have hummus. With little cherry tomatoes.” The band’s rider, he says, just asks for hummus “with stuff.” They’re not particular about the accompaniments.

[pullquote]’That particular genre and those particular fans are a little bit less open to change and variation. Once they hear one thing, they kind of want that thing over and over again.'[/pullquote]

The band is mid-tour, on concert date 34 of 50, promoting the release of High Country, the fifth album of their twelve-year existence. The record is decidedly lighter than the classic heavy metal sound that defined their early career and, predictably, has garnered mixed reactions from metal purists.

“People would hate it either way — or some people would,” says Cronise — guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter-in-chief. “To me it’s really not a weird thing for a band to put out a different-sounding album. I think it has to do with where we started, in the particular kind of genre that we started in. That particular genre and those particular fans are a little bit less open to change and variation. Once they hear one thing, they kind of want that thing over and over again. I think if we had started in any other place, with any other kind of music, and had just changed things up, it wouldn’t really be as remarkable.”

Bass and keys player Richie chimes in: “It’s bizarre, because if you come to a show, or if you have seen the Sword before, there’s really no departure sonically when we play a new song versus an old song. Dynamically, there are some differences, but we’re the same exact band playing the exact same instruments.”

This is true save for the Sequential Circuits Six-Trak synth he purchased off of eBay and had hand-delivered by the seller this afternoon. It’s the same model of synth that appears on the album and will debut alongside Richie’s foot-operated pedal keyboard at Webster Hall to replicate the spaced-out textures achieved in the studio.

The energy in the room feels a bit slack, probably owing to life on the road. The Sword seem to pride themselves on the balance of moderately comfortable yet economical commuting they’ve established over the years. They travel in a van with a trailer, not a tour bus, and stay in budget hotels. After more than a decade of this routine, they’ve become connoisseurs of the free hotel breakfast.

“I’m all about that free Raisin Bran and shitty coffee in the morning,” says Richie, “like, the more the better. Why Starbucks when I’ve got Best Western? Sometimes it’s like the rustiest of rust water.”

“I hate when they have shitty other shit,” says Cronise, “like the tiny little Styrofoam cups with the shitty little lid and the tiny white sugar packets and powdered creamer. When they have just the crap accessories…then you can tell the coffee’s almost always going to be terrible.”

Naturally, they’d rather be at home than on tour. Home now means different places for each of them. Though they first came together in Austin, only Vela (the newest member of the group) lives there now. Disenchanted with the rapid development of the Texas capital, Cronise moved three years ago to Asheville, North Carolina, and guitarist Shutt is relocating to Brooklyn with his fiancée in January. Richie resides in Taylor, Texas, an up-and-coming community about forty miles north of Austin.

The crowd at Webster Hall for the Sword, December 1, 2015

“If we could just come play a show and hang out and then go home, that’d be great,” says Shutt about being on tour. “Shit was fun ten years ago.”

“The eating habits are absolute bullshit,” offers Richie. “The eating choices are absolute bullshit.” So much for that hummus.

“If you have addiction problems or something…you’re fuckin’ in trouble just because it’s like free booze all day,” says Shutt.

“Yeah, exactly,” agrees Richie, who says he’s a lightweight. “It’s like the first thing they offer you. ‘Oh, you’re a band? Here, how ’bout some beer?’ We have to tell people, ‘Hey, we’d like the coffee first. Can we get the coffee first? The beer can come whenever.’ ”

[pullquote]’We’ll take a little discomfort for a little comfort when we’re home.'[/pullquote]

“Then the coffee shows up at 8 p.m.,” Shutt concludes.

All complaints aside, the band recognize how lucky they are to make a living exclusively from music, which has been the case for about two years now. They attribute some of this to their knack for keeping road expenses to a minimum.

“I’ve seen bands that go on these big tours and then go home, and all the dudes work at clubs and bars in their off time because they spend all their money on tour because they had a huge bus and all this shit,” Cronise observes. “You can do it in ways that aren’t going to make you have to do that if you can bring in a little more [on tour].”

“We’ll take a little discomfort for a little comfort when we’re home,” says Richie. “That’s the way I always look at it. It’s like I’ll deal with this bullshit to relax and stretch out at home and be cool and not have to jump back into doing something immediately.” He jokes, “And we’re available for consulting at a very high hourly rate if any bands want to. We’ll gladly have a band intervention with them for — what do you think?” He turns to Cronise. “About $250 an hour? $500 an hour? I don’t know. We can split it.”


Nick Didkovsky’s Residency Mounts Elite Music and Obscure Alice Cooper Cuts

For thirty years and counting, guitarist and composer Nick Didkovsky has been a fixture of New York’s downtown experimental music milieu. He’s most recognized for the mind-bending metal/jazz compositions of the octet Doctor Nerve, which he founded in 1983. But his body of work spans contemporary chamber music (DITHER Guitar Quartet; Bang on a Can), grindcore (Vomit Fist), and free-form improv — to say nothing of co-authoring a computer language (JMSL) and mentoring college students. His ambitious residency at the Stone, which takes place November 3–8, offers twelve unique performances with a bill of over three dozen musicians.

At the behest of venue curator John Zorn, Didkovsky has incorporated four premieres into the week. “[Zorn] was subtly encouraging me not to just make it a retrospective, but to produce new work,” says Didkovsky, “so I think I took that to heart and made it a very challenging week for me.” He laughs at the understatement. “It’s been a tremendous amount of work, but I hope very rewarding in the final analysis of it.”

The connective thread through the week’s diverse assortment of musical styles seems to be that all of the pieces demand as much from the musicians as the composer does of himself. This is typical, as most music by Didkovsky is very, very difficult to play. Such has been the experience of Kathleen Supové, a Juilliard-trained pianist and longtime collaborator of Didkovsky’s, who is premiering his piece A Musical Sacrifice with guitarist James Moore at the Stone. “For a composer,” she says, “there’s probably always a quandary like, ‘How do you get people to do your music?’ Do you make it really easy so that it’s very doable by people? Or do you make it as hard as you want it to be, and then it becomes a point of pride for the performers? I’ve seen that happen with the music of Elliott Carter, for example, or György Ligeti…. They have a devoted group of people who will do anything to be able to play it, and I think [Didkovsky] is in that school.”

Musicians (and listeners) who approach Didkovsky’s work find that part of the challenge derives from his mastery of unpredictability. Bassist and guitarist Samuel Smith (of Artificial Brain) has joined Didkovsky on the metal project Hässliche Luftmasken and for the abstract, semi-improvisational Petromyzontiformes, both of which have sets at the Stone. “Whatever your expectations are for the structure of a song or even where a riff is going to end up, he has an awareness of the expectation and interrupts that or takes it somewhere completely different,” Smith says of Didkovsky. “It’s never what you expect.” Smith’s participation in this residency will mark the first time he’s ever played with a horn section: He, Didkovsky, and Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia) will partner with the Guidonian Hand Trombone Quartet on November 4.

[pullquote]’To have one guy come from Sweden because his mind is so blown that we’re doing this, that means the world to me.'[/pullquote]

The most unpredictable of the residency’s performances is sure to be the $100 Guitar Project on November 6. Eleven guitarists will have a few minutes each to improvise with the inexpensive ax, which inspired a two-disc album in 2013, having been passed from player to notable player — some 65 in all — who devised and recorded short pieces with it. “A lot of these people have never performed solo,” says Didkovsky, “and a few have confessed to me that they’re kind of nervous about it, which is really cool. I don’t associate nervousness with these people.” One slightly apprehensive participant is Colin Marston (of Krallice, Gorguts, and Behold…the Arctopus). “I’m trying to feel comfortable about it,” Marston admits. “I’ve never done a solo improvised show before, unless you count being a teenager and going to the train station and playing guitar.” Marston studied composition under Didkovsky as an undergrad at New York University and says of his former professor, “He was really cool, because that was my only experience doing any kind of creative education…that was actually fostering creativity rather than teaching me a technical skill.”

By all accounts, Didkovsky has a knack for shepherding talent. “He’s really good at finding the qualities in people and musicians that he likes and wants to emphasize,” says Smith. A prime example of his respect for young artists is Vomit Fist, the corpse-paint-sporting trio (playing November 7) that features his teenage son, Leo, on drums and Leo’s friend Malcolm Hoyt as vocalist. Far from taking credit for his son’s precocious skill, the elder Didkovsky says he has Leo to thank for pushing him in new directions as a composer when creating the band’s hyper-aggressive bursts of song.

A highlight of the residency for Didkovsky is the only set with cover tunes: a live play-through of the first Alice Cooper record, Pretties for You, on November 8. He and five brave Alice superfans are attempting to replicate, note for note, the polarizing 1969 debut. To accomplish this, he’s sought input from two of the original Alice Cooper band members, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith. “I probably have the most vetted version of Pretties for You lyrics anywhere on the planet right now,” Didkovsky says.

The record issues its own set of demands. “The album was so avant-garde,” recalls Dunaway, “and back in the Sixties in Los Angeles, this was too far out there for even Hollyweird.” Inscrutable lyrics and intricate tempo changes that the group “felt” rather than counted augment the eccentricity. “I can’t even imagine someone else coming in and trying to learn them,” says drummer Smith. “They’re pretty crazy.” He and Dunaway both say they feel flattered by Didkovsky’s dedication to the project and are likely to attend the show. “It’s such an honor to think that all of these years later, all of these musicians would put that much work, time, and effort into performing this,” Dunaway says.

The admiration flows both ways. “It’s just a masterpiece of surrealism,” Didkovsky says of Pretties for You. For him, the chance to perform the record in front of the musicians who made it is a dream come true — and the same could be said of the audience members eager to hear this obscure music live. One fan is even flying in from Sweden. “That’s the power of being on the total freakin’ fringe of the bell curve, as far as popularity is concerned,” Didkovsky says. “To have one guy come from Sweden because his mind is so blown that we’re doing this, that means the world to me. If he were the only guy in the audience, that would be good enough.”

Nick Didkovsky’s residency at the Stone kicks off on November 3. For ticket information, a full schedule and more, click here

Correction: The piece performed by Kathleen Supové will be “She Is Carried By Light,” not “A Musical Sacrifice.”


Martyrdoom Draws the World’s Fiercest Metalheads to Brooklyn

Martyrdoom — a sprawling, multi-venue heavy-metal bacchanal that will darken Brooklyn doorsteps for a third year running — will span an unholy five consecutive nights this time around, and that’s not even counting multiple pre-shows and after-parties at the Acheron and Lucky 13. Imagine a satanic SXSW descending upon the borough November 6–10, bringing with it plenty of spikes, blood, and blast beats. Headliners including Necrophobic, Revenge, Mgla, Mortuary Drape, and Bombers will join more obscure talent such as Bell Witch, Malthusian, the Howling Wind, and Phobocosm, plus local slayers Black Anvil and Vorde. It’s become a yearly ritual for diehard fans of black metal, death metal, and extreme metal in general to trek out to Brooklyn for Martyrdoom — it’s like a smaller, more niche Maryland Deathfest, or a much, much meaner Roadburn.

The man behind it, Vinny Bochicchio, doesn’t do it all alone, enjoying support from other members of Signature Riff, the promotions company he spearheads, as well as from festival sponsors Metal Kingdom and — Martyrdoom’s main venue ­— Saint Vitus Bar. Traditionally, the community pitches in, too, as each year sees various musicians, fans, and allies come through in a pinch with a spare drum or van ride. But when darkness falls and the stage lights come on, the vision behind it is all Vinny’s.

He’s highly selective about the bands he books; at this point, he’s got the right to be. The Signature Riff logo — and Bochicchio himself — are familiar sights at extreme metal shows throughout the Tri-State area, whether presenting an event, socializing at a gig, or flyering for the next. When it comes to determining the Martyrdoom lineup each year, there’s no magic formula or industry dealings at play. As Bochicchio tells us, “Each fest takes on a life of its own based mostly on who’s available during a specific time frame.” Like any festival booker, he’s all too familiar with last-minute cancellations and visa snafus, but has reliably made up for any disappointments with the kinds of lineup that most metalheads would only expect to see in more metal-friendly Europe.

In recent years, Bochicchio has also tried his hand at booking tours, and has forged alliances with promoters across the country in order to facilitate shows for the bands he brings over. One of Martyrdoom’s most impressive feats is its repeat ability to fly in obscure cult acts from across the country and all over the world on a fraction of a larger, more mainstream festival’s budget. One of the most hotly anticipated headliners, black-metal luminaries Mgla, hail from Krakow, Poland; on Sunday and Monday, Brooklyn will be treated to a rare North American performance from Italian occult-horror fiends Mortuary Drape, who will be flying in, candelabra and all, from Alessandria, as well as from their countrymen Demonomancy. In fact, the vast majority of the bands playing this year come from at least a few hundred miles away, like Colorado occult icons Nightbringer or Massachusetts underground heavyweights Sangus, not to mention a strong Canadian presence courtesy of Revenge, Phobocosm, and Paroxsihzem.

It’s a massive effort — the logistics of which Bochicchio cites as the worst part of the planning process — but one that’s had a huge impact on the festival’s quality and reputation. Bochicchio prides himself on bringing bands over for exclusive performances, and this year’s event is no exception. He even managed to secure entry for Blood Tsunami and Studfaust, two Norwegian bands who share a notorious drummer, Bård “Faust” Eithun. Eithun was released from prison in 2003 following a murder conviction, and he’s never played live on American soil. Martyrdoom, in fact, is flying in almost a dozen bands, from Poland, Ireland, Sweden, Canada, Italy, and Norway, some of whom — like Ireland’s buzzy death metal upstarts Malthusian, for example — will be making their North American debuts along with Eithun. One of the festival’s more atmospheric bands, Sabbath Assembly, will also welcome a special guest: Kayo Dot’s Ron Varod will join them onstage at Saint Vitus as a second guitarist.

[pullquote]Martyrdoom takes its name from a classic Dead Congregation tune.[/pullquote]

Revenge, a Canadian black/death metal band with a rabid fan base and reputation for punishing live onslaughts, have promised to play new material from their forthcoming album — and if that weren’t enough, they’re also playing twice. That’s one of the reasons Martyrdoom lasts so long: Most of the bigger or more exotic bands are asked to play more than once, either at the main venue or at after-shows. For concertgoers, this can create a series of agonizing decisions, especially as the festival stretches into the workweek: While you’ll have multiple opportunities to catch Revenge (and Mgla, and Mortuary Drape), not so with Bombers — a rollicking, whiskey-soaked Motörhead tribute fronted by ex-Immortal frontman Abbath — who are coming all the way from Norway to play a solitary Tuesday-night set. As Friday headliners Necrophobic warned on Facebook, “It’s rare that we come to these areas of the world, so you better not miss any of these shows. We are ready to burn the stage and celebrate the goat together with you!”

In any case, one could never accuse Martyrdoom of skimping — rather, it offers an embarrassment of riches from which to choose, and Bochicchio’s accustomed to seeing some of the same faces up front at every show. The festival has grown exponentially since its first incarnation in 2012, a one-day affair that took over Public Assembly and introduced the neighborhood to Greece’s Dead Congregation, as well as Grave Miasma and Cruciamentum, from the U.K., and America’s own Father Befouled. In fact, without the latter, it might not have happened at all. The festival came into being by chance: As Bochicchio tells us, “Martyrdoom evolved from a Father Befouled/Encoffination one-off show. It just so happened that several bands we were speaking with at the same time all expressed interest in playing with Father Befouled. I’ve never seen that many bands respect a specific band as much, before or since, which says a lot about them! Once we had this grouping of bands together, we needed a catchy name, and ‘Martyrdoom’ is the title of a classic tune from Dead Congregation.”

Given the international bent of the lineup, it’s hardly surprising that a high percentage of Martyrdoom attendees — estimated at around 60 percent — come from out of town. “What makes NYC the perfect city to host [Martyrdoom] is that the city itself creates excitement, which means it’s a lot easier recruiting both bands and fans for the event. Aside from the bands and music, the city itself is able to draw,” Bochicchio explains. For years, “Brooklyn metal” meant hipsters; it meant Liturgy, and skinny jeans, and overpriced beer, and insincerity. There will always be those who scoff at the borough and turn their noses up at the vibrant, vicious underground metal and punk scenes bubbling away down in Bushwick or (God forbid) Williamsburg. But now, thanks to Martyrdoom, New York City is known as a place where the faithful may congregate and worship the darkest, most evil strains of bastardized heavy metal imaginable — and yeah, grab a decent slice of ‘za while they do it.

For Bochicchio, all the hassle and stress is more than worth it. As he says, “The best part is surrounding ourselves with several hundred like-minded individuals who thirst for the 1 percent of bands chosen each year.” Knowing him, he’s already started planning Martyrdoom 2017. After all, there’s no rest for the wicked.

Martyrdoom will rock you November 6–11. For ticket information, lineup, schedule, and more, click here.


Korn’s 20th Anniversary Tour Turns Irving Plaza Into One Big Mosh Pit

In 1994 Korn released their debut album. Last night, the Left Coast five-piece celebrated their self-titled LP’s 20th anniversary alongside avid fans with a much anticipated performance at Irving Plaza. The venue was packed with lifelong listeners , most who bore the headliner’s name across the front or backs of their t-shirts. Generations of Korn fans waited patiently as Victory Records’ Islander kicked things off with fittingly heavy riffs reminiscent of post-hardcore’s heydays. It was clear during their set that their time on stage was in a way somehow sacred, that they too harbored the same anticipation as their audience for Korn’s imminent performance. The silence that followed the impassioned applause brought on by their departure was quickly filled by classic nu metal anthems like Slipknot’s “Sic,” which incited an impromptu sing-along. Soon after, Suicide Silence took the stage. Within an instant, the deathcore outfit got the crowd moving, causing a small yet energetic mosh pit to form in the middle of the main floor. As if it were still ‘94, fans thrashed, kicked, and crashed into each other, many doing so with smiles plastered across their faces as Suicide Silence headbanged and punched the air. By the end of their set, Suicide Silence had successfully prepped the crowd for Korn, leaving their audience breathless from enjoyably brutal cuts like “Fuck Everything” from 2011’s Black Crown. Before exiting the stage, lead singer Hernan “Eddie” Hermida sincerely thanked the more than grateful crowd as applause erupted in waves.

As show-goers waited for the much anticipated headliner of the night, Korn’s Brian “Head” Welch and his band mates prepped for their set backstage. While making a pre-performance sandwich,  the co-founding member and guitarist of Korn reflected on the band’s debut. “The energy of the songs [and] playing them live hasn’t really changed for me,” he tells the Voice. “I love the energy of how they make me feel. I love the breakdowns; I love the dynamics; like getting real soft and then —” He screams. “That stuff hasn’t changed. I think that when I listen to the record I feel a little bit dark, a little bit of a depression, but playing live is different.”

Welch’s connection to the album has remained a constant over the decades, although his connection to his fans has in many ways evolved due to his conversion to Christianity. “My main focus now is the people…I realize that everyone is at a different path, so I can’t make them want to start a relationship with Jesus, but it’s not about me,” he reflects. “Before it was like, ‘Oh, i want to make money, I want to be on TV, I want to be on the radio.’ And now it’s about sharing life.”

Korn onstage at Irving Plaza, October 5, 2015

Whether “sharing life” through his music or one-on-one with fans, it is clear that Welch, much like his band mates, is still at his prime. As Korn’s set began, Irving Plaza seemed to shake with the reverberations of cheers and screams, with many members of the audience proclaiming, “This is epic!” Performing before a backdrop reminiscent of their music video for “Freak On A Leash,” the band’s mere presence sparked subsequent minutes of joyous applause. Beginning with “Blind,” Korn’s performance felt timeless, each song rounding out with a visceral weight and audible precision, proving to any skeptics that nu metal is an art form in its own right. As “Blind” led to latter tracks like “Need To” and the undeniably infectious “Clown,” the energy brewing between frontman Jonathan Davis and his fellow bandmates was tangible. The crowd seemed to hang on every movement of the set, their shouts and cheers rising in volume as Davis played the intro to “Divine” on bagpipes and rising again during the chorus of “Shoots and Ladders.” As countless generations of Korn fans moshed, thrashed, and threw their arms in the air, the band seamlessly played through one of the Nineties most memorable albums with an unwavering level of energy and finesse.

Jonathan Davis of Korn at Irving Plaza, October 5, 2015

As if their performance of their debut was not enough, Korn returned to the stage after a momentary absence for a four song encore, which included the angst-filled, chathartic “Falling Away From Me.” As Davis sang into his microphone and gripped his Giger stand, Korn’s audience seemed to be in a state of sheer exhilaration, which only intensified during the band’s final song, “Freak On A Leash,” a suitable end to an unforgettable performance.


Meet Steve ‘N’ Seagulls, the Finnish Metal/Bluegrass Cover Band You Never Knew You Needed

So, a Finnish bluegrass hillbilly band walks into a bar….No, it’s not the beginning of a joke, it’s the start of an evening on Steve ‘N’ Seagulls’ first-ever U.S. tour. If there’s a punchline, it’s that they play metal songs like Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” but with the twangy tones of mandolin and banjo subbing in for the hard stuff. Oh, and they’re serious about it.

Yet the quintet are also as much fun as their band name indicates. On Facebook, they list their current location as perunamaa, a potato patch, but they’re actually driving across the United States in the RV “tour bus.” They’re en route to West Virginia, touring in support of their Spinal Tap–ishly named debut album, Farm Machine. Today it’s singer/guitarist Irwin Remmell calling for a chat — he’s hanging with banjo player Hermann de German while the rest of the band (Pukki Kaalinen, the mononymous Puikkonen, and Wild Till Hiltunen) drive or nap.

Steve ‘N’ Seagulls are a part of a metal subsect inspired by heavy greats and inventive instrumentation. There’s another Finnish, Metallica-inspired, cello-wielding outfit, Apocalyptica; there’s Steel Panther, a glam-metal parody band. Then there’s Hayseed Dixie, an American group (their moniker a linguistic play on AC/DC) who have been purveying “rock grass” since 2001.

But Steve ‘N’ Seagulls are none of the above. “We’re not a novelty, not a joke,” begins Remmell, in accented but otherwise excellent English. “The point is, we want to have fun, and [we want] our audience to have fun. On the other hand, as musicians, we really want to push ourselves to do all the music, the recordings, the arrangements best we can. That’s what we mean about no ‘humor.’ We don’t make [music] as a joke, we make the songs as good as we can. We aim more and more to find our own thing, and make something unique with this mixture of a rock band [and] a bluegrass lineup, playing like a mixture of rock and metal and country,” he explains. “Also, as I said, we want to have fun.”

So far they are doing just that on this tour, which began on the West Coast and now barrels eastward, leaving no time to visit such American icons as the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine (Cawker City, Kansas) or the World’s Biggest Beagle (Cottonwood, Idaho). Steve ‘N’ Seagulls have bigger reindeer to fry. (“I suppose some people who do not live in Scandinavia are sort of terrified of eating Santa Claus’s reindeer,” Remmell acknowledges.)

The American landscape currently unfurling on the other side of the RV window is not especially reminiscent of the Finnish town where the band members first met more than a decade ago. “We all ended up in a town three and a half hours north of Helsinki, in Jyväskylä. Two came to university, three to study music,” the singer says. “It’s a small town, so everybody who plays an instrument there eventually gets to meet each other.” The members were in various original bands — Remmell and two other current SNS members in a “grunge/garage” outfit — but SNS’s current style was birthed in 2011, before Remmell joined. The players were “asked to do something special for a theme party that had a western or country theme,” explains Remmell, “and they arranged a few songs for that, and the idea came from there. It started to live its own life as a side project. Then…they asked me [to join], and since then [2013] we’ve been doing it this way. It was a little bit by an accident.”

It takes talent to rework a metal song in a winning hillbilly style, and the band has found that not every tune is suitable. “There are quite many different bands and songs that we’ve had to put aside, because we haven’t found the way to redo or rearrange them. It requires a solid riff and something in the song that you can rearrange.” So far, “we tried something from Kiss, something from Van Halen. We might still work on them, but we didn’t get them done for the first album; maybe for the second one. “

The first record features covers from AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Guns N’ Roses, and Pantera, and to date, SNS haven’t heard from any of the bands they’ve tackled. “But we hope they are happy; it’s us honoring their classics.“ They haven’t heard from Steven Seagal, either, the inspiration for their band name and the actor who also calls himself a “film producer, screenwriter, film director, martial artist, musician, reserve deputy sheriff, and entrepreneur.” That said, “We would really love to meet him, because we like his movies.” And, yes, Remmell has a favorite, but he is unable to give the title in English. “We translate the movie names, which are usually totally nothing to do with the original name,” he explains. His favorite has Seagal as an ex-CIA agent on a train that gets attacked. (Under Siege? Above the Law?) Phonetically, it sounds like “Kipr Us Ray Dayla.”

Though Remmell was an exchange student in Minnesota in the late Nineties, he’s never visited the Big Apple, and has two thoughts about the city, which he’s aware of via movies and some of his favorite concert films, like Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden. “We’re just excited to see the way that people live; is it actually so busy as it seems?” he wonders.

While Steve ‘N’ Seagulls are thrilled with their first American tour and the reception they’ve gotten thus far, they’re also looking to 2016 and hope to begin a second album in February. Yes, it will still be heavy covers: “We all grew up listening to metal music and playing metal, because it’s big thing in Finland. I like all the bands that we cover on the first album. I really like Rammstein, and we wanted to do something a little off mainstream, which is why we wanted to do a song in German [“Ich Will”]. Ha, a bluegrass band playing a heavy metal song in German.”

And let’s not forget the farm theme that permeates much of Farm Machine: It’s not shtick. “Most of the videos have been shot at our accordion player’s home farm, and the pictures on the album cover are taken there,” the frontman says. “We have gone there to work on songs and do some BBQ and have a few beers.” And the adorable shaggy miniature horse in many of these scenarios? That’s Benjamin. No, he’s not on tour with the band. And despite the appearance of at least partial insanity thanks to the band’s persona, songs, and videos, Remmell isn’t expecting too much for the end-of-tour NYC after-party. Certainly not the hookers ‘n’ blow of previous generations of touring metal bands. So what shenanigans might occur? Remmell laughs a bit shamefacedly. “Sitting down, having a few beers, and laughing our asses off. I’m a bit boring; no strippers for me.”