An Ode to Chelsea Wolfe

You are presumably a person who likes good music, so I’m going to do you a favor and point some out for you: meet Chelsea Wolfe.

You’ve probably never heard of her (*cracks open PBR can*). She’s originally from Sacramento and has been making music for just about all of her life. Despite not having any real qualifications to critiquing or categorizing music, I’m going to try to do precisely that. Think of her stuff as dark, ambient, electronic-flavored folk music. Yeah, I know that doesn’t exactly blow the pants off most people, but just watch the above music video.

Holy crap, what the hell did I just watch?! I don’t usually mean that in a positive sense, but this is a day for treading new ground. I mean, “Carrion Flowers” is just sick. Every time I throw that shit on, I feel like I’m about to step into a monstrously difficult boss battle, which is a feeling I typically don’t associate with folk music, electronic or otherwise. This song in particular has caused me to coin a new subgenre to describe Wolfe’s sound. I’m going to call it “Zerg folk.”

Statistics say that you are probably a fan of the HBO series Game of Thrones, where you have definitely heard one of her previous singles, “Feral Love.” It graced your ears in that spectacular trailer for season four. On that note, I’ve pretty much accepted it as set-in-stone fact that many future dark fantasy and/or sci-fi series will be raiding her discography to add some nightmarish edge to trailers, promo materials and motion picture soundtracks. It’s just too good to pass up.

Check out Wolfe’s latest release, Abyss, which is out now on Sargent House. I sure as hell will. Since the Niners took yet another bold step towards going 5-11 this season, I could use a pleasant distraction.

How I Ended Up in a Juggalo’s YouTube Video

You can go ahead and file this under “I did not see that coming.”

My Friday night was pretty spectacular. I went to Sacramento to see Between the Buried and Me on their Coma Ecliptic Tour at Ace of Spades. I’m not really a huge fan of these guys (I couldn’t tell you what song is playing in that video, or what that Russian dance circle thing is about), but The Contortionist and Animals as Leaders were providing support and I didn’t want to miss them. All three bands crushed their sets, though I didn’t actually venture out into the mosh pit until BTBAM came up. They put on a pretty amazing show and I’ll probably be revisiting their catalog to see if it does anything for me this time.

Anyhow, among the people I attended the show with was a J-School friend of mine who manged to unearth the above video, which shows the crowd during said circle dance before it breaks into a no holds barred, every man for himself mosh. You can kind of see me at the 32 and 41 second marks; I’m the guy in the gray shirt and navy shorts. Feeling curious, I decided to look up the YouTube user who shot this. His username is NinjaBlaze1025.

And he is a goddamned Juggalo.

If the name NinjaBlaze1025 wasn’t enough, the user profile picture erodes all doubt. He’s got the face paint going on and he’s wearing a black baseball jersey that says “Juggalo” on it. He’s got four videos of the show, including the one above. I mean, I guess Juggalo’s occasionally have good taste in music, given how well liked and respected BTBAM and Animals as Leaders are. NinjaBlaze1025 appears to be a frequent concert-goer; among his other videos you’ll find sets for something called Kung Fu Vampire, as well as Juggalo staples Twiztid and Blaze Ya Dead Homie. He also has a couple videos of Coal Chamber, in case that playlist wasn’t terrifying enough.

Presumably, this is him.

So, there you have it. My friend and I ended up in a Juggalo’s YouTube video. This is one of those situations I’ve never thought possible for me to be in, but there we have it. Of course, this doesn’t make that night any less fun, but it still gives me pause. I guess this is one of those stories I can tell those kids and grandkids that I probably won’t have. On second thought, that would also require me to explain to the tykes what a Juggalo is, so maybe grandpa will keep that one to himself.

On an unrelated note, the best French toast in Sac can be bought here.

Here’s that New Lamb of God Song Featuring Chino Moreno

I’ve never been a Lamb of God fan. I don’t think they are bad by any stretch; they’ve just never done anything for me. However, I got a feeling I’ll be eating my words when “VII: Sturm und Drang” gets released and I will be happy to do so. LoG have so far released five singles from this upcoming record and they have all delivered. I guess there’s something about being on trial for manslaughter in the Czech Republic that ignites your creativity.

This latest single, “Embers,” features Chino Moreno of Deftones as a guest vocalist and since Deftones are my favorite band, I’m compelled to give it a listen. It’s just about as good as I was hoping; it’s your standard brutal LoG song with organs from Deftones grafted onto to it near the end. If I’m making it sound like “Embers” is forced, I don’t mean to. Chino’s haunting, soaring cleans blend quite well with Randy Blythe guttural screams and yells. It’s a helluva lot better than that collaboration Chino did with Whitechapel, that’s for damned sure.

“VII: Sturm und Drang” drops on July 24 via Epic Records and Nuclear Blast. In addition to Chino Moreno, it will also feature a guest appearance from Greg Puciato of The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Being as an Ocean Keep Things Angsty

This has been quite a year for musical discovery on my part, largely stemming from the fact that a Spotify Premium membership and cheap shows are great ways to blow through chunks of vital disposable income (just kidding; don’t do that). By far one of my favorite finds was the melodic hardcore outfit Being as an Ocean, hailing from Alpine, California. Their two studio albums, which I immediately snatched up after seeing them open for Stick to Your Guns back in February, have been my gateway drug into hardcore. Endless Heights, Counterparts, Defeater and Landscapes have creeped their way into my audio diet since then.

“Being as an Ocean” doesn’t differ too much stylistically from last year’s “How We Both Wondrously Perish” and 2012’s “Dear G-d.” In just their first two albums, BAAO has built a sound that is distinctly their own and you can expect to hear more of the same on self-titled. Frontman Joel Quartuccio continues to dump every ounce of heart and soul into his screams, growls, yells and spoken word segments. Rhythm guitarist Michael McGough once again demonstrates what a terrific addition he is (having joined BAAO between “G-d” and “Perish”) by balancing Quartuccio’s aggression with his angelic clean vocals. Lead guitarist Tyler Ross, bassist Ralph Sica and drummer Connor Denis match their vocalists intensity on every note.

Where self-titled really stands out from its predecessors is in its lyrical content. While I wouldn’t call it a concept album, there are recurring themes and narratives that serve as bookends. This stuff gets pretty heavy and is significantly darker than BAAO’s previous material; it deals with domestic violence and I suspect it can be triggering to those who have firsthand experience with it. While the overall message is as hopeful as ever, it can be difficult to process.

BAAO is a Christian band and half the songs on the album deal explicitly with their religiosity. If you aren’t a religious person – I myself am a militant agnostic these days – fear not. These guys are so damned good at what they do you’ll easily look past it. For it’s on the religious songs that BAAO is at their best (funny how that works out). The vocals, lyrics and instrument playing are all in perfect sync here. “Sleeping in Sicarii” and “St. Peter” are the standouts of the album, though they don’t reach the heights of the magnificent “The Hardest Part is Forgetting Those You Swore You Would Never Forget” from “Dear G-d.”

While I would still declare their sophomore effort, “How We Both Wondrously Perish,” to be the best BAAO album, self-titled is still a breathtakingly beautiful record worthy of your attention. If you aren’t sold on hardcore, it’ll certainly get you to explore the rest of BAAO’s discography and maybe check out some of their contemporaries. BAAO is currently bouncing around the US on the Vans Warped Tour. It remains to be seen whether they will announce a headlining tour to support self-titled. I certainly hope so, because holy shit, their shows are amazing. Absolutely worth seeing if they are in your area. On the other hand, I would understand if they want some downtime; they had a busy 2014.

Being as an Ocean” is currently out now via InVogue Records. You can listen to a full stream of it here.

‘White Pony,’ 15 Years After the Fact

I think I might be breaking some rules of Deftones fandom when I say that “White Pony” isn’t my favorite album from Sacramento’s Finest Sons. That distinction goes to “Diamond Eyes,” which turned five in May (Yay for landmarks! Even tiny ones!). But even though I was pretty damned late to the party – my first Deftones song was “Diamond Eyes’” haunting title track, heard on a long but scenic commute to some thankless internship – I certainly can’t deny the groundbreaking importance of “White Pony.”

This was the record that enabled Deftones to break away from the nu metal pack they emerged from in the 90s and basically put them on track to becoming the artsy, alternative metal outfit that they are today. It’s the first record to feature keyboard player/sampler Frank Delgado as a full-time member. It’s the first time frontman Chino Moreno started playing guitar on certain tracks, which he still does today. The songs themselves continue to hold up, with the slight exception of “Back to School (Mini Maggit),” which still feels like it has one foot rooted in the decadent nu metal past. Other than that, the “Pony” is still a beast. “Feiticeira,” “Digital Bath,” “Rx Queen,” “Street Carp,” “Korea,” “Change (In the House of Flies),” and “Pink Maggit” are all as awesome now as they were 15 years ago.

Of course I would be remiss not to mention their famous collaboration with the Toolman himself, Maynard James Keenan: “Passenger,” my all time favorite duet in music.

So if you got some time today, throw on some “White Pony” to celebrate the 15 years of continuing excellence from Deftones. I’ll be seeing them in concert come August, where they will be co-headlining with Incubus (see the full tour dates here). Their still untitled eighth studio album will be dropping in late September. Check out the music video to “Change” embedded above. If you can get past the dodgy compositing and Chino’s questionable haircut, it’s still pretty cool.

Rise Against, Killswitch Engage and letlive. Make for a Seriously Whack Tour Bill

Courtesy of riseaginst.com

Courtesy of riseaginst.com

Okay, so Rise Against, a band I have no fondness for, and letlive. kind of make sense together, due largely to their shared punk roots. The head-scratcher here is Killswitch Engage being the bridge between these acts. Let me make it clear that I am in no way opposed to the prospect of seeing KSE live; it’s just strange that the most potent gateway metal band of the last decade will be… touring with Rise Against and letlive.

However, this tour will be making a stop at The Masonic in San Francisco on Aug. 11 and that brings two things to my mind: there are precious few shows that I’m actually interested in seeing that come through these parts and I positively adore KSE. Maybe a little less so these past couple years (I was Team Howard), but they are absolutely a band I would drop everything to go see live (which I’ve not yet had the opportunity to do so), regardless if they are the headliner or an opener. They are second from the top of this bill, so they will probably get a decently long set. I will be content.

As for letlive., I’m fairly ambivalent towards their music (your mileage will vary) but I often hear great stuff about their shows, which tend to skirt on the crazy side. Take, for instance, this episode at The Tabernacle in Atlanta last year, in which frontman Jason Butler, feeling that the audience members on the balcony could benefit from his presence, decided to just climb up a wall and join them.

For the record, I would be okay with something like this happening at The Masonic.

Tragically, Aug. 11 falls on a Tuesday, which is by nature the most chaotic day of the week. I will most certainly try to make this happen, but it’s hard to say at this point. My love of KSE and the lure of whatever shenanigans letlive. might unleash more than makes up for my…indifference to Rise Against.

If you are so inclined, the full tour dates can be found here.