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Monday, August 21, 2017

Obituary: Cleary West 1972 - 2017

Friday 18 August 2017, sadly saw the sudden passing of Cleary West, "Warfare Pulse Controller"of the Invercargill death metal band 'Hatred', of which he'd been bashing the drums for since it's formation in 1992.

I've had quite a bit to do with Cleary and his bandmates over the last 20 or so years. Particularly when I was bringing bands to tour NZ and would get Hatred open on the Invercargill or Dunedin dates. These included Brutal Truth, Pungent Stench (twice), Atomizer, Sticky Filth and numerous local bands.

Hatred in Wellington on their 2014 'Hikoi of Hatred' tour.   L to R Robbie, Cleary, Brady and Sam (RIP)

I, as well as the many who knew him, will miss him for his hardcase personality and hilarious grasp of Southland self-depreciating humour.
My fondest memory of Cleary though, was not so much a funny one, but a more of a heart warming moment.    Pungent Stench were playing the first night of their 2003 New Zealand tour in Invercargill at Tillermans. The show was packed with an enthusiastic audience who were stoked that an international underground metal band like them would come to play their town.  So much so was the disbelief, that the bar had been receiving calls to ask if it was the real Pungent Stench and not just a tribute band using the same name.  Stench blew the roof off that night and after about their second encore, I recall seeing Cleary jump up on the stage, grab the microphone and announce something along the lines of  "Hey everyone, these guys have come all the way from the other side of the world to play this kick ass show for us.  Let show them a big Invercargill round of appreciation!!!".  Which of course it was followed by, leading on to yet another encore and one of the longest (and best) sets Pungent Stench played on that tour.   I know that Martin, Alex & Mario from that line up of Pungent Stench, also felt this show to be a special stand out from all their years of touring and will be ensuring they get to read this.  

At the time of writing, the remaining members of Hatred, Robbie and Brady (Sadly bass player Sam also passed away from cancer in 2016), are feeling pretty broken up at the loss of their mate and have agreed that yours truly should write the initial version  of Cleary's obituary for the New Zealand metal community.   As I'm sure many of you who knew Cleary will have lots entertaining stories to tell to about him, I'd like to make this post a live document that can be added to over time as his friends and whanau remember or feel ready to share.  If you have something you'd like to add, leave it in the comments or pass it onto me via Brady or Robbie.  

Haere ra e hoa, kua haere ki tua o te ārai - Farewell to my friend, he's gone to the other side of the veil

Chris Rigby

Following is Cleary's death notice as it appeared in the 19 August 2017 edition of the Southland Times:
WEST, Cleary James:
2.3.1972 - 17.8.2017
"Warfare Pulse Controller". It is with a broken heart and a touch of anger that we have to announce the sudden passing of Cleary. Loved son of Westy, brother of Bert, Rhondda, Nikki, Mary, Paul, and Darren. Father of Araya and birth father of Khellsey-Anna, Kaytlin and Shayla Rose, step dad of Zhan'e, Annekea, and Jacob. "A Hatred Mate" of Rob Dog, Brady, and Sam. Loved uncle of Crofty, dear friend of Keita, a lover of all things music and our heart and a laugh for any and all. Funeral arrangements to be announced.
\../ BRUTAL HAILS \../No flowers please but Araya likes chocolate! Messages to 64 Price Street, Invercargill.
Avenal Park Funeral Home, Invercargill
03 2189021

WHERE TO GET HELP (Within New Zealand)
  • Lifeline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 354
  • Depression Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 111 757
  • Healthline (open 24/7) - 0800 611 116
  • Samaritans (open 24/7) - 0800 726 666
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) - 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
  • Youthline (open 24/7) - 0800 376 633. You can also text 234 for free between 8am and midnight, or email
  • 0800 WHATSUP children's helpline - phone 0800 9428 787 between 1pm and 10pm on weekdays and from 3pm to 10pm on weekends. Online chat is available from 7pm to 10pm every day at
  • Kidsline (open 24/7) - 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
  • Your local Rural Support Trust - 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)
  • Alcohol Drug Helpline (open 24/7) - 0800 787 797. You can also text 8691 for free.

  • For further information, contact the Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812).

Monday, August 7, 2017

Lock Up vocalist, Kevin Sharp passes brutal-as-fuck kidney stone!

In 1998, around the time details of Bill Clinton's cigar escapades were coming out, I found myself promoting a New Zealand tour for Brutal Truth.  It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that, so although the tour went pretty well, I didn't really know what I was doing and there were a few minor fuck ups along the way.   One said fuck up involved not properly organising accommodation in Palmerston North, resulting in us all having to sleep on the floor of the venue (The Stomach).   The next morning I recall looking over to see drummer, Rich Hoak waking up from under a bed he'd made from tour shirts he'd got out of the merch. Then becoming uncomfortably aware that, as some perverse form of punishment, Kevin Sharp's bare ass and balls were squatted, hovering less than two inches above my head from where I was lying!  
This morning I checked facebook to see his over night birth announcement (see above).
Being once so horribly close to the origin of the offending giblet, I pulled no punches in asking the hard questions in the post comments.

Subcide Webzine: Congratulations. Did that come out through the eye of your dick?

Kevin Sharp: It sure did... wonderful feeling

Subcide: How big? (The stone)

Kevin Sharp: 3/8"

Subcide: What does it smell like?

Kevin Sharp: to be honest - you've asked some pretty fucked up questions... but sort of that new stone smell

Subcide: Was there blood when you pissed it out?

Kevin Sharp: no.. when these things bang around on the inside... you bleed a little bit every time... I was half asleep when it launched... barely noticed... just heard it bounce in the bowl... stuck to the side... didn't even have to dig it out... got any more questions asshat?

Subcide: why yes I do, scrotum face. When it stuck to the side of the bowl, did you have to put your hand in with all your piss or did it stick above the waterline?

Kevin Sharp: above waterline

Subcide: what do you think it stuck to? How heavy is it?

Kevin Sharp: fuk my life you're annoying... no idea.. not heavy... sorta like coral

Subcide: Thank you. That will be all.

Kevin Sharp: you sure... I'm here all night wise guy

Subcide: Can I publish this as an interview on my blog?

Kevin Sharp: Chris Rigby, you really don't give up - tenacious twat

Subcide: I take that as a yes?

Kevin Sharp: of course... now fuck off...

Subcide: Good night and Thank you.

Kevin is currently lead vocalist for 'Lock Up', who will be touring Australia and New Zealand with Napalm Death and Brujeria this October.  You can find details for the Auckland show, Listen to the new Lock Up album 'Demonization' and see a close up of Quasimodo, all below. 

Quasimodo - close up

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Heresiarch interview

There hasn't been a new post here since May 2015 and I've been hassling N.H from Wellington New Zealand's Heresiarch to do an interview here since at least 2011.  So it's only appropriate that he gets to break the drought....

1) It’s been awhile since your 2014 Wælwulf ep. What’s been happening with Heresiarch since then?

After Wælwulf, we did shows in NZ and Black Conjuration IV Fest in Australia, at the time I was also doing drums and then bass for Vesicant. For 2015 we were inactive.

This year we recruited N.O on drums, now have J.B back in the lineup and for the first time have a lineup with all members in the same city. We've been working on new material for our full length since. Recently we recorded our track for the split with Genocide Shrines, Trepanation and Serpents Athirst which will be out on Dark Descent and Cyclopean Eye in 2017.

Wælwulf 7" cover
2) Having your line up all in the same city must be a significant change for you. What aspects do you think that does to enhance Heresiarch? If any, what were the advantages of the previous two lines ups that were national and then trans tasman?

Being able to regularly rehearse as a full band has further developed our music, the writing process and presentation of live material.

There were definite advantages in the previous recording lineups but they were independent of location... Each individual involved to date has made important contributions to the band with commitment, experience and musicianship.

3) How did this 4 way split come about? What was the deciding factor for the combination of bands? Tell us about your contribution toward it.

I've been in contact with Genocide Shrines before the "Devanation Monumentemples" EP was released in 2012, we have mutual respect for each other’s music and ideology.

I was in Sri Lanka recently and discussed with Genocide Shrines and Serpents Athirst members, we all agreed on the bands involved and labels to work with. Trepanation are also on board which are one of the best NZ band's today, the track they’ve recorded is pure savagery.

Each band will be contributing one new song to this release, our track represents how the new material for the coming album will sound.

Preview of the Heresiarch contribution to the split

4) Looking ahead from the split, what else is on the horizon for Heresiarch at the moment?

The priority for this year has been working on new material, we’re working on the last songs currently.

We recently played with Immolation at Valhalla in Wellington which was our first live appearance in over 2 years. In November/December we have gigs lined up with Trepanation in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch alongside some newer bands such as Desolation Horns and Exaltation. We’re discussing opportunities for next year but our focus is towards building the foundations for the new era of Heresiarch.

5) Tell us about this album. Please give an idea about lyrical and musical themes, titles, intended release date and anything else we could expect.

The title is Death Ordinance, it is being composed with a lyrical and musical narrative, similar to what was done with Wælwulf but further expanded.

Each song has a specific place in the album and is written accordingly, it’s important that the full length album is complete, rather than a collection of songs. Release dates will be given by Dark Descent when it is time to, our focus is on composing the material to reflect the vision rather than meeting an arbitrary deadline. One of the tracks features on the coming split and will give an indication.

6) So with ‘Death Ordinance’ being consistent with what we heard on the Wælwulf ep, can we expect to hear more of the dynamic, complex song writing such as that on the track ‘Endethraest’? Also will we see the artwork of Nick Keller again? If so what concept might that take?

The songs composed are more developed than previous material. The addition of C.S has contributed a new element of song writing which still reflects the sound or Heresiarch. The concept, theme and structure of the album is all planned, referenced and we are ensuring that each song composed reflects this.

We are likely to be working with a different artist for the album, our music and lyrics are very visual so the suitable artist will have plenty to draw influence from.

Nick Keller's gatefold inside cover art for the 2011 'Hammer of Intransigence' ep
7) Could you please expand on some of the lyrical themes contained on the Wælwulf ep and how they may be developing on future material?

Wælwulf took a different turn compositionally and lyrically to the previous releases, at the time I was the only member composing material and I drew on a lot more of my personal influences rather than musical.

There’s an atavistic narrative through the piece balancing primitivism and a more reflective underpinning philosophy. The lyrics draw influence from Germanic, specifically Anglo-Saxon historic and literary texts such as Brunaburh and Maldon. There’s allusions to Ragnarök\ Götterdämmerung, with an Anti-Theistic approach (murder of gods, rejection of hope, destiny and fate) as well as implications to the present.

That theme will be expanded on later as a "saga”, but won't be on the album. The album expands on the composition and flow found in Wælwulf, with each track having a specific purpose in the scheme of the album. This is why the Obsecrating, Hammer and Wælwulf were individual demos and EP's rather than recorded together as an album.

8) I guess that leads to a few questions. In your view, how do you see pre-Christian Anglo-Saxon history having implications in the present day? Where did you become interested in these things? Does this suggest that ideas for future Heresiarch EPs might be in their embryonic form?

Numerous historic texts are still applied to the present day which multitudes adhere to with mindless devotion. The lyrical content can draw influence from an event or text without specifically referring to it, there are parallels with multiple cultures and eras throughout history.

There’s no suggestion to foster spurious relationships with old gods and tribes, or escape reality and romanticise the past. Wælwulf recounts multiple references whilst having an application to the present, in mind, attitude and will.

The follow up to the album is already taking form. It will feature previous and unreleased material recorded as a cohesive release.
9) Tell us about the process or processes you use to write your music. What is working particularly well at the moment?

C.S and I consistently work on new material together as well as separately. We focus on each track\section of the album specifically, if something is more fitting elsewhere it will be designated so.

Each tracks place in the overall composition is specific and if it doesn’t reflect this, it is discarded, writing with a greater context in mind has worked well.

10) What aesthetic theme are you considering for your future live shows?

We will be building on what we’ve used previously with smoke, lighting and minimal “crowd pleasing” interaction. Creating an inclusive atmosphere does not reflect our music, in a live setting the listener should be able to experience this, rather than participate in a group activity. The audience should feel as though they are being watched just as much as the band.

11) You say you want "minimal crowd pleasing" in your live show and that you want the audience "to feel though they are being watched". How do you see your audience? If you don't want them to be pleased, for what reason should they come to see Heresiarch play live? 

Those familiar with our sound and releases should know what to expect, we’re not going to strike up conversations and share anecdotes between songs. The live atmosphere is a representation of the sound and vision of the band.

12) Do you have a set idea of what you’re aiming for with Heresiarch’s music? I mean, do you feel like you’re making that music right now? Or are you still exploring the path towards your end goal?

Yes, we are very specific with what we are working towards. The new material written is the best representation of the band musically and thematically and is the most purposeful manifestation of Heresiarch. Throughout each release the music and ideas have evolved while maintaining the underpinning identity of the band, the end goal is likely to evolve with time as well.

13) You’ve talked about influences, be they personal or musical, but what inspires you to keep pushing ahead with Heresiarch today?

We will continue forwards until there is nothing more to say/do, at this stage there is no conclusive end in sight. Even during periods of inactivity we have used the time to formulate and develop ideas for the future, those ideas give purpose and become the motive for continuing. If this changes, the band will cease.

Special thanks to Craig Hayes of Six Noises for his assistance with this interview.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Review: Malevolence - Relentless Entropy

I haven't felt much like writing over the past year or so.  Something I promised myself when I started this blog in 2010, was that I wouldn't allow it to become a burden like the old print version of 'Subcide Zine' did. As it happens, right now I'm feeling quite creative and motivated. There are a number of releases that have inspired me in the last while that I'd like to tell you all about. They may not be new as such, so if you have already heard them I encourage you to take another listen.  I've particularly enjoyed listening to and writing about this one.

Chris Rigby

Malevolence - Relentless Entropy (Self released)

Not so long ago I was checking out an old album by ‘Groinchurn’ called ‘Sixtimesnine'. ‘Groinchurn’ were a kick ass grindcore band from South Africa in the late 90s. When listening to it I thought "Man that was a great era for grindcore. Bands had started to develop musically. They were incorporating new diverse, intricate, interesting and engaging concepts into their music. The results being really enjoyable listening experiences." Brutal Truth were pioneers of this concept. Napalm Death had started to go down the same path and Nasum had just appeared on the scene. But where was this sound these days? Sure Napalm Death are still here and kicking ass. But Brutal Truth are over, as are Nasum, but why is there no one new doing this or developing it further?

As synchronicity would have it, after their 20+ years of existence 'Malevolence' come along with 'Relentless Entropy' to fill that gap. From start to finish it’s a consistent piece of modern grind art. It kicks off with 'Approaching Monster', an instrumental climbing intro which is later complimented by the album outro 'Retreating Monster', assumedly sequels to 'Passing Monster' from the 2007 EP ‘Eyes to See, Ears to Hear, Wrists to Slit’. ‘Approaching Monster’ leads directly into 'Digitize', a 1 min 49 second grinder focusing on our unavoidable existence of having our entire lives documented and tracked on line. Opening and closing with “Welcome unit, to the machine”, within Digitize we are issued with our serial number “3-4-4-4-8-4-9-3” which I’m pretty sure is also a clever reference to the guitar fret numbers of the riff beneath it. Then in the same tone we have 'Legalize', which talks about a dystopian future where food no longer grows and in order to survive, humanity must turn to cannibalism. Feeding on the vegetarians first, before farming thy neighbour. “The Adversary’ breaks the 3 minute mark for the first of only 2 times on ‘Relentless Entropy’. It also introduces the first section that could possibly be described as slower. The Adversary appears to be a character who is the “Anti-theist”, neither Christ nor Anti-Christ, they have come to free earth from the shackles of religion and to encourage humanity to “Think God out of existence”. ‘Transparent’, with its animosity toward the shallow nature of mainstream society, is the only song on the album where the music isn’t written by main man Daryl Tapsell, but by former second guitarist Nich Cunningham. Despite the different composer it still sits perfectly along with what sounds like a subtle nod to brutal truth played in reverse. The next 2 are short sub 1 minute grinders. The first is “Property of Satan” inspired by Daryl's tattoo.

Then we have the 23 second 'Butchered', which if I hadn’t read they lyric sheet I wouldn’t know was a personal tribute to the late Matt Hall, former vocalist of ‘Backyard Burial’, who in 2011 was “Butchered by a cunt!”

“Home brew Memories
BBQ smoking weed
Long nights of philosophy
Techniques of the scream
Mushroom recipes
Pros and cons of LSD
Some of what you were to me
Metal brother rest in piece”

'Bleed' tackles class warfare and highlights the fact that tory scum still bleed the same as you and I when you take their heads off. ‘Nothing and Nowhere’ reminds us that we’re all insignificant in the grand scheme of everything and explores the experimental grind style to a deeper level with its discordant chords riffs, before fading out slowly with various samples of scientific facts. 'Chased through the woods (with a rhyming dictionary)’ takes the piss out of immature gore themed death metal lyrics. All of which are of course rhymed. Track 11 '99942 Apophis' hits with a super heavy chaotic barrage, not unlike its namesake asteroid which is due to collide with earth on April 13, 2029. Apophis 99942 also is closest comparison to the war metal chaos that's currently coming out of New Zealand, and it comes nicely garnished with a sprig of vintage Morbid Angel. 'Human Suit’ has the most coherent lyrics/vocal and memorable chorus of the album, also the most catchy musically. It follows the life of a protagonist who becomes so disgusted with the human race they decide to murder it, finishing with themselves. ‘Idle hands' begins with a voice sample from the 1990/1 Ice T album ‘OG’ where Ice is introducing us to his new metal band ‘Body Count’. The song itself, the most straight forward metal tune, is a misanthropic view of someone who has sold their soul to their corporate job at the expense of everything else important. 'Life Machines’ is the album’s slowest and at 3:46min, longest tune. It begins with a creeping not-quite-doom riff, before ramping up the grind and death combo and Dives into slowness again briefly before finishing on an increasingly speed up War Pigs meets grindcore ending. ‘Life Machines’ spells out most directly the theme that’s been running right through ‘Relentless Entropy’ i.e. nothing we do in our lives will ever amount to anything of significance, we’re all getting older and we’re all going to die one day before eventually being forgotten. …Then the monster finally retreats wrapping up ‘Relentless Entropy’.

Malevolence have been around for over 20 years now, and constantly get better every time I hear them. ‘Relentless Entropy’ is testament to that. It has a simple Black and white cover - Just like the best grindcore albums. It’s held together with trade off vocals from rock solid ass player Julian (I’ve known this guy since 1998 and I still have no idea what his last name is), intense drumming from Ben (also skin pounder for Vassafor) and of course the stellar guitar work of Daryl. 

‘Relentless Entropy’ is modern technical grindcore at its best. It survives and grows upon multiple listens. It will be a treat to hear what level Malevolence elevate themselves to next!

It’s a grind album you should invest in! You can do that by going to and purchasing it in CD, Vinyl or digital form.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Carcass - An audio interview with Bill Steer

Carcass are about to play New Zealand for the third time since 1993 (the second time was in 2008). This time with Napalm Death. Thanks to Soundworks touring I was able to interview guitarist Bill Steer, via Skype.  Rather than transcribing the conversation, I've decided to let you hear the full audio complete with my baritone mumbling contrasted against Bill's clear english accent.  

This was actually the second time I've interviewed Bill.  You can read my first interview with him, which took place in Wellington late 1993, here: Subcide Zine #1

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Review: Bulletbelt - Rise of the Banshee

Album Review: Bulletbelt - Rise of the Banshee (Headless Horseman)
by Mark Brooks

Author Disclaimer: I don’t normally write reviews on a regular basis, mostly due to the fact that I don’t have enough spare time to sit down and write them out. However, as soon as I heard the new BulletBelt album in its entirety, I knew that I had to review it. I hope that through my writing you can understand why.

The sound of a storm fast approaching, ominous hooves gallop in the distance - a rider fast approaches, bringing good news or ill omens? Before one can find out, their head is chopped off in a flurry of tight bass chops, caustic guitar licks, and pounding drums. Before the body does its last convulsion within death's grip, sepulchral acidic voices are heard announcing humanity's final doom.

This is the opening image that BulletBelt's second full-length album Rise of the Black Banshee invokes. A rip-roaring ride of first wave black thrash punk rock that should have plenty of cross-over appeal and is a strong contender for album of the year. 

For those who are unfamiliar with BulletBelt, they are a 5-piece "black-thrash" metal band from Wellington, New Zealand. The band features a slew of talented NZMetal musicians from other legendary NZMetal bands such as Backyard Burial, Demoniac, Karnage and Pervertor. The line-up is as follows: Steve Francis (drums), Ross Mallon (guitars), Tim Mekalick (bass), Ryan O’Leary (guitars) and newest addition Jolene Tempest (vocals).

I put “black-thrash” in quotation marks earlier because this album is not strictly “black-thrash.” BulletBelt have incorporated far more musical influences on this album than their last album Down in the Cold of the Grave, which sounded like a perfect hybrid of 80’s punk and thrash with early-mid 90’s Scandinavian black metal. They went in favour of a more first wave black metal sound like Venom or look to ‘modern’ bands like Midnight for example. The more rock or heavy metal influences come to the fore with tracks like ‘Deathgasm’ and ‘Murderer’s Collar.’ If the No Tag (NZ hardcore punk) ‘Mistaken Identity’ cover was an ode to the band’s punk roots on the last album, then The Nod (NZ heavy/thrash metal) cover of ‘Sniper’ fits in perfectly here to represent the band’s approach on the current album. Although the punk and strictly black metal roots of the band have been dialled down in favour of a wider heavy metal sound, these haven’t completely eroded away. Tracks like ‘Death Tinted Red’ and ‘Numbered Tomb’ feature a heavy dose of icy, blood-curdling Scandinavian black metal and the aforementioned ‘Deathgasm’ also features a healthy dose of punk-rock stomp. These influences, although reduced, turn up in other places, like the artwork.


In terms of the actual music itself, BulletBelt have shown a marked and more cohesive song-writing effort on this album in comparison to their previous work. It’s not as if the band has completely changed their sound, but rather has tinkered with it to get the songs to be at their tightest. Razor-sharp guitar riffs from Ross and Ryan not only bring the icy cold wrath accustomed to black metal’s overall sound but also add catchy hooks that get stuck in your head for days. This accompanied by Steve’s well timed cymbal work and chop blasts really add more punch to the already catchy guitar licks. Songs like ‘Tarawera (Burnt Spear)’ and the aforementioned ‘Numbered Tomb’ feature these techniques heavily. For me the real star of the album is Tim on bass; he really shows that just because you’re playing bass, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to just follow what the guitars are doing. Tracks like ‘Minnie Dean´, ‘Murderer’s Collar,’ and 'Death Tinted Red' really showcase Tim’s prominent bass work, adding that something extra. That extra layer really makes the songs great pieces of music to listen to.

If I had any criticisms about the music side of things, it would be the lack of guitar solos. Don't get me wrong, The Nod cover features a mind-blowing guitar solo from the original guitarist (of The Nod) and ‘Deathgasm’ also features a great solo but I feel that this type of music calls for more solos. In saying that however, these songs do have extremely catchy leads in place of solos like in 'Tarawera (Burnt Spear)' so it is an altogether minor quibble. Perhaps on their next album, at the song-writing stage they could find parts where a solo (or three) could be slotted in. 

Regarding the vocals, I was saddened to hear that Fergus (vocalist on Writhe and Ascend EP through to Down in the Cold of the Grave) had left and was curious to hear his replacement. Those that are familiar with Fergus' ear-splitting vocals will know it would be a hard task to match that impenetrable scream. Has Jolene effectively replaced Fergus? For me, the answer is yes and no. I have been a fan of Fergus’ ironclad vocals from the minute I heard them. However, there was not much dynamism or range to them – the only quality it lacked. Jolene’s vocals make up for this deficiency by adding flair, going into low snarls, attacking mid-range and screeching highs. The only issue is that they’re not quite as powerful as Fergus’. Then again, Fergus was a freak of nature.

Jolene's voice however, adds a venomous, acidic bite to the songs on the album rather than a skull-crushing tone like Fergus’ voice would. Instead of having your skull smashed apart with a sledgehammer you have the (more painful) acid flung in your face, slowly corroding through your skin, melting the bone until nothing remains but a smouldering pus-sack of flesh. It is hard to imagine how the album would have sounded if Fergus had remained. In any case, Jolene does a damn fine job of stamping her own mark onto BulletBelt’s carefully crafted and honed sound.

Another nice addition was the inclusion of guest vocalist Rigel Walshe, of Dawn of Azazel fame, on the track 'Numbered Tomb'. At first I wasn't sure if his vocals worked here as I'm not a fan of Shining (SWE) or Silencer and the guest vocal lines were definitely in this vein (they are interesting to hear at the very least if you're familiar with Dawn of Azazel’s usual vocal style). It has since grown on me and has become one of my favourite parts on the album. Furthermore, the inclusion of more backing vocals/gang vocals on the album, especially on the track 'Deathgasm,' was a welcome addition and one that was lacking in previous albums. I hope that these trends continue in their future material.

On the lyrical side of things, Rise of the Banshee could almost be considered a concept album of sorts. The album features a lot of lyrics focused on the dark, seedy underbelly in New Zealand’s culture/history. For those who don’t know, ‘Minnie Dean’ is about the child-killing woman of the same name who was the only woman to be given the death penalty in this country. ‘Tarawera (Burnt Spear)’ is about the volcanic eruption which claimed many lives and destroyed a cultural landmark, ‘The Pink and White Terraces,’ in 1886. ‘Deathgasm’ is the title song for an upcoming NZ horror/comedy film and so, I assume, the lyrics are based around the movie and its concepts. The other lyrics are more subtle in their meaning but still convey the inner dark nature of mankind. 

BulletBelt have decided not to use Nick Keller’s highly stylised art like in Down in the Cold of the Grave but instead have used the almost cartoonish art style from Scarecrowoven, who also did Steve’s heavy/power metal’s band Red Dawn’s latest EP ‘Ironhead.’ The result is a mixture of classic Mercyful Fate/King Diamond mixed with early AFI (back when if you were into hardcore, it was cool to like AFI) art. The result is analogous to their roots from punk through to heavy metal/first wave black metal and perfectly encompasses the album’s musical outlook and approach. 

The band recorded at STL where they have previously before, but this time they recorded and mixed on a vintage SSL 4000G board - the board itself coming from Peter Gabriel's 'Real World Studios' and has been used for bands like: King Crimson, The Cars, Robert Plant, etc. The result was then mastered overseas at 'The Boiler Room', Chicago. That alone should speak for itself. If not, this album has an excellent clarity to it where everything sounds perfectly balanced. My only comment would be if the guitars were a bit rougher sounding in tone. But what do I know, I’m just a filthy vocalist. 

In summary, this is an excellent album and the band should be proud of the amount of hard work and effort that has been put into making a great album filled with excellent musicianship. They’ve made an album that from the artwork through to the lyrics captured the intended approach and outlook of the band. They have once again set the bar high for themselves and for the NZMetal community and I am eager to see how they will overcome it with their future work.

For fans of the band already, you will love to hear the development and cohesiveness that the band has honed in on for this album. If you're new to the band, then it is a hell of an introduction that you're in for! Don't let Rise of the Black Banshee pass you by this year and get the album immediately. You will not be disappointed.

For fans of: Venom, Midnight, Nifelheim and first wave black metal/thrash metal.

Favourite track(s): Sniper (The Nod cover), Deathgasm

Rating: 9.8/10

To listen to and purchase 'Rise of the Banshee' explore the panel below

Friday, October 10, 2014

BulletBelt Interview

BulletBelt, from Wellington NZ, have been kicking about in different forms since 2009, playing their own unique brand of Black Heavy Metal.  They have just released their second album 'Rise of the Banshee'. Let drummer Steve Francis tell the rest...

1) Could you please give a rundown of why you started BulletBelt and what the driving force behind it is? Why should people check you out?

Bulletbelt started as a 'bedroom' project between Ross and I. Initially there were never any thoughts of even playing live. Just keeping it as a 2 person project and work on it with no stress at our own pace. The first first few months were very much like this. The early material being 2nd wave BM influenced. But over time this beast we created gradually took on a life of it's own and is now very much it's own entity. We've had members come and go but Ross and I are the constants. Hopefully with the line up we have in 2014, Jolene, Ryan, Tim, Ross and I we have the 5 people to keep moving the band forward. We feel that we are blazing our own path and not being swayed by scene or "kvlt". 

2) Before we start talking about BulletBelt as such, Lets talk a bit more your own history in New Zealand Metal? Give us a rundown of where you came from. Ross, Ryan and Jolene also have interesting and different back grounds in the same scene. Tell us about those. I Remember Ross writing to me back in the early 90s when I was in my first band ‘Convulsion’.

Like most people I became 'infected' with metal through having older brothers who had a decent record collection of punk and early metal/rock. Once I heard Eddie Van Halen play eruption on Van Halen 1 it was game over on my pop tape collection. So you get heavier Van Halen - Twisted Sister - WASP - Megadeth - Slayer - Napalm Death. So in college it was time to start a band.. None of us could really play. Karnage was born. We played about a dozen gigs between 90-93 ending with supporting Carcass in Wellington. Incidentally they came up to our flat before and after drinking and their touring Guitarist Mike Hickey (who played on Venom calm before the storm) ending up 'scoring' Totmans girlfriend that night. Around the end of Karnage Sam and myself met up with Lindsay Dawson and formed Demoniac. Hidee Beast came a little later. I played on the 93 Rehersal demo. I left after that and didn't really play a lot again until 2009! Must have been a mid life Crisis. Although I didn't play in bands during that period I still was every much a metal fanatic consuming as many albums as I could get my hands on.

Ryan is obviously a scene stalwart having played in Backyard Burial for many years plus he played in Monsterworks and Bile Suction. Jolene played in Zirconium, Pariah and Majera. Ross also plays drums in local perverts Pervertor and Tim plays in Intergracia

So yeh, too old too cold!

Demoniac - early line up. Steve is on the right holding the up side down sheep
3) You’re in the process of recording a new album. Tell us everything!

The recording is in the bag. Rise of the Banshee is released October 1st, the same day we open for Sepultura! We feel that we've spread our wings a lot on this one. There's some different things going on for sure. The battle cry from day one had been NZBM, but this time around probably NZHM would be a better description. Influences from BM to Motörhead to DM to Thrash. So more diverse, but certainly feels like Bulletbelt. Another big difference this time around is the tunes haven't been road tested. So it's been interesting hearing them really come to life in the studio. Jolene has fucking nailed it too. Obviously practicing the tunes in the rehearsal room at volume it's hard to really pick up on the vocals, so we were going into the studio a bit blind. We know she sounds great but didn't know how it would equate to the studio. Her vocals are going to blow people away. We have made a really strong album, a big step forward for us and I can't wait for people to hear it! The concept of the album was to base it around NZ's dark past. We like to promote ourselves to the rest of the world as this safe, clean green paradise but some evil shit has happened in Aeoteroa. I don't want to give too much away yet but some of the subject matter is Minnie Dean who was only woman hung in NZ. One tune is about the gallows that used to be on the Terrace in Wellington and there's a song about Mount Tarawera erupting and fucking everything up. And like the first album we cover an old NZ song Bulletbelt style. We've revved up 'Sniper' from New Plymouth's The NOD

4) Speaking of Jolene, not so long ago she joined the band after Fergus exited. What happened there with Fergus, and how did you come to pick Jolene to replace him? 

As you know yourself Chris from being in bands for a long time sometimes people just decide their time is up. There was no bad dealings or drama at all, Ferg just let us know he was opting out. We respected his decision and although we were bummed to see him go it was exciting to launch a new

chapter for Bulletbelt. Ferg was never really a 'metal guy'. He would be the first to tell you that. He's now in a 'noise' band and still creating and still a great friend of ours.

Jolene actually did some backing vocals on the first album and told me at the time that if Ferg ever leaves to hit her up which i did! She came and tried out and within a couple of practices we knew she was it. It was a baptism of fire for her as we had a whole bunch of gigs lined up. Ferg had actually offered to do them before he left but we figured once you're gone your'e gone. So we threw her in head first. She played our vinyl release gig after about 3 practices then played with Primate the next week, She did a great job, mainly trying to remember the lyrics! I think it's a relief for her now that we are moving onto new material and it's her lyrics.

5) Lets talk about your current/previous album ‘Down In The Cold Of The Grave’. How do you view that now that you have new material recorded? In your view how was the album received? You self released both vinyl, cassette and CD versions through your own label. How did you find doing that in this post download pirate world? 

I'm really proud of it. We recorded it 2 years ago and some of those tunes are 3 years old. It's a perfect representation of where we were in 2012. The

album was received really well. The only thing I would change is how widely we promoted it. We certainly could've done a lot more. But that's how you learn. Everything we've learnt since our inception in 2009 will be used to push the new album hard. We have a
plan of attack in place to really get it out there. 

Yes we self released on Headless Horseman, Trading and selling to other labels/distros has been the key to getting it out there. The negative of doing it yourself is $ and the positive is total control over everything. In this day and age it's hard work doing tape/CD/Vinyl releases but WELL WORTH the hassle. Ross and I are old school collectors and know the feelings of holding an awesome metal album in your hands and looking at the art work, reading the credits, lyrics and being taking away to that special place that great metal albums can do to you. There is no better sound than the crackle of
vinyl. I know i'm in a minority these days but downloading just doesn't compare. We always have been in this for the long haul so we know that it takes time to sell a batch of CD's or vinyl. 

6) Continuing on with ‘Down In The Cold Of The Grave’. On that Album you had the cover art and logo done by the incredibly talented Nick Keller. What are you looking to do with the visual presentation of the new album?

I was really keen for this one to have a classic heavy metal feel like those great covers from the 80's.. The great old days of walking into a music store and buying a record unheard because of the cover art. Scarecrowoven is doing the art. I stumbled across him in Thrasher magazine and was blown away by his stuff. I contacted him to do my other band Red Dawn's cover art and he nailed it. This time around around I showed him King Diamond Abigail cover as a reference point. He's really captured the vibe and it represents the feel of the album perfectly.

Click the image to purchase and listen to 'Down in the cold of the grave' 

7) You were recently interviewed for Radio New Zealand’s 2 part ‘South of Heaven: A History of New Zealand Extreme Metal’ documentary. Tell us why you think that is important to the people reading this.

NZ metal has a great history and it's awesome that Craig Hayes has documented it. A lot of those bands broke up 20 years ago so it's important that they are remembered. I was a bit player back in the day, but attended many shows as a punter so was happy to be interviewed and give my perspective on what went down. Now
we just need someone to do an awesome vinyl compilation on THONZEM!

Click HERE listen to 'South of Heaven: A History of New Zealand Extreme Metal' as well as complete unedited interviews.

8) You’ve been pretty prolific in your touring around New Zealand. What benefits has this brought to BulletBelt? I understand you’re going to be playing off shore soon? 

Yes we are a busy band and like touring and getting our music out to as many people as possible. If anything it has made us a much better live band. We also like the idea of taking the music to the smaller towns around NZ. As a teenager getting into metal I can still recall the magic of the first gigs I attended. We hope to go to these places hopefully inspire someone to start there own band. 3 shows in Aussie this time around. Getting across the ditch is easy to do but also exciting to play new ground. Brisbane, Melbourne then playing the Bendigoat festival in Bendigo. We have plans to travel further abroad in the future.

9) What is ‘Headless Horseman’? What can we expect from it in the near future?

Headless Horseman is the label and distro that Ross and I formed to get our music out and help fund what we do. Ross handles the distro and I lead the touring side of things. We have brought Impiety/Goatwhore (with Chaos), Midnight, Primate and Krisiun next month to NZ. We both work together on the album releases which have so far been Bulletbelt, Red
Dawn and Pervertor. "The futures uncertain and the end is always near".

Check out the 'Headless Horseman' facebook page HERE

10) Who the fuck are 'The Skull'? Why? What the fuck are they doing?

Haha The Skull are 4 ugly fuckers who have made Chinese Democracy part 2, except it's a 12 minute gang beating rather than a wankfest. And it's hopefully coming your way soon!

11) Cheers for answering this interview Steve! Now is the bit where you get to wrap things up and plug any products or shows you would like readers to be aware of. 

Thanks for the interview Chris. Go and get our album Rise of the Banshee now. You can buy it off the Bulletbelt Bandcamp, at a record store near you or on iTunes. Cheers!

Click the image to purchase and listen to 'Rise of the Banshee'