Live Review: Download Festival, Melbourne

Download Festival Australia
Standard

Download Festival

Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
Monday 11 March 2019

It’s not always easy settling on what you need for a festival. Is it going to rain? Should I pack a poncho? Sunglasses? Will they have sun block and water available? I know that at a recent festival in NZ attendees were not allowed to bring drinks, and the site ran out of water on a dangerously hot day. Will they accept a driver’s licence for ID, or do I need to take my passport?

Clearly most people didn’t put as much thought into it as I did. Melbourne had hit 38c just a week ago, but the black-clad crowds obviously didn’t seem fazed. But then again, this is Download, a descendent of legendary Donington – a Mecca for fans of heavy music from around the globe. It was a fairly stereotypical metal crowd: tattoos, studded belts, combat boots, leather and denim jackets adorned with patches. And of course: the obligatory black band t-shirt. Slayer was the most common name emblazoned on shirts that I noticed today, clearly influenced by the headlining act.

Download Dog

Upon arrival my friends and I took a quick photo inside the inflatable dog head (the festival mascot), and made our way to the mainstage for Luca Brasi. The Tasmanian punks had drawn a decent turn out for so early in the day, and judging from the amount of people singing along, many were long time fans.vin The attempt at a light show was entirely redundant in the middle of a sunny day, but the music was fun and set the tone well.

Like many festivals, the main stage was actually two stages stationed parallel [Red and Black], allowing for near continuous music. Stage techs on the left could set up and sound check while bands on the right performed, each side alternating throughout the day. The stages were flanked by two totem-like statues featuring the Download dog mascot, and a large screen was installed in the centre, allowing punters at the back a better view of what was happening.

We had a quick look around the rest of the site. It was fairly typical really: a selection of stages, plenty of food trucks selling future diarrhoea, a few stalls selling clothes and nerdy nic nacs, a merch stand, lines of port-a-loos, and plenty of bars. Great to see that the festival management were good hosts and made sure that water, sun block and ear plugs were freely available.

Next up we went to Slaves at the Avalanche stage. The Avalanche stage was a big tent, and easily the best stage at the festival, taking me back to the Boiler Room at Mt Smart, or Main Stage at dunk!festival last year. The reasons that tents like this work so well is because they provide shelter and shade from the elements, protecting us from sun/rain, and meaning there are less variables like wind that affect the audio mix. Light shows are also more effective during day time, seeing as they are darker. The downside is that the capacity can be more limited than an open air stage, and I’m guessing that it requires more set up, but I never thought this stage overcrowded when I was there throughout the day.

Slaves certainly had a unique approach. There were just two of them, both topless and heavily tattooed, giving their all with intensity. Isaac Holman played drums whilst standing – having converted a kick drum to a floor tom. Laurie Vincent played guitar.  The two shared vocal duties. It was high energy and reckless, the duo throwing themselves about the stage, bouncing off speakers and launching themselves into the crowd.

Fever 333 at Download

Next up were Fever 333, who followed on in a very similar vein to Slaves. Lead singer Jason Aaron Butler was led on stage wearing a jumpsuit and a bag over his head – imagery that wouldn’t look out-of-place in Guantanamo Bay. He was joined by guitarist Stephen Harrison and drummer Aric Improta. All three of them have played in other successful bands, and their experience showed. It was a hectic brand of impassioned hardcore fused with extra intensity and politics. Many of the messages were about fighting – fighting to make shows a safe space for women, fighting against the NSW government who are trying to restrict live music, fighting for the rights of black people.

All three of them jumped around like mad men – even Improta, who jumped up on his drum throne on the regular. They even had us jumping – asking everyone to crouch down, and spring into the air after a countdown. One great section involved a “drum off” between Butler beat-boxing, and Improa on drums. Then Butler dived out into the crowd, ran the length of the tent and climbed the rigging for the lighting tower. I have no idea how long his microphone lead was, but I’m guessing at least 100 feet. Not to be outdone, Harrison began to climb the rigging on the side of stage, until he became slightly stuck, so jettisoned his guitar down onto the stage below. I loved the ferociousness of it all, and I think it’s fair to say the rest of the crowd did too. Easily a highlight of the day.

Whilst offering decent value for money, and an opportunity to see a range of artists play, festivals sometime feel less satisfying when the band you really want to see can only play a stunted set. But I didn’t feel that today, with many bands having a decent enough time slot to put on a good show.

Back out into the sunlight, and Polish death metal act Behemoth were on the mainstage. Not my thing. Looking at the crowd, many people love the Satanic shtick, but to me, raspy ‘evil’ vocals just sound pathetic, especially when you compare them to punchier shouted hardcore/punk style vocals. I’ll hand it to them though, their imagery made them stand out (spooky face paint and costumes) and they had cool pyrotechnics. The gimmick of being ‘shocking’ and ‘extreme’ just feels dated.

Time for a recharge: get something to eat and drink, reapply sun block, and risk the port-a-loos.

Truth be told, punk covers band Me First & The Gimme Gimmes were my prefered act for this time of the day, but I’m seeing them play a full set in Wellington this Thursday, so I thought I’d try something new. Many of my friends are big fans of Converge. I’ve tried listening to them in the past, and didn’t like it, but some bands are better live. I stayed for a few songs, still couldn’t get into it, so went to Anthrax.

Anthrax are one of the Big 4 – the four most notable thrash metal bands. The other three are Slayer (the festival headliners), Metallica and Megadeth (fronted by original Metallica guitarist Dave Mustaine). Now I don’t listen to a great deal of any of those bands, but when the opportunity presents itself, you’d be foolish not to see them.

They were great, clearly veterans of the stage. In true metal fashion, the drummer had double bass drums and an excessive rack, and guitarist Scott Ian played a Flying V – the most metal (and one of the least practical) guitar shapes. You could see that they loved their job, with the leathery singer Charlie Benette and Ian taking turns to hype the crowd up. Their style of thrash is still centred around fast, heavy riffing, but takes a note from epic NWOBHM bands like Iron Maiden as well. Ian insisted on crowd participation. You can go nuts in the pit, you can nod your head, you can pump your fist, but everyone must move! They didn’t play many songs, but they sure hit the spot.

Amity Affliction took the next slot on mainstage. They played a decent set, although an incident up the front interrupted the set and caused the band to cease for some time. I think someone had fainted in the pit, and security we trying to remove them, but I couldn’t say for sure what happened. Despite the hold up, they played a suitably dynamic set, with great sound, and a mix of heavier songs to get the crowd moving and clean sing-alongs that elicited just as much involvement.

I met up with my friend Jason who had been tour managing Slaves earlier in the day, and we caught some of Alien Weaponry and Rise Against. A few years ago I had earmarked Alien Weaponry as the next success story, but never anticipated the extent to their success. They’ve spent the past year touring Europe and America, playing festivals and joining the likes of Ministry on the road. It has been almost a year since I reviewed their début album , and judging from the amount of views I still get from that article, I can tell that they are sustaining steady growth.

They may have played the smallest stage at Download, but the crowd was spilling out of the confines of the allocated space. I am proud of them for bringing their unique style of Māori-infused thrash metal to the world, and it was a blast shouting along to their rallying war cries as they played.

I’ve seen Rise Against four times in the past, and although they are one of my favourite artists, I think they’re stronger as a studio band then as live performers. That said, the sound mix at Download was better than I’ve come to expect from them, and they still come across as seasoned players. Nothing is ever as good as listening to some of your favourite songs from your formative years, and they made sure to touch on a mix of songs new and old. Special mention to the section of Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid” that they slotted into “Savior”, likely as a tribute to Ozzy Osbourne, the billed headliner who had to cancel due to health issues.

Grunge giants Alice In Chains were one of my big drawcards to this event. I’d read good reviews of their Auckland show the previous week, which only served to whet my appetite even more. And boy, did they deliver! Lead singer William DuVall will never be able to escape the shadow of original singer Layne Staley, whose substance abuse and subsequent death effectively ended the band in the 90’s. And although Duvall has recorded as many albums with AiC as Staley had, people still ask if he is fit to fill Stayley’s boots?

Short answer: yes. He nailed the older material. He didn’t try to emulate his predecessor, but made the songs his own while remaining true to the what the fans knew. As you can imagine, tracks like “Down In A Hole”, “Would?” and “Rooster” all went down a treat, but I can attest that new material stood up just as well alongside the classics.

It was just approaching dusk toward the end of Alice In Chains’ set, finally rendering the stagelights effective. An some of the original giants of metal: Judas Priest sure made the most of it.

When it comes to Judas Priest, everything is excessive. The stage set, the costumes, the drum kit, the sheer power of the music… it’s all epic. Rob Halford reappropriated the leather and studs from gay culture and pioneered the eternal metal wardrobe. And tonight he showed us how loyal he was to that look, with aviator sunglasses, leather gloves, and a range of leather jackets.

They’re a quintessential metal band, with the sound and look dialled just so. I was loving every minute. But I had a tough call to make. As great as they were, I’ve already seen Priest play at Westfest in Auckland a few years back. And my teenage nostalgia was craving some Sum 41, who I’ve never seen live. It’s the scheduling clash I struggled most with, but I think I made the best call I could have.

We timed it perfectly, arriving at the Avalanche tent just before Sum 41 played “Walking Disaster”, my favourite song of theirs. Sometimes you need to be strategic about which acts to see at a festival, and thankfully I could use Setlist.FM to look up sets from the Download Festival in Sydney on Saturday to inform my choices.

Singer Deryck Whibley commanded the stage like a pro, controlling both the band and the crowd at his whim. It was even more fun than I’d hoped – the great music combined with well rehearsed showmanship. Like Rise Against, they threw a few covers into the set (Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall”, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”), the most notable being Queen’s “We Will Rock You”, which was so punked up that I didn’t recognise it until they hit the chorus.

They concluded with hits “In Too Deep”, “Fat Lip” and “Still Waiting”, which is what most of us were hoping to hear.

It was a hard decision missing most of Judas Priest’s set. I didn’t see Halford ride his Harley Davidson, but I did see them play “Breaking The Law” upon returning to the main stage, which was a great consolation.

Sadly for me, the night had peaked by that point. I got to shout silly things like “metal” and “Slaaayer” in falsetto when Slayer came on, but they didn’t have enough groove or dynamics to make we want to stick around.

I had been trying to figure out Ghost’s appeal leading up to the festival, and hadn’t worked out why people like them yet. Was it the same lame Satan shtick? Because at least Behemoth sounded plausible. Ghost’s sound didn’t match their image or reputation. I’d been watching Ghost videos on YouTube and it’s like they were trying to emulate Dynasty era KISS by playing disco tunes while dressing spooky.

Thankfully they fared better live. They had a decent stage set, which always helps (Rammstein are worth seeing for their stage set and pyro alone, even despite their music). The drums and bass sounded good, and riffs stood out a lot more than in the videos I’d heard. The singing was still a joke though. I said I’d give them three songs to prove themselves. Well, they were OK – better than I expected, but still not interesting enough to warrant sticking around any longer.

Halestorm proved to be the most worthwhile of the last three bands of the night. They played hard, shredding away and putting on a performance that focused on musicality over presentation. The drummer had some interesting tones from a slightly unconventional set-up, and the guitarists clearly knew their stuff. unfortunately singer Lzzy Hale was losing her voice. She put a heroic effort in, but wasn’t quite hitting her mark. This didn’t take away from the overall experience though.

All in all, it was a fantastic day. My friend and I discussed our day on the train trip home and we realised that we hadn’t encountered any dickheads. No aggro, no shoving, no spilling beer on us. People were respectful, gave space when they could, and all looked after each other. And that’s better than I’ve come to expect from most gigs, let alone one the size of Download. But it all came together: the weather was good, the line up of bands was excellent, the crowds respectful, and the overall experience was excellent.

It’s a real shame that Ozzy Osbourne couldn’t play. He had been one of the big drawcards for me. But you can’t hold it against anyone that he got sick, and it was still a fantastic event.

I may just have to fly back to Australia for Download next year as well!

 

Joseph James

Album Review: Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto

Tenacious D Post-Apocalypto
Standard

Tenacious D have long been a guilty pleasure of mine. They’re misogynistic, juvenile and crude, but at the same time I do find some of their content funny, and they know how to rock. I guess the same could be said about Jack Black, who has had gold moments throughout his acting career (namely School of Rock), but mostly boasts lemons. He’s a slightly more reliable Adam Sandler, but I still have a soft spot for his work.

Post-Apocalypto is their fourth full length album. Like The Pick of Destiny, it is a soundtrack. It follows a YouTube webseries that has played out over the past month, featuring the songs and snippets of dialogue from the show.

Both Black and partner Kyle Gass are comedic actors, so writing funny songs with narrative suit their strengths. I’ve seen them play three times, and although it can feel slightly forced, the story arc that carries through their shows is fun, and allows them to play with theatrical flair.

The narrative for this record doesn’t quite work though. I still enjoy the skits from their first record, which were silly stand-alone pieces. But the skits on this new album are just snippets from the web series used to advance the story. This should help to provide context for those who haven’t watched the series, but there isn’t enough to fill in all the plot points of the story-line. I think they would have been wiser to have an all-or-nothing approach, and should have left the snippets out, instead of sprinkling an inadequate amount throughout.

Post-Apocalypto (the web series) was a painful watch. Like I’ve said, I’m a fan, so forced myself through it, but didn’t feel rewarded for my efforts. I hesitate to call it an animation, but more a selection of Black’s hand-drawn stills to give visual reference for the audio. It’s a sci-fi series that explored Tenacious D trying to survive in a (you guessed it) apocalyptic wasteland. Along the way they adopt a three-headed dog, battle genital monsters, fight Nazis and travel to space.

Tenacious D have always been crass, but I was shocked at the many gratuitous sex scenes. But then again, it’s exactly what I should have expected – it was just visual this time. It’s a political show too, with The D taking shots at Trump and Nazis. I guess the timing is appropriate, with approaching elections in America, but only time will tell how fast these political and pop culture references will date the album.

The songs are short. It makes sense, they fit within short episodes. And The D have plenty of short, furious songs with impact. But still, this entire album lasts half an hour, and that’s with skits padding it out. They could have at least fleshed out a few of the songs so that the album lasted longer. The title theme offers plenty of potential for extension, but feels incomplete as is.

And they’ve done their fair share of ballads in the past too, but almost all of the songs on this album are ballads, leaving me wondering what happened to the band that once won a Grammy for “Best Metal Performance”.

It’s not all bad though. Black’s voice acting shines through. You really feel for Terminator’s lament in “Robot” (despite the odd Arnie-esque accent). The redneck Nazi’s sound so thick that you really want to believe that they’re all really that dense.

“Hope” is arguably the best of the ballads, and most rousing. The D explore new musical horizons with “JB JR Rap”, rapped in a hoarse voice and complete with an autotuned section. To be honest, most of the album is Classic D, albeit shorter and less rocking.

The D have a long history with Foo Fighter Dave Grohl. Grohl has drummed on all of their records to date, and the trio have featured in a number of each other’s videos. The first time I saw The D live was opening for Foo Fighters at Western Springs in Auckland, where the crowd jumped up and down enough to trigger minor earthquakes [It sounds absurd, but it’s true!]. Black has also guest starred on one of Grohl’s Probot tracks, “The Warlock“.

As you’d expect, Grohl’s drumming is on point. He’s long been known as a powerhouse drummer since his Nirvana days, and has collaborated with such a range of rock royalty that it has almost become a meme. You can hear unmistakably in the title theme – a rehash of an old unreleased bridge (Rolling Thunder) that the band cut from their song “Rize of the Fenix” (off their last record). “Daddy Ding Dong” also has Grohl written all over it, one of the few stand-out rock of the soundtrack that venture into metal territory, as does “Woman Time”, with awesome Dio-esque vocals.

In short: Post-Apocalypto not a great album. Just as their other soundtrack, Pick of Destiny doesn’t compare well to the other albums, this one feels weak too. It is entirely in keeping with the Tenacious D brand, being puerile and budget, but doesn’t rock enough. Only the most loyal fans will appreciate it, and I doubt even they will revisit it after the initial listens. If you’re interested in it, at least watch the web-series so that you can hear the songs with context. I hope this isn’t the end of The D, but if they do release new music in the future, they’d be best to write without a constraining concept.

Tenacious D links:

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/tenaciousD

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/tenaciousd/

Website: https://www.tenaciousd.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealTenaciousD

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tenacious/

 

Live Review: Shihad at Shed 6, Wellington

Shihad 30 Tour Poster
Standard

Shihad 30th Anniversary Tour

w/ Villainy and Beastwars
Shed 6, Wellington
Saturday 20 October 2018

The first thing I noticed as I entered the room was the middle-aged men dancing at the front. I teach toddlers for a living, but not even three-year-olds rocking out to the Frozen soundtrack could match the levels of uninhibited dancing I saw during Villainy’s set.

I mean, these guys were really giving it their all. There’s something truly wondrous about seeing man with grey hair prancing around playing air guitar and enjoying themselves so much. In fact, a good portion of the crowd were lapping up Villainy’s show.

I’ve never paid much attention to Villainy. I know I’ve seen them play a bunch of times but I couldn’t say when. Sad to hear from a music reviewer, I know, but I’ve always dismissed them as one of the many generic radio-rock bands that New Zealand pumps out. But they played well, and maybe I need to reconsider my opinion on them. The final song was a real crowd pleaser, with a melody lifted from Weezer’s “Buddy Holly”.

Hearing Beastwars announced as a support slot was a great surprise. I thought that the show they played at San Fran in July was the last Wellington show planned for some time, if not for good. Beastwars went on hiatus a while back after releasing their last album for a variety of reasons: infighting during the recording process, frontman Matt Hyde battling cancer, and drummer Nathan Hickey emigrating to Europe. They’d only ever planned on releasing a trilogy of albums, so with their planned output completed, there was no guarantee that the band would continue. But thankfully they are back – or at least for this Shihad tour and a few upcoming dates in Oz.

As always, watching Beastwars play was an immersive experience. Hearing the distinctive chugging of “Damn The Sky” (my favourite Beastwars song) made me cry out in joy as they started their set, and they didn’t relent with their offerings until finished. In some ways, they’re New Zealand’s answer to Killing Joke. They draw you in with oppressive riffs and primal drumming, creating a captivating ritual. Hyde summons up God-knows-what and uses the process to purge himself of demons.

As great as it was to see Beastwars unleash the riff again, they were no match for Shihad. This tour marks 30 years since Shihad formed as teenagers, and their experience shows. They’re seasoned veterans of the stage who have refined their art of rocking to perfection.

30 years to hone their abilities. Tom Larkin, as always, is a monster behind the kit. He always sounds amazing, whether whipping out thrash-metal blast beats or just holding down a groove. His backing vocals were more noticeable than usual tonight, as he sung into his gooseneck microphone. Karl Kippenberger helps with the groove, always looking effortlessly cool. And Phil Knight lets his playing do the talking, bringing the riffs and the solos.

Shihad have nine studio albums out now. I can think of a few times that I’ve seen them play a set spanning their whole career,picking a track or two from each record, and playing through them chronologically. It’s a smart move, ensuing that they please fans old and new.

This time they’ve taken the same idea and reversed it. They commenced with “Think You’re So Free”, from latest album FVEY, and worked their way backwards, playing a song or two from each record. “Think You’re So Free” is venomous and powerful, as is “FVEY” – both tracks a commentary on society, and protest against the then-government and world powers who control our lives.

Love Is The New Hate’s “Alive” felt slightly jarring after the throbbing dance-beat of “Sleepeater” and poppiness of “One Will Hear The Other”, but “All The Young Fascists” signaled that we were approaching Shihad’s golden era that balanced commercial appeal with a heavier rock edge.

I saw Jon Toogood front The Adults at Meow recently, and it was obvious how at home he feels on stage these days. He acted slightly different in this context though. The Adults show felt more intimate and relaxed, whereas here he seemed more professional. That is, if you could consider someone encouraging the crowd to shout swear words “professional”. You can never tell if an artist is just paying lip service or not when they say how great the audience is, but I would suggest that he was genuinely touched at seeing a sold-out venue full of die-hard fans in his hometown.

He gave a special shout-out to a young boy sat upon his Dad’s shoulders and wearing an AC/DC shirt. “This is the future of rock and roll!” Toogood announced, “Kid, one day you’re going to be up here doing my job. Just don’t become a fuckin’ DJ!”

Pacifier was a contentious time for the band, when they changed their name in an attempt to break into the American market. Some people hate it, but it has some great tracks on it. The two that got played tonight were “Comfort Me”, and the anthemic “Run”

Next up was The General Electric. TGE came out 20 years ago, so Shihad have just remastered it and released it on vinyl for the first time. To celebrate, they played about a third of the record.

I’ve seen Shihad play all of TGE live on two occasions (at San Fran in 2010, and at Big Day Out the following year) and, tell you what – this time was just as great. The band went backstage for a breather while Toogood serenaded us with the synth-ballad “Brightest Star”, before coming back in force with the furious “My Mind’s Sedate”.

If you’ve ever seen the band play “The General Electric” and “Wait and See”, then you’ll understand with songs from this album always dominate Shihad sets. They’re energetic, dynamic. They make you want to move and jump about. Clearly Toogood got swept up in the excitement too, finishing “Wait and See” with a stage dive, before accidentally dropping his microphone, and sheepishly waiting while a tech fetched it back for him from under the drum riser.

Toogood encouraged everyone to pull out their phones and lighters to wave them in the air for the classic ballad “Pacifier”. The stage lights dimmed, unneeded due to the glow emitted from the hundreds of screens.

The self-titled album – referred to as The Fish Album by some, gave us “Home Again” – one of the bands most enduring songs – and “La La Land”. Killjoy offered the immersive synth drenched “Deb’s Night Out”, and the vitriolic accusing “You Again”.

Which brings us to the début album Churn. The industrial-meets-speed-metal record that first came out back in 1994. “Factory” is an intricate song filled with malice. I imagine that they rehearsed this one a lot, because it would be incredibly unforgiving if they weren’t absolutely in sync with each other.

Yesterday Shihad played in Christchurch, and put up a poll on Facebook so the fans could vote on which song they wanted to hear for an encore [it was “Bitter”]. Tonight the band chose to play “Cheap As” – Toogood’s favourite riff, he revealed. It was a neat way to highlight the band’s evolution, playing the first track from their début album, and then the last song from their latest album. Both are crushingly heavy, abrasive and politically charged. And in between those two songs we had ballads and anthems, tastes of pop and metal, synth-backed dance tunes, somber love songs, and hard hitting rock numbers.

30 years. Nine albums. A sold-out hometown show. It’s one hell of a legacy, but it’s not even close to over. Shihad have been one of my favourite bands since I was a teenager, and they reaffirm why I love them so much every time I see them play.

 

Joseph James

Lost Between The Sound: An Interview With P.O.D’s Marcos Curiel

POD 2018 NZ Tour Poster
Standard

Marcos Curiel has lots to be grateful for. He’s the founding guitarist of P.O.D (Payable On Death), the San Diego nu-metal crew formed in 1992 who boast three Grammy nominations and over 12 million record sales. He strikes me as modest, downplaying his achievements and humbly attributing any success he’s had to his fans and “the beauty of music”.

When I ask him about the longevity of his band, he deflects the focus away from the band and towards his fans.

We are very gracious and thankful for this and to fans that are so loyal. Whether in South America, Europe, here in the states or even Australia or New Zealand. People still come up see us doing our thing and we are still riding that wave until that wave stops.”

But he’s also quick to credit his band members and crew for P.O.D’s success as well.

“I think a lot of it comes from our upbringing – having the same sort of background – basically coming from nothing. And just aspiring to want to play music for people and just doing it, acting out on it and building a following. We were independent before we signed to a major label and kept saying that there was an audience there for what we were doing. It encouraged us to continue to do it and encourages us to keep doing it today even though we are 25, 26 years deep. 

“We are definitely a second family on the road. We were basically teenagers when we started jamming together. Now we are full on grown men with kids and families of our own. P.O.D is our second family, you know what I mean? We’re probably together more as a band then we are with our own family sometimes. You know, we travel the world together. We are in an airplane, we’re in a bus… we are always travelling together as a band and with our crew”

Curiel is also a fan of New Zealand, having come several times in the past decade. Last time they co-headlined with NZ act Rapture Ruckus. Before that they’ve toured with Disturbed and played Edgefest. He begins the interview just gushing about our country.

“Given the opportunity, if I had to leave the states and go somewhere else to live and I always say New Zealand. . . Maybe I could even retire there.”

In recent years P.O.D have tried new directions, putting out an acoustic record (SoCal Sessions, 2014), and a concept album (The Awakening, 2015). I ask if the latest single, “Soundboy Killa” will be part of any upcoming album and Curiel admits that he isn’t sure at this stage.

“Well that is kind of a transitional single kind of thing  We put that kind of to let our fanbase know that hey we’re working on new music, we’re still here – you know what I mean? I don’t even know if that’s going to make the record. Some people are like ‘That should go on the record!’, and we’re like ‘well… you never know…’ We’ll figure it out.

“Actually, we just signed a new deal with Mascot Labels. And they’ve taken us on, and hopefully releasing the new album in the summertime here in the States. We’re currently writing and working on pre-production which started in November. We were in the studio last week and we’re working through December, but we’re taking time off for holidays and we’re going to jump back in in January and head on tour here in the States. And jump back in and hopefully record that record in March and drop it in the summer.

“It’s been pretty cool, because we usually get one producer to do the whole record and on this album we’re working with different producers and different production crews. We’re working with HEAVY – they’ve done stuff with Sublime, The Dirty Heads. .. Just a bunch of different artists. And we’re working with Cameron Webb – he’s produced NOFX, Pennywise, Motorhead… He’s actually the producer of Soundboy Killer.

“We’re just trying different things, man. We’re at a stage in our career that we don’t really have to go out and say ‘hey, look at us, we’re a band.’ You know who we are and you either like us or you don’t. We have freedom to be able to experiment and do what we want, how we want to do it. Which, quite frankly, is pretty awesome.”

One interesting fact about P.O.D that draws attention is that they collaborated with the then-unknown Katy Perry for their song “Goodbye For Now” back in 2005. This remains a seemingly hot piece of trivia, despite the fact that the band have also collaborated with many other artists from acts like In This Moment, Suicidal Tendencies and Bad Brains.

Curiel wasn’t part of the band during that period, so never actually met her. He tells me what he knows about the collaboration though.

“They were working with Glen Ballard for Testify and she was one of his protegés – so to speak – that he was trying to get up and get out there in the scene. She was always hanging around the studio and wanted to go on a track. The guys became friends with her and she actually performed on the song on The Jay Leno Show, I believe. That’s how that all came to be. She will occasionally tweets about the band, tweet out how much she loves ‘Alive’ and certain songs. That’s pretty cool.”

POD are known as a Christian band, which earns them flack from both atheists and churches. In my experience, non-believers are often quick to condemn anyone of faith. And many conservative churches dismiss POD because of the company they choose to keep, playing along the likes of Marylin Manson and at metal festivals such as Ozzfest.

Marcos virtually scoffs when I ask him about this.  “Do you know what’s crazy about that? I call it scenester stuff,” he explains, “I know vegans who are in hardcore bands, and I’m like, so what… you’re only gong to play with hardcore vegan bands? No, they’re playing with all different types of bands – you know what I’m saying?

I understand, I explain, my friends in Declaration AD used to get similar criticism. People would question their motives, asking things like “Why would a band of Christians choose to play alongside death metal bands? This strikes a chord with Curiel. He proceeds to explain that he tries to write music for all walks of life, not just Christians.

Christian people maybe want to hold themselves to be the poster children, but that’s not what we’re called to do. We want to write music that inspires everybody. And so we took an approach that we’ll play most of the shows, because we want to play for everybody.

“But as far as being caught in the middle – we don’t look at it like that. We are a band of faith. Definitely we have our personal beliefs. We try to write music that connects with multiple cultures and different types of people.

“I think that’s the beautiful thing about being an artist. There’s people who are gonna understand your art, and some that won’t. The thing is, we’ve never really tried to become, at an early age we were a little more – so to speak – old in the faith. We never knew there was metal, or punk rock or any kind of scene that was a Christian scene. The band that we referred to as a major influence was U2. We’ve always look at them as inspiration. They had Christian roots and have written songs that are very conscient of humanity, or being positive in general, and we’re taken that approach – obviously playing a different style of music.

“And when we went to Singapore we found ourselves playing in front of Muslims. And they were singing ‘Alive’! And we were like ‘What the heck!’, we were tripping out at it. But at the same time, that’s the beautiful thing about music – it’s universal.

“What we get our inspiration and a lot of our confidence. First of all, it comes from that Chrstian faith, but we don’t go out and say ‘Hey, we’re this and that’s who we are.’ We’re just a rock band, man, that wants to inspire . We have our struggles and try to write songs about those struggles and we try to encourage all walks of life.

“The Beastie Boys, towards the end of their career they all about Free Tibet, and Jay was a Buddist, and they were playing with everybody, from Pearl Jam to Jane’s Addiction.

“You know how it is. Music should be universal. People have certain beliefs that drive their music, and that just happens to be ours.”

POD

I feel that the way he concludes the interview is incredibly indicative of his character: positive and humble.

“We’re excited to get down there. We love your country and everything about the culture – the energy – and we cant wait to get down there and perform. Bring some Southern California vibes down there!”


P.O.D Australia/ NZ Tour Dates

Saturday 14 April          Auckland The Studio

Sunday 15 April            Wellington San Fran

Buy tickets for New Zealand: https://metropolistouring.com/pod-nz/

Tuesday 17 April          Melbourne 170 Russell

Wednesday 18 April     Adelaide The Gov

Friday 20 April              Sydney Factory Theatre

Saturday 21 April         Brisbane Eatons Hill Hotel

Sunday 22 April           Gold Coast Coolangatta Hotel

Buy tickets for Australia: https://metropolistouring.com/pod/

P.O.D links:

Website: http://www.payableondeath.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/POD/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/POD

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/POD/

EP Review: The Amblers – The Dustling Man

The Amblers The Dustling Man
Standard

That first guitar lick will tell you everything you need to know about The Amblers, a blues rock duo hailing from Johannesburg.

It’s a lazy, crunchy riff, freshly graduated from the school of Angus Young. But there’s something more to it too, like if AC/DC grew up in the American South.

The blues rock influences are evident too – you have your Rolling Stones, White Stripes, and Royal Blood. Dirty blues rock, y’know? These all tie in to give that dangerous edge. Sure, the riffs and beats follow a formula of sorts, but there are unpredictable elements that only emerge for a bar here or there. If you listen closely you can also hear some nice clean playing underneath the layers of distortion. These parts are heard to pick out, but would certainly be welcome more prominently in the mix.

Fuzzy and raw, the opening track reeks of cool. Resplendent with laid back riffs, rocking solos, sloshy drum cymbals – these guys know what’s up.

The title track is the one to get your toe tapping. Similar to the first song, with a faster riff, and more of a four of the floor stomping feel than the stop start vibe of the first track.

The song “Tired”, on the other hand, is slower and balladesque. The distinctive guitar remains, but organ is dominant during this track. Organ with so much vibrato I picture the underwater scene from Pinnochio. You know when cartoons speak underwater and their voice ripples and undulates as they talk? Another neat addition is crisp piano notes playing on the beat, clinking to accent where you’d sometime expect the drummer to play the bell of the ride cymbal, or a cowbell.

Drummer Jason Hinch shows off most of his chops during the last track, “Keep Me Screamin’”. The verses follow the vocal line – guitar line alternating delivery of Sometimes. The cleaner guitar tone feels welcome after three tracks of intense fuzz, but still retains the same energy. 

For a duo, these guys sure pack a punch. Intimate listening reveals layer upon layer of subtle details that drown under the intense distortion. In fact, I can’t figure out how they would possibly pull these songs off live. Fuzzy, filthy and fleshed out, The Amblers will have you rocking out more than you’d expect possible from just two guys. They’re currently in the studio working on a new album, and that is something that excites me very much.

The Amblers


The Amblers links:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/wearetheamblers

Twitter: https://twitter.com/The_Amblers

Deezer: http://www.deezer.com/en/album/45793922

iTunes: http://itunes.apple.com/album/id1267131916?ls=1&app=itunes

 

Joseph James