INTERVIEW: Eric Schlittler of Kid Icarus

There’s nothing quite like digging out the ol’ Nintendo Entertainment System and a blowing the dust out of an aging game cartridge, popping that sucker in and just letting the pure, simple joy of nostalgia regress your psyche to a time less encumbered by social responsibilities and the bittersweet wisdom that comes with age.

That’s much the same feeling I get when listening to “Dig Archaeology: Thirteen Years of Lost Songs 1999-2012,” the new retrospective anthology collection from Kid Icarus (out now on cassette from Hope for the Tape Deck, or as a digital download online here). Offering up thirteen outtakes, demos and rarities culled from all over the Dunmore-based band’s nearly two decade-long career, including intriguing early versions of songs that made it onto the band’s other releases like “The Metal West” and “American Ghosts” and, even better, completely unreleased songs that have never before seen the magnetic magic of cassette tape (nor the digital sorcery of online mp3s).

570 M.F. caught up with Kid Icarus founder and frontman Eric Schlittler was nice enough to find out how “Dig Archaeology” sheds new light on the band’s past, and also to ask him about his bathroom butt-wiping rituals. Because I felt like it.

photo by Nathaniel Kane

photo by Nathaniel Kane

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INTERVIEW: Oz Bloodcurse of Neldöreth

It’s February, folks, and you know what that means: Black Metal History Month!

Today, we’ll be taking a look at the historic Norwegian “Black Circle” and ask the immortal question (get it? “Immortal”? Like the band… oh fuck it): Varg Vikernes, genre icon or irredeemable douche bag?

I’m sorry, what?

Oh. Shit.

I’m sorry, folks. Apparently, it’s not Black Metal History Month. It’s just Black History Month.

Well, this is awkward.

And, dammit, now I’m in the mood for black metal! Luckily, 2014 also marks the ten-year anniversary of NEPA’s own corpse paint-encrusted legion of blasphemers, Neldöreth (don’t forget the umlaut). Frontman Oz Bloodcurse was cool enough to sit down with 570 Mine Fire and reminisce on the band’s decade-long legacy of auditory and ideological diabolism.

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REVIEW: Buzzherd – “On Sinking Ships… Rats Drown”

buzzDo you know what the Maloik is?

Yes you do. Trust me, even if you think you don’t, you do.

Fold your thumb and two middle fingers into the palm of your hand and keep your index finger and your pinky extended. There. That’s the Maloik. Everybody does it. My mom does it. Miley Cyrus does it. This despite its infamous but inaccurate nickname, “throwing up the devil’s horns.”

It’s the unofficial gang sign of headbangers everywhere, and it’s been adopted by the mainstream as an all-purpose hand-symbol for all things kick-ass. It’s not to be confused with the sign-language for “I love you,” and despite whatever Gene Simmons might tell you, he did not invent it. Ronnie James Dio did.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. Dio didn’t technically invent it, but he did popularize it. It derives from Italian superstition, wherein making the sign with fingers pointing at someone constitutes you giving them “the evil eye,” or cursing them. Making the sign with fingers pointing up into the air, as it is usually done, represents protection from the evil eye. Kind of ironic that it’s often misinterpreted as being Satanic in nature.

What does any of this have to do with the Buzzherd album “On Sinking Ships… Rats Drown”? Nothing really, except that it features a track titled “The Maloik” and that gave me an opening to go off on a self-indulgent tangent.

If I wanted to, I could make a half-assed attempt to tie in said tangent by saying it’s equally ironic that Buzzherd, who churns out music so abrasive and foreboding one assumed it could only come from the pits of Hell, actually hails from Bethlehem, PA, a town named after the supposed birthplace of Jesus Christ. But that would be cheesy.

Anyway, Buzzherd has this great song called “The Maloik.” Another great song is called “Gigas,” which is an alternate name for giants in fantasy fiction as well as part of the title of “The Codex Gigas,” a medieval tome also known as “The Devil’s Bible” which has some cool lore surrounding it involving shit like people getting walled up alive and making Luciferian pacts. Nifty, eh?

Yet another great song is called “Indrid Cold,” inspired by a cryptic figure with the appropriately chilling nickname “The Grinning Man” who is talked about in paranormal research circles and who is allegedly either an alien or the Mothman of West Virginia. Or possibly both.

So basically the members of Buzzherd are a bunch of weird, cool dudes into some very weird, cool stuff. Fortunately, their music is just as weird and cool. I’m talking punky, pissed-off sludge-metal that’s more interested in pummeling you to a pulp than giving you a soundtrack for a smoky night of bong hits. Even when dabbling in fog-shrouded psychedelia, such as in the ambient cemetery-at-midnight opening of “The Maloik,” Buzzherd never fails to bring brutality back to the fore.

There’s no confusing this for NOLA-style sludge. This could only have come from the East Coast. The vocals are strictly death-metal/hardcore-style throat-rending savagery, while guitars burn through fuzz with crusty, squalling, low-tuned thrash which often pleasantly surprises in fits of Iron Maiden/Judas Priest-y harmony.

The songs themselves are bottom-loaded with bass for maximum gravity, then fleshed out with bluesy, Black Sabbath grooves. Endless waves of crashing cymbals give the beast a glimmering suit of armor, turning it into a bulletproof engine of death.

Rarely does one find a band that feels both slow and fast at the same time, and, more than that, does it well. “On Sinking Ships…” is a hulking colossus with a mouth full of chainsaws instead of teeth. It’s got the ominous atmosphere and the elephantine riffage of stoner doom, but once it get you in its mitts it’s more like a roid-raging monter than a lethargic pothead.

Seriously, Buzzherd will rip you to shreds.

Choice cuts: “Indrid Cold,” “The Maloik,” “Gigas”

REVIEW: Black Diamond/Foul Taste – “Rise of the Barre”

splitWarning: Stupid, personal tangent ahead!

Okay, so when I was a kid, I hated Pennsylvania. Typical. When you’re young and full of hormones, growing up, you get antsy. You get sick of the same ol’ same ol’ and want to get out and see the rest of the world. Everywhere else seems so exotic and full of potential, everywhere but where you already are.

Obviously, as evidenced by this blog, things have changed for me. I never became a globetrotting secret agent (not yet, anyway), but I’ve been places and seen stuff. And, all in all, I’ve found there really is no place like home.

Sappy, I know. Shoot me.

Funny enough, a lot of the reasons I wanted to get the hell out of Pennsylvania as a kid are the same reasons I love Pennsylvania now. Pennsylvania is coal country and with that lineage comes a certain attitude and atmosphere. It’s very mercurial. On one hand, you have a proliferation of really beautiful forests and mountains and pastoral nature shit. On the other hand, you have the cities, which are classic blue-collar, East Coast tough.

I always say the reason I love Pennsylvania (especially the Northeastern region where I live) is because it looks how I feel. In those aforementioned urban areas, everything is gray and dirty. A lot of it is old, unused and falling apart. There’s a tremendous sense of sadness here, but also a tremendous sense of history and pride, and just a smidge of hope for something better.

What’s my point? I suppose I don’t really have one, except that this is what listening to the “Rise of the Barre” split from Wilkes-Barre bands Black Diamond and Foul Taste got me thinking of. Both bands are prime examples of the big impact that Pennsylvania’s unique existential flavor can have.

The first four tracks, by Black Diamond, are exactly what I’ve been talking about: Sad and dirty, but also beautiful. Lo-fi noise-punk with a melodic bent and an emotional core. The guitars border on dissonance with their use of feedback and weird, wobbly riffs, while the drumbeats are shiny and sharp, old scratched-up daggers poking holes in the skin of each song, letting oil-black blood slither out in the form of slippery-but-sticky bass lines.

Then there are the vocals. Throaty and calloused, alternately howling and crooning emblematic lyrics like “I want a lover who understands my head and all my vices / Because they’re not going away / I want emotional, intellectual connection / I want devotional, irreparable damage,” as on standout cut “Something Silver Lined.”

Where Black Diamond shifts back and forth between attitudes of aggression and mourning, though, Foul Taste is all about aggression. For the most part, this half of the split is full-speed-ahead, no-frills hardcore. But, taking a page from the crossover era, there’s a metallic undercurrent running throughout. Instead of classic crossover’s marriage of hardcore and thrash, Foul Taste leans more in the direction of stoner doom. The opening riff of “Our Lost Battle” is a badass behemoth and “Son of God” oozes swampy, druggy grooves. Besides, how could you not dig a band who announces a breakdown by screaming “One, two, fuck you”?

Keep an eye out for both these bands. They reflect their home state wellw, arts ‘n’ all. More importantly, they make sweet tunes.

Choice cuts: “Dirty” (Black Diamond), “Something Silver Lined” (Black Diamond), “Our Lost Battle” (Foul Taste), “Son of God” (Foul Taste)