Phobiatic to Release Fourth LP

With three full lengths and an EP under their belt, German death metal project Phobiatic are almost ready to release another. Founded in 2008, Phobiatic boats members of other projects like Warfield Within, I Despise, and Fake Idyll. The death is strong with these other projects as well.

The influence of death metal giants like Suffocation, Origin, Cryptopsy and Dying Fetus are heavy amongst their discography, but don’t let statement form a bias against them. Phobiatic offer their own flavor of technical death metal, but don’t think for a minute that their complexities take away from the brutal foundations of their music.

When I asked drummer Kai Bracht about Phobiatic’s upcoming release, he said that they’ll still offer a high level of technicality, but are bringing other metal influences into their material.

Their newest jams are currently in their mix/master stage, but for now, you can catch Phobiatic’s three previous LPs and their EP, as always, on their bandcamp. I’m stoked to hear what goodies they’ve got cooking and we wish them the best of luck with their hunt for a record label worthy of their material.

Interview; Levi Dale, The Ritual Aura 2019

Amidst the sea of generic, run of the mill promotional crusades, The Ritual Aura‘s Levi Dale has devised a rather interactive game of sorts in anticipation for the band’s third album, Velothi.  Curious as I was, Levi was kind enough to let me pick his brain about the new record, the campaign, and a few other things. Have a look!

Dave Jurenovich: What’s your musical background and how you were brought up artistically?
Levi Dale: I started playing guitar when I was 11, so 14 years ago now – mostly self-taught, and it just took over my life for a very long time. My mum has a pretty good taste in music so I was exposed to a lot of it growing up, lots of rock and metal with bands like Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. As tastes got heavier I was introduced to technical death metal and it completely flipped my perception of what you could do with music and guitar.
I pretty much knew then and there that was what I wanted to be doing, no questions asked.

DJ: What inspired you to begin The Ritual Aura?
LD: TRA started as a creative outlet for the music I was writing in 2012/13 – my first serious attempt at writing a record – which eventually became our first album; Laniakea.
I met some great musicians in the process and it all just went from there. We shared similar goals and got along really well, all just wanting to create interesting music and push what we can do.

Vick Sacha: Out of the vast array of music you could be playing, why death metal?
LD: The immense creative freedom and diversity within the genre is something that really stands out to me, yes there are stylistic conventions we tend to gravitate towards, but people are constantly finding new and unique ways to push the boundaries; through various sub-genres and styles there’s always a god-tier gem of an album to discover right around the corner, and the quality is only getting better each year.
I also just really enjoy writing and playing interesting material, so it was either this or… I don’t even know what I’d be doing, probably classical music.

VS: You’ve concocted a rather interesting and elaborate PR campaign for your newest release, Velothi. What inspired you to send your fans on a crypto-historical scavenger hunt?
LD: A big inspiration for it was Cicada 3301 and their yearly puzzles, alongside some other ARGs I had come across through the magic of Youtubeland.
The whole idea of an alternate reality game is really interesting to me, so I just started planning puzzles, not really expecting much. I ended up spending days on it, and eventually was confident enough to put it out there.
It also gave us another means of interaction with the community, which is always welcome.

VS: Your campaign has been up for a little over a week. So far, has the response been what you were expecting? What do you predict for the future outcome?
LD: Seeing everyone work together to solve the clues has been both humbling and amusing – you guys are awesome.
The feedback so far has been great, people have solved each tier in 24 hours or less, so I may have to kick things up a notch for the final stretch..


VS: What correlation does said scavenger hunt have to do with the album’s content?
LD: While it’s not massively intertwined with the record itself, certain puzzles serve as a way to introduce people to album-relevant lore and point them in the right direction for reading material, should they want to learn more.
I’ve scattered a few things in there that’ll make a LOT more sense when the album drops. Little hints and previews are everywhere!

DJ: What can you say about your upcoming album and what sets it apart from the rest of your library?
LD: Velothi is easily the most experimental and ambitious record we’ve done so far, from the change in approach to writing, to the sheer amount of guests and styles woven into things, everything has been scaled up since Tæther.

VS: The date of your upcoming release’s date is still ambiguous, and 2019 is far from over. When do you think you’ll announce a release date? Or does the answer to that lie within your PR campaign?
LD: People have been really patient regarding a release date, and I should finally be able to shed light on that in the coming month or so. The goal is early to mid-year, and with recent developments on vocals and mixing of the record I’m pretty confident we’ll be finished sooner than that.

VS: Do you want to talk about any session musicians you’ve recruited on this record?
LD: Currently there are 11 session musicians spread across Velothi – by far our largest guest-list yet.
This album introduces several new instruments and styles into the TRA palette, from violin/viola (Ryan Cho) and operatic vocals (Adrianna Tentori), to nylon (Nick Padovani) and fretless guitar (Fountainhead).. just to name a few.
Everyone has done an incredible job with their parts and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

VS: I can’t imagine that you’ve stopped writing, so how far into your next release are you?
LD: Nothing is really concrete yet, I’m still looking at candidates for lore/concepts beyond Velothi, but have a couple of ideas.
Prior to writing our last album I immersed myself in Japan’s folklore for a few months and the stories that really stuck became ideas for songs, which lead to inspiration for the music itself.
I generally prefer to start with the story and themes before writing any music.
Velothi was pretty much the same story, so there’ll probably come a day soon where I sit down and work out where to take things next.
If you break each album down so far, we’ve covered sci-fi, horror, and fantasy – so i’d like to continue the trend and mix things up again next time.

VS: You announced late last year that Velothi would be released on your own label, Ire Harvest. What were the deciding factors that led you to start your own label?
LD: I started Ire Harvest following TRA’s departure from our previous label, to serve as a dedicated platform for the projects I’ve been working on/plan to release in the future, and eventually help other bands with a bit more experience under my belt.
In the time TRA has been active I’ve handled a lot of the background work, and figured if I’m already doing it I may as well be building something that has the potential to grow into its own entity and maybe help other people out one day.

VS: Can you briefly talk about why you took on Lūmenwood as the second band on your roster?

LD: Lūmenwood is a side-project I’ve had in the works since late last year, alongside Brandon J. Iacovella – the other guitarist in TRA and riff-vanguard in Proliferation. We’ve since completed the line-up for a debut, featuring some excellent musicians, and the material we’ve put together so far is sounding great.
Hearkening back to the previous question – giving Lūmenwood a platform from the very beginning also helps with insight from a label perspective, regarding the problems I might encounter that TRA is perhaps beyond running into.
Murphy’s law in full effect and all.

DJ: Do you think you’ll ever play any shows in the future?
LD: We have in the past for special occasions (like the launch of Tæther), so I wouldn’t rule it out moving forward.
Currently we’re spread across 4 different continents though, so albums are and will likely always be the main focus, but if the stars aligns we’ll be there!

VS: The lot of you are still fairly young, as is The Ritual Aura itself, what does the future hold for you?

LD: I feel like we have a LOT of ground left to cover as far as writing music goes.
Velothi continues the tradition of a paradigm shift between records, one we’ve strived for with each album so far, and will continue to aim for in the future – this really helps keep things fresh and interesting as time goes on. Maybe next album will be about cake! Who knows? and that’s exciting!

VS: Any last comments, questions or concerns?
LD: Thank you for the great questions!
I hope you and your readers enjoy Velothi when it finally drops, it’s been a blast putting it together these past 2 years, and I can’t wait for you all to hear it.

New single coming very soon! Solve the puzzles to hear it early.. much love <3

And I cannot thank Levi enough for taking the time to answer. You know the drill, guys. You can find all of The Ritual Aura’s music on bandcamp and a bunch of other music platforms. Any additional details will be posted when we know them. And most definitely keep your eyes peeled, your quest is not yet over.

Contrarian; “Their Worm Never Dies”

“…be thrown into hell, where their worm never dies…” -Mark 9:48

It’s been a pretty long time since I’ve been so ecstatic about something that it was so near impossible to wipe a dumb looking grin off my face. Guitarist Brian Mason left me this album in my inbox about a month ago, and it had left said dumb grin on my face for weeks. Even now as I allow these notes to caress my eardrums, I can’t help but succumb to a state of ethereal bliss.

I have a serious emotional attachment to Contrarian’s second full length, To Perceive is to Suffer; one exponentially greater than I have with their first LP, Polemic. Front to back Perceive an absolutely stellar album, chock full of equal parts heaviness and ambiance, outstanding musicianship, and a few unanticipated surprises. And even over a year later, it still gives me that warm, fuzzy, tingly feeling I got when I first listened to it. That’s not to say Polemic isn’t a great album, it just doesn’t quite have the power and emotional impact that Perceive does (at least for me anyway).

When I was sent the dropbox link, Brian included, “It’s better than Perceive, and you know it”. Now, I’m not really a “love at first listen” kinda guy. I tend to find little discrepancies within otherwise incredible songs, and most of the time that one misplaced brushstroke will ruin the bigger picture. But this time… was different. Sure, I delved into this album completely biased, but I had incredibly high expectations. One does not simply drop a masterpiece like Perceive only to follow it up with something sub-par.  As if the Contrarian dudes could write something as such.

With all that out of the way, I suppose that brings me to actually discussing Their Worm Never Dies, right? The concept album chronicles a hooded figure, cursed, who seeks out a glorious white dragon to help cure his affliction. But is the cursed removed? Is the creature’s benevolence perhaps mistaken? And what’s to be told of the Hooded Man’s destiny? Of course, I could give you my own interpretation, but I will allow you to make your own.

Album art by  Marco Hasmann. 

Now, I refuse to go on a tangent about George Kollias. Most of you who’ll read this aren’t death metal newbies, and thus know as well as I do how god-tier his skill level is. If you don’t, I can’t help you this time. But I cannot deny his vital role in this project; George volunteering to do vocals greatly helped propel Contrarian forward. And I’m willing to bet that his association got you to check them out in the first place, didn’t it?

Jim Tasikas, rhythm guitars, is the mastermind behind the premise of the album and the songs’ basic structure. Taking heavy influence from the frontrunners of progressive death like Cynic and Athiest, he smoothly blends the old school death metal sound with modern progression and complexity.  If Schuldiner were still around, there’s no question the sound Contrarian currently concoct is the route Death would’ve taken.

One of my favorite little trivia facts, if you will, about Their Worm (and both previous Contrarian releases) is about how Brian writes his leads. Or rather, how he doesn’t. He shows up to the studio, and when they start recording, he starts noodling. And that’s what ends up on the final product. As if his musical prowess wasn’t impressive enough, I think it’s even more so knowing that he just plays what’s coming naturally in the moment. Out of three LPs, there’s only one track where Brian had a solid idea of what he’d like to play before he got to the studio. And we’ll get to that, but not yet.


My only criticism, if you can even really call it that, is that ideally, I’d have loved to hear more from bassist Ed Paulsen. Those that aren’t new to Contrarian already know he’s an ace musician, and his bass lines really put the finishing touches on Contrarian’s overall sound. That being said, I’m not saying his low tones are drowned out by Jim and Brian’s riffage or George’s vocals. The mix is such that he’s pretty audible most if not all the time. But, I would love to see him have more prominent parts, very much like in the intro to “Exorcism” and in “Among the Misled”.

But alas, this is the beauty of these guys’ musicianship. Even with all the intricacies, complexities, and the vast realms of influence, everything fits together better than the stones in the walls at those ancient megalithic sites.

Now I can’t give away the whole album, but what I can tell you is.. Though this is likely subject to change, my favorite song right now is the title track, “Their Worm Never Dies”. Inspired by an incredible instrumental by a pretty legendary guitarist, it’s a side step away from the heavy-yet-ambient and atmosphere the rest of the album generates. And it’s a brief respite from the saga of the Hooded Man and the Worm. It’s sultry, passionate, and I think it’s the most emotionally provoking off the album.  And it’s placement within the whole is perfect; it precedes an exceptional close to an overall incredible album.

“Whomsoever Worships the Whiteworm” is a behemoth track, certainly not one for those of short attention span. In a recent interview, Jim said that he’d get feedback along the lines of “great songwriting, but… let loose!” Needless to say… They’ve certainly outdone themselves. I am a sucker for getting lost in longer tracks, and I can’t help but allow myself to be devoured by the mythical dragon. I believe this song is the pinnacle of Contrarian’s discography, and I think you’ll agree once you’ve heard it. And I am beyond ecstatic to hear how they top this with their next release.

Their Worm Never Dies drops March 15 via Willowtip Records. But for the time being, you can jam their first single off the new record, “Exorcism“. And of course, their previous releases, To Perceive is to Suffer and Polemic.  Preorders for Their Worm are live! And you can find them on both Contrarian’s bandcamp and Willowtip’s online store.

Interview: Cory Coleman, Chernobyl Agency 2019

Just when he thought he’d be done with promoting, Cory Coleman (Chernobyl Agency, ex-FTMP) got sucked back in. And naturally, I was curious about some things, and he was sweet to let me share them with you. Have a look!

Vick Sacha: How long have you been promoting? What made you want to start booking shows?
Cory Coleman: The start was in summer of 2013, but I didn’t really grasp what I was
doing until December of that year. The first few shows I did were
absolutely terrible, admittedly; disorganized, maybe a dozen people
there, etc. As a lot of people my age, we’ve all been involved in this
scene/community in some way for a while. I remember I was 18, street
teaming and what not, then I went to performing, then I felt like I
could make some good shows happen. I got asked to help with some shows
over that summer, as I stated, but I made a giant 3-stage/32 band
festival in December that started off my Live Alive series. Of all of
them, I think you’ve been at one; I had Rings Of Saturn for one of
them in 2014.

VS: And alas, I ceased giving shits about them that night. Anyway, Who’s been your favourite band to bring into town?
CC: Its a few; Lakota De Kai, Kaonashi, Second Death, Motives. I don’t
really book bands that I’m not a fan of, or that I’m not close with,
so its really hard to narrow it down to favourites.

VS: Who are your favourite locals to work with?
CC: Favourite locals? Inertia is at the top of the list, even though I
probably annoy their drummer hard by always mentioning that they
should do a Calamity From The Skies reunion. Grizzly Run is filled
with people I’ve known for half of my life, and they are doing a great
job of blending their old school influences into a sound that isn’t
catering to popular metalcore, but isn’t exactly a throwback either.

VS: Who’s been awful to work with?
CC: Awful to work with; one was a pop-punk touring band that was just
basically pissed the whole time because they knew I had tried to drop
their tour, since the headliner (who was the only reason I took the
tour) dropped. They actually told me (not realizing I was the
promoter,) that they just wanted to “play their set and get out of
there,” The other was this rather….interesting kid, who booked his
“band” on a show of mine. For weeks, he told me he never received
tickets, so I told him to just bring whoever he could. Show time
happens, and not only is his “band” not there, but tickets are being
handed in that, because of the tracking on my ticketing site, were
his. Turns out, his “band” didn’t exist. Good news; he realistically
only scammed me out of like $16, so in the grand scheme, not that
crazy of a screwjob or anything. There was also a band from Watertown
I think, that hopped on a show that just had like a $6 ticket attached
to it, sold nothing, but told the venue that they were “promised” $60,
so the venue paid them and then made us pay them back. I have a good
solid 3-5 bands on my “blacklist” locally. And probably a dozen or so
on the larger scales.

VS: What’s your favourite currently open venue?
CC: My heart tells me I’m supposed to say Casa Di Francesca’s because
that’s where we do things, but honestly, I’m giving it to the Rec Room.
Chris Ring/After Dark did a fantastic job of creating a comfortable
venue that fits quite a crowd, but also gives people room to escape
with the upstairs areas. We actually had an event there in the first
few weeks, when we hosted Storming The Heavens. Might not be the last
one we do there either….so stay tuned.

VS: How about one that’s closed?
CC: Closed venue; SO MANY. I’ll say The Icon, loved the area there, I
wanted to look into reopening that myself, but it doesn’t appear to be
for sale. A runner-up mention is warranted for Palmeri’s in Niagara
Falls, and Evolution in Depew. I got to see ETID/Poison The
Well/others at Evolution, and up until last year, that was my favorite
ETID holiday show.

VS: If you could bring anyone to town that you haven’t already, who?
CC: Honestly, its dream-booking for me; I’d want to bring Poison The Well
or Drowningman back. I’ve got a lot of bands on my radar that I want
to bring here; The Drowned God, Lionheart, if the Jonbenet would stop
fucking teasing and give us a reunion, I’ll book that in a second.

VS: I don’t think that many people actually know you founded/ helped found
FTMP. Have you really been in the shadows more compared to your fellow
FTMP cohorts?
CC: I will correct that assumption; FTMP was created probably a full year
and a half before I joined on. As far as the shadows are concerned, it
wasn’t intentional, but it wasn’t displeasing to be considered in the
shadows compared to them. I was, and still am, very picky when it
comes to who/what I will book. So when I’m booking 1 show a month,
compared to the 12-15 my cohorts were doing, the shadows is where I
would be. Most knew I was part of the organization, they just rarely
saw me. One of the main differences I noticed between myself and the
remainder was that I would schedule shows around my job, where they
would schedule their job accordingly to ensure they could do all those
shows. Kudos to them for the time-management, but I just didn’t feel
the  need to book more than a couple times a month, so it was what it

VS: You obviously had a falling out with Greg, can you briefly (and
vaguely, if you see fit) go through the sequence of events that led to
your decision to quitting?

CC: I have avoided this question for almost a full year. Not for lack of
things to say, not for any reason other than I didn’t think it would
benefit anyone.
To describe everything and do it justice, i’d have to write you a
thesis paper. To summarize, a lot of business decisions were made that
I didn’t agree with over a couple years before the falling out in
question. I’ve called it a “divorce,” and I remember being told that
the other side had proclaimed that “I didn’t share their vision”, and
that is probably the best way either of us would be able to put it. So
as much as mud-slinging could happen, I’d honestly rather leave it in

VS: If events panned out differently, would you still have stepped out of
the promoting game, even for a brief hiatus?
CC: What happened was less than desirable. In early December, I was
silently suffering from post-concussion syndrome, I was having trouble
sleeping to the point of hallucinating. It was physically making me
unable to function other than going to work, and even then I was
basically on autopilot. I couldn’t quit my job, so booking had to be
the one thing to go. So I made my sad announcement, and it was going
to be done. I had 5 shows left. The first one got cancelled due to
illness in the band, the second was due to all but one band dropping,
and the third was rerouted and I couldn’t secure the new date due to a
show that I found out did about 6 people. So out of that, I had 2
shows that went on as scheduled. I didn’t even attend what was my
“final” show; I hired someone to work that.
When I retired, I realistically wanted to possibly come back after
summer was over, do a couple shows to make amends for the cancelled
ones, and walk away with no regrets. Of course, when you go 2 for 5 in
the end of your run, you can’t be content with that. So, I discussed
rescheduling a couple things for a proper sendoff, ending my career
before the summer ended. That was the plan, however….

VS: You’ve been suckered back into promoting by a pretty solid group of
individuals. Who are they?  And how’d they convince you to come back,
especially so soon?
CC: The idea was to do a few shows with bands we wanted to bring here,
which has been my idea the whole time, just bringing bands we wanted
here. The grand scheme was to find/remodel and reopen a venue of our
choosing. This is still the plan, we’re just taking our time in doing
so, but we’re having fun booking the things we’ve done.
The agency itself is 5 people; myself, Felix Cruz & Ed Slowinski are
the “main” agents, so to speak. We’ve also contracted Rachel Surdi for
our design and marketing help because she’s amazing at what she does,
and Kahlil Sarikey from Inertia fame has stepped up to help us at
shows whenever his schedule aligns with ours, and I’m happy to have him
in any capacity, as he’s just an all-around great dude to be around.
I didn’t take much convincing after the initial comeback. It somehow
worked where the transition from my “tying up loose ends” May comeback
to a full-scale thing was seamless. I filed for our LLC, starting
purchasing new sound equipment to bolster the sound at our spots, and
we’ve generally been doing what we can to improve ourselves every

VS: Why’d you choose the name, “The Chernobyl Agency”?
CC: When I first came back on the scene in 2013, I was the frontman for
critically-acclaimed (by maybe 3 people) metalcore band My Girl,
Chernobyl. The credit for the name goes to my dear friend Sarah, the
explanation behind it is very 2013 of me, as I’d proclaim “what girl
isn’t a meltdown?” Fast forward 6 years later, and I’m the meltdown at
this point.

VS: How did you convince a relatively fancy Italian restaurant to start
hosting metal/ hardcore shows?
CC: That happened by chance, I think we were going to just stick to
quieter/indie alternative shows there, but we took a chance and put a
heavier show there due to time frame, and it worked well. Ever since
then, we’ve had great success there, and honestly, the relationships
we have with our showgoers is essential to that. All I ever ask
patrons to do is make sure the respect the venue that is allowing us
to do this.

VS: CA hasn’t been around a whole year yet, but has already garnered
national attention.  Did you use this boost to your advantage?
CC: I saw us doing good things, but I did not see it happening this
quickly. I remember the national attention happened within a 4 day
time span; I got a call at work from an agent who wanted to ensure that
his act could find a last-minute show due make up for a cancellation.
This act ended up being Sworn In, and due to the unorthodox nature of
it being in an Italian restaurant, the internet was eating it up (pun
not intended, but not being taken out either). This has resulted in a
couple more bands coming under our radar, a few more things being
offered to us. Every show we do, we still have people telling us that
its wild that the restaurant is allowing us to do such a thing. I
think its great, I wish more venues would be open to the idea of
hosting things once in a while.

VS: What can we expect from CA in the future? Do you already have plans
for, er, expansion?
CC: Expansion has been talked about, mostly to further the reach of not
only our local bands, but the neighboring cities locals as well. I’ve
discussed adding a couple more people to the roster, but that will
probably come at a time when we book a non-metal show, as I’ve lost
touch with  a lot of the bands in the other genres. Mostly, we’re just
going to spend 2019 trying to put on crazy shows and even weirder

Interview: Contrarian, 2019

International prog/death Contrarian are about to release one of this year’s most outstanding albums. Project masterminds Brian Mason and Jim Tasikas were kind enough to allow me to pick their brains a bit about Their Worm Never Dies, the future of Contrarian, and, well, you’ll just have to take a look for yourself!


What’s the story and inspiration behind this concept album? How’d you come up with it?

Jim: I always begin the creative process with a story in my head. The story is then translated into the artwork. And then finally, I begin the song writing process. In this album, we really wanted to dive in head first into an old school approach on the concept. Much of the music today is very opinionated and thus casting judgements. This time around we really wanted just a fantasy concept with cool story and characters, much in the vein of King Diamond or Iron Maiden.


What relation does this have to do with the bible verse, Mark 9:48?

Brian: The bible verse, I believe, is Jesus talking about a dump that represents hell and it’s a quite literal thing. You’ll be eternally eaten by maggots in an endless fire. Jim chose a whole different approach to that for this story and combined it with a few different lores.

Jim: Yes, this concept fantasy borrows from three classic stories. The idea of the Evil Eye in Mediterranean cultures, the story of the Anglo-Dragon Whiteworm, and obviously some twists of the aforementioned quote in the bible.


You’ve said Their Worm is better than To Perceive is to Suffer, what specifically about this album makes you think that?

Brian: I think the songs have a few years of song-writing practice behind them. They feel more complete and thought out to me. This record has a definite feel to it that I enjoy. I also think the mix and production of the album is far superior. Lastly, the concept aspect of it helps really make it a complete unit.

Jim: The songs are streamlined in a way that I believe catch the listener in the proper way without sacrificing the refined detail that we are trying to achieve.


What’s your favourite track off this record?

Brian: I’m torn between “Whomesoever…” and “Among the Misled”. The former is just a great, epic tune and that entire middle section gives me chills still. The latter is just such an odd song, but it grooves hard when it grooves. I just love the drums on “Among the Misled” as well.

Jim: Since the last album, I have been getting messages and reviews saying something like “great songwriting, but you guys need to let loose on a few tracks!” Well, the final track on the new album, we do just that!


Do you think this is going to be your Magnum Opus? Or is that farther off in the future?

Brian: So far, this is beyond my favorite. We are also always changing and switching things up, so who knows.

Jim: We definitely have a few more in us and some great ideas!


In a previous interview, Brian said that the band, musically, is “where we should be”. Can you elaborate more on that?

Brian: I just feel the first two had some growing pains attached to them, both in writing and performance. I feel with this record, we have found our pocket. I feel we have the right formula right now. We have the right balance of tightness and looseness. We gave our engineer, George Bokos, a massive headache with mixing and mastering to make sure it was where we wanted it to be. That stuff feels locked in now. We both like things to have a live feel them. For instance, I don’t ever write solos for Contrarian. When the record button gets pushed, that’s when I’m writing the solo. I like the looseness it creates. Odd bends and weird runs sometimes make it in and I love that. A minor squeak in the rhythm track is always welcome. I feel we have the right amount of that stuff in this production. Old school.


With Their Worm nearing its release date, you’ll have released three LPs in less than three and a half years. Will frequent releases be a continuing trend with Contrarian?

Jim: Yes, of course! I believe for us, the creative process is the main focus and enjoyment always!


You never seem to never stop writing, so how far is album #4 on the horizon? Or perhaps I should be asking how close is it?

Brian: Correct… Jim never stops writing. A concept is already figured out for another new album and artwork is being created.

Jim: We are trying to follow the Iron Maiden model of a new album, every two years!


Aside from Contrarian, George [Kollias], (Nile) has only done vocals for his own solo project (and an old band in the 1990s). And truthfully, I wasn’t even aware that he could do vocals until Perceive. When did you decide that he would do vocals for the latest two releases?

Jim: Being in Contrarian, you have to be a certain type of metalhead. It is very cerebral. We all have to be in sync with the concept and vision at hand. Without sounding too precious, you have the be a veteran/educated metalhead as well. The fact that everyone in the band is a Generation X-er I believe is an advantage for us. It is an advantage because we are old enough to have a natural memory of metal since its conception, and young enough to be up to date on modern trends within the genre. Hence, it just naturally happened George ending up doing the vocals.


The two of you are interested in a vast array of music, and I think it’s safe to assume the same for the other guys in the band. So simply, why progressive death metal? As opposed to, well, anything else?

Brian: Because I have done everything else. Ha. Seriously, it comes from the time Jim and I grew up in the 80’s. Death, Atheist and Cynic were, and still are, huge on my influence list and I was happy to finally get the opportunity to do something along those lines.

Jim: Nostalgia, simply put. As Brian said, we are of that generation. I think that is why people are surprised to find out that our music is not a generic parody, and they really appreciate that.


It’s been a minute or two since you’ve played a live show. Now that you’re about to release another solid record, what’s the likelihood for a tour?

Brian: I have a few commitments with other bands to handle, but that usually winds down come summer time. I’m completely open as long as we have the right people with us.

Jim: We are getting together with a booking agent. I really think some shows and festivals will happen soon.


Would you consider a full tour, about a couple weeks’ worth of dates? Or some “weekend warrior” shenanigans?

Brian: Barring any conflicts, I open to anything really. I have a lot of time available to take off work.


You’re essentially an international band, and you have a rather prolific drummer, who’ll likely be releasing two albums in 2019. Hypothetically, would you be touring with the guys on the album, or would you seek out live musicians?  Do you have any lead candidates for fill-ins?

Brian: We’re trying to figure all that out now, but it’s very preliminary. We have ideas and a couple committed people as I understand it.


Jim, what’s the scoop with Delirium Endeavor?

Jim: Delirium Endeavor was real nerdy instrumental metal fusion thing that Ed Paulsen and I did. You can find some posts on YouTube.


Brian, can you talk about your other projects? I thought there were only two, but then another one crept up into my awareness.

Brian: I’m a bit of a band whore. I’m always juggling a few projects around. My main project right now is Sulaco. Kind of a Grindy/Death/Proggy kind of thing. I don’t know. I’m really bad at the metal genre’s.  I’m also in a band with Chris from Sulaco called CHRMR (pronounced Charmer). That project is more melodic, slower and has a 90’s Rock feel to it. It gives me and Chris a chance to slow down and chill for a bit. It’s a really fun project with some really great song writing and excellent dudes. I just finished a 16 year stint with my old band, BML. We were an instrumental prog, fun, happy time band. That was my main project for many years, but we all felt it was time to move onto other things. I have been known to join indie projects and even somewhat country/rock type things. I like to keep myself on my toes and stay out of my comfort zone. I’m also currently writing some 70’s style instrumental prog-rock/jazz stuff, ala Gordian Knot, Brand X stuff to do with the former drummer from Psyopus. I just haven’t gotten a chance to complete anything yet, so it may or may not come to fruition.


Contrarian has an obviously stellar future ahead, have you considered where you might be vs where you’d like to be in a few years? How about further into the future?

Brian: I just let things fall where they may. We’ll see what happens. I feel, as a project, we are getting better and better at this thing.

Jim: We always aim high. We always give it our best. We are in contact with booking agencies so that we may be able to do some live shows for our fans!


Anything else? Last thoughts? Questions, comments, concerns?

Brian: Thank you Vick for all your support. You rule.

Jim: Yes, thank you for paying attention to our music. It means a lot to us!


And I cannot thank Brian and Jim enough for taking the time to reply to my inquiries.
Their Worm Never Dies drops March 15 via Willowtip Records. For the time being, you can jam their first single off the new record, “Exorcism“. And of course, their previous releases, To Perceive is to Suffer and Polemic.  Preorders for Their Worm are live! And you can find them on both Contrarian’s bandcamp and Willowtip’s online store.


And what a massacre it was! Man, the last time I saw Bug Jar that packed, it was 1349!
It was awesome walking into a packed bar, supporting a local metal lineup. Initially, I was unsure about the turnout, but I was wrong in ever doubting Rochester to begin with. It was extra sweet seeing all of friendly faces from my neck of the woods who also made the trek out.

Death/ grind/ noise amalgamation Sulaco busted open the night and god damn, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a crowd get as rowdy as the one for them did last night. The floor was packed, and it was difficult to move. Unless you were front and center, of course. The pit even got a little too out of hand when a rogue crowdsurfer latched himself onto the light rig, broke it, and landed hard on the floor. I think I saw him get up and mosh a bit later, I sincerely hope he’s okay. And I hope he didn’t hurt too bad this morning.


Utica NY’s premiere prog/death quartet Inhumatus once again demonstrated their outstanding musical prowess, and kept the energy flowing in the room. Have I told you how stoked I am to hear new music from these guys? Oh, I did? Well, you should keep an eye out for these guys anyway, I’ve heard some clips of riffs, and their impending new record already sounds quite promising.

And then, Ancalagon. Do I even need to tell you about Ancalagon? By now you should know that Rochester’s meloblack giants never disappoint. But Friday night, frontman Matt brought with him a +1. Can you guess what what was in his small wooden crate? Seeing these guys do what they do best was absolutely the best way to close out live metal this year.  This whole show was. And I couldn’t have been happier.


I might have one more article to churn out in the next couple days, but in case I don’t end up finishing it, I hope y’all had as much of a stellar year as I had. I am forever grateful for everyone’s support. I love you all, and you will certainly see (and hear) more of me in 2019. ♥♥♥♥

So, did you touch the octopus?

Septicemic to Release New Single

For fans of First Fragment, Beyond Creation, Inferi, The Zenith Passage

Almost a year after releasing their first EP, Raleigh based tech quintet Septicemic will be releasing a new single on the first day of 2019. However, lead guitarist Josh DelVendo was kind enough to allow me an early listen.

“Kallara B” is a quick track, but don’t let its duration fool you. From the get-go, it throws you around with fast pace blastbeats and riffage that remain consistent throughout the song.  Vocalist Derek Wertz has a solid range, from dirty highs to lows, some pig-like squeals, and a myriad of tones in between.

What I like the most is that this song has no extra “stuff”- no extra instrumental layering, minimal vocal layers, no symphonic orchestral section, no miscellaneous sound clips. Just some guys, their instruments, and their superb musicianship.

I’ve jammed “Kallara B” several dozen times already, and I’ve found myself air-drumming half the time. If you’re into fast, unrelenting techdeath, Septicemic is absolutely for you.

My only beef is that I wish the song was longer. I feel like it’s only the first segment in a ten minute epic; a behemoth track that would carry its strength and weight throughout its course, laying waste to its listeners.

BUT! Don’t underestimate this song or this band; “Kallara B” is just a small taste of what Septicemic is capable of. You can preorder the single here. It’d be wise to keep your eyes on these guys, there may just be a full length on the horizon. For the time being, you can jam their EP, Vrykolakas, which is also pretty damn sweet, right here on their bandcamp.


Vick’s EOTY Pics 2018: Part II

Earlier this year I wrote a brief list of some of my favourite releases of the first half of 2018. Primarily because I knew how many more incredible releases were to come, and I knew that if I didn’t mention at least a few of the earlier ones, I’d forget most, if not all of them, by December. Especially since most of these bands are completely new to me.

And it’s tough, because there have been SO MANY incredible releases this year, and I know that even now I won’t be able to delve beyond the tip of the iceberg. I’m still learning about albums that dropped six months ago that I had zero clue about before now. And unfortunately, I still gravitate to only about six albums at a time.
*I didn’t include EPs on this list because god damn do you really want to read through another 1000 words? Nah, didn’t think so.

So alas, here are a few more that were just positively exceptional; the ones that reached up from the abyss, grabbed me by my ankles, and pulled me under until I was 20,000 leagues beneath.

Clavicus Vile; The Nightspirit’s Call– Clavicus Vile is difficult to place in any one particular subgenre; I suppose they are technical/ progressive death metal but they bring so many more elements to the table, especially in their first LP, The Nightspirit’s Call. The first track, “Seek What is True, lures you in with a tribal, Middle Eastern instrumental orchestral piece before the next track grabs hold with a techy black riff and some raw black metal highs, but throws you in a different direction with a beautiful and melodic solo. The next track, “Multiversal Overlords” slings you around again with a sweet, chuggy riff overlayed with some nasty sweeping. And then the low gutturals. And simply, that’s the course of the whole album. When you think you know what’s coming, Clavicus Vile throws another trick out of their sleeves. These guys are so underground it hurts, but I hope that even this article will garner them a couple more fans. Even with just one release, Clavicus Vile has proven themselves to be such a stellar project, and without question, I look forward to seeing what other magic they can craft.
Favourite Track: “The Architect of the Hourglass”, just when you think it’s over, it’s not. It’s a stunning example of their outstanding musicianship, and willingness to experiment, even within just one track.

Clavicus Vile

Yatin Srivastava Project; Chaos // Despair– Sahil from Demonstealer/ Demonic Resurrection pumped this album quite a bit, and I figured I could trust his judgement, so I checked it out. Most of the album had to grow on me, but all it took was one song to get me to play this LP on repeat for hours at a time. With secure foundations in progressive rock, but with a good amount of metal influence, and a hint of Indian influence, Chaos // Despair will take you on a roller coaster of emotions and musical styles from ambient acoustic to djenty breakdown, and everything in between.
Favourite track: “Ozone”; this track was love at first listen for me. The progression of the track and the emotion it conveys is outstanding. The ending is a little unexpected, but it polishes the song off perfectly. It was cool to hear his songs with singing, as his previous release was all instrumental.

Yatin Srivastava

GorodGorod; Æthra-I feel like this album was painfully overlooked, especially with bands like Beyond Creation, Hate Eternal and Arsis all releasing new records around the same time. This French prog/tech/death quintet has actually been around since the late 90s and have since solidified themselves as prog/tech giants amongst the death metal crowd.  One of the “big name” metal site compared this album to works by Protest the Hero and BTBAM, as if those were bad things. But I feel that Æthra has more of a The Human Abstract/ Nocturne vibe, with a little added chaos. Which isn’t a bad thing, it just helps add to the diversity of the tracks.
Favourite track: “Bekhten’s Curse”, and “Goddess of Dirt”; It’s tough when each track has something amazing to offer, but these two stuck out for me. Both songs perfectly piece a fair amount of technicality with incredible rhythms that make it incredibly difficult not to jive to. Julien Dereys’ vast vocal range is remarkably exhibited in these two tracks, but he does have a few other tricks throughout the course of the album.


Inertia; Teratoma– It’s no secret that local techdeath trio Inertia have released the best album out of Buffalo this year. Teratoma undulates between sultry, jazzy and very emotional to technical and chaotic yet brutal to 100mph-fist-in-your-face breakdowns. I know, I know, I’m not huge on breakdowns anymore, but I’m a sucker for well written and well placed ones, very much like the ones scattered throughout this album. Simply put, the musicianship is purely outstanding. Inertia are another band that proves that you don’t have to sacrifice intricacies and repose for brutality- you can do it all, and do it exceptionally. Since it’s release, Teratoma has repeatedly lured me in like the sirens of myth, and I so willingly allow myself to be beguiled by this record.
Favourite track: “Cotention”, I know its an 8+ minute track, but the last minute of the song is 100% worth it. It’s actually worth jamming the whole record. No spoilers on this one, just do it, if you haven’t already. Those that have already know what I’m talking about.


The Ocean Collective; Phanerozoic I: PaleoziocPhanerozoic I: Paleozioc– I’m actually pretty disappointed in myself that I’ve never bothered to check these guys out until this release. Since their birth in 2000, The Ocean have spawned quite an impressive discography, including eight full lengths, Phanerozoic being the most recent.  It chronicles the current geological eon, and the earliest era within the eon. But one doesn’t need to be fluent in the terminology or concepts to enjoy surfing the emotional tsunami this album manifests. Sure, the songs can be long and sludgy, but don’t think for a second that that equals monotony.  The Ocean incorporate a lot of variety, and even when a riff might start to get repetitive, intricacies are dropped in to recapture your attention. Their musicianship is outstanding and offers a solid range of progression and atmosphere, all the while still being heavy. Phanerozoic is surely a prog kid’s must have. But beware, this is just the first in the Phanerozoic chronicle, and it would be wise to keep an eye out for the next chapter in this saga.
Favourite track: “Cambrian”, The way the first track transitions into the second is absolutely seamless, and is an incredible start to your trip through the Eon. These two tracks are a solid example of what The Ocean are capable of, but beware to not underestimate them.

The Ocean

Torturous Inception; Arcane Dominion– Not all brutal death was created equal. One of my favourite things about the subgenre is its consistency, but with that comes an incredible amount of redundancy.  And I think there’s something to be said for brutal death bands that shape many more facets than just deep gutturals, chugs and blast beats, and Torturous Inception does precisely that. Every bit of every song fits together perfectly; every vocal pattern and blast beat compliment each riff flawlessly. My only beef is that it’s a rather quick album, so once you’ve fully immersed yourself, you’re pulled back up to the surface to hit “play” again. This was the last of all of my most anticipated albums this year, and I was certainly not left disappointed.
Favourite track: “Silhouette Visions”, the rhythm in those riffs have me headbanging the whole time, moreso than the rest of the album. And Tyler Lauer’s vocals don’t disappoint either; his consistency and range are just unbelievable. I anticipate seeing more of these dudes in 2019.

Torturous Inception


The “Honourable Mentions”:
There were so many albums that came out this year that I love, but of course there were ones that I loved more than others. Those up there were the ones that just grabbed me and refused to let me go. These next few didn’t quite have that grasp, but I cannot deny their greatness.
Beyond Creation; AlgorythmObscura; DiluviumXenosis; Devour & Birth | Sulaco; The Prize | Bloodtruth; Martyrium |Behemoth; I Loved You at Your Darkest | Augury; Illusive Golden Age | Spectral; Neural Correlates of Hate | The Beast of NodVampira: Disciple of Chaos | Torn the Fuck Apart; Genetic Predisposition to Violence |Mass Casuality; Preparing the Dead | Aborted; Terrorvision | Post Mortal Possession; Perpetual Descent | Hate Eternal; Upon Desolate Sands | Arsis; Visitant | Stillbirth; Annihilation of Mankind | Irreversible Mechanism; Immersion | Halothane; A False RealityImperial Triumphant; Vile Luxury | Burial in the Sky; Creatio et Hominus | Bloodshot Dawn; Reanimation | Xenobiotic; Prometheus | Deadborn; Dogma Anti God | Cosmic Atrophy; The Void Engineers | Posthuman Abomination; Transcending EmbodimentAethereus; Absentia | Parius; The Eldritch Realm | Oubliette; The PassageSerocs; The Phobos/ Deimos Suite

The Disappointments:
Fortunately the only album that really bummed me out this year was Soreption‘s Monument of the End. Now, I love both Engineering the Void and Deterioration of Minds, and I love the kind of unique sound they’ve developed for themselves. But I feel like Monument is just an mediocre regurgitation of the two previous records. The vocal patterns are incredibly similar, the song structures are also very similar. The only thing that’s different from the previous two is Cattle Decapitation‘s Travis Ryan’s guest appearance on the last song. But even that track is redundant; they always finish with a track that features some melodic interlude that transitions into a breakdown, and then the album ends. I feel that the amount of talent in the band is too great to continue to conform to this cookie cutter song and album structure that’s already been overused for this band. There is so much potential, and I suppose I was just expecting more.

Looking Forward To:
It’s no secret that I’ve been anticipating a new Contrarian album since Rochester’s prog/death giants announced that they were going into the studio earlier this year. Of course, I had hoped that I could have included it on this list, but I am not disappointed that I will have to wait until next year to crown Their Worm Never Dies as my favourite release of 2019. Yeah, sure, I’m biased, but I have set my expectations extremely high for this album, and I know very well that these guys would have to try extremely hard to release an album that was even remotely disappointing. Their Worm Never Dies drops March 15 via Willowtip Records. But for now, you can jam their new single, “Exorcism” via their bandcamp. And while you’re there, feel free to treat yourself to one of those swanky new hoodies. But make sure you forget about it, so you get a dope surprise in the mail come March.

Speaking of outstanding prog/death from the area, our pals in Inhumatus reemerged this summer when they opened for Defeated Sanity and Behold the Arctopus in Rochester while they were on a quick run on their way to Maryland Deathfest. Who could stay away with a show offer like that? They’ve played quite a few shows since then, and have even opened for melodic/ progressive sextet Ne Obliviscaris. From what it looks like, writing is going very well, and if we’re lucky, Inhumatus will release some new tracks in 2019. But for now, you can score this dope 3 song demo on their bandcamp, and if you like what you hear, you can catch them on one of the last shows of the year in Rochester with our meloblack pals in Ancalagon and death/grind/noise amalgamation Sulaco. Details here.

Fleshgod Apocalypse also announced earlier this year that they would be returning to the studio, and focusing more on their death metal roots, akin to their 2010 EP, Mafia. Since then, they’ve established themselves as Symphonic Death juggernauts, and I’m excited to hear them return to the simplicity of just death metal. Drummer Francesco Paoli returns to the front on vocals and guitar, but continues to be the foundation of this project. You’ll be able to catch them on tour with Hypocrisy in early spring 2019.

A Decade of “Planetary Duality”

It was the late 2000s, I was still relatively new to metal, and I hadn’t yet found my niche.  Sure, bands like Shadows Fall and Lamb of God were cool, but they weren’t quite what I was looking for. Not that I even knew what I was looking for in the first place. I had stumbled into a newer label, Sumerian Records, whose roster featured a couple bands I was really getting into. I made a point to make sure I explored all of the bands’ discographies; some I was completely disinterested in, and others stuck with me for a long time.

Not many bands, nonetheless on that roster, have truly stood the test of my fluctuating musical tastes throughout the last decade. And only a couple of those bands really helped shape my current musical interests.

I don’t often get to say that I loved an album at first listen, but The Faceless‘s Planetary Duality was one of those instances. It satiated my appetite for breakdowns, but also kept my interest with complex riffage and song structure, intricate solos, and pro gutturals. Lyrics about aliens and stuff helped alot too. The title track is how I was introduced to Art Bell‘s Coast to Coast AM radio show, too.

The first time I got to see The Faceless was on a Summer Slaughter run that stopped in Niagara Falls. That was four years ago. Since then, with the ensuing drama of full lineups quitting, dropping shows and tours, and some heavy drug usage, it appeared as if founder Michael Keene and The Faceless were destined to implode on themselves. And I would be forced to carve another notch in the “Bands I’ll Never See Again” column.

Naturally, I was proven wrong.  Over the summer, a tour was announced with The Faceless as the headliner, plus some added support. Keene had managed to recruit a full live band willing to look past all the drama and tour. Contrary to previous instances, Keene was showing up to shows relatively sober, coherent, and playing at (almost) his typical skill level. And I finally had my chance when they stopped in Rochester.  Though he was rather quiet throughout the night, he nailed every riff and solo, and his singing was still on point.

Of course, I busted a proverbial nut when they announced that they’d be doing a Planetary Duality 10th Anniversary tour, especially right around the holidays. And with a date within reasinable driving distance from my humble abode in Buffalo. The full tour lineup is exceptional.

Bravura, from Erie PA, crushed open the night with their own flavour of techy and blackened death metal. If their name sounds familiar, they recently polished up a tour with our pals in Dredneks.

Interloper were up next, featuring members of Vampire Squid, ex-Intervals and ex-Rings of Saturn. Unbeknownst to me, they were down a vocalist for the night; though I would have loved to see Mike Semesky again, I’m certainly not disappointed in their instrumental set. That’s the beauty of techdeath bands like Interloper- sure, having a vocalist to front the band and lyrics to help add to crowd participation are great, but they’re not necessary. They did an outstanding job even though they were down a man (and a guitar during the last song).

The Last Ten Seconds of Life, whom I’ve heard of for years, were up next. I had never made a point to listen to them, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once their set got going, I noticed how nuts the crowd was getting.  But I felt underwhelmed. Chugs and hype really don’t do it for me anymore. Sorry, I think?

I have been itching to see Vale of Pnath for a while. With a little deja vu from earlier in the night, they too were down a vocalist and thus chose to play an instrumental set. And again, I was met with incredibly techy but melodic, complex but catchy music that didn’t really need vocals. Writing this, I am reminded that I am far overdue to revisit their discography.

I have ceased giving fucks about Rings of Saturn long ago after witnessing poor etiquette and lack of professionalism. The only things cool about seeing this band on Sunday was getting to catch Yo Onityan, filling in for Lucas Mann, totally rip on his 8-string, and being able to stand offstage with their new touring drummer front and center.

And of course, our headliner. Aaron Stechauner and Andrew Virrueta, of Interloper, reappeared as this tour’s hired hands. Julian Kersey (ex-Aegeon) returned on vocals. Keene was exceptional. He wasn’t reclusive, and seemed enthusiastic about talking with fans and signing vinyls. Though annoyed with some technical difficulties, his attitude was incredibly positive. He was a frontman for the first time since I first saw them. He was incredibly engaging and his stage presence was outstanding.  This new lineup started off playing Planetary Duality front to back. They continued with “Autothiestic Movement: I-III”, a couple songs off In Becoming A Ghost, and ended with “Ten Billion Years”.

It was close to midnight by the time their set ended, and I had an hour and a half drive back home. I was exhausted. But my heart was happy.

The Return of Seplophile. Again.

Finally, I’ve gotten to see one of my favourite locals for the first time in what feels like forever. Some recuperation was necessary for them to return to the stage, but the downward spiral has finally turned upward. They have a new song, and they still remember some old stuff. Everyone’s playing is still tight, as if they never really phased out in the first place.

And that was in May of 2016.

But alas! Buffalo’s death giants Seplophile have returned for a second time! And in just over a year and a half. Almost kind of feels like that Slayer farewell tour that hasn’t ended yet, but like, in reverse. But this time it was a little different.

Our pals in Mass Casualty kicked off the night in classic brutal death style; you certainly can’t go wrong starting a night off with songs like “Dragged Into Cremation” and one of my personal favourites, “Cunt Slamming Frenzy”.

All photos courtesy of Crown Vick Photography.

One of my favourites out of Rochester, Sastruga, carried on with their own flavour of techdeath. Their material is typically fast and complex, but also allows room for more ambient and jazzy sections that fit in perfectly in between all of the technicality. These guys steal the show for me every. Single. Time.


Rochester’s death/grind/noise/etc. amalgamation Sulaco was on Seplophile’s last return show, but this time they brought with them a +1; they acquired themselves a vocalist to ease up on the pressure on guitarist Erik Burke. It was Jason Leone’s first live performance with Sulaco, and he did an  outstanding job. And the best news is, they’re keeping him! Or so I’ve been told..


Sulaco weren’t the only one to present a new face on Saturday.  Founding member of Seplophile Greg DiPasquale stepped down earlier this year, and announced that his replacement would be no other than Louis DiThomas-Keller (Nethergrave, The Age of Plagues). I mean, its a huge bummer Greg had to put the guitar down for the foreseeable future, but stinky diapers aren’t going to change themselves. But it was awesome to see Louis back on stage, where he belongs, shredding with some of Buffalo’s best.


And I do wanna thank the guys for letting me bust their balls on this a little, but I’m kind of being serious. I want to see EP release show. And if they have the chops, and LP release show. No more of this “return” bullshit. They didn’t really go anywhere to begin with.

In response, Seplophile vocalist Colin Winkelman had to say; “Why would you say that!? You totally already know we’re supposed to return again next year!”