Monthly Archives: July 2014

John B. Moore: I Don’t Wanna Grow Up w/Masked Intruder

Masked Intruders crop

 

I DON’T WANNA GROW UP

“We just wanna play love songs for the nice people,” claim the Wisconsin pop-punks. That, and break into your house while you’re not home and take all your beer and cheese…

BY JOHN B. MOORE

If The Ramones and The Beach Boys were locked up in a high security prison with nothing to do but harmonize, write love songs and plan their escape, they would sound exactly like Masked Intruder.

The pop-punk ex-cons from Madison, WI, each sporting a different color ski mask ‘cos, well, figure it out yourself (I ain’t no snitch!), have just turned in M.I., their second full length; a brilliant collection of odes to unrequited love and crime sprees.

Though the origin story behind the group is murky, we got Intruder Blue (he’s the one in the blue mask, in case you were wondering) to answer a handful of questions via e-mail recently. He powered up a stolen lap top and covered everything from Pussy Riot sharing their love of anonymity to crossing borders with an arrest record.

BLURT: How did you guys come together? Your bio says you are all from the Midwest, but there definitely seems to be a strong Jersey accent in a lot of the vocals.

INTRUDER BLUE: It’s not a Jersey accent. Lots of people make that mistake. Our accent is actually from prison, which is where we met each other and honed our pop-punk crooning skills. After we, uh… were released, we moved to the Midwest ‘cause that seemed to make sense to us for some reason at the time. In retrospect we probably shoulda gone to Montana or something, since nobody lives there and so there are almost no cops. We are currently based out of Madison, Wisconsin. Lovely town. Do you realize how delicious beer and cheese are? People just keep that stuff in their houses here. And they hardly even lock their doors!

You guys recorded with Matt Allison again for this one. Did you have a decent rapport having already worked together in the past?

Absolutely. We entered into the process as friends. We knew what we could expect from each other and how to push each other to do our best. You just can’t beat that kinda chemistry when you’re cutting a record. It’s a lot of work, and if you want to get something really good out of the process, you have to know what you are going for and how to get there. We definitely had that going for us as we entered into the making of this record, and we worked like dogs to make it the best thing we could possibly make. We’re stoked on it. Matt is too.

What’s tougher, being in prison or being a touring indie punk band?

I mean, prison for sure. Some indie bands do pretty well with the ladies. In prison, you pretty much don’t get to make out with ladies ever, under any circumstances, no matter how deep your lyrics are. So, if you like the ladies, I would go band over prison any day. Now, on the other hand, if you are more into hanging out with dudes, making tooth brushes into makeshift knives, impromptu pillow fights and the occasional riot, prison may be for you. It’s all a matter of perspective, I guess.

Who in the band has the longer rap sheet?

Probably Red. This one time, he was arrested for stealing the same motorcycle three times in one week. It was all a simple misunderstanding… The dude that owned it didn’t understand how much Red wanted it, and the cops didn’t understand how to stay out of it and mind their own business.

Seems like the ladies in Pussy Riot have copped your look or was it the other way around? Who wore the hats/masks first?

We actually started before Pussy Riot, but I doubt they were trying to copy us. They probably hadn’t even heard of us ‘cause our demo had only been out for about six months at the time they started. I guess it is possible, though, cause of the Internet and stuff like that. But, who knows. The thing is, we don’t have that much in common with them. I mean, they’re political, we’re not. They’re girls, we’re not. They have the word “pussy” in their name, we don’t. They’re Russian, we’re American. They’re a very serious, very important movement. We just wanna play love songs for the nice people. They’re cool by us, though. For the record, we would make out with them anytime, anywhere.

You guys have plans to hit up Europe, Australia and much of the U.S. this year. What’s the best and worst thing about touring?

The best thing about touring is all the cool people you get to meet and hang out with. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet a lot of the musicians and criminals that we looked up to as kids and that we really respect. Also, another cool thing about tour: you get to eat a lot of snacks. The four tour food groups are Doritos, Cheetos, burritos and beer. The worst part is probably just the whole thing of having to look over your shoulder for the cops. But, that’s no different really than being home. So, there’s no real drawback. I guess that’s why we tour all the time. It’s awesome!

Given that you travel across borders with suitcases packed with four ski masks, do you ever have problems with the folks at customs?

Never been a problem. Here’s a little tip for getting through customs: sneak in. It’s not as hard as you think, seeing as how there are so many people going through every day. Plus, most of the people that work in customs are just bored out of their minds and don’t even care about their jobs. They basically want you to try and sneak something past them, even if they don’t know it. Just like prison guards. Sure, they pretend not to want to have to get into a tussle, but they love an opportunity to take their nightstick to some poor shlub’s dome piece. So, yeah, you gotta sneak in places. Trust me, it’s more fun than trying to get through by the book.

What’s next for the band?

We have a ton of tour dates in the US, Canada, the UK and mainland Europe. So, we will be pretty busy for a while making sure everybody gets a chance to see us. After that, who knows? I mean, we do, but we aren’t saying. Snitches get stitches.

Jumpin’ John B. Moore writes about all things punk for BLURT. He famously avoids the moshpit, however, claiming that “I might break my wrist and wouldn’t be able to type anymore.” We suspect that’s not the reason, however… Contact him via this magazine.

Michael Toland: Throwing Horns Pt. 666.3 – The Blurt Metal Roundup

THROWING HORNS - Blurt's Metal Roundup Pt. 666.3

Smell the glove and make the sign of the umlaut, kids: announcing the third installment in our latest genre study, with Prong, Serpentine Path, Lord Mantis, The Oath and the eye-poppingly-monikered Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and more. Go here to read the first episode, Pt. 666.1, or here for the second, Pt. 666.2 — if you dare.

BY METAL MIKE TOLAND

 

Prong - Ruining Lives

One of the most perennially underrated metal acts around, Prong may not release albums as often as it used to, but when it does, ears should perk up. The hardcore-infused NYC troop scored a real return to form with its last record Carved Into Stone; new slab Ruining Lives (Steamhammer/SPV) consolidates its musical gains with even more potent songwriting. Bandleader Tommy Victor (who played nearly every note here) is an expert at adding just enough melody to keep tracks earworm-worthy, while still maintaining the band’s brutal strength and martial rhythms. New metal anthems “Absence of Light,” “Remove, Separate Self” and the thrashing “The Book of Change” raise the bar not only for the band but modern metal in general. Prong’s precision-riff blend of thrash, classic metal and hardcore has been tremendously influential on the metalcore and nü-metal hordes, but don’t blame Victor for that. Ruining Lives shows the no-longer-young bucks of the last couple of decades how to do that shit right. (Album stream here.)

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Sweden’s Portrait takes inspiration from the galloping-down-the-mountain style of 80s metal warcries, blazing away like neither hair metal nor grunge ever happened. Crossroads (Metal Blade), the band’s third album, tones the Mercyful Fate worship down (though singer Per Karlsson’s abrupt pitchshifting still pays tribute to Fate’s King Diamond), but still proudly waves the flag for spread-legged, denim-wearing air guitarists everywhere. Old-fashioned? Sure – nostalgic, even. But the Scandinavians have an amazing ability to make the hoariest clichés sound fresh and exciting, and Portrait’s combination of skillful bombast and naked enthusiasm on “Black Easter,” “We Are Not Alone” and the epic “Lily” gives Crossroads a shiny new coat of crimson.

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High Spirits You Are Here

Chicago’s prolific Chris Black (Dawnbringer, Superchrist, Pharaoh, Nachtmystium) knows a thing or two about 80s metal as well – check out You Are Here (Hells Headbangers), the third record from his one-man-band project High Spirits for a set of supremely melodic, lusciously rifftastic, shockingly lovelorn hard rock in a style pretty nobody plays anymore. Beautifully produced, plainspokenly sung and catchy as a cold, “I Need Your Love,” “The Last Night” and “When the Lights Go Down” would’ve ruled AOR radio in the Reagan Years. (Album stream here.) The dudes in The Skull, meanwhile, actually hail from that decade – the band consists of ex-members of the long-running doom institution Trouble. Unsurprisingly, the band’s debut 7-inch “Sometime Yesterday Mourning” b/w “The Last Judgment” (Tee Pee) sounds like vintage Trouble (though not Vintage Trouble) – roaring riff-boom with a shot of NWoBHM majesty and psychedelic atmosphere. Which makes it doubly odd that Skull singer Eric Wagner left Trouble because he wanted to expand his musical horizons.

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SerpentinePath

Though named Serpentine Path and including ex-Electric Wizard bassist Tim Bagshaw (here on guitar), the band that’s created the magnificently ugly Emanations (Relapse) is essentially an Unearthly Trance reunion. The blackened doom of that highly underrated outfit roils in full effect here: leader Ryan Lipynsky grinds sorcerous sludge from his six-string and growls like a boulder-chewing troll stewing in hatred, while the rest of the quartet rumbles forward like a tank spewing oil smoke. “Torment,” “Disfigured Colossus,” “Systematic Extinction” – these ain’t ditties with which to sing your child to sleep. Speaking of nightmares, Sweden’s Vampire comes blasting out of the graveyard like a ravenous ghoul with its self-titled debut (Century Media). With a smidge of Motörhead, a soupçon of early Metallica and a whole lotta old school black metal, the fearsome foursome flails the hell into “Cellar Grave Vampire,” “At Midnight I’ll Possess Your Corpse” (nice Coffin Joe reference) and, of course, “The Bestial Abyss” with all the subtlety of an ax to the skull. This band must be a faceripper live. And speaking of leaving bloody skulls in its wake, Chicago’s Lord Mantis unleashes more angry demons from hell on its third album Death Mark (Profound Lore). Imagine an army of nihilistic locusts consuming the outer layer of the earth while pissing xenomorphic acid on the remainder and you have a vague grasp of the shrieking death sludge powering “Body Choke,” “Possession Prayer” and the beastly “Three Crosses.” It takes a lot of blackened hate to get noticed in the same year that fellow travelers Eyehategod and Indian (whose Dylan O’Toole guests) released definitive statements, but Lord Mantis leaves enough flesh between the teeth to hang with the big boys.

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On its self-titled debut (Rise Above), Euro duo The Oath revels in two of heavy metal’s most essential concepts: the mysterious spirit world and the almighty riff. With a rhythm section borrowed from Kadavar and Angel Witch and assistance from Swedish luminaries In Solitude and Watain, Swedish guitarist Linnea Olsson and German singer Johanna Sadonis kick out the occult metal jams with a bluesy psychedelic edge, like Dio-era Black Sabbath recording in 1969. Click “Black Rainbow” and “Night Child” for some nicely fried, gracefully bludgeoning kicks – drag that the band has already split. Olsson’s fellow Swedes in The Tower travel even further back into the Retroverse on Hic Abundant Leones (Bad Omen/Prosthetic). The quartet’s blues-rocking proto-metal pares down to the basics of riff and rhythm, rattling “Adrenalawine” and “Lions at the Gate” straight into the stratosphere. (Audio stream here.) The ridiculously named Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell rides a similar hog on its second LP Check ‘em Before You Wreck ‘em (Rise Above), subtracting a bit of Chicago and adding a smidge more Detroit. Shorter, sharper jabs a la “Happiness Begins,” “Do It Now” and, erm, “The Thicker the Better” play better to ASCS’s strengths, but longer slogs like “Returning From Home” and “Late Night Mornings” give guitarist Johnny Gorilla (ex-Gorilla, natch) more room to stomp.

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WoFat

From the ancient lands of Ireland cometh Dread Sovereign, its thundering tread trampling the earth like a giant exploring his new territory after sliding down the beanstalk. On All Hell’s Martyrs (Vån), the Dublin trio errs on the mystical side of heavy-as-hell doom grunge, its tall tales oozing from some other, fouler dimension. “Thirteen Clergy,” “Pray to the Devil in Man” and “Cathars to Their Doom” give explicit nods to Old Scratch, but the deeper, creepier epic “Cthulu Opiate Haze” draws from the same disturbed mind that conceived the Necronomicon. Dread Sovereign’s dream evil thud aims to haunt your dreams as much as pound your heart. Dallas trio Wo Fat’s doom, meanwhile, comes in a far more psilocybin-soaked container. The band’s fifth album The Conjuring (Small Stone) picks up where its stellar previous LP The Black Code left off, as the catchy “Read the Omen” and the blue whale-sized “Dreamwalker” shoot bowel-rumbling heaviness through the heart of an exploding star. (Album stream here.)

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On the appropriately titled Deafen (Domestic Genocide), Black Tar Prophet strips doom down to its thong underwear and dips it in the radioactive slime leaking from a nuclear power plant. Consisting of nobody but bassist Greg Swinehart and drummer Eric Dever, the band sounds like it’s lifting every classic slow burn Sabbath rhythm section track and cranking the amps past 11. Seriously, if you ever thought the first Sabs record would have been great without that annoying Ozzy and mix-hogging Tony Iommi, Deafen will tweak your fantasies hard – “Ring of Buzzards,” “Hypomania” and the magnificent monstrosity “Back On the Nod” grimly revel in the sonic torture of helpless bass amps while a drum kit keeps up the snappy patter. Loud at any volume, Black Tar Prophet bass tones its way through your ribcage on its way to shattering your spine.

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Columnist Michael Toland lives and works in Austin, TX, where, coincidentally, a serious of mysterious upside-down crucifix crop circles have been turning up in the nearby soybean fields. We at BLURT have no spare time to look into any of this, however, because we spend all our time spellchecking the band names in his blog entries. Toland’s Lone Star State accomplices include The Austin Chronicle and KLRU-TV.