Monday, January 23, 2012

Reviews 1/2/12

Coldworker "The Doomsayer's Call" (Listenable)
The album cover looks like a killer 80s Marval Comics image. Anyhow, this is Death Metal. It's very aggressive at times, very heavy and slower at
others. Very solid riffs. Vocals are good, just very typical and just kinda there without adding much. I don't hear many solos. The world doesn't really need
this band, but they are a bit above average I'd say. Mostly because some of the parts stand out as memorable. Songwriting isn't there though, and at the
end of the day I won't be grabbing for this CD again. I'm sure they will fit well opening for Cannibal Corpse or some 30 band Death Fest.

Corrosion of Conformity "s/t" (Candlelight)

This band has devolved back into a previous incarnation recently and have basically restarted right from the point before they went "Swamp/stoner" which
is cool with me because I always thought their early Hardcore material was their best. I've seen them live twice since their return to a 3-peice format, and
they are sounding very good these days. Anyways, this is clearly a progression from the band's "Technocrocy" sound, and in a good way. Mixes the hardcore
and sludged out sections well, without getting caught into any cliches. It sounds like the band jammed a ton on these and got the songs really worked out.
Everything works perfectlt together here, and it's something that can't be faked. It's aggressive, but not
overtly so. Fans of straight forward hardcore might not have the patience and fans of the Peppar era might not have patience with the experimentation and
perhaps lack of dumb headed stoner sections. This sits right in the middle of a few different sounds. The songs are very constructed. This is something with
depth that must be heard repeatedly to appreciate. I plan on doing that.

Dunderbeist "Black Ars and Crooked Tails" (Indie Recordings)

The band name sounds like some german slang for "dumbass." After listening to this, I am going to assume that I am correct as only a complete DUNDERBEIST
would buy this CD! Let me tell you folks, just because it is Norwegian DOES NO mean it is good. Norway's 15 minutes is up. Prepare for at least a few more
years of crappy Nordic pop-metal attempting to cash in on the whole "Black Metal" movement of the 90s. This is like what Creed was to grunge.

Liberteer "Better to Die on Your Feet Than live on your knees" (Relapse)

If you took Amon Amarth and got them to do songs about the American Revolution and Colonial America, you'd be pretty close to what this is. Some of the
interludes remind me of early Enslaved, when they used those dated 80s Keyboards for epic effect. Anyhow, there is a real effort here to incorporate an
American Anthem sort of feel, which is fairly original at this time I'd say. But I guess this was ineviable afer years of European folk inspired Metal.
The song titles seem a bit overly self important sounding, but I haven't read the lyrics so who knows they may be brilliantly insightful and I may wanna go
shoot the president after I read em. But somehow I doubt it. Decent death/grind with a message during troubled times.

Ministry "Relapse" (AFM/13th Plane Records)

I haven't been following Ministry much for the past few years, but I did read something about Al's near death experience from drugs or something. I dunno the
details, but that and the fact Al claimed the band was over around the same time makes sense with the album title. Is he saying he had a relapse literally, that
the band couldn't stay away, or both? Seems like a typical Al Jourgensen clever/sadisic pun. Anyhow - he has always been a great songwriter within the conext
of computerized/drum machine productions. Even when he was creating new wave. In fact, I'd say Al has gotta be one of the best since the dawn of modern
industrial. His gift for marrying samples, noises, and extremely aggressive/catchy riffs is as obvious here as it ever was. The guitars especially have evolved
and gotten quite good. I haven't picked up the last few Ministry albums - but this one sounds pretty inspired and fairly new. Or maybe it's just a complete drug
relapse inspired creation. I mean it's either that or the beginning of the "12 step" era of the band. I tend to think this is the "I fell the fuck off the
wagon HARD" album. This is one I might have to listen to a few times. I sense greatness here.

Nekromantheon "Rise, Vulcan Spectre" (Indie Recordings)
Norwegian Thrash band. Sounds like german Thrash from the 80s mixed with some Slayer, early Sepultura, Morbid Saint, Infernal get the point.
They have specific influences from the harsher side of 80s thrash. They do it very well, but I wouldn't fly to Norway to see em. But if I was in Europe and
they were playing, I would not miss it! Not likely they will ever step foot in the Bay Area, so don't expect to see em here. It would be nice if at least
one Bay Area band did something like this. Dekapitator was that band for a minute, but they are long gone and we are stuck with bands who don't seem to know
the first thing about german/canadian Thrash. Tisk tisk.

Opera XI "Strix Maladictae in Aeternum" (Agonia)
This band photo is rediculous. Some chick wearing nothing but a cape in front, boobs exposed. The other dudes are just standing around trying to look normal.
This is stuffy artsy Black Euro gothic Metal. I am sometimes a sucker for this shit, and I admit this is the better side of this typically wretched genre,
but I'm not sure it is any better than average. Band pic is stupid, song tiles are stupid, but the band does know how to play. there is a nice raw edge. The
thing with epic gothic Black/Death Metal is that if it is overproduced it really amplifies the arty farty fakeness. But with a raw edge it helps promote a
nice underground feeling. This band does have a bit of the old school black metal feel I like. And I am a sucker for gregorian choir vocal chants.
Just not sure if there is enough for this CD to sit alongside the old Einherjer, Mythotyn, Old Man's Child, and Falkenbach material. But the fact it even
comes close is impressive. All the shit talking aside, this is somewhat interesing and I would listen to it again, as the music does have dome depth and it
is possible there is an amazing song somewhere in here. But I am sure their next recording will be more polished and likely lose the good atmosphere which
is present here. Bands like this do not stay raw, they get cleaner and less powerful usually. Hasn't this band been around for years? Why does the name
sound familiar?

Orange goblin "A Eulogy for the Damned" (Candlelight)
I just realized I once knew a girl who posed on the album cover for this band back in the early 2000s. Anyhow, I wasn't real impressed with them back then,
and this does little to change that. Sounds like a commercial version of High on Fire.

Pilgrim "Misery Wizard" (Metal Blade)

great American Reverend Bizarre clone.

Ribozyme "Presenting the Problem" (Indie Recordings)

I think I was reading the side of the box of Special K cereal when I firs saw the word "Ribozyme." It must be the thing that gives it that slightly bitter,
shitty taste. I'm not sure it is healthy either. Someone remind me that Indie Recordings releases nothing but SHITE! I mean, what is this? Alice in Chains
mixed with the worst parts of American Nu Metal and alt/industrial? I guess this label is about commercial viability. I get it, but it has no place in my
world. Begone!

Root "Heritage of Satan" (Agonia Records)
I've always liked this band. They are weird as fuck and evil. Always a good combination! Being from Easern Europe, they also remain somewhat obscure. Anyways,
the singer in this band is kinda like the Czech version of Vincent Price or Peter Steel in the sense that he's good at telling a scary story at a painfully
slow pace in a very dramatic way. He also has a way of coming up with random stuff you never expect. Songs have much dynamics and are not straight forward.
Production is pretty stripped down and in your face, but has plenty of atmosphere. It is hard to compare this to anything because it is really just removed
from many of the obvious cliches we Americans tend to relate to Death, Thrash, or Black Metal. It sits closest to obscure Death Metal, if anything. But
Root has their own sound, and if you want something different and weird, get this.

Temple of Baal/Ritualization "The Vision of Fading Mankind" (Agonia)
French split LP. Temple of Baal is quite brutal. They've got that almost cliche "Blackened Death" sound which in the veign of Aeturnus and Belphagore.
Nothing fancy, just blast beats, huge riffs, and growled vocals. If you are stoned and in the right mood, I'm sure this would be great. But once you get
over the brutal sound, there is not much lef in the deparment of songwriting. Some sections are cool and break up the monotony, but they come off as extremely
predicable. Vocals are paricularly boring. Fuck this, who's next? Ritualization. Ok now this band has a much more closed in Death Meal sor of tone. Very
aggressive. Almost a throwback to Cannibal Corpse "Butchered at Birth" but with a slight Blackened Euro edge. Vocals are deep and Chris Barnsey. Drums are
typical "can't stop stabbing you" sorta relentless blasting. Though it sounds pretty different than Temple of Baal, it is the same formula. I hear more old
school Death Metal here though. The band Death, to be specific. Kinda ineresting, but lacking of originality. This is the better half of the split I'd say.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Shaxul Retail Store is closed, Shaxul Records lives on!

By the time you read this Shaxul Records, the first Heavy metal Record store in San Francisco, will have closed. My business partner and I took the lease
over in November of 2007 from the previous tenant, which was Reverb Records/F8 (a trance Record Store). We spent a few months remodeling and stocking up merch and
officially opened the doors on April 1st, 2008. The lease ended December 31st 2011 and although the landlord offered us another 5 year extension, we declined
due to very low sales and profit. This was not a surprise and I pretty much expected the store not to last. I just figured I would do it as long as I could
and if it took off, great. If not I would move on. I am proud to have been able to do this, but now it is someone else's turn!

Below are some frequently asked questions I have gotten regarding the store as well as a few I just felt like bringing up. Feel free to send more questions

Why did Shaxul Records close?
Shaxul Records was a retail store. The way retail stores work is they buy products at a "wholesale" (discounted) rate then mark the items up in order to make
a profit. Since rent was due every 30 days, that gave me a month in which to recoup merch money and pay rent/expenses. If (and this is a big "if") money is
left after all that at the end of the month,it is called profit, and it is a beautiful thing! Unfortunately, we rarely sold enough in time to accomplish this!
In fact, the store often could not even recoup merch expenses within a month, which means I had to spend partially recouped
merch money on rent and other bills. The whole thing sorta snowballs from there and results in less new product on the shelf, more debt, customers who are
not as excited as they could be, and a generally disgruntled record store owner. That is all a complicated way of saying we didn't sell enough stuff to pay
the bills each month.

Did Amoeba mess your sales up?
When I worked at Trader Joes I noticed that they were usually located right near Safeway or some other huge super market. I noticed how the store benefitted from the
run-off traffic of the larger store. Same idea applied at Shaxul Records. Amoeba brought tons of traffic to our street that would otherwise not be there.
So for every sale I lost, there was probably a good 10 people or more that walked into the store that only came to the Haight because of Amoeba. More foot traffic =
more sales. So, no, Amoeba did not hurt my sales, they helped! But Metal is a slow seller and people buy everything on the internet these days. That is the
real reason we could not sell enough stuff.

What about online sales? Don't they help?
There is too much competition and the market is flooded with too many bands and too many releases. The profit margin is smaller than ever on distributed items
since the internet has caused customers to go more and more direct, driving up wholesale costs and killing potential profit for retailers. So the only way
to make good money is to sell huge amounts or manufacture your own items (both of which Century Media and Relapse do for example.) But that can be even harder
because Metal fans are more picky than ever these days as they are so used to all the options the internet provides them at the touch of a button.
You really need to know what you are doing to make decent money on the internet selling Metal. It's not as easy as you might think. I know one guy who has been
selling stuff on Ebay for years and closely studies all the underground releases. He lives on his girlfriend's couch and is not in a great mood when I see him.

I'm sooooo sad your store closed! Waaaahh!
I am sad too. Although I won't lie, I am extremely relieved not to have to hustle rent every month anymore! Hopefully I speak for some of you when I say the
store had an important symbolic meaning. Fuck yes, San Francisco SHOULD bloody well have at least 1 Metal Record store! But all I can say is that I gave it
a shot and it lasted nearly 4 years. If I coulda found rent for like $500 or free I might have kept going with it. But this is just unheard of in San Francisco
and in today's economic climate. One thing you can do is find some friends who are also dedicated to underground Metal and combine forces to open some sort
of Metal community center. I know it sounds a bit silly, but think if we had an all ages place where people into Metal could meet, trade stuff, see shows,
DJ, etc. Don't let elitist fuckheads discourage you. If you wanna see something done, do it yourself!

So that's it? The end? No more Shaxul?????
No, this is not the end for Shaxul Records. Before I opened the store, I released a few albums of my own bands Sangre Amado, Passive Aggressive, and Ulysses
Siren. My plan was to continue releasing albums, and not just bands I am in. But since the store was often not turning a profit, I had to use my own money to
bail it out more than once and more than twice! This made it impossible to release anything while the store was open. So in a way I am very
glad I can now focus on the label again. As a label I think I can do more for the underground actually. Distributing bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and
Anthrax while not making jack shit is not real helpful to the Metal underground if you ask me. Sure, it's helpful to those bands, but do they really need
my help? Site will remain up and also check my Facebook page for the latest news.

You must have taken a real hit financially Shaxul didn't you?!?
I could sit here and exagerrate, but the fact is no, not too bad. I mean sure, I didn't really make anything doing Shaxul records. And if you calculated all
the time I worked without pay - the number would be a nice fat one! But in the end, I was rather careful and didn't get myself too badly into debt. Yes, there
is some. But as long as I can sell off all the shit left over from the store I should be ok. That being said, feel free to donate via paypal!

Any other words of wisdom Mr Shaxul???
I would ask that anyone who has any interest in the Bay Area Metal scene and "how it is doing" to take a look at what happened to Shaxul Records and come
to your own conclusions about the state of affairs here in the "Bay Area Metal Underground." Also, re-read #4!