Saturday, March 24, 2012

Interview:God Is An Astronaut

Here it is, the promised and awaited interview I did with the famous Irish quartet called "God Is An Astronaut". As I previously noted in the concert review I wrote, it was scheduled for me to do a live interview with the band, but due to some technical difficulty it had to be postponed and done via e-mail. Either way, I am extremely glad I had the chance to ask the guys some questions, so hope you enjoy the read!

1. First of all, I would like to thank you so much for taking the time for this interview with "Natures With No Plagues". Last night was the first time you were in Serbia as a band, so I am very tempted to ask about your impressions concerning the show.

The show was awesome, it was nice to see all the fans so passionate and giving so much energy back to us, we felt very welcome.

2. This tour is a celebration of your ten year anniversary. What are your thoughts about the tour up until this point?

The tour went very well, the attendances and crowd reactions have been stellar and that is why we chose Eastern Europe to kick off our 10 year Anniversary touring schedule.

3. Turning back and looking at the past, how do you feel about the growth and the evolution of the project? Do you enjoy the band today as much as you did at its birth?

Of course, the ethos still remains the same, to write and release music we love without compromise.
We have been very lucky as we did it genuinely our way, it is an extra bonus that so many people around the world can share in our music.

4. It is a well known fact that your name hails from Clive Barker's "Nightbreed". Were there any other potential names which you were thinking about or was it an instant moment decision? Also, did you find any particular deeper meaning behind this moniker or was it taken just for the coolness factor?

Well there is no religious aspect as some people suggest, we just liked the name and it felt right to make the music we wanted under it. I guess it being both ancient and modern was another factor.

5. The first steps of the band were taken under your own record label, "Revive Records". What sparked this decision?

With the first album there was no interest from record labels etc... so we decided to release it on our own label more or less as a farewell to the music industry. We wanted to release something we genuinely liked and finish on something that we could be proud of. Who knew 10 years later we would be still here and be known all over the world.

6. Thinking about that time, how do you feel about do-it-yourself ethics? Were there any particular merits or flaws which you felt on your own skin due to working under such terms?

I wouldn't change anything, we have direct control over all aspects of the music, artwork etc... Also there is no middle man and we get all of the earnings directly which is the only way to survive these days.

7. Knowledge about your music was, at first, transfered through blog interviews and reviews, so I am interested to ask about your thoughts concerning music and the internet. Do you still browse any particular blogs or websites and do you still appreciate when your name is mentioned? Do you think that things like that still aid the band?

Sure the internet has been the main platform for us, in many ways it has levelled the playing field in regard to the major record companies hold on the industry. We are still an internet band and are of course appreciative of being mentioned on blogs etc... The only downside is that we often don't make money directly from our music, for example in Serbia we have sold no CDs or Mp3s legally or very little, so to take advantage we have to tour, sell our merchandise directly to the fans, I think this is the model of the future.

8. At a certain point, you started collaborating with other record labels for your releases. Was it a tough decision or a natural evolution of the project?

We have licensed our albums to a few record companies at the start mainly for distribution reasons, it was not a collaboration in the true sense.

9. Please explain to the readers the actual music writing process. When you sit down to write an album, do you determine a specific mood of the entire release or do you create seperate songs and then try to fuse them together?

All the songs are written in the studio and built up over periods of weeks and months, this stems from our Dance/electronic background where it was commonplace to produce your own records. All the songs start from a strong melody or chord progression, the melody and mood are paramount in the process.

10. Tell me more about the visual aspect of the band. Do you consider it to be a medium for transfering a more direct message to the audience, due to the lack of vocals? Also, maybe a silly question, but what inspires you the most when you create the videos?

The visuals are there to set the mood in the venue and enhance the overall experience of the show. They are not there for any other reason.

11. Two silly questions coming up. Despite having an extensive number of live shows behind you, do you still have stage fright?

We never really had any stage fright, we have been doing this since the early 90's.

12. If you were just a fan of "God Is An Astronaut", what would be your favorite release?

I guess for me it is "A Moment of Stillness", I just like the ambient nature of the album.

13. I am always intrigued by what my interlocutors listen to in their free time. Do you have any favored releases or bands, both all time and current ones?

Not really, I haven't been listening to anything specifically but we have been listening to a lot of Alice in Chains in the tour van for some reason.

14. There is news circling the internet that you are working on a new album, a release quite different from what you created thus far. Are you willing to share more information about the progress at this point?

Yes so far it will be much more experimental but much more commercial at the same time. There will also be a focus on more vocals, even with some lyrics but not in a lead singer style format.

15. What else does the future hold for this project? Will Serbia ever see you again?

Of course we will be back, most likely 2014 with the new album tour.

16. Once again, thank you very much for this interview and hopefully next time we get to talk in person. Any final message to the readers?

Thank you! to all our Serbian fans and making us feel so welcome, we will be back again!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cara Neir - Stagnant Perceptions (2011)

The last review was definitely a wake up call, since I felt really good for finally posting something here. Also, the submission stack keeps piling up and growing, a fact which I am really thankful for, so I am really eager to spread the word about all you girls and boys who keep sending me material, despite the blog moving at the slowest pace thus far. I have the best readers and I love you all.

I have already seen this band on several other websites and blogs, so this might come as old news to some of you. In case you are unfamiliar, "Cara Neir" is a two-man project coming from Dallas, Texas, formed way back in 2008. Garry and Chris started writing the music for this particular release in early 2010, namely March, and slowly progressed to the completion of the album which came in July 2011. "Stagnant Perceptions" officially came out on November 11 2011 and it was self-released by the band. 
For a duo, these guys managed to unleash a really vicious monster onto our senses. This eleven track critter comes roaring with sounds of black metal and crust, with some splashes of hardcore and post rockish screamo. From start to finish, throughout all 45 minutes of music, it is constant mayhem, chaos, extremely fast playing and just an overtly rushing sound, paused only by a minimal addition of slower grim intersections which give a brief atmospheric feel to everything. Truth be told, "Natures With No Plagues" is not a blog famous for its black metal reviews and I am quite young, so to speak, when it comes to the genre, so my knowledge of this particular field might not come as well suited. But on a personal note, as everything on this blog actually is, the thing that really managed to set "Cara Neir" apart from other similar bands is cleanness of the recordings and the overall high production of the release. Usually there is a dose of crunchiness, crackling and general dirtiness of black metal/crust bands, yet here everything is really clean and precise. Don't get me wrong, I loved this kind of "approach" very much, considering it a total merit and bravo-ing the band, but I presume that a lot of listeners of this genre might be repulsed by this. But, to not stray away into discussing tastes and a definition of being true or whatever, I'll continue with my own thoughts. This type of production really aided the band, specifically because their style of song composition is quite interesting and deserves to be heard in such a fashion. There are certain riffs and melody shifts which are somehow so precise and complex that they border on being called technical or even adding a certain "math" tag on their list of genres. As a whole, the songs are melded together really well and your entire experience with this release comes in a single breath. Literally every time I was listening to "Stagnant Perceptions" it seemed as if it was just one song and, for a 45 minute release, this is quite intriguing. Also, it is really cool to note that all those genres do get their time under the spotlight and, despite the melding of tracks mentioned above, songs have attributes which set them apart from one another. This might be due to a number of songs which feature guest appearances, so you get to hear backing vocals from Rachel in tracks 1, 4, 5, 8 and 11, as well as those from Dorian on songs 3, 4 and 5. He also contributes with guitar playing in songs "Dethroned and Leprous" and "The Bridge of Despise". There is just a ton of things going on in all eleven songs and I really consider it to be foolish to try and describe their flow. It is just a release which you definitely have to check out for yourselves to get a proper opinion. I, for one, loved everything I heard.
The above posted bandcamp link provides a download link for "Stagnant Perceptions" and you can also buy their cd, which is by the way limited to 50 copies. I don't know what is currently going on with the band, but for all of you who have a facebook page, check them out on theirs and find out, located here. All in all, definitely check them out, I promise you will enjoy their music!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

¡Silencio, Ahora, Silencio! & Descubriendo A Mr. Mime - Split (2011)

I woke up this morning, which is like 10 minutes ago, and immediately jumped toward my computer with a goal to start writing this review. It is sad to say this to my readers, but your host is still leading a very much not envious life and it is seriously sabotaging me from doing loads of things. I have been putting efforts and the majority of my energy into some things so that my situation can get better, in turn leaving me with not so much inspiration for writing. Needless to say, it really pains me to see this blog  dead, so this morning and this review are definitely a wake up call!

This seven inch split is pretty much old news by now and I presume that most of you already know about both these bands and their mutual collaboration present here. I have to admit that I delayed listening to this release quite a lot due to some unknown reasons even to me. Luckily, good internet friend Luisan, who happens to be a member of "¡Silencio, Ahora, Silencio!" and an awesome dude interested in "Natures With No Plagues", was kind enough to send me the split for reviewing and pretty much pushed me into listening. The nudge was quite welcome, since I seriously fell in love with both bands almost instantly.
"¡Silencio, Ahora, Silencio!", translated into "Silence, Now, Silence!", is a quartet project hailing from Madrid, Spain. These four guys push forward into our ears some genuine screamo, bearing that amazing 90's and early 2000's feel, which is really admirable since it is quite difficult to stumble upon such bands nowadays. The four songs on this record managed to strike a particular nostalgic chord in me, reminding me of bands such as "La Quiete", some early "Raein" and most notably of several Australian acts like "Eucalypt", for example. Also, as the band alone stated once, one of their influences was a local band, the well known chaotic screamo "Enoch Ardon". What you can realize on this record, is that the band took all these inspirations and influences and mixed up a unique sound of their own, standing on the verge of chaotic and gentle, extremely fast and sluggish. The four tracks themselves are a progress from rushing riffs and spasm-like melodies toward a really slow and dragging end. My favorite track is definitely the opening one, named "Eso Que No Hay Será Si Nosotros Lo Hacemos Ser ", which just instantly throws you on a roller coaster. Fast tempo, rending riffs, splashed with calming intersections leading into more explosive outbursts of sound and ending in a calm, serene drifting away. Simply put, a great composition and pretty much the main trigger of the already mentioned nostalgic mood I had while listening. Not to relax you and just putting you on a chair with needles, the second song comes as a 33 second little menace bearing chaos. First half of the song you listen to the calmness which oozed from the first song and then it just snaps and pounds you with chaotic melodies, comparable to numerous German screamo bands. The following song, "...Y cuando crees saberlo todo AKA Maletín", continues in the same fashion bearing chaos, although with a repetitive melody, which also extends to the last song. As I said earlier, their side of the split is a progress to a slower ending, so the final tunes you get to hear are really slow when compared to the opening and overall that gives a nice touch to the recording as a whole.
Moving along to side B of the split and meeting "Descubriendo a Mr​.​Mime", or in other words "Finding Mr. Mime", yet another Spanish band. If my researching skills are still working well, this is a quintet we are talking about, if not, my apologies. In any case, much like their split partners, this band makes me extremely proud and happy for having this record in my collection. What we get to hear on this side is also 90's/early 2000's screamo, though a much darker and grimmer edition, standing close to bands like "Das Plague", "Ekkaia" from their screamo period, at times also reminding me of "Optimus Prime" and, again, "Enoch Ardon". So as you can see by the comparisons, quite depressive influences, but the amazing thing is that this band manages to use that inspiration extremely well when it comes to creating their own tunes. Their songs are somewhat dual, in terms of having a relatively equal amount of slower, mood setting sections and those more aggressive, chaotic fits. What I really enjoyed are those former parts which are quite atmospheric and they succeed in creating a specific feeling in the listener. The violent parts are definitely not lacking, since those instances lash out at you like a thunderstorm. A perfect example is the opening song "Leibniz", which has a superb bass line as a centerpiece, a composition style which you don't see quite often. There is this perfect melancholic sensation just thrown at you and then you are washed by a wall of rending riffs and explosions near the end. Although short, only one minute and eleven seconds, this song manages to really hit you hard and immediately cast you into what this band is about. The above mentioned duality is present on all songs, but it is interesting to hear their entire side of the split, simply because they keep expanding . Opposed to the one minute first song, the last third song is a four minute piece and a really epic ending.
In the end, some technical details about this release. 250 copies on transparent red vinyl have been pressed, as a collaboration between three labels, those being "Dog Knights Production", "Bear Records" and "Ghosts and Demons", all of which you can find here, here and here. Each label and band grabbed 50 copies, so you can also get in touch with the bands if you desire a copy.
All in all, I'd like to thank Luisan again for sending me a copy of the split, accompanied by an amazing "Magic:the Gathering" card, and for basically introducing me to these two excellent bands. Both projects are still young, but there is an enormous amount of potential here and I can only hope that they will continue to make music. Their bandcamp pages feature some more of their material, aside of this split, so be sure to check them out, I guarantee you will enjoy!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Gig review: God Is An Astronaut

This review comes with a delay of one entire day, simply because I seriously needed to recollect my thoughts about the event and manage to complete the puzzle which I am about to write down. Judging by this type of intro, you might as well presume that the concert was absolutely spectacular in all aspects imaginable.

As you can see on the poster, the show transpired last Saturday on 10 May 2012. Initially the concert was scheduled to happen in one other venue which had quite a limited number of tickets, which I actually failed to grab for myself. Here I definitely have to give a certain amount of praise to the organizer of the event, called "Resetor booking & promotions", for several reasons. A high number of people were left without a ticket and many others suggested a change of venue, complaints and suggestions to which the organizer reacted rather quick and in a small amount of time, just days before the gig, a new concert place was found and the number of possible attendants drastically expanded. I myself am really pleased with this type of dedication and commitment, especially considering the possible stress they might have faced with changing plans moments before the show. On a side note, the organizer was kind enough to allow me press access to the concert and even managing to arrange for me to do an interview with the band. Sadly, due to some technical difficulty the interview will actually be happening through e-mail, so expect that some time in the future, since the questions have already been sent. All in all, this is an excellent booking collective, one that will find it's place amid the "Friends and Partners" page on this blog. I plan on making a page specifically for bookers and organizations in Serbia, but I'm yet to put that plan into action.
So, as I already wrote in the gig announcement post, the show was held in "SKC NBG" (Student Cultural Center New Belgrade). A fun fact about this venue is that it is actually a part of the complex where the collage which I am attending is located. Despite the fact that I know of the said "venue" (since, in fact, this is not a real venue to begin with), I have never attended the place. As far as I know, numerous student parties were held there, which I masterfully avoided every single time. Truth be told, I had sincere doubts about this gig since I really didn't believe in the technical capabilities of the place, but in the end I couldn't be more wrong. There was room enough to fit a really big stage, a neat place for a merch desk located on top of a wide staircase and the gig space was actually huge enough to support the large number of people without everyone being cramped together and pushing each other. The already mentioned staircase also proved to be a good place for people to stand on and enjoy the entirety of the stage, so overall this proved to be an excellent venue, especially for a post rock concert.
After a small delay and the excitement and anxiety boiling in the crowd, the show started a bit past 10:30 PM, if I remember well. Amid clapping, screaming and cheering, "God Is an Astronaut" climbed the stage and with the sounds of "When Everything Dies" the band paved the way toward a purely perfect performance. As the song rang across the venue, the wall behind the band came to life with video effects for which the Irish quartet is well known for, masterfully setting an appropriate mood and emotion for the audience. Watching some historic moments, like the explosion of the first atomic bomb and the self-immolation of the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, scenes from old movies like "Godzilla" and "Nosferatu", sequences of violence and war and an omnipresent voyage through space with planetary visage, all accompanied by the loud, impacting sounds of the band came out nothing short of entirely artistic and breathtaking. Personally, I was really excited to witness the much talked about video aspect of "God Is An Astronaut" and I must say that they really hit the spot and meld quite well with their music. They make you think and ponder, without actually drifting away and forgetting that you are on a concert. Seeing all that aggression and destruction, flames and death, makes you realize how small and stupid we humans are, that all this torment we throw at each other is nothing more than self-annihilation and that it is absolutely insignificant in the vast cosmos of which we are but a small speckle. To be completely honest, these moments created numerous waves of chill and shivering throughout my body, making this show into something I will never forget. Also accompanying the video was an interesting manipulation of light, which further extended and solidified the atmosphere. The sound was fantastic, the venue being able to fully cooperate with the band and create a clear and strong audio spectacle. Once the opening song was over, it melded into "Fragile", later continuing with "From Dust To The Beyond", "Age of the Fifth Sun", "Echoes" and so on. I was very impressed with how certain songs sounded much more moving and quite faster than on recordings, such as "Zodiac" and "Route 666", leaving an extremely strong impression on me. The band kept building a massive wall of sound, constantly growing with intensity and literally flooding the crowd entirely. Similarly, the audience was quite responsive and alive which really surprised me, so there was nonstop movement, dancing and omnipresent cheering. If you ever thought that you can't really dance to post rock, this gig would be able to prove you wrong. Band members themselves were quite alive on stage, their motions reflecting the music nicely, while the time between songs was used to address the crowd and in the end one picture of the audience was also captured, a really cool tradition of "God Is An Astronaut". Overall, a wonderful atmosphere was created, lasting for thirteen tracks and further extended with an encore featuring "All Is Violent, All Is Bright" and "Fireflies And Empty Skies".
What more to say in the end? This was an absolute pleasure to experience and a true honor to be able to celebrate the ten year existence of such an amazing project in this fashion. It was great to see the band members leaving the stage pleased and hopefully we left them with some nice memories. We were promised another show in the future, so until then I plan to enjoy their recordings under a new light and with more infatuation than before due to the truly big imprint which they left on my mind. Thank you and hope you enjoyed the review!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gig announcement: God Is An Astronaut

This brief gig announcement came rather unexpected due to the fact that I thought I won't be going to the event. Initially the show was planned for a small venue which managed to get sold out rather fast and I failed to pick up a ticket. Luckily the show was moved to a bigger concert location today, thus I will have the pleasure to attend and additionally this event promotion is for all of you who don't have a ticket yet.

In any case, the famous post rock quartet going under the name of "God Is An Astronaut" will play in Belgrade this Saturday on March 10 2012, as a part of their ten year anniversary European tour. The show  is made possible thanks to "Resetor booking & promotions" and will take place in "SKC NBG" (Student Cultural Center New Belgrade). For those who do not know the location of the venue, the address is Bulevar Zorana Djindjica 152a. The fastest way of grabbing a ticket is via the following e-mail address:
kartegiaa AT gmail DOT com

Additionally, on the night of the concert, visitors will be able to buy tickets for the upcoming gig of yet another post rock act known as "Maybeshewill", which will be held on May 9.
Stay tuned for a gig review of this concert. See you there!