February 16, 2021

Transatlantic duo Configa and Hastyle unleash The ConfigHas Crates, setting hip-hop ablaze!

Hip-hop has been through many trends over the years. As the founding hip-hop genre has inevitably morphed into subgenres such as east and west coast hip-hop, underground, gangsta rap, conscious rap, crunk, southern rap, trap, mumble rap, etc., the prevailing sound has always been real hip-hop. Old heads remind the younger generations of aspiring artists and avid fans, while newer players help by keeping the style alive. The ConfigHas Crates is no different, as transatlantic duo Configa (beats) and Hastyle (rhymes) prove that no "body" can keep these two talented artists apart for this compilation, exhumed, electrified, and brought back to life. 

The album opens with the medium tempo’d upbeat loops of Something I Said and Hastyle wastes no time calling out those who have ghosted him in the past. "Now you waving farewell, never return my messages on the cell, son I know you got my voicemail, text messages and email, what the hell? How could you do me like? Is it jealousy, envy, why are you screwing me, black, I’m Hastyle fam." The beat is bountiful with soulful vocals and licks while Hastyle uses his storytelling powers to deliver a message that many people can relate to when falling out of touch or when there’s no telling why a person drops someone for seemingly no reason. Was it something he said? He doesn’t take long to wonder and moves to focus on what is happening for him "Now". Now features rapper Nine on the second verse who brings a hardened and gritty swagger to this head-bobbing and sultry cut. The nearly buried coos of soul singers and flirtatious horns brings to the forefront the tasteful productions that Configa’s become known for, and Hastyle bookends the verses with his smooth-as-butter flow, commenting on the struggle that still affects his life and complementing the call and response of a sampled singers call for what’s going on "Now."

Enemies Closer almost flows seamlessly from Now as it shares the previous sample as it picks up the pace into a militaristic and Wu-inspired beat. The sampled vocals in the mix remind the listener and Hastyle to "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." Hastyle riffs off this reminder and recounts the times that friends and family has not come through for him, but why he still prefers to keep tabs on his enemies. Sadat X pulls up for a couple verses and questions the true motives of so-called friends, while Hastyle drops more jewels of knowledge, "true friends sometimes are there, and then abra-cadabra, like Houdini they wanna disappear, that’s why I rather have enemies as supporters, keep your best friends close, enemies even closer." The haunting choir-like beat is reminiscent of cuts from militant minded emcees such as Jedi Mind Tricks or Immortal Technique, but for Configa it’s just another flavor of his multi-colored repertoire of beats. Water Colors is yet another example of how many colors and styles The ConfigHas Crates is willing to draw from. It opens with a bright and flirtatious piano skit of Hastyle scoping a beautiful lady he’s determined to win. The following beat sounds Eastern-inspired, with a chorus of cello and fluttering violins that give this track a really down to Earth vibe. Hastyle turns artful as he tries to woo a pretty lady with his steady wit and conversation and takes a leap of faith. 

Alpha Bits gives up another wild beat for Hastyle to test his speed on. The reverberating bass-y and melodic music starts to run alongside Hastyle and the pair never take a misstep in this seriously funky and jazzy number. It’s almost hard to imagine that an energy like this is still rising, but suffice it to say it’s just about to plateau with the follow-up song, Sticky. "It’s a sticky situation, got me feeling sensations, like I’m on medication, taking the pain away, I love her but I gotta leave her, I’m addicted gotta be with her, I’m stuck in the game, it’s just me and Mary Jane," Hastyle takes the chorus and likens the herb to a love-addicted romance. The beat fizzles and whistles in such a way that it begs the question if MJ would truly enhance this listening experience. Rah Digga blesses this track with her unmistakable charm and raps about the writers block that can come and go with the "sticky, the snowy, the smelly, the hairy" and drowning in the liquor. "I’m lying to myself, I can’t write without it, I’m lightin’ up another, my vision’s still clouded, I said ‘oh well’, I put the pen down, swimming in these strange clouds, let a bitch drown." Despite feeling lost in this cloud of bliss, Hastyle, Configa, and Rah Digga resign themselves to just enjoy the moment, and what a moment it really is. 

Lik a Shot, featuring Wordsworth and Rashan, settles into a smoother groove and Hastyle muses over his lyrical weaponry while he takes some shots with his guests. Wordsworth and Rashan add a nonstop flow that gives this posse a special slice in the ConfigHas canon. The subject matter then drops into a more realized and pointed track in Mind Control. Hastyle questions the powers-that-be by calling out the multiple conspiracy theories without disproving any in particular. He focuses instead on the government and media’s culpability to control the minds of those who are unaware. El Da Sensei drops in on the funky seventies-television-style beat and pulls up bars concerning police brutality, mass killings, gang violence, unemployment, and the systemic failures that lead to violence in communities. World War Rap featuring Prince Po feels like the next logical progression from Mind Control. Hastyle raps in the chorus, "the World War started, now the world’s cold-hearted, and everything on the radio is garbage, all you rapper’s on the market, you don’t want to be our next target." Prince Po speaks of a revolution and resolutely spits disses aimed at the fake emcees who spit dumbed down rhymes. He reminds the cotton candy rappers that him and Hastyle are hungry and the wack emcees are about to be devoured. Soldiers March opens with a faux newscast that is reporting on genocidal crimes against humanity that is tongue-in-cheek while not entirely downplaying the problem. Hastyle opens this cut with a verse about the brainwashed boots on the ground, who are trained to follow the orders of their government masters. Chino XL cuts into the assault-rifle-laden-produced beat and murders the mic with his unstoppable flow. Outro is a witty final take as Configa and Hastyle’s Midas touch blesses the beat with a review of all their previous songs from the album. It’s short, sweet, and gives listeners a necessary lesson in real hip-hop. Configa’s funky melodic lines of the final cut complement Hastyle’s overall confidence and swagger that he has exuded throughout, and it’s undeniable that this pairing is peanut butter and jelly. 

The ConfigHas Crates is a compilation spanning the years between ‘13-‘15, and it’s no question that the material presented here is meant to grace the ears of real hip-hop heads today. As the saying goes, better late than never. With this album, both producer and emcee show off their endless versatility and prove that there’s no style or rhyme that’s safe from them as they move into the future. Until that time comes though, we’ve got something really special to behold, that we can treasure "Now." 

Configa and Hastyle’s album can be purchased on their Bandcamp page. The ConfigHas Crates is available on all music streaming platforms and Configa can be followed on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook @configa. 

Recommended Tracks: Now, Sticky, Lik A Shot

November 18, 2020

Earth’s Full Upon Her Burning Lips (2019) is an awesome showcase of doom metal, and probably the ultimate example of metal you can chill to

Earth Full Upon Her Burning Lips AirdriftSignals Music Magazine

Earth, a group that helped to define and form the genre of ambient metal, doom, drone, or stoner metal, has had multiple releases since the early 1990s. Taking elements from grunge and other forms of heavy metal music, Earth's founding member Dylan Carlson was notably friends with Kurt Cobain. Earth's origins in Seattle also explain this emerging hub of hard rock music that continues to be a haven of major and independent music to this day. Their latest release was last year's Full Upon Her Burning Lips, and while I am guilty of sleeping on this instrumental album, Earth has remained a personal favorite of mine, as they defined the perfect form of metal that you can relax to. Full Upon Her Burning Lips builds upon their previous releases and makes for an engrossing showcase of strong and steady guitar riffs and atmospheric drums and percussion. 

Unlike their previous release, 2014’s Primitive and Deadly (another favorite Earth release of mine), this album drops the vocal features and even sheds some members, making this release the most bare-bones of any previous releases, with Carlson teaming up again with longtime percussionist and drummer Adrienne Davies. With some overdubbing by Carlson to play bass guitar as well, this recipe of tasteful percussion and repeated guitar riffs have the ability to grow on a listener and nestle comfortably inside their head long after the echoes of these instruments fade, which is paramount to Full Upon Her Burning Lips's lasting impact. 

The album opens with a fairly long 12-minute march, Datura's Crimson Veils, which plays as more of an Earth standard for those who have come to know their style of melodies. The tones reverberate to the rising cymbals, which builds a noticeably foreboding atmosphere. Before long, this doom metal slowly thumps and washes over the mix in a steady call and response of its drop-D tuned guitar and sparsely chosen percussive beats. It repeats again and again, but eventually cracks the surface with its behemoth orbit of riffs that pay off famously with slow-motion solos, and then returns back to the start. Such is the songwriting style of Earth, as they slowly pay off carefully chosen riffs with a delicious and satisfying answer to the questions their instruments pose. Exaltation of Larks is the most straight-forward, Sabbath-inspired track of the album, and it formed as more of a studio improvisation between Carlson and Davies. 

Cats on The Briar is another example of how Earth uses call-and-response, but this time using multiple guitars that Carlson overdubs, and focusing on a brighter tone and key than the songs that came before. This key change is what makes Cats on The Briar stand out the most of what's come so far. The Colour of Poison hits more slowed-down Sabbath stoner metal vibes with its dark and descending opening. The real meat of this track kicks in a little after a minute in. It's a riff that any metalhead could recognize as one played by any heavy metal band, but Earth still makes The Colour of Poison all their own. Descending Belladonna is an interesting cut in that it was inspired by the group being tasked with performing a live soundtrack performance for the screening of the film Belladonna of Sadness in 2016. Its main riff is fragile sounding, and its bridge sections are designed to fall away into a momentary drone and minimal tempo held by Davies. This song is a character all its own and it likely fixed itself into the atmosphere of the animated movie very cohesively. 

She Rides an Air of Malevolence instantly feels like a ride with the wicked witch, as Carlson's intricate guitar melodies and Davies' cymbal, maraca, and snare hits make this another strong song that is hard to get out of the head long after it has played. Maidens Catafalque is a dissonant, somewhat messy, improvisational studio cut that wears out its welcome as soon as it's over. The practice of spontaneity in songwriting though cannot be faulted because it still feels held together, despite how loose it sounds. The last trio of tracks strongly wraps up this instrumental earworm of an album. An Unnatural Carousel is a fantastic display of multiple guitar overdubs and Davies' steadily held drum pattern. She has made mention of how unexpectedly difficult it really is to drive a doom metal track at such a slow pace, and for her work on these tracks, there really grows an appreciation for her foundation that she builds. The Mandrake's Hymn lifts its head and feels hopeful as it nears the end and A Wretched Country of Dust goes for the minor key as it bows out, displaying an attitude of masters that are far from done as the curtains close. The riffs are reminders that this isn't the end and there's more good riffs to be found and played over and over again in the future. 

What Earth does in this album released last year is something special. Their brand of impressively slow stoner metal or doom metal is a perfect companion to literally doing or working on anything, which is by no means an insult to their music by itself. The music, when actively listened to, rewards and repeats with carefully formed riffs, melodies, and drum patterns. The music Earth makes is an essential part of this subgenre of drone, doom, stoner, and ambient metal, and anyone who enjoys this album should definitely check out each of their past releases. Here's to a brand new decade and hoping this metal pair stick it out long after their now 30-year career. 

Full Upon Her Burning Lips - 8.25/10

Recommended tracks: Exaltation of Larks, Cats on The Briar, Descending Belladonna

November 8, 2020

System Of A Down’s first music in 15 years, Protect The Land, and Genocidal Humanoidz, brings to light immediate atrocities committed in their homeland

System of a Down Protect The Land Genocidal Humanoidz AirdriftSignals Music Magazine

Now is a pivotal time in world history, which should go without saying. Not only are Americans and worldwide citizens bearing witness to a historic election year, but a once-in-a-century worldwide pandemic has rocked the world. If there could be any more unpredictability, it is that ISIS terrorists from Syria, along with the corrupt regimes of Azerbaijan and Turkey have declared war on the independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, committing unspeakable crimes against humanity. These atrocities that are being committed have brought out from hiatus System of A Down, who are releasing their first new music in 15 years. 

To call this a momentous occasion for the sake of the music would take away from the grim reality that citizens of Artsakh (as is commonly referred to by SOAD members and Armenians) are facing. Their press release on their website explains it all. "For over the past month, civilians young and old have been awakened day and night by the frightful sights and sounds of rocket attacks, falling bombs, missiles, drones and terrorist attacks. They’ve had to find sanctuary in makeshift shelters, trying to avoid the fallout of outlawed cluster bombs raining down on their streets and homes, hospitals and places of worship. Their attackers have set their forests and endangered wildlife ablaze using white phosphorus, another banned weapon."

Protect The Land, opens with a straightforward hard rock riff, while Serj and Daron share vocals, "If they will try to push you far away, would you stay and take a stand? Would you stay with gun in hand? They protect the land." It's void of any of the complex songwriting style found in their final twin albums Mezmerize and Hypnotize in 2015, but that’s hardly a reason to balk at SOAD’s just cause for this single. Genocidal Humanoidz takes a more frenetic approach though and is a welcome return to their charged speed-metal sound. It addresses themes of the devil and terrorism and there’s no confusion about what point they’re trying to drive.

This pair of songs arose from a need to drive charitable donations for Armenia Fund, a US based charity organization that is necessary to combat this violence and evil being perpetrated. Whether the band chooses to start making music again remains to be seen, but the Armenian genocide has always been the driving force of System of A Down since the group’s inception. If it were for a just cause, this may not be the last of System that the world will see. Please check out their new music on any music platforms and consider giving a charitable donation through their website. These acts of cruelty should never be tolerated and we’ve progressed too far to keep allowing it with complacency or naivety. Peace.

November 2, 2020

Long Island artists Thomas Coppola and Fendii release their collaborative album, Fendii Flannel!

Amid the bleak worldwide pandemic, both major and independent music has been thumping and more alive than ever. Artists’ projects that have been cooking for the majority of 2020 and some of 2019 show that the perseverance to survive and thrive is strong in artists. We have covered Thomas Coppola's previous album releases, Dusty and Cold Cuts, and have even featured him in our first ever interview! Suffice it to say, Coppola has come a long way, and releasing just on Halloween is Coppola's entirely produced collaborative album with rapper Fendii, Fendii Flannel! 

The album kicks off with No Preference a beautifully cool strumming beat that exudes a jazzy warmth like BADBADNOTGOOD or Sour Soul. This opening track is mellow and features samplings of Thomas Coppola and Fendii’s lyrical flows for first-time listeners. "Says she wants powder, white, has no preference, none," Coppola raps about his misadventures with a lady friend who seeks the synthetic affections of multiple drugs, which Coppola plays the role of the unwilling passenger to this downward spiral. "She wants to roll with the crew," he raps, "flannel you know what it do, she showin' love, she want the drugs, girl, we got nothing for you." Fendii comes in later to further characterize this lost girl and how the steep decline of partying and drug use ends in overdose and death. It's a blunt metaphor for the ills of this kind of lifestyle, and Coppola and Fendii come across as lived-in with this life experience. Rainbow Road is instantly recognizable to the millennial generation in its beautiful 8-bit synth production. It continues the laid back flow and Coppola effortlessly delivers. Fendii brings the chorus this time and raps about the day-to-day, smoking kush, and getting closer with some ladies.  

She Knows, Fendii delivers a continuation from Rainbow Road as he shows off his individual growth from moving on from dealing. "She knows, she knows, she knows, that I don't sell drugs no more," he sings over the melodic and floating beat, and it is his first solo cut of the album. August 4th cuts a little deeper than the previous tracks with its serious cathedral organs. Fendii recollects a specific date in his life, August 4th, 1999, the scene is chilling and features a confrontation with a car-full of gangbangers who are fully strapped. The graveness of the situation highlights some of the dark corners of city life and the senseless violence that can erupt at any moment. Coppola comes in on this one with a determination to make it no matter what it takes, and their strive to be the greatest in all that they do despite the evil that comes their way is something that all can relate to. Glass takes up a more chiller tone for the album and an R&B vibe for Fendii and Coppola to use their voices for more melodic lines. The quietude and melancholy of their verses are supported by a somber piano and tremolo'd autotune, as the duo confronts the tough subjects of addiction, relationship woes, and death. 

Headband, highlighted by a beautiful Eastern music whistle and keyboard that are wistful in their call and response, picks up the pace for the halfway point of the album. Coppola opens this track with strong confidence, delivering life lessons, and showcasing what it feels like being his own boss in his lifelong passion as music maker and ultimate authority of his own destiny. Fendii later claims the struggle is not enough to make him quit, as he pushes to make his profits from legal business, dodges money-hungry bitches, and lives his life to the fullest. By this point, it should be clear that Coppola's production chops are of professional-grade, and Thottin & Plottin' is another beautifully soft and melodic beat for Fendii to tear up. His autotuned chorus and verse go hard over the beat but are an ode to not get trapped by a drug-addicted girl. Casualties, one of the more interesting cuts of the album, is one of those rare two-cuts-in-one tracks, and Fendii gets rough over the bell-echoing minimalist beat. It's a track worth rewinding because the switch halfway through delivers two distinctly satisfying beats, reminiscent of a Madlib produced cut that switches up halfway. Coppola is paired with a slick-stringed beat and his rap flows smoothly along its clever chord structure. 

Tryna Live is one of the best cuts of the album, and it faces serious single contender status. It's a message that most rappers who struggle in the game should understand and not let hate rule their hearts. "I'm just tryna live, while you're hating on me, I'm just tryin to give, while you're taking from me, want beef but it's overcooked, acting like a thug, but everybody know you're shook," Coppola raps in the chorus. Fendii then takes his turn to deliver this powerful message in his own unique way. Fraudulent Charges pulls back into that special and floating vibe that Coppola's productions have become known for. It's a slow-speed trip full of late-night vibes. Fendii pops in with the hook and chorus, and Coppola adds to this dreamy cut with his signature flair. Technically the last track of the album, Boss Fight pulls out the Nintendo influence once more, and it's more or less the parting words from the pair. The violin-laced chorus gives a classic hip-hop feel, and Coppola makes his case, "Come with your arsenal ready, you ain't got nothing on me," he raps. The aggressive and laid back vibe coincide and contrast well here. Between The Bricks is the final cut, and is technically a bonus track for Fendii and Coppola to have a little bit of fun on. The beat is fully loaded with many different facets that make it captivating and particularly strong for a closing track. Coppola and Fendii play off of one another impressively and close out Fendii Flannel with a huge bang. 

Thomas Coppola and Fendii's first collaborative album really is a huge hit. Not only has Coppola grown as an emcee and producer over the years, but his team up with Fendii proves that the pair are a cohesive and powerful pair. The success of hip-hop collaborative albums in the past come to mind, such as Run The Jewels, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, and Madvillain. This duo takes up this mantle effortlessly with their own God-given talent and skill, and it will be exciting to see where the pair goes from here. 

Recommended Tracks: No Preference, Casualties, Tryna Live

October 29, 2020

AirdriftSignals EXCLUSIVE: Barcelona-based alternative heavy metal group Obsidian Kingdom discuss their new LP, MEAT MACHINE

Our AirdriftSignals Artist Spotlight Interview series covers this time, Barcelona-based alternative heavy metal act, Obsidian Kingdom, who are promoting their brand new album, MEAT MACHINE!

Obsidian Kingdom AirdriftSignals Interview

AirdriftSignals: This third LP, MEAT MACHINE, is the first to feature primary female vocals in your songs, performed by one of your guitarists Irene, and the split vocal duties you bring is a welcome transition between the equally pleasing aggressive and tender moments of the album. Can you speak a little about how you came about deciding your latest lineup change and the addition of this contrast to your new songs?

Obsidian Kingdom: Irene came into the band as a guitar player for the “A Year With No Summer” tour. She was under a lot of pressure at that moment because she had played little electric guitar before that, and she had to learn how to perform rather tricky guitar parts in a very short time. In the end, she managed and the tour went very well, but she suffered from a lot of stress due to that pressure – especially because of how poorly I handled my guidance, in my role as eldest band member and coordinator. I think that struggle is latent in most of the songs from the album. When the tour was over, we took to writing what would eventually become MEAT MACHINE. Irene participated a lot in the creative process and, as a consequence of that, she was writing plenty of lyrics and vocal lines, which she sang to us while showing us her ideas. We soon discovered that she had a wonderful voice, so we decided to try. The results were amazing, and we decided that we would split vocal duties - when we were done writing, she was singing five songs and I was singing the other five.

However, when it came to the recording, the shadow of that past strain resurfaced, and even though she performed all of her parts beautifully, she suffered too much from doing it. So by the end of her tracking, she decided it wasn’t worth her while, and she called it quits, much to our dismay. So we were left with a difficult decision: either we kept the songs as they had been recorded, knowing that we would never be able to play them live, or we re-recorded her vocals, although we were already way out of studio time. We went for the latter, which was a real struggle - not only because we had to adapt her lines to my range, but also because some lyrics were too personal and needed to be written over.

That would explain why you think Irene’s parts are “soft” in contrast with mine. The truth is that it was never meant that way, as Irene growled in many of the songs she used to sing. As a matter of fact, many of the growls you can still hear on the record are actually hers. By the end of that process, we found out that her voice was just irreplaceable in two songs, FLESH WORLD and A FOE, so we decided to leave them. We can only hope that she’ll come on stage with us someday to bring them to life.

We drifted for a while without a fifth member and even played a gig with a hired gun. But shortly after that, Victor noticed the vacant spot and jumped in. We’re whole again!

In a sense, this dynamic of heavy and softer quality could be found as early as your first LP, Mantiis, and also in your song Black Swan from A Year With No Summer. Not only this but Obsidian’s interest in electronic experimentation evident from the Torn and Burnt electronic remix EP shows you are absolutely willing to go down any sonic road that makes a great song. Does this speak to a musically diverse set of influences from each of your members?

Yes, definitely. We are five very different individuals who are also very culturally curious and we’re always bringing new things to the table. I know it’s kind of cliché, but we really will listen to ANYTHING as long as it makes us feel something. OK, maybe we’re not too fond of polka or traditional Hindu music, but you catch our drift: rock, pop, classical, electronic, jazz, noise, ambient, drone, folk, hip-hop, punk, trap, hardcore, anything goes. Even metal! Since we are so different, it’s hard to come across a band or album that we all like at the same time, but such a thing has happened with acts like Ulver, Death Grips, Daughters, Deftones, Scott Walker, and others.

But that’s not the only reason why our music is so diverse. When we set out to write a song, we discuss the content first, in terms of emotions and ideas. Once we got that down, we think of the sound resources that will suit those better, and we’d rather choose from a broad palette. We’ve always found that metal is somewhat limited when it comes to emotional range, and maybe not the best genre when you want to express something delicate, intimate, or fragile, for example. So why limit ourselves to a single set of rules? That’s not how we roll.

Obsidian Kingdom Dark Room

I don't mean to take attention away from your absolutely heavy and magnificent tracks, such as MR PAN and MEAT STAR, but overall the balance works very cohesively in this new record. What is your process in how you arrive at different musical junctions in songs such as THE EDGE and VOGUE that have notable stylistic changes?

THE EDGE and VOGUE are both songs about extreme mental states, about characters at the brink of madness. They are very emotionally unstable and they try to convey a sense of volatility, danger, and impending breakdown. We wanted to reflect that lack of balance and serenity, so we chose weird song structures, quirky sound effects, and jumpy riffs. This anxiety and unpredictability runs throughout the whole of MEAT MACHINE, but maybe especially so in those two songs.

When listening to the new record, there is obviously a focus and metaphor for the physical plane that we live in, but not always (more on that in the next question). Personally, it gives me the feeling of social economics and humans as livestock (or living stock) in this system we all live in, which you could actually call a machine. How did you arrive at the concept of MEAT MACHINE as an album and MEAT STAR as a music video?

It all comes down to a simple question, one we asked ourselves at the very beginning of the creative process: who are we now? And why are we doing this? We soon found out that the answer was eluding us. We tried to narrow down our identity and found that many of the things that we were focusing on had to do with our flesh and our physicality. We found that behind the thin façade of our personalities, our meat was always demanding as if it had a will of its own. The traits that we chose to define ourselves by had to do with things like our sexuality and our emotions, which ultimately are a set of chemical responses meant to help us survive. We also found out that many of those things didn’t depend on our will, but rather were a kind of automatism that we had to deal with. The body is a meat machine. And the way we relate to each other, the way we choose to use and abuse our power over other individuals, to give them pleasure or to make them suffer, makes the world another meat machine as well. We thought that it was a poetic concept that condensed our current fears and worries, and one into which the audience would easily project theirs.
Of course, there is something resembling social commentary, but the real goal of the album is to portray the struggle of the quest for identity in a mechanized and apparently insensitive universe. That is exactly where spirituality comes in, at the very doorway of nihilism. Themes like faith, transcendence, and true callings are tapped into in songs like MEAT STAR or MR PAN. There is also a strong underlying theme that binds together most of the songs in the album, and that is how our subconscious energies shape the material world we inhabit. So it’s not all meat in the end… But we wouldn’t want to get too intellectual about it. We wanted to write an album that you could feel, not one that you had to think about in order to understand it.

Yes. MR PAN, which is a track inspired by the legend of the god Pan, as well as the symbolism used in the MEAT STAR music video point to an influence in ancient folklore as well as the concept of magick as proposed by the mystic and magician Aleister Crowley. How has this mythology and philosophy (Thelema) influenced your group’s work?

I myself am very keen on the work of Frater Perdurabo and Thelema. As you very observantly have pointed out, this influence is especially patent in the MEAT STAR video, which is vaguely based on the Ritual of Abramelin and the concept of the Holy Guardian Angel - the idea that one must undergo a demanding process of withdrawal and self-resignation in order to unveil one’s true purpose in life. A rite of death and rebirth. Furthermore, many other characters and scenes in the narrative were drawn after the archetypes of the Major Arcana from the Thoth Tarot. And to top it off, the cinematography is reminiscent of that of Kenneth Anger, whose fondness of Crowley is well documented. MR PAN is also a song about reaching transcendence and a purer knowledge of the universe, but this time through altered mind states, hedonism, and self-immolation; it’s a much more Dionysian song. This of course relates to The Great Beast as well, but to be honest we had in mind other modern shamanistic icons when we wrote it, such as Carlos Castaneda or Jim Morrison.

Based on your origins in Barcelona, Spain, you have toured throughout many different regions of the world over the years. How have you felt your music has been received in relation to your contemporary touring bands that have gone on tour with you? How have you found other regions and fans taking to your music and how are their responses?

It’s hard to say… We tend to tour with bands that also dwell in the fringes of Rock and Metal, or who are innovative in some way, so our audience tends to be very open-minded in terms of music, which we, of course, appreciate very much, but at the same time, we always seem to be the oddball on the bill. So far we’ve found great acceptance in places like the UK or The Netherlands, probably because they have a bigger tradition in experimental and progressive music. The audience in Germany tends to be a little bit more conservative in their taste in Metal, which doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate what we do. Performing as Obsidian Kingdom, we’ve never played anywhere outside of Europe, but we’re dying to find out what they think of it in other places in the world. The music video of MEAT STAR recently won the “best music video” award at a cinema festival in Chile, and we’re getting great feedback from the United States as well, so we’re guessing there are a lot of people out there who probably love our art as well. It will happen.

Your past albums have displayed a strong aptitude for switching up styles, as this album does no less. A couple of the genres for example in past albums I have found intriguing and very satisfying were your dive into drone metal with April 10th as well as your heavy black metal beginnings. Do you ever see these stylistic choices coming about in your future work?

It depends… When we wrote Mantiis we had absolutely no idea what we were doing in terms of style. Just to give you an example, the trumpets in Last of the Light were included at the very end of the recording, like a last-minute arrangement for a part that felt dull at the moment. Or Genteel to Mention, which is a rather folky tune, that started off as a generic post-rock song. However, when we started to work on A Year With No Summer, we had previously decided that we would delve into the territories of drone, dream-pop, shoegaze, and the like since we wanted to give the album an ethereal and ominous vibe, and those styles felt perfect for that. That was our first serious attempt at electronic beats as well, which you can hear on songs like April 10th or The Polyarnik. With MEAT MACHINE, it was both pre-determined and spontaneous. On one side, we knew we wanted a rabid record, with an abrasive production, so we were certain that we would fall into Metal, hardcore, and crazy synths at some points, but on the other hand, we left enough room for the album to be whatever it wanted to be. That’s where weird and wonderful things started to happen.

Obsidian Kingdom Mask

And not to get ahead of the present moment and album, but I just think it’s important to note how impressively Obsidian Kingdom has evolved over the years. You never know when a new electronic remix album might drop, unless of course....?

Putting together Torn & Burnt was great fun back in the day since we got to hear the interpretations of our own songs by some of the electronic music producers that we were crazy about. On the touring cycle, we even played some of the remixes instead of the actual songs live. But since we mostly play rock music for a rock audience, I think that remixes are still perceived as a rarity and a b-side, and more often than not they’re not worth the effort you put into them. Come to think of it, it’d be really hard for me to point out more than five remixes in the history of music that were actually better than the original songs. We’ve also produced remixes for other bands ourselves, for bands like Cult of Luna or God Seed. So you never know… We might do it again!

Speaking of electronic music, in a previous interview with Heavy Metal New York you mention that you guys wanted to make an electronic record this time around. This style is easily heard on FLESH WORLD as an example and also the synth work in the middle of VOGUE and the end of WOMB OF WIRE. As a fan of electronic music, I see synth work as a fantastic addition to any genre. With this in mind, and your tendency to experiment, such as your use of an e-bow in A Year With No Summer, do you and the members have any plans to expand Obsidian Kingdom’s arsenal with even more and possibly unique instruments and instrumentation going forward?

Yes, our first intention was for MEAT MACHINE to be a full-on electronic album that you could dance to. We pre-produced the songs for a whole year and when we showed them to our producer, he found them boring and utterly uninteresting, and invited us to do it all over again - which we did! We kept some of the ideas, and the tempos, but as you can hear now, it certainly doesn’t feel like an electronic record, however much electronica it might have in it. I guess we weren’t there yet - we shall keep on trying. And as for the future, who knows? Most of the time, we come across those little tools by sheer accident. For example, I got myself an e-bow after touring with Sólstafir, who were using it a lot in their album Ótta. I thought it was extremely cool and I shamelessly copied it. But they probably copied it from The Smashing Pumpkins as well, because I know Addi loves them, ha! Also, one of the effects that you can hear throughout MEAT MACHINE is an auto-whammy pedal that I brought only because it is called “Ricochet”, and we had misused that word in an early version of the lyrics for THE EDGE. Accidents are really the salt and pepper of experimenting. 

The world and your fans are very much looking forward to your upcoming world tour next Spring. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we can all go out and celebrate and listen to you and others performing live again. Are there any bucket list items that you still want to see Obsidian Kingdom accomplish either while touring, collaborating, or creatively?

We are a very ambitious band, and of course, we always want to play bigger venues, before broader and more engaged audiences, in the best territorial extension possible. In terms of art, we dream of doing great things as well, although, in all honesty, I have to say that we’ve already done a great deal of them! We’ve played in museums (twice!), composed film scores, and commissioned paintings. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to fulfilling three basic needs: creating something that makes others feel (and hopefully appreciate newer meanings to life), having fun in the process, and making enough money to keep on doing it all over again. For as long as that happens, we’re happy. Oh, and I’m not calling it quits till we play in Japan.

Is there any other insight about your latest work you’d like to share with the world?


MEAT MACHINE can be purchased or streamed on all music platforms. Read our full review and stay tuned for more Obsidian Kingdom in the near future! 

Stefan Walczak Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE Red Vinyl

Amorphous and constantly reinventing heavy metal-alternative rock group Obsidian Kingdom drop their third genre-smashing album, MEAT MACHINE - Album Review

Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE Album Artwork

Obsidian Kingdom are no strangers to change, as we have seen from our exclusive interview with them. By their third full-length LP, they have proven themselves as masters of reinvention with a talent for displaying a wide swath of genre sensibilities. It all started with their debut maxi-single, Matter, a 5-track black-metal ode to the elements. Their follow-up EP, 3:11, showed a tighter production quality with 3 massive songs, but still treading familiar waters. What really set Obsidian Kingdom apart was their full-length debut, Mantiis, a sprawling single song concept album subdivided into 14 tracks that go from theatrical, to hard rock, to heavy black metal, and back, all with elements of electronic music and other styles. What it did essentially was take the overarching genre of heavy metal and lit it on fire. A Year With No Summer was no different. Released in 2016, the group blended more elements of drone metal, electronic atmospheres, and alternative rock. Now, just a month ago, MEAT MACHINE defines Obsidian Kingdom as their own trailblazers. 

It can’t be more apparent than in Rider’s opening lines of the album, “Can you feel now? The currents have changed, a thin leak through, the rattling of teeth,” from the opening track THE EDGE. It’s not even a minute in its runtime before it performs the album’s first impressive change, as guitarist Irene steps in to soften the heavy blow. "A wrenched heart," she sings, "could not bear, to keep me quiet, or hold us close, a trace drawn, across the wet floor, a body dragged like a corpse." The track then flows right back into its original groove. Songs such as these are plentiful in MEAT MACHINE, and they offer the listener a widening spectrum of sounds as the album plays out. THE PUMP follows with grandiose arena rock and heavy metal vibes, and it becomes apparent that these songs are designed to be delivered in their full glory when played live. "Relentlessly, we feed, THE PUMP, and it keeps growing on and on, all our lives," Rider sings with frenetic desperation. "Your body is not a temple, is not holy, is just food for THE PUMP, food for THE PUMP." The Pump in this instance takes on the role of all machinations that people willingly give up their energies to, that of which never seems to satiate, and it's one of the many cogs that keep this record spinning. 

Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE CD Booklet

The bleating heart of MR PAN's synthesized intro speaks of horror film scores and makes for an atmospheric place setting of the track's themes. Pan, the ancient god of the wilderness and the natural world, has been used in folklore to help others in revealing the world for the way it really is, and it's the perfect vehicle for Obsidian Kingdom to transport listeners into the nether realm of momentary bliss. The song takes effective stabs as a fluctuating heavy metal rocker, with guitars that soar and take listeners along for an epic ride somewhere undetermined, yet utterly satisfying. NAKED POLITICS, the first song of the album to depart from the heavy metal stylings that the group is known for, takes a detour into alternative rock, as Rider chronicles the feeling of endlessly playing this superficial game of life, pushing our bodies to the brink until we break. Irene joins in with Rider during the breakdown, "A body is just a body, and a body is just a frame, echoes of a blank space, to be filled with your pain." The flesh is a canvas for the living to suffer upon, and Obsidian Kingdom understand this universal truth. 

FLESH WORLD, the following track, doesn't pull any punches either, and it is in essence the greatest break from the album so far. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of a soft angelic vocalist cooing over lush and electronic instrumentation, and the hints of electronica that Rider spoke about in our interview fully shines on this track. It is a completely addicting and eclectic mix of heavy rock choruses and Irene's vocal talent. MEAT STAR, the band's first single, is forever illuminating in its power and glory. The slow swagger of the heavy metal riffs along with Rider's screams speaks of the need to be remembered and not forgotten in this hectic and crazy world. Before long, the drumbeat kicks into a double-timed groove leading up to the chorus. "Peel the dirt off of my eyes," he sings, "believe, the star is burning bright, no burden can drag me down, give in, glory will be mine." The unwavering determination pulled off in this song is complemented by an intense and visually stunning music video, which we covered in our interview. Whether occultism gives MEAT STAR a power in and unto itself is up for debate, but it remains without a doubt flawless and destined for greatness. 

There are many sonic nuggets of brilliance sprinkled throughout MEAT MACHINE, all distilling the tracks with a sense of fullness, and a feeling that these guys are fans of all different kinds of music. SPANKER is no exception to this notion. Its hard rock flair shows off this side of the band. Rider's singing is punctuated with wailing guitars, a faster-drummed chorus, and a complete Floydian breakdown full of guitars, synths, drums, and ghostly moans. The arena rock style fits nicely with this band, and it goes to show why they have such a great presence and reputation as a live act. VOGUE, the third to last song, takes a dive into the wallows of lust, desire, and compulsive violence. The simultaneously exciting and ugly parts of life come together in this track, and Rider's chorus is a call to be with (and inside) a lover, which quickly degrades into the depths of murderous rage. This line is carefully walked, and thoughts of crimes of passion make this song all the more chilling. 

Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE CD Booklet

WOMB OF WIRE, the penultimate cut, shows off more of Obsidian Kingdom's inclination to form electronic soundscapes. The introduction feels like a horror film that is about to unfold. WOMB OF WIRE is a blend of electronic atmosphere, hard rock riffs, heavy metal growls, and Irene's gentle response to Rider's rough verse, "look close, how shapes dissolve, it's dire, and it's sublime, how fragile we are." The middle and end of this track are notable for the group's fondness for electronic beats. A FOE takes all that we've learned from the album thus far, and spins it into a final mention, and plays out as a beautifully bittersweet ballad for Irene to shine with the final word. A FOE is a calculated measure of the cruel world that we all live in. It's a question of if love and tenderness are real and whether the central figure feels deserving of it. It's a song that ultimately the singer resigns to her fate. "And I think I could cry, and I think I could beg, but the die has been cast, so I sit down instead, when the reel wears too thin, to contain all the shame, we will ride on the cart, to my gruesome end." It is sobering, and it is the ultimate come down from an album full of extreme highs. 

Obsidian Kingdom take listeners on a ride that is exhilarating and unforgettable with their third LP. As the fluorescent man, a bio-plant-like human from the Saga of the Swamp Thing would say about people, “I hate it when steaks cry.” MEAT MACHINE takes this theme of physicality and mortality and explores it fully, veering into the stratosphere of what drives people, and if there is more to this world than what we see before our eyes. For a third album that is vastly different than the two that have come before it, it doesn't show any signs of complacency, and the constantly shifting sound of Obsidian Kingdom has only proven that this band is stronger than ever before. 

Obsidian Kingdom Red Vinyl MEAT MACHINE


Recommended Tracks: MR. PAN, FLESH WORLD, MEAT STAR