Holy Grail, Cattle Decapitation, Amadis and Made in Iron
Metal Monday presents a very special TUESDAY night show!
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
18+ $10 // 21+ $7
Formed in Southern California in 2008 when vocalist James Paul Luna and drummer Tyler Meahl diverged from Pasadena metal squadron White Wizzard and teamed up with San Diegan guitar hero Eli Santana, the band was called Sorcerer until it became clear that the moniker didn’t quite capture the rarefied nature of the members’ collective talents. Sorcerer became Holy Grail. The band became so unstoppable that California just couldn’t contain them and now, like their spiritual forefathers in Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Dio, Holy Grail are poised to bring their hook-laden shred anthems to an arena near you.
Holy Grail are heavy metal personified, possessing a seemingly infinite arsenal of mind-blowing riffs, skyscraping vocal melodies and devastating drum dynamism. Not mention the kind of six-string acrobatics and straight-up power-shredding that would make Yngwie Malmsteen chuck the proverbial goat in sweep-picking solidarity. “We shred and we’re serious about it,” Luna offers. “This is not a tongue-in-cheek thing. It’s not throwback or retro. Holy Grail is a modern band with a new twist on the best of old-school metal with death metal riffs, modern breakdowns and power-metal singing. We just tried to pick stuff from all our favorite bands and make the best blend of metal we could.”
But don’t take our word for it—or Luna’s. The fine folks at Decibel magazine knew exactly what they were talking about when they hailed HOLY GRAIL as “the most exciting prefix-free metal band to come out of L.A. in the last two decades.” The esteemed editors at UK’s Metal Hammer nominated the gentlemen of the Grail for the magazine’s “Best New Band” award at their annual Golden Gods ceremony before Holy Grail even had an album out. But a certain tall, handsome genius over at Thrasher summed it up best when he proclaimed, “Holy Grail are the reason that heavy metal will never die.”
After basking in the glory of last year’s critically acclaimed “Improper Burial” EP, Holy Grail have finally unleashed their full-length debut, “Crisis In Utopia.” The title comes from a short story that Luna found in a 1930s-era sci-fi mag. Inspired, he transposed the tale’s apocalyptic theme to the band’s L.A. stomping grounds. “The way I envisioned it, it’s about what would happen to Hollywood in end-times, the fate of all these people who have no idea how to survive without modern conveniences,” he explains. “Then all the humans are killed off and the next species forms from their parasites. It was kind of a sick pleasure to write.”
Produced by former Nine Inch Nails member and A Perfect Circle collaborator Danny Lohner, Crisis In Utopia is loaded with instant fist-pumping classics like the title track ,“Call Of Valhalla,” and revamped versions of Improper Burial’s modern classics “Immortal Man” and “Fight To Kill.” Opener “My Last Attack” is especially impressive, showcasing Luna’s soaring pipes over a dizzying series of scorching twin leads and white-hot hooks. Insanely catchy jams like “Hollow Ground,” “Requiem” and “Chase The Wind” set an impossibly high standard for the next decade’s would-be arena anthems. Meanwhile, the instrumental interlude “Nocturne In D Minor” features guest shots from Anna Murphy and Meri Tadic of Swiss folk-metal luminaries (and recent tour mates) Eluveitie.
Triumphant performances at the UK’s Download Festival, Japan’s Loud Park and Germany’s Wacken Open Air have recently spread the Holy Grail gospel overseas, while North American tours with metal monoliths Amon Amarth, Exodus, 3 Inches Of Blood and Blind Guardian have left the home front in a sweat-drenched state of Holy Grail fever.
Yeah, you say, but What Does It All Mean? What it means is that you’ve been reading this thing for way too long. Just press fucking play already.
Holy Grail is:
James-Paul Luna – Vocals
Eli Santana – Lead Guitar
Alex Lee – Lead Guitar
Tyler Meahl – Drums
Blake Mount – Bass
You don’t name your band Cattle Decapitation if you’re looking to subtly insinuate your way into the consciousness of the masses. Equally, unleashing some of the most intense, horrifying, and extreme metal known to mankind will not ingratiate you with those of a sensitive nature, for the San Diegan’s boundary-pushing music is designed to turn heads and snap necks, and not necessarily in that order. Returning with their seventh full-length, the devastating Monolith Of Inhumanity, the band have never sounded more focused, more aggressive, or more determined to get in the faces of those who erroneously believe they have already experienced the band at their extreme best. “One of the main things this band has done since the very beginning was to try to break tradition and break the mold of what’s acceptable, in any given genre we’re working in,” states vocalist Travis Ryan. “I’m really happy that with this record we’ve been able to successfully push those boundaries further than we ever have, and without going into the ‘suck’ realm or sounding contrived. We’ve gone so far out on a limb on this one, and I’m just ecstatic that we’ve pulled off what we were trying to achieve.”
This achievement stands as one of the most volatile, ambitious, and impossible to aptly categorize records you will hear in 2012. Dragging their ever-evolving deathgrind sound kicking and screaming into the epic territory inhabited by the likes of Dimmu Borgir and Anaal Nathrakh, the quartet redefine all perceptions of what Cattle Decapitation is. “The mindset of this band has always been abrasive and balls to the wall, and like a car accident where there’s no fucking stopping it. Throwing melodic vocals or guitar work – or dare we say catchy elements – into that is tantalizing,” says Ryan. That such elements have been woven sparingly into their turbulent racket does not mean the band have in any way diminished the sheer visceral impact they are known for. “There can be hooks and catchiness without compromising what the band – or any individual in the band – is all about,” asserts guitarist Josh Elmore. “Having these elements at our disposal is just another tool with which we can build the best songs that we can. It was great also having input from Derek (Engemann, bass, who makes his writing and recording debut with this album), who added some new dynamics to some of the songs. We also spent a lot of time thinking about structure on this record, wanting every moment to count, no matter what the tone of it was.” After one exposure to Monolith Of Inhumanity it’s evident that these more melodic elements truly enhance the power of the tracks, and make for a more diverse and involving collection. On “A Living, Breathing Piece Of Defecating Meat” the band unleash a chorus that manages to be hideous and infectious at the same time, while the towering “Your Disposal” and “Lifestalker” wield sweeping, dramatic sections tinged with apocalyptic fury, which are all the more gripping for the inclusion of Ryan’s melodic shrieking. “I was waiting for the guys to write parts I could use that kind of melody on, and as soon as they played me “Your Disposal” I dropped the song I was working on and just went for it,” enthuses Ryan. “This is the first record where I really listened to what the fans were saying they wanted, and many of them wanted a lot more of those weird, epic, melodic parts that crept into The Harvest Floor (2009), and I’m like okay, done, because luckily I agree with you this time!”
As with all of the band’s releases, Monolith Of Inhumanity revolves around a central concept, building upon Ryan’s potent distaste for contemporary civilization and the damage wrought in the name of progress. “Whereas The Harvest Floor focused on sort of rounding up the populace and getting rid of them, this record is about what would happen had we let them go. It’s about where humanity will end up if it continues the course it’s on,” the vocalist explains. This concept, inspired in part by 2001: A Space Odyssey, is once again captured in the cover art by longtime collaborator Wes Benscoter, depicting a bleak apocalyptic future and the regression of mankind into apes. “The monolith really represents technology, and the cover’s this trash heap with the monolith atop it and humans scavenging all around it, because that’s all they’re able to do any more. It’s where we’re headed on the course we’re on, and yeah, a lot of kids will say that’s a really negative, shitty attitude to have, but is it not correct?”
In realizing the record, the quartet – rounded out by drummer Dave McGraw – travelled to Denver, Colorado to collaborate with producer Dave Otero (Allegaeon, Cephalic Carnage). “Dave brought really good performances out of everybody, and he gave the record a lot of clarity while the heaviness is still there,” states Elmore, though it was the producer’s suggestions on how to better flesh out the songs that made the most profound difference in the guitarist’s eyes. “The guy really knows what he’s doing. I do a lot of layering after the basic rhythm track, and if I came to a point where I wasn’t sure about something someone would always pipe up and say you realize everything Dave has suggested so far has worked? Try it!” he laughs. That the record is as accomplished as it is also belies the fact that the schedules of the members made it difficult for them to focus on writing it over the year they had allotted. “As it turns out we work really well under pressure,” Ryan says with a wry smile. “But we were all so busy it’s literally a wonder that we got it done at all in that year, let alone what we came out with. It makes me feel like we’re capable of anything, and that’s really a new development.”
The visual aspect of their output having always been important to them, the band are enthused to have the album released as a gatefold vinyl, and to have Tom Bunk, creator of The Garbage Pail Kids collectors cards from the 1980s, design cards for the individual members of the band, which will be available with pre-orders. “Collecting those cards was one of my favorite things when I was a kid, and our friend and ex-manager is a complete nerd about it and has known Tom Bunk for years, and put us in touch with him. This is an older guy that doesn’t have to be fucking around with some deathgrind band who isn’t going to push him to new heights, but he thought it sounded like a fun project and he was very cool about everything. It still hasn’t really hit me that we quite literally have our own Garbage Pail Kid cards!” Ryan grins. “The funny thing is that it also inadvertently ties right into the theme of the record, which has so much focus on garbage and waste. It didn’t even occur to me until months later, but that’s the beauty of this band, things happen for a reason. For instance, for the first time, going into this record I didn’t have the whole concept worked out in my head. Usually I have it in mind as much as a few years before we get around to making the record, and I need that, it has to make sense to me or it’s just not going to work. I was so scared it just wasn’t going to come, but one day it literally just hit me. The title, the concept, the cover, all of it, and suddenly everything fell into place, and now it’s done I think this is the first time we’ve all been one hundred percent proud of what we’ve created – and for good reason.”
In the year MMVI, Franky Vitriol and J.J. Harris formed a bond over a Gibson Flying V and a pair of leather pants. Soon after, Harris recruited longtime allies Gustavus Adolphus and Johan Sebastian Rock, the rhythm section known as the gods of thunder, and Vitriol called upon former mate Syd Distic to lead the charge.
Amadis was born…