Sunday, November 25, 2007

...Ice Metal In Retrospect... "The Perfection of the Hideous"...

"Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places."

Yes, that's me, "Bernie Vulture," apparently dressed as a zombie in a snowbank. I played guitar ("Rhythm and Lead," according to the liner-notes of "The Virgin Forest...") in (Ashes of) Frost.

"For them are the catacombs of Ptolemais, and the carven mausolea of the nightmare countries."
Kate "The Ice Queen" Kirby. Vocals.

"They climb to the moonlit towers of ruined Rhine castles, and falter down black cobwebbed steps beneath the scattered stones of forgotten cities in Asia."

Johnny Scarecrow. "Rhythm and Melody" guitar, bandleader.

"The haunted wood and the desolate mountain are their shrines, and they linger around the sinister monoliths on uninhabited islands."

Mac "The Bass Barbarian" MacDougal. Bass. Obviously.

"But the true epicure in the terrible, to whom a new thrill of unutterable ghastliness is the chief end and justification of existence, esteems most of all the ancient, lonely farmhouses of backwoods New England;"

Sir Nathaniel Ward. Synth, keys, sequencing, sampling, noisemaking, etc. I think at one time we called him "Dr. Doomsday"?

"For there the dark elements of strength, solitude, grotesqueness and ignorance combine to form the perfection of the hideous."

Nick Drouin. We had all sorts of derogatory nicknames for this kid, mostly out of harsh respect for the fact that he was WAAAY too good for how young he was at the time. Child, Princess, Nicky-poo, etc... sorry Nick. Drums.

"Of the hideous... Of the hideous... Of the hideous..."

The first flyer that I made for Frost. I was told that it was "too punk-rock" and that I wasn't allowed to make any more.

(The quotes in bold above the proceeding pictures are from the introduction to H.P. Lovecraft's "The Picture in the House," which we used an audio-rendering of, read with an expert-level of spookiness by Dark Dave, as the introduction-sample to most of our sets. I wish that I knew how to host and post audio, so that I could put that track up [it's featured on the "Complete Ashes of Frost" disk that I referred to in the last post] because it's quite excellent and entirely worth hearing.)

A later flyer; I believe that this is for a show that got re-routed to the Icy Cavern Of Death with the entire crowd in tow; I think I sprained my ankle, most of the band drank alot before we played, and alot of other strange things happened...

A flyer for a show with one of our favorite bands to play with, New Haven Connecticut's organic trip-hop darlings Tarmak... I miss that band quite alot...

The insert cut-outs for an extremely low-budget cassette compilation that we released/ were featured on...

A newspaper clipping, with my boots.

The rest of that picture. "Bernie Vulture of Frost goes Hard Core in Manchester." Hilarious. Press-kit fodder from near the outift's end...

This has been a presentation of Battleaxe Promotions, New Hampshire. Whatever that means.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Ashes of Frost, 7 Years Later.

Fall and early winter in New England is the sort of setting in which well-written heavy metal makes the most sense to me. Maybe it's because, then, that I'm back in New Hampshire at this particular time of year that, of all the bands that I've played with in the past, one in particular has been a recurring theme of conversation in the last couple of weeks.

At this time seven years ago, six of us were crammed into the extremely cold and dank basement of a colonial farmhouse on a hill in Candia, New Hampshire. It is apparent now that the music that we were creating there was intrinsically influenced by our surroundings and sensations at the time that, years later, that still proves to be the element that the music skillfully speaks to.


My first encounter with the band was as a spectator. I was requested by Johnny Scarecrow, the guitarist and band-leader, to attend their first show. Although the band that played that show was very different than what Frost was to become (the band was called merely "Frost" until very near to its demise, when the "Ashes of" was added) I was captivated by the vibe that they created. Within a week, I had been brought on to play guitar for the outfit, at the same time that the band was working on making a couple other post-first-live-experiment changes, like adding synthplayer Nat Ward to the fold. (I'm oversimplifying quite a bit and very knowingly leaving things out; If I were to relate all of the anecdotes of this act and time period that I personally find relevant or entertaining this entry would be a book.)

Within less than a month of Nat and I joining the band, we were working on our first recording, attempting to go it ourselves in that cold basement that, by this point, had adopted the snarky name "The Icy Cavern of Death." What we recorded during that time-period became (originally) a cassette-tape titled "The Virgin Forest is the Devil's Last Preserve..." (a quote from Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible'). That recording undoubtedly has some sonic "issues" (we were dealing with a VERY loud six-piece in a VERY small concrete box; I distinctly remember sitting with Scarecrow by the fireplace upstairs with headphones on, trying to get the mix right, exchanging scared looks and shrugs), but it could be argued it also captures the frigid atmosphere of our songs and our mindsets better (or more succinctly) than our later recordings. The last two songs on the music-player above, "Witchhunt" and "SMDR," are taken from that early cassette (that I have since done a bit of remastering to).

Later in the band's career, a second EP was recorded, in something closer to a "real" recording studio. This record was titled "Mysts of the Iced Morn," and was definitely a more "competent" recording, if not quite as "cold"-sounding as the first (I tend to think recording in the summer was part of that. I think others might lay blame also on the band beginning to decline and lose its focus by this point.) The EP was never officially released, but the first two songs on the player above ("Lullaby" and "Nightmare") are taken from it.

A disc containing both records, in addition to remixes, outtakes, and samples used in our live shows, labeled "The Complete Ashes of Frost," has been sitting on my shelf since shortly after the band's demise, and I still don't quite know what to do with it.

I think I'll post more pictures tomorrow, as while packing my car for the recent drive across the country I found a briefcase stuffed with promotional materials from several of my past bands, much of which I found to be quite hilarious. In the meantime, visit the retrospective Ashes of Frost page on Myspace.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ignite Poetry Magazine, Volume 2.

The second issue of Ignite Poetry Magazine (a poetry publication from Arizona State University at the West Campus) is now out!

It is available in PDF form (both readable and printable versions, as is Volume 1) at Ignite Online.

Go on over and take a read; I have a poem published in the work entitled "A Present Middle Path" (it appears on page 21, which is the centerfold in the hard-copy chap-book edition.)

This time around, I'm listed as "Honorary Editor," as I'm an alumni rather than a student, and my appearance on the editorial staff is apparently a bit dubious in terms of University technicalities... As "honorary" refers to "deserving of honor" and I'm not sure how true that is, though, I'm wondering if the title is a misprint of "Ornery Editor." I'm thinking that that appellation would have been a bit more justified.

I got my hard-copy of the book in the mail yesterday and it looks great. It features work by a handful of West-campus poets that figure among my favorites, and Editor-in-Chief Chelsey Kissling and her staff did a great job of putting it all together. Overall, I find the book to be a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read.

Also, while you're checking out the book, don't forget to add Ignite on Myspace.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Photos and Notes From the Road...

We'll call this entry a photo-journal, of sorts. Basically, I'll relate anecdotes with pictures, pictures with anecdotes, and otherwise ramble multi-genre-ously in general.

Toward the beginning of the trip, I was taking pictures of basically nothing, to demonstrate to Miss Hysteric that there was basically nothing to take pictures of. Ironically, some of these photos of basically nothing turned out sort of interesting.

A sunrise out my window, splattered in bugs.

Steamy sunrises in Tennessee.

These sorts of views made driving through the night completely worth it.

I reached these mountain lakes at just the right time.

I've been told that these foggy images look like they could be used for Opeth records.

I can see that; the music fits the mood of these shots quite well, in my eyes.

In fact, this segment of the drive made me realize why I was such a lukewarm metal fan during my time in Arizona. Dark orchestral music is so much better matched to the chill of the late-year in the east than it is to the desert. I think I'm beginning to understand dark music again.

My cross-country car in the fog of sunrise.

The purple reflections in puddles of clouds. Definitely something that I missed.

Trucks on a bridge in a foggy sunrise. This picture somehow captures where my mind and feelings were at through most of this trip. Stare into the fog for a bit and figure it out.

A tugboat on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, early in the morning.

Someone told me that they liked willow trees...


The first snow of the season. Somewhere in Pennsylvania... I think...?

Returning to fall as I remember it, in Bristol, Connecticut, just out of the Catskills.

As strange as this may sound, it's so good to see a sky that's gray instead of blue...

I'm back in New Hampshire now. More images and updates should soon follow.

There are more of these photos in my photobucket account, in the main album, and in the one subtitled Vagabond.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Reviews" From the Road, Part 2

I'm not going to lie, I'm not completely sure of where I was attempting to go with this entry any longer. What I am sure of, though, is that I am usually a writer who edits meticulously and am affected greatly by the soroundings in which I construct my work, and the Oklahoma City Ihop where I wrote the last entry in a hurry and had to hit "send" without a second glance (just as my battery died) did not quite live up to my own personal standards, leaving me now frantically editing and floundering for theme.

Upon check-in at Amarillo, I was given a ton of options for my room, none of which I cared much about, and presented with the key to one which had two double beds, on the first-floor facing the pool, for the bare-minimum rate of an entry-level single. I'm pretty sure I was the only guest in the motel that night. The room was one that permitted smoking, as that was another option that I was given and expressed absolutely no concern for either way. I have a hunch that Texas might be the only state in America that still has smoking rooms available at all, so I certainly didn't mind, as I knew that it may be awhile before I stay in one again.

Thus, after placing my bag in the room, I wandered to the SuperWalmart behind the motel, in search of some wine to take the edge off, and something to smoke to take advantage of the peculiarities of my room. For a New Englander with a fairly strong aversion to big-box American consumerism and redneckery in general, walking into a Walmart in Texas was probably one of the most negatively surreal cultural experiences that I can recall. I felt more than a bit lost and out of place, to say the least.

My last day waiting tables in Phoenix before I headed out, I was speaking to an eccentric artist regular-guest about wine. He was informing me of Walmart's recent unleashing of the products of their private vineyards, and their attempts to drive the price-point of quality American wine down by taking inflation and demand out of the equation, much as they have done to nearly every other product. According to this guest, for the bottles they were offering for under $3, the quality was far superior to many California wines that cost far more than that. At the time, I thought that this was an interesting anecdote and something good to know, but a product recomendation and cultural phenomenon that was pretty damn repulsive. I couldn't recall the last time that I had found myself in a Walmart store, let alone purchased anything there that I would consider a politically or economically volitile, charged, or damaging product, as this new wine seemed to me to be.

Finding myself in Amarillo that night, however, I thought that there was really no good reason for me to not give this guest's recomendation a shot. After ten minutes of wandering disoriented through my slack-jawed and flourescent-lit nightmare, I found the display of the wine, and stood staring at racks of absurd numbers of bottles of three varietals; Merlot, Pinot Grigio, and Cabernet Savignon. I very rarely drink white wine, so the Pinot was out. The choice between the other two was not nearly as easy. California Merlot is nearly always bad, and low-end Cabernet, from nearly anywhere, shares that distinction. After a bit of deliberation, then, I decided to bank on my restaraunt-guest's recomendation, and hope that the Cabernet was more akin to a $20 bottle than a $3. The Merlot, based on its varietal and location alone, was not nearly as likely to be redeemed by even this. I walked to the counter with my bottle in hand in pursuit of some cheap cigars. For these, I selected a $2 pack of cherry Swisher Sweets, as I figured that, by this point, there was no redeeming the level of trashiness of my evening, and, though I wouldn't usually be quick to admit it under other circumstances, I don't mind the flavor of those nearly as much as I probably should.

Shortly later, then, I found myself sitting in a dirty Texas motel room with far more bed-space than I needed, leaning back on one of the two doubles, puffing an extremely cheap cigar and sipping on extremely cheap wine. Both the words "cigar" and "wine" are used in this context extremely liberally. The room had four tv stations, no shampoo, and no internet access. The wine, contrary to my guest's recomendation, definitely did have the pungent bite and ripping cheap tannins of a $3 Cabernet, and the Swishers, well, tasted like cherry-flavored Swishers.

In the morning, I poured the remainder of the wine down the drain, and headed back onto the road. The next night, I decided that I would drive straight through, as I didn't want to spend another evening in this manner.