Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Rupert Hine - Surface Tension - The Recordings 1981-1983

Most people familiar with the name Rupert Hine are likely to know him primarily for his work producing a multitude of bands including Camel, Saga, Chris DeBurgh, The Fixx, The Waterboys, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, Rush and many, many more, but he also had numerous releases, both solo and as a bandmember.  He got his start as half of the folk duo Rupert and David, who in 1965 released a cover of “The Sound Of Silence”, which was most notable for the fact that if featured a young studio musician named Jimmy Page.  In the early seventies he recorded a couple albums for Deep Purple’s Purple Records and then a few more fronting the band Quantum Jump who had a UK hit with the song “The Lone Ranger”.  Following the demise of that band he released a trio of albums where he worked closely with lyricist Jeannette Obstoj and engineer/co-producer Stephen W Tayler.  This three CD boxset, Surface Tension – The Recordings 1981-1983 collects those albums (remastered by Tayler) along with seven bonus tracks.

First up is his 1981 release Immunity, which is definitely the most experimental of the three, and when you realize how long ago it was released you see just how ahead of its time it was (Tayler does a great job in the liner notes of explaining what they did in the studio to create the sounds and effects here).  Having said that, the experimentation doesn’t diminish the catchiness of the songs.  Opening cut, the aptly titled “I Hang On To My Vertigo”, is a dark and haunting, yet very captivating, tune that creates a strong sense of tension.  That tenseness is something that shows up in several other songs, most notably the almost ethereal soundscape of “Samsara”, the taut “Surface Tension” and “I Think A Man Will Hang Soon”, which uses a lot of effects and intense keys to give it a horror film vibe.  “Psycho Surrender” is a quirky, yet fascinatingly catchy, synth heavy track enhanced with clarinet and recorder along with pre-sample era samples of things like milk bottles and pouring water to create percussion, while closing track “Make A Wish” is a complex 6 minute track that is both disjointed and a bit disorienting, yet very infectious.  Several tracks also have some big name contributors including Marianne Faithful’s guest vocals on “Misplaced Love”, which has all the makings of an early MTV era hit, and Phil Collins plays drums on two tracks.  “Immunity” is a sprightly cut with bouncy keys and upbeat, almost jazzy percussion while “Another Stranger” mixes a lot of stabbing synths and electronics with Collins’ distinctive playing.  Closing out disc one are the first two bonus tracks, “Scratching At Success” (b-side to “The Curious Kind” single from the next album), a slow, dark tune that sets a very haunting mood and the instrumental “Introduction To The Menace”.

While the experimentation continued on the follow-up Waving Not Drowning, the songs this time around were a little more accessible and the synths were pushed more to the background with piano moved to the front.   Opening track “Eleven Faces” is a perfect example of this with its catchy, yet very quirky, song arrangement and the very prominent piano.  While they still have hints of experimentation, tracks like “The Curious Kind” and “The Set Up” are very radio friendly and not so far removed from his work producing The Fixx.  Recorded during a thunderstorm that can be heard throughout the song, “Dark Windows” is a gorgeous, very stark and haunting tune with Hine’s piano accompanied by distorted synths and thunderclaps providing the beat.  With strong percussion giving it a hard driving beat, effects laden vocals and dark lyrics listing ways to die, “The Sniper” is the most intense track here, which is enhanced further at the end with squawking sax and distorted guitar.  Phil Collins makes another appearance here, this time around playing marimba, timbales and tom-toms on the bouncy, upbeat synth driven “Innocents In Paradise”.  Dedicated to South African anti-Apartheid activist Donald Woods, who was a friend of Stephen Biko, “House Arrest” is a dark and complex piano driven track with layers of effects and synths underneath.  “The Outsider” is a slow and mysterious cut that starts with a constant metronome like click, lots of swirling synths that sound like they are whirling around you like a storm, and orchestration and choral arrangements that Hine played on a Synclavier PPG Wave 2.  Closing cut, the six minute “One Man’s Poison,” starts out as more of an offbeat synth pop tune, but then builds to a big rock song finish thanks to Phil Palmer’s guitar solo and the drums and crashing cymbals of Steve Negus from Saga (Hine had just started producing their Worlds Apart album).  Bonus track “Kwok’s Quease” is a upbeat little ditty with lyrics about mono-sodium glutimate and in Hine’s words, “it represents a sense of humour that I might have liked to have include at the time, to offset the ‘darker side’.”

The Wildest Wish To Fly is the third album here and while for the most part it’s definitely not anywhere close to mainstream pop, it is considered the most accessible of the three.  This is rumored to be due in part to his work with Robert Palmer at this time.  Hine played on his Pride album and Palmer sings on four of the songs.  Guitarist Jamie West-Oram from The Fixx also contributes guitar on three.  Palmer shares lead vocals with Hine on opening track “Living In Sin”, a bouncy pop tune that’s reminiscent of Palmer’s earlier solo stuff, while West-Oram plays on “No Yellow Heart” (along with Phil Palmer), a synth heavy tune that’s somewhat reminiscent of The Fixx.  Both of these tracks really display this less experimental side.  Following the quirky new wave-ish “The Saturation Of The Video Rat” is the gorgeous “Firefly In The Night”. Arguably the best track here, it is a gorgeous melancholy tune largely comprised of piano and voice with gentle keyboard washes swirling in the background.  The thought provoking “A Golden Age” is a very cold track that at times has an almost militaristic beat and some very thought provoking lyrics, while "Picture Phone” is a bouncy synth driven tune with a bit of a Thomas Dolby vibe and lyrics that are dead on in predicting our reliance on electronics.  Hine’s more accessible side shows once again on “The Victim Of Wanderlust,” a light and bouncy, hook-heavy syth-pop tune.  “The Most Dangerous of Men” is an interesting track that opens with chanting vocals from Hine and Palmer then adds piano, synths and a steady beat that creates a really infectious groove.  The title track closes the album and like the closing tracks on the other two albums, it is over six minutes long, and brings the more experimental side back to the forefront with lots of dynamics and tempo shifts and even a little bit of a prog vibe at times.  Disc three closes out with four more bonus tracks starting off with “Blue Flame (Melt The Ice),” a very infectious tune that has eighties synth pop written all over it.  While it was released as a single, there ended up being three different versions of the album and only one version actually included that track.  The original version of the album was released everywhere but North America.  Almost a year later a second version was released in The US and Canada, which replaced “Victim of Wanderlust” with two tracks from the Immunity album.  The following year a third version was released in the UK that was the same as the original with the exception of replacing “Living In Sin” with “Blue Flame.”  Some of the tracks on the last two were also remixed or re-edited.  “An Eagle’s Teaching” is a beautiful, very stripped down track with Hine’s vocals accompanied largely by some delicate piano and some gorgeous guitar. It shows a different side to him and it’s a shame it was relegated to the flipside of the “Living In Sin” single.  The last two bonus tracks are a remix of “Picture Phone” and a later version of “No Yellow Heart,” both of which have some subtle differences, but nothing major.  It's a shame that Hine never got the recognition as an artist like he did as a producer, but thanks to Esoteric and Cherry Red hopefully a new generation will get to appreciate his music and if we're lucky maybe they will give us a box set with his next three albums that he released under the pseudonym Thinkman.  

(Esoteric Recordings)

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Heavy Metal Kids - The Albums 1974-76

Heavy Metal Kids were formed in 1972 when guitarist Mickey Waller and bassist Ronnie Thomas of the band Heaven convinced drummer Keith Boyce to join the band when their drummer left to join the Glitter Band.  When their vocalist had to stay behind in France due to a paternity issue, they asked actor and Biggles vocalist Gary Holton to join. Holton at that time had, among other things, been in the touring company of Hair and also performed in a critically acclaimed production of Oliver.  Rounding out this initial lineup was guitarist Barry Paul, who played with them for their early gigs and demos, but then left the band the same day they signed their contract with Atlantic Records.  He was replaced by Cosmo who played on some of their demos and although uncredited, played on a few tracks on their debut album before being kicked out of the band. He was replaced with keyboardist Danny Peyronel.  The band’s co-manager convinced them to change their name to Heavy Metal Kids, based on a character in William S Burroughs books.  While at the time the term “heavy metal” didn’t have any of the connotations it has now, in hindsight it was a decision that may well have hindered the band’s success.  Starting with the release of their eponymous debut in 1974 through to Kitsch in 1976, they released three outstanding albums that never got the recognition they deserved and are now considered by many to be a huge influence on numerous bands that came after them.  Now, thanks to Cherry Red and 7T’s Records these three releases have been compiled, along with some bonus tracks, in the new box set The Albums 1974-76.

”Hangin’ On” gets their debut going and is an extremely catchy rocker with a boogie woogie beat and some great driving boogie woogie piano. “Ain’t It Hard” is a bit of a different track that’s slower and bluesy with some really cool, slinky guitar and bass (at times strangely reminding me of the “Riverbottom Nightmare Band” from Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas).  With “It’s The Same” they show the right way to do a rock ballad.  It’s the first of two ballads here, alongside the just as good “Kind Woman”, and there is none of that cheesy stuff that bands would play years later, this is a rock solid track, with a hint of a Faces vibe, that really showcases Holton’s vocals and has some gorgeous guitar work and nice keyboard accompaniment.  Flipping things completely on its head, “Run Around Eyes” finds the band dabbling in reggae and doing a pretty good job with it, while the stamp of Mott the Hoople is all over the slow-building rocker “We Gotta Go”.  Driven by honky tonk piano and a partying boogie woogie groove, “Always Plenty of Woman” is a barn burner (check out the killer dirty bluesy guitar solo) followed by the big sounding bluesy classic rock of “Nature Of My Game”.  Closing out the debut is the seven plus minute long jam “Rock ‘N’ Roll Man” followed by the reprise of “We Gotta Go”.  This song ebbs and flows beautifully and while it’s largely a hard charging boogie woogie rocker with some insane guitar soloing it also has some nice slower introspective sections (this had to be a standout in their live shows).  Disc one also contains four bonus tracks starting off with three previously unreleased album out-takes.  “Bottle Of Red Wine” is a solid boogie-woogie track that would have fit very comfortably on the album.  The other two are also very strong tracks, but they take the band in a bit of a different direction.  “Run Run Run” has a very prominent bass and piano and has a funk groove that gives it a bit of a Doobie Brothers feel, while “No Time” is strongly reminiscent of Led Zeppelin.  The final bonus cut is a 7” version of “Rock ‘N’ Roll Man)   

Feeling like their name was causing confusion the band shortened it to just The Kids for their sophomore album Anvil Chorus (a sticker was added to the cover that said “Featuring The Heavy Metal Kids”).  Prior to starting the album Waller left the band to join Steve Marriott’s All Stars and was replaced by the returning Cosmo.  This time around a lot of the boogie woogie that was found on their debut was gone and the album was overall a lot heavier.  This is obvious right from the start with opening cuts “Hard At The Top” with its Mott The Hoople feel and “You Got Me Rollin’”, which has a more classic rock vein with some strong guitar work and a very prominent funk groove thanks to Thomas’ bass. The next two tracks bring to mind the Stones.  “On The Streets” has a sleazy, slightly blues sound with an occasional hint of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” in the guitar, while “Situations Outta Control” is a lazy, bluesy ballad complemented by some nice organ work.  Opening with some cowbell and bluesy guitar “Blue Eyed Boy” is solid, straight-ahead rock fleshed out with some honky tone piano.  The band returns to the boogie woogie of their debut, throwing in some horns at the end, on “Old Time Boogie”, followed by the good harder rock instrumental “The Turk (An’Wot’E Smokes)”.  With some expansive keyboard sections from Peyronel, “Crisis” at times finds the band delving into more of a heavy prog direction.  Album standout and what had to be another highlight of their live show, “The Cops Are Coming” is a raucous rocker that’s more like a suite and is a great showcase for Holton’s theatricality.  Closing out the album is “The Big Fire”, a powerful rock ballad with an intensely emotional vocal performance that once again shows how to do it properly.  Disc two include two more bonus tracks, starting with their cover of The Show Stoppers’ “Ain’t Nothing But A House Party”.  Originally released as a non-album single, this song was a perfect fit for them and they gave it a really good garage rock kick.  “Stand Back” was another unreleased album out-take that is a solid rocker with a touch of glam.  

Album number three found the band changing back to their full name and once again making some personnel changes.  Peyronel had been kicked out of the band (he joined UFO not long after) and was replaced by John Sinclair, followed shortly by Cosmo leaving and Barry Paul returning once again.  They also moved from Atlantic Records to Mickie Most’s RAK Records.  Most had produced the likes of The Animals, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan, Lulu, Suzi Quatro, Hot Chocolate and the Jeff Beck Group and since he had plans to retire, he wanted to go out with a bang by producing their third album Kitsch.  Unfortunately for the band he became obsessed with it and didn’t even let them hear what he was doing as he spent four months mixing it.  There are some really good moments here, but not very much of it sounds like anything they did before and it’s a bit all over the place.  Sinclair was a classically trained keyboardist and his impact on their sound was very evident on the first three tracks.  “Overture” is a keyboard driven prog rock instrumental that kicks things off, followed by “Chelsea Kids”, which is a big souding, hard charging rocker with elements of pub rock and Supertramp like prog, and is one of the strongest cuts on the album.  “From Heaven To Hell And Back Again” is a very dynamic track that sounds a lot like early Genesis.  The power ballad “Cry For Me” is a very passionate track that is more orchestrated and polished than any of their earlier work and has the members of Smokie providing backing vocal harmonies.  “She’s No Angel” is a very poppy tune with some hints of glam and honky tonk piano that was released as a single, but unfortunately is probably the weakest song here, coming across as someone (possibly Most) trying too hard for a radio hit.  The influence of Ian Dury is very evident on the bouncy “Jackie The Lad”, but borders on being a bit of a novelty.  While it’s a fun track it gets old on repeat listens.  Closing the album out are “Docking In”, which starts off as a bouncy pub rocker before shifting to a heavier rocker that at times is reminiscent of “Ballroom Blitz”, and “Squalliday Inn”, a good straight-ahead rocker that is the strongest track on the album, but unfortunately has lyrics that have not aged well. Rounding out disc three are five more bonus tracks.  First up is “Hey Little Girl”, which is the b-side to the “She's No Angel” single and is another very Ian Dury influenced track that goes hand in hand with “Jackie the Lad” and to me is actually the better of the two.  “You Got What I Want” is basically an unreleased version of “Hey Little Girl” that is an earlier, less polished version.  The previously unreleased “Boogie Woogie” is just that a really good boogie woogie rocker reminiscent of their earlier days.  The non-album single “Delirious” is a killer punk rock track that stands up quite well against the other punk bands of that time, full of raw, jagged guitar riffs and Holton’s manic vocals.  “New Wave”, the final bonus track and last song Holton recorded with the band, is a really good rocker with some nice tempo shifts and a bit of a Uriah Heep vibe.

Without warning, in mid-1978 Holton left to pursue a solo career and the band went into what ended up being an extended hiatus.  He released several albums with keyboardist Casino Steel, stood in for Dave Vanian on a tour of Scotland with The Damned and was considered as a replacement for Bon Scott in AC/DC.  He also had acting rolls in movies like Music Machine, The Who's Quadrophenia and Breaking Glass and found fame in the TV show Auf Weidersehen, Pet, but sadly died of a heroin overdose in 1985.  Surprisingly in 2002, three of the original members got back together and along two new members released a new album, Hit The Right Button with Peyronel handling vocals.  While there have been numerous member changes since then (including Phil Lewis on vocals), they are still performing today.  Over the years The Heavy Metal Kids have been praised by the likes of Joe Elliott, Keith Richards, Hanoi Rocks, who covered "Delirious", and even Lady Gaga, and as evidenced by this box set they seemed at times to be a bit ahead of their time and sadly underappreciated.  

(7T's Records)

Monday, February 13, 2023

Electric Mob - 2 Make U Cry & Dance

Almost three years after the release of their impressive debut Discharge, Brazil’s Electric Mob is back with album number two, 2 Make U Cry & Dance.  Once again the band takes a lot of influences from the rock of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and along with the powerful, soulful vocals of frontman Renan Zonta (at times reminding me a little of the legendary late Ray Gillen) bring it into the modern day, but with a little more diversity than on their debut.  The album kicks off with “Sun Is Falling Down”, a hard hitting rocker with tons of crunching power chords and “Will Shine”, which is extremely catchy and has a really nice groove running under it.  Meaty rocker “IT’S GONNA HURT” and the edgy “Soul Stealer” do a great job of showing their more soulful side, while “Locked n Loaded” brings forth the Badlands vibe. Their diversity is displayed on the powerful “4 Letters”, with some stellar, at times acoustic, guitar work from Ben Hur Auwarter and Zonta’s emotional vocals and the funk tinged rock of “Saddest Funk Ever”.  “Thy Kingdom Come” opens with more acoustic guitar then shifts into a fast paced rocker, at times reminiscent of Van Halen.  Closing track “WATCH ME (I’m Today’s News)” has a really taut post metal edge to it and is definitely a different direction than the rest of the album.  It will be interesting to see if this is something they explore further on their next album.  There is absolutely no sophomore slump going on here.

(Frontiers Music)


Saturday, February 11, 2023

Hongo Fuu - Live At Mora Books

Over the course of the five cuts on their new EP Live At Mora Books, recorded in downtown San José in their home country Costa Rica, Hongo Fuu pull from elements of prog metal, funk, alt metal, black metal, jazz, psychedelia, surf rock, stoner rock, noise rock and more, often all within the context of one song, and the results are incredible.  Every track is well-crafted and the dynamics are outstanding as they twist and turn their way through everchanging tempo shifts.  Their musicianship is stellar and what’s even more impressive is that with everything going on they still continuously manage to maintain a hook-heavy groove throughout.  While I had never heard of them before this EP, the band actually formed in 2011 and released EP’s in 2012 and 2013 and then a full-length in 2021, so do yourself a favor and check out the live EP and then go back and give those a listen as well.   

(Sliptrick Records)  (Hongo Fuu - Facebook)

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

Steppenwolf - The Epic Years 1974-1976  

On February 14,1972, after five years together and six studio albums (all of which were compiled, along with two live albums, in the great box set Magic Carpet Ride - The Dunhill / ABC Years 1967-1971), Steppenwolf held a press conference and announced they were calling it a day.  Over the next two years frontman John Kay released a couple of solo albums and then in 1974 the band reformed with Bobby Cochrane (Eddie’s nephew) replacing Kent Henry on lead guitar.  Over the next two years they released their final three albums which have now been compiled in the new box set The Epic Years 1974-1976.  

Slow Flux kicks things off, and while the opening handful of tunes show that they are definitely back, as you make your way deeper into the album you will also find there is a bit more diversity this time around.  The first two tracks are the tight, muscular rocker “Gang War Blues” with a bit of a funk groove and some great guitar, and the powerful “Children of Night”, which tackles how the sixties love generation had given way to greed and hostility.  “Justice Don’t Be Slow” also addresses political issues and is a slow burning protest song, with some great horns, and is about Nixon’s troubles at that time (to feed the fire it even includes audio clips from one of his speeches).  The next track, “Get Into The Wind”, is an extremely catchy, hard charging rock tune with some awesome organ fills and a definite “Born To Be Wild” vibe.  The band shakes things up a little with “Straight Shootin’ Woman”, a catchy, high energy cut that has a bit of an R&B shuffle, horns and piano.  They slow it down a bit with the balland "Morning Blue" and the Albert Hammond penned “Smokey Factory Blues”, a pretty, kind of melancholy track with an orchestrated feel and rocking choruses.  Closing the album out are rocker “A Fool’s Fantasy”, which adds a really solid funk groove, and “Fishin’ In the Dark”, a track that moves in a different direction for the band with a bit of a bouncy dance beat and blasting horns. 

With their next album, Hour Of The Wolf, the band continued in a more diverse direction and with Andy Chapin replacing original member Goldy McJohn on keys, they at times went even further than before.   Written by Mars Bonfire (“Born To Be Wild”), “Caroline (Are You Ready For The Outlaw World)” is an upbeat rock tune, but with a bit of a glam vibe.  It is definitely a bit different from anything they had done before and also includes a great sax solo from the legendary Tom Scott.  After a bit of a misstep with “Annie, Annie Over”, which was written by Alan O’Day (best known for his song “Undercover Angel” and Helen Reddy’s “Angie Baby”) which is a bit cheesy and honestly not a very good song, they get back on track with “Two For The Love Of One”, a gritty, bluesy rocker that has a great instrumental section with Cochran and Chapin battling back and forth on keys and guitar.  They slow things down with “Just For Tonight”, a really nice ballad with a bit of a rock edge before kicking in back into gear with the meat and potatoes rocker “Hard Rock Road” (featuring another appearance on sax from Tom Scott) and the straight-ahead “Someone Told A Lie”, an extremely catchy track, and album highlight, that showcases Kay and bassist Biondo trading off lead vocals, enhanced with Cochran’s talk box and Chapin’s prog like keyboard flourishes.  Next up is “Another’s Lifetime”, a melancholy rootsy rock track with some really nice guitar work.  From the swirling keyboards at the beginning, you can tell that album closer “Mr Penny Pincher” is going to be a bit different.  While it has that gritty Steppenwolf rock edge and tons of hooks, Chapin’s keys are all over it, including a very prog instrumental section in the middle, making it fresh and forward thinking and another album highlight.  Disc two also contains the box set's only bonus tracks with b-side “Angeldrawers”, a really fun track that’s very synth driven with a heavy funk groove and a singalong chorus not so unlike something from the band War, and the mono promotional single mix of “Caroline (Are You Ready For The Outlaw World)”.  

Due to the lack of success for Hour Of The Wolf, label support for the band was at a minimum and when it came time for the next album, Skullduggery, word is Kay was just looking at it as a means to fulfill their contractual obligation.  Chapin didn’t like touring and had left the band to be replaced by Wayne Cook and half the albums eight songs were covers.  While there are some strong moments, it is definitely the weakest of the three Epic releases.  Having said that, the album does open strongly with the title track, a catchy rocker in the classic Steppenwolf vein with Cochran and Cook really shining on guitar and organ.  While they do a good job with their cover of “(I’m A) Road Runner”, they really don’t add anything new to what was already there. Next up is Canadian folk/country musician Valdy’s “Rock N’ Roll Song”, a nice, laid-back, rootsy folk song that in their hands is given a bit of a Gordon Lightfoot vibe.  As with on the last album, I would have to say their cover of an Alan O’Day song, “Train Of Thought” (released as a single by Cher two years earlier) is probably the worst track here.  It does have some nice organ work, but their rendition is just not very good.  “Life Is A Gamble” is a good old classic rocker with some great honky tonk piano and a hint of a country rock groove that starts moving things in the right direction.  Their cover of “Pass It On”, written by Jean Watt and recorded by The Wailers, is once again a bit of a shift for the band with a slow and mellow groove that sounds like it would be a singalong at a beach bar, but “Sleep” is a bit poppy and comes across like “Steppenwolf Lite”.  Closing out the album and in effect the band is the instrumental “Lip Service”.  I’m not sure if this was just something to fill the album, but it’s driven by a super infectious, synth heavy funky disco beat that is about as far from the band’s previous work as you can imagine, and is a whole lot of fun to listen to.  If you played this song to a million unknowing listeners and asked them who it was, I can guarantee no one will get it right.

Although it definitely has its share of weak moments, The Epic Years 1974-1976 shows that Steppenwolf had plenty left in the tank for this last phase of their career and is a very worthwhile collection.  Also included is an outstanding booklet with a very thorough essay and plenty of pics of the band and memorabilia.   Although the band ceased to exist at this point, former members Goldy McJohn and Nick St Nicholas formed "New Steppenwolf".  McJohn left the band shortly thereafter, but St Nicholas continued on for several years.  In 1980 John Kay formed John Kay and Steppenwolf, recording several albums and doing live shows until 2018.  

(Esoteric Recordings)

Interview with Sarah Halter

Following five years as a member of the band Blue Clutch, Sarah Halter decided to do things on her own and has now released a two song single and a new EP.  I recently had the chance to interview her and we talked about her decision to go solo, her EP, the Pittsburgh metal scene, signing a deal with Sparrow Heart Records and more.  

Can you give me a little background on yourself?

I am a metal musician/solo artist currently based in Pittsburgh, PA. I have been active in the industry performing, recording, and building my career since 2015 starting in the Pittsburgh open mic scene. 

The rest continued from there with my previous band, Blue Clutch, having released one album, Silent Oblivion, in 2018 before splitting up in 2020.

Then came my latest solo metal releases — A Clockwork Destiny, a 2 track single released in 2021 and my latest EP released in January 2023, The Doom That Binds Us.


You were in the band Blue Clutch before going solo and now everything is self-produced, self-performed, and self-recorded.  How has it been doing it all yourself and what do you find are the pros and cons of being solo?

One big advantage I have right now with doing everything myself is that I can do everything on my own schedule and not have to rely on others to do their part(s) to get things done. Since I take my work very seriously and am prioritizing moving forward, this way has been working out.

A downside of being a mostly-independent solo artist is that I have to fund projects on my own unless I have record label support, which worked out splendidly for The Doom That Binds Us

In addition, I currently have to run all of my social media outlets, answer all business inquiries, and do all of my booking all while working on recording, rehearsing for shows, and undertaking further advanced study/practice in my main instruments — my voice and my guitar. This all can be tedious at times since I’m only one person, but I am hoping that in the long run, it will all pay off. 

I can hear elements of a lot of different music styles in your songs, including progressive, goth, symphonic metal, death metal, alternative and more.  How would you describe it?

I would say your genre-description is about right. When creating music, I like to combine stylistic elements from differing, yet stylistically-compatible genres such as those you mentioned. Some songs turn out to be more defined in genre while others turn out to be a mix. 


I really like “The Doom That Binds Us”.  It’s a more upbeat track with more of a groove and a really great guitar solo.  Style-wise it really stands apart from the other three.  Can you tell me about that track?

It is definitely one of my favorite songs that I have written, and it is one favorite ones to perform. "The Doom That Binds Us" song has undergone a lot of reconstruction and changes over the years. I had been working on this song over the years, some of that time with my previous band, Blue Clutch. 

Reworking this song in line with my own image and production, it was the first song that I recorded as the EP’s foundation. 

I put the title track last on the EP due to its style, energy, and aspects such as a 20 second scream in the middle preceding the guitar solo. Also — fun fact about this song, there was no vocal pitch-shifting editing on this track. 

When you are writing a song is there something in particular about it that says these lines should be clean vocals and these should be dirty vocals?

There are certainly some songs with vocal lines that are intentionally performed dirty or clean. Others are performed using one (or more) vocal style(s) to fit musical elements in the song. 


How easy is it shifting from the clean vocals to the dirty vocals when you play live?

I had started working on that skill years ago, and by now, I have managed to do it effortlessly in a live setting. Still, regular practice and rehearsals are always important to go forward.

You signed to Sparrow Heart Records for this EP.  I would imagine since you did everything on the EP yourself that had to free you up a little bit to focus more on the music.  How has it been having a label behind you?

It has been a very good experience working with Sparrow Heart Records for The Doom That Binds Us. I was able to keep creative freedom in all music, and I was able to make the executive decisions surrounding the project. 

You released an acoustic EP, Little Grave Digger, in 2015?  Have you considered doing more acoustic tracks?

I am considering one day releasing a compilation of acoustic versions of my songs or a single or two. We shall see!


The EP cover is a painting by your sister. Can you tell me about that?

I thought that Hannah would be the perfect fit to do this EP’s artwork since she has a ton of artistic talent and painting experience. 

I got the inspiration for this album art at the cavern-like subject matter on a trip to Lost World Caverns in West Virginia. 

Hannah completed the painting with my Lost World Caverns photos and her artistic perception of the project in mind. One memorable moment from the process of the painting was that when it was about half-way finished, we both noticed a section that was starting to look like skulls and bones in the lower right hand corner. I was so glad that she decided to run with that visual because it really brings home the “doom” aspect of the album title.

What are your plans now that the EP is out?

Right now I am working on promoting The Doom That Binds Us and pushing to get it heard by as many radio stations, Spotify curators, and listeners as possible while getting new artist merch together. I’m also in the midst of trying to get more shows and continuing recording for the next release, that will probably be a single followed by a full length album. 


How is it doing everything by yourself live and have you considered getting a band for live shows or do you prefer just doing it alone?

Right now I have backing tracks for all of my recorded songs, so playing live solo works fine for me currently. If the right people come along as a backing band or to make music with, then I am open to that as well.

Is there a supportive metal scene in Pittsburgh?

I love playing in Pittsburgh, and there is a ton of talent here in various hard rock/metal genres. I know a lot of people who are in awesome local bands. However, I notice that many of the bands here mostly play and promote themselves locally or regionally, whereas I am trying to branch out beyond that. No matter what happens with me in the future career-wise, Pittsburgh will always be my music “home”. 

Do you have any plans to do any live shows any further outside that area?  

It’s definitely in the works, and I would love to one day to be part of a major national and international tour. Independent touring takes a lot of planning, resources, and time, but getting out little by little is the way to go. There are so many opportunities and people that musicians should try to reach beyond their home base. 


Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

Thank you so much for reading this interview and for your support! You can find my website, of my music and socials on my Link Tree: https://linktr.ee/sehalter1658.