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If I were in a band, I would be madly in love with the Internet and everything that it could do for me and my band and the endless possibilities that lie within it. Or would I? The Internet is a fascinating and intriguing place for all things music and it is a bastion of big hopes and big dreams for the up and coming music star. It allows for the talented and the not so talented to have a stage that can reach the masses and allow for their music to be heard throughout the world, whether we like it or not. The aspiring musician can showcase themselves with just a few clicks of the mouse and have an audience wider than anything that we have ever before imagined.

The use of MySpace and now Facebook has allowed musicians to bring their music to a much wider audience and allow people who have never been able to sample their music the opportunity to do so. According to Dean Tompkins, the bass player for the unsigned band Mammoth Thunderpower from Costa Mesa , CA, “We have a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Bandcamp, MySpace, Soundcloud, Reverb Nation, basically everything.  Look, we all know that monkey’s like bananas, but I want to make that monkey get that banana in the easiest way possible, if you Google Mammoth Thunderpower, you’re going to find us.”

The World Wide Web has given a global voice and audience to the aspiring musician and if you can make it you will have the ability to reach across borders, shores, and even oceans, but is it too much? Can the independent musician or band or distributor handle the demand of being popular or mainstream? Is the cost worth the hassle in the long run? Is it better for the independent to stay close to home and not try to keep up with the big dogs? Dave Hall the owner of Handshake Inc., a boutique film and video production company and music label and co-runner of music label Mutants of the Monster, states “The Internet is a great tool and can be super fun and that is how I approach it.  I cannot think of one instance in which being online hinders what I want to accomplish artistically or commercially.” This sentiment was echoed by Ryan Crossthread (aka Ryan Blasphemour) the owner/CEO of Blasphemour Records an independent record label, Crossthread explains “I have noticed [customers] will get more involved.  Some people really love music and what we are doing.  They will go out of their way to buy everything you put out, spread the word, and tell you they appreciate what you are doing.  I love that aspect of social media.  It gives you that extra drive to keep on doing what you are doing.”

Sure, we all know that any exposure is good exposure, but for the sake of the life of a band is this really true? Was it easier before there was 24/7 access to your favorite band or is that just part of one’s rise to success and excess? Crossthread warns “There are so many ways to promote through the internet such as webzines, forums, Facebook, etc, but there are so many people doing this, it comes off as over-saturated and pushy.”

With the rising postal costs is a band or distributor willing to take a hit to move merchandise and where is the line? Crossthread’s take on the postal increase is “Unfortunately when rates go up, we have to pass that expense on to the customer.  I like to think that for a metal label, we have a hardcore mentality and try to keep our rates extremely affordable.  So typically our pricing is affordable even with shipping increases.” For an independent band like Mammoth Thunderpower, “prices just go up that’s all.” Tompkins explains “We don’t charge for shipping a shirt in the US. $15 bucks and that’s it, we charge the minimum for shipping international, we aren’t big enough for it to matter. [Plus] if someone is buying from out of the country then they usually understand what the rates are going to be.”  

It is hard enough as a band to write music, record, and tour, let alone try and keep up with the merchandising demands of one’s fan base. But it goes with the territory.  If you want to be big then you have to work for it.

But is there a point at which an independent can say: Enough! We need time for ourselves!? Or is that never an option? Dean’s perspective is “like it or don’t, this is how it is. The internet is magic. You don’t have to play the game this way, but then you just need to be content playing music in your garage and not getting new fans. It’s just how it is!” This statement was reiterated by Dave Hall, “You have to make the internet your bitch, cuz if not, it’s going to make a bitch out of you.  You can’t be afraid or resentful or brush it off: it’s here to stay, it can be used for some great stuff, and it’s only as bad or as good as you make it…”

 Social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have given us fans an almost instant access to our favorite performers. In most cases the performers are more than happy to have this type of social relationship with their fans and it shows on how they interact on these social websites. The social media is a place where a band or musician can pimp their own music and merchandise without the exorbitant advertising cost while also being able to take advantage of the sites “share” or “retweet” functions that their supporters can use to spread the word to all of their friends and fellow “tweeps”.  

According to Hall,  “Having a Facebook page is essential I think, in terms of staying in touch with and communicating to your fans, customers, friends, enemies – anyone you may want to engage with.” Hall continued, “I tweet and post to Facebook all day long.  Sometimes twice or three times regarding the same item.   I use it to announce new products, news, anecdotes, anything and everything I can think of I say on social media” However; Crossthread cautions about Facebook from an independent perspective, “They want to charge you for every little thing they can.  Even if you have 1000 people that have liked your page, maybe 150 of those people will be exposed to your post, unless you pay to promote it.  Want more likes?  Pay us. Want more people that like you to know what you are doing?  Pay us more.”

But with this instant exposure comes the need for instant gratification and if a fan buys something from you they expect to get it within a reasonable time frame. What is considered reasonable is a question for another day but how do these independents handle the demand that this type of medium presents to them? According to Hall “The fans have easier access to you so it forces greater accountability.  If I get an order and don’t send it out right away I get emails from people- that’s good for someone like me”

The normal person like me uses the Internet everyday for fun, information and shopping, downloading music while the independent musician, label, and distributor are using it to survive; says Hall “The internet allows a small business owner to engage directly with the people he or she wants to sell to and I think that is a great thing.  I try my best to spread the launch of various releases across all forms of social media because it does in fact lead to sales and you can’t argue with the results.   It has to be done tastefully and if possible in tandem with publicity through various media outlets and sources.”

The struggle to create ones identity and presence on the Internet is just as important and one of the biggest challenges facing an independent as resources have to be spread out to survive. Sure there are reasons why the Internet can be a hassle; some of them stated above but as Dean Tompkins, Dave Hall, and Ryan Crossthread have told us it is a much greater benefit than any issue it could ever cause. Hall summarizes this subject of Internet presence astutely: “It doesn’t mean the internet and social media defines your existence, or that if you do create an online presence it will magically make you successful…like all things ‘virtual’ you have to have the real life skills and abilities, drive, passion and ambition to succeed…if you are succeeding or trying to succeed in real life, your internet presence will reflect that.”  

So I think, in essence, we have the answers to the questions asked above. While it is not the end all be all for the independent artist/distributor/label, the Internet is probably the most important weapon in their arsenal. The small hindrances that 24/7 access adds to an independent is miniscule compared to the benefits they receive from the World Wide Web especially in the realm of social media. With the instant access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and all of the other platforms independents now have a better chance to make a name for themselves and stay independent if that is what they choose, but with these tools it gives them more of a chance to survive.


Writer’s Note: Ryan, Dave and Dale where gracious enough to take part in this article via email correspondence and I want to thank them all for their support. Links to their social media pages and websites are below:

Dave Hall-Handshake Inc: Twitter: @Handshake_Inc  Facebook: Website:  Bandcamp:

Dean Tompkins-Mammoth Thunderpower: Twitter: @MThunderpower  Facebook: Website: Bandcamp: Reverb Nation:

Ryan Crossthread- Blasphemour Records: Twitter: @blasrecs Facebook: Website: Reverb Nation:


Friday Four Pack 11/16/12

Good day all,

Unfortunately, due to a crazy week and schedule I have not been able to check out or listen to any new music this week. But fear not, my friends, it just means that this week’s Friday Four Pack will be a little different in the way of “new” releases. What I am going to do today is feature four albums that I really like and have yet been able to talk about. So not being able to keep up this week affords us the opportunity to delve into some releases that I have wanted to talk about for a while as well as at least one from an up and coming band and who knows what else.  So please keep your hands and feet in the post at all times and away we go!


Woods of Ypres: Woods V: Grey Skies and Electric Lights

We all have our own beliefs about life and death and that is what makes us who we are as people and individuals. One thing that I am absolutely sure about is that David Gold, the lead singer and brains behind Woods of Ypres understood his mortality probably better than most of us ever will. David Gold died in December of 2011 in an automobile accident in his home country of Canada. In April of 2012 the fifth and final Woods of Ypres album was released “Woods V: Grey Skies and Electric Lights” and its morbid foreshadowing of Mr. Gold’s life and death are both chilling and beautiful. Unlike earlier Woods of Ypres albums this album is dominated by Mr. Gold’s low deliberate baritone taking every word and making it mean something in the song. The album spends a majority of time on the doom side of the metal spectrum but shows glimpses of the blackened death metal that the previous Woods albums have leaned toward. This album however, with the help of keyboards and wood instruments and violins give it a sometimes folksy vibe, and maybe vibe isn’t the word maybe atmosphere is more appropriate. This album is full of atmosphere that lends to David Gold’s sometimes agonizing view into his soul-baring outlook on both life and the environment around him.  Whether on a higher tempo gem like “Career Suicide” or a slower paced “Traveling Alone” Woods of Ypres give a glimpse into the struggles and pain that can be felt by a human being walking around in our world. One of the more impressive things about what this band was able to achieve was actually making you feel the emotion that pours out of the speakers. “Traveling Alone” shows how Mr. Gold feels about spirituality and the good it can do in someone’s life, unfortunately not his, he gets it, but doesn’t buy it. It is one of the most intelligent songs I have ever listened to, and I think that is what is so great about the album is that the music, arrangement and lyrical content are so smart and so well thought out that you can’t help but feel and be moved by every word that comes out of David Gold’s mouth.

Because we know the outcome of David Gold’s life it makes listening to this album an even more beautiful experience. It is as if David Gold knew what lie in his future as song titles such as “Finality”, “Kiss My Ashes Goodbye”, “Alternate Ending” all lend a sad foreshadow to the life that was David Gold and a band that was Woods of Ypres.  When you listen to this album, listen very closely to the lyrics, not that you have a choice with David Gold’s Pete Steele-esqu voice and delivery, you will get the sense of someone who truly understands their world around them and what it meant to them as a human being and a competitor in the human race. Woods of Ypres ability to translate David Gold’s pain and melancholy so succinctly is a brilliant translation of a life that ended way too early. It is really a shame that Woods of Ypres will not be releasing another album, and I think rightfully so as David Gold was the reason this album is as amazing as it is, that being said I think that David Gold and Woods of Ypres had just found their place in the metal world with this amazing and beautiful album. Although the death of Mr. Gold spelled the death of Woods of Ypres some of the band is moving on with a band called Thrawsunblat which I reviewed a couple of Four Packs back, and they are worth listening to as well as they are  carrying  the torch that Woods of Ypres lit and carried so well. There are currently four albums vying for the top of my end of the year list and this album is one of them. As I have said before knowing that this album was released after the death of David Gold makes it that much more bittersweet as we as fans really got to see inside the soul of a man who had a strong understanding of where he fit in this world and where he would eventually end up. Godspeed David Gold and thanks for allowing us a glimpse of your soul.


Mammoth Thunderpower: I Am Thunder

Here is an album that was brought to my attention via Ken at METAL BUZZ and boy am I glad he recommended it to me. The band itself compares their music as a collection of heavy equipment working in a slow and deliberate pace and I think that is a good example but for me it reminded me of an old coal train. If you are familiar with the old coal train you know that it starts off in a slow struggle to get the entire train moving and up to speed but there is a long and laborious path for the train before that can happen and that is the sound that Mammoth Thunderpower has in this EP. With the opening track of “Bone Throne” until the crushing end to “I am Thunder” this album is a pummeling non-stop trip on this sludgy, old-school runaway train. Also, much like the old coal train once the band gets up to speed and into that Sabbath groove it is hard to stop, the coal train can take miles before it can efficiently and safely stop and this band runs through the album in the same manner. As you listen you wonder if there will be enough track at the end of the album for them to “stop” without a major wreck and they do it through well thought out songs built on a foundation of succinct and well packaged riffs and rhythms. If these guys were to down tune their instruments any further I am not sure you would be able to escape from the quick sand of these songs. Of course I am not sure that you would want to. Normally when I think of an album that is this heavy and sludgy I would think that the band would come from the dreary Midwest or east coast as opposed to the sunny environs of Costa Mesa, CA but it goes to show that the west coast is probably filled with the attitude you need to make a record of this caliber. Go out and give this album a try, you can stream it at Metal Bandcamp and it is also available as a name your own price download. Check it out here:

Voice of the Soul: Into Oblivion

Voice of the Soul is an interesting melodic death metal band that uses the technicality of their instruments to craft interesting and sustainable songs. As most who read these reviews know I am not the biggest fan of the growl or scream method of singing but this is another one of those albums, much like the ones above that I can’t stop listening to. The way this band has integrated their guitar solos into the song as opposed to being a stand out section is admirable as it allows the song to flow and there is an ease to the listening experience which is unique to a death metal album. Don’t misunderstand me, this is a hardcore death metal album with all of the appropriate aggression and power, it is just done in a way that makes it more accessible.  Once again this album is available via Metal Bandcamp and it is also a name your own price EP and you can get it here:

Autolatry: Of The Land

This album is unique in its concept as well as it place in the metal world. There is not a whole lot I can add to the description of this album that hasn’t already been presented here  but to say that this is an ambitious concept album from a very talented US metal band that deserves to be listened to. As I have said before, I am a big fan of the concept album and when done right heavy metal music may not get much better and this album is proof of that statement. It is well produced and grimy enough to be associated with some of the better bands in the heavier side of metal. From start to finish this album with its ability to incorporate unique instruments and sounds and beautiful breaks that you wouldn’t normally hear in an “extreme” metal album. This is another album you need to check out and once again it is a name your own price.

So that’s it ladies and gentlemen, I hope you enjoyed the albums this week. I know it was a little different as there really wasn’t anything from this week’s new releases but at least I am giving you music you can afford. An exciting weekend for me, The Sword/Gypsyhawk show is Saturday and hopefully I will be returning with a brand new interview with Gypsyhawk, a great review and maybe some pictures. So until next week,