A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “death metal

Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) – Collected interview snippets

In my previous post about Jo Bench, I spoke about a dearth of information regarding her bass background. Since then, I’ve scoured the internet to find relevant interviews and articles about her that have some of that info. Here’s what I found:

  1. Jo Bench interview by Chazz and Lork K Philipson for Global Domination (from Bolt Thrower website)
  2. Bolt Thrower Interview – Leviatan Metal Magazine
  3. Cvlt Nation Interviews Bolt Thrower
  4. Eternal Terror: Jo Bench (Bolt Thrower) – I’m self-taught (fantastic bass info!)
  5. Tartarean Desire: Bolt Thrower interview

A website from the Netherlands called Kmachine had the following snippet about Jo:

She plays bass on all albums but not on the demos. She was asked to join Bolt Thrower when her then long-time boyfriend Gavin Ward had switched from bass guitar to guitar. She is one of the few women playing in a ultra-heavy death metal band, besides bands as Delirium, Mystic Charm, Achrosticon (all three Dutch), Runemagick (Swedish). And she is at least one of the first. She is from Leamington Spa. Jo has been a vegetarian since 1984.

The following sections summarize snippets of information about Jo related to music, bass and social politics. At the end of each piece of information, I’ve included a number in parenthesis that denotes which of the five interviews/articles (listed above) that it was taken from.

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Jo Bench (bassist for Bolt Thrower)

bt-logo

Those of you who are death metal fans know that Bolt Thrower retired last week. Its been a year since the passing of their drummer, Martin Kearns (Kiddie), and with that, they’ve finally laid down their instruments together.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned that their bassist, Jo Bench, is one of my favorite low-enders. Her style is relentless and unstoppable. Whenever I talk about her with people, I end up comparing her to a steamroller, flattening everything in her path with the riffs emanating from her bass. She’s not flashy, but her groove and sensibilities mesh with Bolt Thrower’s playing so seamlessly, it makes me tear up. The duo of her and Kiddie are one of my favorite rhythm sections in metal. When I think “driving rhythm” in metal, they’re one of the teams that always come to mind.

Jo is one of the first women to gain prominence in death metal. She might actually be the first. While editing my wife’s thesis on women in extreme metal, I learned about classifications of women in metal from scholars such as Sonia Vasan and Deena Weinstein that placed them into two main categories, one of which flaunted their sexuality or gender difference to find a place in the scene and another of which adopted more “male” trappings and behaviors to fit in. I think Jo fit into the latter more than the former – although she might have somewhat sidestepped the entire issue of being a “woman in metal and/or rock” by being a musician first and woman second, when conducting herself both on- and off-stage for Bolt Thrower.

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Alex Webster & Steve DiGiorgio

Had to fan-gasm. This showed up on my FB. Alex Webster just posted a pic of himself with Steve DiGiorgio. That’s 2 of my favorite bassists in one shot.

AW & SD

Also – am I the only person not on Instagram yet?


Gospel of the Witches & I met Ross Dolan (bassist for Immolation)

The wife with Karyn Crisis

The wife with Karyn Crisis

So, last night, wifey and I left the baby with her grandparents and went to St. Vitus in Brooklyn to see Gospel of the Witches. Its Karyn Crisis‘ new band, along with her husband Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), Ross Dolan & Robert Vigna from Immolation and Charlie Schmid from Vaura – the only band I wasn’t familiar with.

I was up in the air about where to write about this, as I have an infrequently-updated metal blog as well, so I decided to write a little about it here for one main reason – we met and chatted with several of the band members after the show and one of them was Ross Dolan – bassist for GotW and Immolation.

I’ve been a fan of both Crisis and Immolation for about 20 years, and of Ephel Duath for around 12 years, so it was amazing for me to see an act comprised of members from all 3 bands. Crisis was one of the first (if not the first) female-fronted death metal bands. Immolation are one of the original NY death metal bands and are from Yonkers, where we live. Ephel Duath used to be black metal. They’re from Italy. I got into them with the 3rd album however – The Painter’s Palette. At that point, one of the 2 initial members had left and Davide restructured it into this amazing experimental jazzy metal hybrid that reminded me less of death and more of something like a super-textured Tool with elements of hardcore, metal and post-metal. I loved the crap out of it.

So, yeah, I was stoked.

I’ll skip the show details. I really should write about that on the other blog. I don’t make time for that one much, as this one consumes my online activity. But, in a nutshell, sometime before they went on, Karyn spoke to the crowd about the history of witchcraft and its perception through the lens of a Christianized West. It went into Roman history and the supplantation of a more feminine religion with the masculine Christianity. She spoke about the Craft and gave some of the history and differentiators between that and druidism, and how the Romans approached (and attacked) the female practicioners vs. their avoidance of the male ones, who had a more frightful reputation. It was interesting stuff. I hadn’t known before about the differentiation of “high” magic vs. “low” magic based on the level of codification and intellectualization. But the gist of it is that wise women, healers, medicine women, and the like were eradicated and became reviled and hunted as “witches.”

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Karyn Crisis/Gospel of the Witches

GotWIts been a long day. Usually, I work on Sundays, but this weekend, I switched it to Saturday so that tonight, wifey and I can head over to St. Vitus in Brooklyn to see Gospel of the Witches, Karyn Crisis‘ new band. She did a write-up of the debut CD for Metal Riot, and they asked her to review the show, since they know we’re going to be attending tonight. She’s off to New Orleans after that, for the PCA conference. She and a co-worker, from when she was a librarian at the Metropolitan Museum, are presenting a session about developing a graphic novel collection – something she started at the Met before leaving for Columbia – to other librarians down there. Its gonna be a fun week being a single dad with the baby… thank goodness for grandparents.

Anyway, I’m excited to see Ross Dolan, the bassist/vocalist from Immolation tonight. He’s on backing vocals and bass with GotW. Immolation is from our hometown of Yonkers, NY, so its also cool to support “local” musicians, although, Immolation is a pretty established act in death metal.

Here’s something I wrote about Gospel of the Witches, when wifey reviewed them:


Thoughts about playing bass in Death Metal (Stephen Brand)

So last night, when I should have been sleeping, I was reading through bass-related material instead. One of these was a short thread on Talkbass from 2012 which linked to an article written by StephenDemento, a German bassist who had been playing in various rock and metal bands for a while (he’d been playing for 25 years, as of its writing) and had joined a death metal band, although he wasn’t particularly a fan of the style at first. After playing in it for about 2 1/2 years, he wrote an article about the experience, which I found interesting. Have a read:

Stephen Brand of Demento

Stephen Brand of Demento

Some searching revealed that Stephen’s real name is Stephen Brand and that he’s the bassist for Demento, a progressive death metal band from Germany. Here’s a link to their Facebook page:

Like a lot of people who like metal, but not necessarily death, he was initially turned off by the growling vocal style. The only two death bands he enjoyed were Death and Cynic (both fantastic bands with exemplary bassists, I might add). Their styles were basically fusions of death metal (which Death arguably founded) and progressive metal. Over time, he learned to appreciate the style though.

I like that he shares his thoughts about what stood out to him in the style, because as an experienced bassist, he has a lot of knowledge to draw upon to identify differentiators and common characteristics. He also lists a virtual who’s-who of technical players – many of whom are among my favorites.

[edit 11.5.2016] Stephen’s website is no longer online. However, I saved a copy of the article as a PDF using Google Translate last year (it was in German). I’m attaching a copy to this post so that his thoughts aren’t lost to the world.


LOCK UP Live At OEF 2011

Lock Up are a grindcore band with Shane Embury from Napalm Death on bass. I love his rhythm in grind. In this video, from Battlefield, Trutnov in the Czech Republic, Tomas Lindberg from At the Gates is on vocals. ATG just recently reformed, and its been exciting. But, anyway, I wanted to share this because when I’m spacing out or on low energy from a monotonous workday, I spin this video and it makes me happy. The grind is really fun, and that legless, one-armed amputee who joins onstage for the second song (Triple Six Suck Angels) is just so metal.

LOCK UP Live At OEF 2011