Ben Richardson

Slough Feg's Mike Scalzi talks metal, philosophy

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(For a review of Slough Feg's latest, The Animal Spirits, go here. Read on for an interview with the band's guitarist-singer, Mike Scalzi.)

San Francisco Bay Guardian: I noticed a clear theological theme running through the album. Was that – the Reformation – an area of historical interest to you? I'm interested in that choice, of a less exciting historical topic than maybe a more violent event...

Mike Scalzi: It's not as metal, certainly. But in another way, Martin Luther was very metal, in that he was dedicated. Though he was Christian, in his dedication and his rebellion, he was metal. I was reading about all that stuff in an anthology of Western cultures. It was very general – I had to teach it. I'm a teacher. I started teaching Philosophy of Religion a year ago for the first time, and I'm not really that into teaching it, because its not my area of expertise, but I kinda had to. Read more »

Local metal review: Slough Feg's "The Animal Spirits"

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All good heavy metal strives to challenge the listener, pushing buttons and boundaries. Some of its most successful incarnations make people downright uncomfortable, achieving escalating extremes of tempo, tuning, and tone.

Slough Feg is one of San Francisco's most unique underground bands, an honorific that stems directly from its unique approach to the challenge of challenging. Eschewing thrash's BPM arms race, death metal's knuckle-dragging celebration of “brutality,” and black metal's dissonant, low-fi navel-gazing, the quartet (now two decades or, if you prefer, five drummers old) manages to discomfit with an unlikely tool: melody. New album The Animal Spirits was released Tues/26 on Profound Lore Records.

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Falling for Fallout — again

Feelin' lucky? Fallout: New Vegas chases the apocalypse to Sin City

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Fallout: New Vegas

(PC, PS3, Xbox 360) Obsidian Entertainment/Bethesda SoftworksRead more »

Armchair generals unite!

Civilization V will suck your present life into the past

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Civilization V

(Firaxis, 2K Games)

PC

GAMER The release of a new Civilization game always results in time-management Armageddon. Notorious for its addictive, epic gameplay, the long-running franchise has been the bane of term papers, careers, and marriages over the course of its nearly 20 years in existence.Read more »

Space is the place: The Sword's "Warp Riders"

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Once a metal album has surpassed a certain threshold of ambition, it is obligated to begin with an instrumental intro track. If said album is a concept album, this is doubly important. Warp Riders, the latest album by Austin, TX quartet the Sword, is a concept album in the most deliciously nerdy sense.

Weaving a dense science fiction tale of a distant plant caught in the throes of “tidal locking” (confining one hemisphere to dark and one to light), its songs regale the listener with visions of archers, mystical orbs, time travel, space travel, time/space travel, and beings called Chronomancers. The instrumental intro, “Acheron/Unleashing the Orb,” is therefore exactly as epic as you would suspect, erupting out shuddering guitar effects into hard-charging downbeat thrash.

The Sword have traveled a long way since their debut Age of Winters landed them on tour with Metallica. Warp Riders' second track (and first single) “Tres Brujas” bears the trappings of this journey, boasting a chunky, arena-ready riff that prepares to bang heads in the nosebleed seats without sacrificing the band's distinctive sound.

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Gods of Distortion: The Interviews (Part Two)

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Check out Ben Richardson's story on the Southern Lord Mini-Tour in this week's Guardian. Here, he talks with Mike Dean, bassist and singer of Corrosion of Conformity.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: You guys are practicing in North Carolina now, in preparation for the tour?

Mike Dean: That's right, yeah. It might be useful.

SFBG: How long has it been since you've played all these Animosity songs?

MD: Quite a while. Easily 23, 24 years, something like that. 23 years!

SFBG: How does that feel? Is it like putting on an old garment?

MD: Either I remember the stuff precisely, and it is like putting on an old garment – it feels just like yesterday, and I can play it – or there are parts of songs that I have no recollection of. It's either completely natural or kind of strange.

SFBG: Can you point to any particular parts that seem unfamiliar?

MD: There's a bridge-like part in the middle of the song “Holier,” that I completely forgot about!

SFBG: This must be due in part to the fact that your technique has changed a lot over the years. At this point you're a veteran, a very well-schooled musician – not to say that you weren't good to begin with...

MD: It's funny that you should mention that. It's an astute observation, because sometime around the time we did [1987's] Technocracy, I started to play with my fingers more and more, and sort of leave the picking thing behind. Basically, it was like starting all over again, to some extent. Now, I can do all the things on Animosity and Technocracy with my fingers, as opposed to a pick, which I would just be dropping anyway.
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Gods of Distortion: The Interviews (Part One)

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Check out Ben Richardson's story on the Southern Lord Mini-Tour in this week's Guardian. Here, he talks with Southern Lord founder and Goatsnake and SunnO))) guitarist Greg Anderson.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: So, first off, could you describe the planning of the Power of the Riff festival, and the Southern Lord Mini Tour that's sort of spun off of that?

Greg Anderson: Well, last summer we did a Southern Lord event in Seattle with SunnO))), the other group that I play in. Basically it was two nights up there at this venue Neumo's, and SunnO))) headlined each night, playing different sets each night. The support for both shows was Lord bands: we had Black Breath, Accused, Pelican, Earth, Trap Them. It was great! So the promoter of that venue – who put that on for us last year – called and asked if we wanted to do something similar this year – another Southern Lord event. So we were trying to put something together for that, and right around the same time, another good friend of mine told me that he'd been asked to put together something down here in Los Angeles, at the Echo and the Echoplex, and was I interested in getting involved in that. So with these things impending on the horizon, I thought I'd put together a decent line-up of Lord bands and make it happen.

Also, at the same time, I'd been talking with Mike Dean from C.O.C., who told me that they wanted to get out and play some shows with the three-piece line-up, the 80s Animosity line-up, and asked me if I was interested in working with them on that. So I thought I'd base it around them being the headliner and some of our bands on the bill as well. So that's how it came together, and over the last couple months, I've been slowly putting together the pieces, getting other bands on board.

San Francisco just seemed like a natural choice, also, to do a show. San Francisco's always been very supportive of Southern Lord and heavy music in general, so I thought “we've gotta do a show in San Francisco with this package – it's gotta happen!” Read more »

Worth the wait

Starcraft II took a while to get here, but the new version is right on target

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StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty

(Blizzard Entertainment)

PC, Mac OS X

Even for a company known for its notoriously long development cycles, Blizzard took its sweet time with StarCraft II. Though thousands of people now have their fevered hands on a copy, the reality of its arrival hasn't really sunk in. Playing it feels like the first time I listened to Chinese Democracy, except with fewer unnecessary keyboard tracks.Read more »

Gods of distortion

Southern Lord's metal brigade makes another most excellent leap forward

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arts@sfbg.com

MUSIC No one can agree on how guitar distortion was invented, or by whom. The only thing the experts do concur on is that, like many of humanity's most excellent leaps forward, it was a complete and utter accident.Read more »

First-person shooter

High-brow meets joystick in author Tom Bissell's Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

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Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter

Tom Bissell

(Pantheon Books/Random House, 218 pages, $22.95)

In the fifth chapter of his essay collection Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter, author Tom Bissell meets "Al," a staffer at the 2009 DICE convention, an annual game industry event held in Las Vegas. "By 2020," gushes Al, "there is a very good chance that the president will be someone who played Super Mario Bros. on the NES."Read more »