Smothering shadows amidst leaking light; an interview with James Taylor of Agiel

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In many ways drawing an imposing and riveting link between their past and future, US metallers Agiel recently released an exciting tempestuous fury drenched in heavy invention and rapacious exploration. It came in the shape of the enthralling EP Dark Pantheons, a startling tempest of brutal death and symphonic black metal. Feeling like a new stage in the evolution of the Philadelphia quartet, we had to find out more and seized with both hands the opportunity to chat with vocalist/keyboardist and founding member James Taylor. Sharing his time with us we looked at the first breath of the band, the dark and band threatening moment in James’ life, the new EP and plenty more…

Hi James and thanks for sparing time to talk with us.

Can we start by talking about the beginnings of the band and the driving intent behind its founding?

It’s my pleasure. AGIEL has always been driven by one specific intent which is the musical expression of occult ideals and an exploration of our internal reality of the mind through occult methods. That has been the singular driving purpose of AGIEL from the moment of its inception through to the present day. Our songs are both a musical interpretation of our own personal experiences with this hidden reality as well as an expression of more universally experienced truths. We create this music to share at least in a small way the immense wonder, inspiration and transcendent effect that these experiences create.

Your sound at first was a more blackened death metal driven encounter but even then hinting at a wider expanse. Was the emergence of the diversity and varied flavouring which enthrals on your new EP Dark Pantheons, nagging away back then too?

I think this is true of every artist, that is to say that they always have at least a shadowy impression of what the ultimate expression of what your art could be. It’s barely visible, obscured through layers of their own imperfection, but they know that it is there and that they’ll reach it if they can just keep pushing forward. Sometimes there’s a sliver of clarity and the full splendour of that ideal comes flooding into the mind; an experience we often call inspiration. Clumsily, they try and try again to recreate that experience for others to hear. Outwardly it seems like a progression, but to them it is a series of finer revisions toward that same idyllic form.

How would you describe the evolution of your music and ideas over the past fifteen years or so?

The simplest way to describe the evolution of our musical growth would be that we are trying to capture more of the unearthly qualities that have been present in AGIEL’s music from the start. I’ve always loved the unsettling aspect of our sound created by chromaticism, atonality, and the use of exotic sounding scales. It’s in our nature to want to push the boundaries of our musical abilities. In our future work, the genesis of which you can hear on the new EP, we are pushing the limits of our compositional skills as well. Where as in the past it’s been all about breaking through the limitations of our skill with individual instruments it is now something that is being applied to AGIEL as a whole.

You have released many well-received releases with Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign of 2002 especially acclaimed. You were on a agielpotent and hungrily followed ascent it is fair to say at that point and beyond but Agiel decided to go on a hiatus in 2007. What brought about that decision?

There were a lot of factors that went into that decision, but I think that a lot of it has to do with where my own spiritual journey had taken me at that point. I was trying to make sense of some of the powerful experiences that I’d had in the preceding years, but failing to do so. I was at a very dangerous point psychologically in that the interpretations I was reaching about what I had been through had brought me to a place of agnostic despair. I believed nothing and there was no validity to anything, including my own sense of self-being. Everything was overshadowed by a sense of fundamental doubt.

In a very gradual fashion my life became a series of meaningless, automated motions meant to conceal my indifference toward everyone and everything. But somehow I managed to ascribe enough meaning to my own inner voice that I began to listen to my intuitions again. I had a sense that an act of spiritual immolation might allow a renewed spirit to rise from the ashes of my shattered psyche.

Was it always going to be just a break or was there the danger it might become a permanent situation for the band?

At the time the way that I had to approach the whole situation was to allow for the possibility that this could have been a permanent act. I felt that if I had any inclination that this was simply a delay and not an irrevocable decision, that I’d never be willing to do make the hard decisions required of me. It needed to be a sacrifice in the truest sense of the word

So what sparked or inspired the end of 2012 to be the return of Agiel?

The end of 2012 was a very synchronous time and a lot of separate and seemingly unrelated events came together to drive us to this new release. I suppose that the very beginning was a spontaneous performance that we gave near the end of December. It just so happened that a few of our former band members were all going to be in town on the same day and had all planned, unbeknownst to each other, to be at the same metal show playing that night. With a bit of convincing we decided to play a single song just for a bit of fun.

After that night though, the feeling that I experienced playing this music again had stuck with me, which I was not expecting in the least. I suppose that you could say I heard the call of it inviting me back and my intuition told me that the time was right for AGIEL’s return. And I really believe that because all of the people that needed to come together to make this possible did so effortlessly. I let my subconscious awareness guide me and got out of my own way so that I could follow the true path.

You have as we said earlier just released the outstanding Dark Pantheons EP. It is a release which though it consists of reworked songs originally frequenting Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign, feels like a brand new chapter for Agiel. Is that how it feels for you?

It most definitely does. AGIEL has a tradition of reimagining itself and reinventing its identity while retaining that original spirit that makes us who we are. This has been a constant process and a necessary one I think. If you embrace the tenants of occultism as we have then self-evolution and the idea of transcending what you are to become more is a core part of your identity. Each of our releases is the embodiment of that struggle. I’d be loath to release something that was substantially the same as what came before.

Why revisit and re-imagine those older songs though rather than wait to unleash brand new ones? Is there an element of correcting ‘wrongs’ or just that the tracks have extra meaning to the band?

It’s definitely not a matter of righting wrongs or correcting some part of the past. On the contrary, I’m very proud of all our past efforts and the music that we created. But you hit it very close to the mark by suggesting that these songs have extra meaning to them. They absolutely do. When these songs were originally created they provided a means of discovering the meaning of AGIEL. Through the writing process we were brought closer to a true understanding of what it meant to be a part of this music. Each of the songs on the EP was originally conceived through a uniquely powerful occult experience. Those experiences were transmuted into music and now again back into a type of transcendent experience.

As the remaining original member I felt that it was absolutely necessary for everyone involved to share those original experiences. By reimagining that music we were able to come to a mutual understanding about the nature of AGIEL; an element that I deemed critical at that time and still do.

a3558114463_2-1How did you approach the songs involved with the new EP and begin sculpting their new guises?

It’s interesting because while that process was so focused and vivid at the time it has become one great blur now that it is done. It feels almost like they have always existed, you know? I think though that the basic approach was that we’d take these songs in their original form as inspiration and then let our minds lead us the rest of the way. No preconceptions about what they should sound like. No restraints on style or any other aspect of our creativity. We took the time to really establish a deep understanding of their meaning and then let the AGIEL spirit take over, so to speak.

Though very much the same songs they all come with a distinctively new presence, how would you describe the journey and evolution of these particular tracks to your new adventure of sound?

I suppose that in a sense you could look at these tracks as a glimpse into the future of our sound, but that view would be distorted through the prism of the first Pantheons album and the spirit of that earlier sound. You might say it’s like the ability to observe distant objects in the universe through the effect of gravitational lensing. We’re catching a glimpse of something far off, but only through the influence of something else that separates us in the expanse. So while this is definitely our future, it will also sound very different than what is presented on Dark Pantheons.

One of the projects that we are in the process of right now is cleaning up some of our older material and cataloguing on the houseofagiel.com site. The goal behind this is to give everyone an idea of how the music has shifted, changed and evolved over the years. It’s interesting to look at from that perspective because you start to see that these changes are not linear and that they oscillate through differing sets of musical influences.

The elevated presence and focus on the symphonic and keys bred aspect of your sound is in many ways as much a look back to the keyboard rich sound of the band’s first release as it is a new direction is it fair to say?

I’m not sure that I’d say that this is a look backwards, but in a sense I suppose that you are right in that we are re-establishing the keyboards as a major factor in the band’s sound. In fact, through the whole arc of AGIEL’s music it is Dark Pantheons Again Will Reign (DPAWR) that stands out as an aberration to an otherwise keyboard rich sound. As I said before, we embrace the idea of stylistic progression and at that time the sound we were trying to create was less focused on those types of elements. I will say though that the final mix for DPAWR was balanced in a way that caused the existing keyboard elements to be pushed into the background of the soundscape; more so than they would have been otherwise.

So the EP gives a potent indication of your creative horizons or is it just a hint to an even deeper evolution to come?

This release has just scratched the surface of where we are headed musically. On the EP there was obviously some constraints placed on what we were going to do in terms of the song structures, stylistic choices with the instrumentation and so forth. Now though, we’re free to delve as deeply as we want into new ideas for all of those things and more. I think what you’ll see on this next release is a deep integration of all the separate elements that make up our sound. Conceptually what we want to convey is a greater sense of unity between the orchestral and modern instrumentation so they sound as one integrated symphonic mass.

Did re-visiting the tracks upon the EP bring up any obstacles or issues you were not expecting?

From the outset I expected that there would be significant challenges to realizing this release. There was the indoctrination of a new line-up, the fact that we’d be working on this over long distances with only a few opportunities to rehearse, getting everyone up to speed on the source material, and lastly the actual production of the recording itself. I knew that there was a lot to be accomplished from the beginning, but we managed to meet each one of them in turn.

Lyrically did you have to change anything to suit the new voices of the songs at all?

There were some lyrical changes, but I approached them in the same manner and with the same spirit as was taken toward the music. It made sense to me that the reimagining would not be segregated to just the music, but would extend through to the lyrics as well. There were a few tracks such as The Awakening for which the lyrics were written almost half a lifetime ago – literally! Some adjustments were made to better fit the flow and context of the new arrangements, but the content remained largely unaltered.

I’ve been pretty open with my feelings of disappointment about the vocal production on DPAWR. To be honest I’m not sure what happened, but it sounded like several separate vocal takes were layered on top of each other which was not intentional. So it was important to me that the vocals on the new release were clear and intelligible.

Have your lyrical inspirations and themes moved on as strongly as your music or do the same sparks still just as potently trigger your James-Kevin-Square-1024x1021thoughts and vocal narratives?

Yes, significantly in fact. It’s been a natural progression that reflects the changes in my views and the recent experiences I’ve had in my spiritual practice. My earliest lyrics were mostly focused on acts of rebellion and blasphemy. Later on as my understanding of the occult matured there was a shift in the content of the lyrics to reflect those insights. During the DPAWR era the lyrics described the raw unconscious power that the gods of ancient religions represented. In the next release you’ll get to see where things have evolved to.

What comes next for Agiel, when will we be able to devour brand new material?

We’ve got a ton of things lined up for the future, but the main focus of the whole band right now is on writing material for the next release. That’s our top focus at the moment. I don’t want to place too firm a date on when that will be ready, but we are aiming for another early release in 2015. In the meantime though we’ve captured a bunch of liver performance material that will be released later this year. There are a few new tracks that were not included on the EP which will be included in the releases later this year, so you’ll get to hear a bit more of our musical progression before the new full length.

Again James, thank you for taking time to talk with us. Would you like to add any last words or thoughts?

First I’d like to say thank you for posing all of these really great questions! I really appreciate your interest in AGIEL’s music and the meaning behind it. My primary motivation for creating this music is to share the inspiration, peril and sheer astonishment I’ve experienced struggling to reach my potential as a spiritual being. AGIEL’s music is very raw in that way. I’ve tried to hide nothing and everything is exposed; every triumph and each failure equally evident and represented in our music. I feel truly honoured to share that journey with anyone willing to listen.

https://www.facebook.com/houseofagiel

http://houseofagiel.com

Read the review of Dark Pantheons @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/02/28/agiel-dark-pantheons/

Pete RingMaster

The Ringmaster Review 08/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Them Guilty Aces – Nude In The Moonlight

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The thought of a curvy naked body under the stars will send most of our imaginations into rapture providing they fall within certain boundaries. With that criteria met it is an adventure all would embrace with relish especially if it is under the soundtrack of US rockers Them Guilty Aces and their new EP Nude In The Moonlight. A magnetic encounter with a sextet of songs which seduce and thrill through a blend of rockabilly and fifties rock ‘n’ roll, the release is a captivating croon from a band you can easily assume is feverishly supported back home in Chicago. The EP shows that they are now ready to please and entertain a wider audience, its vintage yet vivacious modern endeavour prize bait to take into an expanded spotlight.

Consisting of guitarist/lead vocalist Daniel Cruz, one of the band founders, guitarist Jared Sorkin (AKA Dick Tremolo), drummer Victor Aguirre, and bassist Jesus Segura, Them Guilty Aces wear the influences to their sound openly within their songs but as mentioned it comes with a valid twist which makes their music stand out as a real proposition in the modern climate of the genres they frequent. As evidenced by the EP there is not a snarl to their sound which admittedly just once or twice would be a wish within the songs, but there is a definite intent and invention at large which is able to stir up the appetite of those basking in and those not necessarily concerned with nostalgia.

The release opens with Blackjack Baby and instantly a seductive groove with a sexy twang is wrapping teasingly around the ears. The 8616721guitar sculpting is an irresistible hook which has imagination and emotions on their feet within seconds keen and ready for the swiftly joining stroll of throaty bass and crisp rhythms. A melodic surf wave ebbs and flows across this potent landscape to add rich colour to the scenery whilst the sultry tones of Cruz lays further evocative hues into the picture. It is a virulently infectious proposition which washes over ears and thoughts like a romancing exotic temptress dressed in fifties intimacy.

The song is an excellent introduction to the band and right away impressively backed by the following and similarly persuasive Crash N Burn. Holding darker colouring to its ambience and punchier rhythms, the song sways and swerves with sonic flames and blazing crescendos within another smouldering terrain of emotive heat and torrid contagion. Its gait is reserved and energy restrained but the track still boils up the atmosphere for a deliciously sweltering climate of sound and emotion crafted by riveting guitar painting and bass shadowing within the mesmeric caress of vibrant vocals.

The following Cherry Pop next coaxes attention with an authentic sixties lure of guitar, an enticement which recalls the likes of Del Shannon and Bobby Rydell. A pop essence seeps from every ear kissing note and syllable but once the passionate rock heart erupts within the rise in vocal delivery, the track expands into an enveloping wash of senses sparking flirtation. The song does not match the might and suasion of its predecessors it has to be admitted, sounding a little pale against their strengths, but it still makes for a strongly pleasing and absorbing hug.

The title track pounces next with its eager rhythmic dance and romping bass design beneath fiery and skilful guitar revelry. Its quickstep induces rapid submission and agitation in the feet and passions, taking the body on an eager hop with its only issue being it is far too short, so much so that even big boys do not have time to get out of breath. Despite that it is the perfect tease and incitement to confirm listing Them Guilty Aces under essential rock ‘n’ roll prospects.

The EP is completed by the firstly the wickedly enthralling Please Don’t Go, the song another transfixing croon musically and vocally, and lastly the mischievous Guilty Girl with its devilish hooks and highly tempting grooves. The pair ensures that Nude In The Moonlight is a lingering toxin in memory and imagination. It would be fair to say that at times there seems a spark missing to songs, whether that is production or in presentation; an ignition to the greater triumphs which you can sense and feel are lying in wait within the impressive tracks. It makes no real difference to the excellent release though and only makes Them Guilty Aces an even more exciting prospect ahead as they continue to develop.

Nude In The Moonlight is available now!

https://www.facebook.com/ThemGuiltyAces

8.5/10

RingMaster 08/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Silent Jack – Snakebite

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    Silent Jack is one of those propositions where you pretty much know what you are going to get flavour wise but not necessarily the juicy way they unleash it on the senses. Hailing from Birmingham, the British quartet engage and riot with the imagination through a sound bred openly in eighties hard rock and filtered through a glam rock mischief. Their new release Snakebite is an exciting offering which provides all the attitude, endeavour, and enterprise needed to suspect that the band is on a path to strong recognition. The seven tracks which provide its rippling temptation is a mixed bagged when it comes to offering surprises to expectations but an unqualified success in contagiously recruiting thoughts and emotions into the fiery bosom of the band’s captivating presence.

Listening to the release you can easily assume the influences which have inspired the band, the likes of Motley Crue, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Hardcore Superstar, Ratt, Buckcherry, and Black Stone Cherry clear flavours throughout Snakebite. It is easy and arguably fair to say that there is little new or original within the encounter but that cannot take away from the thrills and spills which sparks the real enjoyment it consummately provides. Formed in 2009, Silent Jack has won over its home town tenfold and now it is looking to seduce the rest of the country and beyond, and though it might take more than this brawl of pleasure to achieve that they are easily on course and capable.

The band gets off to a flyer with opener Brand New Start, beats and riffs an immediate potent coaxing before the guitars of vocalist Rich Silent-Jack-Snakebite-Cover-300x300Mason and Adam Carson boil up the air with rapacious riffing and sonic flames. The bass of Dickie Spider brings dark intimidation into the mix next whilst drummer Scott Carson intensifies his punchy raps as the track expands into a stronger feisty stride. The guitars continue to snarl as Mason unveils his appealing vocals, the song already flowing infectiously across the senses as rhythmic swipes and a predatory tone adds to its persistent persuasion. The track has the potential to be a hard rock anthem in so many ways and with the sonic flair and adventure woven into the encounter by Adam Carson it is a virulent enticement which has imagination, appetite, and passions alive.

The following King Cobra is just as addictive, it’s rapping beats and more distant scrub of guitar a teasing entrance which easily leads greed into the heart of another blaze of accomplished rock ‘n’ roll stoked with flailing sinews and melodic acidity. As with the first the contagious call of the song is irrepressible and irresistible, the chorus call alone incitement to listener participation and emotions thirsty for more. Once again individual skills and ideation impress but together the band most light up ears and the continually bubbling promise of the band.

Going Down ensures the impressive start is continued, its salacious lure of guitar from the first breath of the song seducing instant submission which the rampaging rhythms and caustic riffery only accelerates. There is a great raw edge to the track which sets it apart from the first two and a groove which twists rapaciously around the imagination, persistently licking at the passions with its serpentine tongue. Once more maybe something truly different within hard rock is scarce in the songs, as the release, but unleashing such epidemically catchy and enthralling adventure as it does there are no complaints valid enough to defuse the enjoyment of the song.

A scorching fire of guitar sculpting and intense rhythmic pressure opens up the next up Love Factory to make an instant strong impression, the grumbling nature of the bass adding enticing intrigue to the satisfying invitation offered. A heated blues flames joins the blend soon, wrapping every twist and turn of the song as Silent Jack stomp once more with a skilled and confident swagger. Feet and voice are soon enslaved and enlisted by the stroll and infection of the song, its gait a compelling bait and chorus another which only the dead could ignore.

The first four songs are the pinnacle of Snakebite though the remaining trio of tracks still add to the stature and potential of the band as well as the pleasure gained from the release. The imposing ballad Angels Cry is first and easily shows the vocal prowess of Mason and emotive craft of the band’s songwriting within its shapely and flavoursome design. It does miss out on the spark of earlier tracks though to merely satisfy rather than potently excite as equally does Made In Heaven. The song like the previous one, is impressively sculpted and veined by sonic hues which ask for attention as the display of anthemic vocal tempting, but the trigger to make the encounter larger than life is absent. Nevertheless both songs and the closing Hot Luvin’ with its masterful teasing bring the release to an invigorating and pleasing conclusion.

Snakebite is a proposition which hard rock fans should take a punt on as you can see them devouring the release greedily. Certainly originality is low and a wish for some experimentation which would lead to a distinct character for the band would be welcome but it cannot deny that Silent Jack has delivered a very enjoyable encounter and have the wares to become a real force in European rock ‘n’ roll. It may take time but we are not betting against them.

The self-released Snakebite is available now!

https://www.facebook.com/silentjackband

8/10

RingMaster 08/05/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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