Weird Band #292: BloodHag

bloodhag-logo

Underneath all the tattoos and black clothing, a lot of metal fans are nerds. They collect manga comic books, play Final Fantasy, can rattle off the names of secondary Game of Thrones characters, and read a lot of sci-fi. Like, a lot of sci-fi. And that sci-fi permeates the lyrics and imagery of many successful metal bands, from the dystopian concept albums of Fear Factory to the intergalactic space demons of GWAR. But it’s fair to say no band ever took the intersection of metal and science fiction to a more literal extreme than BloodHag.

Formed in Seattle in 1996, BloodHag (or BlöödHag, for those of you who like your metal garnished with umlauts) played short, spastic bursts of throat-shredding death metal about sci-fi authors, from the famous ones taught in high school and college English classes (George Orwell, Aldous Huxley) to the genre heroes known only to those hardcore fans who have “Hugo Awards” in their Google alerts (Michael Swanwick, Robert Silverberg). They did this, until calling it quits around 2010, while dressed like high school math teachers, in white shirts and horn-rimmed glasses, under such learned stage names as Dr. J. M. McNulty (guitar), Professor J.B. Stratton (bass) and Ambassador Brent Carpenter (drums).

Their music, as heard on a handful of albums and EPs with names like Hooked on Demonics and Hell Bent for Letters, was classically thunderous death metal compressed down into punk-like two- and three-minute blasts of growls, double-kick rumbles and and Sabbath-y guitar licks. Combining that with gutturally delivered lyrics like “Along with Asimov, he’s on a list of the most gifted secular humanists in history” (from “Kurt Vonnegut Jr.”) is weird enough, but what really earns BloodHag a spot on the Weird List is this: In 2000, they managed to convince someone in the King County Library System that their “edu-core” tunes were enriching enough to be part of their literacy program. So they embarked on a tour of Seattle area libraries. Playing death metal. The absurd brilliance of this was captured in an eight-minute documentary called BlöödHag: The Faster You Go Deaf…The More Time You Have to Read, which is on YouTube and which you should really go watch right now because you haven’t lived until you’ve seen gleeful children and horrified library staff getting their hair blown back to songs with titles like “Marion Zimmer Bradley.”

We’ll leave you with what, according to McNulty, is BloodHag’s only music video, for their two-minute ode to gifted secular humanist Kurt Vonnegut. We hope these guys do a reunion tour soon, because clearly our increasingly semi-literate society is more in need than ever of being smacked upside the head by a few nice thick Orson Scott Card paperbacks.

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Negativland’s new album “It’s All Your Head” questions the existence of God and comes packaged in an actual Bible. That won’t piss anyone off.

Negativland

When last we heard from our favorite sound collage culture jammers Negativland, they were honoring the spirit of the late Casey Kasem by re-releasing their banned single “U2” that featured Kasem’s familiar, woolly voice unleashing a profanity-laced tirade. While that was certainly a worthy endeavor, we’re happy to report that their next project promises to be a bit more substantial. On Oct. 28th, they’ll be releasing It’s All in Your Head, their first album of new material in six years. And this time, they’re tackling their heaviest topic yet: why people believe in God.

But wait, because this is Negativland, the fun doesn’t stop there. The CD release of It’s All in Your Head will be packaged inside actual copies of the Holy Bible. The trailer video even promises a limited run of copies packaged inside the Qur’an. So basically, It’s All in Your Head is guaranteed to piss off both the Christian conservative crowd and the Islamic fundamentalist set. It’s equal opportunity blasphemy!

To be fair, nothing in the trailer or press release suggests that Negativland are actually doing anything especially blasphemous. They’re simply using religious texts as found-art objects, and questioning the existence of, and our belief in, a single, all-powerful deity—which is not the same thing as denying the existence of said deity, a finer point that’s often lost on the zealots. Which is why we’re predicting this will probably be Negativland’s most-discussed release since their 1995 book/CD project Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Numeral 2, which they put out in response to the Casey Kasem/U2 dustup.

Anyway, It’s All in Your Head promises, according to a press release, to combine “found music, found sound, found dialogue, guest personalities and original electronic noises into a compelling and thoughtful musical essay that looks at monotheism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, neuroscience, suicide bombers, 9/11, colas, war, shaved chimps, and the all-important role played by the human brain in our beliefs.” Portions of the record were made in front of a blindfolded studio audience. Other portions were probably just taped off Christian right-wing radio. Which parts are which? We bet you can figure it out. You’re a smart bunch.

Here’s the video trailer. Enjoy! Oh and if you happen to be in Portland on Aug. 29th or Seattle on Aug. 31st, you can catch Negativland’s new show, “Content!”, at the Crystal Ballroom and Bumbershoot, respectively.

Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin wakes up the “House Plants” in her new video

Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin

The sixth video from Petunia-Liebling MacPumpkin‘s Residents-channeling opus Fish Drive Edsels is a pretty literal interpretation of the song “House Plants.” Fortunately, MacPumpkin’s lyrics are so random that even a literal interpretation leads to some bizarre imagery.

There are plants with eyeballs for fruit and hungry, gaping mouths. (Feed me, Seymour!) There’s an angry frozen octopus and lots of hourglasses, because the song mentions something about “undermation of the hourglass,” whatever that means. Above all, there’s lots of Petunia singing into a megaphone and hanging out in her attic with her house plants, whom she tries to wake up, but never too soon—never too soon.

MacPumpkin is working her way through Fish Drive Edsels one track at a time, creating surreal videos for each of her cracked-calliope tunes. Next up is a song called “Autumn Leaves”—hey, just in time for autumn! I predict this one will feature lots of dead leaves and maybe a jack-o-lantern or two.

August Weird Band Poll: Vote for Aeron’s Wake, Astral Knife, Britches, Heiter bis Wolkig or Plankton Dada Wave

How is it August already? These polls are supposed to be monthly. Oops. Well, better late than never, right? Plus this month’s batch was worth the wait, I think.

Regular readers know the drill but we’ll explain it again anyway: Voting ends midnight Sunday, Aug. 10th (California time). Based on your votes, one of these lucky, lucky bands will be named our next Weird Band of the Week. So choose carefully! The integrity of our blog rests in your twitchy little hands.

[Sorry, this poll has closed. Check back here Wednesday, when the winner will be revealed. And bookmark this page to partake of future polls. We do a new one every month(ish).]

For more on this month’s bands, read on:

Aeron’s Wake

Aeron's Wake
Photo by Ray Akey

Aeron’s Wake is an instrumental Celtic metal band from Ontario, Canada with a violinist who totally shreds. Here’s their Bandcamp page and here they are doing a live Metallica cover.

Astral Knife

Astral Knife

Astral Knife is a band from New York that does experimental noise and abstract soundscapes. They sometimes do guerrilla performances at art galleries, which is really the only way any self-respecting band should ever play an art gallery, in my opinion. They’re headed up by a gal with the fairly awesome name of Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz. Here’s their SoundCloud page and here’s an excerpt of their ninja art gallery gig. I bet the art patrons were doing spit takes with their Chardonnay.

Britches

Britches

Britches are a noise-rock band from St. Louis who seem to be one of those “no two shows are alike” acts. Sometimes they play wearing stuffed-animal masks; sometimes they play in the dark (no video available); sometimes they play covered in bedsheets. Here’s their Bandcamp page, which features a five-track sonic assault appropriately titled Demolition.

Heiter bis Wolkig 

Heiter bis Wolkig

A guy named Marco sent us this stuff in an email with the subject line, “Weird German Cabaret Bullshit.” Marco, you had us at “Weird German.” They’ve got sort of a HGich.T thing going on where they do pop and dance music parodies with guerrilla videos where they run around terrorizing people in fat suits and shit. It’s good fun. Here’s their YouTube channel and here’s a direct link to “Gaga Gogo,” which is their most entertaining clip.

Plankton Dada Wave

Plankton Dada Wave

These guys contacted us via Facebook with a link to a video for their song “Dope Without Hope,” which is sorta sounds like a combination of ska-punk and an Italian version of Mr. Bungle. Their SoundCloud profile is all in Italian, which we can’t read, but one part says “come i Ramones live a Teletubbilandia,” which I’m pretty sure means something like “it’s what The Ramones would sound like if they were Teletubbies.” Check out their EP Haus of Dada on Bandcamp and see if you agree.

So there you have it. Remember to cast your vote before midnight Sunday, Aug. 10th, and may the weirdest band win.

Weird of the Day: Weird Paul, “We Love Computers”

Weird Paul

So yesterday someone named Brad Cow Dizease (his actual name, it turns out—what are the odds?) sent us a link to a video by a fellow from Pittsburgh called Weird Paul Petroskey—or, to use his full YouTube handle, Original Vlogger 80’s Weird Paul Petroskey. Apparently he decided to start calling himself the “Original Vlogger” when he unearthed a VHS tape of himself back in 1984 doing a video review of a McDonald’s breakfast that is uncannily similar in style and structure to the awkward vlogger fast food reviews of today. It’s almost like he somehow time traveled back to 1984 and coached his younger self through the whole thing just so he could post it on YouTube 28 years later. But I digress.

Anyway, it turns out Weird Paul is a semi-famous outsider musician (by outsider musician standards) who’s been making music since the late ’80s. We’re sure he’ll be a Weird Band of the Week eventually, but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist posting this “We Love Computers” clip now, because having been the proud owner of a Commodore 64 in the ’80s, it gave me so many flashbacks I thought maybe I was time traveling back to 1984. The syntax errors! The clunky floppy disc drives! Zork! Man, we all thought we were living in the future.

To learn more about Weird Paul and his music, check out his website.

New tUnE-yArDs album “Nikki Nack” now streaming on NPR

Tune-Yards

Merrill Garbus releases her third tUnE-yArDs album, Nikki Nack, on May 6th, but you can hear the whole thing now over on NPR.com. Does having your album streamed on NPR automatically make you less weird? Probably, but Merrill had weirdness to spare, so we’ll give her a pass.

Nikki Nack is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from tUnE-yArDs: lots of school-yard chant vocals, simple but syncopated beats and basslines, sparse instrumentation that sounds like it was recorded inside a mason jar. It’s a bit cleaner and more percussive than 2011’s w h o k i l l, and occasionally even sounds like Garbus’ take on modern, high-octane pop-R&B, like on the epic “Real Thing.” But it’s still one of more idiosyncratic things you’ll hear get any mainstream media attention this year.

You can pre-order Nikki Nack for a mere $10 from Amazon.com. Now let’s play this post out with tUnE-yArDs’ Pee-wee’s Playhouse-inspired video for “Water Fountain,” shall we?

Weird of the Day, Moogfest Edition: Wolf Eyes

Wolf Eyes

Moogfest starts tonight, so we’re going to wrap our random walk through some of their weirdest bands with our sixth and final Moogfest-themed Weird of the Day post. It’s Wolf Eyes, motherfuckers!

Wolf Eyes’ nightmarish mix of avant-garde noise, drone and post-industrial doom rock hasn’t gotten any less aggressive or unsettling, even as the band has approached something like mainstream status with releases on Sub Pop Records and tours with the likes of Andrew W.K. and Sonic Youth. Their latest album, No Answer: Lower Floors, came out last year and is, according to the Moogfest website, something like their 150th release. Here’s the video for opening track “Choking Flys,” which I believe doubles as a tutorial for how to gather firewood in post-apocalyptic (i.e. today’s) Detroit, Michigan.

Wolf Eyes play Moogfest on Thursday, Apr. 24th, as part of the festival’s most must-see lineup for fans of weirdness: Also playing the New Earth main room that night are electronic noise legends Black Dice, synth-jam master Dan Deacon and avant-electro oddballs YACHT. For more info, visit the Moogfest official site.