Live Coverage – Farmageddon 2014

My coverage of Farmageddon festival from June 2014.

Vandala Magazine

Page-24-25-July-2014-Vandala-Magazine-Farmageddon-Open-Air-2014If I say “Ryley, Alberta,” you probably don’t think “Open-Air Heavy Metal Festival” so let’s cut to the chase: Almost 40
 bands (most of whom you’ve never heard of) and paintball in
 the flatlands of central Alberta. Round two for Farmageddon, hosted by Excalibur Productions out of Edmonton/Devon area.
 Work commitments allowed me to attend the Thursday pre-party in Edmonton, then the main festival event on Saturday/Sunday.

Review By Jeff Black
Photos By Dana Zuk PhotographyMORE PHOTOS HERE
From Julys 2014 Vandala Magazine

The pre-party was a speed metal smackdown at Filthy McNasty’s on Whyte Ave featuring Riot City, Hazzerd, Powerslave and Vicious. No cover charge; the gig had a pretty healthy run of attendees throughout the night. Powerslave kicked off the proceedings with a tribute to Iron Maiden, with an eye on tunes from the self-titled album all the way through to Fear of the Dark. Decent background…

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Fresh Lord of Winterfell

Now this is a story all about how
The Lannisters pushed me to the ground
It’s a pretty long tale so listen well
I’ll tell you how I became Lord of Winterfell

In northern Westeros, born and raised
The Wolfswood is where I spent most of my days
Chillin’ out with my father, executin’ runaway crows
Shooting arrows with my half-brother Jon Snow

Continue reading

Editorial – Stagecraft 101: Why Performance Matters

A little article I wrote on why your rock/metal band puts on crappy shows and some advice for fixing the problem.

Vandala Magazine

Amon-AmarthPhoto Credit Lana Nimmons

Article By Jeff Black
From Junes Vandala Magazine – READ MORE REVIEWS HERE

If your idea of playing a show involves tying back your hair, slipping into your favorite Cannibal Corpse tee and staring at your toes and fretboard for forty-five minutes, you’re doing it wrong. Said it, I meant it, now I’m here to represent it.

Every time I go to a local show, I find myself confronted by these types of bands. Lazy, uninspired non-performers who look like they’d rather be at home munching on Doritos and watching reruns of Friends than onstage, and it shows in their crowd attendance and overall response. If your show has me reaching into my pocket for my iPhone (or for a gun to put in my mouth) then we got a problem. No wonder turnouts for local gigs are at an all-time low and bands can’t make…

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How weird news teaches us great storytelling

Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

The Red Pen of Doom

Every day, there are real stories in the morning newspaper that make you snort coffee out your nose or choke on a blueberry muffin. Note: This is why journalists call such pieces “muffin chokers.”

Yet the daily weirdness is more than funny. If you dissect these stories, you can learn deep storytelling lessons from the shallow end of the journalism pool.

Here’s a real story that just happened in my state: Man steals RV from Wal-Mart parking lot, leads police on wild chase. Swerves into sleepy little town where he knocks cars into front yards and such, then blasts through a house and crashes. Runs out, strips down to his underwear and invades a home to steal girl clothes. Cops catch him and haul him off.

This is pretty typical of a weird news story, and not simply because it started in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart — and yeah…

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Tales from the Lesson Studio: Part One

My final student of the day, a lad of eight years abruptly stopped his rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In.” He wrinkled his nose.
“Did you fart?” he asked.
“No,” I lied.
“I’m pretty sure you did,” he said, his expression grave, “Unless you just smell like dog crap all the time.”

Can’t get enough of these kids.

New Fantasy Anthology: Swords of Steel

A friend of mine in Chicago named Dave Ritzlin is putting together a paperback anthology series of Sword & Sorcery stories in the tradition of olde. We’re talking Howard, Smith, Wagner, Lovecraft, Leiber, Anderson, Haggard, etc etc. It’s due out early 2015.

Here’s the gimmick: These are stories written by Heavy Metal musicians.

 Here’s the lineup thus far. I believe DMR Book is still accepting submissions.

-Varg Vikernes (Burzum)

-E.C. Hellwell (Hellwell, Manilla Road)

-Howie Bentley (Cauldron Born, Briton Rites)

-Byron Roberts (Bal-Sagoth)

-Scott Waldrop (Twisted Tower Dire, Walpyrgus)

-Jean-Pierre Abboud (Funeral Circle, Borrowed Time)
-Jeff Black (Gatekeeper) (Me, woo-hoo!)
-Logon Saton (Demon Bitch)
-Jason Tarpey (Eternal Champion, Graven Rite)

None of these are household names by any stretch, though fans of the underground (specifically in the Epic Metal style) might recognize a handful of these groups. Howie Bentley has written a few articles on Sword & Sorcery for the Cimmerian, if I recall. I’m really hoping that this goes well and the idea takes off. Hopefully in subsequent volumes we will get to see some bigger bands contributing.

Check out DMR Books on Faceplant:

And a recent interview:


“You have HOW many cassettes?”

So today, Sunday, my only day off, I spent my time organizing my cassette collection. Yeah, tapes. With, like, music on them. I organized them alphabetically and then priced them out based on condition and rarity. ‘Cause that’s how I roll. I think I have close to 300 right now. One for every Spartan at Thermopylae, baby.

This is some of them

These are some of them

I love tapes. Just love ’em to goddamn death. I know they are flawed; I’m all too familiar with the ear-raking screams, the background hiss and purr, the terror of prying them apart to put the pads or the tape itself back into place (about as stressful as open-heart surgery). My Dio Last in Line cassette modulates in and out of key every 11 seconds due to the back-breaking strain I’ve put it through since I purchased it from some backwater record shop in Red Deer, AB.

Despite all this, I’ve found myself drawn to tapes, ever since I was a little guy. I’m now in my mid-20’s. I like looking at them. There’s something occult about them. I treat tapes the same way I’d treat the emerald tablets of Atlantean gods placed under my care. The shape of them, the size. The holes. I want to do terrible things to cassette holes. When I hunt through flea markets for new tape acquisitions, I feel like I’m Indiana Jones or El Borak, stalking through temples older than the seas in search of antediluvian artifacts. When I find a cassette from my want list, I get a chill when I slide it into my tape deck for the first time.

The other thing I love about tapes is the sheer DIY, underground quality of them. When I go see a band play live and they put their album or demo out on tape format, I buy it even if I hated their music. There’s this vibrant, raw energy that surrounds these dinky little chunks of plastic. I think this stems from the fact that recording music on tape represented a sort of paradigm shift in the music business, where all of a sudden, you didn’t have to be independently wealthy (or injured in a car accident) in order to afford to record your album. With the advent of tapes came the advent of home recording and the do-it-yourself mentality running in the veins of the punk and heavy metal movements. Vinyl records were the goal, the big leagues, the ivory towers, and tapes represented the stepping stones to get there.

I also love tapes because of the material you tend to find on them. Many bands released their full-length albums on tape format, but eldritch demos and obscure live performances are my bread and butter. I love listening to a recording and feeling as though the band is right there in front of me. The sound from the amplifiers is blowing my hair back and I’m surrounded by other crazy rockers in club where there’s sweat practically dripping from the walls. The drums sound like they were recorded in the bat cave and the singer’s mic punctuates the riffs with keens of feedback.

Ugh. It just rocks my world.

So anyways, that’s what I did with my Sunday Funday. I’m a goddamned nerd.