Vagus Nerve Announce EP Release Date; Debut Music Video

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Starting as a passion project of ex-God Forbid guitarist, Doc Coyle, and Phyllotaxis singer-songwriter, Ravi Orr, Vagus Nerve became fully realized as a band in 2014 when they enlisted the talents of drummer, Moe Watson (Shai Hulud), bassist, Aden Oxenreider (Cosm), and guitarist, Mike Gowen (MoTHER).

After a successful Kickstarter campaign, the atmospheric rock band is ready to take the next step. Everyone’s hard work and dedication has been leading to this moment as the band announces the official release date of their debut EP, VisceralFriday, September 30th 2016 – Digital & Physical Pre-Order available HERE.

The band have also debuted their 1st music video for the song “Pull Me Out”, directed by Douglas Henderson for Bold Creative Media out of York, PA. Like the songwriting, music production, and album artwork before it, this video falls in line with the elegance and beauty that characterizes Vagus Nerve.

HOOP LOGIC – The NBA’s Ageist Problem

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Everybody knows that professional athletics are a young man’s game. As sage Charles Barkley has lamented, “Father Time is undefeated.” While this is true, I’ve noticed a trend in the NBA media to send our aging veterans off to pasture before their skills have expired.

When Dwight Howard forced himself out of Orlando in 2012, everyone in the world would have killed to have D12 on their team. He was the NBA’s smiling, lovable good-guy. He was 26 years old, a 6-time All Star, 3-time Defensive Player of the Year, and even led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals.

Fast-forward 4 short years (or long years if you’re Dwight), and you would think this guy has the basketball equivalent of leprosy. He is viewed as a problem-child in the locker room, injury prone, and his stats have steadily fallen. The peculiar thing is if you compare his Per 36 numbers for the ’15-’16 season, they aren’t much different than his last season in Orlando, except points per game, but Dwight only had 8.5 FGAs per game in 2015-16 – the lowest since his rookie season.

2011-12 – Per 36 Minutes – 19.4 PPG 13.7 Rbs 2.0 Blks .573 FG%
2015-16 – Per 36 Minutes – 15.4 PPG 13.2 Rbs 1.8 Blks .620 FG%

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HOOP LOGIC – Kevin Durant to Golden State: Villainous or Virtuous?

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I was in stupefied disbelief when I woke up to text messages and tweets learning of Kevin Durant’s exit from Oklahoma City to the Bay Area. KD re-upping for 1 year in OKC just seemed like the prudent maneuver. They were 5 minutes from the Finals, and showed the Warriors a unique type of athletic challenge that even the Cavaliers couldn’t replicate, despite winning it all. Golden State is 1 year removed from a title, and a couple months removed from the greatest regular season in history, and led by the first unanimous MVP in league history. There’s no way an historically great team that was a sniff away from it’s second title in as many years needs a generational talent like KD to tip the scales further in their favor.

But I guess it’s the same reason Coca Cola, McDonalds, and Budweiser still run countless ads on TV and billboards despite being ubiquitously well known; you have to stack the deck to insure market dominance.

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Are Metal Musicians Doomed to a Life of Poverty?

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This is a subject I meant to address a few months back when Thy Art Is Murder vocalist, CJ McMahon, quit the band due to claims of horrific financial living conditions that he could no longer accept. He claimed to only have made “$16k-$18k each over 6-7 years”. It was not made clear if that is in US dollars or Australian dollars, or if he meant $16,000-$18,000 per year or the total amount earned over a 6-7 year period. It’s worded in a way to insinuate that he was only making $2,200-$2,500 per year, which seems a bit far-fetched, but I’ll push forward with the notion that whether he made $18,000 per year or $2,200, either amount was insufficient for leading an independent adult lifestyle.

The first thing that baffled me by the online reaction to this story was the surprise from non-musicians that extreme metal bands might not make a lot of money. When I started with God Forbid in the late ‘90s, I didn’t know you could even make a living doing extreme music. In that time, an assumption has grown that metal musicians should or deserve to make a living solely from making albums and touring. I don’t know exactly where that assumption came from, but it just strikes me as an odd, if not overly idealistic stance.

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Time For A Reckoning: Examining The Phil Anselmo Controversy & Backlash

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By the time I even viewed the damning video of Philip H. Anselmo, the legendary vocalist of Pantera, Down, and Superjoint Ritual, performing a forceful “sieg heil” Nazi salute followed directly by adamantly shouting “white power” to the crowd at the end of a star-studded Dimebash fundraiser concert at Lucky Strike in Hollywood, CA, the internet had already exploded with outrage, responses, defenses, theories, and excuses.

In just the few days after the event, it appeared that Phil Anselmo outrage fatigue had already set in. People were already sick of talking about it, hearing how offended people were, or even acknowledging that the heavy music world might have a race problem. Despite this fatigue and the fickleness of the social media news cycle, more than a few people reached out to me asking if I would write some type of response considering my track record of dissecting heavy metal culture and openness to discussing race and politics. I consider it my responsibility to weigh in, so here it is:

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Vagus Nerve Launches Kickstarter + Releases Brand New Song

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Although I announced Vagus Nerve a couple years ago, it’s been mostly quiet with the band because there were no live performances to announce or music to showcase. Now, we have HUGE news!

  1. We have launched a Kickstarter Campaign to help fund the mixing & mastering of the forthcoming Visceral EP by Forrester Savell (Karnivool, Dead Letter Circus). Click HERE to check out the campaign and support the band. We need your help!
  2. We have released the bands 1st song to the public, and the 1st material I’ve written since leaving God Forbid entitled “Do You Know Who I Am”. Test Mix by Forrester Savell.

This is a big deal for me, and I couldn’t be more excited. I know it’s way different than God Forbid and might not be old fans’ cup of tea, but I really do hope you guys enjoy it!

Anti-Flag

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I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about the controversy involving the Confederate Flag. Every news or media outlet that had someone with an opinion threw their hat in the ring. I had some discussions with a couple of my best friends whose viewpoints were both vague indifference: that they had too many other problems in their real life to really care. I took that as a slight frustration by being inundated with yet another controversy for people to be outraged by. The PC police had run amok…again. I can empathize with some of their frustration considering how many “false flag” (pun intended), “boy who cried wolf” outrages over Don Imus, Alec Baldwin, or Tracy Morgan saying inappropriate things. In my gut though, this was different. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

The truth is I never thought anything would ever change about a certain sector of this country’s infatuation with the stars and bars. I knew the real history. Or most of it at least. If I saw someone displaying it out and loud, it made me a bit uncomfortable. But that was rare; I lived in New Jersey for Christ’s sake. I remember seeing  the flag in a well-to-do kid I went to high school with’s room in semi-rural New Jersey. To me, it always seemed daft to see a northerner with the flag of the south. I mean, you could just move down south if you wanted to. What exactly are you pining for?

Over time, it just faded into the brush of Americana. I didn’t take it personally. I guess it was maybe a racist thing to some people. But I just took it as a redneck thing. I don’t love using that word, but I’d imagine if someone was proudly sporting a big ol’ Confederate flag, they probably don’t shy away from self identifying as a redneck. That might be presumptuous, so sorry if I’m wrong. But I just took it as one of those things that southerners, self-identifying rednecks, and maybe a some white supremacists would just have forever. Like guns or perpetual war. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. I’ve just gotten used to it.

I was extremely surprised when there was a public and political push to remove the flag from state grounds across the south after the massacre in Charleston. I’m cool with it, but I can understand how southerners and republicans would be freaked out.  There’s a black President, gay marriage just got legalized, and now your favorite flag is being marked for obsolescence. Like I said, it’s kinda like guns for me. In a perfect world, I’d love people to maybe not have so many guns, but with that whole “from my cold, dead hand” bit, I understand how attached to them you are. I’m just gonna concede that one. I mean, you gotta gun. Hang on to it. Don’t mind my idealistic ass.

I have to let people vent, but I saw this on my Facebook timeline.

Racist Meme

First, I was confused. Then, I was angry. Then, I just got sad. Maybe that’s what being offended feels like. Just being really hurt in your heart by something. I’m never really offended, so I didn’t really know.

It should also be said that I guess no one ever thought for a second that these black people could physically excrete American flags from their butts, which would basically make them the most patriotic people in the country. National treasures, really. In all seriousness though, this meme is like Rorschach test for the deeply racist and dimwitted. It’s misdirection is simultaneously ingenious and paradoxically stupid. This is a powerful piece of propaganda. Let me break it down:

1. Misdirection: The oldest trick of propaganda. To get you to stop thinking about one issue, they present a completely different issue with the lie that they are connected. If you already have a distrust of black people and hate lefty flag burners and anti-patriots, then alarm bells are going off. It’s red meat for the hungry.

2. False choice: No where on the meme does it say you can dislike both. Like most things involving this kind of thinking, it lacks grey area or nuance. “If you’re not with us, you’re against us!”

3. Breakdown of Logic: You can’t say the above symbol is not racist, or at least that the way you use it and what it means to you is not racist, and then CLEARLY choose a picture of 2 idiotic black people as your example of villains. Meme maker, why did you choose these examples? I’m sure you could have found white people desecrating the American flag. I hate to say it, but at least racist people back in the day had the balls to be honest about it. (By the way, I get that black people can be racist. We all have the capability)

4. Breakdown of Logic #2: You can’t insinuate people wiping their ass with the flags  are “traitors”, and not label the entire Confederacy trying to leave that country “traitors”. How is that not the most obvious thing in the world? I mean, is this thing on? You can’t call yourself a patriot for the USA when you are more loyal to the part of the country that didn’t want to be part of the country. Thinking about the lack of reasoning that goes into that thought process is literally making me dizzy. It’s cognitive dissonance, and complex mental compartmentalization in it’s purest form.

5. False equivalency: If you think going to war to maintain keeping black people as property and decades of Jim Crow oppression is an equal sin to a couple jackasses wiping their ass with the flag, then I’m…speechless.

The person who I saw post this, I’m not gonna name. I’m not gonna unfriend you. But I hope you read this. I hope you know that this made me sad and confused. I’d rather have people with whom I disagree in my personal sphere. I know we don’t disagree about everything. You are angry, so you want to lash out. If hurting people is what you wanted, then it worked. Vengeance works sometimes, but know these public forms are supposed to be amongst “friends”. That’s not how friendly people behave.

I’m gonna wrap up my opinion on the Confederate flag in one anecdote:

One time in 2010, I was having lunch with my friends Tommy Vext and Jenn City to talk about some band stuff. I casually used the word “gay” to describe something. Jenn called me out. Jenn is a lesbian. She called me to task. “What did I mean by ‘gay’?”  I didn’t have a good answer. That’s just the way we talked. My brother and I, guys in the band. “Damn. Taco Bell is closed. That shit is gay.” “I am broke is fuck. This is gay.” Never once had I thought about actual gay people when I said it. I grew up as liberal as can be, and still even I had a blind spot. At first, I was a little annoyed because I meant no harm. But, my friend was hurt by this.

Over time, I broke the habit. For me, not to use the word, is a small thing. But for my friend, not to hear the word used in that way, is a really big thing. There’s nothing politically correct about being courteous and respectful to my friend; it’s just correct. It’s the right thing to do, because I give a shit.

And, it’s the same way with the flag. I’m sure most the people who flaunt it aren’t racist. It probably does mean heritage and southern pride and good ol’ boys and all that stuff. But compartmentalizing what it means to you, and ignoring it’s origins, and ignoring how it makes other people feel…is just a purely selfish act. You don’t want to change. I get it. It’s part of your identity. Being told virtually over night that it’s not kosher is jarring and disruptive. I’m not saying people shouldn’t sport the Confederate flag. This is America. Americans are free to express themselves however they want. Just understand that others who don’t see eye to eye with you on the flag will now look at you with that much more discomfort when it is in sight. It will make certain people sad, confused, scared, and angry. I hope you can live with that. I hope you are ok with the fact that freedom of speech does not grant you freedom from criticism of that speech.  These events have polarized us even more, and that saddens me even more.

What surprised me most is what Phil Anselmo from Pantera, Down, and Superjoint Ritual whose bands sported the Confederate flag on more than one occasion, said, “These days, I wouldn’t want anything to fucking do with it, because, truthfully…I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t want much to fucking do with it all, and personally, you know I never…The way I feel, and the group of people I’ve had to work with my whole life, you…You see a Confederate flag out there that says ‘Heritage, not hate.’ I’m not so sure I’m buying into that, you know?”

If this man, a man who has a somewhat checkered past when it comes to racial politics, can evolve to a dramatically self aware place on this topic, than what does it say about us all? When the dust settles, think on it, allow your soul to search. These symbols shouldn’t matter. Like my friends, I should have better things to do, but I can can’t stop thinking or soul searching. Now if only this fucking dust would settle.

Sour Grapes

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Sometimes, you reach a point when you realize you’re just….done. And now, I’m just plain done listening to musicians complain. Amateurs complain about how people don’t support the “scene”, or woefully contemplate why they aren’t breaking through when the truth is that they aren’t contributing anything special or innovative. I am done hearing mid-level bands bitch about how band “X” is inexplicably selling tons of records and selling out shows, but they can’t even land a decent support slot. “That band sucks! We crush them! I don’t get it.” Damn right, you don’t get it. I am really done listening to rich rock stars of yesteryear’s glory days whine about downloading and how kids today have ruined the music industry.

Whether you are in a local band trying to build any kind of audience, or in a signed, touring, established act trying to stay afloat in constantly changing times, or a millionaire dejected that music alone will not afford you that 2nd vacation home or 3rd Bentley, I’ve noticed that musicians do lots of fucking complaining. Maybe it’s a rock and metal thing. You guys love complaining so much, that people complain for me. After I wrote my piece about the demise of NWOAHM, several people scoffed at the idea that I postulated that maybe God Forbid wasn’t good enough. I didn’t say we weren’t, but just entertained the possibility that we weren’t. They have to assert a lack of fairness is built into the system so that the truly “great” bands will be periodically overlooked. That sounds like Conspiracy Theory 101 to me.

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Doc’s Top 10 Records of 2014

For some reason or another, no metal website asked me for my top albums list this year, so I figured I would release the list on my own. I should probably include a few disclaimers beforehand: First, I listed my favorite albums that I have listened to in the last year, not necessarily the albums that were released within the calendar year of 2014. Secondly, this was a really great year for music and heavy music in particular, and frankly I just didn’t have time to check out everything. I know Machine Head and Slipknot and many other bands put out killer records, but it would be disingenuous to put them on my list when I haven’t really dug in and spent time with the albums like I would like to. Thirdly, I am listing my favorite albums regardless of genre. There are two kinds of music: good and bad.

10. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
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Supergroups rarely pan out how we hope they will. Killer Be Killed is one of the few exceptions where the end product is the perfect meeting point of what you envision the individual artists will bring to the table based on their original band’s influence. The meat and potatoes of the music is more Sepultura than anything, but I suspect Greg Pusciato on 2nd guitar had a hand in reinforcing the modernized thrash direction. In an era of musicians striving for brainy, cold instrumental and computational perfection, it was refreshing to hear something that just crushed inside your gut. Visceral and joyous.

 

9. Nothing More – Nothing More
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I first heard of this band when Metalsucks.net posted a blog attempting to shit on the band. I checked it out and was blown away. It sounded a bit like some of the more radio-oriented “Active Rock” that is so common these days, but there was something next level about this band. When people ask me what Nothing More sound like, I say Mars Volta meets Sevendust. I am patting myself on the back for such an accurate description as I type this. This album is pretty good, but they have one GREAT song, “This Is The Time (Ballast)”. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

 

8. Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion
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Although I had listened to this record a bit earlier in the summer, I didn’t fully appreciate this album until my friend Luke began playing it on repeat, and I became hooked. I feel like genre titles can often be used as weapons to discredit bands. Animals as Leaders is so much above a limiting genre name like “Djent”. The musicianship is obviously in an elite stratosphere, but the playing rarely feels self indulgent. These are compositions that take us on an emotional journey. For me, it hearkens back to Steve Vai’s Alien Love Secrets, which was my gold standard for virtuosic instrumental guitar albums.

 

7. Opeth – Pale Communion
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Opeth are one of a few bands that, for the vast majority of their career, every creative move made was unimpeachable. They could do no wrong. None of us could argue with Mikael’s genius. Admittedly though, I didn’t really like Heritage. It wasn’t bad music per se. It just seemed noodly, aloof, and lacked the hooks and somber quality of what we think of as Opeth. Pale Communion isn’t any heavier or metallic than Heritage, but it just feels more like Opeth. Which is just that…a feeling. The atmosphere they create is so distinct, to be in it is intoxicating if you are a true fan. They are masters of creating that feeling.

 

6. In Search of Sun – The World is Yours
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I get sent lots of music from bands via social media; Links to Bandcamps, Reverbnation sites, Soundcloud, and Youtube clips of up and comers. I try to listen to everything. Surprisingly, most stuff is good, but rarely great. In Search of Sun’s manager sent me one of these links to the title track “The World Is Yours”, and I was blown away. It’s a heavy metal hit. If you aren’t listening to this band, you are fucking up. To me, they are 2014’s Twelve Foot Ninja. Not that they sound like 12FN, but they are on a similar trajectory of doing something dynamic, fresh, with tremendous command of their craft, and still remembered to write an actual song. It’s an antidepressant in a world of downer metal.

 

5. Wovenwar – Wovenwar
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I almost feel like this pick is skewed, because like many of you guys, I was rooting for this band to succeed from the jump. I still wore this damn album out because it’s so fucking good. Musically, it’s not dissimilar from As I Lay Dying, but clearly this band felt limited by the tropes of Metalcore, i.e., incessant screams and breakdowns. Because the arduous circumstances ending As I Lay Dying, these guys had a long time to work on the material. That time paid off because you can hear the work that went into sculpting and molding every detail of the instrumentation, arrangement, and production of these songs. I am really proud of how this band persevered, and turned something negative into something positive.

 

4. Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu
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I really discovered Gary Clark Jr. when I was working for the NBA  at the beginning of 2014. Christina Aguilera was supposed to perform at halftime at the All Star Game. She canceled, and GCJ was one of the artists chosen to perform in addition to doing the National Anthem with a slide guitar. He was incredible, and I fell in love with Blak and Blu. The album is pretty much half Blues and half slickly produced Pop infused R&B. Needless to say, I gravitated to the Blues tunes. This album and the song in particular, “When My Train Pulls In”, was the soundtrack to my journey driving cross-country when I moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Gary Clark Jr’s Blues helped get me through the challenging journey.

 

3. Bad Rabbits – American Love
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I have one person to thank for my fandom of Bad Rabbits, Mike “Scuzz” Scuilara, whom I was playing with in Unearth and also plays drums in Extinction A.D. Bad Rabbits reminds me of some of my favorite R&B from the 80’s and early 90’s. Morris Day and the Time, Bobby Brown, Rick James, Tony! Toni! Tone!, etc. These are party jams. If you know me, you know I like to party with the best of ’em. The thing that sets Bad Rabbits apart from modern “Urban” music is that they are a real band. No drum loops or samples. Just great players with a great singer. Check out “Can’t Fool Me” if you want to smile, and go watch the band live. Spectacular show!

 

2. At The Gates – At War With Reality
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It’s difficult to talk about the new At The Gates album without mentioning last year’s Carcass reunion album, Surgical Steel. There are too many parallels not to draw a comparison. Both bands were probably equally the most influential Melodic Death Metal bands off all time, broke up relatively at the same time, both became more popular and legendary after they split, and now they’ve both managed to put out classic quality albums nearly 20 years apart, which seems like an impossible task. There have been countless imitators, clones, wannabes, including the guy writing this, but something about these 5 guys playing together that just sounds caustic and medieval in a way that is supremely unique and filled with character. Color me lucky because I NEVER thought there would be new records by either of these bands; let alone great records.

 

1. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
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This album came out in 2013, but I supposed in my mature age, some things tend to find their way to me after the fact. Now, I’m going to do something the makes me look really stupid. I’m going to compare Bring Me The Horizon to the Beatles. Aside from being British, both bands started as more style than substance and evolved into true artists and innovators. BMTH hasn’t made their Abbey Road yet, but they have made their Revolver. In my humblest of opinions, Sempiternal is the first true classic of the Scenester, Warped Tour, Altpress, “Boy bands with guitars” genre. I can’t even tell most of those bands apart, but this record moved me. I felt that thing I felt when a truly powerful heavy record makes you punch your steering wheel when you are listening in your car, and head nodding hard as fuck on the subway with your earbuds in. I felt like a kid again. There is real passion in these songs, and I am glad that someone is moving the needle and thinking big, even if I’m late to the party.

Rebel Noise Group Plan November East Coast Dates

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The East Coast chapter of Rebel Noise Group has booked a few Tri-State area gigs for November 2014. If you aren’t familiar with RNG, it is an All Star collective of professional Metal and Rock musicians lead by Doc Coyle whose current and former members include Tommy Vext (Divine Heresy, Snot), Kenneth Schalk (Candiria, Fuel), Kyle Konkiel, (Scar The Martyr, In This Moment), Ben Robbins (Gypsyhawk), Dave Mondragon (E-town Concrete, 40 Below Summer), Nick Serr (Lies Beneath, resoultion15), Moe Watson (Some Stranger, Deadwater Drowning), Mark Dollar (Lil Wayne), and Steve Perlmaster (Starkiller, Vext). Rebel Noise Group plays 90’s to modern Hard Rock and Metal, but this is not your average bar band. The performances are passionate and powerful, unlike any cover show you’ve seen.

Nov 21 – Queens, NY @ Blackthorn
Nov 22 – Clifton, NJ @ Dingbatz
Nov 26 – Brooklyn, NY @ Knitting Factory