Live Review: SERVERS, Barnsley Rock & Blues, 13th December 2014

SERVERS - Barnsley - 13Dec14
Photo (C) Graeme Blackwell, Skin Back Alley

Over the last 12 months SERVERS have very carefully crafted a style all of their own. It permeates all that they do. The music, their videos, their live shows. It is all enveloping and fully captivating; a beautifully melancholic air, tinged with doom and destruction, occasionally shot through with chinks of light.

If it all sounds a little gloomy though, on this cold winter night at the Barnsley Rock & Blues venue, SERVERS Xmas Party – billed as a celebration of all that has transpired over the last year – aims to put that straight.

As SERVERS take to the stage bathed in the glow of a dim string of lights that echo the band’s video for “Claustrophobia”, decked out in their now familiar black hoodies, the tension in the room begins to ramp up. The sound of debut album Leave With Us’ spoken word samples emanate from the PA, and the assembled throng await the first rush of music.

Proving that they have a healthy capacity for humour in amongst the serious-minded nature of their music, the sample deliberately falters and cuts to the immortal line from Home Alone 2’s parody gangster film, Angels With Filthy Souls. “Merry Christmas ya’ filthy animals!” shouts actor Ralph Foody, as the band launch out of the starting blocks with a blistering rendition of “Run With Foxes.”

The pace doesn’t let up as the opening gambit is swiftly followed up with “King Things” and the first live airing of new track “Bodies In The Ground”, both of which sound superb in the confines of the intimate room.

“Save Me From Myself” slows things down and yet builds things up with its rumbling, rolling riff, and then the epic “Dangerous Devotion” simply blows the place apart and has us wondering how good it would sound in a large venue backed by an orchestra. But let’s not go all Metallica on everybody just yet, hey.

Another inspired, genial seasonal surprise follows as frontman Lee Storrar takes us back to our childhoods and reminds us how to play pass the parcel. “When the music stops you take a layer off, yeah?” And without further ado SERVERS set sail with “Mega High” and launch said parcel in to the audience. The band stop dead in strategic places, paper flying (along with the gifts hidden within), and sooner or later there’s little left but grinning faces. “Is it done? Have you finished?” asks Storrar. “Good, ’cause this song is killing me!”

Scorching takes on “Claustrophobia”, “Once I Started”, “Mother’s Grave – Leave With Us” and then SERVERS’ debut single “Universes & Supernovas (The Ride)” follow, the latter a more than fitting ending to the band’s live shows in 2014, coming – as it does – almost a year to the day since its original release.

A tight, joyous and incendiary blast, delivered with style by one of Yorkshire’s finest rock bands, SERVERS host an Xmas Party to remember and – wisely – leave us wanting more.

Here’s to what SERVERS have in store for 2015. For now, 2014, consider yourself served.

SERVERS played:

“Run With The Foxes”
“King Things”
“Bodies In The Ground”
“Save Me From Myself”
“Dangerous Devotion”
“Mega High”
“Claustrophobia”
“Once I Started”
“Mother’s Grave – Leave With Us”
“Universes & Supernovas (The Ride)”

Check out Servers’ official video for track “Claustrophobia” below:

Read Skin Back Alley’s exclusive year end interview with the band here.

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Skin Back Alley’s Top Albums of 2014

SBA Top Albums Of 2014-001

Anyone who says that 2014 hasn’t been a great year for music simply isn’t looking – or listening – hard enough. In fact, with each and every year that passes, the late broadcaster John Peel’s answer to the perennial question “What has been the best year for music?” seems more and more appropriate. When asked, he would reportedly answer simply and in that instantly recognisable voice each and every year, “Last year. And the year before that.”

As the debate about digital music distribution continues, and artists and labels argue about the best way to ensure that their music reaches our ears and still makes money, the most forward thinking bands, singers and songwriters are finding their audiences by ever more direct ways and means, and fans old and new are connecting with that music in new and myriad different ways. Putting the commercial aspects of the industry to one side for a moment however, the last 12 months have seen rich pickings for those prepared to seek them out.

So, without further ado, here are the Skin Back Alley picks of the vintage that was 2014. Feast your eyes and ears, and let us know what you think.

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servers_leave_with_us1. SERVERS – Leave With Us
Eschewing the philosophy of heavy for heavy’s sake, Barnsley based kings of cult SERVERS unveiled their remarkable debut album right back at the beginning of the year. Leave With Us arrived in February, indisputably well-crafted and undeniably fully formed, delivering densely layered arrangements that exist in an abrasive rock space, but that never sacrifice melody along the way. Debut single “Universes and Supernovas (The Ride)” set out the band’s stall in its up tempo blast of squally punk attitude, bolted on to a melodic hook that is, well, supernova in size.
Later in the year “Claustrophobia” proved that SERVERS were also capable of off-kilter alternative beauty in the vein of, say, Soundgarden’s cross-over smash “Black Hole Sun.” Collaborator Mark Latham served up an astonishing video to accompany it, too. But it was Leave With Us’ central epic “Dangerous Devotion” that lingered longest in the heart and mind, building in stature through its early verse and chorus until, in one fell swoop, it knocked us off our feet with its string laden coda, melting our faces along the way.
As if that wasn’t enough, the album was meaty of lyric, too. “[Leave With Us] took a dark lyrical context from conversations in the band and an interest in the subservient nature of people, and how cults or individuals can hold such a power over certain people, to the point of killing others or themselves for a cause. It’s both fascinating and terrifying,” said SERVERS in recent interview with Skin Back Alley. Well quite. Add in their post-millennial image of dark, hooded figures lurking in the murky shadows, and SERVERS proved that they were the real deal, here to stay. As Skin Back Alley was wont to say in our album review: “Both future vision AND past nightmare, Leave With Us is a stunning debut album, and in this time of crisis creation, SERVERS are surely the UK’s finest new rock and metal hope.”
Find out more at: Serversband.co.uk

King 810 Memoirs Cover2. King 810 – Memoirs Of A Murderer
If one thing was certain during 2014, it was that everyone in the rock and metal community had an opinion about King 810’s debut, Memoirs Of A Murderer, most of them seemingly negative. It only took a few moments of searching the net to unearth vast swathes of rubbish written about the crew from Flint, Michigan, who made a heavy, groove-laden, monumental metal racket, spitting lyrics that concerned gun crime, death, the downtrodden and dispossessed, hard lives and even harder hearts.
But accusations of bravado and the glamorising of murder and guns were, to these ears, hugely wide of the mark. Memoirs… certainly does not exist to shout “Look at me! Aren’t I clever and cool with a gun in my pocket!” As Skin Back Alley noted in its piece on the LP, the album “…does not boast or beautify. No, this album is run through with dread, fear, regret, the hardening of hearts and the sure knowledge that to be prepared and carry a gun is to become something less than human at the same time as being the only way to survive.”
Frontman and chief songwriter David Gunn revealed himself to be a master poet and lyricist in his missives which were presented as if they were the recorded memoirs of the album’s title, and an expert in delivering them in shocking, vivid, venomous and brilliantly realised vignettes. If defined as something creative that gets under your skin and makes you reconsider your world view, then Memoirs Of A Murderer proved itself to be nothing short of art.
Find out more at: King810.com

Birds Of Satan3. The Birds Of Satan – The Birds Of Satan
By the time November of this year rolled around, the world of rock was all about one band. You couldn’t open a magazine, navigate to a website or switch on HBO without hearing mention of Sonic Highways, the new album (and documentary series) from Foo Fighters. But whilst Skin Back Alley remained ever so slightly underwhelmed by Grohl & Co’s eighth LP, it was his stick wielding colleague, drummer Taylor Hawkins, who delivered the real rock gold back in April.
Teaming up with guitarist Mick Murphy (of My Ruin, Neanderthal and Chevy Metal fame) and bassist Wiley Hodgden (also a Chevy Metal alumnus), The Birds Of Satan delivered a boundary-hopping, rule-breaking, category-defying rock n’ roll masterpiece.
The chemistry evident on the band’s eponymous debut was undeniable, the three men (with a little help from their friends) hopping, skipping and jumping through select styles with a vintage sound that was full of unabashed joy. Murphy’s guitar wrangling was particularly impressive, providing several of the LPs high points in the tones, textures, rhythms and solos that propel the album along.
Consistently talked about in the press as a Hawkins side-project, the album felt far more substantial than that. As Skin Back Alley noted at the time of release: “…Contrary to popular belief, the Devil doesn’t have all the best tunes. Take a stroll over to his aviary, however, and you might just find them there.”
The band remained fairly low-key for the rest of the year, with just fleeting live performances and a couple of TV spots on US talk show Last Call With Carson Daly. A new, non-album track “Be The Bird” slipped out with literally no warning in September, and all has been quiet on the Western front since. Nevertheless, even if this gem of a record proves to be a one-off, you make damn sure you acquaint yourself with it, and sooner rather than later.
Find out more at: Thebirdsofsatan.com

Matt Woods - Brushy Full Size4. Matt Woods – With Love From Brushy Mountain
In a post-modern world, notions of the ‘real’ and the ‘authentic’ fall by the wayside. Thank goodness then for Matt Woods and his album With Love From Brushy Mountain, released in the Spring. Woods’ second LP delivered a rich slab of ‘real’ Americana straight from the heart of Knoxville, Tennessee, mesmerising us in the process.
“I write what is ready to come out and try to be as honest as I can about it,” says Woods of his songs. “A lot of my songs are very much based in classic Country music while others are grounded in straight forward and greasy rock’n’roll.” Yes indeed, and they always seem to arrive with wonderful results.
“If there’s a finer example of a musician bleeding on to record, we’ve yet to hear it,” we noted in our review, and whilst there is nothing brazen or flashy about Woods’ songwriting or musicianship, there is an astonishing amount of the highest quality. You may have guessed that at Skin Back Alley we very much fell in love with With Love From Brushy Mountain.
Find out more at: Therealmattwoods.com

Then Thickens - Death Cap at Anglezarke5. Then Thickens – Deathcap At Anglezarke
On the other side of the Pennines, alternative rock magic was hard at work in the Chorley borough of Anglezarke. A sparsely populated area of Lancashire dominated by open country and a reservoir, the parish proved to be fertile ground for the imagination of Then Thickens. Their resulting debut album as a six-piece was a masterful and atmospheric slice of hazy indie-rock.
Mixing the melodic grunge stylings of the likes of Weezer with a peculiarly British sensibility, Death Cap… delivers an existential Thoreau-esque treatise on growing up in the more rural confines of contemporary England. A heady brew that takes in fuzzed-up guitar, ethereal synth, pounding drums and spectral vocals, Then Thickens’ brand of melodic, mellifluous and yet rough-hewn rock and roll stayed long in the memory.
Chief architect Jon-Lee Martin said in interview with Skin Back Alley: “The songs were kind of put together at random for the record… There wasn’t really much lineage to the choices of the songs.” And yet, serendipitously or otherwise, that overarching sense of returning to the self remained. The group have been back in the studio recently, hard at work on the follow up. We can’t wait to hear the results.
Find out more at: Facebook.com/thenthickens

Miss Shevaughn - LITW6. Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray – Lean Into The Wind
A fine collection of beautifully crafted Cosmic American Music, husband and wife duo Miss Shevaughn & Yuma Wray’s album Lean Into The Wind seems to inhabit the very essence of the term coined by Americana pioneer Gram Parsons.
Both emotionally and politically charged, the music on display runs the gamut from Byrdsian psychedelic jangle, through Appalachian folk textures, past a raucous garage clatter and on to greasier, rockier ground.
“Don’t you cast your eyes down,” implores Miss Shevaughn in album closer “Brush The Dust Off (Lean Into The Wind)”, “Don’t you heed what they say…. Darlin’ you need somewhere to fly. Lean into the wind, we gotta’ keep movin’.”
“It might be natural to wonder who she is singing to following a diagnosis of cervical cancer in January 2013. Is it us, or herself?” we wondered in our review. In the end it didn’t really matter, for here are artists who know what it means to follow your dreams regardless of what may be around the corner.
Find out more at: Missshevaughnyumawray.com

Marmozets Cover7. Marmozets – The Weird & Wonderful Marmozets
The sheer breadth and depth of talent bursting out of Yorkshire and rampaging across the globe this year was phenomenal. In at the heavier end of the vibrant spectrum were Marmozets. Weird & Wonderful? You can count on it. The band’s debut album, released via Roadrunner later in the year, was rightly seized upon by the major music press as a remarkable slab of molten maths metal, rife with huge, crackling stop-start riffs and the agile stylings of frontwoman Becca McIntyre, who proved perfectly capable of shifting between splenetic rage one moment and soaring melody the next.
If anyone had anything contrary to say about the LP it was that it seemed ever so slightly more tame than Marmozets’ legendary live shows that they had been laying on for years prior to being scooped up by a major. But to these ears that mattered not one jot, as it simply refined their sound and showed that the northern upstarts were capable of painting a broad and complex canvas that fired the imagination as much as the heart and hips.
Find out more at: Marmozets.co.uk

Cloud Atlas Beyond The Vale Cover8. Cloud Atlas – Beyond The Vale
Far from being a long extinct dinosaur from a forgotten age, progressive rock proved that in 2014 it is alive, well and still exploring music’s fantastic and expansive outer reaches in fine style. Proof of the fact came in the debut album from Cloud Atlas, the York based band that rose like the proverbial Phoenix from the ashes of previous outfit Stolen Earth.
Questing to realise her singular vision with her own band, head honcho Heidi Widdop set her controls for the heart of the sun, delivering an epic set of songs that tackled subjects metaphorical and philosophical, set against a backdrop of sublime instrumentation from guitarist Martin Ledger, Dave Randall on keys, Stuart Carver on bass and Neil Scott on percussion.
At the forefront of all this was Widdop herself, her astonishing vocals holding the whole thing together like a female version of Soundagarden’s Chris Cornell: all guttural and gritty power combined with exquisite and expert control. Elegantly simple in sound but achingly complex in scope, Beyond The Vale was a real highlight of the latter part of the year.
Find out more at: Cloudatlas.org.uk

Machine Head Bloodstone and Diamonds9. Machine Head – Bloodstone & Diamonds
Alarm bells began to ring earlier this year when Bay Area veterans Machine Head announced that they were cancelling tour dates in order to spend more time in the studio refining their new album. Mainman Robb Flynn talked in terms of knowing that the band had something special and wanting to ensure that it got the attention it deserved. Nevertheless, journos and public alike were wont to wonder.
As it transpired, doubters needn’t have worried. On its release, Bloodstone & Diamonds proved to be something of a mainstream metal instant classic, bringing together everything that Machine Head have done so well for over two decades.
Punishing riffs and gargantuan grooves abounded across the album’s running time, alongside more experimental touches and textures, combining to deliver an immensely satisfying whole that deserved every plaudit it received.
“This is the finest mainstream metal album of 2014 by a huge margin” wrote seasoned metal scribe Dom Lawson in his Guardian review. Agreed, Dominic. Agreed.
Find out more at: Machinehead1.com

Acrania-Totalitarian-Dystopia10. Acrania – Totalitarian Dystopia
“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever” wrote George Orwell in his literary classic, Nineteen Eighty-Four. And now, thanks to the UK’s extreme metal crew Acrania, you know what that future sounds like.
Not for the faint of heart, Totalitarian Dystopia does exactly what it says on the tin, tackling head-on the theme of a totalitarian state endlessly and needlessly crushing the individuality and freedom out of every human soul with unimpeded impunity.
As loud as an erupting volcano, as heavy as a planet and as dense as a black hole, anyone who listened was likely left a gibbering wreck, but the ride proved as thrilling as it did bruising. For those with a taste for the far reaching extremes of heavy music, there was no finer example released this year.
Find out more at: Facebook.com/acraniauk

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Honourable mentions need to go to those albums that have been sitting just outside of our Top 10, but have nevertheless made a significant impression over the past 12 months and spent a great deal of time on the Skin Back Alley stereo:

Distorted Harmony and their brilliant LP Chain Reaction have kept us in contemporary prog rapture for a large part of the year; Amaranthe delivered the best album of their career in Massive Addictive, which did exactly what it said on the tin; Sanctorum’s new full length Old Ghosts/New Wars served up a thrashtastic slice of metal that got its full roadtest on tour with My Ruin in August; Million Empire’s new EP The Lion Tamer proved to be a brilliant slice of alt-rock from Brum; Christina Rubino crafted a life-affirming work of singer-songwriter genius in her (A)Live From The Scrapheap LP which will be the subject of a future article here at SBA; Gandalf’s Fist created Jim Henson’s Labyrinth in prog-rock form with their woodland fantasy A Forest Of Fey; Matty Rockville harked back to prime-era 90’s REM with his gem of a record Chestnut Ave; Sister Sin’s fifth studio album Black Lotus had us pumping fists and playing air guitar like we were in Skid Row; Black Veil Brides’ self titled new release had us praising their songcraft and Bob Rock’s production to all who would listen; Nikki Lane’s All Or Nothin’, John Kilzer’s Hide Away and M.Lockwood Porter’s 27 had us drinking at the well of Americana that somehow never seems to dry up; and finally Panic Room’s new album Incarnate had us soaring on the wings of Anne Marie Helder’s wonderful voice and new guitarist Adam O’Sullivan’s extraordinary solos.

Album Reviews | Live Reviews | News | SBA Lists | The Playlist | Under The Skin | Without A Song

Interview: SERVERS leave with us

Servers-Shoot-2013-DSC0838-001

“We set out with the intention of releasing a solid album that would hopefully stand out from the crowd,” say SERVERS of their sonically stupendous debut album “Leave With Us”, released with little fanfare in February of this year.

The following 12 months saw the Barnsley based band hailed by the music press, play some fierce headline shows and support LA metal band My Ruin on their last ever tour of the UK in August. Add in charity singles, visually stunning videos, a sound like no other band around and an imminent final gig of the year, and we’ve got plenty to talk about.

So we sat down with the self-styled kings of cult to do just that…

SBA: 2014 has been an amazing year for SERVERS following the release of Leave With Us in February. What have your most memorable moments been?

SERVERS: Wow, tough one, there have been so many! Releasing the album on a rejuvenated Undgergroove Records, a label we all have so much respect for; seeing our band get such amazing reviews in the press and being featured in major magazines; playing festivals like Guilfest and gigging with My Ruin were all beyond expectations. But I think the stand out has to be making our live debut at our album release show in Barnsley and it selling out, so much so people were left standing in the room next to the venue to listen. The response and support we get from the local scene never fails to amaze us.

What has the reaction to Leave With Us been like over the last 12 months? It seems to have had a great reception from the gig-going public and some of the rock and metal music press?

We set out with the intention of releasing a solid album that would hopefully stand out from the crowd. The response has been phenomenal – people really seem to get it and relate to it. We did put ourselves out there a bit with the theatrics of the live show, and the concept of the band/album but thankfully it seems to have hit a chord and been bought into which is amazing.

How did SERVERS come together as a group?

Lee S and Lee W have known each other for several years now through our old bands. After Lee S left GU Medicine the intention was to quit music altogether, and he thought his days in music were done. The guitar was left gathering dust for a while, but eventually he couldn’t fight the urge to pick it up again and start putting some tunes together. At that point he asked Lee W if he’d be interested in putting a demo together with Pete at Flatwave Studios and see where it went. Those original demos lit a flame even though they have since become new songs or been forgotten. There was a moment in Flatwave that we remember well when we had a rough draft of “Universes…” – we were just buzzing off its sound and we could see the potential in these songs so it took a more serious turn.

We had been programming the drums up to that point and we knew we needed a real drummer, Ant had just finished with his old band (Disarm), and Lee S had been told about him. He came in to Flatwave for an audition and he knocked us sideways with his skills and his attitude, and we became “SERVERS”.

The enigma that is SERVER #00005 joined us on guitar when it became apparent that we needed a second guitar to make sure the huge sound we’d achieved in the studio translated to the stage. He does a cracking job.

SERVERS have a genuinely unique sound in amongst the current crop of hard rock and metal bands. Did you set out with a plan of what you wanted to sound like as a group when you began?

I don’t think we did. We all have rock/ metal roots so it was bound to have an impact on our overall sound. However with SERVERS our defining concept with the music has always been, if it sounds good to us and it gets us excited to record/play it then it’s OK to be a SERVERS song. I think that’s what helped with the reviews if I am honest. There isn’t a strict formula for SERVERS music; we don’t intentionally start a song with something like “this needs to be heavy or sound like this band”.

To be brutally honest sounding like another band or fitting into a genre/clique is not something we care about. If we have a melody or riff that we buzz off then we will work on it. If it turns out to be a ballad that won’t stop us playing or releasing it because SERVERS is there for everyone and anyone – if someone picks up on a song and loves it as much as us then great, if they don’t, so what?

Leave With Us has a full, layered sound and some incredible arrangements. What was the recording process like for you?

We are so very fortunate to work with Pete at Flatwave Studios for the pre-production on our albums. We loved the idea of being a 3 piece recording band but making something that sounded so much bigger, and the months spent on pre-production allow us to build on things and really focus on the tiniest detail when writing. We are really lucky in being able to work with so many talented people as well in the writing and live phase of the album. With an approach like ours to writing there are never any boundaries, so we can keep tweaking things, hit delete several hundred times, re-record, rearrange, add layers until we are 100% happy with what is there to be recorded.

One of the many things I like about the album is that it exists in an abrasive sounding rock space, but it is also chock full of really strong melodies, too. Is that a fair observation? Was that combination something that you consciously tried to achieve?

It’s a great observation and something we are very proud of. It’s easy to make an album that’s heavy for the sake of heavy and lose that riff or melody that changes the dynamic of an album. It wasn’t intentional – I think it’s more ingrained into what we want to hear in a band’s music, and so it comes out in our album, as at the end of the day all musicians are basically trying to write an album that is perfect for themselves and if others connect with it then it’s all good.

Do you have favourite tracks on the album and did you have a vision of what you wanted to achieve lyrically? “Dangerous Devotion” for me seems to encompass everything that Leave With Us is about: societal crisis, the murky underside of knowledge, power, questions, doubt and, yes, the dangerous side of blind devotion.

Picking a favourite track is hard; I know we all have a favourite track either from an album perspective or a playing live point of view. However, I think music is a personal thing. People connect with different songs for different reasons. They make their own story behind them, so for us to say which is our favourite song wouldn’t be right.

Servers_Shoot_2013_DSC0895

Where did the idea of SERVERS’ hooded, cultish image come from?

The album took a dark lyrical context from conversations in the band and an interest in the subservient nature of people, and how cults or individuals can hold such a power over certain people, to the point of killing others or themselves for a cause. It’s both fascinating and terrifying.

We thought it was important for the band to carry an image that gave an insight into the album. With the emergence of social media these days people are willing to write your band off from a photo without even listening to a single chord of your music, so that’s why we do what we do.

How does the music business now compare to what it was like in the days of GU Medicine? Is it very different?

It’s changed dramatically in my opinion. I suppose it depends on whether or not music is a career move as to whether it’s changed for the better or not, luckily for us it’s not, it’s a passion. So in that respect it’s easier to get your music out there on YouTube, Spotify etc. Downside is that people just float in and out without really buying into a band. People check bands out on social media and most of the time make a snap judgement whether they like them or not.

Music has become a bit like a drive-through… pull up, order and leave. There’s less tendency to linger on one band and become attached or devoted to a band the way it used to happen when listening options were more limited. Now the listener is bombarded with new music… they simply try some then move on. As a result, the majority of people have become detached from the artist because they don’t buy the album, opting to buy single tracks instead…. or maybe a quick view on YouTube.

Lastly the sheer amount of different genres of rock seems to have affected things. There’s no such thing as a straight rock and roll band anymore, but on the other hand the dilution has meant exposure for a larger number of bands. Think what I’m trying to say is that it’s swings and roundabouts. But the underlying thing is don’t ever rely on music to put a roof over your head… just enjoy the ride and try appreciate wherever your musical journey takes you!

As a band you’ve alluded to different messages and meanings hidden in the cover art of your album. Care to enlighten us, or does the mystery remain?

The mystery very much remains. There is a meaning to each and every one of the symbols on the album and there are clues spread across our album booklet and website so the code is breakable, but its over to the SERVERS to work that one out.

Who designed the album cover and how did the collaboration come about?

As I mentioned earlier we are very lucky to have the people around us and supporting us that we do. The album artwork was designed and produced by Pete Thompson at Flatwave. We gave him a concept and idea for a logo and booklet, and let him run free with it. We were really happy with the outcome. It was his idea to hide the message in the logo… (maybe that’s a clue to the question above?)

You released a couple of brilliant videos during the year too, for “Universes & Supernovas (The Ride)” and “Claustrophobia”. How did those come about and who did you work with on them?

Mark Latham produced both our videos. He is such a talented guy and he’s known Lee S for several years from GU Medicine. We sent him early demos of the album and asked if he would like to be involved and luckily he said yes. He storyboarded the videos after discussions at our album photo shoot (which he also did). In “Universes…” we also worked with Lisha Blackhurst who agreed to play the poor girl who unknowingly stumbles into the world of SERVERS in the video.

And how did your cover of the Madness song “Lovestruck” for the Mad Not Cancer charity happen? It must have been quite a challenge to take the iconic sound of Madness and Server-ise it?

We were approached by the Specialized organisation to do the recording as they like to have a lot of different genres involved in their projects. It’s a great cause and we’re honoured to be a part of it. “Lovestruck” was a bit of a mountain to climb in converting it to a SERVERS song, but it had an underlying riff that we knew we could use and make it heavier. We wanted to try keeping the melody but add some “epicness” to it. I hope we achieved that.

You played in support of LA metal veterans My Ruin in August as part of their The Sacred Mood tour. What was that like for you guys?

Unbelievable! Lee S had a relationship with My Ruin from his days in GU Med, so when they asked us to be part of their final tour we jumped at it. We saw them a few times on that tour and loved every minute of the show we did in Bristol. Great venue, Great crowd and hanging with Sanctorum and My Ruin was brilliant.

SERVERS with Tairrie Murphy of My Ruin
SERVERS with Tairrie B. Murphy of My Ruin, August 2014

I’ve heard rumours that a collaboration with Tairrie Murphy from My Ruin is in the works? Can you share anything or is it just rumour at the moment?

Tairrie and Lee S are long time friends. His old band GU Medicine toured with My Ruin on two tours in the UK back in 2006 and he often joined Tairrie on stage to sing the Mudhoney classic “Touch Me I’m Sick” which they covered on their album at the time. They reunited for a 3rd time on stage when SERVERS supported My Ruin in Bristol this past August and had a blast. She really digs the band and suggested it might be fun to write and record an original together, which we agreed and have been working on at the moment via Skype and Dropbox. We’re recording the music and Lee’s vocals here in the UK and Tairrie is recording her parts in the States. We have a cool idea for a video as well to accompany the song once it’s done.

You’ve got an awesome Christmas gig lined up on the 13th December at the Rock & Blues Venue in your hometown of Barnsley. Are you looking forward to it and can we expect any new material at the show?

We are really excited about this show and want to make it a celebration of this past year. It’s a great line up, and it’s the place where it all started for us back in February. The Rock & Blues venue is great, the sound, the people and the stage are all top notch – it will be an awesome night. We are hard at work at the moment on the set and as of right now I can tell you that we will be giving “Bodies In The Ground” its live debut!

It strikes me that there is a massive amount of amazing rock talent in Yorkshire at the moment. SERVERS, Marmozets, Bring Me The Horizon, Allusondrugs, Eureka Machines, The Scaramanga Six, Steel Trees to name but a few. Do you think the breadth and depth of talent has always been here, or do you think something has changed that has allowed these acts to break out and in to the wider consciousness of the music loving public?

There are so many great bands out there; I think the talent has always been lurking. With the internet, social media and digital radio bands are being given a greater platform to work upon and get themselves out there. If bands work hard enough these days there’s no need to rely on big record deals or mainstream press / media to get your name around. The music industry has changed so much these days that the time of DIY is upon us. If you have the quality it will find an audience.

What now for SERVERS? I understand you’ve been back in the studio and writing and recording new material?

We are indeed deep in the throes of writing at the moment. I don’t think we will get out and about much early on in the new year unless something really exciting presents itself as we want to focus on putting out a really strong second album that can better Leave With Us. Not an easy task, but we are confident and all signs so far suggest we can do it.

What would success look like for SERVERS in 2015? What would you like to achieve next year?

We plan to continue to build our profile as a band in 2015, release some great music and hopefully get a bit more exposure on the airwaves and media. It would be real nice to play a few of the big festivals and get a tour going. We’ll see what comes. Like anything in life things can be taken away real quick so it’s all a bonus. Just to be putting music out there that people enjoy and buy into is enough for us. Thanks for your support and giving us the interview!

‘SERVERS Xmas Party’ takes place at Barnsley Rock & Blues on Saturday 13th of December. Tickets are available now via SeeTickets priced at £4.50 each in advance.

Check out SERVERS’ videos for their tracks “Claustrophobia” and “Bodies In The Ground” below:

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Watch! UK rockers SERVERS release video for “Bodies In the Ground”

Servers 640x360

UK cult-rockers SERVERS have released a lyric video for their new song, “Bodies In The Ground.”

The track is lifted from the band’s Claustrophobia EP, released this week.

Check out the video below:

As well as “Bodies In The Ground”, the EP features a cover of the Madness track “Love Struck”, recorded for the Mad Not Cancer charity, as well as a remix of SERVERS’ own song “Universes and Supernovas (The Ride)”.

The EP is available now from iTunes and Amazon, and is also available to stream on Spotify.

Check out Skin Back Alley’s review of SERVERS’ astonishing debut album, “Leave With Us”, here.

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The Sacred Road: on tour with My Ruin, UK, August 2014

My Ruin - Matt Adamson Photography 2014
Photo (C) Andy Watson, DRW Images

“There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone…”

Only this isn’t the Twilight Zone, at least not as we know it; although it proves to be just as inspiring, imaginative, magical and otherworldly. Contrary to the Twilight Zone’s 1950s written narration, it is also a place that welcomes and positively empowers women.

No, this isn’t a TV series cemented firmly in fiction. After all, this revelation won’t be televised. No, this is real. And it is LA metal veterans My Ruin’s last ever UK tour. If you missed it, I’m sorry, but you really did miss out.

Viewed from both inside and out, The Sacred Mood Tour was a Herculean task; something of epic proportion and equally epic struggle, a fact that made the extraordinary, emotional and powerful performances each and every night something very special to behold.

Before the tour even began, My Ruin had to deal with their friend, producer and intended tour drummer, Joel Stooksbury, dislocating his shoulder, meaning that he couldn’t head out on the road. That prompted the recruitment of Matt ‘Frenchie’ LeChevalier, an accomplished drummer and friend of the band who had joined My Ruin on tour previously in 2006. So far, so good. Crisis averted. The show would go on.

Then, just a few short weeks before the tour was due to begin, one promoter defaulted on his contract, prompting cancellation notices to be sent out to fans who had bought tickets for My Ruin’s show in York. Statements were quickly issued by the band, indicating that the show was not in fact cancelled. Tairrie, Mick and their UK contacts had worked like proverbial Trojans to find another promoter and ensure that the gig was all set to go ahead.

Fibbers in York, the renowned Yorkshire venue booked for the tour, then had to close in order to facilitate a relocation, meaning that My Ruin’s show was once again in jeopardy. But once again the stops were pulled out, blood sweat and tears were shed, and the show was re-booked at The Duchess. Thank the gods, and plenty more hard toil, for that.

Another venue closure, this time in Norwich, loomed and threatened, but yes, once again, did not sound the death knell for this now Biblical tale.

The gods of rock had one last trial up their putrid and pernicious sleeves, however.

My Ruin had never made any bones about the fact that The Sacred Mood Tour had been built on the back of their appearance at the UK’s first annual AltFest, set to be a weekend long celebration of alternative music and culture, staged in the beautiful grounds of Broughton House, Kettering. Tairrie, Mick, bassist Luciano Ferrea and Matt LeChevalier were due to play a set on the Metal Stage on the opening day of the event.

With just two weeks before the tour was due to commence, and only one week until the band were due to travel to the UK from across the globe, rumours began to circulate that AltFest was in trouble. An agonising four day wait for any kind of official statement from the festival organisers resulted in what most were expecting: AltFest was indeed cancelled owing to poor financial management.

But as friends and fans will already know, if there’s one band who know how to knuckle down, do the necessary, and ultimately triumph in the face of adversity, it’s My Ruin.

Tairrie and Stitch - Matt Adamson Photography
Photo (C) Matt Adamson Photography

Just a couple of days later, here was the announcement that everyone had been hoping for. AltFest may have let everyone down massively, but My Ruin would not. The Sacred Mood Tour was not cancelled. Indeed, all shows would be going ahead. Not only that, but rather than using the time freed up by AltFest’s demise for their own ends, My Ruin would now team up with UK industrial metal band The Defiled as their very special guests for an exclusive, intimate warm-up show at The Zombie Hut in Corby.

The response from fans across the UK and Europe was loud, clear and simple: “Fuck yeah!”

As a band that have embraced and live by the DIY code, and one with the best part of two decades of experience of doing so under their belt, My Ruin were not about to disappoint the people who were going to break life and limb to see them for one last time on UK shores.

The stages were set; the band were all here; the Blasphemous Girls and Bad-ass Boys wanted their rock n’ roll. It was time to deliver the doom.

oOo

Fittingly, as show time approaches in Corby for My Ruin’s gig with The Defiled, the clouds gather, the sky darkens, thunder rumbles and down comes the rain. It is as if the combined power of LAs and the UKs heavy metal finest have drawn ominous and unsettled energies together above this relatively sedate English town; some kind of signal or beacon; a harbinger of the iron-flecked rock about to be wrought, and wholly appropriate given Corby’s history as a borough built on the production of British steel.

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ “Tupelo” adds to the atmosphere as it rings out on stage and ushers in messrs Murphy, Ferrea and LeChevalier. Cheers and shouts go up as the lights go down, and The 3rd Best Metal Guitarist Of All Time ™ begins a feedback loop and then strikes a power chord, ushering in My Ruin’s mainstay, lyricist, vocalist and frontwoman, Tairrie B. Murphy.

From there it is straight in to the opening track from their 2013 album The Sacred Mood, “Monolith Of Wrath”. As it was with the parent album, so it is with the band’s live show. The song starts with a staccato rhythm and honeyed vocals, before tearing open in to a thundering riff and a full throated scream from Tairrie B., confronting us with “the moonless midnight of my mind.”

The crowd begin to warm up, nodding heads developing into bouncing souls and then a full on circle mosh pit as the Ruiners in the audience begin to lose themselves in some of the band’s most beloved songs.

A short while later and Tairrie approaches the mic with a glint in her eye and an invitation to welcome a guest on to stage. Defiled frontman, Stitch, stalks through the crowd and out in to the spotlight, sheepish grin planted firmly on his face as Tairrie explains that owing to The Defiled not making the venue in time for soundcheck, what is about to follow has never been rehearsed and will be the first time the band and both vocalists have performed together live.

Not that you would ever know it, as the riff now familiar to all Ruiners and Mudhoney fans the world over kicks in to gear, and Tairrie and Stitch belt their way through a punishing, high energy cover of the aforementioned Seattle band’s song “Touch Me, I’m Sick.” If this is the sound of spontaneous, unrehearsed rock, then may all bands be so ill-prepared in the future. It’s an unqualified triumph, and the crowd roar at the song’s close, those here for The Defiled adding their support to the die-hard My Ruin aficionados.

A special guest slot means a slightly shorter set, and it doesn’t feel like too long before Tairrie is thanking the crowd, wishing them well and giving a shout-out to My Ruin’s new found friends in The Defiled. By all accounts, it’s a cracking precursor for what is to come in the days ahead.

A special guest slot also means that the Murphy’s can stick around and catch The Defiled’s set however, as well as chatting to fans old and new, and hanging out with long-standing merch-man, fan, friend, stylist and Tairrie’s “gay husband”, Jack Osborne.

“How was it?” Tairrie asks in conversation after the show. Skin Back Alley offers the opinion that it sounded brilliant to our ears.

“I wasn’t sure if it was really a My Ruin crowd,” she observes. Nevertheless, spirits – including Tairrie’s own – seem high in the Zombie Hut’s band lounge, banter being shared between rock n’ roll comrades, photos being captured and turned in to future memories, accompanied by the hubbub of gear being packed away in to vans for an onward trip to London.

The Sacred Mood Tour is now underway, and My Ruin have kicked down all the barriers put in their way in order to ensure as smooth a passage as possible.

My Ruin - Detune Photography 2014
Photo (C) Doug Rimington, Detune Photography

The following night in Camden, the conditions couldn’t be more different. The Underworld is drenched in sunlight and the queuing fans snake around the outside of The World’s End pub and down towards The Black Heart. The Ruiners may be largely dressed in funereal black, but the conversation is buzzing with stories of meetings with Tairrie and Mick from years gone by, and anticipation of the gig to come. Many can’t believe that this really will be the last time that they get to see their favourite metal band, and the atmosphere is electric; palpable. It is clear that this really IS a My Ruin crowd.

Doors open early, as tonight sees a one-off set from Mick Murphy’s side project, Neanderthal, open proceedings. It means that Murphy, Ferrea and LeChevalier are pulling double duty, but they don’t seem to mind as they pound their way through the groove-fuelled pyrotechnics that allow Murphy to flex his dextrous instrumental muscles. The set is ferocious and immense, “Mi Ruina” sounding particularly blistering. Mick being the man of a thousand faces, tonight the joy in his playing is plain for all to see, and the quality of the music astonishingly high.

Just a short while later, UK metal band Sanctorum take to the Underworld’s stage. The band will be familiar to the My Ruin audience, having supported them on three prior tours. They’re working like demons throughout The Sacred Mood Tour, supporting on every date, as well as acting as backline techs and tour management. The work rate is astounding, and so is their set.

On the verge of releasing a new album at the time of the tour, the set is heavy on songs taken from that new LP, Old Ghosts/New Wars. Every single member of the group delivers the goods in a flail of hair, the thrashing of guitars, the blast beat of drums and the guttural howl of voice. The performances are all the more impressive considering that bassist Matt Adamson couldn’t play a guitar just six months before; something you’d never be able to tell from his solid playing each and every night.

The energy of the band transfers to the audience, as numbers near the stage begin to swell, and limbs and heads begin to writhe. New songs such as “Price To Pay” and “False Idols” are all received with manic moshing and horns aloft, and the set closes out with guitarist Al Commons disappearing in to the crowd and delivering his last solos in the most up-close and personal way possible, just millimetres from gig goers’ faces.

And then it is time for My Ruin to to stand up and be counted, and dear lord do they put on a show.

From the outset it is clear that the band, now headlining their own dates and clearly aware of the emotional pull of their last shows across the UK, mean to perform each and every gig like it will be their last on earth; like their very lives depend on it.

The level of intensity on the part of Tairrie and her fellow musicians is through the roof; an entirely new level to that seen in Corby just the night before. Mrs. Murphy stalks the stage like a woman possessed; perhaps by the spirit of Lady Lazarus whom she calls upon during The Sacred Mood LP; perhaps by the knowledge that My Ruin’s music and lyrics have meant so much to so many for so long, and this might be the last time that her Blasphemous Girls get to see it performed live.

It’s a point Tairrie makes very clearly just a handful of songs in to the longer headline set when she spots an unsuspecting audience member holding their smartphone aloft, apparently filming the entire proceedings.

“Are you filming the show?” she challenges. The response is muted if any comes at all. “Are you filming the show?” she repeats. After what sounds like a sheepish admission from the person in question, Tairrie makes clear that she would rather that everyone live in the moment with the band; enjoy the music right here, right now. Forget cameraphones; forget YouTube; forget crap quality recordings that deliver the poorest quality memory of the experience; forget living vicariously later in the day. Be here now.

The message seems to be heard, and with the Underworld now bursting at the seams, the crowd get in to the groove and the energy flows once more.

Tonight, for the first time on the tour, song dedications come thick and fast. It becomes clear in Camden – and later as the tour progresses – that My Ruin are also using this opportunity to say a huge thank you to all their supporters through the years.

At one point, whilst saying a few very heartfelt words to introduce Mick, Luciano and Matt, and dedicating songs to crew past and present and long time fans of the band, Tairrie’s voice falters for what won’t be the last time during this run of shows. It’s clear that emotion is getting a hold of her; that the reality of the tour is truly sinking in, and there are very nearly tears. The cheers, yelps, arms held high and overwhelming outpouring of love from the crowd just about keep things on the straight and narrow though, and the metal begins once again, headed straight for the stratosphere and beyond.

My Ruin - Photo by Claire Lecari Lickman
Photo (C) Claire ‘Lecari’ Lickman

As the songs continue to flow, My Ruin’s extraordinarily close relationship with their fan base is made clear for all to see. Tairrie frequently leans in to the crowd, sharing hands, hugs and microphone with a hardcore group of Blaspehmous Girls that make their way to each and every show on this tour. Here is a woman who has lived and breathed without compromising herself or her art through a music career spanning over 20 years. As a truly independent woman, exuding attitude, style, vim and vigour, it is no wonder that she has inspired the love and devotion of female metal fans the world over, and plenty of male ones too.

It’s a fact hammered home when the band launch into one of their signature anthems, “Made To Measure”, and the audience erupts. Lyrically, the song is a vitriolic middle finger to all those who dared to judge Murphy on her looks alone, and no doubt rings true to many women in the crowd. Of course, it’s helped massively by the fact that musically, the songs thundering riff and infernal metal groove mean that anyone with a love of heavy music won’t be able to help themselves, headbanging, bouncing, throwing hands in the air and yelling the lyrics back to the band as best their lungs will allow them.

Elsewhere in the set we are treated to songs picked from earlier albums and fan favourites including “Heartsick”, “Blasphemous Girl” and “Beauty Fiend,” all the way through to songs destined to become future classics such as “God Is A Girl With A Butcher Knife” and “Del Riche.” Songs that were never given a chance to live on their own terms by back-stabbing bastards at rotten record companies – such as the awesome “Diggin’ For Ghosts” and “Long Dark Night” – are given a very welcome airing, too.

As the last notes of “Beauty Fiend” ring out at the close of the set, Tairrie asks for the house lights to be brought up. The rapturous applause is deafening, but she makes herself heard and hands are held aloft in undying appreciation as ‘Mrs. M’ takes the opportunity to capture photos of the ecstatic crowd.

With final bows, thank yous and smiles all round, the band stride from the stage triumphant. If this really is their London send-off, then it’s been monumental; an entirely fitting and highly emotional end for a group of musicians – nay artists – whose career has never been short of an exciting mix of passion, energy, raw talent and a healthy amount of controversy, too.

The house lights stay on. Warm, buzzing, sweaty and spent, with more than a little taste of the bittersweet in their mouths, the rabid Ruiners stagger from the Underworld and out in to the night.

“That was FUN!” declares Mick Murphy over drinks at the Black Heart a little later that night. It’s something of an understatement, but the joy is clear on his face as he says it. If spirits had been high in Corby the night before, they’re positively off-the-scale tonight. A punishing tour schedule means that the My Ruin and Sanctorum can’t completely let themselves go, but the mood is relaxed and there are grins everywhere you look.

Nevertheless, there remains a steely focus on the gigs ahead. Come rack or My Ruin, the heavy metal thunder is on it’s way.

My Ruin Camden - Photo by Tairrie B Murphy
Photo (C) Tairrie B. Murphy

oOo

The Sacred Mood Tour rolls out of London and on through Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, York and Norwich. My Ruin deliver night, after night, after night, after night, their brothers in British metal, Sanctorum, with them every step of the way.

The LA metal masters are joined on their journey by some brilliant bands in supporting slots, augmenting each night’s bill and spanning the spectrum of doom, psych, rock and metal. Cohorts include Clan, General, King Goat, Extreme O.D., Nomad, Dead White Doves, Gods of Hellfire and the mighty Servers. Each brings their own unique talent to an already very special set of live shows.

Of course, as with any tour, there continue to be minor bumps in the road along the way. Manchester sees the band accosted post-gig by a group of people who seemingly have no love for metal or Americans; York sees an astonishingly rude ‘welcome’ from the show promoter, resulting in a statement from Tairrie issued via the band’s official Facebook page. Even as the group make their way through the UK’s Heathrow airport to return to the US, it seems that security officials take exception to something – although what is never entirely clear – leaving the band very late for their departing flight, making it by less than the skin of their teeth.

Nevertheless, none of these hiccups dampens mood or spirit. If this really has been My Ruin’s last hurrah – at least as far as the UK is concerned – it’s been one hell of a blowout.

Before they head home, Tairrie writes from the bottom of her heart to all who had come out to a show:

“It’s a bittersweet goodbye as we leave the UK today on a high we have not felt in a long time. Thank you London, Brighton, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, York & Norwich. We will always remember all the amazing fans who came to the shows this last time with their heavy metal hearts filled with rock love along with all the friends (new & old) who spent moments and made memories with us while we were here.”

Well, quite.

United Kingdom, consider yourself Ruined.

Tairrie B Murphy York - Photo by Michelle Nightwitch Penfold
Photo (C) Michelle ‘Nightwitch’ Penfold

Check out Skin Back Alley’s 5/5 review of My Ruin’s latest album, “The Sacred Mood”, here.

Read our review of Sanctorum’s previous album, “Semper Fidelis”, here, and be sure to check out their new album, “Old Ghosts/New Wars”, released today (1st September.)

You can watch My Ruin’s video for their song “Moriendo Renascor”, below:

Tairrie B. Murphy will return…

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