From Ashes Rise [I]Nightmares[/I] Review

Joining the likes of label-mates Strike Anywhere, these transplanted Nashvillians are purveyors of a dark and heinous brand of buzz saw metallic hardcore. It’s angry, intense and political as hell, just the way a good punk rock record is supposed to be. The full-frontal dual vocal/guitar assault of Brad Boatsright and John Wilkerson is anchored by blistering backbeats of Billy Davis and Dave Atchison. While containing all the requisite elements, this is not by-the-numbers hardcore. Like English punk rock gods Conflict, From Ashes Rise incorporate mood and atmosphere and even the odd piano fill to break the monotony of the 240 BPS pounding that far too many bands think are all that’s needed to be considered punk.

From Ashes Rise Interview

The incendiary, political hardcore band From Ashes Rise formed about seven years ago in Nashville. After releasing two LPs, signing with Jade Tree last year, and with all members now residing in Portland, OR, they’re once again taking the band seriously as a full-time commitment. Happily, FAR doesn’t have members living on opposite coasts anymore, which in the past made for a rather "dysfunctional" situation.
I got the lowdown from guitarist John Wilkerson while his band-/housemates were jamming in the basement (possibly rehearsing material off their new, intensely angry album NIGHTMARES).

SKRATCH: I was at the Discharge show, and someone had a No Parade [FAR side project] shirt. You recorded a Discharge song. Which one?
JOHN: I think a long time ago we did "A Hell on Earth". It’s funny about the Discharge thing still sort of being a band [...] It’s a band we all took to heart, especially the lyrics. They were all anti-war, and when we recorded [their song], it was [during] the second wave of bombings in Iraq under Clinton—and now it’s the same thing again, so it’s sort of strange they’re coming back playing. I don’t know how good they’d beæif they WERE good. It’s cool to see a No Parade shirt and what [a big influence] that band would become on us and other bands [...] I didn’t have an opportunity to see them when I would want to. They were awful in the late ’80s! So now it’s just like a different band. [But] I’m sure those guys are going to make good money.

SKRATCH: What was the impetus for forming the band to just play music or to spread your ideas?
JOHN: Basically, everybody in FAR grew up in the southern part of the U.S. Brad and I grew up in Mississippi. There [were few] people that were into do-it-yourself hardcore. To meet people was really hard. One time I went to a show, met Brad, and we became friends, and then he moved to Tennessee. I was bored here, so I moved there. I guess it started like: everybody loved music and wanted to play. Our lyrics in the beginning were definitely political, but personal. Then the more we grew, the more we were all into anarchism and reading books and trying to become more intelligent and tell people about what we think. It’s basically gone from personal to political to more mad as hell at everything. It became more of a voice. People would come up and talk to us about our lyricsækids saying they used our lyrics in some high school class as an example of prose or poetry, and that’s amazing. We started out of sheer boredom; and nobody else was doing it where we were from. There was Cop-Out, who were inspiring us, and then His Hero Is Gone, who became friends of ours [...] but there wasn’t shit in the southern U.S. at the time we started. [...] Our lyrics on the new record focus mostly on war, because it’s such an atrocity—and the only voice, the catharsis we have, is to sing about it. And that’s something people can never sing about enough because it’s constantly going on. As we’re talking on the phone, there are people getting bombed to death or God only knows. We don’t have any idea what’s going on. We forget about conflicts in the Middle East other than what’s on our TVs, [...] other parts of the world where government money’s going into killing people.

SKRATCH: Right and we don’t know ANYTHING. We’re kept in the dark.
JOHN: I couldn’t even begin to talk intellectually about things that are going on, because most of it is [filtered] out. There’s so much gatekeeping of information [...] It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to the point where we can keep people so dumb. I think Vietnam taught everybody a lesson. There were so many uprisings, people seeing babies being blown to bits, women running with their children on fire—that [for] the next war we learned. So now they’ve just set a great precedent about how to keep people from knowing. That kind of stuff keeps us going and just pisses us off more. Just know there’s a voice, and there’s still people that care.

SKRATCH: Your lyrics, they’re rather bleak, but they expose society’s ills. Do you see them as being positive, as well?
JOHN: Yeah, I think as a band we’re all extremely happy people, and we enjoy our friends, we enjoy being part of what we have and knowing that what we have won’t last forever, whether it be our band or our lives. But we are also mad as hell about stuff—injustices against our friends, our families, people that we have no idea who they are, just for a right to be able to live. And it’s just…[our lyrics] are bleak, in the sense that I think there’s still enough pop songs on major radio that will completely bury [the truth]. Even if every underground band sang about anti-war and stuff like that, there’s still enough fodder that you would never know. But we’re all good people and happy people, and we love life. It’s just that people get fucked over so much that it makes us mad—and [music] is our way to deal with it.

SKRATCH: What do you want people to come away with after hearing your music?
JOHN: To know it’s about four people who enjoy what they’re doing and try to make a difference on a personal level. And that if people can’t play music or can’t create music, they can listen to us and feel like they’re part of it. That’s the thing: when we play live and people see us, it makes them want to sing and be a part of it. It’s touched them in a way that they feel they want to scream, too. That’s basically what I want people to do: to hear what we have to say. If people don’t like it, then that’s fine; but if it makes them want to scream and want to be pissed off and want to be part of FAR, that’s the ultimate goal. All I’ve ever wanted is just for people to understand and to feel that there are still people who want to give people a voice and interact and share it.

SKRATCH: How would you say your sound has changed from record to record?
JOHN: It’s definitely gotten less metal, in some ways. There’s no double bass anymore. It’s definitely got more rock and a little bit more on songwriting and structure and stuff like that. So [...] in ways it’s stayed the same stylistically, but certain elements have left. And I’d definitely say the more metal element is fading—but it’s still there. The average person [would have] no idea what the style of hardcore we play. They’d probably be like, "Oh, this is heavy metal," and I’m like, "No, it’s not heavy metal." But I’m sure you could play it for your average person and they’d be, "Yeah, I like Metallica!" or something. [...]

SKRATCH: How do you describe your sound? It’s just like socio-politically-aware hardcore punk.
JOHN: [Laughs] That’s probably about as good…Punk-metal? I don’t know. The guy who records us, he was like, "You guys are just, like, punk-metal"—and, well, that’s better than "metal-tinged hardcore." I guess it’s just four people playing what we think hardcore sounds like. There are people in this town who think we’re way too emo, but we’re like, "We’re not emo at all." Whatever. We definitely don’t sound like Discharge. But I guess it’s hardcore, gloomy hardcore. I’m not sure! [Laughs]

SKRATCH: What’s with all the bands with the words "from" and "ashes" in their names?
JOHN: Oh, man, I don’t know! From Autumn to Ashes happened like two years after we got together, and they’re huge now. It’s so weird, because I remember seeing…I think at the time they were just this really small kind of emo band, and we’re like, "What is going on?" Whenever we came up with [our name], I don’t think anybody had any idea. I mean, "From Ashes Rise," it’s just a fragment. And then all of a sudden From Autumn to Ashes. I wish those guys the best of luck, but damn if they didn’t try to steal our name!

Check www.jadetree.com for details about FAR’s U.S. tour from November 14 to December 14, when they’ll be hitting most major cities in support of NIGHTMARES. Contact FAR at concreteandsteel@hotmail.com.

FROM ASHES RISE "NIGHTMARES" LP/CD (JT1088) RELEASED TODAY

FROM ASHES RISE Nightmares LP/CD (JT1088) is released today. Be among the first to own the brutality and pick up Nightmares immediately. Fetishists will surely freak on the vinyl version of this record, which includes foil stamping and blood red vinyl.

FROM ASHES RISE will also be out on the road across the US with a tour that begins in mid-November and continues through December.

Please consult the From Ashes Rise for current dates.

John Wilkerson of From Ashes Rise

There’s just something special about a band, be it punk, hardcore, thrash, ska, et al., who play excellent music AND have something of importance to say. How many dime a dozen bands are there that just keep on singing about boring, clichéd topics over and over again that make you want to tear your stereo out of the wall and throw it as hard as you can against the wall? So what your girlfriend left you. Suck it up and get on with it. Well, happily, there are still bands around who deal with greater issues like exposing society’s/government’s ills and offering solutions like those greats Discharge and Conflict, including a band I was lucky enough to speak with: From Ashes Rise. Not only do they play an infectious brand of mind-blowing hardcore, they supplement it with worthwhile socio-political lyrics that make you want to get up and fight for change. This is definitely a band that, if anything, will get you thinking about what’s going on in the world.

The long and winding history of From Ashes Rise is a bit complicated with all the moves and line-up changes endured over the years. While speaking with John Wilkerson, who shares vocal and guitar duties with Brad Boatright, he tried his best to succinctly summarize their sordid past, explaining that the band began about seven years ago in Nashville and that he, Brad, and drummer Dave Atchison have been in the band since its inception. Through the years, there have been some line-up changes, namely a couple of different bassists, as well as a singer at one point. Billy Davis, the current bass player and member of Tragedy, had been the band’s second bassist and then moved out to Portland, OR. “It’s really strange because we all lived there in Nashville and he lived out here so it was kind of functional and dysfunctional for a little while because he would either have to come [to Nashville] for practice or we would go [to Portland] and it…got to be where whenever we would go out on tour, we’d come out [to Portland].” John reasons the rest of the band probably moved from Nashville to Oregon, following Billy, in order to keep the band going “because we didn’t have a bass player and there were not really that many options…Billy moved out here and I think we all needed a change.” He concludes that Portland was a more ideal locale than Nashville anyway at the time. Now all the guys actually reside in the same house, so that’s a far cry from having to cross an entire continent just to be able to rehearse, and John simply says they’re a more “functional band again.” So since all the guys finally moved out to Portland – John was the last to go, having just settled down about seven months ago – and signed to Jade Tree at the end of last year, they are taking the band more seriously as a full-time commitment.

John and vocalist/guitarist Brad, both originally from Mississippi, met at a show and formed a friendship quickly since down south there weren’t many people into punk or DIY hardcore. Brad moved to Tennessee, and John soon followed because he was so bored in Mississippi. I had to know why they formed the band, being that so much of their importance lies in the politically-charged lyrics. At first was it just to play music or as a means to spread their ideas about injustices in our society? “We started out of sheer boredom,” he says matter-of-factly, continuing, “Everybody loved music and wanted to play, and our lyrics in the beginning were definitely political, but personal. The more we grew, the more we were all into anarchism…and trying to become more intelligent and [telling] people about what we think. It’s basically gone from personal to political to more mad-as-hell at everything.” And he sounds extremely touched – as he should be – when relating how kids actually come up to the band “saying they used our lyrics in some high school class as an example of prose or poetry.”

And now the lyrics on their latest release, the groundbreaking "Nightmares", “focus mostly on war because it’s such an atrocity and the only voice, the catharsis we have, is to sing about it.” He adds, “And that’s something people can sing about never enough because it’s constantly going on…there’s people getting bombed to death or god only knows, we don’t have any idea what’s going on” because the truth is kept from us lowly commoners. Stunned, he elaborates: “It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to the point where [the government] can keep people so dumb.” And all this “just pisses us off more.” In greater detail, John says “I think some of the lyrics now have gotten a little stripped down and extremely angry just because in the last year the way the world is and…there being so much protest over the war that it was hard as hell not to think of that.” He finds the whole situation “really disheartening” and feels that the band’s lyrics probably won’t change anything, “but it’s still one of those things that lets people know we’re still pissed off and we’re not going to sing about roses and…love just because everybody [does] that.”

Sure they’re mad, and rightly so, but John’s quick to note no matter how bleak FAR’s lyrics may be, “we’re all extremely happy people” who “love life,” but he adds, “It’s just people get fucked over so much it makes us mad,” and creating music and sharing beliefs is how they find some sort of consolation. Likewise, the band’s goal has nothing to do with how many records they sell or anything like that, but rather is much more profound. They just want their listeners to know “that there are still people that want to give people a voice…and share it."

And now, upon signing with Jade Tree, they will be able to have even more people hear their music. Yet, joining forces with the label wasn’t instantaneous on FAR’s part. First off, the guys really couldn’t fathom that this label would be interested in working with a bludgeoning hardcore band since pretty much no other bands on their roster are comparable to FAR. But, the foursome decided the guys at Jade Tree were serious and felt it would be good to try something different. John says, “It’s kind of a science experiment” and of course, some punk purists were up in arms after they signed with the label. “We’ve got an awful lot of shit from some people about going from a complete DIY background to [Jade Tree], even though these guys are totally DIY, they just have at this point all their shit together.” But the band was willing to forego punk “cred” or what have you, in order to have more people hear their record and its inherently angry, thought-provoking message. John expounds, “We thought maybe our record would be more important lyrically or musically than some of the other crap…If a ten-year-old kid in Des Moines can hear my record and like it and it’ll inspire him,” then it’s all worth it.

The great late ‘70s/early ‘80s U.K. band Discharge was a big influence on the band – they even recorded one of the legendary hardcore punks’ songs a while back, “A Hell on Earth”. “Discharge are great and we love [them]. They’re probably the most amazing for as being as simple as they are, that band and The Ramones…they have absolutely the most minimalist approach to music and it still stands up. It’s definitely a band that’s been there for us and I’m sure every other anti-war punk band or peace punk type band,” adding, “It’s a band we all took to heart, especially the lyrics. They were anti-war, and when we recorded it, it was the second wave of bombings in Iraq under Clinton and now it’s the same thing again.” Well, the way he speaks, it seems that he – and Brad, of course – were some of the lucky few who were into punk and hardcore when they were younger. “I grew up in central Mississippi so punk was still kind of taboo in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s,” he says. “You didn’t know three people who had Misfits records and if anybody did and their parents found them, they probably would have thrown them out.”

It is true that from record to record FAR’s sound has changed a bit. It’s lost some of the metal edge, but it’s still unbelievably aggressive and dark, complementing the dire, angry lyrics and screamed vocals so well. As John says, “There’s no double bass anymore; it’s definitely got more rock and a little bit more on songwriting and structure and stuff like that.” How true. Just listen to any track off "Nightmares", especially the unsurpassable “The Last Goodbye”, which is the most intricate, complex, and affecting song on the record and “The Inner Beast”, another elaborate offering. However, John still insists they’re hard as fuck. “The average person if they heard it and had no idea what the style of hardcore we play is, they’d [say], ‘Oh, this is heavy metal.’” Yet, on the other side of the spectrum, he claims some people in Portland actually accuse the band of being too emo. That’s a riot. Their music is simply straight-up brutal hardcore punk with screamed, urgent vocals, crushing guitars, pummeling bass, and vicious drums. John rests his case by simply declaring, “It’s just four people playing what we think hardcore sounds like. We definitely don’t sound like Discharge, but I guess it’s hardcore – gloomy hardcore.”

And this band has been quite busy recently. Not only have they signed to Jade Tree, just released their third full-length, the aforementioned "Nightmares", put out a split with Swedish hardcore maniacs Victims on Felix von Havoc’s label – Havoc Records (www.havocrex.com for details), they’re also ready to head out on the road for a U.S. tour. They’ll be heading out November 14th for a month-long stint, hitting mostly every major city along the way except the Deep South. On a couple of dates, they’ll be playing with DFB, a band from Japan probably in Providence, Philadelphia, and New York. Speaking of New York, John says they’ll be playing the tiny but lovely ABC No Rio in late November. Check out www.jadetree.com for specific dates and more information.

FROM ASHES RISE "NIGHTMARES" LP/CD (JT1088) NOW AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER

FROM ASHES RISE Nightmares LP/CD (JT1088) is now available for preorder (Released on October 14).

The band will be making an appearance at Pointless Fest this weekend in Philadelphia. Keep an eye on the tour page for other upcoming dates.

August 15: Philadelphia, PA @ First Unitarian Church (2125 Chestnut St) w/ Totalitar, World Inferno Friendship Society, 1905, Del Cielo, Behind Enemy Lines, The Scarlet Letter

Booking: [EMAIL]concreteandsteel@hotmail.com[/EMAIL]

Check out these two MP3s and then go preorder the record!

MP3:

MP3:

From Ashes Rise release teaser

The From Ashes Rise/Victims split has just been released through Havoc Records. From Ashes Rise upcoming full-length, Nightmares, will hit stores on October 14 (Available for pre-order August 12). They are currently preparing for a tour with Strike Anywhere in August. See the dates in the tour section or check with Jade Tree for details.

From Ashes Rise, Are You Fucking Serious?, Unpersons, 7.3.03, Richmond, VA

It’s easy to lose one’s faith in hardcore living somewhere like North Carolina. While I’m never really hard up for good music thanks to mail order, the internet and a few good record stores here in town, the good bands all seem to be a million miles away. I think that’s at least part of the reason why, as of late, I’ve grown so fascinated with Japanese music and obscure early 80s hardcore bands. After all, when current bands aren’t rolling through my local DIY venue with any sort of regularity there’s really no difference between a Gauze record and a Tear It Up record sitting on my turntable; they’re both just records, rather than symbolic connections with other human beings with whom I have had significant contact.

However, no amount of vinyl can ever recreate the wonder that is the live hardcore show, and despite the fact that it’s one of the busiest times of my life I decided that I was going to get myself out of town and see some hardcore shows this summer. Tonight I found myself heading to the same building where I’ve seen countless amazing shows for more than half a decade now, the building formerly known as Twisters and 929 but now going by the name of Nanci Raygun. To tell the truth, I think that Nanci Raygun is the best of this building’s incarnations yet; with a much more DIY feel than Twisters ever had and lacking all the stiffness that ruined the vibe at 929, I’ve got my fingers crossed that Nanci Raygun will have a long future in that location. If the shows are as amazing as they were tonight they have a good chance, as when something this incredible is going down word is bound to get around.

The first band of the night was Georgia’s Unpersons. While I’ve only seen a handful of hardcore bands from this state over the years nearly every one has been exceptional, and Unpersons may very well be the best of the lot. I suppose there isn’t a lot to do down there but sit around and play guitar as Unpersons’ two guitar players were both virtuosos, not only pulling off blazing metallic solos but wrenching sounds from their instruments that I could hardly recognize as coming from a guitar. The song structures themselves were a great showcase for these guys’ creativity, as most of their pieces careened wildly between City of Caterpillar-esque progressive screamo and Cave In-style space/prog-rock with some catchy, chunky Nirvana-style power chord bits thrown in every once in a while for good measure. If any of the aforementioned styles appeal to you at all I definitely suggest checking Unpersons out, because they’re one of a very few abrasive, metal-tinged punk bands (the others would be Neurosis and Converge) that have the potential to appeal to just about anyone with good taste in music.

Second on the bill were a Richmond thrash band that I was excited to see, the strangely-named Are You Fucking Serious? To refer to this band merely as a thrash group is to do them a great disservice; while their brand of hardcore never stops chugging for one second, the whole thing is full of tons of flourishes that make the music totally unique. First of all, the band’s equipment gives them a sound that is certainly their own (mostly because no other band would probably want it); with a batch of equipment that featured practice amps, pawn shop guitars and a microphone jammed into a plastic scythe, Are You Fucking Serious? would probably beg that very question of your average Guitar Center employee, but the connoisseur of vintage hardcore will be intrigued by a certain Husker Du-ish flair in the thinness of AYFS?’s sound. Definitely one to keep an eye on.

Finally, after two amazing sets came the headliners, Portland’s From Ashes Rise. Despite the fact that these guys have built up a very big name for themselves all over the country I hadn’t yet heard more than a few recorded tracks from them, though their intimate connection to the His Hero Is Gone/Tragedy/Deathreat scene clued me in that the band were probably going to play heavy, slightly melodic hardcore and that was indeed the case. Coming off like the perfect combination of the three aforementioned bands, From Ashes Rise take the melodic lead guitar from Tragedy (without playing that gimmick to death like Tragedy does), the pummeling rhythms of His Hero Is Gone and the old-school hardcore intensity of Deathreat to forge a sound that would no doubt appeal to fans of all three bands. While their live set didn’t quite get the emotional response I’ve heard that Tragedy can draw out of a crowd, there was a ton of dancing and a crowd full of smiling faces when the band finished their set.

With three bands playing totally unique and individual styles and all three of them being completely awesome, my belief that 2003 is one of the best years for music in ages has extended its reach to cover not only the pop punk and power pop scenes, but the underground hardcore scene as well. Sure, there will always be bands all over the world content to copy what’s come before, but tonight’s show proved that there is more than enough quality hardcore out there for those who are willing to look, and with incredible bands like these just waiting to be found, you can be sure that I’ll be looking as hard as I possibly can.

FROM ASHES RISE / VICTIMS SPLIT RELEASED

FROM ASHES RISE new split release with Victims has just been released on Havoc Records and includes awesome cover art by the renowned Pushead. This split was recorded a while back, but it will give fans a little teaser until the band’s latest, Nightmares LP/CD (JT1088) arrives in stores on October 14 (Available for pre-order August 12). The band is on tour right now and will head out for dates with STRIKE ANYWHER in August.

Please consult the From Ashes Rise for current dates.

FROM ASHES RISE "NIGHTMARES" LP/CD (JT1088) RELEASE DATE AND TRACK LISTING ANNOUNCED

FROM ASHES RISE Nightmares LP/CD (JT1088) release date and track listing is finally confirmed. The awesome new album will be available for preorder August 12 and released on October 14. The track listing can be found below. The band is currently on a US tour, so do not miss the chance to hear some of the blazing new material live.

FROM ASHES RISE Nightmares Track Listing

1. Reaction
2. Hell in the Darkness
3. They
4. The Final Goodbye
5. On the Fray
6. Nightmares
7. Noise
8. The Inner Beast
9. Interlude
10. The Mandate
11. Bloodlust
12. In a Free Land

Please consult the From Ashes Rise for current dates.

FROM ASHES RISE ENTERS THE STUDIO, ANNOUNCES TOUR DATES

FROM ASHES RISE is about to begin recording with Matt Bayles (Blood Brothers, Isis) at Studio Litho in Seattle, WA, for their upcoming NIGHTMARES LP/CD (JT1088). Once the band exits the studio, they begin thundering across the states in a pre-emptive strike, before continuing on dates with STRIKE ANYWHERE in August, with a full-scale tour to follow the album?s release.

Please consult the From Ashes Rise for current dates.

FROM ASHES RISE AND JADE TREE JOIN FORCES

From Ashes Rise and Jade Tree have joined forces to form the partnership of the century!

Over five years, two and half full-lengths, and several US and European tours, this Nashville, Tennessee-reared four-piece has evolved beyond the boundaries of hardcore punk with its hammering thrash and abrasive edges that scream with both discomfort and harmony. The collective power of From Ashes Rise’s blazing musical force and socio-political lyrics have resulted in a devastating aural assault that has made From Ashes Rise an unparalleled band in the scene today. During their existence, From Ashes Rise has also spawned or coexisted with other such luminous bands as Deaththreat, Tragedy, No Parade and World Burns To Death. From Ashes Rise will begin working on a brand new full-length in 2003.

From Ashes Rise [I]Nightmares[/I] Review

Those who have followed From Ashes Rise since their humble beginnings as His Hero Is Gone-alikes may be slightly thrown for a loop upon initial plug-in to Nightmares . The Matt Bayles (Isis, The Blood Brothers) production job requires a bit of an adjustment as, quite frankly, this band has always employed those shitty wind tunnel recordings and it’s a downright shock to hear them in full clarity. But it doesn’t take more than three or four listens to get over the surprise and then it’s all adrenalin rush from there. Ferocious punk/hardcore that lays to shuddering waste all those phony metalcore bands; this is the deserved by-product of metal and punk, so fuck anyone who muddles up such a lethal concoction. Now based in Portland (by way of Tennessee), From Ashes Rise currently sit in the awkward position of touring with decidedly poppier bands like Strike Anywhere and Dillinger Four. Somehow I can’t see the skate-happy punk fans of those bands jiving too hard on post-apocalyptic soundscapes like "The Final Goodbye" and "On the Fray" but, by the same token, this album never completely forgoes atmosphere for pure speed rush. The alternating vocals and dual guitar bombardment, along with a lock-tight rhythm section, puts Nightmares right near the top of my favorite albums of 2003 list. Can I hear a "fuck yeah"?