It's hard to know just what to make of the County Medical Examiners.
They're an American gore-grind trio supposedly comprised of "actual" medical examiners who're infatuated with extreme-metal legends Carcass. They use aliases — "as they would probably be expelled from the medical profession for playing the sort of music that they do," according to a recent press release. And their bassist, Dr. Guy Radcliffe, is probably one of the only dudes signed to a metal label who is eligible to collect his Social Security benefits — he's 63 years old.
The County Medical Examiners have never performed live either, leading to speculation that the band is nothing more than an elaborately conceived gimmick. But guitarist Dr. Morton Fairbanks — again, not his real name — promises TCME are the real deal.
"I think people are maybe being polite and don't ask us about it, or they're just suspending their disbelief, but it's not terribly important to us what people think," the good doctor said. "We're a small band and it's a small type of music. We don't want to conquer the world, and even in the realm of gore-grind, our appeal is very limited because we're doing a very specific niche thing. We were more comfortable not even putting our pictures in the CD, to be honest. ... But this kind of attention could damage us in a way, so we have to be kind of careful. It does come across as not true — I do understand that. I hear it all the time. But you just have to take it for what it's worth."
Fairbanks confirmed that Dr. Radcliffe is, in fact, 63 years old. And according to the guitarist, Radcliffe is the most solid musician in the band.
"He's classically trained and he also plays upright bass," he explained. "As far as theory goes, I'm embarrassed to bring him riffs sometimes, because he knows way more theory than I do — his background being jazz. He's by far the best player in the band, and so I feel like we're a little bit spoiled. Guy was attracted to the project just because of how bizarre it is, and I think it's novel to him — the whole metal thing and the extreme-metal gore-grind-type aspect of it. He had never really been exposed to that before."
Fairbanks said he hooked up with Radcliffe and drummer Dr. Jack Putnam several years ago while attending various pathology conferences. But despite their mutual interest in pathology, Fairbanks says TCME are just a glorified Carcass tribute band.
"I started this band because I wanted to emulate Carcass, who I have a deep affection for," he said. "I am a bit of an extremist and do miss Carcass [they split in 1996]. I thought ... we would become, in ways, a tribute band — but take the actual songs and riffs that [Carcass] wrote and find ways of recombining them, almost scientifically, to create new songs that sound in the style but aren't exactly covers. So we're playing covers of songs [Carcass] didn't actually write but could have. The band has a certain appreciation for the fact of how novel it is to completely copy a band but not do cover songs. This is our love letter to this band we miss."
TCME will release their Relapse Records debut, Olidous Operettas, January 23. The CD — which took them more than a year and a half to write and record, since all three bandmembers live in different states — will feature eight tracks, including "Morgagnic Anatomics," "The Virchow Postmortem Procedure" and "Maturating Decompositional Gas."
Fairbanks described the effort as "somewhere between Symphonies of Sickness and Necroticism-era Carcass" and "not something you would want to put on before church." And there's something else to make the disc even more unique, beyond TCME's odd approach to making music. "It will be a scented-face CD, which essentially means it will be scratch-'n'-sniff-able," he said. "Our CD will smell like rotten meat."
Of course, TCME won't be touring anytime soon, but Fairbanks says he wouldn't be opposed to playing a few metal festivals "if I can arrange it and take vacation or something." And he said he expects to lose a few fans once the album is in stores. "We have always been very underground, so anytime you get something small and very unknown that has a core base of fans and you popularize it in any way, no matter how meager, those fans tend to rebel, simply for the fact that it is now known. I'm sure we'll lose some fans, and many more potential listeners will just not get it."
The rest of the week's metal news:
The upcoming Shadows Fall album Threads of Life will include "Redemption," "Burning the Lives," "Another Hero Lost" and "Venomous." The band is currently wrapping up mixing the album with Zeuss (Hatebreed, Unearth). Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Velvet Revolver) produced the disc in Los Angeles at Dave Grohl's Studio 606. "Nick helped us to push our performances to new heights and experiment a lot more with vocal harmonies and guitar layers that have really added new dimensions to these songs," frontman Brian Fair said in a statement. "This record has a real ebb and flow throughout, covering a wide variety of emotions and levels of intensity. There are the full-on thrash tunes, just balls-out and metal, some technical shred tunes and some acoustic melodic moments that offer a nice contrast to the more brutal moments." Threads of Life is scheduled for release in early spring. ... Bloodsimple, which feature former members of Vision of Disorder, are refuting earlier reports that claimed they would be hitting the road with Sevendust and Diecast in February. Bloodsimple say they'll use the time instead to focus on finishing their forthcoming album, which they have been recording with producer Machine (Lamb of God, Clutch). ...
Experimental noise-metal band Today Is the Day have hired drummer Derek Roddy to play on their latest album, Axis of Eden. The group plans to begin recording in February at frontman Steve Austin's studio in Nashville. Roddy has previously played with Hate Eternal, Nile and Malevolent Creation, while Today Is the Day's past drummers have included Mastodon's Bränn Dailor and the Esoteric's Marshall Kilpatric. ... Despised Icon guitarist Yannick St-Amand has left the band to spend more time with his family and concentrate on his career as a studio engineer and producer. There are no hard feelings over his departure, according to a statement from the band. In fact, St-Amand will produce Despised's next album, the recording of which is set to begin January 2. ... Metalcore masters All That Remains will return to the road in early 2007, with Misery Signals, Light This City, Sanctity and Cellador providing support at select shows. Dates start in Huntington, West Virginia, January 23 and run through February 24 in Troy, New York. ... While no dates have been announced yet, Killswitch Engage, DragonForce, Chimaira and He Is Legend are expected to hit the road together early next year. We'll bring you those dates as soon as they're confirmed. ...
Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou will record the new album by Louisville, Kentucky, hardcore-metal band Coliseum in May at his God City Studio in Allston, Massachusetts. Coliseum are currently writing the disc, which they say will combine the intensity of Motörhead's biker metal with the raw hardcore power of G.B.H. and Discharge. "We have eight songs finished or in demo stages now and [are] shooting for around 16 when we enter the studio," frontman Ryan Patterson said. He added: "So far, most of the songs have shaped up to be about death or religion." ... Fu Manchu will hit the road February 28 in San Francisco with Valient Thorr, Seemless and Artimus Pyledriver in support of the band's February 20 LP, We Must Obey. Dates are scheduled through April 11 in Phoenix. ... Type O Negative's next one, Dead Again, will finally surface March 13. They'll perform January 21 at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California. ...
Palehorse, Folsom and Fight Like Hell will tour together starting February 2 in Cedar City, Utah. The trek runs through February 27 in Kansas City, Missouri. ... Hardcore-metal blasters First Blood will launch their first national headlining tour January 5 in Huntington, West Virginia. Dates run through January 31 in Mt. Clemens, Michigan. Support acts include Death Before Dishonor, Bloodlined Calligraphy and Dead Hearts. Recently, First Blood singer Carl Schwartz played bass for Hatebreed while they were touring Europe and the U.S. with Killswitch Engage. Schwartz got the gig while he was vacationing in Berlin with his girlfriend and dropped in at one of Hatebreed's shows just to say hello. "They told me that they needed me on tour with them because Chris [Beattie] injured his hand [on November 9]," Schwartz said in a press release. "I went to my girlfriend's house, grabbed my bag and ended up on tour for the next two weeks." First Blood are touring to support their second disc, Killafornia, which came out in May. ...
Agnostic Front and Madball will team up for a series of Sunshine State gigs next month. The first is set for January 25 in Jacksonville, Florida, followed by a January 26 show in Fort Lauderdale. The bands will be in St. Petersburg the next night and play Orlando January 28. ... French death-and-roll band Phazm will release their second album, Antebellum Death 'N' Roll, January 23. Tracks include "How to Become a God," "Mr. Toodling" and "So White, So Blue, So Cold." The album will be issued on DualDisc and include concert footage from a July 14 show in Nancy, France. ... Oakland, California, post-grunge trio Totimoshi will reissue their third disc, Ladrón, March 23 via Volcom Entertainment. The album originally came out in October on Crucial Blast. Totimoshi will open for Helmet starting January 7 in Pomona, California, and running through February 1 in Los Angeles. ... Christian metal band the Showdown will release their next disc, Temptation Come My Way, February 20. The Elizabethton, Tennessee, band's A Chorus of Obliteration came out in 2004.