Gretchen

About Gretchen

I live for breakdowns, I'm stuck in the heyday of metalcore. Symphonic, progressive, and when I need to dumb it down... 80's glam. Will crowdsurf for beer. If I tell you my favorite band, you'll probably hate me.

Review: SEVENTH WONDER – ‘Tiara’

It has been eight years since the release of their last full length, “The Great Escape,” so “highly anticipated” is an understatement for their fifth record. The Swedish, melodic and progressive metal phenomenon, Seventh Wonder are finally ready to grace the world with their latest musical endeavor from Frontiers Music s.r.l. One one hand, eight years is quite some time. But on the other hand, vocalist Tommy Karevik joined Kamelot in 2012. Perhaps that may be the greatest reason of all for such a delay. No longer must we wait though, as “Tiara” drops on October 12th.

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State Of The Art: Florida’s CHOROSPHERE

*This is part of our State Of The Art series, showcasing bands every Monday from the featured state. This month’s state is Florida.*

Groovy. Progressive. Symphonic. It sounds like it comes straight out of Scandinavia. However, this all comes from the brain of one man from Jacksonville, Florida. His name is Andrew Howington and his project is called Chorosphere. Howington plays every instrument, programs, writes, sings and probably gives exceptional life advice. The amount of depth and flavor in Chorosphere is akin to the orchestration done by Ayreon, Epica, Sonata Arctica and  Mayan.   Continue reading

What I Learned From A Juggalo [Exclusive Interview]

It would be amiss to glaze over the utter confusion that fell upon many as the announcement of the fourth installment of Camden’s Rock Allegiance lineup was revealed. Sure, heavy on the nu-metal, plenty of the current up and comers, but right in the middle of the ad mat sits one that raised more than a few eyebrows. Insane Clown Posse. Admittedly, I laughed and sent out a few snarky text messages in response to it all. ICP? With their “whoop whoops” and their Faygo at a rock and metal festival? Either utter insanity on Danny Wimmer’s part, or pure genius… there was some investigating to be done before drawing any conclusions.

Perhaps it was fate, but somehow through the Metal Nexus community, there lay an answer to every question, even ones unknown. Oddly enough, these words of wisdom came from a dude in a bikini. Mankini, as he is called. Mankini resides in Maryland and he is a world class Juggalo. That last sentence is not facetious whatsoever. Mankini was featured in a BBC documentary, “The World’s Most Extreme Festivals: The Gathering of the Juggalos.” He takes the apprehensive British host around the Gathering, telling tales, debunking myths and setting a really positive tone to a people who are often stereotyped for delinquency and debauchery.

We had the pleasure of speaking with Mankini about his introduction to the fam-uh-ly, experience with the Gathering and other festivals and he even reveals his favorite kind of Faygo. This exclusive interview is only here on Metal Nexus, please enjoy.

 

METAL NEXUS: The BBC documentary about The World’s Most Extreme Festivals that focused on The Gathering put you front and center as a voice and personal tour guide for Juggalos. Which we have to add you spend the entirety of the festival in a bikini, thus your moniker “Mankini”… How has it been placed in an almost ambassador role for the Juggalo community?

MANKINI: Aww man, that’s a crazy one. I always look back on that and think, “What is life? Did that really happen?” And it did, it really happened and in my honest opinion, it was truly amazing, not only for me, but Juggalos as a whole.

It’s funny you bring up “ambassador” when talking about Mankini. This all started on accident during a beer pong tournament at the Gathering, one year prior to the documentary. It was hilarious to me, and everyone else. But, it quickly became “my thing” because the Juggalos embraced it so hard, the bikini became a staple. So, when we talk about ambassador, I guess you could say the Juggalos did that, they let Mankini be, and wanted more of him, and they allowed Mankini to have a voice that’s constantly in the media talking about us. And, cameras of any sort seem to be rather fond of a guy in a bikini. Let’s not forget that I love my Juggalo family and do everything in my power to paint our community in a positive light, anytime I have the chance. Mankini exists because of the Juggalos, there wouldn’t be a Mankini otherwise, my sole duty is to continue spreading this Juggalo love whenever possible.

MN: What has been the best and worst things you have endured in regards to your normal festival attire aka the bikini?

MANKINI: The best? I’ve been pulled on stage, I’ve had some of my favorite musicians pull ME ASIDE and take a photo with me…. that’s completely surreal. Worst? Man, I don’t even want to go in to details, but being a half black dude, in a bikini does not always draw the kindest comments. I’ve had some HEAVY slurs thrown my way. And don’t get me wrong, 99% of the time, it’s nothing but positivity. But when that 1% hits, it hits hard with hate and ignorance. I ignore it, it’s what you’ve got to do.

MN: What drew you to the juggalo community? Was it just the music or was there more to it than that?

MANKINI: It was the music, initially. I remember in high school when a buddy of mine said, “you know what, I think you’d really like Insane Clown Posse.” I had no idea what he was talking about, it was completely foreign to me. So, I went to a friends house and got on Napster and downloaded a song he said I had to hear “Still Stabbin.” I highly recommend it to anyone who has never listened to ICP. But, I heard that song, and I was pulled in immediately, I can’t tell you what drew me to them from that song, but I know that’s upon first listen, I instantly wanted more. I went and picked up the only album I could find, The Great Milenko, which had already been out for more than a couple of years. That album changed me forever, it was the only thing I listened to for 3 months straight. Thus began my journey into all things ICP. It wouldn’t be until 11 years later that I made it to my first Gathering ever. And that’s when everything really hit me. I had been to shows before, met local Juggalos, and even friended a few online. But once I hit the Gathering, I found something I didn’t know I was missing. I found that hike away from, where all of my extended family had been meeting up all the years prior. But I’ll tell you, it all starts with that music, and I really can’t put my finger on what it was, but there was something that just called to me, and told me “you belong” and I never looked back. Man, I love my mother fucking Juggalo family!

MN: You are just returning from this years The Gathering of the Juggalos in Ohio which in addition to Juggalo acts also featured CKY, Butcher Babies, Attila, and Gwar. How do you feel this festival compares to festivals like Rock Allegiance?

MANKINI: I’ll say this in, in what I feel the realest answer is. The Gathering is the last of the truly independent, truly about freedom, most accepting music festival in the country.

Don’t get me wrong, I attend all kinds of festivals, and man do I love going to them! But they are not the Gathering. They don’t have the camping literally on the grounds of the festival, the Gathering doesn’t have $16 beers because you bring your own. The Gathering doesn’t charge you an arm and a leg for simple access to their festival. The Gathering kinda has no rules, kinda. There’s obviously rules, but they’re much more guidelines simply there for your safety and the safety of others. It’s one giant party that doesn’t stop for 4 days….literally. You think a guy in a bikini is fun, there’s people at the Gathering, and I mean more than 50 people, who just walk around naked all week, it’s freedom and it’s fun.

And I’m not knocking Rock Allegiance at all, but it’s a different beast, with a different audience. Juggalos will show up to Rock Allegiance for ICP. Metal heads won’t show up to the Gathering for Gwar, CKY, Butcher Babies, Sevendust, or even Cannibal Corpse. The Gathering is something special.

MN: From the documentary you were featured in we also heard about the “year of the butthole”, can you tell us about that? And what was it this year?

MANKINI: Hahahahahahahahaha! This is why Juggalos are so great. That wasn’t like the official theme of the year, that was all done online by Juggalos. It gained traction online in all the Juggalo forums, and took off for real as soon a as we hit the Gathering grounds. Actually, that was the 17th annual, the year of the butterfly, and there’s a whole story there, but I don’t think we have the time for that one. This years theme was Whoopstock, embracing the peace and love of the Juggalo community and spreading it like never before. We even had cover bands of actual Woodstock performers. There was a Hendrix Cover band, a Grateful Dead cover band, even a Santana cover band. It was really cool.

MN: ICP is slated to perform at this year’s Rock Allegiance festival on October 6th in Camden, New Jersey. How do you feel they fit in on a lineup that is predominantly rock or metal?

MANKINI: In actuality, ICP belong at that festival. I mean, ICP have got to be one of the few acts that can perform at rap or metal fest and still do damn good.  Not to mention, ICP have been doing this for 30 years, these guys are well known, despite the hatred they get. I think they fit in perfectly! And, I assure you, there will be mosh pits.

MN: Metalheads and juggalos sometimes clash, what do you think some misconceptions are that keep them from being more friendly?

MANKINI: Well, I think the biggest one is, we can’t get along because our tastes in music are so far from each other, we never see eye to eye on anything. I can tell you firsthand, as being someone who loves both metal and rap, both sides are actually kinda similar. I’ve met plenty of Metalheads that are insanely accepting, of everything, and many of them even talk about their love of Juggalos. I also think that Juggalos are very weary of just letting metalheads into our community, while there may be some “things” you see from and around Juggalos, metalheads can carry a pretty bad reputation too. Honestly, I think we can all get along, if we just kinda talk it out first.

MN: When did you realize that ICP fans are more than just music fans?

MANKINI: Shit! After my first ICP show. I’ll never forget walking into this club in DC, with my buddy, and literally being welcomed by everybody in the room. The fact that I was at the show, made me their friend…er, family, and it was the coolest, most sincere feeling.

MN: As most of us know Faygo is the favored drink of Juggalos, what is your favorite faygo flavor? …… For people that are unaware can you explain what a Faygo Armageddon is and should we expect one at Rock Allegiance?

MANKINI: Favorite flavor? 60/40, it’s like a grapefruit lime soda, It’s fucking delicious. A Faygo Armageddon is the culmination of an ICP set. Throughout the entire they will throw and spray and Faygo, but during the last song it goes completely ape shit bonkers! In many cases, Juggalos bum rush the stage to throw the soda as well. We’re talking cases and cases of Faygo being sprayed and thrown rapidly, it’s like splash mountain on acid!

MN: You’ve been to plenty of metal festivals, what has been some of your favorites?

MANKINI: Rock On The Range is probably top of that list. And not just because Mankini is so insanely accepted and loved there, but because it feels like my Gathering before the Gathering, and I treat it as such. I’m actually hitting Louder Than Life for the first time ever, and I’m super stoked to be there! There is one that I really need to hit, and that’s Wacken Open Air, in Germany. Next year is their 30th anniversary of that festival and I really want to check it out….I wonder how they’ll take Mankini at a European metal fest???

MN: Other than the lineup and/or bands performing, what are some of the most important aspects of a festival to you?

MANKINI: Food offered. I’m a fat kid, I love food, good food at that. You bring the good eats, I’ll bring my feet’s. Vendors. If you have a bunch of insanely corporate vendors at your festival, I really don’t care what you’re about then, because you’ve made it clear you only care about money. I’m all about independent vendors, artists, young musicians, Fuck Cancer (I love that whole crew by the way).

MN: With the exception of ICP, who is your favorite band performing at Rock Allegiance?

MANKINI: I’ve got to give you two… Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach. I’ve always loved the both of those bands and have followed their careers for many years, and will continue to do so. They’re going to throw it the fuck down! And I can wait.

MN: As you well know Rock Allegiance is ran by Danny Wimmer Presents who promotes some of the largest and most revered festivals in the country. How important is it do you think that ICP is making its way onto the stage of a mainstream kind of festival?

MANKINI: I mean, these guys played Woodstock 99. They also go on nationwide tours every year, they even tour overseas and in Canada. I know that festival is critically panned for all the violence and everything else that went down there. But, it was one helluva festival when it happened. But, this is huge too, insanely huge. I’ve always said that DWP needs to start booking ICP on their festivals, these guys absolutely kill any stage they touch, and the set is always a crazy party. Hopefully we get more DWP/ICP from this.

MN: So for all the naysayers and metalheads out there that are totally against ICP performing at a rock or metal festival like Rock Allegiance, what is your pitch to them to check the band out when they perform?

MANKINI: Come, come see the greatest show you’ll ever see. It has clowns, freaks, zombies and weirdos. ICP will literally blow your mind with their set, and you won’t even know what to do afterwards. I promise, you’ll be pleasantly surprised, and definitely soaked in Faygo…so don’t forget to bring something to keep your phone safe. I challenge you all to step outside of your box, and try something different.

MN: Last but not least, have you chosen what bikini you will be wearing to this event yet?

MANKINI: Not yet….but there’s still time. It’ll definitely be sexy.

Aside from being an incredible sport and tremendously fun interview, Mankini made some remarks that really resonate. Namely, the community aspect of scenes. Whether one is a Juggalo, metalhead or a country fan, there should be an unsung honor within our respective scenes. Juggalos preach for “family.” There is no judgement, no hierarchy and really no reason to banish anyone. I have been attending metal shows for over a decade now, and whole heartedly admit my guilt in the following. There is a definite elitism that is very apparent in metal. It could be a “my taste is better than yours” or the thought that has crossed my own mind an embarrassing amount of times, “this is only your 5th show? Well, it’s my 17th.” In this thinking there is primal flaw. It doesn’t matter if one loves Norwegian black metal, 9 string prog or war history power metal. We are all playing on the same team. A victory for one is a victory for all. We all like heavy riffs, for god’s sake. The Juggalos don’t care if this is your first or your millionth Gathering, so why should we think less of someone for not being into metal long enough or liking more mainstream bands? If you’re at a metal show, you’re part of the crew.

Going into this interview, I struggled to believe that much substance would come from something that was seemingly very lighthearted and fun. But living with it for a bit and allowing these thoughts marinate, it ended up as a critical retrospective for my identity as a metalhead and the metal scene as a whole. With a new found respect for Juggalos and an agenda to be open, welcoming and positive. Shows are where we go to get away from work, school, relationship issues and anything else that sucks in life. Let’s just all enjoy a good beer, listening to some heavy shit and have a great time.

I will likely not be wearing clown makeup to Rock Allegiance, however, I will certainly take the time to check out Insane Clown Posse’s set. If you STILL haven’t purchased your tickets yet, it’s not too late, and you can do so right here. The festival is right around the corner and yes, Mankini WILL be making an appearance. Details for his meet and greet to come. 

 

Rock Allegiance Artist Showcase: SYLAR

From Queens, New York, Sylar brings a head-bobbing groove to this year’s Rock Allegiance festival. Their current sound reflects a fusion of rap-rock with heavy modern riffs harkens back to the early 2000’s influences that nu-metal brought to the table. Sylar came to fruition by the hands of singer Jayson Panesso and drummer Thomas Veroutis. Currently signed to Hopeless Records, they are set to release their third full length, “Seasons,” on October 5th.

Their first EP, “Deadbeat” will likely appeal more to a more hardcore audience and two full lengths in between bridge the gap to where the band currently is. Early material was produced by Beartooth frontman, Caleb Shomo, whom Sylar will tour with this fall, one of the stops being Rock Allegiance in Camden, New Jersey. You can check out our previous interview with the band here.

Sylar do an excellent job in paying homage to a major influence, Linkin Park in 2017 when they released a single of their cover of “Points of Authority.” Heavy, aggressive and sometimes unforgiving, Sylar find the perfect balance between chaos and composure. Panesso’s vocals carry a tune that glazes the beatdown riffs with something sweet.

October 6th, in Camden, NJ, Sylar will be a part of the fourth annual Rock Allegiance festival. Tickets are still for sale and can be purchased here, with some fabulous VIP options as well.

State of the Art: West Virginia’s ASTRAEUS

 

Smart, yet intoxicating riffs travel through the speakers as an easy brush of arpeggios lift one into another world where all things are neatly and perfectly packaged into sonic bites of progressive wonder. Charleston, West Virginia is the homeland of Astraeus. If you can’t already tell, they are excellent. Continue reading

Rock Allegiance 2018 Spotlight: FROM ASHES TO NEW

Nu-metal is undoubtedly swinging back into the forefront and From Ashes To New is breathing new life into the 20+ year old musical subgenre. Elements of rap introduced with catchy radio friendly vocals and melodies make for an extremely palatable lead-in to rock and heavier music. Continue reading

Rock Allegiance 2018 Spotlight: KNOCKED LOOSE

Have you ever just been standing there, minding your own when someone jump kicks your teeth into your skull? That’s exactly what Knocked Loose sounds like. These riffs are so grimy and down tuned so low that the neck of the guitar might as well snap due to lack of tension. They make you want to take a bite out of the sidewalk.

Perhaps the heaviest thing that Kentucky has every produced, Knocked Loose has been cranking out filth since around 2012 with their current lineup. Lead by vocalist, Bryan Garris, Cole Crutchfield and Isaac Hale on guitars, Kevin Otten on bass and on drums, Kevin Kaine. Their metalcore/hardcore revival outfit is currently signed with Pure Noise Records, with one full length, “Laugh Tracks” that was released in the fall of 2016. It was masterfully produced by Will Putney of Fit For An Autopsy whose done work with Body Count, Every Time I Die, Thy Art is Murder, etc.

Knocked Loose is currently making their rounds on a select few dates of the last inception of Warped Tour. Their very first US headlining run was earlier this Spring, alongside Terror and Jesus Piece. This band has been turning heads in the scene ever since their LP dropped. These breakdowns are so heavy the floor nearly caves in. Vocalist Garris prefaces the “Counting Worms” breakdown by barking. This might be the best way to announce a breakdown since 2004 when Unearth called “BREAKDOWN” before it came down in “This Lying World.”

They are definitely one of the hardest bands on the 2018 lineup of Rock Allegiance and arguably one of the most important bands to check out at said festival. Do not leave your vans and dad hats at home.

Knocked Loose will be playing alongside Avenged Sevenfold, Limp Bizkit and Papa Roach on October 6th, in Camden, NJ.

Tickets for Rock Allegiance are on sale right here and VIP packages are still available.

State Of The Art: Indiana’s THE IRON GATES [EP Stream]


*This is a part of our State Of The Art series, showcasing bands every Monday from the featured state.*

This month’s state is Indiana!


It’s 2018 and yes, metalcore is still strong. The Iron Gates from Indianapolis, Indiana dropped their debut EP this past February and celebrated by playing with Darkest Hour. “The Story Thus Far” is a four song powerhouse that is reminiscent of the wonderful mid-2000’s east coast metal and hardcore crossover.

The Iron Gates formed in 2009, and their sound strongly reflects that; a statement given with respect, as the pinnacle of modern metalcore was among those surrounding years. Nailed by blast beats from drummer, Erik Flaskerud, and a taste of melodic European death metal and power metal riffs, the listener is quickly flooded with memories of perfected Shadows Fall licks and God Forbid-style uninhibited vocals by Dustin Savage. Early As I Lay Dying is channeled in track three, “The Huntress,” with a riff that drives the entirety of the song and a chorus doesn’t need clean vocals to be catchy. Guitar duo, Matt Strakis and Brian Nichols sound like they should be on the cover of Guitar World… tomorrow! The low end is incredibly tight and clean, courtesy of bassist, Brandon Lytle. Continue reading

SEETHER Announces Poison The Parish Fall Tour Dates ft. TREMONTI

Hard rock group, Seether, is to embark on a short run in the United States this coming fall. The upcoming tour is in support of their 2017 release, ‘Poison the Parish’, the bands’ seventh LP. The tour will hit the east coast and midwest cities, beginning in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina on September 13th and wrapping up in Des Moines, Iowa on October 5th. Joining Seether for these shows is acclaimed guitarist, Mark Tremonti’s own band, Tremonti

Tour routing is as follows:

Sept 13 – Myrtle Beach, SC @ House of Blues
Sept 15 – Philadelphia, PA @ Electric Factory
Sept 17 – Norfolk, VA @ The NorVa
Sept 18 – Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live!
Sept 20 – Montclair, NJ @ The Wellmont Theater
Sept 21 – Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino
Sept 22 – Clayton, NY @ Cerow Recreation Park
Sept 24 – Cleveland, OH @ Agora Theatre and Ballroom
Sept 25 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Stage AE
Oct 2 – Mobile, AL @ Soul Kitchen
Oct 5 – Des Moines, IA @ 7 Flags Event Center

Tickets, VIP packages and information are all available here and will be on sale this Friday, June 22.

Review: BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME – ‘Automata II’

Between the Buried and Me are undeniably, the premier act of the progressive metal subgenre. They have spent the past 15+ years honing their expertise on their respective instruments and rewriting what is musically possible. It has been scientifically proven that one’s IQ increases after listening to a BTBAM record. Continue reading