Thursday, February 19, 2015

Reviews 2/19/15

[Sarpanitum. Posing in the forest behind Trey Azagthoth's house]

Atomic Aggressor "Sights of Suffering" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

"Cult Chilean legends" Atomic Aggressor return with their debut (I have an older recording of them from the 80s but I'm not going to pretend to know it front to back, I just remember it was brutal!) This is some killer straight forward Death Metal. Reminds me of Terrorizer mixed with Sadistic Intent and probably early Sepultura. Very nice thrashy riffy workout sessions. Drums are quite moshariffic. This is a mosher like the great old Swedish Death metal such as the first Unleashed. Only problem is the lack of solos. I can't understand why a band would shred so hard yet not include more fukked solos all over! There are some solos and they are very good. But more would have been nice. Points were subtracted because of this! But dude, the riffs are very catchy and makes this old fukk wanna mosh!

Excellent to hear such killer music from an old school underground obscure death band. A STRONG come back, and if these fucks step anywhere near my town, I will be there banging with all the other true DEATH FREAKS!

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth "s/t" (Neurot) 6/10

So this is the Tad guy's current band. Tad was a kinda grungy punk-ish band from th 90s. This is a bit darker I guess. Real slow and heavy, nice thick bass tone! Vocals are yelling out from a distance. In other words, they are slightly buried on purpose, and it gives a kind of "suffocating" sort of feel.

Things get real slow and heavy at points. There's some tuvan throat shit going on or something, giving that extra scary movie feel. Kida reminds me of something from Celtic Frost "Monotheist" the way it drags (on purpose). Lots of heavy music like this sucks because the musicians aren't really doing shit but smocking tons of pot and turning up. But a few know the art of manipulating noise in interesting ways. And I would say this band is pretty good at maintaining interest and building dynamics in an intense way.

There's some nice crunchy riffs here and there which gives it a more hardcore metal sort of sound. Overall, not amazing though. Just good and heavy. I think for me what is missing is a strong musical presence. In the form of a voice or a guitar or something. It never quite goes past slightly above average.

Gouge "Beyond Death" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

Dirty fucking death. Primitive. Somewhat droning in the way Hellhammer was. A steady pulse of thrashing death. Reminds me of Autopsy at times. First Entombed comes to mind as well. Some good basic Scandinavian brutal death. This is the way to do it old school, no bullshit. Hells Headbangers does it again.

Satanic Warmaster "Fimbuwinter" (Hells Headbangers) 8/10

Black Metal gets monotonous very easily, due to it's stripped down and singular nature. But at this point the way I see it, any band that can conjure the spirit of Darkthrone's "under a funeral moon" has it right. And this album does it well, conjuring that frozen black metal mayhem. It is not magnifficent, it simply IS.

It actually reminds me at times of killer old BM demos I can't recall. Lots of nice breaks with moody melodic passages. I didn't read the lyrics, but I'm sure I would find something sketchy. I seem to recall a picture of Mr Werewolf saluting a certain evil leader of the past, but not sure how much that is injected here.

Production is very good, but not so clean as to fuck up the cult atmosphere. The problem comes down to the fact that we've heard this many times before. It's more like a potent ritual than it is "new music."

Einherjer "Avv oss, for Oss" (Indie Recordings) 6/10

It has been some time since I checked out a new Einherjer recording. This is because everything I have heard after their first couple recordings was way less interesting. It's like they were blessed by the great Norse gods for a couple years, and then they went the way of YAWN street.

I like the stripped down approach of this recording though, so while it is nothing amazing, it has a very consistent feeling from track to track. The riffs are genrally mid paced or slow in the Bathory sort of way. Although this NEVER even approached Bathory in power. But there is a bit of that old Noric energy felt within the simplistic, slightly melodic tunes. Vcals are very good - just straight forward "troll" style. Well I call it "crab vocals" but people look at me funny when I say that, so let's just say "Troll vocals."

As much as I would like to praise this recording, especially given the bands historical signifficence, I really can't detect much of the power I hear on the first EP. But it's not bad opening music for the headlining act. A band doing more interesting music is Metsetoll.

SARPANITUM Blessed Be My Brothers (Willowtip Records) 8/10

Well SOMEONE has been practicing their instruments! Right off the bat, this recording kinda slaps you in the face with this massive production. I mean it's bloody well done! Like this massive symphony. Very nice vibe created, heavy, powerful and epic.

Once the shit hits the fan, the band reveals its true colors - a technical Death band. Now they aren't quite as insane as these Unique Leader bands, they sound more like they stopped at Nile. In fact, this is very similar to Nile in many ways. There is also a bit of a European, or perhaps melodic Black Metal feel to some of the parts. Dissection creeping in a little? Not enough I'd say. More Dissection guys!

The drums hold a very solid beat at blast speeds. Double bass is like a computer, which is to say it's very fast but SO THE FUCK WHAT? It does sound pretty good though. I like the tones here.

Guitars are very similar to Morbid Angel FFTTF era. Very creative interplay between the two guitars. Clearly lots of work went into this recording. And about 20 years ago this would have been fairly unique. But now it just sounds like unused riffs from the bands I mentioned. And that IS a compliment by the way. Solos just sound like, again, unused Morbid Angel "Domination" solos.

Vocals groan away in a similar way as Nile or Steve Tucker era Morbid Angel. This band has some very interesting moments, but I think it needs to be developed into something more unique. Because all it is right now is Nile with a different mythology used as lyrics.

Xibalba "Tierra Y Libertad" (Southern Lord) 6/10

This is not the black metal band from Mexico, it's the hardcore/grind band from California. I like the whole apocalyptic feeling surrounding the album. It has a sort of 3rd world feeling to it, similar to middle era Sepultura. But it's got the influence of Napalm Death and many other heavy bands I can't place. Middle era Sepultura comes to mind though (chaos AD mainly).

Vocals are yelled in the classic monotone "mid yell" hardcore style, while the drums and guitars are closer to death metal. Some nice grindy slow sections sound particularly death metal influenced. Drums are excellent. Pounding, fairly simplistic, but perfect for the tunes. I get bored though due to the lack of solos and variation of songs. And the music is not impressive enough to really take it over the top. There were many bands like this in the 90s.

Overall this is pretty awesome for a style I don't listen too much to. The production, and in particular the drums, are so well recorded it's kind of a pleasure to listen to. But as far as songs I can't say it's amazing. I'm sure their live shows are a heavy duty sweaty affair though so I may actually check em out some time, but wouldn't go out of my way.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shaxul Embroidery FAQ

I created this blog to answer most of the basic questions people have when they want to order embroidered patches or hats. I know there are many details you are concerned with, so definitely read through everything below as it covers most of the specific questions regarding everything from art work to pricing. Embroidery looks awesome and the process is a lot of fun!


1 - Shaxul, just HOW DID you get an interest in embroidery?
2 - What is digital embroidery?
3 - How do I prepare my artwork for digital embroidery?
4 - How much will my patch/hat cost?
5 - What is the minimum order?
6 - What type of border can I have for my patch?
7 - How big can my embroidery be?
8 - What materials do you use?
9 - Turnaround time?
10 - Do you use metallic thread?

1 - Shaxul, all my friends wanna know...just HOW DID you get an interest in embroidery? I never woulda thought!

I used to sell lots of patches at my store on Haight Street. It was really hard to find old school embroidered metal patches though, and I felt it was my job to find them so people could have one place to go shop in person for killer metal patches. The screened ones look cool, but they tend to lack depth and character when compared to embroidered. This is where my appreciation, and eventual passion for embroidery came from. So I picked up a beginner's Janome home embroidering machine, and the rest is history! In the years since the store closed I've upgraded to a professional 6 needle machine. This enables me to render top quality, professionally embroidered images at a rapid pace. So drop me a line with your orders!

2 - What is digital embroidery?

Embroidery is the process of stitching 2 intertwining threads together to make a knot on the fabric. The knot is sewn underneath the material where it cannot be seen, but it leaves a trail of thread on the top of the fabric which is called the "top stitch." This is what you ultimately see when the image is complete. These stitches function similar to a pixel on your computer screen. But since this is physical thread we are speaking about, there are certain limitations with regard to very small details. However there are tricks of the trade that can be used to mimic such details, sometimes even better than the original art! But mostly it comes down to individual taste. And judging by the billions of sports hats, college logo/motorcycle club jackets, and military patches out there - people dig the way embroidery looks.

There's 2 main types of embroidery. Hand embroidery and digital embroidery. Here's an example of hand embroidery:

As you can see, hand embroidery can be quite nice and neat. But it's really no different than painting or drawing. It's just that we are using thread instead of ink or pencil. So the quality/exactness depends on who is doing it and how well trained they are.

Digital embroidery (what I do) involves feeding a digital image (such as a jpeg) into the computer and converting all the lines to stitch patterns so the machine can stitch it out. As you probably gathered already, this tends to be much faster and more exact in terms of replicating the same image over and over vs hand embroidery, which takes much longer and is far more labor intensive. But again, even with digital embroidery the person handling things needs proper training and a good eye to create an awesome product. Lucky for you, that person is me!

3 - How do I prepare my artwork for digital embroidery?

First, look at your image and try to envision what general shape it is. Most logo patches are a simple rectangle like this:

But other logos can be taller, requiring more of a square or even round shape (like the round Shaxul patch above for example) It's best to minimize dead space on a patch (we don't like dead space. It's a waste of material, a waste of space on a jacket, and looks awkward most of the time). In some cases, a shaped patch is the only border that looks right. But I can assure you - shaped DOES NOT always look the best, even if you think it might be neato! But I can help you make the call if you are not sure.

If your image involves artwork besides lettering/logo (such as album art) keep in mind, larger areas of shading require much more thread/time than simpler logos. So if price is an issue, be sure to keep the logo as simple and neat as possible without extra graphics requiring lots of shading in. Honestly, simple usually looks the best embroidered on a typical standard size patch. Try not to give into the temptation to just do "the whole album cover" because it doesn't always look the best embroidered (unless you blow it up huge and that means more $$$). That being said, some of my favorite patches that I've done are album covers, such as this one:

After all this has been mulled over, decide what size you want it to be. For patches, the best way is to look at another patch that you like the size of. Measure it with a ruler. This way, you can come to me and you already know the exact size you want. It's always best to email me an image (or just use the form on my website) which was saved about the size (or larger) than what you want it to ultimately be once it's done. 300dpi or larger is best to ensure it can be converted cleanly to digital format. Especially if it is very detailed.

For most logo patches, 2.5" to 3.5" width is best. Height will obviously be proportional. Images that are taller require more thread and are typically 2.5" x 2.5 up to 4"x 4". If you are going to go bigger than 4" in any dimension, remember this is going to be getting larger than what most people are used to sewing on their jacket, so be sure your customers WANT a patch that big before making the investment on it. They require WAY more thread and time, so again they can look absolutely badass, but will cost more. (more on size/cost below)

If there are lots of colors in the image (and especially if many of them blend together) this will require more time to setup, since the colors have to be separated before they can be converted. So you want to have your art as clean and color separated as possible before bringing it to me. Of course I am happy to prepare your art and do color separations, but it is $20 per hour. So you will save money by preparing your art first and avoiding a higher setup fee.

Last thing - with regard to lettering - if there is lots of shading/greys, be aware that these may need to be simplified to one or fewer colors, unless 1: letters are very thick or 2: the patches are gonna be bigger than 4" in at least one dimension. The reason is that the material can only handle so many stitches before it starts to get stressed and pinch and look like shite. It may look good nice and big on your computer screen, but remember that the skinny little lines that make that "T" in your logo will be WAY skinnier when it stitches out, and trying to shade in what might be 1mm of stitching ain't gonna happen in physical reality. It will LOOK BETTER if you make it solid 1 color in most cases. This is where we find out if the artist who made your logo was thinking about how hard it would be to duplicate or not ;)

4 - How much will my patch/hat cost?

The markup on patches and hats is quite good. At my store I used to buy them for like $1.50 - $8 each. I'd sell em for $5 - $15 each. Hats would go for $15 - $20. So these types of products have great return, assuming you've got an image people want. For bands, building up your name and having some killer merch with your logo floating around is great promotion.

Since we are dealing with thread and fabric, costs come down to materials and time. Simple logos are the easiest and cheapest. 2.5" - 3.5" are between $2.50 and $4 each depending on complexity of the image. For instance, if there's a lot of detail requiring more thread, it will simply take longer than the exact same size patch with a simpler image. So size is a factor, but so is the type of image. This is why it often is a case by case basis. But hopefully that gives you some idea. If you send me an image, I can have an estimate for you withing 24 hours. Just make sure to include the image, desired size, and quantity.

Larger patches (from 5" x 5" up to 11.8" x 7.9") can be between $5 to $10 each. Here's a larger one I did recently:

Minimum order for patches is 50 pieces. Price breaks are at 100, 200, and 300.

There is a one time setup fee of $20 for all orders. This includes an hour of design work. Most images are no problem. But if the colors are not separated or the image requires quite a bit of adjusting, I may ask you to work on it more or I can just take care of it for $20 per hour. But odds are you don't hafta worry about any of that, I've only had to do that once ;)

Hats have a more limited area to work with. 5"w x 2.4"h is the maximum. With hats, it is particularly important that the image be fairly simple and clear. Avoid lots of text. You don't have much room, so make your LOGO or your picture/mascot the focal point of it.

Remember, this is a small space we are working with so you wanna maximize it with BOLD and simple designs easy to see from a distance. If you got a black metal logo with a million little lines, don't include a forest around it or some old painting in the back - it's gonna look like shite! Costs for hats range from $6.50 to $8. That includes the price of the cap. If you wanna provide caps then I can charge you the patch rate per hat. It would still be a 12 hat minimum and take into account shipping in both directions, which I cannot cover. Besides the cost of the hat, labor is more intensive on them. So they are a bit more overall, but the markup also tends to be higher as well. People like hats. If they like the image on it, they will pay $12-$20 for it.

5 - What is the minimum order?

50 on patches, 12 on hats. Hats are always increments of 12.

6 - What type of border can I have for my patch?

The borders of my patches are created using special heat resistant embroidery thread (used on all patches pictured on this page). A "satin stitch" of 3.5mm is used on most patches. Satin stitches are basically rows of stitching laid down next to one another creating the familiar lines you are used to seeing with baseball hat lettering on caps. The patch is then cut out with a hot knife, which heat seals the threads so they can never come apart. For circular or shaped patches, I might make it slightly thinner because it looks better and its easier to work with.

I don't currently offer "Merrowed" borders due to the fact that it's not necessarily better or worse than a satin stitch and the machine is fucking expensive! Also, merrowed edges can come apart a little easier and are a little more fragile since they use a series of loops. But if I get enough requests maybe I will use them in the future.

7 - How big can my embroidery be?

For patches, up to 11.8"w x 7.9"h. For caps, the image must be within 5"w x 2.4"h.

8 - What materials do you use?

I use a combination of high quality embroidery threads such as Sulky and Madeira. A combination of high quality durable fabrics, and 2 layers of stabilizer make the patches firm, but not overly stiff. You can feel the quality instantly when you hold it. These are made for battle! I can make a fusible/iron on back, but this is not recommended as they tend to fall off over time. It is best to sew them on.

Once the patches are sewn on, you can machine wash your jacket. But I would advise hand washing and hang dry. I don't wash my battle jackets but that's just my preference. Haan makes a hand steamer that you can use to kill the stink out of it if you've got a hot date or something and you don't wanna wash it.

For hats I just use a standard black baseball cap with velkro strap. If you have any special type/color of hat you like, or if you wanna provide the cap by all means let me know. A tear away stabilizer may be used behind the cap to keep the image clear when stitching out. Since caps do not have a flat surface, they are a little more awkward and labor intensive, even if the image is rather simple. As a result, they tend to be a little more expensive than patches.

9 - Turnaround time?

If you want 50-100 patches, I can usually have them done within 2-3 weeks of receiving payment. More than that, or if they are very large patches, it can take a month to a month in a half. Expedited turnaround is available for an additional fee.

10 - Do you use metallic thread?

I can, absolutely. Metallic thread costs a little more but can give that extra dazzle to the patch. Just remember that metallic thread is a bit tougher to work with and it's best to keep the image real simple (or at least the part that you want to be "metallic.") An unreadable black metal logo may look like shite with 100% metallic thread. So don't always assume just because you use metallic thread it's gonna look amazing! It's best when used as an accent. You can't see it so well here, but that little sparkle thingy is metallic.