Calamities Press will be going on a slight hiatus until October 19th. I’m getting married in the next few weeks, so I’ll be busy and away from the computer most of the time. When our literary magazine returns, we’ll hopefully be following a bit of a different format and be publishing once a month over the course of a week. That one week will be stuffed with artistic and literary content, so don’t be afraid of the gems vanishing. I realize we’ve hit some hiccups with the publications recently, but having twin boys and getting married sort of occupies my life, and I’ve had to adjust to being a father and an editor as well. Obviously, I write books and work full-time as well, so scratching out just a few minutes a day to work on a creative endeavor is hard enough. Thank you for being amazing and patient with our experiment of digital ink. Please keep checking in, and viewing our content. There is a plethora to choose from. Thank you.
It took them three hours to even get a clean spout of smoke to billow upwards from the stack of wood along the path. Melissa had stacked the sticks together into a pile. Ron grinded away with a flat log in the middle. Milo would whistle his best at the base of the grinding twigs, in the effort to make a small spark form upwards. Ron’s hands were red and ugly looking, like all the heat was being forged against his fleshy palms, and not the bundle of building fire they were working on. The winds were quiet while they worked, almost like they were curious about what they were building in their green trap. The woods along the path were drawn back and patient, waiting to swipe at the children with their tendrils if they tried to escape the woods or even the path. On the fourth hour, after they finally managed to seal the air escaping from their pile, a small puddle of flames formed at the base of their brambly pile. Melissa quickly fed the fire with dead leaves and kindling, and started to push the fire upwards.
“Alright, let’s do it, we need to burn the place down,” Ron said, wrenching a white stick free of the contorting pyramid of flame.
“Aim for the edges, where they won’t let us out or anything,” Milo said, following suit. Both boys charged down the path towards the entrance to the forest like a tiny angry mob ready to storm down an evil doctor’s door. The trees immediately came alive like chained squids from some deep sea horror film, flailing and thrashing at the two boys. The strikes were hard enough to take the deepest sections of skin away, and the pain made Milo drop his fiery weapon. Vines immediately wrapped around the broken fire, putting it out, while losing a few husks to its blazing top. Ron was slashed so hard, he dropped the torch back into himself and fell to the ground. The vines trapped him a like a spider web. They were so insistent of their wrapping, they actually bound the torch to his skin before he could start moving away from it. The fire burnt his skin nearly to the bone before it went out against the coiled stalks of the forest. Melissa dragged both boys away from the vines and trees. She pulled them to the crooked bend of the path right next to the dark water.
“Keep calm Ron, keep calm,” Melissa said. “You’re in lots of pain, so just stay still, we to wash the wound out with water to keep the flesh from burning.”
Milo had partially recovered, and helped Ron into the water. Ron was barely conscious, which was nice so he wouldn’t argue with Milo or Melissa. The water stayed shallow for them as they helped Ron into the oozing pond shore. The bog did not want to terrify the children like it had earlier with Ron and the pearled faces along its depths. This time the bog wanted to see how the children reacted with such a serious wound, to study their efforts to practice compassion, and hope. Milo looked back briefly at the campfire they’d made along the path. It was completely gone. The woods had eaten it up like a buzzard would a piece of rot. The forest was standing tall and quiet, and the path had gotten smaller. A figure was retreating into the woods. It was the hooded figure from before. It was dark, hanging, and faceless in the shadows. It moved like a trapped piece of light, like a reflection. The cloak around its body was fluctuating and fluid. Golden claws hung out of its hands along the figure’s side. It petrified Milo, but he managed to tug at Melissa, who was supporting the comatose body of Ron above the water. She turned as the figure retreated into the woods without parting a leaf.
She could only scream.
The five of us blow past the dunk tank because who cares, right? Right. It’s not like the water’s cold—it’s no polar plunge. No piranhas obviously. The guy’s not getting dipped in salt water after a cheese grater pulps his body into a million stinging nerves. I could sit on my ass and drop into a pool of water. I have. It’s called taking a bath. A baby could do that. Just put a life jacket on it.
None of these kids can throw, either, which makes it twice as boring.
“It’d be way cooler if there were rusty nails glued to the bottom, where he’d have to like catch himself by pushing against the walls Mission Impossible style,” Tom says.
“Or like a bunch of broken glass and lit cigarettes,” his younger brother, Billy, says.
“Or a dozen or so kittens,” Randall says, the oldest one. We all look at him like kittens, that won’t do anything to him, jackass, and then we get it and start laughing our asses off.
“Why does something have to get hurt for it to amuse you guys?” Tim, my little brother, asks. He’s eleven going on so-fucking-boring-he-may-as-well-be-dead.
He’s a know-it-all like I read one book once so now I’m a super genius. He doesn’t come out and say that, but that only makes it worse. He second guesses you without looking you in the eye—may as well be talking to himself—and gives this shrug like, no surprise you didn’t know. You didn’t read that book. Or that article in Science Today. Or the interview with the Russian nutritionist who figured how to add a complete protein to potatoes or whatever.
“Righty-roo little Timothy,” I say, “Harming nature’s lovely creatures would be unethical, and is cause for sorrow and grief.”
“What a travesty!” Tom says.
“A catastrophe!” Billy says.
“No, he’s absolutely right,” Randall says. We stop walking and try to make out if Randall is being serious, because he sounds serious. “The dunk tank doesn’t need to be life-threatening to make it fun. Just fill the thing with fifty-gallons of piss.” The four of us exchange hi-fives. Tim starts talking, probably something he read about state statutes making urine illegal for use in public areas or some shit. I stop with my foot out, and he trips mid sentence like he does every time. Bam. Flat on his face. Billy, who’s only ten, picks up his glasses.
“My thanks,” Tim says as he brushes himself off. “Please return to me my spectacles.”
Billy tosses them to Tom hoping Tim will try to intercept them. Tom holds them out and then pulls them back. But Tim doesn’t bite. Tim isn’t into this game. We all start walking. He walks, too, follows along the side, looking out into the swarming crowds of the fair as if he can see.
“What’d the machine look like? Was it futuristic, or something more like we’ve got around here?” Scott said. He was ready to start entertaining fantasies to keep Milo comfortable. The statement about the imagination filling in the kids gaps during the centuries of unknown made Scott cringe with the invisible prospect of accuracy.
“It was big, ugly, like it shouldn’t run at all. It almost looked like trash, people threw in the woods. Litter, or junk, a big square of it. Especially from a distance,” Milo said.
“Wait, did you ever see it up close?” Scott said.
“Yeah, yeah, a few times, but only with fire.”
“With fire? I thought you guys didn’t have tools in there? How’d you manage to make a fire?”
“Everyone, everyone knows how to make a fire, Scott. We’re genetically predisposed to it. We need it like we need air.”
“So you figured it out. I’m impressed.”
“You should be impressed that I survived at all, Scott.”
“I am, believe me, I am, but tell me more about starting the fire.”
Milo looked disinterested and crossed his arms. More scars curled up off his forearms like little blemished slugs. It seemed like with every detail, image, and piece of storytelling being unloaded on Scott, the more he noticed the crusted deformities riddled across Milo’s body.
“I mean did you rub two sticks together like Bear Grylls? What kind of tool did you use to make it?” Scott said. He had to start establishing some authority in the interview, so leaving questions open wouldn’t be an option going forward in the conversation.
“Basically, Scott, it was a little inarticulate, but we had no choice. We needed fire to try and break the trees apart. It was our only option,” Milo said.
“To stop them from grabbing you? Did it work? You’d think it would work?” Scott said.
“If it worked, Scott, do you think I’d be the only one talking to you today? Do you think I’d have mentioned how Samuel and I are the only ones to survive?”
Scott felt uneasy talking about the infant. They’d managed to steer away from it this entire time, but it was another monstrous elephant in the room. He pulled out a little photo of the baby from the woods. It looked like a doll, like it wasn’t real in the sterile edged government photo. The labs and doctors had done tests on the baby, and it was the genetic equivalent of Melissa and Ron, the two missing children.
“You want to talk about, Samuel?” Scott asked.
“Where is he? You’re not doing tests on a baby right?” Milo said.
“What would we ask an infant? The child is in a foster home. We’ll be turning him over to you once we’re done here. Contrary to popular belief, Milo, we can’t just throw people away in labs for forever.”
“When will I see him, for real, Scott?”
“I just said after we’re done with our conservation. Now, we have 48 minutes left on the clock, so why don’t we make them useful? Why don’t you tell me about what happened with the first fire you started.”
“We started it, and the forest put it out.”
“Oh, I see, so did trees not get affected by it?”
“They did, but, it wasn’t them that stopped it.”
“Who stopped it?”
Milo rubbed his face again, as he felt colder in the room and the walls were narrower.
“It, the Unnamed.”
Black and white digital photography.
If you can’t tell from the band name, or the album art, this isn’t a typical progressive review. While Cattle Decapitation has certainly put some progressive flavor into their recent releases they are still a relentless grind band at the core. I have been a fan of this band for many years, I even had the pleasure of opening for them in 2006 with one of my previous bands, and they have only gotten more and more impressive as time has gone by. Some bands lose members and struggle to recover, however, I feel that the addition of Dave McGraw and Derek Engemann, on drums and bass respectively, have only made this group stronger. Having members that feel more proficient really help with music as crazy as what is on display here.
This album sounds great overall though there are a couple small production tweaks I wouldn’t mind making. The drums, which are faster than hell and equally as rad, seem a little buried. Especially the kick drums, which I think should be a bit more beefy to really make you feel as though you are being sonically pummeled into submission. With the speed of the songs having a slightly beefier rhythm section would make the songs that much more relentless, which would be crazy based on how relentless they already are. There are a couple moments where I feel like the vocals are also a little thin in the mix but for the most part everything else is spot on. Production was one of the weakest parts of earlier Cattle Decapitation records and the last 3 albums have all sounded so much thicker and more polished that I wish we could go back and touch up all the earlier albums from the bands catalog.
This is a concept album in the sense that all the songs all revolve around a central theme, and the album flows much the same. One relentless grind song into the next with only a brief respite halfway through the album and right before the last track is what you will find here. Even though the music and vocals are the definition of extreme many people who don’t typically enjoy this type of music end up enjoying Cattle Decapitation’s music.
As I said in the intro, the addition of Dave and Derek have really stepped up the quality of the songs. The previous drummers and bassists weren’t terrible but the songs are full of such intense riffs that having members that aren’t up to par will really hinder the experience of the song. Look at a band like Beneath the Massacre, if they had a musician that couldn’t keep up with what was going on the impressive qualities of the songs would be lost. This is much the same with Cattle Decapitation. Luckily the performances captured here are phenomenal. The songs are played at such a speed and the riffs are so full of movement that you need top notch players. Speaking of the riffs, good lord, they are intense and ultimately only accurately described as badass. I could never play riffs like this on my own so listening to bands like this make me both incredibly pumped and also bummed my playing isn’t up to par.
There is a line in every Cattle Decapitation album packet that assures you the vocals you hear are real and done without effects or studio trickery. It’s a funny addition but I can see why it is there. The first time I heard Cattle Decapitation was a music video for Humanure and I couldn’t believe someone was actually doing vocals at such a low pitch. It’s largely impossible to understand what he is saying at these moments without the help of lyrics on hand but it is also just so rad. Travis Ryan does some truly impressive and unique things with his voice. The addition of raspy, super melodious, but ultimately still harsh vocals added a layer to this band I don’t think anyone knew was missing. It is so impressive and it is so very cool. They were introduced on the previous album Monolith of Inhumanity but they are more prevalent on this record. From what I understand they have been received very well and I hope they continue to show up on subsequent records.
This band may not be your thing at all. The first time I heard them I had no idea what was happening and I didn’t much care for it at first. The seed had been planted though and eventually I came around and now I am a huge fan. The songs are so sprawling that you really need to listen to the entire song to really get a feel for what is happening. The video I have included is the opening track of the new record and a great indicator of what is to be found on the album. It is well worth your time to pick it up and hopefully it will help to expand your musical horizons. There is a great deal to be introduced to and it doesn’t serve anyone to dismiss something purely because of the speed or genre it falls into.
Label: Metal Blade
Why is there something so appealing about hallways of sun-ached canvas stretched over bleached wood and piles of miscellaneous food? Why do crowded tunnels of hubbub, bartering, bargaining, and potential muggings fascinate me? The black market, medieval marketplace, and flea market have survived every sociological, technological, and economic revolution since Aladdin tossed apples at scimitars through the streets dancing. For some reason, no matter what happens in our society, this capitalistic blemish pops up like a wart.
I’ve been a patron of this enduring symbol of primitive transactions and trades.
Everyone knows about this simplistic system of commerce. Most avoid it out of fears of being murdered, kidnapped, raped, ripped-off, robbed, beaten, bashed, extorted, or simply having to communicate with another person face-to-face. You should be safe with Craigslist, let people know where you’re going when you want to buy or sell something, meet in a public place, and if you can bring someone else with you. You can rattle off the most negative occurrences in all of Craigslist lore, but even the simplest reactions can turn obscenely strange with little or nor effort from this modern medieval marketplace.
My first story was a fairly simple transaction. I was buying a new television from a family in Little Canada. They seemed nice, lived in a quaint townhouse nestled next to a curved blob of a frozen over lake. I told my fiance where I was going, along with my parents, and sent her the address. The guy met me outside, and I walked inside the cozy house like a hot tunnel in a sea of frozen white ash. Typically, when you do these sorts of exchanges, the item being purchased is ready to be transported. The TV was not. It was currently being used by the family selling me the appliance, which included a host of young children viewing Finding Nemo.
“Where? Where is the TV you’re selling me at?” I asked looking around a steamy room of laughing kids.
“What? Oh, the TV? Right there. Common guys, turn it off. I sold the television,” the father said.
Chaos rippled out like an overturned minnow bucket. Children screamed, I’m not even sure of the exact number of them scattering around. One little boy, who was about four years old and had those searing blue eyes of innocence, screamed wildly like some feral ghost-child trapped in an orphanage. I went to assist with lifting the large television and taking apart the cords, when this same paramour punched me in the crotch in a perfect swing of his little right hand. I resisted doubling over in pain to preserve my physical strength in front of these strangers. Perhaps this was a subtle tactic to club me over the head and drag me down to the basement where I’d be tortured for the next five years. I would have also dropped the television. Neither parent acknowledged the serious behavioral Faux Pas, and simply laughed about it, a reaction that nearly prompted me to unleash a flurry of physical violence against my hosts. For one moment, my name was locked into the headline of yet another Craigslist transaction that resulted in murder. So I simply smiled and carried the TV out to my car. I was okay with the children crying about it on the way out.
My second story did not actually happen to me but a friend of my ex-girlfriend. Frank, was buying two Guinea Pigs off of Craigslist. The parents selling the Guinea Pigs were adamant on him showing up to get them during the day, and not at night. After some finagling with work, Frank was able to get the afternoon off and stop by an old rambler in West Saint Paul. The rodents were kept in a cage, which could be moved about easily like a living prison. The interaction with the mom seemed find. Frank said she was in fact helping him move the habitat, when her children and husband suddenly showed up at home. Chaos ensued. Children were once again kept in the dark of a Craigslist sale. Frank hurried out the door, urged by the mother who was mad that her husband had forgotten about their secret transaction. Frank was left to fend for himself, as the two parents fought, and the two children clutched onto the cage in a grim game of tug-of-war. Frank eventually got to the front door, where he pulled the Guinea Pigs halfway out. Undaunted, the children, one boy and girl, continued to pull back on the wire walls until they were lifted off the ground. Frank braced himself against the steps and used his right hand to pry each one of their fingers off one-by-one till he was free. I’m not sure if Frank ever learned to love those Guinea Pigs.
What is it about our genetic phantoms that propel us back to the situations? Are we so blindly into purchasing unnecessary garbage that we want an object to have a story, so we use Craigslist so fill the void of the medieval marketplace?
Black and white digital photography.