Unspeakable Axe: An Interview with Eric Musall

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 An interview with the man behind one of our favorite metal labels, Unspeakable Axe.

Formed in early 2013, Unspeakable Axe Records was created with a goal to “release material by obscure but deserving metal bands.”* Since its inception, it has unleashed an unrelenting barrage of quintessential Heavy Metal albums unto the world. Many of us are familiar with these releases and have reviewed and discussed them before. There has not been talk, however, of the man behind the bands. The man who helped bring the Metal to our hearts and homes. The man who worked tirelessly day and night to pack and distribute records, shirts, and stickers. The man who has an ear for excellent riffs and an eye for excellent artwork. Eric Musall is that man. Always a man of good taste, Eric agreed to an interview with the Toilet, and on his birthday nonetheless.
Eris Musall

Eric Musall


First and foremost, I have to ask, how doth one make thyne axe unspeakable?

A little blood of goat, a little eye of newt, and a curse from a Nazgul.

In the day and age of digital media, what prompted you to start Unspeakable Axe? Were there any particular artists or people who helped guide your decision? 

What prompted me? Idiocy! I say that with tongue in cheek, but it was indeed an odd time to decide to start putting money into physical releases. And I knew that. I believe there’s still a niche who prefers physical media over downloads, and I’m hoping they’ll keep me afloat. As for people who guided the decision, Matt Calvert from Dark Descent was an invaluable help. I wouldn’t be doing this without his advice and assistance.

What were some of the difficulties you had to overcome in the beginning, and are they still present today?

One of the big things – and it’s still ongoing – is surviving slow sales as you gain traction with metalheads and magazines, as well as distros and shops that might want to order wholesale. Every label goes through this, I imagine. It takes a while to build up an audience who knows what to expect from you in terms of style and quality of releases. Then once the audience is there, you still have to make sure you don’t outgrow them. It would be easy, once you start getting more sales, to spend more money going after some high-profile bands and doing really extravagant releases that won’t make their costs back. Basically, you have to have patience, a decent nest egg to start with, and some business sense.

You mention that with more money it would be easy to go after higher profile bands. Is this something that you want Unspeakable Axe to do? Or are you content with releasing unknown bands?

The label mission statement is to unearth and expose unknown, underground bands. So no, that’s not something that really interests me. But there are a handful of bands that if the stars aligned and they fell in my lap, I wouldn’t say no.

 

Unspeakable Axe is a sub-label to Dark Descent, how did this happen? Were you approached by them?

No, other way around. I did layout work for Matt [Calvert] for several years before I had any notion of starting a label. I had him as a resource, and I had seen firsthand his struggles getting the Dark Descent distro (which is orders of magnitude bigger than mine) off the ground – it seemed natural to collaborate.

What kind of layout work were you doing for Matt?

Ads, flyers, and CD/LP layouts. I still do all of his ads, and the occasional release layout as well. You probably saw the last Horrendous release (I think everybody has!) – I did that one, and have done all of Horrendous’s stuff so far.

There seems to be a plethora of independent labels popping up everywhere nowadays. What do you do so that Unspeakable Axe stands out different from all the rest?

I hope that it stands out! I think it just is about doing everything as well as you can, hopefully above the average. I try to only release great music in attractive packaging that people will want to check out. And I try to find a niche that not too many other labels are in, and fill it. Our stuff tends to be more based around classic riffs and catchy, old school songwriting; even the darker death metal releases have been that way. I think that helps. A lot of labels and bands are heading in the opposite direction: atmosphere, atonality. I like a lot of these new releases too but sometimes I feel like I’m listening to fucking Schoenberg – give me the riff from “Iron Man,” or “Left Hand Path,” and I’m happier.

In regards to your riff versus atmosphere discussion, you are more rooted to the old-school riff. What is it about the riff that is so appealing and have you found the perfect one?

The riff is the cornerstone of metal. Get too far away from it and I’m not sure you’re even making metal anymore.  It’s just the perfect unit of aggression combined with melodic and rhythmic memorability. The perfect riff: there’s a lot of them, but the one that always pops into my mind for whatever reason is the main riff in Dismember‘s “Override of the Overture.” Every Swedish death metal revival act is probably trying to write a riff that good.

 

Your label has a solid lineup of bands; what is your process like for choosing them?

I just follow my tastes. I get recommendations from friends and acquaintances, bands submit demos to me, and I trawl assorted metal forums for new stuff to listen to. I try to listen to as much as possible and usually it takes about one minute for me to know if something might be right for UAR.

Unspeakable Axe has bands from countries around the world to include; Australia, Italy, Chile, France and Switzerland. For such a small label you are wide-spread. Was this your intention, or was it a natural progression? And how does this affect communication and coordination between you and the bands?

Not really intentional or unintentional, but I knew it would be a natural byproduct of signing bands that I liked, regardless of other considerations. It doesn’t really affect communication; everything nowadays is internet-based anyway. I live on Facebook messenger and my gmail account. I do have a few guys whose English isn’t so good (and my grasp of their language is pathetic), but we work it out.

The bands on your label are definitely all Heavy Metal, but each band has their own sound. No two sound alike. Was it your goal to have such a diverse roster?

Not particularly. But I guess I do like bands that set themselves apart in some way, even if it’s a small one.

How many people are involved with UAR? Is it a one man crew or do you have a team working with you?

Just me, baby. (That’s my Ash/Army of Darkness moment for the day. Try to always have one.)

Are you planning on keeping this a one man operation? Or as the label gets bigger, will you bring on more help?

I’d welcome the right help if the time ever came that I really needed it. But my preference is to stay approximately this size so I can manage it all myself.

 

What does a day in the life of Eric Musall at work entail?

I have a computer-based day job, which is fortunate because it means I can at least stay on top of label stuff (emails, incoming orders, web shop updates) as I work. It’s really more answering emails and messages than anything else, a lot of times. When a new release or two is coming out then the order queue fills up and I usually end up spending a huge chunk of the weekend packing them up. I’ve posted some pictures on Facebook of the resulting chaos: towers of boxes, oceans of bubble mailers, and vast wastelands of scrap paper from printing and taping on labels. In between all that stuff I try to make time for listening to whatever new bands (or new recordings by my existing bands) come my way.

Looking at your website I noticed there are quite a few TBA albums and artists. Is there anything you’d like to say about your upcoming albums?

This could get really pluggy, so I’ll resist the urge for the most part. Next release will be a CD EP by Peruvian black/thrashers Obscure Evil. It’s great.

Finally, what is your favorite Manowar album?

Anything with a Ken Kelly painting on it.  I’m a sucker for glowering, Frazetta-esque piles of muscle with big axes.


Thank you so much Eric for your time and hard work! Be sure to check out the upcoming Nucleus, Hemotoxin and Putrisect/Scorched releases. Keep an eye out for all Unspeakable Axe Records news and releases on their HomepageFacebook and Bandcamp. Drop Eric a line and tell him the Toilet sent you!

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  • Super Nintendo Chalmers

    That Ectovoid release is rad.

  • This is an awesome interview Boss! Eric seems like a cool dude. Would drink beer with/10.

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Thanks man! Ditto on the beer drinking!

  • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

    Great interview Boss!

    I guess no one can escape the Manowar question hahaha

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      NO ESCAPE!

  • Rob M

    Need new Besieged album…A.S.A.P.

    • would halp with pre-order moneys

      • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

        good man Jimmy

    • Phoenix of the House Tendies

      ^This.

      • Lacertilian

        I thought you mentioned they were finished after the last one though?
        Or was that just for touring?

  • COAL ROLL

    why the heck are they based in Athens GA of all places?

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      That’s where he lives.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        Occam’s razor, Boss.

        • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

          Makes the cutting clean.

          • Shaven like a banker, lilac vegetal, break the glass ceiling and golden parachute on down.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            Okay, you redeemed yourself from the ManOwaR bashing.

    • Unspeakable Axe

      Wife took a job here (she teaches at UGA). We used to live in Indianapolis – not that that’s exactly a metal mecca, either.

  • Stanley

    I’ve bought three records from this table so far and this dude’s customer service is fantastic. You always get an e-mail follow up after and order and you get notified when there are delays (e.g. Ripper vinyl). A lot of labels/distros could learn from this.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nr3p-4ifaTU

    • I need to listen to that Ripper album more. Ipod doesn’t shuffle to it very often.

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        Is it a mini? You could always just, you know, listen to the album.

        Lol

        • That is logic that should not be flushed.

        • Nah it’s an Iphone. I could, but it will stop playing after it finishes an album and then ill have to look at my phone while driving so I just opt to shuffle my playlist instead. Safety first otherwise I will arrive at the void sooner than I want.

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            The opportunities are boundless.

          • This is the internet, your logic isn’t welcome here!

          • Edward/Breegrodamus™

            something something FALSE NO ENTER

          • “Already Dead”

          • brokensnow

            unless you are always driving….lol

  • Great interview dude!……….. Manowar<<<<<<<<<

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Your little arrow things are pointing the wrong way.

      • Nah it’s going the correct way sir

        • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

          You will feel the STEEL!

          Edit: Nevermind

  • Edward/Breegrodamus™
    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      King ov New York approved.

    • Rob M

      Favorite song off of one of my favorite albums

    • YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

      ED <3

      • Edward/Breegrodamus™

        Link <3 <3 <3

    • RustyShackleford

      I’ve always been a huge Entombed fan but have mostly slept on Dismember other than “Death Metal.” This rips beyond belief! I need to brush up on my classic Swedish death.

      • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

        Unleashed “Where No Life Dwells” and Grave “Into the Grave” go hard as well. The debuts by those OS Swedish DM bands are THE shit.

        • brokensnow

          THIS IS OUR WORLD NOW!

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Midvinterblot is good stuff. Unleashed may be the most consistent band out of the “Big 4” of the OS Swedish DM. But like Rob M just said, Unleashed doesn’t have that standard “chainsaw” sound of the others. They have their own thing going on.

          • brokensnow

            Teh beats are weak. always seemed a little of time on that album.

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I should revisit Midvinterblot again. I remember liking it. Wasn’t completely blown away, but it was a decent listen to kill some time.

        • Rob M

          “Where No Life Dwells” is a completely underrated album, but its nothing like the rest of the Stockholm bands.

          Unleashed was always doing their own thing

          • They kinda went to Snoozeville for a long time after Shadows in the Deep, though.

          • Rob M

            Theyre consistent as hell, but yeah, once you get passed the first two, it stays pretty same-old, same-old..at least until Odalheim which I thought was a great album

          • Oh yeah, Odalheim definitely sounded like they rejuvenated.

        • RustyShackleford

          Thanks! Those fuzzed out riffs are just the best. Definitely excited to explore some more.

      • Rob M

        Gah…no brushing up. Just go buy “Like an Everflowing Stream” right this very second. It holds up against “Left Hand Path” in every way

        • RustyShackleford

          Bless Apple Music for letting me add all this shit to my library asap

        • Unspeakable Axe

          I love Left Hand Path but I honestly think Everflowing Stream is a better album, and Dismember is the better band of the two. They were multi-dimensional with those little snippets of Maidenesque melody. And Karki’s vocals are demented.

          • Rob M

            Personal preference, Id agree…They also kept a far better level of quality on their full lengths

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            Entombed completely lost me with Wolverine Blues. Others seem to regard that album as a classic, but that “Death ‘n’ roll” thing is not really for me.

          • brokensnow

            POUND FOR POUND, I AM THE TOUGHEST OF ALLLLLL!

          • Rob M

            Same…Im not into Death n’ Roll at all. Clandestine is the only other album Entombed put out that I really enjoy

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I’m of the opinion that Clandestine as a whole is just as good as Left Hand Path. Both great albums.

          • Rob M

            Definitely…thats a killer one-two shot…After that theyre dead to me

          • brokensnow
          • Rob M

            …still not really changing my mind. I dont like “Reflections” from Convulse either. Its just not my thing

          • brokensnow

            oh I didnt say I liked em. The name is funny.

          • Rob M

            Ah…gotcha

          • RustyShackleford

            I kind of like the Death n’ Roll, but mostly because it’s really silly to me, if that makes any sense

          • Rob M

            Blah…though, amusingly enough, I think “Black n’ Roll” style music is fucking killer

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            I guess the “silliness” is part of the charm. Personally I can’t really enjoy something like that. But if others do, good on them. Every style and genre has its merits.

          • I’m gonna have to agree. Everflowing Stream is the one I come back to more often.

      • Get on Dismember ASAP, broski. Also Unleashed’s first two albums, Vomitory, Grave, God Macabre, and Carnage.

        But Like an Ever Flowing Stream crushes dick. Do that first.

        • CARNAGECARNAGECARNAGECARNAGE <3

        • RustyShackleford

          I started jamming Like an Ever Flowing Stream soon as I read this post haha. Fucking slays.

  • Stanley

    “Next release will be a CD EP by Peruvian black/thrashers Obscure Evil. It’s great.” Yes, please.

  • That Hemotoxcin is banging good.

    GL

    • Owlswald

      I’m finding ALOT to like about this label: Ripper, Insanity, Nucleus to name a few. I’m really digging the old school sound niche.

      • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

        It’s a metlahead’s record label.

        • Owlswald

          All of it is making me want to do this around my office:
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czkQiVBqm0I

        • IF YOU HAVE COME HERE FOR TEH BEATS, GTFO.

          -Metalhead

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            I once had some one tell me they like Iron Maiden. “They have good beats” he said.

          • BEATS™ by Dr. Harris.

          • Unspeakable Axe

            JUMPDAFUCKUP

            -Soulfly

        • Rob M

          Being attached to Dark Descent says a lot about them…DDR is a great label in their own right

  • I want moar Trench Rot.

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Thoughts on Birth A.D.?

      • I don’t think I’ve given them a listen before. I’ll check it out.

        • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

          They’re from Austin.

    • Unspeakable Axe

      It’s in the works.

  • Eliza

    This is a very good interview. I find there are a lot of excellent stuff from this label that I enjoy quite a lot. (Ripper ,,/)

  • killer intarview Boss! did he say how many comments would give the Toilet early access to the new Nucleus rekkid?

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Check out Decibel magazine, its steaming over there.

      • once again you’ve warmed this front giant’s heart

      • ooooooooooohhhh i was unaware of this

        • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

          You should follow Unspeakable Axe and Nucleus on the facebooks

          • I follow both, but I mus t have missed it because facebook is a cunt and doesn’t show me all the posts. Can’t tell you how many times I see something for the first time when it was posted like a week ago :/

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            I feel you.

          • Unspeakable Axe

            Cue my unending rant about posting to a page with going on 4,000 likes and Facebook shows it to 36 people.

          • I gave in and paid to boost a post I wrote a few weeks back. After running for a day, Facebook pulled my ad for violating advertising standards. It had a poorly photoshopped weed leaf in the image.

          • Unspeakable Axe

            Classic. Apparently they also pull boosted images if more than a certain percentage of the image is text and not graphics. Which is like… what the fuck, Facebook? I PAID for this.

          • Eliza

            Learning about shitty things like this makes me glad for not joining Facebook.

          • COAL ROLL

            I work pretty closely with these guys ( http://www.newbaymedia.com/brands/) and other offline industry media channels if you’d like some help with advertising in media who’s not going to take your money and then make your ads disappear

          • Do they return the $? Which I realize is likely a laughable question…

          • lol

          • What a business model. It is almost like putting $1.25 in the pop machine, having the machine eat it, and not getting the 20oz of glory you just splurged on :/

          • Rob M

            NCS did a couple of articles about this awhile back…apparently, even when you boost it only reaches a fraction of your followers

          • This is true. Full disclosure, for my real job I do a cubic shit ton of fb advertising, but with tiny budgets (like for TovH), and no real way of generating revenue, paying for Facebook presence just isn’t an awesome idea.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            …bandannas

          • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

            TovH banana hammocks all day

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            well, I don’t know about all that.

          • I’d buy some TovH whitie tighties, all day.

          • Scrimm

            Waiting for TovH Trucknutz and bibs for all those trips to bdubs.

          • COAL ROLL

            sounds like high client turnover

          • Rob M

            Thats what it seemed like Islander was saying in those articles…basically the artists who need the exposure the most are getting screwed no matter what they do, and paying Facebook to boost just isnt a viable or cost effective way to advertise

          • that’s cause you need treat that stuff with respect! only great weed chops are allowed

          • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

            i chop up great weed daily broooooooooo

          • “BROOOOOOOOOOO!”
            -KFoFM and Tyree

          • They “Departed”. With the Departed part in “Quotes”. Meaning the VELOCIRAPTURE took them.

          • I think bandcamp should start it’s own social media thing specifically for music so bands/records don’t have to deal with facebook bullshit.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            That would be excellent.

          • Unspeakable Axe

            Solid idea, would support. I like Bandcamp. And they get their money from release sales anyway, they wouldn’t need to charge to use the social media platform – it would just feed and boost the part that is their bread and butter.

          • CT-12

            Holy shit dude, that’s one of the smartest fucking ideas I’ve ever heard. I do already get emailed when a new album comes out from a label/band, but still man, I’d be more than willing to hear about tour dates, new merch, etc. Bravo man, you should pitch that to ’em.

          • Ted Nü-Djent ™

            Wisest thing you’ve ever said

          • COAL ROLL

            click the “Pages Feed” link

          • Stanley

            RFI

      • Rob M

        Yeah…but on the other hand, Decibel

        • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

          Correct. I’m not listening until I get my copy.

        • What’s wrong with decibel?

          • I want to make some corny ass joke about too many decibels will hurt your hearing but instead I am writing about how I want to write about it and in the end will not tell you the joke even though I just told you teh joke. yeah.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            The url is not http://www.toiletovhell.com, that is what’s wrong.

          • Rob M

            Meh…theyre not as bad as some, but its still pretty standard, appeal to the widest common denominator, style music coverage. Not really my thing

          • At least it’s not Revolver or Loudwire lol. They have the Nucleus stream so I’ll allow it.

          • Rob M

            Agreed…those two are bottom of the barrel. Wouldnt start a bonfire with those mags

          • Unspeakable Axe

            They’re gonna do Hemotoxin for us too. Some good people work at Decibel.

          • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

            I’m happy that Nucleus and UAR are getting the exposure, but I’d rather just wait a bit and listen to it on my own.

  • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

    anyone dropping a Evil Dead reference is ok in my book

  • This is a great interview, Boss. Great job.

    Thanks to Eric. Run a small underground label is a tremendous job, like he was pointing, but I know he is very happy to overcome this task. You, sire, are a hero.

    Also, nice Dismember reference. That album is legendary!

  • RustyShackleford

    Very cool interview! I love both your question & what he said about “The Riff.” We talk about it in a joking way, but “The Riff” is, for most of us I’d imagine, the reason we’re here and love metal. Cool to see a dude who’s following his passion for it and, as a result, gifting us some sweet riffs! Yup!

  • While we’re on the subject of thrash, there’s a new Death Angel song. https://youtu.be/OUxrvXKHLJY

    • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

      For some reason Death Angel has always been one of those classic thrash bands I never got into. Testament, Exodus, Overkill…all good, but Death Angel never clicked with me.
      I have to say, this doesn’t sound half bad.

      • I’m not a huge fan of their older stuff, but the most recent album rips and this sounds like more of the same. I mean that in a positive way.

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          I really can’t get into the vocals on their older stuff. I have that problem with a lot of 80’s thrash stuff. I dunno, a lot of thrash metal sounds severely dated to me. Not bad, but it doesn’t really catch my interest anymore.
          I can dig this way better.

          • I’m the same way. I think it has to do a lot with the increase in production capabilities since then.

          • CT-12

            Also, “The Ultra-Violence” is probably their only good old album. Most of their old shit is pretty fucking “meh”, or just plain bad. Think they’ve gotten better with age though, their last album had some really good songs on it, though I never bought it. This track sounds ok.

        • Stanley

          WAT? KILL AS ONE!!!!

      • Stanley

        I like them all, but Death Angel is probably my fave. I haven’t listened to this yet because new KATATONIA!

        • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

          Yeah I listened to the new track. Nice and melancholic as always.

          • Stanley

            Feels, yo.

        • brokensnow
          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            That’s one of my favorite Katatonia albums.

          • brokensnow

            This and dead end kings

          • FrankWhiteKingOfNY

            For me it’s difficult to choose a favorite Katatonia album though. They’ve never really made an album that I would call “bad”. Brave Murder Day (despite having a different style) is a masterpiece and they’ve been on a winning streak from Last Fair Deal Gone Down till now.

        • Dubs

          The Masterlord was telling me just this morning that he loves that new Katatonia track.

          • Stanley

            ’tis gud.

    • Rob M

      Cool cover art…love the play on the Death’s-Head moth

  • Waynecro

    Kick-ass interview, man. Thanks oodles!

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      It was fun to do, I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • CT-12

    Don’t know how much more I could say that people didn’t already get to in the comments, but just wanted to say I thought this was a informative/fun interview with someone who I was legitimately excited to see have their brain picked on here. Kudos to you Boss, and thanks to all the other authors who post here, your service is appreciated.

    • but we need moar CT-12

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Thank you for the kind words, CT-12

  • Dubs

    Great interview, mate.

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      Thank you kind sir.

  • Phoenix of the House Tendies

    Awesome interview, Ross. Unspeakable Axe are probably my current favorite metal label. All of their stuff is of high quality.

    I’m curious though, any news from Laceration? I enjoyed their full-length and split with Titinnus. But they just seemed to vanish off the face of the earth afterwards. I just wanna know their status damnit.

    • Boss theSpeedMetalBastard Ross

      High quality indeed!

      Though i cant help you, try messaging on faceboon or emailing Eric about Lacertation. He’s quick to respond.

    • Unspeakable Axe

      Sad to say, the band split up and removed their Facebook page which was my main contact with them. Pretty sure that the comp we wanted to do is not gonna happen now. Sucks, their last couple releases were amazing.