Given the news earlier this week that Burzum would be releasing a new studio album in March, it seemed as good a time as any to take a look back at the band, and it's sole member, Varg Vikernes, who has in the past been called, "The most evil man alive" by the media. Whether or not Vikernes is the Darth Vader of metal music is open to interpretation, but the fact that many people have claimed to enjoy the music of Burzum, while proclaiming to hate the man himself, is proof that Burzum really is one of the best bands from the Norwegian black metal scene.
Vikernes formed Burzum in 1991, shortly after leaving the death metal band, Old Funeral, of which he was the guitarist. Two demo tapes were quickly recorded and caught the attention of Øystein Aarseth, the founder of the Deathlike Silence Productions label and also the guitarist of Mayhem, in which he used to the stage name, Euronymous. Aarseth decided to sign Burzum to his label and work on the self-titled Burzum album began shortly afterwards, with Euronymous guesting on the track, "War," performing a guitar solo. The album saw a release in 1992, making Burzum only the second band to have a record released by the label. After the release of the album, Vikernes became interested in recruiting musicians so that Burzum could perform live, going so far as to bring in Emperor bassist Samoth. Samoth would not stay in the band long however and only recorded on the "Aske" EP, after which Vikernes had no interest in transforming Burzum into a live band.
Now on his own again, Vikernes recorded a wealth of material from 1992 to 1993, the first of which to be released was the album, "Det son engang var," in 1993. Around this time, Vikernes was also recruited to perform bass duties in Mayhem, though he still composed and recorded music for Burzum. Unbeknownst to anyone however, "Det son engang var" would prove to be the last album Vikernes would release as a free man, as he was arrested later that year for killing Øystein Aarseth, his Mayhem bandmate. The reasons for the muder remain debated but Vikernes claims that he went solely to hand over an unsigned record contract, and retaliated after Aarseth attacked him first, climaxing in a fatal stab would to the head. He was convicted in May 1994 (the same month his album, "Hvis lyset tar oss" was released) and sentenced to twenty one years imprisonment, which is the maximum length of a prison sentence in Norway. In addition to the killing of Aarseth, Vikernes was charged with burning several Norwegian churches, something he claims he was wrongly convicted of. More...
It is being reported that Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue, Sixx A.M.) and Denise Richards are no longer dating and have split. The uncomfortable part of this breakup is that they are neighbors. There can’t be a worse feeling than stepping out to grab the morning newspaper, and looking over to see a Porsche in Richard’s driveway with a license plate that reads SHEEN… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Tony Wolfe, guitarist of Owen Hart, shares a story about a show in Texas where things just didn't go quite as planned:
Being a band for 6 some years in the DIY house tour circuit produces a lot of fucking nutty show shit, such as people trying to pass you a crack pipe while you're playing, a high-as-fuck girl cutting her face with a knife, our friends in Elitist flooding everything by breaking the main water pipe in a basement (the show must go on), etc.
But by far the craziest shit happened to us in Texas in 2008. The following events happened all at one show. Our singer got slapped by someone's mom after the set because she didn't like the speech he'd given about evolution before one of our songs. While this was happening, someone was throwing up all over our merch table. Earlier, our drummer Brian had somehow managed to eat well over the recommended weed brownie dosage for playing grind drums and played everything at about 1/3 speed... He literally fell asleep on his snare during the evolution speech. Then we come to find out our van got broken into during the show by skinheads and, out of all our ipods, money box, and spare gear, the only thing they stole were our roadie's fanny pack and my jean jacket. Fuck Texas. RIP Dimebag."
Owen Hart's debut full-length, "Earth Control," is out January 18 on Vitriol Records. In the meantime, you can check out some of their music on the band's MySpace page.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground we take a look at lesser known bands that are keeping metal alive and kicking in their respective regions and hometowns. This week, we introduce you to three bands from Kuwait: a country that has seen wars fought on its own home ground and in neighboring regions, as well as becoming a home to families trying to get away from conflicts. It has also become a small hub of high quality heavy metal, in both terms of production and originality.
Voice of the Soul
While Voice of the Soul may be better known as a song from the purveyors of death metal, Death, it also happens to be a progressive/melodic death metal band from Kuwait. With the typical line up of influences such as At the Gates, Carcass, Arch Enemy and the aforementioned Death, Voice of the Soul has set about creating a sound that is both intensely heavy and technical, but melodic enough to create memorable and satisfying songs.
Formed in 2007 by three like-minded metal heads who wanted to cover some of their favorite songs, Voice of the Soul eventually started to write and record it's own material, which brought about the release of their its EP, “Winds of Apprehension," in 2009. It included 3 original songs and a cover of Death’s “Empty Words." With this first EP, Voice of the Soul took a very straight forward melodic death metal approach. The release of the second EP, “Eyes of Deceit," in 2010 saw the band take a more progressive approach to it's sound.
The band’s song “Farewell to Hope” was featured on the Metality Compilation alongside Norther and The Empire Shall Fall. The same song was also voted as the top metal track of 2010 by the readers of Rockability Magazine.
While the band members are currently all based in separate countries due to school, Voice of the Soul is working on a full length album. You can download the “Eyes of Deceit” EP here.
Often in the world of music, the most respected performers were the ones who were willing to take risks, whether they payed off or not. Judas Priest frontman Rob Halford will always be known as the Metal God, despite the negative reaction to his band, 2wo, John Lennon will forever be regarded as one of the finest songwriters of the 20th century, despite mind crushingly abysmal, "Two Virgins" album and Tom Fischer (aka Tom G. Warrior) is considered by thousands of metal fans to be one of the most artistic composers in the genre, regardless of Celtic Frost's, "Cold Lake" record. However, "Cold Lake" wasn't the only risk Fischer released throughout his career, following the first dissolution of Celtic Frost, he formed a new band named Apollyon Sun, which was named after the album Celtic Frost were working on before they broke up. The band differed from Celtic Frost greatly in that it was strongly influenced by electronic music, resulting in a sound which was as much trip hop as it was metal.
Following the recording of their debut EP, "Industry Demonstration," the group were noticed by Sanctuary Management and began a working relationship with Rod Smallwood, who is best known as the longtime manager of Iron Maiden and before long were signed to Mayan Records. Through the label, the band released another EP entitled, "God Leaves (And Dies)" which caught the attention of British television executives, resulting in the songs, "God Leaves" and "Relinquished Body" being used in the BBC show, "City Central." Apollyon Sun then began work on their first full length album, for which they worked with producer Roli Mosiman, who had previously produced a variety of artists from Faith No More to Bjork. It took two years but finally, in the year 2000, the group's debut album, "Sub" was released. The release of the album allowed the band to begin touring internationally and were considered by many to be the stand out performance at that year's Kerrang Awards in London.
"Sub" was by no means a commercial success but was well received by critics and fans alike. Apollyon Sun continued to work with the BBC after this, contributing more music to be used in television shows, as well as Fischer and guitarist Erol Unala taking part in Probot, the metal super album put together by Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. Following these collaborations and contributions, the band began work on a new album, "Flesh," for which a number of songs were written and recorded, including a cover of the Celtic Frost classic, "Procreation Of The Wicked," but the album was never finished owing to the reformation of Celtic Frost. Once Frost reunited, Fischer invited Unala to become the band's new second guitarist, effectively ending Apollyon Sun. Since then, Celtic Frost have once again parted ways, with Fischer forming a completely new band called Triptykon instead, and has gone on record to say he has no intention of making music under the Apollyon Sun banner again. Although the band are largely forgotten by many metal fans and are overshadowed by the legacies of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer, they are a key part in the history of Fischer's career, music and artistic growth and a band which deserves alot more recognition than they receive. More...
After eighteen years of marriage Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row) and his wife are getting a divorce. Not shocking considering the two have been separated since April, but the real question: what are the odds Bach left a red wine stain on the divorce papers? Fifty percent? Eighty percent?... More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Page Townsley of Vore shares a couple incidents that stand out to him:
We’re seen the gamut of drunks, fights, animal parts, tits, knocked over PA speakers and head wounds in pits over the years to be sure. There are two pit incidents that stand out to me in particular though as being unique...
One was back in 1998. We were on stage playing and this huge dude suddenly falls down in the front and starts shaking like crazy. He just collapsed and started vibrating. Turns out the guy had epilepsy and went into a grand mal seizure. It was a small place and downstairs, so we had to stop the show for thirty minutes or so while the venue called the paramedics who showed up and took the dude to the hospital. Fortunately there was someone there who had some first responder experience with epileptics that knew what to do until the EMT’s showed up to keep the guy from swallowing his tongue and hurting himself.
The other one was last year while we were playing a show at Downtown Music in Little Rock, AR. We had a huge pit going on and I suddenly see this leg go flying. That is leg singular, no body attached. Someone in the pit had a prosthetic leg and had it knocked off of him. Another person picked it up and was swinging it around and holding it up in the air like a trophy. I can’t say I’d ever seen someone get their leg torn off at a show before. I gave props to the guy with the leg for getting into the pit. I admired him for not letting a disability prevent him from jumping into a mosh pit and going ape shit with everyone else.
VORE has been hard at work recording their new album, "Gravehammer," and plans to have it finished early this year. "So far it’s going really well. I honestly think it’s going to be the best thing VORE has done," comments Page.
In the meantime, check out some of Vore's music on the band's MySpace page.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
When it comes to American metal strongholds, New York, California, and Florida never escape mention, but Texas remains the wild card. Not only has the state produced a number of influential bands, but the fan base is famously strong. It's true that no scene is what it used to be, but Texas continues to turn out new and varied acts whose names reach far beyond its borders. San Antonio Metal Examiner Jacob Holmes did the first round up for Metal Underground, but it's a big state and there's still a lot of ground to cover.
Guitarist Wes Weaver has become something of a Texas metal folk hero in the last twenty years. Operating out of Houston, he co-founded Dark Reign in the early '90s, which soon morphed into the much-loved death metal juggernaut known as Imprecation. The band made a name for itself as a cult phenomenon, but they never broke out into the larger arena and finally disbanded. In the meantime, Weaver continued to boost the Texas scene with his venerable radio show, and he also appeared in the short-lived Infernal Dominion, which was regarded as a departure from his classic brand of crepitus death metal.
In 2004, the Texas metal community was surprised to hear that Weaver was spearheading a new band called Blaspherian. Their approach was a pummeling return to the Imprecation model, and the debut EP, "Allegiance to the Will of Damnation," was the antidote to an increasingly stagnant Houston scene.
Like most veteran metal musicians, Blaspherian eschewed the current standard of soulless digital production in favor of a traditional analog soundscape. There are no typewriter drums or varnished guitar tones here; Blaspherian specializes in the booming, fuzzed-out death marches that reveal the blackened heart of true death metal. The riffs are efficient and linear even at the fastest moments, and nothing about the writing is rushed or overplayed. Chords hang, drums rumble, and evil all but drips from the speakers.
Blaspherian is important not only as a revival band, but because it points back directly to the groups that sired it. If younger fans are inspired to dig into the vaults of Texas' metal history, then "Allegiance to the Will of Damnation" has succeeded in its mission. The band makes semi-regular live appearances around the the state in the name of converting newcomers and flying the flag for the best days of death metal.
The New Wave Of British Heavy Metal really is a treasure chest when it comes to music. There are so many bands from the movement that produced some oustanding metal but never got the recognition they deserved. One of the best examples of such treatment would be Cloven Hoof, the band hailing from the city of Wolverhampton. Formed in 1979, it was three years before the group were able to record a demo tape and gain the attention of heavy metal fans and record labels. Initially the members attempted to stand out from their peers by using pseudonyms and decided that each member would be named after the four elements, Earth, water, fire and air. While using this gimmick, Cloven Hoof were able to self-release an EP entitled, "The Opening Ritual," which did very well and was championed by members of the heavy metal and hard rock press in the United Kingdom and the United States alike and led them to be able to record a prestigious session for the Tommy Vance friday rock show. Based on the success of the EP, the band signed to Neat Records soon after, who were known for releasing records by many other New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands such as Blitzkrieg and Raven. The result was their self-titled debut full length, which like "The Opening Ritual," achieved massive critical acclaim. However, internal tensions became a problem and after releasing a live album entitled, "Fighting Back" in 1986, the band called it a day.
Cloven Hoof would resurface in 1988 however, being brought back to life by bass player Lee Payne who recruited vocalist Russ North and a host of other new members. With a new sense of enthusiasm and dedication, the band decided to drop their stage names in favour of their own and get to work on a new album, which materialised the same year in the form, "Dominator." This new record saw the band move from the standard heavy metal style of their contemporaries into a power metal territory, a formula which followed them to their next album, "A Sultan's Ransom." Both of these albums were well received by fans and featured songs which have since become live staples. Despite their perceived success, the group once again broke up in 1990 as a result of contractual difficulties.
In the early period of the last decade, the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal saw a resurgence in popularity and many of the bands reunited as a result. Payne decided around this time to reform Cloven Hoof but unfortunately, none of the former members were interested, leaving Payne to recruit a brand new lineup. Pre-existing contractual problems were still haunting the band however, and it wasn't to be until 2006 that the group released a new studio album, which came in the form of "Eye Of The Sun." Not long after this release though, former vocalist Russ North finally accepted the offer to return to the band and the duo of himself and Payne went about recruiting new musicians for the lineup, which eventually included former drummer Jon Brown. This new stable re-recorded a selection of older tracks for a compilation album entitled, "The Definitive Part 1," which was released in 2008. North left the band the next year however, despite recording his vocals for an EP of new material called, "Throne Of Damnation." As a result of his exit, the band hired singer Matt Moreton, who had previously sung on the "Eye Of The Sun" album, to record his own vocals and the EP finally saw the light of day in 2010. Currently, Cloven Hoof have plans to record a new studio album and have kept their profile alive by releasing a live DVD this past December. More...
Duff McKagan (Velvet Revolver, Loaded, ex-Guns N Roses) has recently undergone sinus surgery to fix a quarter size hole caused from drug use. Based on this information I have to assume at some point Steven Adler’s (Adler’s Appetite, ex-Guns N Roses) nickname was Silver Dollar… More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Jacob Bannon, the singer for Converge, tells a tale of a crazy Australian gig:
We played a show in middle of Australia. It was so bizarre. Mainly locals came to the show, mechanics, etc. They had no idea what to make of us. When we arrived, the door was a big school bus with sheet metal attached to the windows, making it a crazy wall into the venue. Tires and old car debris were everywhere. Tons of sand. People wearing the craziest things ever. Football pads, ripped up jeans. But they were all punks in some way and were armed. Totally wild. A little kid was even tossing around a boomerang. It was a total trip. In the middle of our set, a guy drove a dune buggy straight into the crowd. No one got hurt but it was NUTS. Complete chaos. He had a hockey mask on and was scary as fuck. We played a few more songs then jetted. So wild. We almost ran out of gas too. Real shortage out there.
Converge seems to be laying low of late, but was one of the first bands recently confirmed for France's Hellfest in 2011.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
Each week with Unearthing the Metal Underground we take a look at quality underground bands in an attempt to spread the word of lesser known acts. This week we're diving into a divisive and controversial subject: Christian "unblack" metal. Also known as "white metal" or "holy unblack metal," the genre twists the standard Satanic or anti-religious themes and instead presents a pro-Christian worldview.
Say the phrase "Christian black metal" to the average metal head and you're likely to be met with a confused giggle or a baffled comparison to Jewish Nazi metal bands, but believe it or not there is a thriving religious black metal scene. While many of the black metal legions may see Christian lyrical themes as an irreconcilable contradiction, there are quite a few unblack bands with music every bit as dark and menacing as anything from the likes of Mayhem or Dimmu Borgir.
As a companion to this look into three unblack metal bands, we also have an editorial dealing with the subject of Christianity in black metal.
Destroying any preconceived notions of unblack metal lacking the force of an anti-religious band, Finland’s Renascent is a thrash-influenced symphonic black metal power house that equals or exceeds many secular bands. The level of fury present in the music is pretty astonishing, and the band doesn’t slouch in the melody department either. It’s a shame the band isn’t better known in the extreme metal community, as the aggressive symphonic tones are sure to please fans of acts like Dimmu Borgir or Dragonlord. Several Renascent tracks are available for streaming through the band’s MySpace page, with “In Hell” and “Exodus” being the most potent examples of crushing brutality mixed with keyboards. The songs “Scenes of a Tragedy” and “Through Darkness” can also be found in the video clips below.
Ask any fan of gothic metal to name a band which the genre couldn't have survived without, and chances are you will always hear the name, Paradise Lost. They weren't always associated with this style though, after forming in the town of Halifax in 1988, the band were known for their death metal rooted sound, having been inspired by such extreme metal heroes as Celtic Frost and Kreator. Following the recording of two demo casettes, the band signed to Peaceville Records for the release of their first album, "Lost Paradise" in 1990, which featured more of a doom flavoured death metal sound than their later material. Although the album received mixed reviews from critics, fans loved it and their next album, "Gothic," proved to be an even bigger success, now being cited as one of the most influential metal albums of the 90s. "Gothic" saw a change in direction somewhat for the band, utilising female vocals and strings and along with the shift in style, the band changed labels when they signed to Music For Nations, through which they released their next album, "Shades Of God."
Paradise Lost were then able to achieve massive critical success once again, following the release of their fourth album, "Icon." Like, "Gothic," the album was considered a classic and helped the band gain chart success when it entered the German album charts at number 31. Another staple followed shortly afterwards in the form of, "Draconian Times," which is also considered one of the best albums not only from Paradise Lost, but of the goth metal genre. This record also enabled the band to perform in places they were previously unable to, such as South America and Australia. Despite the acclaim they had achieved with these albums, the group then shifted direction once again, taking much inspiration from synth pop bands like New Order and Depeche Mode. The first album to feature this sound, "One Second" proved to be a massive success in Europe, entering the top ten in the German and Swedish album charts. The synth pop influence seemed to be overwhelming the band somewhat, as many fans felt that the band had almost completely shed their metal influences on the subsequent albums, "Host" and "Believe In Nothing."
Unhappy with the control their label had over them, the group signed a new deal with GUN Records and began bringing back the metallic sounds of the past, while still retaining their new wave influence. This would mark their last album to feature such a mesh though, as they shed the synth pop stylings for their self-titled tenth studio album in 2005, much to the delight of fans and critics alike. Since then, Paradise Lost have continued to utilise the goth metal sound on their subsequent albums, "In Requiem" and most recently, "Faith Divies Us - Death Unites Us." The band are expected to begin work on a new studio album in the new year, along with rumours of a new DVD release. It seems that now, the band are deservedly recognised as one of the true kings in their respective genre, and one that has earned respect by not being afraid to experiment with their music and take risks, with some paying off more than others. More...
The finale begins with Bret in the backyard on his basketball court and a truly amazing discovery: Bret Michaels has a jump shot. More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Ande Otte, guitarist of Canadian melodic hard rock band Versus The Nothing, shares one from a pizza joint in Manitoba:
Tuning our string waiting to play our set in Brandon, MB at a small pizza joint turned into a music venue for the night. I looked out at the crowd as they were rowdier than most and knew the night was gonna be great!! Just as we played our first note, a guy who we had been watching do the head bob for over an hour puked a bucket's worth all over the pit right in front of the stage. I looked at the bar tender and she gave me the look like thats metal. With no hesitation from the crowd they moshed throught the puke the entire set without even batting an eye and for some reason people kept falling in the pit that night. WORST SMELLING SET EVER!!
You can check out Versus the Nothing's music on their MySpace page.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week I am looking into the Singapore scene once again.
In our previous article, we talked about three bands, namely Draconis Infernum, Xanadoo and Meza Virs. For this article, we will talk a bit about three death metal bands from Singapore.
Formed in early 2006, Assault has been a regular performer in local gigs. After four years and finally having a stable lineup, they are finally about to release their debut EP, "The Exceptions of the Rebellions." Assault plays a brand of melodic death metal, citing influences ranging from Arch Enemy to old school death metal bands. Covers of Bloodbath songs are a staple on their live shows, often drawing curious onlookers and instantly converting them into fans of the band. Vocalist Clarence’s vocals range from deep growls all the way to high pitched screeches. Backed by a solid instrumental section, they are definitely one band to watch out for. Check out Assault’s MySpace page here. Their debut EP is expected to be released in mid-January, 2011. More...
Even if some bands from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal aren't as well remembered as others, some of them are still able to write songs that easily classics of the movement. No greater example is there of this than Blitzkrieg, who formed in the city of Leicester in 1980. The group quickly signed to Neat Records, who championed the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal by signing a number of other bands from the movement, including Venom, Raven and Tygers Of Pan Tang. Through the label, the band were able to release their first single, "Buried Alive" in 1981, though in later years, greater attention was brought to the singles B-side, the eponymous "Blitzkrieg," after it was covered by Metallica. Unfortunately, the band decided to call it a day after the single's release and the members went on to join different projects, the most notable of which was singer Brian Ross who had stints with such other bands as Satan and Avenger.
Following these other tenures, Ross decided to bring Blitzkrieg back in 1984, together with original guitarist Jim Sirotto and new members Mick Proctor, Mick Moore and Sean Harris, who had all performed in a number of other noticable British heavy metal bands. With this lineup, the band were finally able to release full length album, which came in the form of 1985's, "A Time Of Changes." The record was well received by fans and was noticable for it's re-recording of their self-titled song, as well as "Pull The Trigger," a song written by the band, Satan but was never used on any of their releases. It would be six years before Blitzkrieg released a new album, but at last in 1991, "Ten Years Of Blitzkrieg" was released, much to the delight of long time fans.
However, the band soon found themselves without a label and soldiered on until Neat Records re-emerged in 1995 and immediately signed the band to a three album deal, the first release of which was "Unholy Trinity," which had actually been recorded in 1992. Two more albums, "Ten" and "The Misfits Of Avalon" followed and both were well received by heavy metal fans worldwide, but in 1998, Brian Ross suffered from a serious car injury and the future of Blitzkrieg was placed in doubt once again. Lightning war was never stopped by automobile accidents however, and before long Ross resurrected the band once again, eventually releasing a new album in 2002 entitled, "Absolute Power." The band are still going strong today, performing at concerts and festivals worldwide, and still producing new albums, with their most recent effort being 2007's, "Theatre Of The Damned." More...
Ozzy Osbourne has gotten into another traffic altercation, this time rear ending another car while driving a Ferrari. In honor of this monthly event, let’s have a quiz: Which of the following are true of Ozzy’s driving habits? A. It took him 19 attempts at the driving test in order to get his license. B. Ozzy once fell asleep during a driving test, the instructor was gone when he awoke. C. Ozzy repeatedly showed up with alcohol in his body to his driving tests. D. All of the above… More...
The show begins with a brand new look for Bret, the solid black bandana look. It’s as if we are looking at Evil Bret. The whole concept of evil quickly disappears when he gives his daughter (Raine) a guitar for her grades. The guitar has a Playboy bunny on it and the color can only be described as C.C. DeVille pink. More...
We've been talking to bands and fans everywhere to get their favorite mosh pit stories. This week Mario, drummer of L.A. death/thrash band Exmortus, shares a story about insane backyard gigs in L.A.:
Some of the best pits this band has seen were from playing backyard shows in East Los Angeles. Theres nothing like have 100-200 people drunk and under aged crammed in a small yard pitting and head banging their asses off. This one particular night I will never forget, it was one of our first times playing a backyard show and also in East Los. Although the house was pretty small it was also ridiculously packed, the band barely had any room to set up. So we start rockin out in this little corner and the pit just broke out. There were kids diving off the garage and right in the middle of a song a mob of people slam into the band. I remember looking over and seeing conans amp at about a 45 degree angle up against the garage door with him on it still playing haha. It was pretty wild one of many crazy pit stories this band has had.
This past summer Exmortus recruited new guitarist Sean Redline while lead shredder/songwriter Conan has also taken over vocal duties. The band recorded a two-track demo to give fans a taste of what to expect from the new line up and the yet-unnamed new album is tentatively scheduled for release during spring 2011.
The band was recently intereviewed by Terrorizor Magazine about the new album.
Check back every Tuesday for more pit stories.