Ecryptus, the Dark Side’s original Sith metal lords, emerge from the shadows with ‘Rancorous’

ECRYPTUS: (left to right) Allen Keller (Lord Tenebris), Danny Ryann (Dan Solo), Justin Brown (Lord Abraxas), and Mike Michalski (Lord Crypt). Photo by Emily Harris.



A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, an early incarnation of the group now known as  Ecryptus was born as a melodic death metal band hellbent on exploring the blackened depths of the cosmos. It was the early aughts, and the group’s singer and guitar player Mike Michalski took lead of this ragtag band of thrashers who knew from the beginning that they wanted to do more than write what he calls “pretentious love songs to Satan.”

One day, while wandering around the annual sci-fi and fantasy Sodom and Gomorrah that is Dragcon the group came face-to-face with an ancient order of Force-wielding rockabilly punks with a penchant for theatrics—Grand Moff Tarkin. Featuring Atlanta artists and underground impresarios Jim Stacy and Shane Morton, GMT pushed the Star Wars theme to the extreme, with an array of spot-on costumes, props, and a legion of stormtroopers to do their bidding.

In an instant, Ecryptus emerged with an arsenal of wholly new and sinister Star Wars-themed black metal to serve the Dark Side.

“Grand Moff Tarkin did their thing with unapologetic campiness,” Michalski says, “but we wanted to make serious songs and treat the source material how many bands treat Tolkien. So we thought, how can we hint at the Dark Side of Star Wars without getting completely sued?”



In 2008, Ecryptus unleashed the Astral Crusades EP, breathing life into the group’s campaign for Darth metal supremacy with songs such as “Imperial Revenge,” “Abandon All Hope,” and “Execute Order 666.” More than a decade later, the “Rancorous” b/w “Execute Order 666 MMXVIII” 7-inch summons a supernatural whirr of cosmic grind, making their transformation to the Dark Side complete.

“Ecryptus,” according to Star Wars lore, was the name of the cavern deep below the surface of the planet Korriban where the ancient Sith species first encountered the Dark Side of the Force. Most of the songs the group has recorded and played live deal with the more horrific scenarios that are woven throughout the Star Wars canon that people only familiar with the films might have never thought too deeply about: being sentenced to death by Rancor, being frozen in carbonite, enslaving an entire planet of wookies, and so on.

“Rancorous” opens with a mighty roar before a spiraling assault of blast beats and demonic incantations rise over searing guitar leads that burn with the heat of Vader’s red lightsaber. On the flipside, “Execute Order 666 MMXVIII” resurrects what has become Ecryptus’ unofficial anthem with a new recording, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Astral Crusades’ release. The song chronicles Anakin Skywalker’s perspective of executing Emperor Palpatine’s “Order 66” to slaughter the Jedi. “Making the Emperor say “666” was fun,” Michalski says.

The line up at the time of recording the “Rancorous” single featured Michalski, aka Lord Crypt, performing alongside bass player Lord Tenebris, born Allen Keller of Degradations, drummer Dan Solo, aka Danny Ryann (ex-Gigan), and guitar player Ryan Lamb. Lamb moved to Orlando shortly after the songs for the 7-inch were recorded. Lord Abraxas, aka Justin Brown (ex-Synapse Defect), now plays guitar.

The 7-inch arrived pressed on a multi-hued galaxy of vinyl colors: Cauterized Saber Wound, Mace Windu Purp Surp, Ghrey Rey, Opening Crawl Rotten Banana, Gamorrean Guard Mucus, Sarlacc Puke After Trying To Digest Boba Fett, Luke’s Lame-Ass Saber, and Dagoba Green.

Ecryptus. Photo by Emily Harris.

Live, the group takes the stage sporting sith-corpse paint, robes, armor, Dragoncon-acquired lightsabers, and their friend Scara Slayfield wearing her best “Hutt Slayer” Princess Leia outfit, serving drinks to the stage, and adorning the monitors.

The group recently finished recording material for a new EP that’s due out in the Spring of 2021. More recent Ecryptus songs draw inspiration from the expanded universe—characters from Star Wars comic books, novels, and video games.

The forthcoming EP is tentatively titled Kyram Beskar’gam, and, if you watched the The Mandalorian—and you know you did—you already know the title is Mando’a for “Death Armor/Metal.” The new EP will feature songs with titles such as “Cauterized Saber Wound Massacre,” “Planetary Enslavement,” “Compulsion to Disintegrate,” and “Digested over 1000 Years.”

“With each new release, we give in to our anger,” Michalski says, “and become more the Dark Side’s servant …”

In the words of Darth Vader, “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side!”

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Entertainment: ‘Voyeur’


The Howling, The Beyond, Driller Killer, Evil Dead 2, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Slumber Party Massacre, Fright Night, The Fog

If you were breathing oxygen in the ‘80s, merely mentioning these titles stirs up memories of youthful fascination, elation, and terror while staring at the artwork for these horror classics of the VHS era. “Voyeur,” the second single from Entertainment’s forthcoming Horror parts 1 and 2 EPs, pushes this aesthetic nostalgia to a deeper and darker place within the imagination.

As vocalist Trey Ehart explains, “‘Voyeur’ is probably the most direct reference on the EPs to being bored and young in rural suburbia, and spending time absorbing horror movies and skate tapes from the local VHS rental store.”

“Voyeur” falls on the heels of Entertainment’s previously released single, “Maggot Church,” and taps into a more severe sense of urgency before diving deeper into the rabbit hole of hazy and cinematic ambiance. Tom Ashton of the March Violets unfurls a rich, goth-tinged production, as Ehart’s heavily affected voice drives the song’s unhinged melancholy and dreamlike vibe with lyrics such as: “video stains my eyes,” “dreams returned too late, screams in the gages of youth,” “show me ways of new desire,” and “static shivers so strange.”

“Each lyric glamorizes the impact of being exposed to a life and music outside of mainstream culture with over saturated practical effects, unnecessarily gratuitous glimpses of nudity, and underground soundtracks,” Ehart says.

The song’s constrictive and alluring melodies grow increasingly more pronounced in the Candelabra Cage Match mix, which comes courtesy of Beta Machine’s bass player Matt McJunkins, who also performs with Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, Eagles of Death Metal, Poppy, and more.

Keep an eye out for the video, directed by John Breedlove of Hip To Death to arrive soon.

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John Densmore of The Doors on ‘The Seekers’

It’s the people one encounters along the way that turns any trip into a journey.

On Wednesday, December 16, the iconic drummer John Densmore joined me for an A Cappella Books exclusive Zoom chat discussing his latest memoir, The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists).

Densmore is the former drummer for the late great Los Angeles psychedelic rock group the Doors. With The Seekers, he reflects on a lifetime spent crossing paths with greatness. From artists such as Elvin Jones to Joseph Campbell, Patti Smith, the Dalai Lama, Willie Nelson, and John Coltrane, his own mother, and more, The Seekers is a rumination on the knowledge that Densmore has gained through various remarkable encounters, and an exploration of his own relationship with art, music, and humankind.

Press play above.

Click here to read an interview with Densmore discussing his previous book, The Doors: Unhinged.

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Emily Marie Palmer & Jeffrey Bützer: ‘Rebekka’


Jeffrey Bützer and Emily Marie Palmer have released a new single titled “Rebekka.”

The song finds Bützer and Palmer embracing an elegant folk-pop sound that serves as an invisible soundtrack that’s loosely based on The Ballad of Jack and Rose, a film about a daughter that has an unhealthy relationship with her father. As Bützer explains, the song’s protagonist is “raised in a former comune and has really only been around him for her entire life, and, more or less, falls in love with him. I didn’t want to write a salacious incest folk song, so I kept the mood and changed the intent.”

The song features Bützer playing guitar alongside vocalist Palmer, backing vocalist A. R. Palmer, piano and guitar player Lionel Fondeville, Eric Balint playing vibraphone, and cello player Kristin Haverty. The group weaves together a rich tapestry of ethereal, cinematic chamber pop that tells a story that is as tragic or as wistful as whatever the listener brings to the music. The cover art is courtesy of filmmaker Guy Maddin.

Jeffrey Bützer (left) and Emily Marie Palmer. Photo by Ken Lackner


If Palmer looks familiar, you probably recognize her from her roles as Isabel on the rebooted MacGyver series, or as Betsy in season 3 of Cobra Kai—teenaged John Kreese’s love interest. Check out her previous singles “Holy Magic,” “For Beauty,” and “Two Brothers.”

“Rebekka” offers the first glimpse at a new eight-song full-length album, titled Bedrooms, due out later this year.

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Kevn Kinney’s Free Parking: Elvis & Bowie stories Friday, January 8

For this Friday’s Free Parking live stream, Kevn Kinney is diving into a set of mostly loosely veiled topical songs from throughout his career—Drivin N Cryin songs such as “With The People,” “The Innocent,” “Scarred But Smarter,” “Another Scarlet Butterfly,” and more.

As the flier suggests, there is something of an Elvis and David Bowie-related theme this week. It’s Elvis and Bowie’s birthday, so settle in to hear stories about Kevn’s trips to Graceland over the years, high adventure in Memphis, maybe a Sun Records medley, and stories of crossing paths with the Thin White Duke himself.

It’s free to tune in and watch via Drivin N Cryin’s Facebook page, and it’s a pay-what-you’d-like type of deal. Music starts up at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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SOULd OUT ska reggae explosion w/ DJ Mrs. 45 at the Star Bar January 16

Dirty South Booking.

DJ Mrs. 45 makes the trek from South Carolina for an evening of spinning classic ska, reggae, and soul 45s, in the basement lounge at the Star Bar.

The music starts up at 9 p.m. and the records will spin till midnight. Wear your mask and bring your dancing shoes!

$5 at the door. Saturday, January 16. 9 p.m.

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West End Motel: ‘New Years Day’


Happy New Year! West End Motel kicks off the new year with a new jam, appropriately titled, “New Year’s Day.”

Singer and co-writer Tom Cheshire offers up some intel on the song’s words and meaning:

‘Well New Year’s Eve has always been a celebration of just another year being alive, and this year it rings truer than ever. Yesterday, my friend Rob Kincheloe sent me a text saying ‘Happy New Year, if you’re alive you won.’

With ‘New Year’s Day,’ I wanted to write a love song, with a sense of humor in it, and a sense of hope. We always talk about these New Year’s resolutions but they only seem to last a week or two. That’s why there are lyrics in the verse like ‘I know I’ve made mistakes but this time we’re gonna be great,’ and ‘Talk to me on New Year’s Day, I’ll find a place for us to stay,’ and ‘This year is for me and you, all the things that we’re gonna do.’

I also wanted it to be a nod to ’70s soul. I was channeling Motown and the Jam when I started writing it. But Ben Thrower, who wrote it with me, said without realizing it we were flirting with the sounds of early E Street band.

Either way, I love the way it came out. I love the New Year’s horn riff that Ben Davis plays at the end. I guess it is a celebration of being alive and maybe finding love again.’

“New Year’s Day” is the fourth single from West End Motel’s ongoing campaign to roll out a new single each month till Spring. After that, they’ll turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album.

Check out the previous singles:




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Kevn Kinney’s Free Parking: Christmas Special

Tune in to Drivn N Cryin‘s Facebook page on Christmas night to catch Kevn Kinney performing live in his attic! Kevn is a pillar of Atlanta music. He has the stories and he has the songs that place a sometimes rugged, always poignant spin on the past as well as the here and now.

The music starts at 8 p.m. He’ll plays some Drivin N Cryin classic cuts, some deep cuts, a few newer numbers, some solo joints, and maybe even a cover or two.

It’s a pay-what-you-want type of deal.

In the meantime, press play below to hear my April 2019 podcast interview in which Kinney talks about reconnecting with Drivin N Cryin’s first LP, the group’s most recent album, Live the Love Beautiful, and looking within himself to find true happiness.

Entertainment’s Trey Ehart on ‘Maggot Church’ and ‘Horror’ parts 1 & 2


Entertainment, for most intents and purposes, fell silent after releasing its 2009 debut album, Gender (Stickfigure Records, Adistant Sound, and Duchess Archive). Aside from playing shows in the Southeastern U.S., sharing stages with Modern English in 2016-17, the gothic-leaning post-punk outfit has remained far from the public eye for nearly 11 years.

In October 2020, two of the group’s founding members, Trey Ehart (vocals, guitar, bass, and synthesizer) and Bari Donovan (drums and percussion), along with Entertainment’s latest addition Jim Groff (synth) emerged from the void with a new single, titled “Maggot Church.” From the song’s hissing salvo — a deluge of sonic light and shadow — “Maggot Church’s” stark, effects-laden doom and ambiance are pierced by Ehart’s spectral moans of catharsis. Released with a handful of remixes by INHALT, Delphine Coma, and SubVon, aka producer and former March Violets guitar player Tom Ashton, “Maggot Church” is an empowered number cut from rhythmic grooves and distortion, and charged with intensity. It’s a twisted and contemptuous song that expands upon the group’s brand of gothic rock with an evolved and atmospheric makeover. It’s also the first cut from an upcoming two-part EP to be released in early 2021, titled Horror Parts 1 and Part 2. While preparing for the first EP’s January arrival, Ehart took a few minutes to talk about what the group has been up to for the last decade, and what Entertainment has in store for the future.

The two-part EP that you have in the works is called Horror. The video for “Maggot Church” opens with a quote from intro to the old television show “Tales From the Darkside.” I bring this up to get your thoughts on the EP’s title and the concepts that are at work here. … After watching “Maggot Church” I went down the Youtube rabbit hole, watching episodes of “Tales From the Darkside,” “Friday the 13th,” etc.

Those shows brought out a sense of chasing those childhood thrills of terror and elation at the same time.

I have always been obsessed with the intro to “Tales from the Darkside” — the negative trees, the way the music bends as the world turns dark, and the underlying context of the narration. In a weird way it helped shade the lens through which I see the world. There’s definitely that sense of terror and wonder, something dark lurking beyond you, mixed with childish wonder and elation, but there’s also a harsh existential truth buried beneath it.

Stephen King has a quote: “True horror is the coming undone of something good.” That, to me, is the essence of where we are as a band. When we started coming back out, suddenly I was hit with a lot of people affirming to me, for the first time, that we were something good, and we had completely come undone underneath that. The childish sense of blind self-assuredness had devolved into a sense of doubt, a black cloud hanging over me, like a Kafkaesque maze of conflict. Combine that with my love of camp B-movie horror from the ’80s, and that’s where we’re coming from now.

ENTERTAINMENT: Bari Donovan (left), Trey Ehart, and Jim Groff. Photo by Will Weems.


What prompted you to get the band back together and continue moving forward?

We never really officially broke up, but after touring behind Gender for two years our bass player Tommy bassist left. I moved back to Atlanta from Athens, and we  struggled to regain momentum and maintain a reputation. We were working with DISARO Records, which was a huge accomplishment for us, but I lost faith and direction in our songwriting and position. We did meet our synth player Jim during this time though, and played SXSW twice, trying to find a new way forward. But our live presence almost completely dropped off, and I spent time working with Kris Sampson on nurturing our sound through recordings. Pretty soon the indie goth scene that we’d seen and been a part of in New York and Los Angeles started taking off in Atlanta, and I was asked to DJ at a few nights. I also started seeing more like minded musicians at the DKA nights at 529, and Silk Wolfs’ goth nights. That’s also when I started to realize we had a very underground cult following here. But the big moment was in 2016 when we got the opportunity to open for Modern English on the Southeastern dates of their Mesh & Lace Tour. So we grabbed Jen von Schlichten from Black Lodge and Hymen Moments, and went from nothing to the biggest tour of our career. It was unbelievable, we had everything and nothing to prove, and had to rely solely on the strength of our songs and live presence. We came back to Atlanta completely rejuvenated, played two sold-out shows at The EARL in one day, where half the crowd thought we were from the UK, and then we crashed back down to earth, went back out with Modern English in 2017, this time working with Henry Jack from Weary Heads by way of a connection through Dead Register, and we naturally started re-working and improving newer material. Once we came back from that tour we decided it was time.


How did you come work with Tom Ashton at SubVon Studio. Has working with him helped you realize anything new or different about your songwriting and the group’s sound and vision?

I met Tom through a mutual friend at a Peter Murphy show in Atlanta. Then we ran into each other again backstage at the Modern English show at the Earl, and again at the March Violets reunion show at the Masquerade, and the dots started to connect for me. I’m pretty shy when it comes to promoting our music, but once we started re-working our newer material I found the courage to reach out to him for help mixing and mastering the material Kris Sampson had helped us work up with the overdubs we did. He’s been a huge source of support and understanding for us. I originally approached him in a very nonchalant way, but March Violets is the ultimate street cred, and a very different approach from the way we do things. He has really helped to teach me strength and how to desaturate — to lean into the atmosphere of a song but also mind the hook — and to trust myself.

Do you feel like Entertainment is part of a larger community of like minded bands in Atlanta? I ask mostly because I have seen bands like Tears For The Dying and Hip To Death working with Tom Ashton as well. All three of these bands are quite different, aesthetically speaking, but there is an underlying thread of commonality — darkness, post-punk, gothic tendencies. Do you think of these bands as kindred spirits?

I’m pretty sure I introduced them to him, if I remember correctly. I love all those bands. We have all circled each other for years, and worked together pretty frequently. But there’s definitely a more concrete scene developing Out of SubVon, where we all have a place we can work. Honestly, I can remember seeing Hip To Death terrify kids at frat bars in Athens, and I’ve always admired Tears For The Dying from the time they used to rehearse next to us and Snowden in a warehouse off Howell Mill Road. And I think we’ve all developed separately, but we’re all hitting a certain level at the same time.

A little more than a decade has passed since Entertainment released Gender. Aesthetically speaking, how have things changed over time?

Not much, weirdly. I think I’m more inclined to be appealing now, much to the relief of the band. I still look to the artsy tension of bands like the Virgin Prunes and Bauhaus for inspiration, but I’m more interested in allowing people to enjoy us without having to be confronted. Leaning more into Japan and Psychedelic Furs. We were recently referred to as “the bastard child of Swans and Duran Duran,” rather than just “the sound of death,” so I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Do you have a favorite song amid all of the new material?

We have so much unreleased stuff at his point it’s hard to say. If you asked the band I think we’d all say something different, but our upcoming third single, “An Alter of Remembrance,” and the track “Distance” are two we tend to gravitate toward.


Have any of the remixes surprised you or revealed something about the music that you didn’t expect?

Yeah definitely! We’ve been lucky to have so many talented people support us and completely transform our songs. I love hearing how other musicians  interpret and manipulate us. At times I am surprised and horrified at how desperate the solo tracks sound, or how small changes can really pull a chorus together in a much more accessible way. They really help put possibilities in place as we decide what the next sound is and get out of our heads.

Do you have a release date in mind for the EPs to arrive?

We have one more single before Horror Part 1 comes out, we’re waiting on a few remixes for that. Then Part 1 comes out in January and a third single and Part 2 come out in February.

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