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As you know, Boulder is a community that tends to attract unique personalities--like Heaven's Gate guru Marshall Applewhite, for one. But Applewhite's wide-eyed, flighty blather about UFOs and recycling your containers represents only one of the city's many facets. Eric Stenslo of Boulder-based Napalm Records America epitomizes another, far different trip off the beaten path. Because of Stenslo's one-man campaign, he's established the town in the minds of people all over the world as a burg on the cutting edge of modern death metal.

Stenslo was born in Sweden and spent his formative years in Switzerland, but because his parents met in Boulder, he often spent time in the municipality to Denver's north. He settled in Boulder six years ago and subsequently enrolled at the University of Colorado with an eye toward a bachelor's degree in computer science. (He dropped out earlier this month approximately a year short of this goal.) When not studying, he played drums for an area death-metal act called Skeleton of God, and while the band didn't last--it broke up a year and a half after forming--he credits it with contributing to the founding of Napalm Records America.

"The band put out a CD in 1994," Stenslo says, "and I called up the original Napalm, which is in Austria, to promote it. They ended up putting the CD out, and in working with them, I liked the way they dealt with it. So I proposed to them that I open an American branch of Napalm, and they thought it was a good idea."

The arrangement that Stenslo and Napalm Austria eventually worked out hardly follows industry standards. As Stenslo explains it, "We are two separate entities. I own Napalm Records America, and I'm not being financed by them. We just made an agreement that we would help each other out and distribute each other's stuff. So we consider ourselves sister companies rather than one being a mother label."

In the beginning, Stenslo imagined that he would simply re-press and rerelease the Napalm Austria product. But after taking this tack with a pair of platters created by Austrian bands (Incessant Desire for Palatable Flesh, by Visceral Evisceration, and VerwYstung/Invoke the Dark Age, by Abigor), he changed his mind. "There were a lot of troubles involved in that," he recalls. "It would take me a while to get all their materials, like the original artwork for the booklets and so on. It took six months to finally get it together, and by the time we were ready to go, a lot of people had already bought the albums as imports or through mail-order. So we started focusing on signing our own bands and releasing our own CDs."

Since then, Stenslo has issued three more CDs: Ominpotence, by Salt Lake City-based Wicked Innocence, Terror From Beyond Space, by Los Angeles's own Killing Spree, and Soul Freak, from Dever's Tribhanga. The last--produced by Time Capsule wizard Kirby Orrick for Global Underground Records, a Napalm Records America subsidiary--is the surprise of the bunch, thanks in part to Tribhanga's lineup, which is among the most diverse in this category. The resumes of drummer Kenny Ortiz and bassist Ken Grider include stints with Phantasmorgasm and D-Town Brown, while vocalist Jahnavi is, of all things, female. Her contributions and the fresh playing of her bandmates help tracks such as "Living Lies," "Stretch Marx" and "Loco Ocho" transcend the limitations of the genre.

Sales on these discs have not hit the strato-sphere; Stenslo's top seller, the Wicked Innocence long-player, has moved about 2,000 units. But Stenslo is optimistic that these numbers will rise now that he's no longer splitting his energies between Napalm and school. Within the next month or so, he's issuing Vicious Act of Machismo, a new effort by Modesto, California's Meat Shit, and he's also distributing products from Napalm Austria and merchandise created by various other indies.

Lining up decent distribution in the U.S. has been a struggle, but Stenslo is pleased with Napalm Austria's efforts to spread his releases throughout Europe, and he's just inked a deal with a company in Thailand: "They're going to license everything that we put out," he notes. He's also peddling his wares via mail order (he advertises in many death-metal mags, including Colorado Springs's Mosh Pit) and the Internet. E-mail Napalm Records America at NRA@ napalm.com; snail-mail the firm at P.O. Box 7905, Boulder 80306-7905. Napalm discs can also be found at Wax Trax and Recycle Records.

Although the idea of death metal in Boulder strikes some people as absurd, it doesn't faze Stenslo. Right now he's running Napalm Records America out of his home, but the venture has grown large enough to justify opening a separate office, which he hopes to do in the not-too-distant future. "It's hard to make a living off this," he concedes. "But I'm going to try."

These are the discs of your lives.
While listening to the self-titled recording by Mrs. Larvae, a band fronted by former Peak DJ Sam Stock, I was immediately reminded of that monument to cinematic achievement, Airheads. After all, the only way the Peak would regularly program this sordid stuff would be if Stock took a hint from the morons in the aforementioned film and held the station's management hostage. Punk aficionados will likely be more receptive: Well-recorded affronts to humanity such as "Rojo Had an Agenda," "Grade A" and "Jaded Waitress" display the chops of bandmembers Stock, Joe Clark, Jason Smith, Tom Kennedy and Erik Oberhausen, whose various resumes include references to Soak, Kingpin, Bum Kon and Child Abuse. The package is filled with undiluted anger or a reasonable facsimile thereof, but it's also a good, rotten time that you'll never hear as part of a Peak music block featuring the Cranberries and the BoDeans. Thank God (Mrs. Larvae, 1422 Delgany, Denver 80202). Mood Express has been delivering its Latin stylings to Denverites for eighteen years now, but El Gigante Desperto is the act's first CD--and it's a likable one. Vocalist Ervin Lucero and percussionist Gary Sosias (also a member of Conjunto Colores) keep the Express on track, but it's the brass work that really stings: Mark Raphael's trumpet solo on "Mi Cumbia Caliente" is especially fine. The crossover attempts are the least successful here: "It's Magic," while extremely sincere, is pretty goopy, and "Dig a Little Deeper" is not nearly as distinct as the dramatic "Bailarina de Espana" and "Puno de Tierra," which has a lovely last-dance-of-the-evening feel. These tracks will almost certainly put you in the Mood (available in area record stores).

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1 comments
ncaagoalie
ncaagoalie

I goal tended vs Stock back in the day and he was awesome!  Unfortunately I got a chance to get to know him later in life and he was the biggest pussy and in love with himself guy I have ever met.  The dude had never been in a fight in his life and he was just a coke and alcohol addict masquerading as something he was not.  (a tough guy)  At least I respected him as a soccer player, but as a person he was a drug addicted loser who wasn't interested in having friends, just having stooges around him to sooth his massive insecurity and feel like the coolest and best looking dude in the room.  Sam was intimidated by others who were better looking, tougher, smarter or better than himself and did not want those people around him.  He surrounded himself by losers to boost his shameless ego.  It is one thing to burn out as a rock star, but to burn out as a wanna be, talentless, punker hack is hilarious!  Quit glorifying drug addicts!  They are losers.

 
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