Hello Death
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Hello Death

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Folk Rock




"Concert Review + Photos +Video: Hello Death & Volcano Choir at the Pabst Theater (Milwaukee, WI)"

By Kelli Cohen Concert Photos, Concert ReviewsOctober 5, 2013
Concert Review + Photos +Video: Hello Death & Volcano Choir at the Pabst Theater (Milwaukee, WI)

A lone douchebag calls out into the silence: “Let’s go!!”
“Where are you going?” Nathaniel Heuer, bass player and vocalist for Hello Death, calls back. “Like, do you have a plan?”
“I didn’t think so. I guess you’re coming with us.”

With a name like theirs, one could imagine where a journey with Hello Death would lead them. As it turns out, it’s a shadowy, cavernous place, but surprisingly tender. Proponents of “dark folk music from Milwaukee,” they offer up a selection of slow, mournful tunes perfect for haunting your local abandoned mansion. Heuer’s gravelly vocals switch off with guitarist/violinist Marielle Allschwang, together creating a sound that ranges from sinister to sublime.

The opening song, “Settlers”, is like a Brother’s Grimm lullaby, mixing soothing melodies with gruesome lyrics. It makes for a great introduction to the afterlife, as Heuer’s gruff voice and bass plucking take over on “Good Luck” and “Disappointed”, the latter an eerie combination of piano chords, steel guitar, and ghostly harmonies. Allschwang takes back the reins on, “The Coming Tide”, a beautifully chilling shanty. Accordions never sounded so sinister.

The set closed with “Footsteps”, a song that perfectly encapsulates the strange balance Hello Death has cultivated, as a myriad of instruments and vocal qualities cross paths to form a sound that is so singularly foreboding. Strings sink down into the floorboards while harmonies float up to the eaves, surrounding the audience with a feeling that’s apprehensive, but never frightened. Amiss, but not uncomfortable. Finally, the song builds to a smash of percussion and bass that fills the room until, suddenly, it’s gone, leaving an unsettling silence in its wake.

By the time Volcano Choir’s Thomas Wincek walked on stage to start the heavy drone that opens “Tiderays”, the audience collectively leaned towards the stage, holding its hands out to thaw. As the rest of the group filtered on, that warm glow settled over the Pabst that can only be found at a good old-fashioned hometown show. When “Tiderays” faded out into “Island, IS”, things only got brighter.

Given my penchant for waxing poetic on Volcano Choir, I’ll stick to the facts: the songs the band created for Repave are strong, but the energy they attain in a live setting is visceral. The choruses of “Comrade” and, later on, “Acetate” practically explode, while standout single and penultimate set choice “Byegone” roars so powerfully it lifts you off your feet. Even the melancholic “Alaskans” achieved a new tenderness; quiet and sincere.

But that’s a lot of feelings to feel. Thankfully, unfamiliar songs like “Valleynaire” and “The Agreement” punctuated the set, imbuing a sense of spontaneity while keeping older numbers fresh. They weren’t as strong musically, but still energetic and enjoyable, especially considering a whole set of build-until-you-can’t-build-anymore numbers would add up to an emotionally repetitive roller coaster.

But a good build has its place. As proof, Volcano Choir closed out the set with “Still” (slash-”Woods” slash-”Lost in the World”, depending on your demographic). The stark simplicity of vocals and percussion layered into seven minutes – or ten, after Jon Mueller’s lengthy series of drum solos – is a divine reminder of the elements that formed Volcano Choir in the first place, as one of the first songs the band collaborated on.

Lights faded out and back in as the band came back for an encore highlighted by more overwhelmed words from guitarist Chris Rosseau (“Milwaukee, you’re crazy!”) and an incredibly powerful version of “Almanac”, with Justin Vernon’s cathartic yells echoing out into space: “I’ll be alive/When all of this is over/When all of us are sober”.

An impromptu decision to end with “Youlogy” capped off the evening, Vernon’s face dark behind the glowing podium that housed the Repave logo. It was a perfectly full-circle choice for a group that very much understands the concept. The rest of us left to sit in the dark and comfortably consider our mortality. - Mezzic

"Hello Death to premiere “Settlers” video during May 10 show at Anodyne"

Moody folk outfit Hello Death excels at sparse, haunting music that works its way into your bones like a winter chill. Made up of members of Altos (Marielle Allschwang, Nathaniel Heuer, Shawn Stephany, Erin Wolf), the group doesn’t so much perform folk music as suggest it; Allschwang’s gorgeously airy alto, Heuer’s Nick Cave-esque baritone, and the group’s stripped-down instrumentation combine to form a sound that seems to pre-date music itself.

That out-of-time quality is perfectly visualized in the upcoming video for “Settlers,” the leadoff track of Hello Death’s 2013 self-titled album. Directed by Heuer, the video is straight out of M.Night Shyamalan’s The Village (minus the dopey twist), featuring a dozen plainly dressed women (Allschwang and Wolf among them) taking part in some intense choreographed dough kneading. (The band describes the video as a “meditation on life, death, and the meanings we create to navigate and understand our lives.”)

The clip will make its premiere during a May 10 show at Anodyne Coffee’s Walker’s Point Roastery. The all-ages show begins at 8 p.m. and is $5. Christopher Porterfield will open with a solo set. Before that show, listen to “Settlers” below, and make sure those park rangers don’t follow you back to your “19th-century” village. (10-year-old spoiler alert!) - Milwaukee Record

"Folk band Hello Death gives life to warm Christmas song"

Merry Christmas from Hello Death.

Not exactly the kind of statement that gives you the warm fuzzies.

And not surprisingly, the man behind the local melancholic folk band, Nathaniel Heuer, didn't have any holly jolly feelings for holiday music for much of his life.

"It was probably a product of me being young and annoyed with consumerism, annoyed with this homogeneous culture," he said. "Every mall is playing the same music, and it's about 'what pop star has recorded a Christmas song this year' and how much money are they going to make off of it."

And yet, within 48 hours of learning the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was inviting local acts to perform their original holiday songs for a series of videos, Heuer had written a lovely and warm Hello Death holiday song, "On a Quiet Winter Night." (See a performance at jsonline.com/soundcheck. The band plans to offer the song as a free download before the end of the year through hellodeath.net.)

"I have a daughter, she is 16 and a half months, so now Christmas has a different meaning," Heuer explained. "Now I understand why my parents want to spend the holidays with me."

Plus, he added, "I really like challenges."

Who's who: Marielle Allschwang, 28 (guitar, vocals, violin); Heuer, 38 (bass, vocals); Shawn Stephany, 38 (guitar, lap steel); Erin Wolf, 33 (piano, accordion, vocals). Heuer spoke for the band.

When the band formed: Right around the end of 2010. I had a bunch of material written and wanted to have it performed and recorded. They were more verse chorus verse song structures and shorter format, and that didn't especially jive with what (another band I'm in) Altos was doing. So I asked people who were in Altos if they wanted to work on songs with me. And luckily everybody I asked said yes.

Band name back story: Altos was briefly known as Hello Death Goodbye Killers. I liked just the "Hello Death" part. So I begged Ken Palme, the guitarist from Altos (to use the name). I got him drunk and he agreed, but he later said that he didn't agree and that we stole it.

Other music: Hello Death released a self-titled, eight-song album this past June (stream and purchase it at hellodeath.bandcamp.com) and is planning to release a new full-length album next year.

Creating "On a Quiet Winter Night": It sounds contrived, but I wanted the song to be in C major because most Christmas songs are in that key. And we experimented with having percussion and accordion, and I wanted Marielle to bring in her violin, but after we rehearsed it a bunch we decided to keep it more minimal, so the focus was the voices and the lyrics with the countermelody via Shawn's guitar.

I wanted that song to be meaningful in a nondenominational way, so it's more about being together with family and loved ones and learning to forgive and forget any crap that comes up. The holidays are a time for that, for some people. For some families it's a time to get together and fight, for others it's a time to pretend nothing is going on while you give each other sideways glances, and for others the holidays are there to discuss stuff so they can ignore each other for another 11 and a half months of the year.

Favorite Christmas song:Burl Ives' "Silver and Gold" from the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It's just so goofy.

Favorite Christmas album:"Merry Christmas" by Johnny Mathis. If you change the lyrics, they're just good songs. They don't rely on being holiday songs to be interesting.

Favorite Christmas movie: "The Nightmare Before Christmas." It's really dark and kind of creepy and the soundtrack is amazing.

Annual Christmas tradition: My mother still makes a stocking for me. And it always has an orange at the toe.

Favorite Christmas dish or drink: No. Just whiskey.

Favorite Christmas gift: I got a King Kong set when I was 3 or 4. It was actually a building and a giant, plastic, unhuggable King Kong. It was great. We moved shortly after that and so I gave it to my best friend Mark. He liked it a lot too, and I kind of regretted that. I forgot about Mark pretty quickly but that King Kong set, I wanted it back.

All you want for Christmas is...: "Two weeks at Electrical Audio in Chicago. Hopefully (owner) Steve Albini will see this and say, 'Oh, I can grant you that.' It's just a fantastic recording studio. Every album that's been recorded there I really like; even if I don't like the music I like the recording." - Journal Sentinel

"Hello Death Find Comfort in Mortality"

A band name can be worth a thousand words, and Hello Death says it all. The Milwaukee folk group that shares members with Altos released its debut self-titled album in June, and it’s the kind of decidedly bleak, darkly pretty thing you’d expect to hear from a band that has captured the essence of mortality in its name. But even with the thematic burden it bears, the album doesn’t cast our ultimate fates in an entirely hopeless light, or so the band assures me. I searched for a shred of optimism among the album’s eight songs, which range from somber to downright chilling, but I couldn’t find much.

“‘Settlers’ is happy!” contends Marielle Allschwang, who plays guitar and violin and sings. She is referring to the album’s shimmering lullaby of an opening number, which happens to be the song that scares me the most. Even though it sounds “happy,” there is something deeply unsettling beneath its dew-drenched surface. “Killing all the sons / Put ’em in the forest,” Allschwang coos, “Bet you’ll never guess which part.” Even in its self-proclaimed happiest moments, Hello Death is singing about burying bodies.

Though he jokes that Hello Death would be a good way to end a bad date, bassist, vocalist and primary songwriter Nathaniel Heuer stands up for its hopefulness. “I think there is hope,” he says, “but it has to do with the hope after the understanding that in most ways you have no real control, and everybody dies.” The album is full of that sort of backward inspiration: life sucks, you’re going to die someday, so get out there and live. “You have to be something,” Heuer sings wearily on “Good Luck,” “even if it’s nothing all that great.”

Glumness aside, Hello Death is actually very pleasant to listen to. Its bucolic, macabre sound could be emanating from some dark hollow in the same north woods forest where Justin Vernon so famously recorded For Emma, Forever Ago. In fact, it was recorded at Vernon’s April Base studio in Eau Claire, which is not quite a dark hollow, but it’s pretty close. The studio is built into an old swimming pool, which, along with an old-school plate reverb setup, explains the album’s cavernous, woodsy sound. On top of that, all four members are multi-talented musicians who got comfortable playing together in Altos. Hello Death often sounds like a small orchestra itself, with a mixture of baroque, folk and rock instrumentation that sounds both ornate and cozily homebrewed. And then there are the voices of Allschwang, Heuer and Erin Wolf, chanting back and forth like muses and men in a Greek tragedy. Allschwang and Wolf sing like angels, sometimes approaching the flamboyance of opera, while Heuer’s booming bass is like Zeus trapped in the body of a tortured, mortal man.

“When I write for Hello Death I try to keep it thematic,” Heuer says, and it shows. Though it has no deliberate narrative arc, the album flows together seamlessly. Heuer and the rest of the group took the sequencing aspect of Hello Death very seriously. Inspired by albums from his high school years, like Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing Shocking, Heuer tried to think of how he’d like to hear the songs together, how one would blend into another. As it is, listening to Hello Death is like being under an overcast sky that stretches forever. That’s not a knock, but a testament to its consistency and its devotion to a few specific ideas. It’s an absorbing, beautiful listen—even if it is nearly hopeless.

Hello Death open for Volcano Choir on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Pabst Theater. Doors open at 8 p.m. - Shepherd Express

"Alverno Presents "Smith Uncovered" plugs into a punk legend"

A little over a decade ago, Milwaukee musician and Testa Rosa lead vocalist Betty Blexrud-Strigens got a chance to see the legendary Patti Smith in Madison, around the time the punk rock icon released her 2000 album "Gung Ho." Even though the show came quite some time after Smith's punk glory years, Blexrud-Strigens still remembers the rock legend providing a charge.

"It was fantastic, just the build up knowing that I was going to see this idol," Blexrud-Strigens recalled. "It wasn't like a 'remember when' type of show. It seemed like she picked up exactly where she left off. Some bands tour, and you're like, 'Oh, they're getting older,' and they've tempered their music a little bit. She was everything we expected to see."

Now, it's up to Blexrud-Strigens to bring the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer's essence back to the stage with "Smith Uncovered," the latest musical exploration organized by Alverno Presents.

The concert, hosted on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. at Alverno College's Pitman Theatre, gathers together an impressive roster of Milwaukee artists and musicians – including Die Kreuzen, Nineteen Thirteen, Karl Paloucek, Chris DeMay and Metropolitan Singers, Dry House Ruins and more – not to simply cover Smith's greatest hits and poetry, but to reinterpret it in the hopes of gleaning more about the featured icon. The show will feature a range of performance types, from music to poetry and lyric readings to performance art to projections to photography – fitting for a multi-faceted performer with such an equally multi-faceted career.

Tickets for the show are $25.

"I want people to make sure they're not just focusing on her first four albums and instead exploring her whole catalog," Blexrud-Strigens said. "I hope it shines a light on her additional work – and she's still at it."

Selected as the concert event's curator by Alverno Presents director David Ravel, Blexrud-Strigens was allowed to choose which American songwriter she wanted to focus her show upon. In the past, Alverno Presents featured reinterpretations of the works of Stephen Foster and Marvin Gaye, with an additional "Uncovered" concert, zeroing in on the music of Quincy Jones, is set for April next year. After cycling through several potential subjects, Blexrud-Strigens landed on who she wanted for her show.

"I wanted to pick a woman songwriter," Blexrud-Strigens said. "Then I was trying to think of American female songwriters, and she just kept coming back. I've always been a fan, and there's a huge chunk of her work that I hadn't explored either. I just thought it would lend itself to translation really well, compared to some songwriters. She's just got so much work. She's been really prolific. Even though she took 15 years off to raise her kids, she just continues to write music and literature."

Blexrud-Strigens then began developing the show, writing down a list of performers and musicians that she thought would interpret Smith's music, lyrics and career in dynamic, unique and creative ways.

"I didn't want it to all be rock 'n' roll, but I definitely thought there had to be some rock 'n' roll in there and some punk influence," she noted. "We wanted to make sure they weren't just covers and that they were true reinterpretations. We really want the bands to push the directions of the songs. I don't want it to be just a spoof of her or an impression of her. It's kind of spawned a lot of different conversations, and a lot of people have a lot of great ideas about it. I just try to gather it and make it something people would like."

As a result, she wound up with the current lineup. Of course there's a significant dash of rock, but the musical performances range across the board with acts like Nineteen Thirteen – a trio, consisting of two drummers and a cellist, that Blexrud-Strigens wanted so much for the concert that its date was pushed back a week in order to book them – a song written by Hello Death inspired by Smith's book "Woolgathering" and sound artist Paloucek, who will play a rendition of "Horses" with projections of the song around him.

"I have this backing element that more or less approximates the band line for the piece," Paloucek explained. "The lyrics – the poetry of the song itself – will be projected as I perform it, and I'm hoping that mentally people will fill in the gap, as far as Patti's vocal line and whatnot. It's a bit of an experiment."

The diversity of interpretations and acts hope to reveal andget at the dynamic personality that is Patti Smith – one that Blexrud-Strigens noted goes much further than her Godmother of Punk reputation. It's something the show's curator even noticed all the way back at that concert in Madison years ago.

"She had this presence, and she kind of morphs into these different personas," Blexrud-Strigens said. "She'll be an angel one minute, then a banshee the next."

"I think sometimes people just pigeonhole or stereotype her as the Godmother of Punk or Candy Slice," she continued. "One of the things that I think by looking deeper into her work is that you see the many facets of it, the many personas that are in it. And they're all truthful to her. She changes personas, and she's still always Patti Smith." - On Milwaukee

"13 Best Albums of 2013"

13 Best Albums of 2013
We picked the 13 best local albums from this year. It was harder than it looks to choose. BY Tyler Maas and Abby Callard and Joe Guszkowski 12/20/2013

Hello Death - Hello Death

Hello Death's Nathaniel Heuer joked to me that his band's debut album would be a good way to end a bad date. Its gloomy lyrics and forboding tone might be buzz kills, but rarely will your mood be dampened more gently and beautifully. The Marrielle Allschwange-penned "Settlers" (http://hellodeath.bandcamp.com/track/settlers) may be the best song in Milwaukee this year – an antique-sounding lullaby that's actually about buried bodies and severed tongues. (See what I mean?) (JG) - MilwaukeeMag.com


Still working on that hot first release.



Hello Death was born in Milwaukee, WI from members of Altos.  Their unique folk music is dark, sweet and soulful.  Deliberate execution of strong song writing and challenging harmonies make for a symphonic quality voiced with raw Americana instrumentation.

Their self-titled debut album was recorded at April Base Studios, engineered by Jaime Hansen, produced by Nathaniel Heuer and Daniel Spack (Volcano Choir) and released to rave reviews on June 14th, 2013.

 Number one on MilwaukeeMag.coms June 2013 top ten picks.

Hello Death released its long-awaited debut album hello death on June 14. Its littered with dark, beautiful vocal harmonies and keen instrumentation. Its sure to appear on countless Best Of lists in town come December.


"Moody folk outfit Hello Death excels at sparse, haunting music that works its way into your bones like a winter chill. Made up of members of Altos (Marielle Allschwang, Nathaniel Heuer, Shawn Stephany, Erin Wolf), the group doesn’t so much perform folk music as suggest it; Allschwang’s gorgeously airy alto, Heuer’s Nick Cave-esque baritone, and the group’s stripped-down instrumentation combine to form a sound that seems to pre-date music itself."


Hello Death has performed with Volcano Choir (to a sold-out house at The Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee WI), Nathaniel Rateliff,  Dark Dark Dark,  The Daredevil Christopher Wright and Jozef Van Wissem among others.

Hello Death feature songs Good Luck and The Coming Tide in Sean Williamsons full-length feature film Heavy Hands.

 Hello Death, "Hello Death" spent several weeks in November 2013 on WMSE's radio 200, and continues to receive regular airplay.

Hello Death is:  Marielle Allschwang: Voice, guitar, violin.  Nathaniel Heuer:  Voice, bass, guitar, percussion.  Shawn Stephany:  Guitar, lap steel.  Erin Wolf:  Voice, piano, accordion, percussion.

hellodeathmusic@gmail.com                                                                         hellodeath.net

Band Members