Trappist: Hell bent for brews

Sometimes a band just finds that golden ticket, combining topics that were not before really connected. Metal and punk have a long history with beer. Good beer, bad beer, truly bad beer and so forth, but everyone has an appraisal for the glorious taste of Trappist. Naming your band after the brewing monks concoction only seems natural when you really look at it.

Trappist combine thrashing metal, d-beat punk and tongue-in-cheek humor to create a tasty bit of music to be savored with high-pace and sturdy drinks. The band consists out of Chris Dodge (Spazz, ex-Despise You, ex-Infest, etc.), Phil Vera (Crom, Despise You, ex-(16)-) and Ryan Harkins (co-owner of popular heavy metal-themed burger joint Grill Em’ All), I’m excited to have found the gents willing to answer some questions for Stranger Aeons. So here it goes!

Brew’m all: Trappist

Can you tell me how Trappist got started? And what role does Hour of the Barbarian play in it?

Ryan and Chris were fucking off doing some songs together and we’re going to just release a 7”. They asked me to join and we started writing all kinds of songs and realized we could do a whole record. Hour of the Barbarian is our time to get drunk and bullshit and talk about the crap we’ve been doing and also go on extra long tangents and interrupt Ryan whenever we get the chance.

You’ve all been in other bands, what is different about this project?

All the bands I’ve either played in or still play in have been different that’s for sure. It helps to actually be playing in a trio though. Less fucking people to deal with to get stuff done. That’s a major difference.

Do you guys also actually brew beer? I have the feeling you do. 

Dodge has brewed beer with a couple guys from Eagle Rock Brewery, but I can’t remember what they brewed?

Can you tell me about the process of creating ‘Ancient Brewing Tactics’? Over what period did it happen and how did it go down?

We originally did a 10 song demo that we were going to try to put out ourselves, but Relapse was interested so we used some of the demo songs and wrote a bunch more for the record. From the beginning of the recording to the actual release date it took about a year. That includes getting the artwork together, consuming beverages, etc.

You are all in prolific bands, so how did you find time for this record? 

We all got our stuff going on, but we make time for this since it’s a blast to do. We also do the podcast (Hour Of The Barbarian) here and there so it breaks up the whole practice and writing songs monotony so we can just sit around and bullshit.

How did you compose the beer list to accompany the album? How much sampling and testing went with compiling it?

Dodge did the whole composing and compiling of the beer list. He did very extensive research for this (have you seen his Big Year in Beer blog?). (Ed. Now I did, so check it out here).

What would you rather do: brew your own Trappist or tour the Trappist locations in Belgium (and sample their brews)?

Hmmm, that’s a tough call. I don’t think we would be welcome in the actual Trappist locations so I would be down to just brew our own Trappist beer.

If you had to pick one Trappist beer that sums up your band, which would it be and why?

I’m not the biggest beer nerd in the band (I mostly just drink them), but I would have to say the Westvleteren 12. Goddamn, it’s delicious and bold and I wish I had another one right now.

What future plans do you guys have with the band?

We’ll be heading to the east coast in November for a few shows. Trying to get over to Europe as well as Japan next year. Already writing new stuff so we’re not going away anytime soon.

Cover image press image by Paul Lee

Underground Sounds: Ifernach – IV. Gaqtaqaiaq

Label: Nekrart Productions
Band: Ifernach
Origin: Canada

Our ancestry is often a source of pride our base of how we identify ourselves. But sometimes, it can be a cause of strive, of clashing entities. It would seem that this is at the base of what has become Ifernach. A band that looks to consolidate the Celtic and Mi’kmaq heritage in fierce black metal on this EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’.

Ifernach has released a series of records and though it is a solo project by Finian Patraic, has also been playing some bold live shows where knife-wielding and bloodletting appear to be a big part. Also interested in the style of corpse paint, which appears to evoke images of the native cultures of the land emulated in the music.

After a classical sounding intro, which sets the mood in bombastic tones, we move to ‘Extinction’. An eerie song with melancholic, twangy guitars and gritty, primitive sounding black metal. The vocals are also snapping, biting and raw, conveying the lyrics in French. The sound is eerie, strangely dissonant as if it comes from a different realm. In a way, it does of course. The punky beat meats intricate melodies on ‘Coeur boréal et païen’, creating an enigmatic track.

The guitar mesmerizes me constantly on this record, by invoking a kind of magic. It’s the alienness of the music, the strange different vibe it creates that sets Ifernach so apart. Yet, mostly what you hear is the sound of rebellion on a tune like ‘Elle Danse Avec La Mort’. Repetitive riffing, grooving bass and a thick palette of grimy, grinning anger, here you go. It hardly compares to the gnashing ‘Un Matin Fénien’, with a true menace to the riff.

We end the record with a traditional jam, yet even this sound ghostly and distant. It’s just out of touch with our reality, somewhere lurking in the wild. That is the spirit, captured by Ifernach.

An Alpine Experience with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner

We drive up to the Hotel Der Paternwirt, for our gathering. A total of 20 contest winners from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands are meeting up for their hike in the Alps with alpinist legend Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner. Joining us are two very excited Schöffel staff members, who are tasked with capturing this event and arranging the trip to go smoothly. I’ve traveled from my home in the Netherlands all the way to Maria Luggau, for I wouldn’t miss this for the world. The group is diverse, with climbers, hikers with much or little experience. Yet, one thing brings them together and that is a love for the outdoors and the mountains.

The beautiful Lesachtal is the start of our journey and on the porch of the hotel we are handed our gear for the weekend: a complete outfit of Schöffel test clothing made for the most demanding circumstances up in the mountains. After a quick fitting and freshening up, we join for dinner. But first some local music by our bergführer Mario Lugger and his two children. It instantly sets the mood and a moment later, excited voices resound over a glass of Austrian wine and a fine three-course dinner. Soon, the gathered group starts heading for bed, because breakfast is served at 6.45 and at 7.30 our adventure begins. Our Alpine Experience (and for me, my very first)…

Meeting our mountaineering icon

During the early breakfast, Gerlinde joins us. Having just finished her book (‘Mountains in my Heart’, the English translation) last night, I find myself staring for a moment. As she casually joins the company with a cup of tea and her breakfast plate, I go through her background. Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner started out as a nurse, but her passion for climbing brought her to new heights in climbing the great peaks of this world. Making great sacrifices for her dream, she became a professional mountaineer and the first woman to climb all 8,000+ peaks, without supplemental oxygen. A feat, that sets you apart as an athlete and human. But here she is, dining among us mortals and making everyone feel perfectly at ease with her warm words and friendly smile. She is, however, the first person ready to go. Packed up to start into the mountains and see this part of her native country for the first time on the Karnischer Höhenweg.

Frisch und froh

We seem to be a whole group of morning persons! As the buses depart for our starting point, my watch switches to 7.31. It will turn out to be this way for the whole trip and due to its smooth organization and the efforts of all my fellow travelers, it’ll be the last time I check for the time. As we arrive down in the valley we stand in the shadow of the mighty Alps. The rock face is kissed by the early morning sun rays and though the air is cold, the sky is clear as we start walking.

Bergführer Jan at the front, and Mario at the back, herding the group towards the Hochweißsteinhaus. Eagerly we stop to take pictures of ourselves and each other. “Can you take a picture of my kids?” my fellow Dutch participant asks. Her two sons came along for the ride and are waving at us from the distance, going on their own adventure. Apples rarely fall far, do they? Our guides check up on us often, but so do Tereza and Miriam from Schöffel, who are as happy as any of us to be out here. The slogan of the outdoor brand really comes alive in them. “Ich bin raus”, and all is well!

 

 

Warming up at the Hochweißsteinhaus

After a sturdy climb, we see a hut emerge on the top of the hill. At the Hochweißsteinhaus, we are received with hot tea or fresh drinks. We enjoy the moment as the sunrays come over the edges of the heights and start providing additional warmth. It’s a moment to take some pictures of the beautiful valley below us, but this is just a short break and after gathering our lunch packages from the hut, we get ready to depart. The mood has become quite jolly and the shot of schnaps at our departure gives us the courage to continue the steep ascent as we shake innkeepers hands.

That it’s not just a lovely stroll in nature becomes clear soon, as Jan and Mario tell us about the history of the region and the fierce fighting that took place here during the first world war. “More people died in climbing accidents than in actual fighting!”, Mario informs us with his by now familiar smile and penchant for jokes. It’s not the last bit of history we’ll hear of or will see as we cross the border into the Italian Alps.

Up and up and up

We pass through thick pine forests, over wind-blown hills and rough, pebble-strewn paths. As we get used to the peace and quiet, we are suddenly shocked by the sound of engines as a group of trail bikers approach us. There are many ways to enjoy the mountain, but in general the quiet is what our group of walkers enjoys most. It is fascinating to learn what it means to be a bergführer here and that’s no walk in the park. An exceptional knowledge of the mountains, rescue techniques, flawless climbing skills and knowledge of nature and history, is what Mario describes. He forgets to mention a lot of humor, which he and his colleague display as often as possible. “But to be able to live in this paradise every day…”, one fellow traveler mutters, gazing up at the looming mountainside to our right as we approach our next ascent. This one turns out to be our most daunting yet and a good hour of climbing upwards leads us to a plateau from which we get the most stunning view as we enjoy our lunch. Many of us in silence and awe of our surroundings.

Meeting your heroes can be a good idea

As we start walking again after a sturdy lunch, Gerlinde falls in behind me: “Are you doing ok?” I answer that I am, but that I’m simply in awe of it all as this is my first Alpine experience. She looks taken aback for a moment. Our short chat is interrupted as another traveller starts talking to the Alpine legend and Schöffel ambassador, but a moment later as we stand still on the slopes of one of the peaks, gazing down at the peaceful lake below she says to me: “Beautiful isn’t it?”. I don’t know what to say and just nod. Sensing my discomfort she continues with the compliment that puts a spring in my step for the rest of the day: “Du steigst sehr gut!” You can bet that I’ll tell my mom that Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner said that to me! I continue the rest of our journey, including a steep descent and a rocky field, with all the motivation I need up till the point that we turn around a corner and see the Wolayerseehütte in front of us.

Like a joining of old friends

We are greeted by innkeeper Helmuth, who is a personality full of wit and energy, with an intensity that is hard to match. It turns out, that he and Mario are old friends, who meet Gerlinde in the basecamp of years ago. No wonder that our evening soon becomes a joyous occasion, reminiscing old stories and singing songs with Helmuth’s son Stefan contributing significantly. “So, was spricht man denn in Holland?”, Helmuth asks me. I explain it’s Dutch. “Ah, Flemish?”, he follows up. He’s pulling my leg, and not for the last time this evening.

The food is splendid and the facilities perfect for our company. No luxurious nonsense, but comfort and warmth, that’s all we need. A good glass of beer or wine makes this a remarkably pleasant evening, where we share and connect to each other. As we can’t connect to any wifi or mobile network, no phones are hampering our interaction and soon it feels like a night of meeting old friends instead of random travel companions. It’s hard to say at  what hour the singing actually ends.

Watching the sunrise in Italy

As we crossed the border back into Austria again yesterday, we are at the Wolayersee merely a few hundred meters away from the border. Since I’m up at 6.30, way before breakfast, I grab my Schöffel down jacket and pants and head out of the door of the still sleeping hütte and walk towards the border. A small stone with an ‘I’ and an ‘Ö’, marks the border and there I watch the sunrise. After a fulfilling breakfast, we leave ahead of time for our final hike of the day. Bergführer Jan enthusiastically shows us the rich geological formations and fossils in the rocks that are strewn in our path. Mario tells me about the sniper nests and barbed wire I see, which fills me with amazement about the ground I’m walking upon.

Saying goodbye to the mountains

The day is colder and in the shadows of the Alps we slowly descent towards our last stop on this journey. We see a group of climbers gearing up for the Klettersteig on the big walls here and on this part of the journey, we learn more about the climate changes and effect on this region. After a long descent, we arrive at Untere Valentinalm, where we are served a sturdy meal, made for mountaineers. Tired, but very happy, it’s a moment of smiles and exchanges as we enjoy the great food and company for a short while longer. Soon we’ll board the bus and head back to the hotel. I silently gaze out of the window at the peaks around us, as the bus navigates the narrow mountain roads.

As we say goodbye, Gerlinde tells me, what I already feel in my heart: “I hope you enjoyed this as much as I, but when I look at you I see you will be back here.”. She’s right, because how could I not fall in love with this beautiful region and the mighty mountains that fill its skyline.

Pictures are my own or provided kindly by Schöffel, who made this trip happen.  I’ve ventured to share no footage depicting others, but if you somehow feel you are unjustly displayed, let me know and I’ll remove it. Find out more about Gerlinde on her website.

Striborg: Unknown domains with Blackwave

Russel Menzies, known as Sin Nanna, lives on the fringe of the world in Tasmania, an Australian Island in case you’ve not heard of it. For years, he has created the most haunting, harrowing black metal with Striborg.

Moving into the DSBM genre later after making harrowing black metal for years, Striborg was part of the One Man Metal documentary by Vice, which explores the roots of his music (recommended material). Yet recently, he switched to a new sound he calls blackwave, an exploration that captures the soul of Striborg, cloaking it with new sounds.

As is always, the backlash was severe, yet I believe congratulations are in order for his musical efforts with ‘Instrumental Trans-Communication’ and ‘Blackwave’. In a genre that conflictedly embraces the freedom to explore and brings up rigid confines at the same time, it’s a bold statement that captures something essential of what this music genre could be.

I contacted the artist to ask him about blackwave and he was kind enough to respond.

Heading into the urban darkness

Which were the most ridiculous and best responses you’ve received? You’ve shared quite some online, with a note of self-mockery. Is that the easiest way to deal with this?
I guess the one that stands out the most is receiving 0% on Metal Archives. Thankfully that has now been removed. There has been a few negative responses from people who just aren’t open-minded enough to understand what it is that I am doing nowadays.
However, I have also had mostly positive and encouraging feedback for my new direction in which I truly appreciate no end too.
My self-mockery is merely a reflection of my own depression and disappointment that my blackwave music hasn’t really taken off or been fully accepted.

Striborg hails from a deep, very pure and essentialist black metal past. You’ve released albums that are hailed as absolute life-changing classics by many. In order to really place your latest efforts in perspective, can you take me through your creative past on a level of perhaps creative phases, like do you see a continuation or are there definite ‘periods’ in your work?
I think you can define Striborg into 3 eras, the black metal period, the DSBM stage and blackwave. It is a natural progression / evolution for Striborg.

Blackwave is, as you’ve voiced, an attempt to go somewhere new. At the same time a certain black metal-postrock hybrid (blackgaze) is here to stay. It seems that this journey you took was entirely free of outside influences, as is the music. Where did the transition start? Do you feel any connection on the musical level with any others?
Blackgaze is huge but I just can’t relate to it personally. I wanted to do something in a different direction with synths as opposed to guitars, hence… blackwave.

I had an epiphany to create this music, July 2017. You’ll need to read my interview with Invisible Oranges for further insight. A long story short, I was listening to some darkwave music and imagined what it would be like if you took it to the next level. What it would sound like if I mixed my years of BM experience with a completely different genre, boom! Blackwave. I felt this rush consume me, a revelation like I’ve never felt before. I draw influence/inspiration from darkwave artists amongst other musical styles too and a long love of 80’s synth pop.

I draw absolutely no inspiration from any black metal or black gaze bands for creating BW, this is why there is so much difference and your average metalhead is like… WTF? It must be said that the same feeling and atmosphere of Striborg is STILL present so why do people obsessively need to hear guitars?

‘Instrumental Trans-Communication’ feels like a hybrid album, a musical bridge towards ‘Blackwave’. Was it intended in that way or is it simply the formative process of this sound?
This is where you have a much better perspective of ITC and B over how I perceive them. Nothing was intended with the exception that ITC was just a starting point and Blackwave needed to exist to expand and define this new genre? Additionally, I felt like adding more content and detail to Blackwave using a ‘wall of sound’ production.

How much is nature still a part of your inspiration on ‘Blackwave’, or have we left the forest completely behind on this release? You’ve mentioned that the essence of the sound is to you the same, can you elaborate on that? I feel I do hear something new too, and I wonder if that how that is for you.
I feel this new direction works well either in a rural or urban environment.

To be honest the forests have been done to death. I sing about mental illness and personal struggles more so nowadays and I have an obsession with anything luminous or dark concrete settings like multi-car parks at night and how cold and mysterious they look when lit up with UV lighting, especially when empty. Blackwave music suits forested areas too, wandering in the moonlight.

Over recent days, you’ve been putting some of your older work out on Bandcamp for people to explore anew, like Cromlech, Veil of Darkness, Baalphegor, and Mondas. Having done so much, how do you look at this work now and is there any project we may see you continue in the future?
I’m rather fond of Krucifior / Baalphegor / Azimuth. I have great memories of the time I was in the group. There are other projects I will unleash soon. The only side project I intend to continue with is Veil of Darkness. I have purposely not been prolific with that project. I could actually record an album every week if I wanted to

What is the next step for Striborg and blackwave? You just released ‘Spktr’, which was done with the Australian Art Orchestra. Are you aiming for more projects like this in the future?
The recording of Spktr on Bandcamp doesn’t feature the AAO. I will be collaborating with them again next year for another live performance (not recording). This is for Mona again by their request.

Mona have been good to me and the AAO people are a pleasure to work with. I have briefly returned to BM for an upcoming split (I agreed to it 10 years ago).

My next blackwave album will be entitled ‘Leave the World Behind’. The title is not what you think it means, as in suicide, quite the opposite in fact. Forget your troubles and leave the world behind, overcome your struggles and carpe diem, seize the day! Start living!! Or it can mean the former too, an ambiguous title / double entendre.

Images courtesy of Striborg

Underground Sounds: Warden – Krochtenmagii

Label: Skyggeraich Productions
Artist: Warden
Origin: the Netherlands

Warden is an act I found under dungeon synth, but his/her music is much more connected to ambient and drone music. Sure, there is a certain mysticism to his work that invokes images of the realms of our imagination, but also something very earthy and desolate clings to the notes on ‘Krochtenmagii’.

This is the third record by Warden, released in the same number of years. The production is not as high as with some dungeon synth artists, which is probably a clear cause for the high quality and narrative experience the music offers. Let’s delve in.

The image of mountains of the cover perhaps captures the droning wind and sonorous booming that opens the album. Is surges on till the next movement engages, with more soothing, harmonious sounds and the flow of water casually in the background. Then swelling it grows into a wall of sound and as the story with the music tells, time is by that point utterly lost.

By the 20-minute mark, you’ve reached a state of calm, that only the emptiness of nature can evoke. Sure, it’s an inhospitable place that Warden has taken you to, but it’s also filled with peace. In the very last movement though, we enter the realm of the dungeon synth. The wind and water are gone, yet an earthy, cavernous feel remains. After moments in this safety, the music slowly fades after what seems like a lonely journey through the wild.

 

 

Rauhnåcht: From the Alpine peaks

The Alps are a mesmerizing part of the European landscape. Inhospitable, inaccessible and full of inspiration for many artists throughout the ages. From composers to painters and writers, the mountains have a special attraction. I can tell… One of those artists is Rauhnåcht, hailing from Austria.

This band is the brainchild of Stefan Traunmüller, a restless musician with a small cohort of bands under his belt. Just a small selection contains Golden Dawn, A Portrait of Flesh and Blood, Wallachia and that’s just the start. Rauhnåcht takes a particular place in his work and feels quite distinct from most bands you might have heard before that merge folk with black metal.

Taking inspiration from the Alpine traditions, it’s a band that requires a different kind of listening. Music, that somehow emulates the eerie sounds of the peeks and embodies the myths and fears of the inhabitants. I found Stefan eager to answer some of my questions, which you can enjoy below. We spoke about the majestic feeling of the Alps I find in his music, his love for the authentic and aesthetically fitting and the collaboration on Sprukgeschichten.

Piercing the wall between dimensions

Hello, how did you get started with Rauhnåcht and where does the name come from?

The starting point was in 2010, when I met Max of Sturmpercht and was intrigued by the magic of some of these archaic Alpine Folk tracks. So I took samples and loops of their music and formed Black Metal songs out of it. The result was the first album „Vorweltschweigen“. The name comes from the „Rauhnächte“, which are, according to old belief of the Alpine region, 12 magic nights during the change of the year. In this time, the borders between this reality and beyond dimensions are open and communication with animals and the dead is possible. Another band holding the rights on the name Rauhnacht threatened me with legal action, so it was decided to make an å out of the a. In my local dialect (and especially in Bavaria) the a is more or less spoken like the Scandinavian å, so this makes sense.

You’ve been involved with various projects, I’m interested to ask you how they connect to each other. Particularly, of course, the project Sturmpercht and Rauhnåcht?

My initial project was Golden Dawn with three albums between 1996 and 2010. Yes, I am involved in quite a lot of projects in one way or another, too many to mention them. I work as a producer and engineer in my own recording studio and sometimes I am asked to play as a studio musician or to contribute something to existing arrangements. There are even projects where I am „ghost writer“ for singers that cannot play an instrument but want to have a band. Sturmpercht is such a case, the members of the first albums more or less disappeared and the main man asked me to carry on for him on the basis of numerous riffs, snippets, samples and field recordings from different musicians. The work for the split Zur Ew’gen Ruh was very interesting because I developed all songs in two different directions for two different bands.

What inspired you to explore Alpine heathenism and mysteries in your music, after having been active in various other thematic avenues? Are there any bands you see as examples for what you’ve done with Rauhnåcht?

The early Sturmpercht albums were the conceptual template for the first Rauhnåcht album. I have never heard such a fitting musical transformation of all the eerie and strange Alpine myths and rites. Of course, I know a lot of bands that call themselves Pagan Metal but many of them stay on a quite superficial level in exploring heathen traditions – at least some years ago, I witness that nowadays there is a growing interest of finding more honest and authentic approaches to this. More and more young people cherish the roots of their local culture, including dialect and special masquerade during rites. I think that this is a logic counter-trend to the globalized world that leaves less and less space for real individualism. But this should by no means be a political statement, nor should a support for local cultures in art be used in a political way.

I’m curious if you could share some views and insights into the myths and legends you voice through your music, maybe some examples or outlines?

I think that the concepts and ideas behind Alpine traditions and myths are not so much different to other regions, but they are exercised in a unique way. For example, the Perchten runs with the craftily designed masks are something very special. As with any folklore, this has been commercialized a lot but the deeper you enter the more remote Alpine valleys, the purer the traditions have been preserved. The Rauhnåcht lyrics have a lot of connections to tales that refer to certain mountains, moors or other places. For example, there is a rock on a mountain near my birthplace that is called „sleeping witch“, because it really looks like this. Of course, there is a tale that refers to this place and explains how the naughty witch was punished and transformed into stone. The tales are full of trolls, hounds, worms, and giants and when you are like me a lot on desolate mountain paths, you get an impression how each place has its distinct special energy that fits the mood of the tales. I had the big luck to grow up at the foot of the Untersberg. This mountain is often referred to as the heart chakra of Europe, we know sayings like this even from the Dalai Lama. There are a lot of really obscure tales surrounding the Untersberg, a lot of them contain time phenomenons and dwarves that lead hikers into the center of the mountain. Rauhnåcht breathes the atmosphere of this mountain and other places in my region, I have the music in my mind when I am hiking and I visualize the places when I compose and record. So actually I could also call the style Mountain Metal.

You’ve brought out records with both Sturmpercht and Rauhnåcht. Particularly enjoyable I find my first experience with your music, the release of ‘Zur ew’gen Ruh’ from 2014. How do you walk the tight line, where these projects are distinct, yet also really feed into each other?

I think that arranging is what I am best at. I am not someone who composes great tunes and songs every day, but when I have a basic idea or riff, I can take this as starting point and simply walk in two different directions from there. On this album, I wrote a complete song for Sturmpercht one time, a complete song for Rauhnåcht the other time and then I just deleted everything apart from the basic idea and built the song anew out of this fundament. Again I can use the metaphor of a mountain, this album is one mountain with two peaks, one rough and full of rocks enshrouded in mist, the other one calmer with meadows and fountains and Alp huts, where old farmers tell stories of long forgotten times.

How do you go about writing and creating the music you make? Do you start with the concept or with the music?

It all starts with a feeling. When I play something and my soul resonates in the same way as it does when I am walking some majestic path in the mountains, then I know that a good song has just come into being, I only have to stick to this feeling while doing all the „technical“ work of arranging and producing. Sometimes, even a sample of just one tone played in the right way with the right instrument can create this special feeling that inspires me. This is why I love to work with samples or loops, they immediately throw you into the right mood and often I can even delete them in the end, because I built everything well around them.

To be honest, I almost never start with lyrics or concepts, to the contrary, most of the time a song is already finished as an instrumental before I start to think about the lyrics. It is easy for me to find the best places and melody lines for vocals but hard to find words, especially in German. Sometimes, a few words or a certain line suddenly appears when I repeat a part again and again in my mind. I really like to be intuitive when I create music, usually, this brings much better results than stuff that has been mangled through mind and thoughts for too many times.

The latest release featuring Rauhnåcht, is the ‘Spukgeschichten – Anciennes légendes des Alpes’ record. How did this come into being and what brought the 3 bands on this record together? What can you say about its overall theme?

The idea appeared when I got into contact with Léon from the French bands Grylle and Hanternoz. He is also very fascinated by the old stories of the French parts of the Alps. Tannöd is a mysterious band from Southern Germany that is also rooted in topics about nature and local myths. So we decided to build a bridge over the Alps between France, Austria, and Bavaria. Each band represents its region and on the bonus side of the double LP, I combined field recordings of all three regions, so the listener really is on a trip through the whole Alps.

The aesthetics of your work get a lot of attention. Natural views, pagan imagery and also amazing editions. I imagine a lot of work goes into that. Can you tell something about this? What do you aim for with the physical releases you put out?

I just had the luck to work with the right people who know how to create a fitting visualization of my music. On the first two full-lengths, as well as on the upcoming album, I had Moga Alexandru (Kogaion Art) from Romania as artwork designer. This man really embraces the spirit of nature in his works, I know that he is in deep love with the Romanian mountains and he also takes great pictures. Max from Steinklang shares my faible for special releases like wooden boxes. For the first version of „Zur Ew’gen Ruh“ we had a box with branches from a fir and a bottle of „Zirbenschnaps“, I really like collectors’ items like this. For the Spukgeschichten split, Joanna (Atelier Chandelours), the girlfriend of the Hanternoz singer, drew a super-size painting of the Alps with a broken bridge. I don’t really like artificially constructed Photoshop-covers, at least not for Rauhnåcht, so I either aim for majestic photographs or for paintings of a natural scenery. I like it when a supernatural touch is added, like the creature on Vorweltschweigen, the album cover of the new album will also feature a connection of nature and let’s call it a higher sphere.

Are there any artists you would recommend, that you feel are kindred spirits for you?

For me, still nothing can or will ever beat Bathory, without Under the sign of the black mark, Hammerheart and Twilight of the gods I would have never started music the way I did maybe. I do not follow the current scene at all, in fact I do not listen to metal anymore, but Wolves in the throne room, Agalloch and Evilfeast would be three names that come to my mind now that you ask me this.

Could your music be made anywhere else in your perception?

The funny thing is that several other mountain regions in different parts of the world have similar myths and similar atmospheres in music. I use a lot of samples or instruments from traditional Mongolian music. These people have a long tradition of overtone and throat singing also. The new album will also feature a traditional flute instrument from Persia called Duduk, which has an exceptionally melancholic sound. When I use sounds of alphorns, why not also didgeridoo? Both instruments are clearly related. The first tasks of music as signals over long distances and as vehicle to support rituals and shamanic work were similar with many ancient tribes all around the world. So I don’t limit myself by excluding certain instruments, everything can be used that creates the atmosphere I aim for.

What to you is the meaning of this thing called black metal, specially today?

Okay, basically we have two groups of Black Metal bands, first the „traditionalists“ that still think that it is cool to burn churches and praising Satan in one way or another is essential for a „Black Metal lifestyle“. Second, we have the bands that don’t really care about topics and only like to play Black Metal as a music style. Most of them give themselves a pseudo-ideology and their lyrics are full of serpents and anti-cosmic chaos. When you talk with them, you often can’t find real knowledge about those topics. This is dangerous, because you still open the door to these energies, no matter if you invoke them seriously or only „just for fun“. And there is one thing that those people often do not understand in my opinion: When you want to follow Satan, you only have to swim with the tide of our modern society, he is omnipresent. Continue with your slave-job, eat supermarket-rubbish, follow the ideology of mass media and Satan will for sure be your companion. This does not go well with the rebellish anti-social attitude within Black Metal.

Personally, I respect when bands create a really negative and chaotic atmosphere in their music but this does not correspond with my lifestyle and spirituality. I accept my own inner dark side, as well as the dark sides of this material sphere we live in, but I for myself do not intentionally focus on chaos and destruction. Also I do not believe that anyone can reach true fulfillment through Satan. This is why I actually do not want to call my music Black Metal, on the other hand, people have the constant need to label something. „Atmospheric music with inspiration from Black Metal and Folk“ would be too long, so I understand when my label „Alpine Black Metal“ will still be used in the future. But actually Rauhnåcht contains more colours, so maybe I will be successful in bringing in the term „Mountain Metal“.

What future plans do you have for Rauhnåcht?

The new album called Unterm Gipfelthron will be out in autumn. By the time this interview is online, maybe people will already know the label to release it, right now we did not make an official announcement yet. I still have some ambient material aside, also one long track with a lot of nature sounds and relatively pure arrangement, this is ready to be released on another split or „special release“. In the next years, I’d like to keep up with both, serious well-produced full length releases as well as more obscure, raw and limited stuff.

If you had to describe Rauhnåcht as a type of food, what would it be and why?

Bread baked in a wood-fired oven, smoked cheese on it, mountain herbs on top. And a glass of Zirbenschnaps.

Rauhnåcht contains more colors, so maybe I will be successful in bringing in the term „Mountain Metal“.

Underground Sounds: Spaceslug – Eye the Tide

Label: Independent
Band: Spaceslug
Origin: Poland

Once more, the might slug rears it’s slimy appendages languidly through space, searching for the next cosmic wave to ride. Yes, it’s your favorite Polish stoner-ensemble Spaceslug, returning once more with their next release, titled ‘Eye The Tide’.

Having done nothing bug consistently record and play live over the last few years, I feel bound to cover any work they drop. If only for the sheer simple reason that I love it and think this music is not made enough anymore. After their tight and heavy EP, the band now returns to the cosmic clarity we know from them. Less punch, more wave.

‘Obsolith’ is a spaced-out track of over 8 minutes, where the strings of the guitar seem to be caressed gently. The drums demonstrate the most vitalistic element in the song, as the rest of the music in steady waves just waxes and wanes. That slow, floating movement in the songs is a constant on the album, though the tension in the guitars can be odd and surprising like it is often on ‘Spaced By One’. It seems that every passage awaits some occurrence that never takes place.

I’m not going to put them to the test on it, but it feels like Spaceslug is slowly moving towards a more psych sound on this album. Sure, on ‘Words like Stones’, we get the roaring vocals and all. Yet, the overall vibe leans to tranquility, to permanence and a floaty equilibrium. We return to the heavy on ‘Vialys Part II’, which gives repetitive beatings to the skins and pummeling, star-grasping riffing. The song really drags you back into it, wakes you up nodding your head. We end on a high-note with ‘I, The Tide’, which is another powerful delivery by the band, who just put out a solid piece of music once more.

Underground Sounds: Sárr – Ávitun

Label: Mystical Infernal Cult Productions
Band: Sárr
Origin: United Kingdom

Sárr is the voice of lonely madness, presented by Þórir from Nyss, Nihilisticon and Över. A solo project so to say, from a musician who already holds tight reigns over various other projects. I’m always amazed when, within the narrow means of extreme metal, artists manage to find as many voices as this man does.

Originally based in France, Þórir relocated to the United Kingdom a while ago and has been producing various strains of black metal. With Sárr, he focusses on a more personal expression with black metal that is both raw and primitive, yet also holds a deep yearnful darkness.

The lo-fi production on this record creates a muddled, yet harrowing wall of sound that approaches a continuous flow and push with the battering drums and somber guitar lines. The vocals are exclaimed over that wall during the title track, with an intensity that never wavers. Those frantic wails and tormented screams truly take the sound to places it would otherwise not go in sheer power.

On ‘Vakr’, that continuity takes on a melodic movement, equally fierce and primitive in its utterance, only to launch back into the same turmoil with minute changes here and there. The blistering pace and apparent simplicity make this record a black metal beauty. After a brief intermezzo and Gregorian chanting, we continue towards oblivion with the equally strong ‘Sakna’. A brilliant trip, this 3-track debut EP of Sárr.

Underground Sounds: Substratum – Permission to Rock

Label: Swords & Chains Records
Band: Substratum
Origin: United States

Nothing beats a good slice of old-fashioned heavy metal and that is precisely what Seattle heroes Substratum deliver on their album ‘Permission To Rock’. It’s denim and leather, with a good nod to the crossover skate culture in a sound that is clear-cut, crisp and energetic.

After their sci-fi-vibey ‘Stratosphere’, this album embraces the cheese fully. Four faces on the cover, a big logo and a dominating posture over a city in smoke. Bursting planets encircle the faces of the band members in this still-futuristic landscape. It’s… interesting? But hey, we all love that He-Man-quality of heavy metal, so let’s dig in!
‘Rough Rider’ is exactly what you expect. Rigid, tight riffs and biting vocals, that are surprisingly low in the mix, sometimes even hard to hear. Not really a downer, because vocalist Amy Lee Carlson has a venomous snarl and brings that narrative in harmony with the music. The music is diverse and never takes you on a path or repetition, with their reach-for-the-sky attitude. Tracks like ‘To Nothing, To None’, put them in line with bands like Accept and maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden here and there.
The anthemic quality of their sound is also undeniable, with a tune like ‘Exxtremer (Permission to Rock)’, they step into the domain of Twisted Sister and their ilk. Tasty guitar licks and mellow passages that just make you feel so good. Man, I want to go buy a bandana and rip the sleeves of my jeans jacket. At least, if I get permission to rock! Interestingly, the latter songs on the album take on a bit more of an epic edge. After the brief intermezzo ‘Triangulum’, we get the galloping might of ‘Up on Wheels’, which is a fist-pumping closer to this record.

Underground Sounds: Vilkacis – Beyond The Mortal Gate

Label: Psychic Violence Records
Artist: Vilkacis
Origin: United States

Made in New York, but with roots in the dense woods of the Baltics, the project Vilkacis is like no other. Single-minded, unrelenting and filled with vicious vitality, it rends and tears at you with its sonic splendor. This is the second full length by this singular entity, featuring similarly mesmerizing artwork as on the preceding ‘The Fever of War’. This is ‘Beyond the Mortal Gate’.

Vilkacis is a project by Mike Rekevics, who you might know from Fell Voices, Vanum and ofcourse the generally praised Yellow Eyes. The lupine theme is ever present it seems in his work, which always has a particular flavor and sound, that can hardly be confused for anything else. It took quite some years to bring forward this new release, but it’s well worth the wait.
One think I notice, is how the rhythm really drives the sound of Vilkacis. Rekevics is after all a drummer, and his knowledge of the way the beat effects the total song clearly is vast and used to the best possible effect. After the intro, ‘Defiance’ launches in all its depravity, yet this is restricted to the lyrics. Musically, the song stands like a rock against the tide. Grand, rigid riffing and a regal elegance to the sound. It’s defiance with a backbone, with force and strength. The vocals could perhaps be sharper, but their burly, brusk delivery fits in with the whole vibe of the record.

The trick would seem, is to avoid any of the regular pit falls of black metal. The harmony and beauty needs to emerge from the chaotic rumble and decrepit sound, the lo-fi aspect makes it hazy and eases in that unity. There are no keyboards on a track like ‘Sixty Three’, no polished production, but the raw splendor that is black metal that is carved out by Rekevics like a true craftsman.

In the following two songs, the flow of the music takes on an even more atmospheric shape. Yet, it lacks the mournful, meandering elements. Vilkacis blazes on, regardless, yet still manages to capture the right emotions in the music. The title track becomes the crescendo to a mighty piece of music.