Underground Sounds: 雲雀/Hibari – 雲雀

Label: self-released
Band: Hibari
Origin: Japan

雲雀/Hibari is a one-man black metal band from Kyoto, playing a sound not far removed from the current blackgaze trend, but with a leaning to the atmospheric and DSBM side of things. The intermezzos remind a bit of Opeth.

If you want to write the name slightly more accessible it’s Hirari. The man behind the band is Ryotapon. He’s been active in 5PM Promise and Arbus, two other projects. The interesting thing about his record is that the inspiration is taken quite liberal. No holds barred, which is quintessential black metal in my book. For this band, a full band is listed, but Ryotapon is the only creator.

‘Antidote’ sets us on the path with a reluctant beginning. The tunes are like the first fall of snow. Gentle, drifting down to earth with a slow, reverberating sound attached. But once the flood gates are open the sound streams in and a moment later fully unleashes. Everything is smooth and soft, but the vocals, which are raw and harrowing, disrupting the peace. Hibari likes to interject a little Opeth acoustic, before jumping through the eyes in a warbly tremolo passage with oddly clanky drums.

It’s not much different on the eerily melodic ‘The Wheel of Sins’ and ‘Lunaj Meduzoj’, including that odd singing in the intro, making it feel a bit more like a pop ballad for a moment. But hey, that’s part of the deal and it works out pretty well as the song builds up, not unlike a Solstafir work. Cold, melancholic and gloomy is what describes Hibari best, which is just the way we like it.

Sounds of Elsewhere: Facthedral’s Hall

As a label, Facthedral’s Hall has been around for more than 20 years, releasing bold music, adventurous and innovative. That is a long time of unleashing limited batches of music into the world.

The beauty of this label is, apart from it being independent, it’s wonderfull open-mindedness. Music that is dark seems to be the only binding factor, apart from mesmerizing quality and a sense of enchantment. From pummeling death metal to otherworldly ambient, industrial and electronics, it’s all there.

That makes Facthedrall’s Hall, also a mailorder and event organizer, a label for listeners who are bold. Listeners who like sounds that are different, transformative and exotic. That’s why I decided to explore a number of releases from the label here.

Ingodeme – Endless

Ingodeme

Meandering beats, laser sounds and a seemingly incongruent arsenal of sonic collage elements assault you. The odd whistle suddenly grips with intent, a repetition that creates an anchor point in the swamps of sound as the whole of the music starts throbbing forward. Slowly, but surely, this drags you into the sound as it becomes more and more hypnotic and part of your own bio-rhythm. I love how all the layers of sound come together. It’s endlessness captured in a good 18 minutes with two tracks, titled ‘Endless’ and ‘Endless 2’. I know nothing about the artist. I don’t know if I need to. But I know that this is an experience.

Archenterum – “​.​.​.​ainsi fut Abîme”

Archentarum
Archentarum

And maybe this switch is slightly too absurd, but I jump into the technical sound of Archenterum. A black metal act from Avignon. Or death metal. You can pick which you find most fitting, but I hear the cold industrial sounds of Woest in this band. Yet, Archeterum likes to stick to a steady pace, a bone dry rhythm without much deviation and fierce intensity that never really relents. There’s, at times, a little ritualistic aspect to the thundering riffage, which I do enjoy. For example, ‘No Light’. A catchy song in my book. What this record does most of the time though is blast you with repetition. It overwhelmingly drags you along in its surging sound full of foreboding tones. Noteworthy in that, and its somber melodies is ‘Vortex of Death’, which is a high-paced slide into the abyss, where disparaging synth sounds bewilder the listener even further. Archeterum is an entity of its own, creating a claustrophobic unnerving sound. It’s highly recommended.

Chalung-Gra – Mostaferi

The term deep industrial ambient may not immediately summon a clear sound to mind, but it does actually deliver quite some upheaval. I can’t help it, but to me, it’s like I hear the roaring dinosaur toys of my childhood as nightmarish screams throughout the soundscape ‘Somes Pieces for Destruction’. This may sound funny, but actually provides a sound that is frighteningly apocalyptic. Distant thunder, collapsing buildings, these are the end-times. Is Chalung-Gra providing a wildly dystopian soundtrack? I think so indeed, but it is wholly captivating and deeply immersive. The dark drones on ‘Trminal’ make it seem like there’s nothing left on this planet and after some time I have to retreat, just to recuperate for a while after this excellent record.

Facthedral’s Hall – 20 Years Of Improbable Music

This sampler might be a collection of music, but it listens like a mixtape. Opening with the hooky electronics from SomniaK on ‘Tears of Fish’, you instantly get into the groove of the recording. You’re taken on a journey of samples, tribal beats, crackling electronics and unholy ambient with Sizzle, Pi Cab Alter and Anti. From heartbeat throbbing baselines to wonky, warbled effects with some dungeon synthy explorations in between, the music is highly engaging. Particularly I enjoy the industrial soundscapes of Minitel, though the strange, doomy synths of deathrow77 stick in your ear for a while too I must say. But then again, Silent Tower will pound it out of you with their harsh electronics.

Strange closer though, by Death Power, who deliver some miaowing followed by some raw as fuck thrash metal. I mean, everything is just pure fury. It would appear that this is contrasting with the electronics-heavy music mostly released by Facthedral’s Hall, yet it is not so. The label focuses on a certain vibe, a feeling, that is hard to really put your finger on. They do it quite well.

Nelecc: Gazing at stars in Kenya

Africa is the final frontier when it comes to metal, but something is definitely brewing with bands like Nelecc from Kenya, creating their very own brand of atmospheric black metal. But the local scene is small and mostly unknown, yet this gives it a unique flavor.

Kenya has been a country with a moving history but has also offered a relatively stable breeding ground for musicians. Unsurprisingly, this also has created bonds across boundaries and the one-man band Nelecc has seen new ties, as the artist, Nelecc himself has joined forces with Victor Rosewrath from Vale of Amonition (Uganda) and Noktal from Djibouti in the band Krummholz.

Also, he was kind enough to tell us some more about his music and vision.

Nelecc: Nature, Stars, and Inspiration 

Hello, how is Nelecc doing?

Nelecc is doing great, thank you. 2018 was quite the year and I am happy with how it went in terms of music.

How did you get started with Nelecc and what does the name mean?

The idea of Nelecc was started while I was in high school. I had a strong will to make music, and get lost in it. Since Nelecc is part nature, part personal life experiences, and part fantastical themes, I decided to mix the real with the ethereal. Hence, the Nel(son)ecc(lesiastes).

Which music inspired you to pursue the path of black metal with your own project and did you have any previous projects or bands you were active in?

There is a lot of different music (even different genres) that inspired me to do black metal. I initially wanted to form a black metal band, but was not able to due to the fact that I grew up in a very remote town with barely four metalheads, and a really bad music scene. Since I was so far away from Nairobi, and couldn’t get in contact with the big city metalheads because of my high school, teen years shyness, I decided to just do it by myself. I hadn’t wrapped my head around the concept of having a solo project, but it grew on me faster than I expected. In Africa, the two bands that have influenced me to do black metal are: Absence of Light, and Wildernessking.

Can you share with us what sort of theme, message or idea you try to convey with Nelecc?

The themes are: Nature, personal life experiences, and fantasy. It is a blend of the three really. Like some sort of tale, but not really one, haha.

You’ve recently released the record ‘The Stars’ with Nelecc. A concept album it seems with a story to tell. Can you share what the story is on the record?

Opening: The Stars – This is practically an intro to the album, and the journey of a guy who seeks another world far from, yet in within this one. The other remaining tracks take you through a fantasy world, my world, and the natural world.

What was the process like of writing and recording the record?

Writing and recording the album was tedious considering how much I had to learn (and what I’m yet to learn) about mixing and mastering. But, as it didn’t seem to be sounding too good, Mike L. of Sojourner continually gave me incredibly important tips on how to get a much better mix. It was incredibly helpful for that process, and definitely boosted the release.

On the cover of your record ‘The Star’ you show, what I believe to be, a Kenyan landscape. The content of the lyrics is also referring to places and is partly in the native language. How important is your origin for your music?

The cover art is a picture of lower Rift Valley. Going to places like these as a child always took my breath away. I was always in awe of the enormity of it all. The peace, the cool breeze, the chirping birds, flowing streams, falling water… It is a place to become. And that is why nature is my greatest influence. Growing up in a small town surrounded by the wilderness definitely helped it. So, it is important how or where the ideas generate for one to come up with a project.

Would you say your music could be created anywhere else than in Kenya?

I believe music can be created anywhere (even Antarctica). It’s universal. Where you draw your inspirations from is what is really important.

Can you tell me if there is a black metal scene or metal scene in your country and how it started, which bands are important and where it is happening?

The main metal scene is in the capital city, Nairobi. There is a blackened death metal band that I mentioned earlier, who also influenced me to carry forth with black metal; Absence of Light. They have a full-length record out from 2013 (Vyom Chakra) and it’s absolutely magnificent.

Are there any bands you’d like to recommend from Kenya or neighboring countries?

I’d recommend my friend, and bandmate’s band, Vale of Amonition (doom metal, Uganda). Some other good bands from Kenya would be The Seeds of Datura (doom), Last Year’s Tragedy (melodic metalcore), In Oath (deathcore), and Mortal Soul (metalcore).

You’ve recently released a joint record with Krummholze, an international East-African project with Victor Rosewrath from Vale of Amonition from Uganda and drummer Noktal. How did this come into being?

It was pretty simple really, and a more than a pleasant surprise. Victor Rosewrath messaged me and proposed to start a band together with Noktal, since they had been acquainted before. As soon as I saw the vision that Noktal had for the soon-to-be band, I was immediately interested. So we joined forces and formed Krummholz.

Can you give me some background on Noktal, I can’t find anything as for where he is from, in which band he played etc.?

Noktal is from Djibouti, but he’s currently in the US. He’s been in multiple bands before, but he can provide more insight on that than I can.

Krummholz seems to have rapidly become your main focus. How does it relate to your Nelecc project and how did you get in touch with Naturmacht Productions, a fantastic label in my opinion?

Well, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that I have a main focus quite honestly. This is because you never know when inspiration is going to strike. So most times, I’ll find myself writing for Krummholz and Nelecc back and forth. Victor was able to get in touch in me because of my work in Nelecc, so there will always be a little bit of Nelecc in Krummholz: not in the sound, not in the lyrics, not in the themes, but in spirit.

Robert, of Naturmacht reached out to us and said that he really liked our sound and offered us a deal. It’s a great label, and we were thrilled to sign with him. The roster is incredible, and the commitment to his artists is real.

What future plans do you have for Nelecc and for Krummholz?

Writing and recording for the new Nelecc album that I’m hoping to release this year is more than halfway done, and the writing process for the debut Krummholz FL album is currently underway. We can’t wait to show everyone what we are brewing when it’s done.

If you had to compare Nelecc to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Rice and beans without a doubt, haha. This is because I AM rice and beans.

Great Grief: Open hearts in the land of gluggaveður

Great Grief plays hardcore, but not with camo shorts and baseball caps. It’s hardcore of the heart and soul, wide open and full of fire. During Roadburn 2019, the band played an added slot on Friday in Ladybird Skatepark. They had already played two shows. It was a tense set, hard and overwhelming for band and audience alike. But those are the shows where chemistry happens, where everything becomes magical and overwhelming.

I got in touch with singerFinnbogi Örn Einarsson, to ask him about this performance, but also about Great Grief. A band that has been around since 2013, has toured in the US and Canada. We talked about hardcore music, the troubles in his native Iceland and finding oneself. Partly through Great Grief and the catharsis of the stage of which the Roadburn show was as raw as it could get for the band from Reykjavik.

This interview was conducted over Facebook Messenger in the wake of their show during Roadburn 2019 in the Ladybird Skatepark. I was absolutely blown away. Original publication can be found here. Hope to see these gents again. In the meantime, let’s keep setting fire to fortresses of small-mindedness, break down those walls and open our hearts

Great Grief

We never get warmth, we just get “gluggaveður” (window weather) – it’s cold, it’s chilly, it’s rainy, windy and shitty.

I wanted to ask you how Great Grief started and how it became the tour of force it is now.

Great Grief first started in 2013, but under the moniker “Icarus”. We wrote, played, and released material under that name both in Iceland and North America until fall 2015.

We finally decided to take on a new name, Great Grief, and released a split with a band called Bungler and played a run of shows in the States. After that, we have spread ourselves quite thin and decided it was best to take a break from touring, so we could focus on things like mental health, rest, work and education.

During this rest, we wrote the material for our LP “Love, Lust and Greed” and worked on it for over a year. In 2017, we worked out a deal with No Sleep Records, and Dillinger Escape Plan guitarist Ben Weinman’s management company Party Smasher Inc. We’ve now been a band for over 6 years, with three releases in our arsenal, and now we finally made our mainland Europe debut at this year’s installment of Roadburn.

Was there a reason, in your perception, that your music caught on in America and Canada earlier? Or is this really a logistic thing perhaps?

Really, it was just where we found the opportunity at the time. But now that has changed of course, since we have finally broken ground in mainland Europe.

Do you think the audience is different though?

After this week, I’ve learned that. European crowds react much differently to things than an American audience. There seems to be much less need for radical self-mutilation to get the crowd going, along with many other things. It seems like a European audience reacts differently. Like an American audience is loud, but when we played Belgium for example, kids stood still, but then afterward told us it was an absolutely crazy show.

You now played in Europe with your album ‘Love, Lust & Greed’. When I look at this release (aesthetically) compared to the previous releases, it looks quite different. Am I correct?

Yeah, absolutely. We were a lot younger when we made ‘Ascending // Descending’, so there is a different message that we were trying to convey. But the two pieces of artwork are still actually very connected in a weird way.

Could you explain that connection?

I’d very much rather not explain it. We’d prefer to let the listener try and unfold that one.

Fair enough!Well, what I find notable is that ‘There’s no setting sun where we are’ is a very clear Iceland reference. Yet the new album feels very universal. Would that be along the right track?

The funny thing about that title is that it came from a Bungler song. They thought of it! But it’s a killer title, so we were happy to have it be the name of our release. It definitely makes sense in context to us being a troupe of misfits from a miserable nation with either no sun, or no sunset.

How much does coming from Iceland shape your music?

There’s definitely a distinct part of Iceland’s music scene that has and will always be a big influence on us, and lyrically it’s a big part of us.

You do touch upon issues you find in your home country, like the church-funding through state money. What sort of stuff is it that vexes Great Grief?

We definitely find it important to tackle the issues regarding Iceland and the lack of separation of church and state. This is because the media tends to portray Iceland as some sort of utopia. This is of course just the tip of the iceberg regarding our band. There’s mental health, personal struggles, political issues, and a myriad of other things. I’d go into depth, but I feel we’d spend the entire day going over it.

That being said, there is an interview online where I do explain each track off our new album in depth (Ed. You can read that article on The Reykjavik Grapevine, right here).

Do you think people idealise Iceland too much?

Absolutely. A lot of it is to blame on the tourism industry trying to paint the perfect picture.

There is surprisingly little talk of the way people live and what social issues Iceland faces. Seeing you play, also last year with Une Misère, that was quite confrontational regarding some of the issues addressed. Then in Iceland, I went to Lizardfest and again the topic of depression and mental illness came up. Can you say something more about this?

Lizardfest was a good time. Lots of moshing during Grit Teeth. In what seems to be no surprise; people think that a beautiful landscape is enough to combat crippling depression. This country is so incredibly isolated, there is a small town aspect even in our largest city.

In the winter, the daylight is limited to approximately 2-3 hours, and during the summer, it’s all we get. We never get warmth, we just get “gluggaveður” (window weather) – it’s cold, it’s chilly, it’s rainy, windy and shitty. It may not sound awful, but it fucking gets to you when you’ve begun to experience the world. The opportunities found when you could be touring in a van, driving from town to town and playing shows, but your home is in Iceland, where it’s just one scene, a few venues, and not much else.

I’ve noticed in other ‘northern’ places is that it usually brings a certain closed-off attitude. So people socialize even less. Is that something your band and other bands from the Iceland hardcore scene are sort of countering? I mean, as your bands are openly discussing these issues.

I believe it’s always been rooted in this scene. But when we started playing 6 years ago, it was taboo of me to be expressive on stage. I was an emotionally troubled 17 years old who didn’t find a place in the world and when I got to grab a microphone, I’d bash myself with it repeatedly and go into this state of euphoria where all my emotions were laid out there for the listener.

A lot of the bands at the time were weird about it, because it wasn’t manly. I could not care less about their preferred sense of masculinity back then, and still now. I’m just grateful that we get this platform to express this side of our brain that stays quiet during our normal lives.

But to me, that is what initially Une Misère, but maybe even more so Great Grief hit me so hard with expression and vulnerability. Where a lot of the hardcore scene sticks to the tough-guy image, where it’s all about being a hard man. It takes incredible guts to do that differently in my perception.

As much as I appreciate the era of NYHC and the stuff it has influenced. I’m just not the type of person to talk with their fists. Have Heart said it best “Armed With A Mind”. That being said, I love moshing, hardcore dancing, all of it. It’s an integral part of the community. I wish more people would stage dive, however.

In that sense, perhaps you’re connecting more to that original strain of hardcore without the codes and cargo shorts?

Maybe, really I just see it as a free form of expression, where diversity should be celebrated, but there’s no place for oppressive behavior.

Your show at Ladybird Skatepark to me was musically great, but you speaking about these issues was what really struck me (and clearly some other people). What did it take for you to stand up there and say this to a crowd of strangers? Because most hardcore shows feel like they challenge and confront the listener, where yours was embracing.

That gig was the one, the one where everything came together. It didn’t have to be the biggest crowd, and it didn’t have to be the nicest stage. We had the right people at the right time, and it left me incredibly thankful and full of love. This industry catches up to you, and for an anxious person like myself, I had an incredibly tough time with the first two shows because of it. When I go to shows, I’m not always in the best mindset, and sometimes I’m even trying to disappear.

For me to open up, it’s very natural now. But it took time to get to this place. I remember the first time I cried in front of an audience, I was called names. I felt weak. You can consider these shows and the banter between the songs a dialog between myself and me, as it seems to be universally accepted that at least person in a crowd of people might be having a rough time.

So to say that it is embracing is a good way to put it. I consider Great Grief a celebration of life. Even when I’m feeling like absolute death up there. And I want the crowd to feel the same.

How did this gig actually happen? Was it planned on beforehand? And did you as band pick the spot?

Walter offered us the slot, and we instantly said yes. It was an absolute no brainer. He picked the spot and we did it. It’s not the first time we play a skatepark, and it won’t be the last.

How was the process for you guys to end up at Roadburn in the first place? And particularly for you guys having played there before with Une Misère, what was that journey like?

This actually starts at the wonderful DIY fest Norðanpaunk in Iceland, last year. Walter saw Great Grief and said he loved it. We got offered to play and jumped at the chance since it is the best thing to come out of Europe since Speculoos spread.

I love that you mention Speculoos. It is the best, isn’t it?

The absolute greatest.

So how did you enjoy Roadburn itself as an artist? What was the experience like in such an immersive festival where the boundary between artist and visitor is pretty much non-existent?

I love it. I find the relationship between the listener and the artist to be a very big part of how a band is perceived. Don’t get me wrong however, bands don’t need to be anyone’s best friend, but I do like when I get to have a chat with someone I look up to.

The only negative listener experience I had at Roadburn this year was with the gentleman who kept spilling drinks on me and trying to untie my shoes as I was performing at the Green Room, I ended up slapping the drink out of his hand. Not my proudest moment. I hope he wasn’t too mad. Lex from Daughters said it best this weekend as I spoke to him backstage. “We’re all just a bunch of dicks, no one is better than anyone”

I personally enjoy that you can have a chat with artists you like as a visitor. But there’s no entitlement so I’m already happy if I can stammer a thank you to an artist whose work matters to me.

I get that. I have had nice chats with some members of my favorite bands and it’s always an absolute thrill ride. Even when talking about the most mundane shit on earth.

Why do you perform wearing make-up and dressed up? And have you always done so in Great Grief?

I haven’t always done it. It was a part of me getting to know myself better in 2016. It’s how I feel most at home in my own skin. Think of it like a pair of sunglasses. Some people feel more comfortable among crowds as they wear sunglasses, as it leaves more to be seen. The same goes for me, my makeup and clothes leaves on a nice shade of confidence and appeal that no one can take away from me. I like to feel pretty – It’s me and my expression in its purest form.

Isn’t that in a way contrasting with the raw openness you display on stage?

I guess so. It’s also very simply a celebration of my queer identity.

And in that way perhaps also confrontational for some, as much as the openness is?

People may not be used to our kind of live show, and I can only hope that they are understanding and open-minded.

So a lot of your performance is part of you as a person, as you said it’s also part of your queer identity. But how are you doing now? Has Great Grief helped you to find yourself?

If it wasn’t for me being in this band since I was 17 years old, I would be very lost. For a while, this band sort of became my identity, which isn’t necessarily positive. But suffice to say, it has helped shape me into a better and kinder person.

I’m stressed out daily, being in two bands can be exhausting, but I’m incredibly grateful that I get to play music and have this platform to express myself. I really make sure not to take it for granted. I’m surrounded by amazing people, without them, I wouldn’t have much.

What future plans does Great Grief have at this point?

Create, play and prosper. Oh, and tour more.

To what dish (type of food) would you compare Great Grief, and why?

Oh, curry. A nice blend of spices, something sweet on the side, some brightly colored peppers, and a brick of dense tofu in there, well marinated in flavor. Chickpeas? Some real layers of flavor. And spicy enough to make one shit their innards out.

Pictures: Justina Lukosiute

Underground Sounds: Meslamtaea – Niets en Niemandal

Label: Heidens Hart
Band: Meslamtaea
Origin: Netherlands
Some more bubblings from the Dutch black metal sewers here with the new release by Meslamtaea. Out on Heidens Hart records, this is the second release by the band, who have gone through a mild transformation in between their two releases. ‘Niets en Niemandal’ seems to hint at the destruction humankind is wreaking upon this world. Perhaps as urgent as ever for a band that is drawn towards the past.
The duo both play in Asgrauw and have done a split with that band, but also two with legendary Dutch black metallers Cultus. All in all, that makes it easy to place them in the right corner between forward-thinking and essentialist black metal under this banner. And that’s pretty much what you get on this record.
Spoken-word, thunderous preaching opens up ‘Neonschemering’, which ads that post-apocalyptic vibe to some traditional themes. The firebrand vocals are as doomy and gloomy as well, summoning the dark. Yet a little more mellow is also an option on ‘Weer een dag’. Overall there’s a nostalgia, a yearning, that is captured in the sound of Meslamtaea. The tremolo riffing just stick to that minor note and even though it’s played fast, it creates a languid feeling.
At times the riffing really takes a slow, clingy vibe, like on ‘Leegte’. The reverberation feels like a thick summer air, where you can almost feel like you move through mud. Loss, confusion, it’s all there. ‘Verlaten Stad’ is another notable tune, thanks to its thick, layered riffing. But it also has some simple music, almost melancholic Americana going as an intermission. For some strange reason, that works extremely well for me. It then fills, swells and becomes again the song that it was. It’s beautiful.
The strange ‘Vervreemdingszone’ is then the outro, taking us out of the song with strange, dissonant sounds. It leaves you a bit confused. But I think, in a good way.

Underground Sounds: Mystifier – Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia

Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Band: Mystifier
Origin: Brazil

Mystifier is one of the originals, one of the first bands to play what we now call black metal in their very own, distinct way. All the way in Brazil nonetheless, a country known for its vibrant extreme metal scene. Never shy to voice their opinions, the band took an anti-right stance in their early days and not much has changed in any part of their approach, ethically and musically.

For the last 18 years, however, Mystifier was quiet on the creative front. A box set and compilation were released, but their fifth full length took a long time to make. ‘Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia’ is finally here and offers those who love traditional black/death metal a tasty slice. Under the guidance of founding member Beelzeebubth, the band is going to war again. I saw them play in Tilburg, they were awesome! I have to mention Paolo Girardi, the legendary album cover producer. He made a piece that captures the cavernous, occult nature of the album very well.

The opening title track has something very remarkable to mention and that’s guest vocals from Proscriptor McGovern from Absu and Jim Mutilator from Rotting Christ. The second has not done much music in… forever. It leads to a dark invocation, with slow music and a fantastic vocal interplay. ‘Weighing Heart Symphony’ stays in the mumbling, ceremonial vibe, but also blasts some waves of tremolo guitar work in between the theatric interactions in the dark cave of Mystifier’s music. Melodic parts bounce off the walls with a lot of reverb as rackety vocals resound. I love how the vocals create this weird atmosphere and otherworldliness. Take ‘ Witching Lycanthropic Moon’, where the unearthly rasps and ambient sounds make you feel to have landed in an evil world, with a gibbering moon.

There’s definitely a sense of barbarism to the record, where the drums, bass, and guitars are purposely pronounced. At times, they hardly seem to work together in weaving the songs and go in their own ways. As the vocals and bass go into a doomy break on ‘Six Towers of Belial’s Path’,  drums are like an anxious reminder of speed and intensity just there. But that’s exactly what works so well for Mystifier, their approach to black metal is almost tribal, expressionistic and I would argue a kind of storytelling. Rarely do they simply blast you with riffs, but heavy metal licks spruce up the flavor of the whole instead. The pace may be slow on tracks such as ‘Demoler Las Torres Del Cielo’, the explosive force of demonic winds is just one breath away it seems as the band launches into brief salvo’s throughout the song.

As the album comes to a close, you get pummeled around the head by  ‘Al Nakba (666 Days of War)’. Sure, there’s a tasty guitar lick, but most is repetitive violence. The title shares some political engagement with the Palestinian cause, but it’s also a damn good track. Similarly, the feisty ‘Chiesa Dei Bambini Molesta’ is a piece of force and that means the album ends on a high note. Let these Brazilians not take too long for their next offering!

Underground Sounds: Grey Aura – 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd

Label: Tartarus Records
Band: Grey Aura
Origin: Netherlands

Grey Aura kind of dazzled me with their first release, which I reviewed for Echoes & Dust. The record series is based on a book, created by singer Ruben Wijlacker’s novel De Protodood in Zwarte Haren (The Proto-dead in Black Hair). The records are full of references to cultural pillars like Malevich, the De Stijl movement and this time in title with ‘ 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd’ also Gustave Flaubert.

Other references we read about in the bio are Rimbaud, Bataille, and Kandinsky. The record is also filled with field recordings and spoken word dialogues, done by professional voice actors. These complex efforts towards the narrative of the record are particularly noteworthy and grant Grey Aura an aura of the artistic and complex, which is reflected in their expressive live shows (which I enjoyed witnessing during the 2019 Roadburn festival).
The intro is a dialogue, spoken in terse, serious tones before we launch into ‘De onnoemelijke verleidelijkheid van de bezwijkende deugd’. The vocals of Wijlakker are something to experience, as they rip asunder any black metal cliché. He screams, bellows and then hoarsely speaks as a man lost to the listener as odd rhythms and sounds enter the song and transfigure it into something completely different.
Grey Aura doesn’t shun stepping far over their genre boundaries, as done on ‘Parijs is een portaal’.  Mild Spanish guitar and a jazzy, fresh rhythm evoke the vibe of the Parisian nights. We even get some polka rhythm on ‘De Drenkeling’ a moment later, while the lyrics take the overhand in telling us the story,  which you can find on the Bandcamp page in a more elaborate form. This grand canvas behind the record is what makes it all stick together, even if you don’t know about it. That is the absolute strength of this record in my opinion. It’s internal coherence and consistent delivery of surprising tunes. As you hit ‘Sierlijke Schaduwmond’ little remains, but gentle jazzy music and spoken poetry. Captivating, mesmerizing and enthralling the listener with occasional screams of fury and anguish.
The play ends with ‘De Drenkeling’, a spiraling song of despair, ending in a rigorous march with a fatalistic edge. Marching into the sea, into doom. What will follow?

Underground Sounds: Pa Vesh En – Church of Bones

Label: Iron Bonehead Records
Band: Pa Vesh En
Origin: Belarus

Pa Vesh En has been remarkably busy in 2018, releasing a demo, an EP and a split record. Now the mysterious entity adds the full-length ‘Church of Bones’ to the mix, which is a dark and lugubrious record full of unholy black metal in the darkest form.

Hailing from Belarus is a fact that simply adds to the charm and aura of darkness surrounding this grim sounding act. The title is an obvious reference to the Ossuary, the underground places filled with bones and remnants of the deceased. Something that today fills us with horror and dread, but what once was simply a practical solution to an issue of space.

The lo-fi recording style makes the sound a gurgling, swampy mess of dark and disgusting consistency. Its miserable expression is very much the forming aspect of the art that is ‘The Wilderness of Cursed Souls’. Mad ramblings, pitiful utterings and gibbering wails fill the air as the song unfolds into a wall of sound. Eerie, high notes soar through the clouds of distortion, linking up the sound of Pa Vesh En with the DSBM experience. At times this falls into pure ramblings, like during the messy ‘A Funeral Procession’, but that is part of the expression.
You are almost forced to up the volume, as the hazy sound veritably obscures the nuances and horror of the music on ‘La Vaise Macabra’. This shapes a sound that becomes more and more ambient black metal orientated, molding into a shapeless mass at times. Yet, this record is sticky in its own persistent way and nothing really escapes the wrath of Pa Vesh En on this dark release. Make sure to check it out.

Underground Sounds: Woest – Le Grouffe

Label: Independent
Band: Woest
Origin: France

You’d think the mood would be sunnier on the Côte d’Azur in France, but Woest is a band which sounds particularly dark. Hailing from Marseille, the trio, takes their honey from the likes of Mysticum, Blacklodge and Aborym. Yet they sound like their very own type of beast on latest release ‘Le Grouffe’. That translates as ‘The Abyss’ by the way.

Woest has been around since 2016 and has been quite prolific with two released this far. Both sound dense and oppressive, but definitely strong. Their main pitfall might be that they sing in French, yet by supplying English lyrics they kind of tackle that issue and judging by this release, that should be no issue. It’s an absolute killer record, unique sounding and particularly distinctive in this day and age.

The intro ‘Éveil’ is a peculiar reminder of the Mayhem classic as this martial ambient track. It shows a little of what direction Woest has turned to on their new album. And that is a direction that is more industrial, more direct and punishing as is instantly clear on title track ‘Le Gouffre’. The drumming is crushing, pneumatic and reminds me a bit of the Mysticum live shows. Absolutely terrific, as are the joint chants.

Yet, songs like ‘Ô vide éternel’ also have that hatchet, militant sound of the later Satyricon. Threatening, but not in a figurative sense. It’s close, in your face in all intensity. At the same time, there’s so much happening. It’s an exciting narrative on ‘À la gloire de l’immonde’ with interactive vocals, intensifying rhythms and an overall sense of grandeur. The computerized drums have to be something you can get behind though, it has to be said. If you’re a sucker for the traditional bashing, you’ll likely enjoy ‘Spasme de haine’ slightly less. We move onwards to the ‘Tous restera carbone’ and ‘Vagues de Styx’, which carry a steady pace and even mellow sound due to the synths. The vocals are ghoulish, but very in opposition to the haggard emulation of a string section. his is hardly extreme, yet it’s a singular point of rest in an otherwise intense album.

Woest does something remarkable in a stale scene with ‘Le Grouffe’. You should probably listen to it.

Underground Sounds: Crimson Throne – Of Void and Solitude

Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Band: Crimson Throne
Origin: United Kingdom
Crimson Throne revolves around Dan Thornton, also known from Abhorrent Decimation, The HAARP Machine, and Novena. At least, that’s the info I can find, but currently, there is a full live band touring and playing a load of shows. This is the first full length by the band, and it’s one well worth your time.

Previously, Crimson Throne released an EP focused on Hegelian philosophy and history, but on ‘Of Void and Solitude’, we focus on human suffering and, as the title may suggest, the futility of it all. This is done by setting of a freight train of intensity down a hillside, rolling towards inevitable doom with harsh, fierce black metal.

When Crimson Throne comes on, they come on big with a bombastic introduction before we just barrel into ‘Dalit Lineage’ with mid-pace riffing with what sounds like pressed guitar sounds. There’s a certain narrowness to the sound of Crimson Throne, which helps the vocals to really come through. The ghoulish, grated howls are of a particular kind, which many a vocalist will envy. It also leaves room for the atmospheric keyboards, as heard on ‘Indignant Slumber’. After this, we enter a brief interlude before the oncoming storm of side B.
‘Scattered’ builds up gradually, but then pours out the misery like a dam cracking open with vitriolic, dissonant melodies and instrumentation. The blast beats rumble onwards as the inhuman retching and squealing resound. This is, strangely, one of the more attractive sides of Crimson Throne. One of the major appeals of bands like Mayhem or even Bethlehem, is the uncanny, utterly terrifying vocal skills of their frontmen/frontwomen. And that’s exactly what you get on ‘Sightless Remnants’. Abyssal torment.
On ‘Ekur Calls’, you get more of a feeling that you’re listening to an expanded instrumental track, but the vocals are there. Yet should they be? This song feels great without the snarls and barks int he distance, but neither is it diminished much by them. But by the time ‘Ironsides’ comes around, I realize I’ve been battered relentlessly, with an album that could also have been 2 tracks less.