I wrote a blogpost about the hipster metal thing and Deafheaven. Unfortunately, not everyone got the point. I was not trying to defend Deafheaven by saying they are TRUE and KVLT. I was defending the necessity and value of progressing as a genre. You can read that bit here.
It was also pointed out to me that there are bands doing great stuff and that is ofcourse an absolute fact. I named some myself in that blogpost. I was confronted with names like Ghost and Nihill for example, as true progressive acts in the genre. Now, for Nihill I can only agree that their intense blend of black metal and an almost noise-like soundscapism and industrial barrage is going onwards down the path where I guess Dodheimsgard, Mysticum, Aborym and recently Blacklodge have been travelling. Ghost is a whole different story, and a good way to get into another thing I wanted to write about: the heavy metal gimmick.
Do I need to say more than Okilly Dokilly, Babymetal and even that weird death metal band paying tribute to Breaking Bad?
Disclaimer, if someone actually reads those
I’m not saying that any band is a gimmick, but I’m going to point out a tendency that is rather worrying next to the elitism, mentioned in my previous post. I’m trying to make a point about a tendency that is very visible and slightly worrying, regarding the future of the music genre and the shape its taking.
Gimmick Gimmick Gimmick… I need some more
A gimmick is, according to google ‘a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade.‘ Now, a gimmick in itself is therefor necessary. There are other words in use for it, but it’s kinda like your party trick, the thing that makes people look at you or your band. Gimmicks in metal are as old as the genre, from Black Sabbaths obsession with crosses to He-Man outfits for Manowar or the make-up and lingerie of the glamrock scene. It’s an element of the showmanship and hedonistic character of metal, even when it comes to the most conservative elements of the genre.
Some genres have managed to become gimmicks in themselves or make the gimmick part of its general identity. Black metal is one of those, which is why breaking with that identity is such a major crime (deafheaven again). Hardcore is not much better, specially the beatdown/tough guy side of things, which is a look you can practically mailorder from Impericon or whatever. But why am I making a big deal out of it?
Mainliner, Headliner, Headline
Magazines always have headlines and for years those names where those of the great bands that we still know and love. Slipknot seems to be one of the last in line for that, a band that becomes bigger than their next release and big enough to survive it. According to many metalheads, Metallica has not released anything decent since the black album (and there are those who hate the black album as well), but they’ll still buy a ticket to the show (sure, ‘Lulu’ was really pushing the patience of the fans). Same goes for a bunch of names, some slightly smaller, others bigger.
The headlines of a magazine like Metal Hammer have in recent years not featured the names of new bands that are up and coming for their progressive and spirited music. It’s always been that way that the industry can be massively wrong. Who remembers certain bands from the eighties and nineties that were hailed as the next big thing? Hell, who remembers the likes of Mudvayne and Ill Nino as bands that actually where significant to the genre? A shift has taken place to the circus act, the fantastic and weird and in a sense the gimmick in metal.
Recent favorites of the metal press include: Steel Panther, Ghost and … Babymetal. Next to those, you’ll find bands whose greatness was built atleast 10 years ago. Ok, and the rare Feed The Rhino or Upon A Burning Body, which is really just for the kids (or is it?).
The Power of the Press
Do I think lesser of these bands? No, I actually believe all three of them are great at what they do and in the case of Babymetal, it’s giving metal that odd edge and different thing it probably needs. This is not why the band gets attention, they get it because of the gimmick, the circus act. Same goes for Steel Panther, who are an overdone blast from the past act (in a way then a postmodern full circle it seems). Articles and reviews are not so much concerned when it comes to these bands with the music, but with everything around it. That is really worrying for a genre. This is ofcourse the curse black metal carries, the sensational overtook the musical.
It’s all about clickbait, being funny and getting some likes and that is a general problem with the press, both online as offline. Everything has to be insta-awesome, there is no time for records that take time. Metal has always been partly about being big and imposing, sensational and shocking, but also about music and that side keeps losing ground.
The question is, where do we go from here?
Ghost has just lived up to their name with the latest album, featuring my personal favorite ‘He Is’, connecting the band to Selim Lemouchi. It is an interesting fact how this song keeps the band attached to the undeground, atleast for one more record. Instead of going for the big hit sound, amplifying the gimmick, the band has with this move created credibility. Is that selling them short? Maybe, the album is totally great but isn’t it rather far removed from the metal sound (and does that even matter)? Should they drop the masks on next album maybe, or would the Kiss effect happen? It’s hard to say, but right now they are flagbearers for the genre with an album that sounds remarkably little like metal.
The Babymetal hype has died down and I think that Steel Panther had its moment of glory too. Ghost might be heading down the path of Slipknot, taking a gimmick all the way to the top. Who knows? But where is the purism?
What was the last band that made it on music alone? Whose merit was just that they knew how to write a great tune without some over the top sensationalist antics on stage or crazy outfits? Volbeat managed to walk the line in a way. Mastodon relied little on their artwork in the eventual sound and bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold can hardly be considered names that made the genre move any step forward. Still, these are bands we liked for the music, not the arty things around them.
The problem is that the metal scene seems to be way to crazy about its gimmicks and is in danger of becoming the novelty itself. If metal doesn’t put the music first again (this goes for the metal music press even more so), the beloved genre will become a bastion for has-beens, hipster post-metal kids and odd Wayne’s World references in films. Perhaps Ghost has a part to play in that, perhaps your band does?
Metal has always been rich with gimmick bands. Look at GWAR, Kiss or anything fromt he eighties. Look at the whole folk-metal genre and Austrian Death Machine. Even a project like Nekrogoblikon is hilarious but based on the gimmick. It is awesome though and we should not be without it. We just need some balance now.
I read some game books from Warcraft written by Christie Golden, Greg Keyes’ Elder scrolls novel and another one of Dayal Pattersons black metal histories.
Christie Golden – Arthas: Rise of the Lich King
Sure, you’re not getting high literature with the Warcraft books, definitely not if they are supposed to clean up a bit of the past and connect a previous game to the World of Warcraft ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ storyline. If you did not play Warcraft III, this book adds to your experience. If you did, this is the plaster in the wall for you and I can’t deny truly enjoying the gaps filling up and in fact replaying the Arthas storyline in Warcraft III at the same time. What a great game…
What is true is that the author really takes the time for the gaps and therefor leaves little room for describing the in-game events, specially towards the end. It feels like a sudden sprint to the Frozen Throne (you know what I’m talking about) through Ahzjol-Nerub in just a few pages. Remember that first target reader, for that reader this is very bad reading material, because sense it makes none. There’s also a symbolic element in the story, that never really comes to fruition. Christie Golden is a great writer, but even though this was highly succesful, I believe she could have done better. Still, well worth reading and almost required for the lore-lovers.
Gregory Keyes – Lord of Souls
Since the Elder Scrolls book I read the other time was part one, I guess it only makes sense that I continued with part II. I think it was dragging out the adventure a bit too long, because I go very dishearthened at some point and reading it didn’t seem as much fun anymore. Still, I did continue it and sadly the end of this was also not what I expected.
I normally try to say quite a bit about a book, but in this part the story just continues. You’d expect to find a good reason why the story is split into two books, but that never really seems to make sense. There’s not more depth to the key players, no new additions to speak of and basically just a long stretch of wrapping up the story in a rather clumsy way. I guess my fanboyism is not great enough for this.
Christie Golden – The Shattering: Prelude To Cataclysm
Since I quit playing WoW during the great years of Wrath of the Lich King, I never got to experience the Cataclysm content in its prime. I in fact skipped this whole part in favor of playing other things, doing other things and working. That being said, I know that Cata was an expansion with a lot of lore invested in it. This book by Christie Golden is part of that build-up, reading it in hindsight might be a bit disappointing, but still worth it.
I always lack the same things in the novels by Golden, I miss a certain amount of action and character depth. There’s a lot of expressions and inner monologues, but it always stays on the surface. Even the blossoming romance between Thrall (Go’el) and Agra is in a way never going deeper (only through ceremony a sort of spiritual expansion is mastered). That being said, the book offers an intriguing build-up to what was about to happen in game, which could also be found in Night of the Dragon. Is it a real addition? Not really and it bums me that the death of one main character becomes such a footnote in the history of Warcraft.
Dayal Patterson – Prelude to the Cult
Though this is not a real big read, I felt it was worth mentioning. In his histories of black metal Dayal Patterson found room to gather up some of his nicest interviews for an appendix piece of those. It’s a really cool read and still rather recent material. It gives some more depth to elements in the books and allows the artists to share some words themselves. This is a well worth addition for anyone rading the stories about this nocturnal cult.
If you are keen on this, please visit their website and buy your copy straight from the makers. Support this awesome project. Thanks.
I got in touch with Turkish metal band Seal of Solomon. The band hails from Istanbul, which is often described as the ultimate bridge between Europe and Asia. Geert Mak described the city as a metaphor for exactly that in his book ‘The Bridge: A Journey between the Orient and Occident’.
This is also found in the band name. Solomon is not only a biblical figure, but also a prominent feature in the Qu’ran. Something I was quite unaware of in fact. The seal of Solomon is also known as the star of David in modern use. It does sound a lot more brutal when you regard it as a means to control demons through this very seal. Stripping away the religious components, what remains is the story of a king that is totally metal.
Answering questions are the three main members of the five piece, Can Berk Öcalır (vocals), Ozan Murat Özfen (rhythm guitar) and Önder Dülger. We conducted the interview over a period of time over e-mail
How did you guys come together as a band? Have you played in other bands before?
Önder: We’re all active members of the Turkish metal scene. In fact, that’s one of the reasons we were able to get together in the first place. I met Ozan during a Undertakers gig. We were both in the audience back then. After I started playing with Undertakers, I started to see more of Ozan. We even fought together in the Turkish resistance Occupy Gezi Movement. After the resistance he invited me to join the Seal of Solomon project.
Ozan: Me and Can Berk (we are cousins by the way) wanted to work on a joint project for a long time. One day we decided to form a band. Other members as drummer and guitarists are people we used to or still work with on other projects, so it was not hard to gather a band. I played in plenty of bands (Nefas Lacus, Blaspheron, Razor, Yabgu, Furtherial) in the past and I still play in another band called Magilum.
Can Berk: We were in a band called Aggregate Pain, which played blackened death metal. Most of the current members of Seal of Solomon played together in that band until 2010, when it split up. While we played together, I established a band named Unfurling, which became Seal of Solomon. It was formed with the current members, except for one guitarist.
Can you tell me a bit more about this Occupy Gezi movement and what it meant?
Önder: Occupy Gezi actually started with 50 peacefully protesting environmentalists, trying to stop the demolition of one of the last green areas in our hometown Istanbul. That 50 people got brutally attacked by the cops (their tents were burned while they were sleeping in them) Ozan and I went there the next day to protest with maybe another a few thousand people.
And the riot force cops came to kill that day… We were stuck in the park with all 3 sides barricaded by the Special Forces aiming our heads with teargas grenade guns, shooting to kill. How we made out of there alive is a whole other long long, LONG story.
In May 31st, MILLIONS (literally) of people came out to the streets to avenge our asses. And to this day, I still feel like they’ve all came to save MY ass. We took over the Taksim Square with them and fought for almost a whole month to keep the cops out.
So I feel responsible for all 11 deaths and more than 8000 injuries caused by the fight we started there that day. Some were tortured, some are still missing. It’s not something you can forget or not be inspired by, when people you don’t even know stands up to guns with bare hands, ready to die, just because they think what was done to YOU was wrong. I don’t have the words to describe the terror we’ve been through together with those brave people for the whole month. I can say that i lived the best days of my life in that period. (Especially June 2nd).
I saw for the first time that I was not alone in what i’m standing for here in Turkey. Nietzsche said that, “Weak people won the fight when they made us feel ashamed of our power”. Ignorant people won it when they’ve made us feel ashamed of our knowledge. But the Gezi Park protests were the explosion of the anger of every silent fed up intellectual in Turkey. It was the beginning of the days we begin to finally win. And we were able to made it with the help of our foreign friends and fans we we know, with our instagram, facebook etc. pages, while our own media was ignoring the terror we were facing on a daily basis.
Where does the name ‘Seal of Solomon’ originate from? The concept has complex roots and connotations that can be found in various religions.
Ozan: Metaphysics and demonology are some of my personal interests. King Solomon is one of my idols in a way, who I feel envious of. I’m sure that people who share these interests will understand where this comes from, but the reason for choosing this name has nothing to do with religions.
We have all grown up with tales and stories of demons and djinns, which are a huge part of our culture and religion (for some of us). For the concept of our band, we didn’t need to do too much research, because we were raised with this.
Can Berk: The Seal of Solomon was the enchanted ring of Prophet Solomon. One day Ozan came up with the concept for this band and the name Seal of Solomon with it. The name was about the magical rituals, performed by the prophet Solomon, where he made demons his servants. We liked this idea and decided to keep it as a band name. When we reflect on the ideas about Solomon, we are not trying to use the religions that implement this figure in their stories. Still, the religions are part of the world, but we try to keep our own perspectives.
What inspires Seal of Solomons music? What themes do you put into your sound?
Can Berk: The concept is growing day by day, and includes things like the magical rituals and demons. We compose our music over a certain time, to evoke the right feelings. The notes must feel like complex algorithms in our minds.
Önder: We all have our own instincts to what we serve up musically. Speaking for myself, I was in a dark period of my life during our pre-production and recording sessions, which led me to contribute a bit aggressively I guess. One of the songs I wrote was “A Leader’s Indignation”, which helped me a lot to express myself lyrically at the time. “Leader” translates literally to my name “Onder” in Turkish, and all my inspiration came from the indignation I felt during that time.
Other than that, I worked on the pretty much completed guitar parts and lyrics, mostly written by Can Berk. He told me to feel free to change and even re-write parts as I saw fit. I tried to stay true to the blackened death metal roots of the band, while representing my own hardcore-based playing style.
The most signature sound of the album I think is what I called “Hell’s armies”.
Which is an octaved, ethnic slow guitar groove on a palmed hardcore guitar riff. Literally sounds like armies of hell are marching in. It can be found in songs like “Providence” and “I The King v2”.
You’ve released your album ‘I the King’ in 2014. Can you tell us more about the contents and story of this record? Did it grow from your EP, which contains some of the songs on it?
Önder: The idea of writing a tribute LP album to King Solomon was always an idea Ozan and Can had in mind. It has all the songs in the previous EP and much more new ones. I believe the album speaks well for itself.I feel like, it is a solid “Fuck You!” on both personal and general levels.
Can Berk: We released this full length with some doubts at first, but after a short time the comments and reviews came in and were quite amazing. I think this is only a taste of what’s to come. Our new single and second full length are on their way and I think they completely convey the idea behind our music. You’ll know what’s going on behind the curtains in our lives and the place where we live. We will all put something from there in the music.
What was the writing and recording process like?
Önder: It was therapeutic, for me at least. It helped me to cool down and channel my anger into more productive things. It gave me a routine to follow. Wake up, get to the studio, start writing, and start playing. Play again, again, again and again. And since the recording studio was our own, we’ve played and hung out there for hours and hours a day.
Ozan: Can Berk recorded the guitar demos, then we get together with Önder and retouch the sounds and shape the songs into some final demo recordings. After that, they are shared with the other band members, who then write their own instrumental parts. Can Berk and Önder do most of the work on the lyrics. When all this is done, we get to the studio and record our parts.
Can Berk: It’s not complex, but a little complicated to explain. Önder writes the lyrics together with me, but the music is composed by everyone together. I establish the general structure of the songs, but everyone adds a bit of themselves to them. We have the luxury of recording in our own recording studio, so there’s no hassle with time and money when it comes to recording.
Musically, what are your biggest inspirations as ‘Seal of Solomon’?
Ozan: As you probably can hear in our music, the texture of the sound contains a lot of Turkish folk music. In Metal I think Behemoth is out biggest inspiration, because Behemoth brought, as you heard, texture of our sound contains a lot of Turkish folk music. In metal, Behemoth is out biggest Inspiration. Behemoth is one of the most successful bands which brought oriental music and metal together.
Can Berk: Behemoth and Dark Funeral are our biggest metal inspirations, but the local music is the most important. Our country has a wide range of oriental music with a long history and profound culture. We build every note on that cultural heritage.
What is the perception of extreme metal music in Turkey? Is there any censorship you have to deal with?
Ozan: I don’t think the scene is as big as it is in Western and Northern Europe, but it’s also not as small as in in Asian countries. The late 2000’s were probably the golden years for metal in Turkey. We had plenty of festivals, even Sonisphere was organised in Istanbul twice. It would be better if Erdogan was not ruling the country, but the metal community is getting stronger. It may take a bit of time. We’re still flexing with 1KG dumbbells, but at least it’s better than none at all.
If you don’t have Turkish lyrics or a bizarre stage show, you don’t have to worry about censorship. The majority of society won’t understand the lyrics.
Önder: Television and radio are mostly scared of anything that comes from the heart in Turkey as well as anywhere in the world. I think that we’re all okay with that. I don’t think any of us would want to play to a daytime TV crowd. I’ve played in pop music festivals or contests with my other metal bands a few years ago and it’s not really a good scene when your audience looks at you like a dog that’s just been shown a card trick (lovingly stolen from Bill Hicks).
Most people who would want to censor our lyrics in Turkey are ignorant scum, who don’t know shit about English. So we didn’t really have any problems with that in Turkey.
Can Berk: The metal scene is still very underground, so there’s no real control mechanism dealing with extreme metal in Turkey. It’s relatively unknown this far, so we try to be friendly and accomodating, so extreme metal can have its place in Turkey.
Can you tell a bit about the general metal scene in Turkey and what the key bands or places are for its development?
Önder: There are a few metal bars and venues to follow, like Dorock Bar, Rasputin Live etc. that only put on metal bands and supports them. University gigs like Ege Rock Fest and Uludağ Music Festival are also about as good as it gets for a metal band, in terms of stage and crowd quality.
Ozan: Metal came up in the nineties here and got itself a bad name. A few people called themselves Satanists and in 1999 a girl was raped and killed by this group. This really put the focus on this subculture and the following years were hard for metalheads. We were harrassed throughout the country.
In the middle of the 2000’s, some alternative rock bands popped up on Turkish TV and people got more familiar with rockers and metal heads. We have one or two metal fests happening during summer and plenty of rock bars in Istanbul, though only few have a stage. Dorock bar in Istanbul is probably the best known rock bar of Turkey. It’s still hard for local bands to get on the stage. There are however the spring festivals at universities that offer a great opportunity for local bands, even if they only get to play in front of 20 people there.
The heart of the metal scene is Istanbul, smaller cities have very little. I can mention a band like Pentagram as a key player in the Turkish metal scene. There is also this one guy, who is not a metalhead, but really important for Turkish metal music. His name is Hayko Cepkin, who is one of the mainstream rockers that makes a living with his music. He is also the first person with screamed vocals, so even a peasant in the small villages of rural Turkey has heard this weird kind of singing.
Can Berk: There are some main places to play live, but they are limited. We are trying for a metal revolution in Turkey in the close future.
Many extreme metal bands in Western Europe have in some way or another opposed religious establishment. Is that something you let enter in Seal of Solomon too?
Ozan: Not really.
Can Berk: We are not especially opposed to any of the religious views but Seal Of Solomon always will have its own perspectives, which will be more clear on future albums. We’re not opposing religion, but we do oppose religious pressure and brutal religious ideas. In our band some of us believe in God and some do not. The conclusion is that this is not a problem, while it does feed and affect our concept and musical sound.
What intrigues me is that the name of your band takes a figure from Biblical/Abrahamic religions as the name. For a band from a country that is 96% Muslim, that strikes me as peculiar. Can you say something about that?
Önder: First of, I’m glad to say that this 96% is an overstatement by the government. A recent study of the Presidency of Religious Affairs of Turkey showed that 20% of a test group of 22.000 people have never even touched a Qu’ran and 60% of them haven’t read it in Arabic (they don’t know the language). Even if 80% still considers themselves Muslim, they hardly know the texts well enough to either like or dislike Solomon as a figure. The same goes for any other character.
King Solomon, as you know, is kind of a unique character in history. He’s also largely mentioned in Qu’ran too. Everything about him sounds quite dark. The band choose to tell a post-biblical, fictional story about this king, losing faith in humanity and gathering an army of djinn to fight them.
Can Berk: That 96% is indeed not a measurement that corresponds with the actual views of every person. Also, if you think you’re a real Muslim, you shouldn’t close your eyes and mind to other ideas from the world.
Today’s problem is that people don’t think about where the borders are for what the holy books contain. Whether you are a religious person or an atheist, you’re free to think about things and have your own way of figuring things out. Solomon is a historical figure you can make up your own pros and cons about. Ideas can be held against other ideas, just uttering bad words makes no sense.
Ozan: Can Berk and Önder said enough about that percentage. About the main question, I can say this: Muslims accept all prophets of the four holy books, so Solomon is as much our prophet as Jesus, Moses and David. According to my own view, we are all playing in the same man’s garden.
What bands from Turkey should people really be checking out and why?
Önder: I’d say Furtherial is one to watch, along with TEC and Seth Ect.
Ozan: Pentagram (a.k.a Mezarkabul), Raven Woods, Furtherial, Baht, Soul Sacrifice, UCK Grind, Pagan, Infected, Mekanik, Thrown To The Sun.
Why? Because I like their sound hehe.
What future plans do you guys have as a band?
Can Berk: We hope to get more well-known in the future and make sure people have heard of us. At least everyone who likes extreme metal. We’re trying to get more support from local communities and hope to play around the world or at least Europe. I also see it as one of our main tasks to kick off the metal revolution in our own country.
Any things you’d like to add?
Ozan: Thank you for the interview and thanks to everyone who is reading it.
Can Berk: This was a great interview. Wish to talk again.
On behalf of the band: Check out our new album when it comes out in the late summer or early autumn of 2015. We’ll release a single before the EP, follow us for any news on our website and facebook page.
This time from that deep underground, I’ve got Turnstile, Forgotten Tomb, Moloch and Anfinnsaas for you to indulge in. Enjoy listening to some cool music.
Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling
Oh shit! Did I just get pulled back into listening to hardcore with a cool nineties vibe, remniscent of Shelter and Cro-Mags both. There’s also a tinge of some of the groove metal stuff going on in the day, but surprisingly, this band is super young. In fact this is their debut. The Baltimorians (is that the word?) have been around since 2010 and now delivered an awesome debut record. The album is out on Reaper Records, known for acts like Terror and Trapped Under Ice.
Turnstile has no problem putting back some emo in the core, without becoming whiney. There’s less of the tough guy bullshit, which is too often part of the New York sound they embrace. That gives way more freedom for music, since the songs don’t need to be laced with breakdowns and circle pit frenzy. There’s a lot of that going on, creating that catchy vibe of the more ideological laden hardcore bands of the nineties, specially with the vocals feeling a lot like those of Ray Cappo. Some effects, like on ‘Can’t Deny It’ empasize this fact. Looking forward to seeing these guys play in my town.
Anfinnsaas – Anfinnsaas
There are records, that you put on and just gradually enter your consciousnes. They fit the patterns you expect to hear and just kinda mellow into your hearing. This is not one of those records. This record is a hectic, frantic, noisy and chaotic amalgation of different styles and genres into a product that feels loose and uncontrolled. That would be quite far from the truth though, this band seems to absolutely know what they are doing on this debut. The group exists since 2013 and the name is funnily enough a combination of the last names of both members; Knut Finsaas and Geir Anfinn Halland Johansen.
The record is out on Autumnsong Records and it has six songs on it. These are strongly percussionist songs, even the strings appear to be hammered in some songs, which brings a bit of a djent feeling forwards. No, it’s not like that. The loose sound makes sure that there’s a continuous flurry of twanging and clanging guitar strings, making this feel like an overdriven machine. It’s quite an atmospheric and enjoyable record with a lot of exciting elements to it. Just not for easy listening.
Forgotten Tomb – Hurt Yourself And The Ones You Love
Forgotten Tomb is one of the bands pioneering the genre of DSBM. Often controversial, always provoking and in a way brilliant, this is their latest album which immediately betrays some interesting influences in the arwork, atleas the music seems to take a bit more of an industrial/heavy metal approach. Not that the group around Ferdinando Marchisio (Herr Morbid) ever relents in their misanthropic views, but the sound is more accesible.
Tracks like ‘King of Undesirables’ carry a certain Satyricon-like groove and rhythm, which could be a crowd pleaser live. Take that with a big pill of Celtic Frost heavy and slow, and you’ve got yourself a winner. The theme remains very far removed from that greater audience, expressing a true disdain for humanity and life itself. Specially the title track expresses these feelings without any symbolism. The production is done very smoothly by Brad Boatright (known from Nails, Beastmilk and such), which works with the sound of this band. It is probably not their most extreme record, but it sounds pretty awesome.
Moloch – Abstrakter Wald
The idea of recording your album in the Carpathian mountains with an open tape is kind of bespelling, specially considering it was done in a winter night by the Ukranian project Moloch. So imagine that, in the forest and in a part where myth and reality are not that far apart. Where the night holds terrors that have no names. This is very much what sound you can expect from this black metal project. True, there is little metla going on, but that is not diminishing the atmosphere of the recordings one bit.
Eerie, slow rising synth sounds are reverberating gentle in the air. There’s a sense of peacefulnes to the sound, but always there is also a threat. A gentle drone is constantly there, humming, growling but just out of reach. I used black metal project earlier, since its in the description of the band on bandcamp. Obviously, this recording is much closer leaning to ambient and experimental music, even taking a bit of postrock into it. The titles are all the same, except for numbering. That’s why ‘In Dem Gewaltigen Wald Wo Das Echo Sich Selbst Verlier’ stands out, also due to its cold synths and fuller, more open sound, leaving the drone a bit behind for a short moment. A bemused experience, this record is all that.
Lithuania has a small but dedicated metal scene, which can mostly be found in the south around Vilnius and generally in the bigger cities. I found a band from Telsiai, which happens to be where my partner originates from.
I’ve passed by the sole tattoo shop in town a bunch of times and it turned out that the owner is Žydrius “Hidra” Augulis, also frontman of the war metal band Meressin. We unfortunately didn’t succeed in planning a meeting and decided to conduct the interview over e-mail. This took a very long time and a second list of questions was not answered.
The Lithuanian metal scene appears to be rather introvert, turned into itself in a way and not really understanding or open to outside interest. I think this interview gives an interesting view into that scene and specially the region where Meressin comes from.
Samogitia is the north-west part of Lithuania, it was the last pagan region to be conquered in Europe and rituals have remained largely the same as they were before the conversion. On the west it’s bordered by what is known as Minor-Lithuania, which has a clear German influence due to its original Prussian and later German inhabitants, to the north is Latvia. Samogitians tend to identify not as Lithuanians, but as Samogitian. None as much as Zydrus Augulis, one would think.
Can you guys introduce yourselves? Who is in the band and did you guys play or still play in some other bands too? Hi, we’re a Samogitian War Metal band, named Meressin. Current members are:
Meressin has been around for ages. How did you guys start as a band? The band was started back in 1993 by 2 brothers. It was Darius “Zhaltys” Augulis (bass guitar) and myself that started the band (Zydrunas Augulis). Over the years we’ve had many different members in this band, composing it in various forms. What we wanted in the very start is to play extreme music, like the old school black metal stuff, so we started doing exactly that.
Meressin was inspired by the music of Venom, Celtic Frost, Bulldozer and other original black metal bands and black’n’roll acts. We also wanted to find our own sound, so some songs on the albums are more experimental.
What was it like to start playing metal in a recently independent country? We liked metal music already long time and independence gave us chance to play metal without any stress and fear. In the CCCP time we were not able to perform metal music, because that’s would have meant jail time for us.
On your website visitors can chose between English or Samogitian, do you identify as Samogitian? Yes, of course. Samogitia is my country, this is my nationality and I love my country. I think that says it all.
You chose to sing both in English and in Lithuanian. What is the reason for that? The last album I sang in the Samogitian language actually. We started in English and later went for Lithuanian and Samogitian. All albums are different in a way and created with long intervals, so the ideas we had with our band changed in the meantime. I guess that is the main reason for the differences in our choices.
Meressin faced quite some short breaks and problems as a band throughout its history. What do you think caused that? We come from a small town and people move away from time to time for various reasons. We have some problems with musicians, it is hard to find people that are willing to play metal music. They also have to be good of course. Many good metal heads and musicians have left Telsiai town, because it’s a small town that offers little to the young people as a future perspective.
You’ve reformed the band, and released an album. What can you tell about the new record and how was it written and recorded? The new album is called “Tik kars yr teisybi” (Only the war is the truth). In way, the album was born before the band reformed with new members, so I wrote the album by myself. I created the music and the words. I wrote the guitar pars as well. I recorded the whole album in my own studio. It did take me forever to do everything myself, about 4 to 5 years but maybe longer. I can’t even remember really. This is the first album in 13 years, the previous one titled ‘Alkis’ came out in 2001. It has 13 songs and is written in the Samogitian tongue. I think it creates a different and unique sound.
What is the story you try to tell on this album? In 2013, it’s been 600 years since the Teutonic Order conquered the last pagans in Europe in the name of Christianity. Those last pagans were the Samogitians. It took the crusaders 300 years to subdue the Samogitian nation and force them to convert to Christianity.
This album is dedicated to that struggle of the Samogitian people. It talks about the blooded and cursed moment when they took away our identity. Christianity was forced upon us and it should be rooted out. This album is about the Samogitians and who they really are. You can still see it, even in our religious rituals that our nature is still there. It’s in the blood.
You are the only ‘original’ member still in the band. How do you retain your identity as Meressin? Currently I’m the only, original member of Meressin. I guess I’m a little bit of a despot, which is mainly because I write all the music and lyrics. I believe that this band should not be too democratic, because then Meressin will lose its face and sound. That is just my opinion.
You played Kilkim Zaibu this year, an important festival in the region. Can you tell a bit about the festival and its significance and how you guys enjoyed it there? Oh yes, this is most important metal festival in Lithuania. We played the festival six times already and we remember the times when the festival started out. We have seen it grow to be the biggest of its kind in Lithuania. Hail to “Kilkim Zaibu” and raise your horns for a long life!
You also run a tattoo shop. Are tattoos in your opinion related to making metal music? It’s my job, I’m a tattoo artist and so is drummer Vainius. I don’t think it has much to do with my music, its two different areas in my life. I suppose there is some influence to be found in the cover art for albums.
Can you tell a bit about the Lithuanian metal scene and its history and maybe also what it is like to be the only metal band from Telsiai? Yes, we are the only metal band in Telsiai, we are veterans of the Lithuanian metal scene and I don’t really know what’s happening with young bands around here. It seems like people don’t like to play real metal music anymore and new alternatives are on their way. Good luck to them i suppose, there are still some bands making good music that have been around for a long time.
Some of these are Obtest, Nahash, Dissimulation, Luctus, Katedra, Zalvirinis and Dark Side, they’ve all been around for ever, so hail to them.
What future plans does Meressin have at this moment? In the future I hope to record some new material, that’s in the plans. We also want to release the album on vinyl and make one or two good videos for the new songs. I lack the time to do everything I plan to do, but I think we’ll do some good stuff.
Anything you’d like to tell us? Ok people, listen to true metal music and stay rockin’!
And on the worst days
When it feels like life weighs ten thousand tons
I sleep with my passport
One eye on the back door
So I can always run
I can get up, shower, and in half an hour I’ll be gone
– I Am Disappeared, Frank Turner
It’s hard to explain how significant my backpack is. It’s not made for months of travelling, but it is made for escape. Escaping is one of the things most often on my mind these days. Don’t take that the wrong way, I don’t believe in the ‘final escape’, but just getting away. I’ve been more quiet and thoughtful and old fears have started to ebb away. I’m 30 years old now and fortunate with many things in my life. Still blood is thicker than water. All my anxiousness seems to point to the door lately.
“I feel like one of these days you’ll pack your suitcase and you’ll be gone…”, said my girlfriend to me the other day. What remained unsaid is that she’d be happy to see that, I’m sure that was what she thought. She continued saying that the happiest she’d seen me was when I was travelling, with my bag full of clothes and books. Just that and a road to travel, that is indeed something beautiful to experience. There’s that thing about a bag.
When Orhan Pamuk received a Nobel prize for literature, he did a Nobel Lecture titled ‘My Father’s Suitcase‘. The story is about self-discovery, writing and growth, but there is also this thing about the suitcase of his father, that somehow contained much more meaning than the whole library and all the other things. In that suitcase was the soul, the essence of his father.
There is an essence to life, a basis that is our true source of happiness I believe. It all fits in one suitcase, it’s all you need for your piece of mind. So my backpack would normally contain clothes, toilet gear and books and that is all I need. Take what you can carry and that’s enough. You can’t carry more than what your back can stand and your hands can hold. I think in a way that’s a good metaphor for life itself. Everyone tries to balance so many things in a limited amount of time, which makes them unhappy because there is so little fulfillment to it. It’s a rush from task to task, from hour to hour, which make you forget about the other important element in this story.
The road is a metaphor for life and intertwined with carrying what you can on it. It is a road to a destination and you should be able to enjoy the ride as much as reaching the end goal. In life we’re most often busy chasing many goals ,so we rarely take a moment to look around and enjoy the place we are at, because it never satisfies us. We need more, which is what society drives us to do. Statistics determine the way companties work, not the progress itself. The progress in turn serves the statistics, because tweeking that performance level will bring more invisible wealth to a faceless entity without a soul. People have lost sight of the road, the horizon is all that matters. Finding more possessions, tools and skills tot he point where you’re laden that heavily, that you can no longer move. It’s an utterly horrifying idea to me.
Humans used to be nomads, traversing from place to place, in order to live, eat, grow and prosper. There was a direct relation between life and travel, which I think touches our essence still. Then we became settlers and soon we became as humans divided in classes of wealth, birth and reverence. It takes away something and replaces it with hollow means. Maybe I’m looking into this too deeply, but I feel that the road and carrying only with you what you can carry brings back a bit of that elementary feeling, the pure essence of being instead of surrounding oneself with hollow, meaningless things.
So I keep my backpack ready, because life can be rather meaningless when you get confronted with your insignificance on a daily basis. So I make sure I can always run, get to the busstop and go to the airport and get out. In the end, the only thing that matters is the road.
New roars from that good old underground with Mgła, Perturbator, GosT and Heidenland. Black metal and synthwave for greater glory. Check it out!
Mgła – Excersises in Futility
The mighty Mgła from Poland has a new release out, which lasts a good 42 minutes. The abum is already number three for the band, who have a sound that is pretty impressive and reminds me a bit of a more blackened Behemoth (who, let’s be honest, have shifted to a more death sound). That makes this band sound strangely much like an orthodox band, creating very pure, beat driven black metal that is kinda mid paced for most of the tracks. Sure, then you get the blastbeats pounding and running amok, which gives it more of a full frontal attack vibe, but it never drags the rest of the sound with it.
The title of the album says a lot about the lyrical content and the general feel the album gives. There’s no veiled, atmospheric mysticism here. No grander scheme of things or deep meanings hidden behind it all. There’s just this and the bleak guitars o Mgła. There’s a certain compactness in that sense to the sound of the band, which allignes with the brevity of it all. Nothing more needs to be said, this is it brother. We live and then we die. Amen.
GosT – Behemoth
I was not entirely sure about this release. Regarding the title and bandname, it felt like someone was trying to cash in on the hyped bands in metal these days in a very weird way. Weirder even was the sound, but the label of Blood Music does bring with it some sort of status. Also the label tends to push the envelope a bit. So, first thing to really say is that this is not a metal album. It’s a weird, glitchy bit of synthwave that has strong eighties feelings to it.
That means it has none of the heavy artillery you’d be waiting for, but it does have a whole lot of atmosphere and cold electronics. Therefor it approaches a raw, cold sound rather smoothly and you can actually dance to it. There’s a tension in the sound, that prevents it from moving towards the slightly tacky region of electroclash and revival acts. There’s also some harsh electronics to melt away the clean feeling, all in all this is surprisingly pleasant record.
Perturbator – Sexualizer
Sticking with the Finnish Blood Music for another release, there pops up this strange pink/yellow cover of a re-release of Perturbator’s ‘Sexualizer’. Another bit of peculiar narrative synthwave, telling the story of an inception like story of a drug abusing porn star named Jimmy. The hazy rave like sound is telling the story of how reality start to fade away in the mix of all that. Perturbator is an artist from Paris, delving into the human consciousnes.
The sound you get as a result is a strange mixture between Miami Vice eighties synth and EBM beats from the DAF era. Jazzy loops cut through the rhythm in a spiralling manner, creating that musical high of the storyline. The attempt at creating a story really helps in your interpretation of the music, it sets your mind in motion to visualize and imagine this taking place. It also makes the music more sensible and not just a weird sort of harking back to a long gone past of angel dust, disco and porn. Perturbator is weaving a movie here.
Heidenland – Stormvloek: Beschonken, Kwaad en Goddeloos
The story of this release is rather interesting. The band has been around for 20 years it seems, but only now this compilation/full length is out. Originating in the Netherlands, Havoque started the band to play black metal in the same way as Darkthrone, Bathory and all the original bands. Harsh, lo-fi and anti-christian chants of hatred so to say. After having relocated to Canada, the record is finally ready now and out on Heidens Hart.
Don’t mistake this band for an NSBM band, which I was thinking it might be for a moment. This is simply anti-christian pagan rage as emphasized in the lyrics. Violent and back-to-basics sounding black metal, with that thudding blast-beat drum section, gritty sound and peculiar folk elements to emphasize the ancient pagan roots. The record is labelled as a compilation, which explains the difference in audio quality. It’s a great record for those willing to listen to some good, old black metal, the way they used to make it.
If you visit the Algarve, you should visit more of it than one place. There’s a beauty to this region and a strange emptiness when you go just before the season. Some options I explored here.
Faro is an interesting town on its own, but there’s much more to see in the Algarve. One would say that public transport is a bit chaotic, messy or untrustworthy, but it’s not that bad at all. Sure, you need to have a certain amount of patience but that’s public transport itself. everywhere.
It’s not like there’s a dense network of public transport options. There are busses, mainly travelling to and from the hubs, and there’s the train, which basicly has one track going east and one to the west. There’s also the track from Faro all the way north to Lisbon. This line really ends in Faro. The train is a bit more expensive compared to busses and the track to the west ends at Lagos. From there on you need a bus.
Sure, you can rent a car, which greatly widens the range of options for touristy visits of cool places, beaches and whatnot. There’s no airco that can beat the heat though and the travel times are quite long, so just being able to sit back for a few hours is really well worth it.
One of those places is the town called Lagos. It’s a 2,5 hour train ride from Faro through a stunning landscape (even when you’re in a wagon full of screaming children) and at the end of the railroad track. For me, that’s always going to be strange feeling, to be at the end of the railroad.
If you walk into the town from the station, you immediately enter the Marinara, the harbor and when you cross the bridge you’ll find the bus station and the center. African sellers are lining up their bags and belts on the sidewalks, while smoking some cigarettes and vendors try to sell you a trip out onto the sea.
The town was important during the seafaring days, when it also was the capital of the Algarve untill it was destroyed by a earthquake. Walking down the promenade, it feels very clean and open, which might have to do with how it was rebuild. The streets are beautiful and even in early pre-season swarming with people. We found a great place to have a simple, hearty Portugese meal and walked around through the town, enjoying its architecture and vibrant atmosphere.
Downside: Lagos is a haven for Brittish sun seekers, which means you’ll find little authenticity when it comes to bars, restaurants and such, specially around the Marinara. Lobster red elderly Brits are looking for shade in one of the ‘happy hour’ bars and watch the horse races. Home away from home I suppose.
It takes an hour or so by bus to get to our destiantion, which feels like literally reaching the corner of Europe and staring out onto the atlantic. Sagres is a sleepy little town around noon, for which the sweltering heat is one great explanation. The high cliffs offer a wonderful sight onto the sea and the gorgeous beaches, which are hidden from view unless you reach the edges.
Main attraction is the old fortress, which has served as an academy (allegedly) and looks over a beautiful bay. The town has been linked to prehistorical religious practise and throughout the ancient era as well by the Romans, Phoenicians and others. That always gives a peculiar aura to an area, specially this strange plateau on which the school/fort was supposed to have been. You can walk around there and picture yourself the folly that gripped man’s mind in the early age of Portugese discovery. Sailing out into the unknown. An age long lost it seems.
If you are a surfer, Sagres is definitely the place to be I’ve heard, so check it out.
We did skip visiting Albufeira, due to the long travelling time, but we lingered in Lagos a bit. Albureira is possibly the most touristic location on the southern Algarve and has some amazing parts to show, where millionaires build there houses and such. If you have the time, it’s definitely a place to either stay or visit at in the Algarve. Portimão is together with Faro one of the biggest towns and therefor a hub for the economy of the Algarve (during the off-season). Like Faro, it looks to the sea for a large portion of its income.
Going more inland is an option if you have your own transport, but it is very lowly populated. That might be your reason for going into it ofcourse. I guess bringing plenty of water is the best advice there. From Sagres on, going up north seems like a great drive as well, though some preparation might be useful too.
If you are not in Faro for very long, you can still see a ton of places. Make sure you bring a good book, always have a bottle of water and enjoy the train rides. You can also go east ofcourse, towards a more tempered climate and if you have the time even to see 3 countries.
I’m sorry! I’ve been extremely unproductive lately when it comes to writing. I do work on some longer pieces, some reviews and such but I’m so completely empty when I get home that falling on the couch and just watching a film is all I can do.
That’s a shame because I’m writing a biography (not of myself) and really have some good ideas for it. It’s going to be really cool. I don’t know if I’ll put snippets of it up here, maybe I will. It’s going to be in Dutch so writing AND translating is going to be a bit much.
Anyways, what I have been doing is listen to a lot of podcasts. I’m interested in entertaining and captivating podcasts. Obviously I started with Wil Wheaton’s ‘Free Burrito Radio’, but Wil is not always in the best mood. He is when his wife is joining him, but without he can be quite moody. That being said, since my girlfriend is gone for a few days I’m a bit lost and moody myself.
What can I do about it? Luckily I have the cats… They offer me so much entertainment.