I keep finding great underground records, so here are some with OranssiPazuzu, Deströyer666, Ulvesang and Plateau Sigma.
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä 20 Buck Spin Records
The name of the Finnish weirdo’s translates as Orange Pazuzu, a demon from Babylonian mythology. Vocalist Jun His’ used to be active in surrealist rockband Kuolleet Intiaanit. Apparently the band started after seeing Emperor play live. There’s little doubt about the fact that Oranssi Pazuzu is a black metal continuation of that concept. The band thus incorporates psychedelic and progressive elements into their own brand of black metal, which leads to interesting results. The band prefers to not repeat itself, leading to even more fantastic fun, every album is different.
The strange, repetitive riffs feel strangely captivating and lull you into a state of mind that is perplexingly relaxed, while maintaining a sense of wonder. The weird sound effects around the songs are enhancing this weird, submerging experience befitting such a band. Weirdly hypnotic riffs, combined with guttural barks are a strange thing to behold. The almost circular atmosphere the band generates is slightly unnerving, but fascinating at the same time in all its weirdness. Its some truly remarkable music, I have to say. I think I detected a locomotive beat somewhere between the twangy riffing.
Plateau Sigma – Rituals Avantgarde Music
Nothing wrong with a good bit of funeral doom, specially if the band takes the easy going direction that Plateau Sigma embraces. Taking inspiration from the traditional doom/death direction, but also from the Greek and Roman societies of the ancient past, this band is on an interesting trajectory. The cover tells as much, with a warrior lady in full weaponry depicted as on an ancient fresco (the goddess Athena?). The songs are dedicated to the Roman deities and the album itself to Bacchus, because Plateau Sigma believes that their style is the best to represent Dionysian themes. I would disagree, bu tthey make an interesting case that is well worth listening to before judging.
One thing I notice rather quick into listening to this record is the limited vocal range of one of their vocalists (not sure, since most of them take on vocal duties). It just doesn’t add up to the epic scale of the riffs here and there. The general feel of the music makes up for most of that though, in its laid back, pleasant atmosphere. This is normally not the feeling you get from a bit of funeral doom, bu tthe lingering sense of nostalgia somehow captivates you as a listener into a lulling, dreamy state. For a Dyonisian experience I miss the vitality on this record though. It all seems so tame and controlled. It’s a nice listen though, specially when you’re reading D&D novels.
Deströyer 666 – Wildfire Seasons Of Mist
Deströyer 666 is an interesting band with an even more interesting history. Originally the band hails from Melbourne in Australia, but later they moved to the south of the Netherlands, where they resided for a while. When members left and visas expired, the band seems to have scattered towards London. I guess it’s that Eindhoven connection that made me look into this Motörhead of the black metal scene, who’ve come back to the forefront after a long, long time with their new album ‘Wildfire’. K. K. Warslut gathered some new minions around him and its on!
From the fierce opening riff of ‘Traitor’ onwards. There is no fillers on this album, just relentless blackened rock’n’roll with a lot of oldschool swagger and rawness to it. Deströyer 666 is in no way a band that is opening new doors or is innovating the black metal genre, but they are doing everything in a way that suggests they simply don’t give a fuck whether you like it or not, This is rock’n’roll purity in its natural surroundings. What is very noticable is how the band manages to incorporate various traditional metal elements into their sound, without starting to sound cheesy. It actually makes it even more catchy and fun to listen to these guys. I really love this record, I hope you do to.
Ulvesang – Ulvesang Unsigned
They might be unsigned, but someone should catch this haunting trio of neofolk musicians quickly, because wherever this music is coming from I want more of it. The Canadians have many influences, but want to state that they are looking for their very own sound within the genre they describe as dark/neofolk. Spiritualism, paganism and nature combined with an element of melancholy are their main sources of inspiration. It’s clear that bands like Ulver and Agalloch have, wether the band knows them or not, a profound impact on the neofolk scene and I think it can be traced to records like this one.
The music is subtle, evoking images of nature and the northern forests. There is a tranquility to the calm and measured presentation of Ulvesang. It all takes its own pace, the way nature works and how time passes in that realm. Trickling gently, the acoustic instruments are not simple clean sounds but echo and reverberate in the air. The production really facilitates that organic feeling in that sense. There is a darkness to the sound though, which I think prompted the band to note their black metal influences in the tag cloud. Its that dark edge that makes them so captivating to me.
There are sounds of the underground you must hear, this time with Hoth, Breabach, Rotting Christ and Inverloch. This means doom, gloom, folk and black, offering a wide listening experience to those who can handle it.
Hoth – Oathbreaker Epicurus Records
Hoth consists of Eric Peters and David Dees from Seattle, who took the name as fitting with their icy concept. The name obviously can be a reference to the frozen planet in the Star Wars universe, but also refers to the blind Norse god who killed his brother Baldr. The duo has been making epic black metal with clean melodic death mixed into it since 2011. Their album was re-released (originally it was self-released 2014) by Epicurus Records. The theme is a concept “that follows the story of an individual from his conception and follows him down a path that grows darker and darker.” A promising sonic journey it is then.
The result is something much more than what you’d expect. Not majestic black metal, but real storytelling with upbeat, majeure riffing and playful folky melodies. The riffing here and there reminds one of bands like Norther, who combined the grim, cold sound with melodeath in a cool manner. One can even detect a bit of classical influences and some Spanish guitar on some tracks, giving a bit more of an aura to the overall experience. ‘A Blighted Hope’ fore example is an extraordinary track, but so is ‘Cryptic Nightmares’ with its gothic piano intro. No worries, there is plenty of bleak, black metal left for you to indulge in. This record with its crisp production just doesn’t start boring you easily.
Breabach – Astar Breabach Records
Breabach plays Scottish folk music, but manages to do that in a contemporary form. The problem with folk is that it’s more often than not stereotyped, thus crippling the originalities that can be easily found in the local/regional scenes. The group has found compelling ways to emphasize their aesthetic, but growing as well by adding music from other folk scenes, like that of Norway (Olav Luksengård Mjelva), New Zealand (Scott Morrison), Australia (Yirrmal Marika) and Quebec (Olivier Demers and Le Vent Du Nord). Like any folk album there’s a lot of connections and meaning to this piece of work by the award winning group.
The sound of Breabach feels authentic and natural, upbeat and energetic with the throbbing energy of early spring in all its vibrant tones. Still, there is an element of modernity to the music, which reminds you of the timeless tunes Michael Danna made for the film ‘Boondock Saints’ in its filmic pictural force. It’s as if the band tries to depict the blooming heather. The interesting part is ofcourse the implementation of the ethnic instruments from the other parts of the world. It creats a multicultural harmony, that can hardly be found in real life, but shines in its singular beauty. For me, this is beautiful stuff and I truly recommend this to you as a listener.
Rotting Christ – Rituals Seasons Of Mist
Bombastic, grand and unrelentingly great are some words that come to mind when I think of Rotting Christ. On their last couple of albums the Greeks have truly found a connection to the ethnic roots of the band in mesmerising albums that depict bits of history through the magnifying lens of black metal amplification. The turn the band has taken since ‘Aealo’ has grabbed my interests for sure (2010). It’s been 3 years since the highly praised 12th album by the ever productive Tolis brothers, who still hold the reigns on the creative output of the band. There’s even an Aphrodites Child cover on this album. It’s so awesome, I can hardly stop going on about it.
For this release the band has gathered a ton of guests to add weight to the already heavy sound. Among those you’ll find Vorph (Samael) and Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), but there are many more delivering their sacrifices to the sonic titan that is Rituals. Slow, massive riffs pulverize all in their path on a larger than life scale. The blaring bagpipes add another layer of frightning threat to the whole endeavour. The shift to the more pagan oriented metal really works great for this band and allows them to bloom to their fullest potential, even more so on ‘Rituals’ I think than on their previous work. The cthunderous choires and the exact placement of all the elements creates the epic feeling of a Hollywood blockbuster, which I mean in all the right ways. Sure, maybe this puts the band more in the corner between Cradle Of Filth and Eluveitie, but they completely dominate that corner, so its all good.
Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed Relapse Records
The band Inverloch started out under the name d.USK a few years ago, but the roots of the Australians are in the band Disembowelment. Interestingly this is just one of the many creative directions following the group that was active untill 1993. The band has also been booked on Roadburn, so the forward path has been taken by Inverloch. The interesting thing is that Inverloch came to be, when the two old members of Disembowelment decided to go have some fun with those old tunes. It sparked the creative fire in the two and that is what created this band, which was soon signed by the great Relapse Records for a full lenght. Time to check out what that does on a sonic level.
This record is something else, it’s very far away from the traditional death metal, but still incorporates elements into its desperate doom sound. The band truly sounds like a more swampy funeral doom at times, but then a blast of muddy, sticky death metal like on the song ‘Lucid Delirium’, with its catchy rattling drums. Crawling drumlines are like skittering, while gloomy riffs make the room feel darker. This is just a pretty awesome record, combining doom and death in the only way you really can do it. It’s overwhelming, disgusting and unnerving, but done with beautiful skill. Awesome.
Boy, what records to be found in the underground this time, with Downfall Of Nur, Skuggsjá, Cormorant and Fuath. Great music for great listening!
Downfall Of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia Avantgarde Music
Seldom have I heard music, blending folk and black metal, that feels so full of yearning for something lost as I did with Downfall Of Nur. The band is a one-man project by Sardinian musician Antonio Sanna, who moved to Argentina and there started making his music, inspired by the Nuragian society, which inhabited the island of Sardinia since the old days and still show some traces in the wild central parts of the island. So, the band is based in Argentinia where the young Sanna released a demo, an EP and this full lenght.
The music is a mixture of two styles, but balanced in such a way that you hardly feel the transfers from one to another. The production is phenomenal and the sound completely captures the forlorn spirit of its topic matter. The eerie screams of Sanna are haunting in the sometimes completely overwhelming waves of bleak, black metal. The special touch is the folk instruments, which start the album, but also help it to close of in a similar manner. This way the album becomes a unity, instead of a collection of seperate songs. It’s an absolute masterpiece, that combines the best of the atmospheric black metal bands of nowadays and folk music.
Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind And Mirror Seasons Of Mist
The magical collaboration between Einar Selvik (Wardruna) and Ivar Björnson (Enslaved) was already succesful in its limited run of live shows. I had mixed feelings when it came to an album version of it, due to its temporary and unique nature, It was an event, a once in a lifetime thing, but now there’s an album. I have to retract any objections, because this is a music for the ages. With many collaborators on this piece of heathen heritage appraisal, it’s a work like no other. The Norwegians have tried to captivate its essence on this recording.
Though labeled as a blend of metal and folk, it feels more like a ritualistic bit of music. The changing of Selvik is combined with the riffing of Björnson en Grutle Kjellson. Mystical foggy fjörds are being painted with words and music. Through the mist of traditional instruments you journey into the Norway of a long forgotten past. It’s music that makes your heart pound, that makes you look at the stars with a new sense of wonder and embrace the forgotten past. The wide range of instruments comes together for something monumental and grand, but also dreamy and nostalgic for a time in the past. Thre’s hardly any true metal in the music, which is surprisingly not making it lack in power. It’s hard to really go into it, because it knows no equal. I’m for one very glad this music is available on vinyl now.
Fuath – I Fortriu Productions/Neuropa Records
I’ve had this record on my shortlist for reviewing for a while, but somehow dropped it for a while, due to its musical nature. The post black metal that praises the land of the Britons has often represented in my reviews so I let it simmer for a while. That did not diminish anything of the beauty that Fuath has to offer. Andy Marshall knows how to make this kind of music. The Scot was also responsible for the work of Saor, Falloch and various others. Where Saor and Falloch are mellow, representing the wide heathers and hills, the music of Fuath is more harsh, more overwhelming and seemingly more about the deep forest.
The name Fuath translates as ‘Hatred’ in Gaelic. That tells you quite a bit already. The sound is more streamlined than the previous efforts and relies on that stream to create an atmosphere of a misty forest and being lost in its foggy depths. It invites you in, takes you into its warm embrace. Only then you feel the eerie cold and the fury behind it all in icy riffs and cold, distant drumming. Vocals are howls, raw and filled with hatred, in the background. Ever seen that scene in the old BBC Robin Hood serious where Guy Of Gisborne runs scared through the haunted forest? This was the soundtrack of that bit.
Cormorant – Dwellings Self released
Yeah, this is something else. Cormorant is a black metal band that can trace its roots to the melodic and grandiose sounds of Emperor and Satyricon in the early days of the genre. Where the focus of bands is lately much on returning to its roots, like the Icelandic and Nidrosian scenes, this band returns to its mystic, fantastic origins. Think Bal-Sagoth, but without the cookie monster gutturals and and He-man like landscapes. The Bay Area band of Americans have released this album in 2011, but it crawled up on bandcamp for a bit and I had to check it out. I was amazed.
You think progressive usually takes a more agressive, extreme angle, but interestingly enough these San Francisco boys have taken it to a more traditional folk/heavy metal direction. More riffing, more soaring guitar parts and that galloping rhythm you’ll find in the power metal corner. Maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden? It creates a unique sounding band, that unites the cravings of angered D&D players with the need to stand bare-chested in a forest wearing corpse paint and wielding swords. It is not filled with hatred, but with longing for that other worldliness. On top of that, they do what they do in a magnificent manner. What an album! They did release a new one in 2014, but I’m most keen for more.
Sludgy doom from India? Yeah, that’s right and it’s as dirty as that fecal pool in Slumdog Millionaire and heavy as fuck. I asked bass player Abhishek Michael and guitar player Namit some questions about their music, India, getting recognition and future plans.
This year the band released their debut album titled ‘Stereolithic Riffalocalypse’, filled with riffs and grooves that would not be misplaced on a Sleep album. This is one of those bands that should be playing Roadburn in the near future. Not recommended for Bollywood fans. This interview was originally published on 3rd-Eye Magazine.
Hey! Can you please kindly introduce yourself and your band? (Have you guys been active in any other bands you’d like to mention or doing any side projects?)
Michael: Ahoy! I’m Abhishek Michael, and I play bass, Deepak’s behind the kit, Namit’s on guitars and we’re all on vocal duties.
I joined Shepherd in 2012, after Muneeb had left, and Dee asked me if I wanted to come jam with them. I still remember Dee asking me if I wanted to play bass, back when they started off in 2011, but back then I didn’t think I could commit to it, as I was playing bass for Inner Sanctum. But, when he asked me again in 2012, I decided to give it a shot. I had always wanted to play this style of music and I felt like I needed to a change from Sanctum as well.
I used to play with a thrash/death band called Inner Sanctum till about a few months back, which was awesome fun too. We released an album earlier this year as well. It’s been a great year for me musically, haha.
Dee also plays with stoner doom heavyweights Bevar Sea, who also released a belter of an album last year. Definitely a shit ton of good music coming out of the subcontinent I must say.
Namit: Sup! This is Namit, and I play guitars and share vocal duties with the rest of the band. Shepherd has pretty much been the only band I’ve seriously been involved in.
How did Shepherd get started?
Michael: Shepherd started out as a bunch of dudes wanting to play some heavy, ballsy, rock n roll. Basically music we enjoyed listening to ourselves. We’re all into different styles of music, but everything slow, heavy and dirty, brings us together. The band started off with Dee and Namit jamming together, and back then the sound was a lot different, it still was Shepherd, and you can hear that from the early demos, but compared to what the album sounds like, it’s really matured over the years.
Namit: Always wanted to be a part of a band that writes the kind of music we do, but there wasn’t that vibe with any drummers in college – in fact there were no drummers at all in the neighborhood. There were quite a few guitar mates with whom I shared the same taste in music – more than anything else that resulted in me filling in on the drums for a quite a stretch.
I had met Deepak a couple of times and had an understanding that if he ever was in Bangalore we should try to do something – the weird acoustic riffy jams that had been recorded and sent over interested him as well. It was really after college, when Deepak moved to Bangalore that we decided it was time to take shit to whole new level. Our initial jams were productive in terms of riff content, on the fly tempo changes indicated good understanding and willingness to adapt – hence we thought that basing the band around an improvisational jam based structure would be a good place to start.
Why are you called Shepherd?
Michael: From what I hear, a fungus had something to do with that. Crooks in hand, we’re just here to lead the sheeple towards the opium mist.
Namit: It was during a trip to Kodaikanal, where we were lazing around amidst nature and discussing band names. In the distance, there was a dude trying to herd a flock of sheep. Out of all the names that we floated around, Shepherd sounded cool and it stuck.
What is it like to be a sludge/doom band from India, what kind of scene is there to step into?
Michael: Not much of a scene here actually, and if you’re talking specifically sludge/doom, then it’s even smaller. That being said, I think we’ve got this whole exotic factor going, since we’re a sludge band from India. So that probably helps with getting out to an international audience. There aren’t that many gigs here either, we probably play once a month if we’re lucky.
When we started out, I guess Bever Sea were the only other band, that I can think of, that were doing something similar. There have been others who’ve popped up and disappeared just as quickly though. It’s growing slowly though, you see newer bands in the genre slowly popping up, which is a good thing. I guess people realize that there is an audience for this style of music here.
Namit: In a way, it’s good to be doing something that not a lot of people are into. There’s no scene so to speak of and gigs are hard to come by. It is tough trying to survive as a musician in India – especially if you it’s against your principles to sell your soul to the devil of Bollywood.
In the past couple of years there have been more bands that worship the riff – Dirge, Witchdoctor, Grim Mage, Primitiv has elements of stoner doom. Existing stalwarts of doom – Bevar Sea, Djinn and Miskatonic keeping gigging and releasing new stuff consistently.
If you’re a new band, there would always be a show or two to get you started and it would mostly depend and how you would take it from there.
Since most people’s frame of reference of India includes little more than ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, can you tell a bit about your personal background and how you got into heavy music?
Michael: Apart from enjoying the occasional dip in the fecal pool around the corner, we all love the heavier forms of music, and that’s probably what draws us together. All of us are pretty much from what we call middle class India, we’ve grown up in an urban environment, and have had access to tapes and cd’s and we were lucky enough to be part of the generation that witnessed the internet boom. I think without the internet I wouldn’t have really got into heavier forms of music. My brother did play with a progressive rock band while I was growing up, so I had access to a lot of his music collection. I had an uncle who had a nice collection of classic rock tapes, which also played a part in me getting into the music I’m currently into. For me it’s been a musical evolution ever since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed music, and it’s a big part of my life.
Namit: I think it was the sight of bands in music videos doing cool stuff with instruments, and just the raw energy that made you want to jump and destroy shit, that attracted me to the music in the first place. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the power of generating music through your own fingers, and hence in a way expressing that fucking rage, is way more authentic and skillful than that artificial pop, Bollywood shit that was being aired when I was growing up – it made me stare in awe at the rack of guitars and drums in any musical store and that was pretty what I wanted to do. Black Album, Number of the Beast were the first few albums that blew my head out of water and really just wanted to play and try to reach the levels at which my idols could. Couple of years in a local music school back home was just an insane learning and mind opening experience – listening to stories from my school teachers – Miles, Giles and Axel about bands like G’nR, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Slayer, Van Halen, Metallica, Jaco Pastorius, etc. was the kind of fodder I’m glad I fed on.
What is happening music wise in India?
Michael: Well, there’s a lot happening. There’s obviously a ton of crap floating around, but we do have some interesting music coming out of here. I guess there are small pockets of good music, similar to everywhere else in the world.
We’ve caught onto the whole EDM boom as well. You can always see what the masses in India are listening to based on what Bollywood goes with, which is our mainstream. Right now it’s a ton of EDM, everything sounds like they just took a turd of a sample from some shitty DJ/producer. But then again, to most people who really listen to and enjoy music, we always are looking for something that you can really connect with and not just LCD radio friendly tunes.
If you look close enough you always find something interesting. I don’t think there are that many artists who are reinventing the wheel or anything, but they are still making good enjoyable music. We’ve got our fair share of good metal, rock, pop, electro and even hipster tunes, haha
Namit: Apart from Bollywood getting mutated and brainwashed by the likes of Yo Yo Honey Singh and the whole disco swag party DJJJ club mentality jing bang, (the stuff of ‘60s and ‘70s is pretty decent), you can find good bands from all genres if you tried to look for it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a guy who is itching to check out new bands in India, but by the looks of it there are people trying to keep it real and do what they love doing. You could try to say that the blame lies with the apathetic attitude about people – who want new bands and killer gigs but don’t buy your shirts, cd’s, shit and don’t go to gigs. I’d like to blame, if I may, the naysayers that ceaselessly try to put their opinions in a relevant light, crib on social media for pointing out these maybe distorted facts about the scene. Everyone should know what they sign up for, because complaining is not good for your health.
Where do you get your inspiration from, both music wise as well as for lyrics and themes?
Michael: Well, it’s hard to pinpoint specific influences, but I guess everything influences us, from living in India to what’s going on in the rest of the world and the different music we all listen to. With the music, we don’t have any fixed way of writing. We just jam, and see where it takes us. Someone might bring in a riff and we take it from there, or we just jam. That’s what’s worked for us so far.
With the lyrical themes, it’s basically whoever is handling the vocals, would decide the theme and write the lyrics. Dee and Namit have handled pretty much all the vocals on the album, and have written the lyrics for all their parts. We all are really happy with the way the vocals turned out, and with 3 of us singing, we got to experiment a bit.
Namit: Some of it is personal experience, and the way you convey that could be down to how you’ve been influenced by and relate to the material of your choice. It’s tough to know when you’d feel inspired. When you do, it’s kind of rare, but you’re able to get a decent amount of work done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping at it, and over time one fine day everything might just fall into place from your perspective- in terms of the words, the idea or the visuals you want to convey, the brevity of the structure and rhyme. Looking back, most of the lyrics I’ve written are shit and could be better – maybe it was the pressure of just finishing it as soon as we could, but writing lyrics is not something I look forward to. Working on vocal melodies is way more interesting!
How has the reception of Shepherd been this far? Are there things you’ve found particularly interesting?
Michael: The reception has been great! We didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. For a band from India to get the amount of international press we did, was pretty impressive. We’ve managed to make a lot of year end lists, which is really good publicity for us. The rest of the world usually never knows bands coming out of India, so it’s a good feeling having your music get out to a lot more people. Hopefully we can get the music out to more people outside India with a tour in the near future.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the whole stoner/sludge community is how supportive everyone is of each other. Bands are always helping out other bands, and the zines and blogs are all very supportive of new bands.
Namit: Getting signed onto Helmet Lady records was sick! Didn’t expect the kind of reception we’ve had so far, but it’s motivating to hear the stuff being said – that helps in us wanting to put in the effort to make a really good next record.
The passion with which people work and care for about the underground has really caught me by surprise.
Let’s talk about Stereolithic Riffalocalypse, what was the writing and recording process like?
Michael: Well the album was written quite a while back, and we’ve been playing most of these songs live for a couple of years now. Most of the music evolved from jams, which later turned into completed tracks.
When we decided to record back in 2013, we pretty much had everything ready before we went into the studio. We started tracking around October, in 2013, and we got done with the drums, bass and guitars pretty quick, and tweaked the songs a bit here and there. But then, we had to part ways with the vocalist. So basically, we had a bunch of instrumentals with us, with no vocalist.
I still remember we were trying to figure out what to do, and whether we should try and find a vocalist. We ended up doing all the vocals ourselves, and over the course of the year we sat down and figured out lyrics and vocals for the whole album. It’s funny, but I remember Dee saying something like “Fuck it, let’s just do the vocals ourselves” which I thought was a joke at the time, since none of us had any real singing experience. But I have to say, that we were all really impressed with the way the vocals turned out on the album, and it seems like a lot of people enjoyed them too.
Namit: The first time I heard Dee belt out the vocals, I was taken aback by how well he could sing and how much better the songs were starting to sound. Yeah, writing the vocals, and then learning to play the riffs and sing at the same time, was insane amounts of fun.
How did you get in touch with Brad Boatright to work on your album? And what was it like?
Michael: We decided to work with Rahul Ranganath, a live/studio engineer from Bangalore for the mix, but we were looking around to find someone who we could work with for the master. Brad was definitely one of the choices all of us thought would really work well for us, not to mention he’s practically worked with every band from the scene and put out some brilliant records. So we got in touch with him and he was quite excited to work with us as well. It was really easy to work with him, and the guy knows what he’s doing. We talked a bit about what we were looking for and the bands we liked, and basically the albums he had worked on that we liked the production on. When we heard the first master, we knew we had gone with the right guy, and we really happy with how it turned out. So everything was done pretty quickly, we did a few runs and we were set.
Namit: Brad is just super quick and super professional with his stuff. Not to mention the initial runs that came out couldn’t have sounded better.
Apparently, I understood from some other reviews, some people feel offended by the song titles ‘ Black Cock Of Armageddon’ and ‘Turdspeaker’. Did this surprise you and do you wish to say something more about these songs?
Michael: Haha! Yeah, honestly we didn’t think about that, but then again, if people want to get offended, they will. Someone is always going to be offended, even if you write a song about magical ponies. So no, we don’t really have anything to say about them, if people were offended by it, fuck that, they can move along. We’re not going to go about tip toeing around everything, just because someone is going to be offended.
Namit: HAHAHAHA! Good for them! 😀
What future plans does Shepherd have?
Michael: As of now, get back to writing some new material, which we’ve already started with. It’s a bit nerve racking since there’s a lot of pressure now to put out a really good album. Haha!
Apart from that, we’re looking to tour Europe at some point and play a few festivals. Also the vinyl of the album will be out soon, there has been a delay because it’s quite hard getting vinyl’s out now with all the delays in production. So look out for that!
Namit: Can’t wait to jam and write some stuff with the guys, because basically there’s a ton of riffs and semi-structured songs / ideas that are in there. Need to take a massive dump, and let it all out.
If you had to describe Shepherd as a dish, what would it be and why?
Michael: Haha, this is a hard one. I’m not quite sure actually. But maybe a spicy taco/burrito? It’s got a lot of different textures, it’s meaty and spicy, and it could give you the shits too.
Namit: Shepherd’s Pie? It’s a good thing to have when you wake and bake, but just like the dish it could get boring after a week or so…
Please use this space for any further things you’d like to share.
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All corners of the world in this sounds of the underground with Skáphe from the USA/Iceland, Wildernessking from South Africa, Burial Dust from Bangladesh and Cadaver Eyes from Israel.
Skáphe – Skáphe² Fallen Empire Records
I came across these guys, while doing a SoU about bands from Iceland. They were cool, but not Icelandic, so you get them now. Skáphe is a band from Philadelphia in the United States (partly Iceland too) and this album came out after Trump started rampaging across any sort of decency that you’d find. I guess it is what fuels their anger. The band sounds pretty much like they’re actually part of that Icelandic scene and are indeed part of the Vánagandr group, which in its own peculiar way is embrasing the nidrosian idea of pure, back to basics black metal. I feel that this is in large parts what you get when listening to their relentless record.
Think of early bands like Blasphemy and you get a similar, overwhelming and raw delivery. The sound in general is a roaring and thunderous one, with little subtlety. There is a slight bit of that tremolo guitar sound, you’ll find in the post black-metal bands now usually, but it’s used sparingly. Cacophonous sounds peep through the solid wall of sound now and then, offering you a glimpse into the swirling malestrom of madness behind it all. The whole recording seems to have done in a concrete storage hall or something, because there is no sense of subtlety or grace to the sound of these Americans. Only after the full album I checked its members: D.G. is known from his work with Misþyrming and Naðra (see this SoU#33) and Alex Poole, who did his thing in Krieg, Esoterica and Chaos Moon. Things make more sense to me now.
Wildernessking – Mystical Future Sick Man Getting Sick Records
I had to check it twice myself, black metal from South-Africa? That seemed wild. Not because I don’t think it shouldn’t be played in Africa, but the relationship seems like one that is bound to face with troubles. Wildernessking has been around for a good while though. In 2012 they released their debut, but in 2010 the band formed under the moniker of Heathens. The range of topics is broad and obviously inspired by the countries own nature and sensibilities. The Cape Towners fill their music with progressive elements to create something unique.
Think Winterfylleth, but set in the wide stretches of land of South-Africa and with probably better weather. You can hear that sensation of sunrays in the warm and beaming feel of the riffs. Though intensely played and full of hard work, the sound feels languid, relaxed but also danger lurks. The bestial roar of Keenan Nathan Oakes rips through that languid mood with an urgency, while the riffs smoothly cascade onwards in a dramatic though doomy way. There’s a longing or lamenting in the music and voice that grip you. It’s that amazing sincerity that makes this feel so good.
Burial Dust – OshubhoAhobaan Independent
Bangladesh is starting to develop it’s very own black metal scene, with primitive, furious and quite convincing. The main theme appaers to be the ancient death cult and occult religions, but more than anything the denunciation of the false gods that rule our society. Reminds you of Norway some decades ago? Bands like this show that black metal has matured and found a deep rooting within counter culture and anti-religious thoughts with serious followers. Wether that’s a good thing, is not up to me to decide, but it lends a certain gravity to the expression in the music itself. The title translates as ‘Ominous call’.
Though the sound may come off as pretty lo-fi (necrosound!), it works in the favor of the band in the sense of aura and vibe. Blistering, crackling blasts and deep, unearthly gutteral vocals show the mixed ancestry in both the death and black scene, giving a similar feel to the band as the primitive origins of Mayhem and Darkthrone (maybe even a little of the more death orientated sounds of Von and Morbid). The attentive listener can detect some oriental influences in their sound, where the evocation of ancient Egyptian deities is no strange occurence. From the guitar crescendo’s to the unbidding chasm of the vocals, this is a powerful bit of dark magic.
Cadaver Eyes – Class Mammal HCB Records
Sometimes you get these requests that sound just too intriguing to be ignored. This Israeli band claims to implement elements of doom, noise and experimental sounds into their product and that alone is quite peculiar. The sound that you experience when listening to it is even more weird and unsettling then you’d think. To give a bit of context, the band is a project more than anything, based in Jaffa, Jerusalem and New York. Bandmember Zax indicated in his e-mail that he also plays in Lietterschpich and in Hyperion Ensemble, along with drone deity Stepehen O’Malley’. It should give you some context on what these guys are doing.
The line between fucked up noise and brilliance is a rather thin one, leaving a band to be often misunderstood. As one, I presume Chinese, site described Cadaver Eyes: “in these music there is nothing but amounts of buzzing”. Brilliant quote, but there’s much more to it. The base of the music is a drone that truly unsettles the listener, specially when David Opp (also Lietterschpich, Balata etc.) starts barking at the listener through a fog of distortion and rage. The drum patterns make little sense, giving you hardly any space to breathe and find a calm in the music. Though it lacks a certain sonic intensity, the experimental, fuzzy crackling of electronics gives no quarter. The record also has two cover-like tracks, one being ‘Acetone’ by Mudhoney. You can’t go wrong with Mudhoney, but for some listeners Cadaver Eyes might feel like you’ve really been walking down the wrong kind of alley.
Some books I read, by Houellebecq and Lévy, Felica Day, R.A. Salvatore and David E. Ewalt, so a lot of geeky stuff again (Dungeons & Dragons).
Michel Houellebecq & Bernard-Henri Lévy – Public Enemies
It’s a fascinating idea to have to of the most influential thinkers (regardless if Houellebecq looks at himself in that way) of the modern times to go into a letter exchange with eachother. Do that with these two leading french intellectuals and you’ve got something special going on. Both are on different sides of the spectrum, but in their letters the interest and respect clearly shines through. When the book begins we can find some stabs and misconceptions, but gradually it becomes an intimate and deeply intellectual exchange.
The two men are united in their self deflating humor and loathing for their roles in life. Loathing and love, because both seem to be addicted to where they are and the way they are perceived in the public eye. I do think that this exchange finds no equivalent in other European nations, this is an exchange embedded in the french form of a ‘public intellectual’, which is a new concept, that rarely actuallye embodies any sort of true intellectualism in other nations. These men however, are deeply involved in knowing the self and therefor int rying to comprehend the other. The fact that they manage to convey it in a convincing and witty manner even makes this a better read, worthy of your attention.
David M. Ewalt – Of Dice and Men
I have only recently embraced the world of D&D, but David Ewalt had done so many, many years before me and knows the game, the history, the rules and the story well enough to tell the tale of D&D itself, which he does in a captivating, spectacular and immersing way. Well, that should be enough of convincing, but let me go a bit deeper into that. Ewalt is a journalist for Forbes, so we’re talking about serious business here. The man had left his roots behind and somehow started to export his nerdy past as an explorer, an ethnographer if you will.
Ewalts trip into the history and dense development of D&D and its affiliates gets a personal touch through that, with a warm and fond approach to the subject matter and some reverence for the key figures like Gygax and Arneson. While the personal fire rekindles, the story becomes a beautiful legend told with much love and warmth, but always remaining that of a journalist trying to tell you more about this phenomenon. There is definitely criticism and analysis, but it helps in understanding that beauty of D&D, it’s about characters, flaws and strenghts. It’s about what you can do when you combine the best of all. Ewalt brings that together in a great read.
Felicia Day – You’re never weird on the internet (almost)
The book by Felicia Day reads as a bit of therapy, as someone coming to turns with her own path in life a lot later in it. Turns out that’s partly why it was written and in what state the author was. I chose to go for the audiobook version on this one, because it was read by Felicia Day herself. Like the book ‘Just A Geek’ by Wil Wheaton it just happens to connect easier that way and is probably the most ‘true to the core’ experience you can get. The book is a good read for everyone who has felt like an outsider somewhere in their lives.
The book is therefor a story of Felicia’s life, filled with humor and self deflating remarks, highl lighting the problems she has faced throughout the years as an insecure person trying to deal with the world. In that way, there’s also a part lamentation of choices done wrong and hardships endured, but it’s all in good fun. We know where it ended, which is in a good place. The particularly interesting bit in the book deals with gamergate, which was a horrible part of gaming history. Being a self-appointed geek for pretty much forever, I felt alienated and truly disappointed with the gaming world after gamer gate, and that sentiment was clearly there. All in all, it’s a fun and light read about that girl who could be your neighbour. It’s great stuff.
R.A. Salvatore – Gauntlgrym
Getting into Dungeons & Dragons requires you to start getting some footing in the vast universe of the game. No other way is better than reading the novels and letting your own fantasy shape that world the way you wish to perceive it. No other character is more intriguing and part of this world than Drizzt Do’Urden, a drow elf (a dark skinned variation, living underground and generally underground). This story takes place later in the cycle of the life of this character, which developed from a supporting character to a main player in the universe.
Gauntlgrym is an old dwarven hold, thought lost and the huge quest for aged King Bruenor of the dwarves of Mithril Hall. Together with his old friend Drizzt he concocts a plan to escape his duties as king and go fight for his ancestral home in the final great quest. This story follows their adventures, wracked with memories and their old past and is a classic adventure novel, displaying various classes, races and elements of D&D.