Underground Sounds: Chepang – Lahti Charge

Label: Nerve Altar/Holy Goat
Band: Chepang
Origin: US/Nepal

The Chepang is a tribe in Nepal. The subtleties of the situation there are way to dense to get into, though, but suffice to say that they are considered the lower class in a a segmented society. It’s similar to the Indian caste system and connected to many issues related to the position of individuals in society. The band has widely adressed that case in this article by Kim Kelly from Noisey. The band shares members with Sangharsha.

The style the band proclaims to play, they call ‘immigrindcore’. Its a light-hearted play on the origin of the band and the place where they’re at. From New York, the Nepalese immigrants have unleashed this piece of ferocious grindcore onto the world. The record was recorded by Kevin Bernstein (Margrudergrind, Mutilation Rites) and mastered by Brad Boatright in Audiosiege Studio’s (you know him from recordings of Corrosion of Conformity, Nails, Beastmilk, Obituary, Yob and more).

Grindcore is a political vehicle and has always been such, so the choice for this as the sound of their dissent is a righteous one. The sound on the record, which is spiced up with some samples in Nepalase speaking (I have to assume as much), is fierce and filled with the typical bumpy beats on the opener ‘Kathe-Man-Du’, which may make it sound light-hearted, untill the roaring vocals start beating away at your eardrums.

‘Lahti Charge’ is like a home made bomb with grind, powerviolence and hardcore elements. The production is so tight, that this record is very listenable and not plagued by the distorted hazy sound you hear on this sort of records often. Not that this doesn’t have its charm, but these are guys with a mission, who want to reach an audience. A more toned down track, like ‘Chepang Basti’ offers a long intro that feels a bit like some of the work from Black Flag. Perphaps a great comparison to the open ended display of fury from these guys.

Maybe I’m just too excited about this record, but it’s utterly devastating with high-speed blasts, thick sludge like parts and punkrock swagger. Though the lyrics are in Nepalese, a short lyric is displayed in English, like on the untitled track: “”Cash rules everything around me, Welcome to the third world order”. This record is one of the purest, most freely made and brutal bits of music out there. This, I believe, is the spirit of punk coming back witha vengeance.


Henry Rollins speaks in Eindhoven about the state of the world.

The world seems to be on the brink these days. Trump may become the next president of the United States and other peroxide blonde men are rallying the masses. Lemmy and Bowie passed away and there’s some people who actually believe the world is a flat disk again. Luckily, Henry Rollins is here to pierce the bullshit with words like daggers and razorsharp humor on a thursday night in the Effenaar in Eindhoven.

The spoken word shows of Henry Rollins are a phenomenon on their own. Not many rock’n’roll personalities compare to Rollins on a roll on the stage with a microphone and the audience. After and during his time as frontman of S.O.A. and the legendary Black Flag, the singer started developing his solo-act. After the end of Rollins Band, years later, he ended up with a show that could last for hours and it’s pretty much what Rollins is known for these days. Many have tried to follow his tracks on this, such as Danko Jones, Jello Biafra and even Billy Milano, but there’s only one Henry Rollins.

Picture by Brendy Wijdeven
Picture by Brendy Wijdeven

When Rollins gets started, his act is like a two hour train ride, not much will be able to stop it. He discusses life and what he has to say about the state of the world as it is right now. After putting out some outlines for his story, he gets started on subjects like America, herd mentality, the individual and his passion for music obviously. He touches upon the topic of Trump very briefly, which is surprising if you consider his endless rants on the topic of president George W. Bush. We move on to the next topic at high speed and soon everyone’s nailed to their seats.

Beautiful anecdotes follow about David Bowie, also known as ‘The Bow’ and the intense love for the music of the man. When Henry speaks about ‘Hunky Dory’ with passion, I think everyone must have felt that for a moment. Ofcourse Motorheads Lemmy follows as well, stories relayed with love and humor for the man. Henry is getting a bit more personal in many of his stories and tells a lot about his experiences and adventures. Not just the funny bits, but also things that matter, like his eco-holiday in Ecuador. A story about sexing enguins on a mountain of poop is compared to Amsterdam, which is always a succes in Eindhoven (and is an adequate description of the Dutch capital).

For two hours, the aging alternative icon knows how to enchant the audience with funny, hard and amazing stories, often told without nuance, direct and forceful. You can agree with his views or not. If you don’t, you probably were not at the show in the first place, but the beauty is that you leave the show refreshed and filled with new views on the world. That may be the most beautiful thing an artist can offer to you.

Thanks ever so much for the pictures to Brendy Wijdeven


The Metal Gimmick Reviewed

A while ago I wrote this article about the increased presence of gimmicks in the heavy metal world. Not trying to diss any band or be negative about it, I discussed the prominence of bands like Ghost, Babymetal and Steel Panther.

The original article can be found here and I found out it even got to reddit for some discussion. Reading those responses, knowing that they might not be all friendly, I did realise I might have not fully made my point there and unfortunately may have come across as a genre purist. I am in a way for the sake of argument used to genre terms, but in the end its all about the music. Gimmick and purism are two extremes on a very wide scale and in some ways don’t even have to conflict.


If we look at a band like Ghost, specially after their epic record ‘Meliora’ have shown that while maintaining the gimmick or show element, they are able to produce fabulous music. Interestingly, this coincides with a tuned down version of their stage presentation. There’s a bit more performance, but a little less ‘stuff’.

But what was that concern about ‘Gimmicks’ then? The concern I tried to voice is that some bands are gaining popularity only by the fact that they do something weird. Now, this is nothing new in the metal world. The whole black metal genre seems to revolve around that gimmick. Bands like the Misfits or Slipknot and even Black Sabbath added a mystique to their music by adding that element of showmanship to the band. There are band who push a bit further on that and the gimmick becomes their selling point.

When is something a gimmick? Probably when it is the first thing you have to say about your band, you probably are overdoing exactly that part. If your description starts with something that is not the music, the focus is on the wrong end of the stick. From a music purist point of view. Does that mean gimmicks are evil? Ofcourse not, it’s just whatever purpose you have with your music. For example, Hevisaurus is aiming their music at children.

A gimmick doesn’t mean it dininishes the band, a band like Ghost or Slipknot can hold its own with or without the gimmick. It’s sadly not just good music that comes out of the woodwork.


Luckily, things have a tendency to work themselves out. Glamrock and grunge prompted their own back to basic movement in the shape of the hard rock’n’roll movement that started out in the mid nineties and had a good run till halfway the noughties with bands like Audioslave and Velvet Revolver. A bit later followed Scandinavian bands like Gluecifer and The Hellacopters and now Danko Jones keeps the flame alive. It’s a movement back to something pure, where the stage outfit and decoration is not that wild.

Maybe grunge and stoner offered that to metal, but somehow the whole flamboyance seems to fly high and in a clickbait-culture of juicy headlines there seems to be little room for bands that offer something simple and pure. Although… that is the music press. There’s an amazing amount of bands that have been getting back to something pure. Ironically, the band I started my original article with was Deafheaven. In a way, apart from that slick album cover of ‘Sunbather’, that is a purist band. Even stripping the characteristics of the genre from the music. You see similar things happen. So the  whole focus on aesthetic will even out.

The future of heavy metal

So the real concern isn’t really the gimmick itself, but the way its lifted up to be the focus point for any journalism. If we talk about a band, the look and gimmick can’t be the point of focus. If that is the thing we talk about, two things may be wrong.

  1. The band is musically uninteresting.
  2. The journalist doesn’t have a clue.

Now, point one is really not so bad, because we recognise a boring band anyways as listeners and it just becomes ‘that commercial crap’. The point with metal journalism might be worrying, specially if the main sources for our music-info are just spitting out uninformed, politically correct garbage news, that puts people of the bands that should get some attention. I’m not telling you to love Deafheaven or whatever the new kid on the block is, but the press is surely not helping with some weird conservative hatred to anything new or blankly ignoring it. If Metal Hammer, Kerrang and the like writes page full about the weird mystique of a band, but forgets their music, then that’s the problem. Not to blame any specific media though, a site like Noisey really offers great stuff… and sometimes garbage. Same goes for most, but I think that’s more the writers.

But the problem is also the first, the lack of exploration of the fans. The overflow of information and the unfortunate side-effects of social media make it hard to find anything new or appreciate music solely on our own experience. We probably see some judgement pop up in our timeline and then just drop it.

So let’s keep exploring and listen to good music. Everything should be ok. I mean, Kiss was also kick-ass regardless of the make-up, right?

Short note on some of the accusations. Yes, I love my genre classifications. No, I don’t resort records in the shops from some priviligy point of view, just that I can’t handle disorder.

Cover image: Powerwolf, source press photo/Facebook band Though Cheesy as hell, probably not the worst out there. 

Sounds of the Underground #48

Some very black sounds from the underground with Terra Tenebrosa, Thrawsunblat, Sacrilegium and the strange Kayo Dot. Enjoy listening to some new tunes.

Terra Tenebrosa – The Reverses
Debemur Morti Productions

source: bandcamp

The band Terra Tenebrosa with its mysterious, unknown members, started out as an emotion evoking art project, never having the intent to play live. That is what singer ‘The Cuckoo’ said during an interview. The band plays music that is often described as black metal, which apparently pisses them off to no limit. Terra Tenebrosa combines various musical elements into an eclectic maelstrom of aural chaos, that probably lies close to the black metal genre on sound and aesthetic, but it’s really not the same thing. I know, admittedly, very little of their work. I found the records this far hard to get into but rewarding at the same time. I like to listen to music before I fall asleep, but this is definitely a nightmarish record for that.

The roots of the band can be traced to Swedish post-hardcore group Breach and with that knowledge I know better where the sound comes from. Atmospheric, overwhelming and battering you with all its got. The industrial banging on ‘Makoria’, the deformed vocals and the maddening rhythms filled with Skinny Puppy-esque dread and tension are putting the band in the field of the more avantgardistic elements of the black metal genre (Nihill anyone?). It’s more that pounding, mechanized bit rhythm section that gives Terra Tenebrosa its unnerving, intense sound, there’s hardly any traditional black metal elements to be heard amidst the cauldron of chaos, maniacal singing and samples/effects.  It was announced ofcourse that the sound of Terra Tenebrosa would be more fast and heavy, but also ugly sounding. The dissonant, uncontrolled sound, together with the ghoulish gibbered vocals is definitely hideous in its majesty. Its a completely different and harrowing record, that you need to check out.

Thrawsunblat – Metachthonia
Ignifera Records 

source: bandcamp

Once jokingly referred to as an anagram for Narwal Butts, the band from Canada has a name that immediately captures attention. It’s a bit of a bastardization of the words ‘thrash and blast’, like the band feels they bastardize European metal. Regardles, Thrawsunblat is a force on its own to be reckoned with, blending black metal with folk and melodic elements. There’s a bit of a Dungeons & Dragons like atmosphere to the album and its artwork, but without the cheesiness of ready-to-consume fantasy. The band is with ‘Metachthonia’ arriving at their third full length and definitely scoring points. Where the black metal scene seems to be moving towards a more avant-garde mode, this harks back to its earlier exponents of nature worshipping melancholy.

The melancholic notes of string instruments immediately sets the tone on opening track ‘Fires That Light The Earth’. The launch of the guitar riffs is like illuminating the cavernous soundscape the band is offering. I can detect a little bit of Ensiferium riffing here, but a very often mentioned band in comparison to these guys is also Woods of Ypres. Wavery, emotional guitar sounds, slow trickling intermissions and then blasts of the distorted form, it all helps to evoke a particular sentiment in the music. The harmony between vocal bursts and the guitars are also praiseworthy, because they offer a cohesive, clear listening experience. With its swooping riffs and thumping folk rhythms complementing eachother and setting up a remarkably dreamy record full of storytelling. This may contain a lot of black and melodic death influences, but this album is about beauty, not the ugly. A magical experience all in all with a hint of nostalgia.

Sacrilegium – Anima Lucifera
Pagan Records 

Once upon a time there was the Polish wave of black metal, which spawned the likes of Mgla and Behemoth. During its heyday, the scene was rich with interesting and renewing bands, using the poverty of the country as just one more element in the fuel of their primal rage. Creativity is usually born from the lack of means and many bands took that direction, also Sacrilegium. It’s been a long time waiting for their return to form with a new album. In fact that took 20 years for the band to get back together and make some music. Being from the north of Poland, the band has always stayed a bit of to the side in relation to the rest of the scene. A strong individualism combined with a sound that really captures the wave of the genre at the time, this band is one of the true originals.

There’s a sense of the sacral in the sound that lists the bleak black metal of Sacrilegium, eerie synths and calming tones suggest the soothing environment of  a church or cathedral. That all ends when the blast beats are unleashed. What you get then is dirty old school black metal with a nasty bite to them and gurgling vocals. The sound is that truly ghoulish one, you rarely hear anymore. Hoarse barks and wet growls to a backdrop of lamenting tones and overly present synths. The rhythm is hard to hear through the frontal sounds of guitar, singing and the synths and sound a bit too mechnaic for my liking. The amount of effects is used quite liberal, which might give the band a bit of a retro vibe to the days when synth driven black metal was a thing. On the other hand, the unpolished, gritty sound gives it an even more way back feel. I think its a pleasant record that pays homage to the old underground, though not pushing the genre forwards.

Kayo Dot – Plastic House on Base of Sky
The Flenser 

source: Bandcamp

In a time where black metal listeners seem to all get their hands on the Perturbator records, finding this new Kayo Dot album moving in a similar direction of synth wavey goodness is not that surprising. The avant-garde band from Boston in the United States is a bit of an anomaly within the metal realms and for sure they’ve only further expanded their scope of weirdness on this new work. No ripping tuitar solo’s, no blast beats, this is a band exploring musical realms without regard for trivial things like style and genre as hampering effects on their creativity. Finding its origins in the band maudlin of the Well, the avant-gardistic tendencies are strong in this one.

Cold synths and bleak music, those are terms that best captivate what this offering of Kayo Dot is. Five tracks with lengths that are not friendly to the radio (nor do they have a moment where you could cut them off really), tell the tale with minimal means. Bare synths and percussion offer a much more densely composed kind of songwriting, expressing a lot with little. Many eerie passages and etheral chords fill the tracks. Personally, I sometimes feel the sound of this record is a bit too bare and lost its organic feeling, but that is aptly replaced by something of the mind, emotional and pure. Sometimes the melancholic vocals seem to clash with the  sounds, creating a peculiar sort of chaos. An example of this is the song ‘All the pain in All the Wide World’. You can sense a bit of Depeche Mode and Suicide in the music of Kayo Dot on this record, but taking that also one step further in a way. It makes for an intriguing listen on which musical areas hold no sway.

Sounds of the Underground #50

All good things must end, so also the ‘Sounds of the Underground’ section, which has reached it’s 50th edition with PONINytt Land, Infernal Diatribe and  Ancient Altar. 

From here on I probably will produce single reviews. Way to many releases I’ve covered just deserve their own article. For these four goes the same, but I wanted to create a mix of different, interesting sounds. Enjoy listening to these and keep checking the site for more!

source: bandcamp

PONI- Nou Nee
Self released/Barreuh 

Though it’s summer, these are the rainy days. Grey and sad and for that you should check out the music of PONI. This one man formation from the south of the Netherlands brings a sort of jangly pop noir in lo-fi quality with strange samples and ambient sounds filling up its sound. Inspiration is drawn from folk and slowcore music from the nineties and early noughties. The sound is described as a diary witht he lock open, leaving it there for you to read along if you want. It seems like a fitting description for the sound of PONI I think. Oh, the name is short for ‘Person of No Importance’.

In a way, there’s something raw and direct to the sound of PONI. It’s flowing along easily, without much pressure. Every little slip and squeek is still part of the recordings, the uneven moments, the little cracks in the voice, the natural expression is a big part of what you get to listen to when you check out the music of PONI. Every track is a numbered follow up titled ‘Nou Nee’, which means as much as “Well, no…”. When the artist sings, its mournful and with an uncanny remorse. It sounds tired, weary and tells stories that only a man can tell that has seen the world in all its failings. It makes for a damn good listen.

Ancient Altar – Dead Earth
Black Voodoo Records

source: bandcamp

For those who are looking for a good slice of doomy sludge, look no further than Ancient Altar. This is not about the first of their endeavors, but already the second album the group from LA has unleashed upon the world. Clocking just over 40 minutes, this record is rather intriguing much thanks to its peculiar cover. This features a bit of a blended version of Humpty Dumpty and a factory, eyeing you with glee in the middle of a barren, apocalyptic landscape.

The sound of the band is something between Eyehategod, Neurosis and all of that jamming with Bongripper. But with that comes an abbundance of Sabbathesque riffing, So that’s what you get on ‘Leader, Liar’, where the riff feels like it could have been one of Tony Iommi’s. But that is the thing with this band, it’s all about that riff and the repetition. That’s good and quite catchy too. I love the switch to that more sludge sound with barked, harsh vocals to shake things up a bit in between. That’s how it works with any doom band really, adding those elements to the repetition that keep things spicy enough. The chanting on ‘Void’ is another example where the band pulls that off brilliantly. This is, in my humble opinion, exactly how a doom band should sound at this point in time.

Nytt Land – Sköpun: Songs from the Elder Edda
Sulphur Flowers 

source: bandcamp

Sometimes in strange regions of the world, it appears that ancient Nordic blood creeps up in the veins of some people and they start doing something exceptional. I don’t mean this in any white supremacist way by the way, just that the urge to take the inspiration of the old Scandinavians and turn it into some expression. Kalachinsk lies to the east in Russia, near the Kazakh border and the city of Omsk. Far removed from the Nordic Fjords, but there the group Nytt Land formed and started making neofolk in that tradition inspired by the Elder Edda. Combining ambient, neofolk and more into a trip back into history to misty coasts and forgotten traditions.

A low sounding horn is blown and leaves a continuous call over which the vocals are chanted in a way you’ll find in soundtracks of Lord of The Rings and such, sounding even a bit like Sinead O’Connor.  Songs then explode into folky experiences, with maybe more Celtic elements than you’d expect. Though the attempt at Nordic sounds is clear, even from the use of the language, it may be so that the group has allowed other influences in a bit, but overal the shamanistic, experience remains and mysticism goes instead of any sort of poppy aspirations on this album. Sung in old Icelandic, you are even more baffled probably that this comes from a strange corner of Russia and is made with such an eye for the tradition and great production, but it is. Let these people take you away to foggy realms of dragon ships and Valhallan bravery.

Infernal Diatribe – Videha Mukti
Transcending Obscurity India 

source: bandcamp

The Transcending Obscurity is one hell of a proof that metal is a global thing, delivering music under a global banner and an Indian (and surrounding nations) one, the label delivers quality and delicacies for those who like their metal… different. The band hails from Calcutta and this record is their debut EP. There’s little information to be found on previous endeavours of the bandmembers, but there is a bit about the influences which ranges from the founding fathers like Bathory to current day heavy weights like Gorgoroth. Dark Funeral and Watain. Maybe the middle is the band closest to the sound of these Indian evil sounding musicians.

There’s  a clear focus on atmosphere and the spirtual elements of black metal in the sound of this band thanks to the slow and threatening progressions that open up the songs and allow them to stretch out that far. Much tremolo guitarwork, but combined with heavy and slow doomy rhythms. The fascinating thing is that the band somehow  mixed in some Indian spices into the fabric of their music, thematically and I have the idea there’s also something in the music itself that makes it sound so different from other bands. Maybe the focus on repetition and moments where strange rhythms take over is exemplary of that. It feels like this band might offfer some tantalizing new sounds in the future!

Flag dominates in Hasselts Muziekodroom

Unfortunately I post reviews on here to rarely, but yesterday I went to a show which I hardly could not write about. I’ve been a Black Flag fan for a long time and apart from the recent abominations (sorry Mr. Ginn) I’ve got it all on vinyl proudly presented on my shelves.

So when this band comes around, minus the black, I need to cover this.  Together with T.S.O.L. the band is playing in Hasselt tonight. Flag is Dez Cadena, Keith Morris, Bill Stevenson, Stephen Egerton and the almighty Chuck Dukowski. Of the five only Egerton was not an orignal Black Flag member. Flag is not allowed to call itself ‘Black Flag’ due to Gregg Ginn claiming all the rights, plus the guys claim that they’re just not that good anymore.

All that’s missing is Henry Rollins, but Milo Auckerman is hanging out with the band today. But regardless, there’s more on the bill.

For example, opener Cheap Drugs. The group hails from Antwerp/Ghent and plays old fashioned hardcore punk with a notable rattling, driven energy of a band barely containing the fury in itself. It’s early days, so the group seems to realize pretty clearly that the crowd is not going to go down with their music yet, but they to their credit keep the pace high and energetic. The group has an album out for a while now, titled ‘Angst’ and it demonstrates their sound, which is sitting somewhere in between the classic hardore like Black Flag and Minor Threat and the slightly later European wave, it’s a good show and like any good hardcore show not too long.

Cheap Drugs (source facebook band)
Cheap Drugs (source facebook band)

A lot stranger is the high pitched screaming that greets you when you enter to see Cocaïne Piss. Their sound is much more lose, wild even and putting to the front their lady vocalist who seems to have little boundaries. Dashing over the stage in a mad dance, she finally decides to go see the fans and scream in their faces, dance with them and roll on the floor. All the while madly screaming the lyrics of ‘Cosmic Bullshit’ or ‘Sex Weirdos’, the last two singles by the group. It’s a swirling storm of, as the band says, glittershitstorm, but so cool and entertaining. Love this band!

Cocaïne Piss (photo from band Facebook)
Cocaïne Piss (photo from band Facebook)

Since T.S.O.L. is running late, the old boys from Flag are warming up tonight, as they say it. The band launches into a long set full of classics and truth be told they sound as energetic and frantic as ever. Keith Morris spits words out with venom, while the rest of the band works hard to keep the pace high. The crowd bursts into action and sings along to classics like ‘Fix Me’, ‘Wasted’ and ‘Police Story’. Notable is Dez Cadena, who has just has recovered from a battle with cancer. He’s here and clearly loving it.

Central on the stage is the ever energetic Chuck Dukowski, stomping his feet and slapping his bass with the same energy he always had. It’s a pleasure to see these guys at work and loving it. Towards the end, Dez takes over on vocals for a while, so Keith can take a break. Surely, the band launches into the all time favorites like ‘Rise Above’ and ‘Nervous Breakdown’ to close of with ‘Louie Louie’. It’s by then a sweaty mess in front of the stage. Due to the late arrival of the other headliner, the band comes back to jam some more. It’s just icing on the cake.

Flag IIII (photo from every press release)
Flag IIII (photo from every press release)

I’ve not been aware of T.S.O.L. for long, but I did know their frontman Jack Grisham, who strikes an imposing figure on stage at first. It’s soon though, that you notice that he’s a warm hearted frontman with a lot of wit and fun. The band puts out some great jams, which are largely carried by the rhythm section. Grisham sounds like a mixture of Jello Biafra and Bruce Dickinson. He sounds like  a strong and convincing figure.  The music is infused with a certain rock’n’roll swagger, distinguishing the band from later acts in the punk/hardcore scene and cementing their unique sound. It’s music to dance to!

We checked out a bunch of their songs, but due to the late hour we had to turn back home early. It’s great to see bands like this touring as hard as they do. Respect for those guys and specially for Jack Grisham and his boys, since theyir trip here must not have been a nice one. It proves that making hardcore for a life time is not for the money, but for the love of the music.

Photo’s all by the bands themselves, I just borrowed them from Facebook. Sadly I am unable to make decent photo’s with my phone. 

The Books I Read #18 Dungeons & Dragons

I kind of stopped mentioning the books I read for a while. Mainly due to the fact that I was stuck on the same saga for a while. I’ve started reading the ‘Legend of Drizzt’ series by R.A. Salvatore.

I mentioned a few of those books already in an earlier post. Since I shunned my responsibilities since, I have to now catch up with these things for a bit, to regain my self respect. I’m going to discuss the Drizzt series books from the start and the comics I’ve been checking out on this topic.

R.A. Salvatore – The Dark Elf Trilogy (Homeland, Exile, Sojourn)


In the first series we are immersed in the world of Drizzt Do’Urden, warrior, thinker and hero of the Dungeons & Dragons Universe. Drizzt is born underground, in a place of certain death and evil: The Drow city of Menzoberranzan. On the night of his birth his elder brother is killed by his sibling, which means the life of Drizzt is spared. A third son would be sacrificed to the chaos goddess Lolth. Drizzt is raised in the matriarchal society under the tutelage of his father and the weapons master of house Do’Urden, while the matriarch watches. His father, Zaknafein, installs a different moral code in his son, one that strays from the evil path of the Drow and will set Drizzt apart from his kind.

The storytelling is such as to really allow the reader to immerse in the otherworldly and unholy beauty of these realms, specifically the hard to imagine Underdark, where the drow live. One could argue that Salvatore is engaging in the nature vs nurture debate here as well, since the character of Drizzt only starts to really be discussed after the real ethical questions are being raised. Before this point, he is an empty vessel in a way, following the path layed out for him. Once Salvatore opens up the characters, it feels elaborate and completely in sync with how D&D players would express their characters. The journey is quite beautiful, but very solo Drizzt. It is a necessary story that allows the reader to appreciate and embrace the character and the element that is Drizzt in the further stories.

R.A. Salvatore – The Icewind Dale Trilogy (The Crystal Shard, Streams of Silver, The Halfling’s Gem)


In the second trilogy we fast-forward a little bit to a point where Drizzt has made some friends in the northern valley of Icewind Dale, a place of thieves, robbers and outcasts trying to start new lives. His friends include dwarven king Bruenor Battlehammer, halfling Regis and Catti-bri, human adopted daughter of King Bruenor. The characters are introduced during the story, slightly lifting up the veil on their backgrounds, while a threat grows in the dale. Not only do the friends need to unite, they’ll also need to unite the bickering villages of the vale, who have only once managed to work together to save their hides.

It is also the story of another character, namely the barbarian child Wulfgar. During the battle where the villages united against the Barbarian tribes, he was spared and indentured by Bruenor. We find the child coming of age as a man with the right mindset and principles, but the stubbornness of his own people. In the story the characters develop and find themselves amid the turbulent times they are part of. Ofcourse the story kicks of a leap to the next trilogy as well and much further adventures for what becomes the ‘Companions of the Hall’.  Where the first book focuses on what can be called pretty much ‘survival’, this book focuses on other D&D values such as diplomacy, wisdom and cunning.


R.A. Salvatore – Legacy of the Drow ( The Legacy, Starless Night, Siege of Darkness, Passage to Dawn)

The events in the previous trilogy lead to an expansion of the world that the adventurers face, but also brings forward a longing for peace and home. Unfortunately the figure Drizzt has become a much desired prize for the evil drow, his own people. The matron mother of the city of Menzoberranzan decides on a hunt for the rogue drown to appease the displeased deity Lolth. In fact, Lolth herself has a hand in the whole events, tricking a great demon into cooperating with her against the prodigal son of her people. This reconnects the reader with some old familiar figures and brings us back to the Underdark, the realm of the drow. Dramatic events start to unfold soon, which will reshape the personalities in the game, even assassin Artemis Entreri, now a mortal enemy of Drizzt.

The tone of these novels is much more grim and dark, similar to their setting. Where battles are usually briefly mentioned and the focus is usually in the Drizzt novels on the interaction and experiences of the characters, this time a full out war is part of the story as well. It makes the story bigger and more grim than the previous outings. Also noteworthy is the return of some other elements from the previous books, that prove that history is not something for archives but a real thing that can come back to haunt you. In this book Salvatore also chooses to connect Drizzt to some other figures from the D&D universe, which is for a long time fan an absolute pleasure obviously.

R.A. Salvatore – Legend of Drizzt: The Graphic Novel Omnibus Vol. 1 & Vol 2

source: amazon

When a book has so much detail and characteristics embedded in its way of telling the story, the big challenge of course is to bring that to a visual medium. Luckily, there are plenty of capable artists and the team that worked on these first two installments of the two trilogy’s of Drizzt are definitely worth your reading hours, if not only for the strong way of transferring the story to a new medium, without completely bastardizing the text. In fact, much remains the same, apart from the painting parts about the landscape. Those are replaced with stunning images of the realms and the characters.

Granted, sometimes the drawings don’t correspond with your expectations, but that’s an inevitable qualm you’ll have with any adaptation. Ofcourse here and there sections are left out or minimalized, but you can’t prevent that from happening either.  When a fantasy story doesn’t have a film or something, itś always great to have something that offers you a visual experience. These comics definitely do that for you.

Cover image; Website Wizards of the Coast

Sounds of the Underground #47

I’ve listened to some weird stuff over time, but this batch is just full on strange: Jute Gryte, Zeal and Ardour, Bat and Oak Pantheon. Enjoy listening to these strange sounds from the underground.

Zeal and Ardour – Devil is Fine

source: bandcamp

By far this is one of the weirdest releases I found labelled black metal, implementing elemetns of various other genres and mixing it all up in a collecting blenderform with chunks of the originals ript out of their context and thrown into the abbyss of weirdness. The man behind Zeal and Ardour is Manuel Gagneux, who is based in New York but other than that we have little to go on for the origin and goal of this weird project where blues meets black metal and where gospel and melodeath collide. The cover features Robert Smalls, a former slave and liberator, with the sigil of Lucifer imposed over his portrait. It gives an inkling to the connection Gagneux is trying to create between the rebellion of black culture and that of black metal, both rebelling against an imposed identity of Christianity and tracing their roots in specific, artistic ways. It’s a tricky bit of matter, but quite intriguing to listen to.

Imagine blistering metal riffs being played, while you hear dark worker songs being sung, like on ‘In Ashes’. Frantic electronics are somewhere in the mix and then suddenly everything unloads. Oriëntal beats mixed with fancy electronics and hacking beats on ‘Sacrilegium I’, it’s all possible on this eclectic record, but it truly works. Sometimes that results in strange moments, like the cute bells on ‘Children’s Summon’, which then launches into chanting and cold guitar riffs. Most interesting is when the blues elements clash with the black metal. It feels weird and different, but it works in a very special way. The rawness of both somehow complements eachother. Particularly ‘Blood in the River’ is with its repetitive vocals and strong lyrics an intriguing listen, where similar dark sentiments are expressed. Though this is a strange record and hard to get into at first, it’s a brilliant connection and artistic vision that is realised in daring form. Great stuff!

Oak Pantheon – In Pieces

source: bandcamp

I must confess that I have always had a great love for postrock. Finding the combination of that sound with black metal in current day post BM movement is more than pleasing to me, it’s music I can’t get enough of and Oak Pantheon has been winning me over one play at the time. ‘In Pieces’ is the second full lenght for the Minneapolis duo, released by themselves independently. There’s definitely something unconventional about the artwork and vibe of the band, blending post BM with folk influences into an atmospheric concoction. Interestingly, the previous album had a much more ‘metal’ looking cover, where this one could be anything really. The natural themes are very easily deduced from it though. The boys have been to the music school of Agalloch clearly and pay homage to that sound.

From barrages of wild guitar salvos to blossoming drum assaults and tortured hows, the music is something different. Deeply emotional and widely varied from wide americana guitar picking to full on black metal assaults, the band is completely out there on their own. Ambient sounds enrich the already strongly organic and natural texture of the music. I have the feel of Empyrium on some of the more classicly inspired pieces or even a bit of Opeth, which seems to be the unavoidable touch stone for post-bm bands in this corner.  There’s a majesty in the sound, but it’s the majesty of the forest and nature. The band may be gloomy and filled with a certain darkness, there’s also life and hope in the sound of these guys. So yes, there’s a soft side to this band, but it still feels very much black metal. Paying homage to nature has always been an integral part of black metal, even in the heyday of Satanic panic. Oak Pantheon manages to really convey that in their sound by implementing the acoustics.

Bat – Wings of Chains
Hells Headbangers Records

source: bandcamp

With the most ridiculous reference to the Scorpions as their album title, is this the first full lenght of this rather young band (they’ve been around since 2013). Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, these boys know how to make some old fashioned speed metal. These guys are no novices though, with Ryan Waste (Municipal Waste, Volture) on bass and vocals, Felix Griffin (ex-DRIBluntforce Trauma) on drums and Nick Poulos (Municipal Waste, Cannabis Corpse) on guitars. If that doesn’t offer enough talent to present some raging thrashy speed metal, I don’t know what anymore. I get the feeling thta there’s a weird kind of humor involved in this project, but let’s just leave it at that and give a listen to the blast-beat fuelled mayhem that is Bat.

The record is pretty much a furious version of Venom raging against the world with an ongoing explosion of dirty, grimy riffing and barked vocals. It reminds us again where black metal originated from, which is raw and in your face thrash metal. It may lack any sort of subtlety or complex elements, but it’s such a fresh breeze in two genres that can do with some new energy. The vitality of this record is amazing. Grimy punkroots are displayed on ‘Ritual Fool’ but also shredding guitars on ‘Rule of the Beast’. Sure, originality is not on top of the priority list for Bat, but does it need to be? These guys know how to make  record that  hits you like a fucking baseball bat to the temple and sound tight as a tick.

Jute Gryte – Perdurance
Jeshimoth Entertainment 

source: bandcamp

This latest release by insanely productive musician Adam Kalmbach is one dense spectacle to behold. Not only is it a layered contraption of uncanny sounds, speeds and rhyths, it’s lyrics and other aspects are loaded with intertextuality. The Missouri resident started this project back in 2002 and has for years managed to put out atleast 3 releases a year. By that I don’t mean EP’s and singles, but full lengths. If that’s not enough to offer you a big wow-factor, it must be the amount of work and referencing that goes into a record, like this latest one in a series that pushes the envelope on what black metal is, much like Zeal and Ardour mentioned earlier in this section. This is pretty much how King Crimson would sound if they started out in early 1990 in a remote village in Norway.

For those like myself, not versed in deeper musical theorems, it helps that Adam has taken the time to explain what he did on this album, like taking multiple tempi and twitching and turning them into something new. Dissonant sounds are everywhere, combined with uncanny and unexpected moments of ambient music. Even abusing some classical pieces into complete new elements is not too far-fetched to Kalmbach. There’s an artistic madness to the soaring, shooting and wooping sounds, that don’t connect to any known instruments. It creates a wondrous record with great barrages of riff-like constructions, cloudy dissonance and a constant reminder of the wide array of musical history embedded in the Jute Gyte sound. If that wasn’t enough, even the lyrics and artwork are references to Rembrandt and Cioran (one of my favorites in fact). I think this is a record you should listen to, specially if you’re a musical all-eater.