At the moment I’m packing up my gear to head to Lithuania for the festival Kilkim Zaibu. A combination of metal, folk and re-enactment all in a package near a lack in Varniai. I’ll be reporting for Echoes & Dust on this fest and I’m extremely excited about it.
Now, since I don’t have too much knowledge about re-enactment, let me give a little prelude to the music program Kilkim Zaibu has to offer and why it is so exceptionally awesome.
A festival is often judged by its headliners and on that front Kilkim Zaibu has a treat in the mighty Abbath as a headliner on the main stage on saturday. The former frontman of Immortal might not be the force of the past on some levels and true, his shows are not always great… but when they are great, they are awesome. I had the pleasure of seeing Abbath play at Netherlands Deathfest this year, where hey was supreme.
For the other days, the program is slightly different. On thursday we have a folk day, with Skyforger sort of headlining the event with a folk set. Now, those acquinted with the Latvian folk metallers know that they have mastered that craft well enough, having even done an album of folk. On friday, we have Mgla from Poland taking the honours, which is since ‘Excercises in Futility’ nothing else but very well deserved.
The paricularly interesting thing for me is the Baltic line-up. Having bands from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania filling the bill is a joy, because there’s some excellent material available to see, whether it is folk or metal.
Ūkanose from Lithuania is one of the latest additions to the Baltic folk metal pantheon, with their self titled debut album having come out in 2016. Bridging between folk and metal and truly meeting half way, they are an excellent listen. Loits from Estonia may have caused controversy in the past, mainly based on misunderstanding the artistic vision the band had and the stories they wanted to convey, but is one of the best black metal bands out there as far as I’m concerned.
On the folk end I’m overjoyed to see that Ugnivijas is playing as well as Romuwe Rikoito. Two excellent formations, breathing life into the ever simmering folk traditions on a biggers stage.
Light a Pagan Fire
A festival is more than just the bands lined up on stage, it’s a complete package and the wrapping is the atmosphere. Kilkim Zaibu aims to offer a modern pagan experience, which works extremely well in a country where the roots are so important and appreciated. The combination of black metal and folk is in fact a great combination and I for one am extremely excited about it.
There’s a lot of ritual and tradition to be found at the fest and a lot of work goes into it. Great artwork by the way, which puts it on par with the more cultish festivals around Europe.
I can’t wait and I hope to see you there. Don’t be a stranger and say hi!
So, it turns out that over the last couple of years, I’ve become a staunch supporter of Kiss. Yes, the band with pyro and make-up on stage, with that obnoxious, unbearable singer that tries to trademark the devil horns.
That’s just one of the challenges that faces you as a person who is into Kiss. Let me tell you how to get over the things that make you not want to like Kiss this far in your life.
But maybe first… Why the hell am I bothering with this? I never was into Kiss as a kid much. I dug their looks, I liked the footage I saw and the comics that were out, but the sound just wasn’t up to par with my expectations. Years later I rediscovered the band, finding that my original snobbism was unfounded and ultimately uncool instead of cool. Kiss is a band that always puts the fans first, regardless of the offstage antics. Having seen the band live recently, I was blown away by the show they put on. I was in awe of the entity Kiss and its dedication and love to what they do, even 40 years down the road. Kiss is a lot of things, but they definitely don’t suck. Kiss also isn’t Gene Simmons patenting the Devil Horn (that is really Gene Simmons on his own). As Kiss, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are out there to please you as a listener, fan or visitor. Regardles of all the other crap, that is Kiss. That’s a band you can fall in love with.
Sure as hell, fans of loud music have this demand for authenticity. I don’t mean by that the uniqueness and originality of a band. I mean that a band is genuine in what they do. The history of Kiss has been well documented and though it always seems that the band are more savage business men (Read: GeneSimmons), their concept was always about a cohesive band that was really together as a group, who delivered a show to remember full of spectacle. Even after all the trouble with the band, with members falling out, adding new ones and so on, they remain true to that image as you can see in the documentary ‘Kissteria’. Sure, it is well orchestrated, but they never did any different.
Another great source are the biographies of the band members, to really feel the concept, the genuine passion behind what has become the biggest band in show business. Paul Stanley describes Kiss as a band that makes you forget your troubles: “You’re troubles will be there in the morning, but tonight we can party” (sort of what he says in ‘Face the Music’). Music is after all an emotional experience, as soon as you let go of that and enjoy the fact that you’re watching and listening to a band that is genuinely catchy and that looks like superheroes, you’ll be alright. Did you go see the latest ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ film? Then you should probably not complain, you’re a grown-up watching men in tight costumes be superheroes. Just enjoy the band.
But I’m a serious music fan, their simplistic muck doesn’t resonate with me.
Give me a break please. People love making that sort of claim about Kiss, that their music is simplistic. And you know… the silly show and all, they would not be about the music. This is a great statement if you didn’t list Ghost, Rammstein and Slipknot among your favourites. Even more underground bands like the ones in the black metal scene are all about theatrics. Theatrics are part of rock’n’roll and Kiss simply is the best that pushed this to the maximum level. If you sell out stadiums, it is hard to argue with the success of that and people would not go see the band if their songs didn’t resonate with them.
That being said, you can write the most technical, complex music and be playing for two people that don’t have anything better to do. That can be really cool, but it was never what Kiss wanted to do. They make songs that resonate with people, songs that you can sing along to and even sing in the shower. The make music that is simply catchy. This is an art form in itself, because most of the things in this world that catch on are those that stick around. And is it really so that you want to listen to microtonal, experimental black metal based on literature set to a special translation key on your friday night in the pub? No, you want to ‘Shout it out Loud’, ‘Rock’n’Roll all Night’ and so fort. Yes, you do.
They made ‘I Was Made For Loving You’…
You know all the words to that one, you probably do a little dance when it comes on. Shut it and sing a-long. Let it go, they also did a grunge album, hair metal album, heavy metal album and something that sounds like a Disney soundtrack actually.
The endless drama in and around Kiss…
That is quite an easy one to tackle, we all love a bit of drama. We’ve been relishing the Guns’n’Roses drama, we loved the ‘Some Kind of Monster’ Metallica and the same goes for Kiss. Did you hear about the 5 Finger Death Punch show a few days ago, where the band members (well, the singer) didn’t come on to the stage and left early? There’s some important distinction between that band and Kiss here. Kiss would never bring that drama to the stage (well, not counting the days they were dragging Ace and Peter along, but that was different).
There’s a difference between the entity that is Kiss and the members that make up Kiss. That is the undeniable force of the band and has been for more than 40 years now versus a set of individuals with some obvious flaws. Gene with his money (read his books, it’s all valid), Paul with his dalliances and air of arrogance (read his book, it’s really different), Ace with his substance abuse (yeah, his book reads as a trip) and Peter (haven’t read it yet, is apparently well worth it). Creating those individuals mentally really helps to separate them from the entity itself. It also offers a wide range of entertaining material.
….but Gene Simmons said he was patenting the devil horns and Dio…(And they’re old and all).
Yes, yes, yes… Dio also joked that Gene Simmons would one day claim he invented breathing. Paul Stanley jokes in a similar way about Gene. About the first time he met Gene, Paul said: “Gene seemed to believe that only Gene Simmons, John Lennon and Jimmy Page could write a song” (again, aproximate quote). Gene Simmons spends 24/7 promoting Gene Simmons. Gene has brought his own persona to the absolute hilarious point of patenting the devil horns, just like Dio sort of predicted he would. The result? Everyone is talking about Gene, and probably that is exactly why he started this thing in the first place. Gene is not the totality of Kiss though…
If you look at individual Kiss members, you are bound to pick a favourite and see the others as jerks. Especially this is true for the original four. This is part of the charm, but the same thing goes for Gene. The problem with Gene Simmons though, is that he actually is everything you imagine him to be. But… There’s one thing though, that people often forget. Gene is 67 years old. You might have family members, grandparents or such, who are way less vital at that age. Gene is still spitting blood on stage, getting shot up in the air and breathing fire. He does that for his fans, he is still touring for his fans and Kiss never plays a shit show. I’ve seen bands in their young days, who couldn’t do what Kiss does for a week. Gene is part of that, so Gene may be an absolute prick, but like his band members, he’s still going strong for you. Kiss must really love its fans, because why else would they still be doing their insane stunts on stage.
Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede Band: Pillorian Origin: United States
On Roadburn this year, Pillorian was well impressive. The sound of the group is densely atmospheric, but also heavy and very much something that grabs you as a listener. The group from Portland, Oregon in the States is ofcourse the group of John Haughm, who we know from Agalloch.
Haughm gathered some experienced musicians to form Pillorian after Agalloch split. Members have gained experience in groups like Banewreaker, Uada and Maestus. Soundwise, the group goes in similar directions as Agalloch, but just darker and more heavy in my opinion. The complex poetry in lyrics and titles is still there though.
On opener ‘By the Light of a Black Sun’ the ingredients are immediately employed. An epic intro, with a majestic intro leads us to a song that feels a lot like the bombastic, iconoclastic sound of the great Primordial. From those big, moving intro’s, the songs move towards a frantic, high-paced black metal sound with rapid barked vocals, creating a sharp sound. There’s an urgency to the sound of Pillorian that is very noticable. The voic drags you into a narrow tunnel of sound for a moment, only to throw you out into the big chorus again.
The production is rather clean, so every aspect of the music is audible. It allows the listener to hear the tight and merciless precision of the band, not a blanket of distortion. ‘Forged Iron Crucible’ moves to a more traditional sound, but really all the effort again is in the build up, the dense atmosphere and grandeur of the music. That is the absolute strength of Pillorian, to really get the listener to immerse and be touched by the profundity and heaviness of their expressions. A bit of clean vocals would not have been amiss here, to create even more of that feeling.
Pillorian is a band that delivers black metal in a majestic manner. Everything is well balanced, polished and tells a story if the listener is willing to hear it. John Haughm is a creator of beauty, even when that beauty is grim and bleak. That is what makes Pillorian so good.
The New Wave of Dutch Black Metal was coined by Never Mind The Hype and I was amazed by the sudden realization that we have so many good bands in the Netherlands.
This is my attempt to give you an overview of the amount of stunning bands that the Netherlands has to offer, but there is more in part 1. I have to say though, the more I’m looking into it, the more I seem to find!
Black metal fury with Cirith Gorgor, Tarnkappe and Turia
Some bands stick to the fierce sound that characterizes the original outlets of black metal. Almost unrecognizably mutated from the Venom-roots, the sound is furious, overwhelming and battle-ready. These bands to my experience hold the fort, while adding distinct own aspects to it.
On their last album, ‘Visions of Exalted Lucifer’, the band Cirith Gorgor pretty much showed that they are one of the most esteemed black metal bands from the Netherlands, producing a sound very close in praise of the traditinol, thunderous black metal from the nineties. Their latest offering is an EP titled ‘Bi Den Dode Hant’, a reference to the infamous ‘Bokkenrijders’ from my parts of the world in the older days. Their four track EP has two absolute gems on it, but also one of the songs from the previous album. Bummer, because I knew it already. On ‘The Luciferian Principle’ we actually get a bit of a weird atmospheric outro, which is pretty cool. It’s the title track though that completely takes the cake here, a blistering surge of hatred. A continuous abyssal assault, lead by singer Sathanael and the vicious guitar assault.
Tarnkappe was featured earlier on my blog, but this band really fits in that traditional black metal framework. Maybe a bit towards the natura-inspired sound, but the artwork and vibe is staying close to the core. The band name means something akin to ‘Wizard’s hat’ in the old tongue of these lands. Looking at the cover and the landscape depicted there, you might easily link this band to a Burzum, but their sound is much less hazy and dreamy, filled with repetition and firm waves of guitar sounds. The vocals really speak to the listener in my opinion.
When it comes to unleashing minimalist fury, the band Turia needs to be mentioned here. I’ve seen them play at Roadburn as a three piece act and there is just something completely desparate about their flow of misery that takes you to the vast desolation that only black metal can evoke. Their album ‘Dede Konde’ is a steady swirl into darkness and well worth listening to. Every sound on this record is measured, directed and controlled to evoke the maximum of feelings from the listener.
Outsider music with Iskandr, Kjeld, Folteraar and Fluisteraars
Black metal is an expression of the individual, of that which makes us distinct from others. These groups clearly have found a way to give shape to their own identity and place in the world, wether it is with language or other elements.
There are some bands that I find hard to place, though everything above is done on an overall feeling and emotion it evokes with me as a listener. A band I find harder to really put somewhere, but would not want to set apart is Iskandr, which hails from the Nijmegen area like Turia. Iskandr feels much more atmospheric, almost filmic in the tragic, impressive melodies the band uses on their album ‘Heilig Land’. Iskandr is also a one man band, with just O making the music, which is something you can sort of hear in the focussed stream of energy in the music. O also plays in Turia, LubbertDas and Galg, some pretty great bands. The sound is so immensely tragic and harrowing, I love it.
The Netherlands has a second language, which you may or may not know, namely Frisian. One of the best bands to come out of the wood work in recent years happens to sing in that language and that band is Kjeld, who truly hit a high note on their album ‘Skym’ from back in 2015. The production of this band sounds a bit cleaner and more focussed, but remains firmly rooted in the Northern tradition. The musicianship is one of the claims to fame from this group of four with much experience in other ensembles (like Asregen, Krocht, Kaeck, Gheestenland and many more). Though the band has been in existence since 2003, the last few years saw them at their most productive, releasing a split with Wederganger recently.
Folteraar is another gritty project of excellent noisy, fierce black metal. It seems that this duo leans towards a bit of an industrial approach to the musical expression. With a thick layer of distortion and a gritty sound with low paced rhythms and grim barks this is some intense stuff. It seems there’s even a mild death metal influence to create the severely intense sound this duo produces. Originally the releases came out on an own label of bandmember K., namely ‘The Throat’, but now Iron Bonehead has picked up on this excellent band.
Folteraar is not for the fans of catchy melodic or atmospheric black metal, their sound is harsh, repetitive and ugly. The delivery is excellent though, offering a rather different take on the genre.
From there on, we move to Fluisteraars, who’ve done a magnificent job on their EP ‘Gelderland’ to create black metal that sometimes almost feels like indie rock. That’s how streamlined the riffs are, with a strange, playful melody in there. I wouldn’t go so far as calling them a gentle sounding band, but the strength of Fluisteraars is the use of melody and catchy hooks, while remaining loyal to the grim and black sounds. The 7″ is out on Eisenwald Tonschmiede in Germany, a label that knows how to deal with the narrative, gripping sound of bands like Agalloch. Fluisteraars fits in there somehow, though they can also unleash hell if they need to.
Into the underworld with Lubbert Das and Wederganger
Two more names that have a sound that is particularly haunting to round up this second installment, two names that are definitely worth checking out.
Lubbert Das is an odd reference to the work of Jheronymous Bosch, in which we find a painting, titled “Cutting the stone’. A text surrounds the painting in golden letters, saying: “Master cut away the stone, my name is Lubbert Das”. So, there the band found their name and a logo. The sound of these guys is really a lot of doom and gloom, with long, repetitive passages. The cavernous sounding guitarplay and drums really makes you feel that the sound is all submerged, under the earth’s crust where madness reigns. Tumultuous and unrelenting, this is some bad ass black metal.
Born out of some of the best bands in the more Folky corner that the Netherlands have on offer, namely Mondvolland, Heidevolk and more, Wederganger is one hell of an outfit. They combine theatrical swagger with dark, gloomy black metal. Clean vocals and ghoulish barks and howls work in concert to create a special eerie atmosphere. Wederganger translates as ‘one who walks again’, and their debut album is titled ‘Halfvergaan ontwaakt’ (‘Half decayed, awakened). After the succesful release of that album and numerous really cool live shows, the band has unleashed splits with Laster, Kjeld and Urfaust. This group definitely is part of the elite of the dutch black metal scene witgh a well thought out act.
In the furthest, forgotten corner of Europe, in between Romania and Ukraine, you can find the country Moldavia. You might know the country, because in some strange twist of faith, your local football team ended playing a team from there or even your national football team. It’s there where most people’s knowledge of Moldavia ends.
Moldavia became a country on its own in 1991, but historically it’s been a turbulent region. Inhabited by the Dacians in the ancient past, it is said the region gets its name from a combination of the words ‘many’ and ‘fortress’, which would be along the river. Part of the historical, often overrun Moldavia is now part of Romania, the other part being the independent Republic of Moldova.
Moldavia is historically intertwined with Wallachia, Transylvania and Bucovina, all parts of Romania. The historical connection runs deep, even to this very day. The flags are not very different even and there’s talk of unity. On the other hand there’s a pull of Russia on certain autonomous regions. In between, Moldavians find out that they also have their own identity. Harmasar is a band that expresses that nationality and identity through their music and art.
I got to have a chat about this with the band.
Hey, could you kindly introduce yourselves to the readers?
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, greetings! We are HARMASAR and we’re a Folk/Pagan Metal band from the Republic of Moldova.
How did you get together as a band and started out making music? Have you guys played in any metal bands before Harmasar?
The legend says that as a band HARMASAR was born in September 2013 (the day of our first concert), the founding member being Mircea (the drummer). Most of us had some experience of playing in a band before Harmasar, but the majority of these bands were popular and known only among its members.
Tell me about Harmasar? What does the name mean and what is the concept or story you are telling with this band?
Harmasar in Romanian stands for stallion (you know, the one with balls, with testicular integrity). The main message we are trying to present is the one of ‘knowing your roots’, remembering the great and heroic deeds of your ancestors, as well as the idea of conservation of the traditional values.
Our inspiration comes from ancient Moldovan/Romanian folk tunes and music, like doina’s and hora’s. As for bands, we find inspiration in the like of Eluveitie, Arkona, Korpiklaani, Bucovina.
You’ve recently released your debut album ‘Din pământ’. A thunderous folk metal album, that seems to lean close to the more folkish expressions with peculiar traditional instruments and elements. What is the story you are telling on this album?
The closest translation of the title ‘Din pământ’, we guess will be ‘From dirt’ or ‘From dust’, with the meaning of roots, origins. This is also what the album is about.
For people, like me, who know little about the past history of Moldova, can you introduce us into the material. What are the elements you are singing about?
Well, in this album we mostly sing about great battles, fought by our ancestors, so the songs ‘Daoi’ , ‘Tapae’ and ‘Moesia’ are about the war between Dacians and The Roman Empire. ‘Vaslui 1475’ tells us the story of the war between The State of Moldova ( Tara Moldovei ) and the Ottoman Empire and particularly The battle of Vaslui. On the other hand there are also songs that criticize human vices and corruption such as ‘Națiunea’ and ‘Porcu’.
Well, the main messages in ‘Natiunea’ is to stand for the ideas you believe in. People should always remember who they are and where they are from: standing for the ideas that you believe in and always remembering who you are and where you do come from. In ‘Porcu’ the idea is to not let yourself be manipulated by anyone, especially by political forces and other empowered entities. Literally, it tells about not becoming a pig, a creature that is raised without values to be killed and eaten at a whim.
Can you tell us more about the writing and recording process of your album? Is everyone equally involved or is there a clear division of tasks?
Yes, we find it more productive to have a good division of labour and tasks in the band. So the song writing process is performed by Max (the vocalist) mostly, band promotion and graphic design by Ștefan (the bass player) and the events, concerts organisation by Mircea (the drummer).
What sort of traditional elements do you put in your music and which instruments do you use for this?
Well for the rhythmic part we used such elements as Sârba and Hostropăț wich was also used as a traditional tune for panflute as well as ”Ciuleandra”. In addition to the panflute (Nai) we recorded also some flutes (fluier, caval), violins and an accordion.
Let’s discuss the art work, can you say a bit about the artwork you use and the visual aspects of the band? I understand you guys perform also in a traditional outfit?
The artwork was made by our friend Octavian Curoșu with our suggestions, it’s our vision on the album name “Din Pământ”. As our songs are about our ancestors we have decided to wear similar outfit inspired from them with some elements created by us.
The artwork of the album is open for interpretation, we like to see that people find different things in it. In our vision it is a conglomerate, a synthesis of ideas. In Moldova we have a natural reservation called ‘One hundred Hills’ or ‘Suta de Movile’, which consists of a large group of hills of different sizes. According to the legends these are considered to be ancient warrior’s tombs. So basically the hill on the picture has the signification of an ancestral grave, a tomb representing at the same time: the end, the past, our history and roots. On the other hand this hill is also a mother’s womb, with a child to be born, the foetus representing the future, the birth of a new generation. So essentially it is like a synergy between these two ideas, past and future, like the Phoenix rises from its ashes, the child is waiting to be born from the grave of his ancestors.
Can you tell me a bit about metal in Moldova? How did it get started in your country and which bands pioneered the genre?
As we know, till this time there were and are a lot of metal bands here in Moldova, but the most remarkable one was Accident (Death/Thrash Metal) that was formed in 1988.
What is the scene like now? Where is it centred and do you guys have relations with bands from neighbouring countries?
The scene is centred mostly in Chisinau, the capital of RM, where you can find several places for bands to play live, and also some open air festivals during the summer. We have some good friends in Romania and Bulgaria playing in a well-known bands there with witch is always a pleasure to hang out and play some shows together.
Which bands from Moldova do you think people should check out and why these ones?
You can check out ABNORMYNDEFFECT – this is a Polyrhythmic Grindcore/ Death Metal band that is one of the most appreciated of its style in Europe. Their songs are about our social and political problems.
What future plans does Harmasar have?
The most primary for us now is to have a tour for supporting our debut album in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine and other countries. To meet with our great fans from there and to reach a new audience.
About other plans we cannot tell, yet…
If you had to compare your music to a dish (food), what would it be and why?
I don’t know any dish that I can compare to our music, but probably it would be a Grilled Ottoman with some bloody sauce, but we haven’t tasted it yet. (joking, referring to the bloody history in wars with the Ottoman empire)
The first dish that came up in my mind is Ciorbă de Văcuță (beef broth), it helped us a lot to survive tough mornings during the past tours.
Label: Bad Omen Records Band: Wretch, CC Company, Satan’s Satyrs, Wytch Hazel, Spell, The Tower, Asomvel, Flight Origin: United Kingdom
Using classic imagery from the original Lord of the Rings films (yes, you muggle, there’s an original film with cutting edge animations in its time), the label Bad Omen Records from London presents some of its finest cuts and slices of doom metal to the peoples. A sampler then, with special attention for Wretch.
Bad Omen Records is a small label, with a particular taste for things heavy and classic. Their roster doesn’t focus on much extreme metal but sticks to the more traditional formats, which I think works perfectly fine, It gives an identity and core to the label, which is in this day and age nice and recognizable for fans. Go here for your doom, folks!
Opening up is an exclusive track by Wretch, titled ‘Sweet Revenge’. The song sounds as if something wicked this way is coming, something just outside the door threatening the listener. The voice of Karl Simon sounds like mixture of Ozzy and Lemmy, evil and seductive. CC Company follow with a supertight, 80’s vibe track. Th rhythm is like a tense cord, with mildly raw vocals by the Swedes. Catchy as hell, this tune! Not sure if ‘World Domination’ will achieve its goal, the sound is a bit dated, but lovable nonetheless. Following that we have Satan’s Satyrs from Virginia, with fuzzy distortion and demented vocals. An change from the tight tracks before, but very welcome.
WytchHazel is a surprising next one, with their self titled track. It reminds me of Iron Maiden in the Blaze Bailey days (around Virtual XI). Mellow, clean sung and quite endearing to the listener. You almost want to go back when the biting vocals of Wretch follow this track on ‘Running out of Days’. A really big stadium sound can be heared when the tune ‘Dark Desires’ by Spell is unleashed. Again, Maiden… Saxon.. it has that typical NWOBHM feel to it. The vocals even feel like they’re from that era, though a bit too slick for my tastes. The same goes for the exclusive Wytch Hazel track ‘Surrender’ that follows and Flight‘s ‘Escape’, though its some mellow listening. and quite energetic stuff.
Ansomvel from England plays some sleazy, agressive heavy metal the way you know and love. ‘Shoot Ya Down’ is not a complex track, but a show of force with a Venom/Motörhead-like bite to it. Good stuff! Swedish The Tower follows with a ripping track titled ‘Wounds’. A solid boogie tune with some strict but strangely fitting vocals. There’s a solidity in the flow of the song, which I love and that peculiar vocalist really completes it.
This cool collection ends with ‘Die Screaming’ by Satan’s Satyrs. Screams of despair over a slowly progressing track, that sounds as if it is sliding down into a pit of despair. Wow, just wow this stuff. Bad Omen really wove together a collection that ignites the imagination with an oldschool feel, exactly what you’d take from the cover. Drums from the deep!
Granted, I’m not the first one to coin the phrase ‘New Wave of Dutch Black Metal’, but Dutch black metal music is definitely on the rise as was shown by the Roadburn line-up this year (2017) with many of the better bands from this country.
Though the scene is rather small, there’s a quite some high-quality output by bands like Laster, Nihill, Cirith Gorgor and many more. They represent different aspects of the black metal spectrum, so I wanted to look at some releases in that light in this article. I chose some releases that came out recently and that I would like to cover. This way I can put them in a slightly different light of the new wave of Dutch black metal, because I think there’s a lot of amazing homegrown music coming out.
Into the Out there with Dodecahedron, Laster, Terzij De Horde and Gnaw Their Tongues
Dodecahedron has recently released their second album, titled ‘Kwintessens’. A philosophical concept about the essence of things, the band moves in the footsteps of other acts for the thinking man like Laster, Nihill and Terzij De Horde. Inspired by literature and philosophy, amongst probably many other things, they deliver a type of black metal that moves beyond it’s common boundaries.
Doing this in a most effective and musical way, we find Terzij De Horde as one of the leading Dutch acts when it comes to stage performance, solid shows and captivating music. Sure, their music is not breaking the bonds of genre definitions, but definitely moves away from the traditional subject matter and has no need for frivolities. Their album ‘Self’ from 2015 showed the band shedding a former skin and for future music I expect nothing less from this band. Also, they are known for their distinctly awesome live performances, in which they surely deliver the quality that you would wish for (not a regular thing in the black metal world sadly). Bravely the band also went in the direction of literature, with a tribute release for the poet Henrik Marsman, who passed away 75 years earlier.
Laster is a band that you can find plenty of information about. Their music is a torrent of the absurd. Playful and somewhere touching upon the Carnavalesque in a Rabelaisian sense. Masked men deliver some of the most beautiful, peculiar sounding black metal in a long time. Surely the dissonance and harrowing screams are still there, but encapsulated in sounds that are pleasant, meandering and more accesible. It keeps surprising you, particularly the latest album ‘Ons Vrije Fatum’.
Grotesque at times, but also dauntingly experimental, the record of Dodecahedron incorporates various elements to create a mesmerizing display of force. Fronted by the legendary Michiel Eikenaar from Nihill, they have a confrontational and powerful live presence. Acts like these, with elements of experimental music, postrock and even jazz really show the far extents toward which black metal can still grow. Nihill did it with noise and industrial, Terzij de Horde used screamo. Long live the experiment.
Beautifull arches and passages are painted with sound, but tormented vocals with a demented urgency draw the listener away from the splendour into blast-beat-ridden turmoil only to wash up on beaches of ambient sound later. Call it avant-gard, call it progressive, it definitely pushes the boundaries. Fun fact is that part of Dodecahedron plays in Ulsect, a band playing a much more controlled and structured form of music. That contrast is one of the flattering things of the genre.
When we talk about acts that push the boundaries on the black metal genre, you have to talk about Gnaw Their Tongues and related projects by multi-instrumentalist Mories. If you take black metal and really distill it down to its essence, you pretty much get the music Mories produces. Eclectic, wild and horribly frightening, the use of samples, electronics and guitars becomes a very open field. The last album by Gnaw Their Tongues is a harrowing journey. ‘Hymns for the Broken, Swollen And Silent’ is the soundtrack to your nightmares. Musically this record shows the lack of boundaries for this musician. Interested? Check out his other projects Pyriphlegethon, Aderlating, Seirom and many, many more.
Sinking into the misery with Verwoed, Orewoet, Urfaust
Sometimes I like nothing better than to just sink into the layered swamp of sound that is atmospheric black metal. For me Verwoed is one of the best bands coming out of the woodwork in recent times. From the dissonant, bone-chilling opening riff onward, their album grabs you by the feels.
Amidst the whole waves of post black-metal and other deviations from the genre roots, it’s extremely comforting to have a band like Verwoed out there, playing music that is close to the wonderful original experience of black metal music (or atleast the one I had). It’s a feeling akin to much of the bands in the Cascadian corner (or whatever nice term they’ve conjured up these days for it), but lacks the focus on the natural realm. Verwoed focusses on the inwards emotions.
Another band I find is really similarly bewitching with beautifull riffs, swooping passages and an ethereal feal to the overal sound is Orewoet from the North of the Netherlands. Orewoet is a relative new player in the Dutch scene, who released ‘Afrodisiacum der Vroomheid’ last year, an EP that is worth your listening time for sure. Waves and waves of distorted black metal fold into eachother to create dreamy soundscapes to just surf away with.
To me the masters of the atmospheric sound and not just in the Netherlands are the drunkards of gloom, the clochards of Urfaust themselves. This band might be one of the most respected ones out there. The two member formula doesn’t allow for much intensity and complex layers, but does open a path to purposeful, fervent and incandescent sound. Their live performances are a stream of music, a wallowing experience for the listener, where immersion is like sinking into a swamp of debauched despair. On their last labum ‘Empty Space Meditation’, the duo pushes that envelope even further.
Label:Code666 Records Band: Fen Origin: United Kingdom
On Winter the band Fen is trying to really create a record that expresses their identity as a band. This is one of the reasons why this record turns out as the great piece of music it is. Perhaps the best record Fen has made this far, though that is always a matter of taste.
The story on ‘Winter’ is that of the season, as told through atmospheric black metal. That immediately sounds like a match made in heaven. Throwing different styles in the mix, the Britons have crafted a great fifth album in that English tradition. Intrigued about the name, I wanted to mention that the group is named after a region called ‘The Fens’, a flat land full of bogs and marshes with a sense of mystery. That is also something that is put in the music.
The album opens with a slow piece of music, titled ‘Pathway’, which is expressing the atmospheric postrock influences the band wishes to display on this album. Creating a long and slow build-up, the track really allows you to slide into the album gradually. Once the vocals kick in, you’re already under its spell. Peculiar is how gentle the music is at this point, even with the screams of vocalist Frank Allain. The band pulls of a grander sound on ‘Penance’, where mighty cascades of guitars push outward and expand their reach. For me their sound is close to that of an Agalloch, but also Island-buddies Saor comes close. There’s something to the sound that tells you of its origin.
Big parts of the record feature shoegazy, dreamy passages. In that sense, Fen really goes for the feeling more than the power. It gives a warm sound, remniscent of sunrays and the tremble in the air on a nice summer evening. The music paints in different colors and moods, working with long songs and complex meandering passages. The song ‘Internment’ for example offers a gentle, folky intro that lasts for minutes and could last forevermore for all I care. This record is one hell of an album, clocking over 70 minutes over six tracks.
This might actually be some of the best work that Fen has delivered. It’s warm and conveys an abstract image of the nature and land it comes from. Beautiful stuff.