Underground Sounds: La Torture Des Ténèbres – Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods

Label: Independent
Origin: Canada
Band: La Torture Des Ténèbres

The first time I played this record by Canadian group La Torture Des Ténèbres, I was baffled. I turned it off after a few songs. Maybe it was not entirely what I expected when I read the tag ‘raw black metal’, but the sound makes much more sense if you look a bit deeper. This band creates something that lies between black metal and dense ambient sounds, thus evoking the sound of the city, of urban chaos.

La Torture Des Ténèbres has been around for a while and is the creation of Jessica Kinney. ‘Civilization Is The Tomb Of Our Noble Gods’ is the third album under this name and actually the third album in one year (2016). That makes this a rather productive act.

From peculiar intro ‘Column Of Astrological Memories’ onwards, you get into a weird sort of Sky Captain of Tomorrow -like story telling of past and future intertwined. The intro lets you hear samples, music and conversations, which launches into ‘The Great Escape From Capricorn’. A mesmerizing swirling chaos of music, ambient and noise, that holds hidden at the core vocals and lyrics that speak of a doomed world.

Civilization offers us but one choice. Conform to the collective architecture or perish beneath the weight of aeons.

The music is pretty much the unleashing of torrents of sound. ‘Descending Through Autumn Fields’ is a maddening flow, that somewhere coalesces into a melancholic melody. Surrounding is maddening howls. freakish barks and an overwhelming display of noise. The album is all the way like that, furthermore it never relents for a moment. A harsh experience for the listener, but one that has beauty hidden within. La Torture Des Ténèbres is definitely not for the casual listener I suppose. I t leaves you staring into the abyss, while waiting for the world to fall apart.

A roaring climax comes with the two parts of ‘Into The Metropolitan Abyss’. Two movements of despair and concrete madness. What a powerful record, especially relevant today.

Underground Sounds: Jute Gyte – The Sparrow

Label: Blue Tapes / X-Ray Records
Band: Jute Gyte
Origin: United States

I’ve written before about the music of Jute Gyte, which I wrongly wrote as Jute Gryte at the time. The fascinating thing about Jute Gyte is that the music made by Adam Kalbach, the sole member, is highly experimental. He makes listeners  aware of a whole distinct musical movement that apparently exists. A movement exploring music’s unknown.

The result of that is often that the music of Jute Gyte is very much an acquired taste. It listens as an oddity for the listener thanks to complexity, wealth of uncommon sounds and droning core. ‘The Sparrow’ is the latest release by the, dare I say, avant-garde musician with a knack for the extreme. With just two songs, this is one hell of a ride.

The start of ‘The Sparrow’ should have been called ‘The Bees’, since that is the feeling of the song. A buzzing, droning festival of intensity hits the listener. Dissonant and almost on a pitch that simply annoys the hell out of you, the track soon reaches the point where roaring vocals disturb the droning. After a few minutes we vind a break, where just eerie sounds fill the sonic void left behind. After minutes of slithering sounds, a more tumultuous, cascading sound develops. Just under twenty minutes, the track hardly gets dull or unsurprising in its intensity.

As soon as you start putting Jute Gyte in the noise category, you realise that there is always a structure. Structure that is hard to determine because it is so different to what you know. ‘Monadanom’ is the second track with an almost equal length. Lacking the ferocious passages of the former, this track is a continuing drone fest of atonal, disjunctured passages launched into the distance. At some parts it sounds soothing and melancholic, in others it’s simply uncomfortable. But that is what the music of Jute Gyte does, it will force its presence upon you as a listener. That is what makes it so brilliant.

Sleep is for the Week

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while now, because I think I need to share things. A year ago I was in a swamp. I was depressed, tired and stressed out.  Right now I feel more energetic and driven than ever. I’m shedding weight (not gaining hair unfortunately). I want to share what happened, because writing is therapy… though not always is it easy.

Dreaming is a luxury,
Like stopping-staring and beauty sleep.
I’ll stop when I’m finished,
And sleep is for the weak.

Frank Turner, ‘Vital Signs’

Sleep…

At work I felt I was completely stuck. I didn’t have the energy for anything, couldn’t face any conflicts and genuinely was terribly unhappy in the place I was at. Years of conversations with people that had the best intentions for me didn’t seem to yield much and though I learned a lot I remained stuck. I decided to pursue a teachers degree. It seemed a good idea at the time and a way out of what I thought was a dead-end street, a proverbial rope to drag myself from the swamp.

I started having pain in my arms and after various consultations with the doctor, I received some braces for what must be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Right, that seemed logical… I had overworked my hands in combination with stress and weight gain and that was probably the issue. I went to see a company doctor, I talked to a psychologist, the whole shebang. Some told me that it might be deeper, others told me to worry less. I decided that it must be the environment and that I needed something new. I was very wrong about what I thought was the problem.

I didn’t sleep… Well, not in the sense where you get a full nights rest. What I have is called obstructive sleep apnea, which basically means that I stop breathing in my sleep and then wake up slightly… sink back into sleep, stop breathing and wake up again…and so on. So what are some of the effects and causes for sleep apnea.

Apnea

Some of the effects of apnea that I experienced are the following:

  • Exhaustion
  • Problems with building up a condition
  • Pains and other random complains
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Forgetfulness
  • Headaches
  • Anxieties
  • Weight gain

In the long run you can even get damage to your intestines, like your liver and heart because the body simply doesn’t get the rest it needs. There is an extensive list of causes and they’re not things you can easily ‘handle’.

So why didn’t anyone find this out years ago (I might have suffered from this for 15 years or more)? Because like most people around me, I thought snoring was simply that… snoring. I never connected it to anything health related. I wouldn’t have even found out if it wasn’t for the work-related stress, which combined with weight gain to make matters worse. The basic cause for my issue is genetic, which is unfortunate since I have quite a severe version of apnea.

A solution and a different self?

It’s weird, the thing that happens when you suddenly get a rush of energy. When you sleep through a whole night again and wake up refreshed and full of spirit. That’s what happened to me when I got a CPAP machine. The machine operates at night, with a face mask, and pushes air through my nose and keeps it open so I breathe. I breathe and sleep deep sleep. I’m now like a resting Darth Vader (better try to see the fun in things right?).

And then I started to work out again. Not like before, where I was dragging my weary body all the way to the gym. No, I train with energy and drive again. My muscles are sore the next day, not just tired. That was also a new experience, to feel physically well. So what next? I get to revisit pretty much every decision and feeling I had. My habits are in a clash with my mental state, which is hard and exhausting, but exhilerating at the same time. I don’t feel the need to keep people on an arm’s length, but my behaviour isn’t easily changed. I don’t want to think doom, but my mind is so used to that road. Changing is going to be a challenge, but as I get my rest I’m not worried.

So what the hell do I do with this info?

I have to live with a machine pumping air into my throat for the foreseeable future. If I travel, I need to specially contact the charter company to discuss this and sleeping in a tent is no longer a real option. I hope to get healthier and qualify for a brand new treatment later, but it’s all good. The feeling of being well I would not trade for anything in the world… I feel the energy to pursue my dreams now.

I want to write. I want to write professionally every day, because it is what I love. The shaping of text, the creation of content. That is the dream I pursue now. And I’m very grateful for the fact that I can do that with all my energy and heart.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, if you do snore, get it checked out. There’s a huge taboo on the whole snoring thing. It’s embarrassing and annoying to have to cope with that in itself. There’s a solution though and it has its downsides, but they are outweighed by the good. Get this checked out!

 

Reading of Books #27

There’s just too much material that I would want to read, so these are the latest books I enjoyed reading. Magnus Magnusson, Nick Hornby, Marc Eglinton and Lars Brownworth were my reading victims this time.

Adam Nergal Darski/Marc Eglinton – Confessions of a Heretic: The Sacred and the Profane: Behemoth and Beyond

source: goodreads.com

Let’s get one thing straight, I’ve read many books by musicians, but listing Nergal as an author on this is not correct. He’s the subject of the book and most of the words are his, but he’s an interviewee here, not the writer. This is highly suggested in the promo surrounding the book, but as he himself would say “people should be more critical”. Originally the book was published in Polish, but Eglinton rewrote it in English. In a dense collection of interviews, Adam ‘Nergal’ Darski talks about his life, his views and his music. Nergal likes to shape his own image, which is that of a hedonist, a liberal thinker, a freedom fighter and more often than you think an alpha male. There’s a certain arrogance in this book, but it’s the right sort of arrogance.

As a fan of Behemoth, I found that reading this book made me like Nergal less. Maybe it’s breaking down the hero status, maybe it’s realizing there’s not that many connecting points. I did find my respect for the man growing with every page. The book humanizes him, but also shows that his whole iconoclastic attitude is just an expression. Nergal is no basement dwelling, goat sacrificing mad men, but a thinking, reading, reasoning man trying to find his own way in the world. It’s hard to imagine how his celebrity status works alongside his carreer as a black metal singer, but this book gives you an image. This book is a pleasant read and a lot of fun, but its just that for those interested in the man Nergal. If that is not interesting to you, this book will not make your knowlegde of metal any bigger. No need to pick it up for that reason.

Nick Hornby – Fever Pitch

source: goodreads.com

I love football. I tried to deny it for many, many years, but I have a profound love for the football game. The culture and all its aspects fascinate me. What I lack is  true fandom of one team, but once upon a time I had my room walls plastered with posters. That team was Arsenal from London. This is what attracted me to the book by Nick Hornby, an author I have not read that much from this far. This story is his personal recounting of how football had an impact on his life. On him and the way he turned out. From the day his father took him to see Arsenal his fate was sealed. The most boring team in the world defeated Stoke with a boring 1-0 win. It was enough to get hooked. Not even a visit to Tottenham could shake his allegiance.

Hornby uses certain games to illustrate phases of his life. He connects them to where he was at as a person and how it all made him feel. He describes a relationship between his personal well being and the clubs performance through the years, the cynicism that comes with being a football fan and the joy of a championship, It’s  a story of becoming an adult, becoming a person and growing up with a passion for football. No one, as far as I know, has ever put the place football has in peoples lives to words as good as Hornby does in this pleasant and enjoyable book.

Magnus Magnusson – Tales from Viking Times

source: goodreads.com

Many know Magnus Magnusson  as a Brittish tv-host of certain quizzes. This puzzling fact I found rather interesting about the man who has written extensively about the viking era of the past. Magnusson worked for most of his life as a journalist and translator, but the bulk of what he left behind comes from his origins. The writer was born in the Kingdom of Iceland. His birth was in the time when Denmark and Iceland were struggling to find a solution for the wish for independence. Magnusson grew up in Schotland, but writes about the ancient tales with a special kind of passion in this book.

Ths book deals with the traditional Northern stories and folk tales and is not just a collection of those works. In a fragmentary way Magnusson delivers segments of stories. Accompanying those stories are brief explanations about their roots and settings. This makes this book highly educatonal. The world view of the Northerners was strongly defined by these stories and really are a product of those. Magnusson takes ample time to give the right attention to this. It’s a pleasant collection presented as an audiobook, which is fitting. The saga’s work best when spoken. Even better around a fire.

Lars Brownworth – The Sea Wolves: A History of the Vikings

source: goodreads.com

Writing a history of the Vikings is a dense and complex task. Where to start and what directions to go in? Vikings travelled in all directions and there are many stories to be told. Do you wish to focus on their ferocity and the lasting stamp of fear or on their exploring and progressive nature? It’s a struggle for writers, but Brownworth chose to start somewhere at the start of their written history. In England and in France, where post Roman Empire some sort of civilization is arising. The sails they see at the horizon will test their mettle. Fierce plunderers and raiders arrive, who come from a shrouded history. The roots of the vikings are in the north, in their land that spawned them forth. What really starts the history we want to know, is their first raids.

Brownworth takes the reader down a  history that is part fact and part probably fiction, but how else do you tell the tales of Ragnar Lodbrok and his sons? How to speak of Ivar the Boneless and King Rurik of the Rus? The Viking age is an age of dragons and monsters, of  worlds unknown and undiscovered land like Iceland, Greenland and Vinland. The story of reconnecting the old empires and finding glory in Constantinopel and Kiev. Brownworth writes in different directions and picks up on other branches in following chapters. This allows him to create a story that is as diverse and spread out as the Viking influence. To really close the story, we end at Stamford Bridge, with the dead of the legendary Harold Hardrada. The sun then sets on the viking age in a beautiful history, really worth your time to read.

Power Trip - Nightmare Logic

Underground Sounds: Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Label: Southern Lord Records
Origin: United States
Band: Power Trip

I’m perfectly aware that Power Trip does not need one of my Stranger Aeons reviews to get them some attention, but ever since hearing this band, I had to pen a bit about them. Why? Have you heard  ‘Nightmare Logic’? A master piece of crossover thrash that seems to come to us now as a relic of the eighties, right when its needed.

This album is the second full length from this band, which has been around since 2008 and hails from Dallas, Texas. There’s definitely a flavor of hardcore to their sound, hence the notion of crossover, but they are also battle ready and heavy enough to carry a tune at a death metal show. In fact, I have to think of Bolt Thrower now and then, listening to these upstarts play. They do nothing really new, but like Skeletonwitch and maybe Iron Reagan they bring back some simple, primitive thrashing to the forefront in an era when we need these sounds.

This record moves about and groves in all directions. Live the band actually is even more entertaining, with a high energy performance befitting of a bunch of rabid dogs playing thrash metal. The casual vibe of the guitar play, the fun that just displays in the tunes, it makes this band so incredibly catchy and entertaining to hear. At the right moments, they add elements like gang shouts to make it even more awesome. But just listen to that ballzy intro of ‘Soul Sacrifice’, which is a tune for raised fists and feet stomping.

The pace is frantic, the energy high and boundless on a track like ‘Firing Squad’. I really thought that thrash was dead, but this band has awoken the genre from its slumbers. This makes me want to jump around and beat stuff. Not in a violent way though, this music is just so brimming with vitality, with contained and directed fury, that you need to move your feet to it. The rabid screams and shouts of Riley Gale, the riffs like razorblades and the awesome artwork, it all makes sense.

This is one of the coolest records out there, I’m sure.

New Wave of Dutch Black Metal Part 3

This is the third part, where I attempt to highlight some of the names that make up the blossoming (well, withering if you prefer that) Dutch black metal scene. Dutch zine Never Mind The Hype coined the phrase ‘New Wave of Dutch Black Metal’, due to the bookings at Roadburn last year. This prompted this investigation.

This will not be the last installment.

Secret Alchemists: Kaffaljidhma, Himelvaruwe, Voidspell, Kraggsygh

Black metal has its share of underground musicians, who work on their own, zealously producing music according to their own vision in relative isolation. Musicans that only release music through obscure means, like tape labels. Who remain faceless and don’t play live. Well, we have some gems in the Netherlands too. And I’m not jus talking about the dark wizardry of Mories with Black Mouth of Spite and Pyriphlegethon

Three numbered releases is all we can really tell about Kaffaljidhma, named after a distant star system. The musician Olibanum (that in turn is a type of resin) is inspired by the stars and his music sounds as distant and estranging as you might expect. Think of Mesarthim and Mare Cognitum, but then more underground, darker and at times barely audible through the grey noise. Releasing tunes on The Throat, the artist is also active in some other acts, but this one is definitely one of the most fascinating ones.

The Throat is a label with some unexpectedly, excellently odd releases and the latest effort by Himelvaruwe definitely puts them in that category. The sound approaches dark ambient or even just noise. A grey fog envelops the listener, who just sinks into the swamp that is Himelvaruwe. Occasional high pitched screams come through the fog, distorted and grim, but the weary drag really is getting you too much down to really look up anymore. Everything is grey and all is lost, that is the feeling this act evokes on the majest ‘CCIII’, give it a listen.

Another strange entity is Voidspell, who draw their listeners down into the pitch black of the absolute void with their noisy, abrasive sound. Let them take you along for an eternal trip into the endless with their debut release ‘The Eternal Voyage Through The Eternal Void’. A meandering descent with despair seeping into every note the band plays. It’s a spiralling fall with these guys, who sound truly dark and foreboding. A real recommendation!

For the one-man metal fan, there’s quite some gems to be found in the Netherlands. Another taste of ravishing grimness we get with Kraggsygh, a project that has been around for only a few years, but has been highly productive. A lot of releases, including this little gem with Russian band Wounded Orb. Sole bandmember Count Azathoth creates a gurgling, formless mass, a dark creeping sound that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Well worth your time again.

Dark artistry: Grey Aura, An Autumn For Crippled Children, Moenen

The band Grey Aura from Utrecht is exploring the boundaries of what black metal can be. They are currently working on a four demo series, which will shape up to be a 2,5 hours piece to accompany a novel one of the members is writing. In the music they’ve integrated even flamenco music and traditional flamenco singing. The record is a mixture of fierce black metal, conversations and ambient passages. It says alot about the new direction some bands are taking the music in these days. Greay Aura is definitely turning this music into art.

The most peculiar and often misunderstood project from the Netherlands must be An Autumn For Crippled Children. In nine years the post-blackmetal band spat out 6 albums of the most harrowing atmospheric music. The band has been moving to a more postrock-orientated sound, which they do pretty well actually. This probably will alienate listeners, but their bandname was doing that anyways, so this is not for any real purists. It’s an engrossing sound , completely captivating and full of warm hope of this mysterious group, check out their latest to see if it’s something for you.

Another one that stood out for me is Moenen from Dordrecht. Moenen may not be one of those mysterious one-man metal bands in the traditional sense, but it is the side project of a Arminus member, creating atmospheric black metal with some synth elements. The sound is particularly smooth and mellow, but with an ever present dark edge. Moenen might not be that far out from what is common use of black metal these days, but there’s something really catchy to the sound. On bandcamp the krautrock tag is listed, which makes sense.  Really worth listening to if you like some shoegaze with your black.

Stranger Gods: Solar Temple, Hellevaert, Slechtvalk, Cultus

Solar Temple worships at the altar of the otherness. They’ve just released a very first demo, with the song ‘Rays of Brilliance’. It’s out on Haeresis Noviomagi in conspiracy with Fallen Empire Records and offers something quite peculiar. The sound is a continuous barrage of lo-fi black metal, blasting and riffing away to get this static, continuous sound of hypnotic, psychedelic music. Pious chanting can be heard and ever so gently does the sound shift. Alluring and charming the listener into submission, this is a band that may be close to Urfaust on some fronts, but totally distinct in its otherworldliness.

From the southern part of the Netherlands hails the band Hellevaert and though the artwork might appear to be traditional in the Dutch black metal scene, we hear a distinct sound here. Blasting drums and wavery, melancholic guitars lead the way in a dreamy and dark descent on their debut album. There are no vocals most of the time, therefor the music needs to do the work and the storytelling.
On the song ‘Hell And Apocalypse Await Eden’ we do hear samples and some operatic singing, but mostly it is just music. The drums sound a bit computeresque, but overall this is something to just sink away in.

When we talk of stranger gods, the band Slechtvalk comes to mind. Regardless how you feel about a band implementing Christian themes, they were boldly different and bravely defiant of the norms in the black metal world. That Christian thing was actually never a thing, but it has tainted the band for the rest for their carreer. Unfortunately this happens. The band from Deventer plays black metal for a good 18 years now and has released many excellent albums. Sure, they’ve moved into a more viking metal direction, but their solid sound, excellent production and powerful presentation make them impossible to ignore. Their latest album came out in 2016 and though it is much more accesible, it sounds damn good in my opinion.

If we stick to these different divinities, other than Satan I mean, then Cultus definitely should be here. Not only are they one of the long standing names in Dutch black metal, yet they sound as roaringly angry on ‘Gezeteld in Zegeruïnen’ as they did 20 years ago. The themes of their music revolve around the old Germanic history. There was a period of inactivity before, but this album must be one of the most powerful releases in a while and it has a certain bombast and strength to it, that is hard to emulate. It feels epic and powerful, like a sky filled with thunder.

The Verdant Realm: Irrwish, Wilds Forlorn, Flooded Grave

Nature is a theme of worship in black metal. With longing we think of the dark forests of old and Irrwisch expresses that. The band name refers to the forest spirits of yore. You might considered the sound quite traditional. There’s a more to it though. There is a melancholy of beautifull melodies interwoven in the songs. The production left a lot of hazy noise in the songs, which really works on the slower parts. Irrwisch is like a black metal snow storm. It completely overwhelms you, batters you and cradles you in the heart of the natural realms at the very same time. They haven’t released anything since 2014. I’d love to hear more from this group from the Nijmegen region, releasing material on Those Opposed records in France.

Another band drawn to the wilderness is Wilds Forlorn. A one man project playing black metal from Utrecht with sole member Yuri Theuns (also active in Ascese and Eater of Souls). The band has been silent for a few years. Now with the single ‘Upon The Horns’ the project is back alive. A twenty minute epic with roaring black metal and classic piano intermezzo’s to boot. It sounds like a bit of a Primordial vibe on this release, yet that might be a bit far fetched to other listeners. Powerful, roaring passages with a visceral effect on the listner definitely hit home. We can definitely hope for more from this musician, it’ll be well worth it.

Final entry in this edition is Flooded Grave. A solo endeavour of Adonai Nero of Heavens Fall, also inspired by nature and myths. The band has not released that much work yet, but this tune is very promising. The latest release is an odd three way split record, which you can pick up from Zwaertgevegt. The band is very new, while sticking to traditional sound. Check this band out, because thisis good stuff!

 

 

Underground Sounds: Cyaxares – House of the Cosmic Waters

Label: Independent
Origin: Iraq
Band: Cyaxares

Mir Shamal Hama-faraj is a musical prodigy, working in one of the most unlikely places of the world on some eclectic and brilliant death metal. Cyaxares, his main solo project, is a band from Sulaymaniyah in the north of Iraq (Kurdistan). Just recently he came out with ‘House of the Cosmic Waters’.

It’s the second album by Mir Shamal, who also sings in Iraqi metal band Dark Phantom. In 2014 he debuted with the album ‘Whores of Babylon’. I had the pleasure to do an interview with this highly motivated musician, who manages to really set himself apart in this current day metal scene with home produced, tight death metal with oriental flavors.

This album sounds even more harmonic, bringing the two worlds together in beautiful unity. The oriental patterns are tangible to the ear. The folkish parts, that give the music it’s inexplicable mystery work in absolute harmony with the razorsharp riffing and the brusk grunted vocals. For opener ‘Luna’ we have a vocalista joining on clean vocals next to those of Mir Shamal. Nawa Mikhaeils’ singing is a bit of an acquired taste, but these passionate vocals are part of the tradition. The songs leave some space for slow, meandering passages. This lets the music breathe a little.

The music has plenty of melody and atmosphere to it, for example on the title track. Lyrically Cyaxares has always been a bit ambigious, due to the attempt at relating elder days to the current day world. Exquisite chanting and traditional passages make the music even more rich and grand. These are woven into their texture to create such great story telling music. I love this album and I can’t imagine for the life of me why no label has snatched this up yet. For one, it’s very melodic and captivating, secondly it has this great mysterious air to it. Overall the lyrics are wonderfully poetic and beautiful. Clearly these are the work of many hours and a lot of patience. Even the riffing on the brutal parts finds its own distinct heavyness, elegant and finely sculpted.

Mir Shamal is a ‘wünderkind’ in the metal scene, having found metal music all the way in Iraq. He created this by himself and that is no small feat. A great record for sure.