Underground Sounds: Myrkgrav – Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen

Label: Pest Productions
Band: Myrkgrav
Origin: Norway

I really try to cover the more recent releases, but coming across Myrkgrav, I have to share this. Myrkgrav is the project of
Lars “Leiðólfr” Jensen, who played in Quadrivium and Storm. The project started out in Norway, but it seems that Jensen has relocated to Turku in Finland now. ‘Takk og farvel; tida er blitt ei annen’ was released in 2016 and after that, the band was put on hold.

With Myrkgrav, Jensen tries to preserve stories and myths from his part of the world, the region of Ringerike. To prevent those from fading into oblivion, he puts those to music. The artist is still working on new material, but it’s not clear if that will come out under the banner of Myrkgrav. To create the music, Jensen uses guest musicians like Olav Mjelva of Wardruna and various others. The artwork immediately sets the mood with its depiction of the beautiful, wild nature.

Musically Myrkgrav sticks somewhere between catchy folk punk and folk metal. It lacks the rigorous sound of full-on metal, but comes closest to Glittertind for me on some parts. Even when the vocals are grunted, the overall sound remains very accessible. Tunes like ‘Skjøn jomfru’ stick close to the folky traditionals, with clean, warm vocals that are easily enjoyable. ‘Vonde auer’ with its fiddle by Mjelva immediately takes you to the valleys and mountains in all their overwhelming beauty. The guitar play is remarkably catchy on tracks like ‘Bekom Gyrihaugen’, with swooping parts carrying you away. It’s one of the multiple instrumentals on this record.

A track like ‘Soterudsvarten’ shows the more heavy side of the band, but the folklore and the playful sound is still a heavy part of it. Sometimes the galloping rhythms feel a bit too repetitive for my tastes, It makes some songs feel a bit unnecessary, but then again on this record, some older work has been added from past periods of Myrkvar. When we return to the folky tunes, that’s where Myrkvar is exceptionally pleasant. The singing voice is calm and sonorous and manages to tell stories. The opening song even comes back towards the end in an English version, which is pretty sweet.

This album is quite a treat, clocking over an hour in total time. Check this out, it’s stilll available to listen to.

Underground Sounds: Au-Dessus – End of Chapter

Label: Les Acteurs de l’Ombre Productions
Band: Au-Dessus
Origin: Lithuania

Au-Dessus from Lithuania

Au-Dessus is one of the new wave of bands that bring a new aspect to the realm of black metal. Some may call it post black metal, others may use the new term blackgaze for this. Formed in Vilnius in 2014, the band has members in its ranks from groups like Pergalė, Exile Into Suffery and Mangragora. Though they hail from Lithuania, the name translates to ‘Above’ in French.

What you immediately notice about this group is their whole aesthetic. No harsh logo’s, corpse paint or spikes, nothing traditional. The only thing that you might find connective is the black hoods, but even those are stylized and different. The cover with a child, carrying coins on its eyelids is heavy. It signifies a death. The subtlety and cold beauty are exemplary for the sound of the Lithuanian group.

The sleek and clean artwork is immediately tangible in the well-produced sound of the group. Polished riffs and a great balance in the sound makes listening to Au-Dessus a pleasure. The songs are numbered, and ‘VI’ plummets you instantly into the atmospheric black metal riffing. The continuous, blaring wall of sound creates an uncanny calm, with haunting spectres ever at the edge of the experience. Vocalist Mantas roars, growls and spits in pure harrowing anger over the ever pushing and progressing sound, which flows with the smoothness of a river.

By the time you hit track ‘IX’ it becomes sort of clear that there’s a good bit of rocking groove underneath all the mayhem. For brief moments the engine to the sound shows, which is really running smoothly and purring like a kitten, but screams a moment later when the pace increases for a dramatic climax. Au-Dessus is all about the build-up, the subtle shifts and sudden bursts of energy. Wave after wave of dissonant, wailing guitars hit you. You submerge in the cold sea of sound.

I’m quite certain that purists will have less appreciation for this band. Their sound moves you with layers upon layers of the atmosphere, crisp production and a sense of grandeur and emotional beauty. They make me think of groups like Harakiri For The Sky and maybe elements of Deafheaven, while holding that mysterious allure of more occult bands. They never seem to actually implement many symbols in their music, maybe to let the sound speak for itself more.

Au-Dessus can be tough and hard, but only when it serves the overall narrative. Most of their music has a dirge-like somberness to it, but harrowing, biting passages are there when they need to be. Losing yourself in this record is quite possible.

Underground Sounds: King of Asgard – :taudr:

Label: Trollmusic
Band: King of Asgard
Origin: Sweden

If Unleashed hadn’t become the beer-guzzling cliché that it unfortunately is and had stuck to their guns, they might have become King of Asgard. I’m very aware that this is a risky thing to say because to put them in one sentence is bound to be controversial.  Musically, the Swedes appear to be difficult to place. Angry Metal Guy puts them in the folky black metal corner, while Metal Temple throws them in the bucket of melodic death metal. Being the much less genre-oriented typing metal fan that I am, I’ll just leave it at this; King of Asgard has a bit of both but is mostly Viking metal.

King of Asgard revolves around Karl Beckman, who has stayed firmly on the trajectory he started on with Mithotyn. This band is slightly different in being more dark and brooding. ‘Taudr’ is the fifth album by the band, which also has featured Jonas Albrektsson since 2009 (from Thy Primordial and Retaliation a.o.). Albrektsson is arguably more of a black metal guy, hence the sound on this record. Everything about this record just oozes northern folklore and the grim realities of that realm.

So even though I don’t wish to admit it, for me the great appeal of this album is definitely the black metal atmosphere blended with folk. Not in the blended way, where it all ends up being a drinking horn raising bacchanal. No, both aspects do their respective job in turn or distinctly separate. ‘The Curse and the Wanderer’ immediately jumps into the fray with vigor and battle lust. Notable instantly are the drums, that definitely keep the hard and solid bottom in the songs. Even when the chanting parts pass by, the skins keep it together. Sharp, tightly mixed guitars drive the song forward, without ever doing more than needed.

The hurdy-gurdy on ‘Death …and a New Sun’ is exactly where it needs to be. It offers the droning center that you stick with for the whole song. Rigid riffing and a continuous, monotonous sound tell a story in itself. It also makes the song extremely heavy. But I’d like to talk about the title track because the dynamic intro is already exciting foreplay to the grandeur of this song. There’s a majesty to the sound here, thanks to an again excellently produced bit of string magic. It leans towards folk metal, without ever crossing the border to fun and silly-land. The harsh bark of Beckman really shouts you into submission. Man your oars and row, you scabs! Excellent drumming on this track again.

A climactic point on the album is ‘…For the Fury of the Norse’. To me, this track crosses some lines in its grand finale moment, but it is entirely fitting on its spot in the album. The soaring guitars and slow pace are a bit too Marvel Thor for me. Still, it’s rather enjoyable and on a more critical level, I can’t find any fault in it. Closing the album is Mithotyn cover ‘Upon Raging Waves’. A cover is always tricky, particularly of a band with a distinct sound. Beckmann obviously understands his own song well enough to shape it to the sound and feel of King of Asgard. It might be the best song on this album.

King of Asgard is not breaking new ground because they do what they do excellently. A true gem in current day metal, particularly for those who need no novelties in their heavy sound.

 

Underground Sounds: Bergrizen – Der Unsterbliche Geist

Label:  Purity Through Fire
Band: Bergrizen
Origin: Ukraine

Bergrizen is remarkably enough a solo project by Myrd’raal. The band hails from Kiev. The music is self-described as HelCarpathian black metal, which was not a term I was familiar with up till now, but listening to this record I’m quite sure that its a fitting term for the furious sound.

The band has been around for a good 10 years now and in the live setting, there is a full band playing the songs, so that must be something to behold. This is the fifth album by Bergrizen, with the ominious Hegellian title ‘Der Unsterblichen Geist’.

The sound of Bergrizen combines a classic somberness with the rigid sound of straight-backed black metal. Pitch black, but surprisingly enough, also very listenable. There’s an inherent darkness to the sound of this band, with many remorseful and melancholic passages in the quieter bits. From the points where the music swells, we get powerful arches, tremolo riffing and pained howls.
The singing is often inaudible to an extent that only the feeling is conveyed in almost bestial screams. Musically the record cover might suggest much grimmer and harrowing sounds, but surprisingly Bergrizen is full of melody. On ‘ Ankunft der Winterdämmerung’ we also hear a deeper, more abyssal voice full of evil promises. Then again, on ‘Entsagen’ we actually get a bit of that rock’n’rolling sound and feel.
Bergrizen has a lot of the traditional black metal vibe while being much more easy to listen to. That doesn’t diminish anything of the grim and dark atmosphere on the album. It just makes it pleasant to delve into it.

Underground Sounds: Weed Demon – Astrological Passages

Label: Dissonant Society
Band: Weed Demon
Origin: USA

With a name like Weed Demon, you can already pretty much guess that we’re getting groovy, spacy doom metal from this Ohio quartet. The massive, rocky vision on the cover, which I love, tells everything anyways. It immediately captures my attention when a band like this gets some cool artwork. It shows the dedication to the general drive behind the sound.

So Weed Demon has been around only briefly. These gentlemen have no massive music history, so the quality of this release is especially fresh. Previously the band released an EP titled ‘Stoned To Death’, which seems to have stuck way closer to the more stereotypical stoner schtick. ‘Astrological Passages’ is the thing you should check though.

Weed Demon kicks off with foreboding guitar picking in that dropping doom style. Massive reverb gives the thing a cavernous (or spacy if that fits the title better) effect. The roaring vocals really give off the vibe that one listens to a maddened caveman who’s roaring into the dark in pure rage. Big, lumbering riffs progress at their own pace, sound effects create a foreboding, creepy effect at times. Weed Demon is a menacing beast, crawling towards you. Bringing the sound of Sleep and Spaceslug together in the best possible way.

The sound has a lot of space in it though, regardless of its full pounding force. Every hit of the drum, strumming of the guitar, it just floats on as if in space. Even the lyrics are huge, talking about almost abstract concepts like the immensity and awesome power of space in a burly roar. It’s interesting that the sound still has a lot of groove left thanks to that freely soaring guitar work. I imagine this band really kicking it live thanks to that. My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’.

My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’. It’s a bit cheesy, granted, but the gents pull it off for most of the song to sing sonorously in this meditative style. The music just works alongside it. Weed Demon is heavy, without ever being oppressive. Their music is awesome and that’s why you should listen to this.

Underground Sounds: Lör – In Forgotten Sleep

Label: Independent
Band: Lör
Origin: United States

The group Lör has been around for a while. Three of their members also played in Top Hats and Effigies and Ashen Waves, the exception being drummer Greg Bogart. The gang of four hails from Morrisville in Pensylvania and seem to hold a special place for nature in their hearts judging by the band photos. The group started off in 2009 and released two demo’s in the past.

‘In Forgotten Sleep’ is the product of some gents that know music. Most members have a background in orchestra and concert band class in school. This makes for a different sound and a remarkable approach to music. It makes for a fascinating record, that is for sure.

A particularly folky sound is what greets you when play is pressed on ‘Dusk’. Warm acoustics and gentle singing, that swells to a puffed-chest epicness soon. Flutes join in this jolly hero song ‘Dusk’, with swooping rhythms and a swelling voice. I kind of want to go and polish my sword a bit. It’s like Ensiferum playing an acoustic set of Blind Guardian songs in a smoky tavern in Waterdeep (D&D geeks will understand).

When the music launches into its metal parts, it does so with a frenzy. The guitar licks sound thin and unadorned but retain every bit of their sharp catchiness. The drums sound thunderous within the clean sound. It leaves you with a sound that feels like the essence of a power metal song. It leans more to the folky fantastic that it tries to emulate and therefore has a more authentic feel to it. Still, the sound takes on epic proportions on a tune like ‘Song for the Lost’, with those Dragonforce-y riffs and Wintersun-y eclectic bursts of energy.

Lör takes you to a place of fantasy. It’s not folk and you don’t feel that organic, natural sound, but they put that in the mix as an ingredient. It flavors their music, which is different and exciting while also weirding me out a bit. I think that this is a good thing.

Horde of Silence: Angola is quiet no more

Angola is an unlikely place for heavy metal, but a small scene has started to develop in the African country. The documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’ showed this to the world. One of those bands is Horde of Silence, who refuse to remain quiet in their homeland. The documentary showed how metal is taking root in this corner of the world, brilliantly showing its force.

Photos byJosé Alves

The country came out of a civil war in 2002 and peace hasn’t come cheap. A generation grew up with conflict and strife. The country is still recovering from the years of turmoil and people have been displaced. Metal music seems to be one of the most fitting forms of expression from people who have had a lot bad luck coming their way. This is a way to find their voice and identity once more

On behalf oof the band Yannick Merino was kind enough to answer questions about Horde of Silence, Angola and metal music, so that the world may learn a bit about their refusal to remain silent.

Could you start by introducing yourselves and telling us how the band got started?
A: William Sazanga: Vocals, Denilson Jayro Cardoso: Guitar, William “Seth” Neto: Bass, Yannick Merino: Drums

The person that had the idea to startthe band was Edilson “Pagia” Chitumba (currently he’s the vocal / bass player for Dor Fantasma. He wanted a band with fast riffs and heavy tunes, similar to Divine Heresy. He invited Jayro, also from Dor Fantasma to join the band and the two called me to be on the drums. They asked me, because at the time I was one of the few drummers that was able to play fast double bass and blast beats.

We first met at a concert in Luanda, at King’s Bar, in February 2009. Jayro and Edilson went from Benguela to play with their band (Dor Fantasma). I was one of the organizers of the concert and I played in a band called Last Prayer (a Groove Metal band). Horde of Silence started at the end of 2009 when I moved to Benguela and we first played live in January 2010.

What bands inspired you to start playing this kind of music?
A: The bands that inspire us are Behemoth, Dark Funeral, Sodom, Rotting Christ, My Dying Bride, Cannibal Corpse, Divine Heresy, Fear Factory.

How did you settle on this name, what does it mean to you?
A: This name was chosen by Denilson Jayro, it’s supposed to be contradictory, because we aren’t silent.

What is the theme in your music, what sort of stories are you telling the world?
A: We talk about religion, mythology, wars. The main focus in the songs is the Angolan culture, we talk about the different religions that are in the country and the Angolan mythology. The wars is a normal thing that most of the bands in here talk about, we exited a war in 2002 and some of us still feel some repercussions. We try to put our history, the things that we lived through in the past into the songs, the conflicts, the deaths, the mysticism…

So you’ve recorded a song for a split album ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ with some of the bands from the Angola metal scene. Can you tell us how that record came to be?
A: All the bands that recorded ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ are from Cube Records. The idea was to each band record one song and tell Angola and the World that in Angola we have metal bands. It was a bit hard to record because we recorded in a home studio, but it was worthy.

How do you guys go about writing your music, who is responsible for what element of it?
A: The lyrics are the responsibility of the vocalist, as for the instrumental part, the main parts are done by Denilson Jayro and Yannick.

You’ve mentioned you are working on your first EP. What can we expect and how is the progress? Where will it be available?
A: We are working in the EP, it’s in a slow process but we expect that it will be done in the end of the year. We will launch it through Cube Records, but it’ll be online a bit later probably.

Angola’s scene got quite some attention thanks to the documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’. How has that impacted you guys as a band? Did it open doors for you guys?
A: It did open a few doors to the Angola bands, we receive some invitations to play in other countries, so has a lot of bands, such as Dor Fantasma (that’s Denilson Jayro main band), Before Crush, Last Shout and many others.

What is super typical about metal from Angola?
A: The speed, the heaviness, the mosh pits , and especially the union that exists in the metal.

How did metal come to Angola, what was the thing that made the scene start and how big is this music where you are from?
A: I honestly do not even know how to respond to this, I know there were a few metal bands in the early 90’s, but the main scene here in rock was punk and hard rock. I think the metal bands start to came out because of the speed and the heaviness in style. In the 2010’s there was a boom on the metal bands, but right now is starting to fade a little bit, metal bands right now are not as much we would like to.

So do you have things available like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music stores, venues etcetera? Or how do you cope with the lack thereof.
A: In Angola to get good instruments is hard, especially for metal. Most of our instruments are bought outside of the country. In terms of rehearsal spaces are to limited, most of the bands (90%) rehearse in a part of their homes.

What do you feel is typical about the music scene you have over there. What is its beauty and what are its downsides? And how do you connect to metalheads from neighboring countries?
A: Most of the people in Angola dont listen to metal, they say that’s noise, so it’s difficult for us to show our thing. When we have the opportunity to do it, the people are amazed with our performance, and most of them ask if we are from another country hehehehehe. We connect to the metalheads in other countries through social media (Facebook, WhatsApp).

What sort of position does metal music have in your country now, how does society respond to it? Is there forms of censorship?
A: Its very low, the people in Angola prefer to listen to soft music, for most of them, Metal is noise. We are censored all the time, even by the local rockers, they state that we should play soft like Coldplay or U2. We only play in certain places at certain times, if we played another rock genre we would be more acceptable.

What other bands from Angola should people really check out (and why)?
A: You can check Dor Fantasma (Thrash Metal, they sign in Umbundu – a dialect from Angola) , Mvula (2 time winner for best rock band in Africa from AFRIMA), Black Soul (winner of the best rock band in Angola from Angola Music Awards), Sentido Proibido (winner of the first battle of the Bands), Singra, Projectos Falhados, Ovelha Negra.

What future plans do you guys have right now?
A: Right now the plan that we have is to finish recording our EP.

Final question: If you had to compare your music to a type of food, a dish, what would it be and why?
A: That’s difficult, but we think it would be palm oil beans with grilled fish, because it’s a dish that represents a little bit what’s the Angolan culture, and we sign in our songs some elements of the Angolan Mythology.

 

Underground Sounds: murmur mori – Radici

Label: Casetta
Band: murmur mori
Origin: Italy

I’ve written before about the magic that is murmur mori. The Italian nature worshipping folkers have now released a new album, that goes in a slightly more familiar direction with move singing and folky passages, but the ambient nature sounds and organic feel are still a large part of their sound.

The members of the Stramonium Collective earlier released the album ‘O’ and it was inspiring enough to try and learn more. Here you can read the interview I did with the group a while ago. It remains a fascinating entity to me and I’m very happy to be able to tell you about ‘Radici’.

The group takes the approach of music for children, which is an interesting approach but it makes much sense. Children are open to many things, to stories and sounds, to wisdom and knowledge adults may find trivial. It explains the more lively and vibrant sound of the album. Though the chanting on songs like ‘La Calza Rossa’ is calm and quiet, the music is driven with piping flutes. The singing sounds like something you’d easily join in with and that seems to be the point, the magic of the songs. The emotional vocals of Kuro Silvia on ‘Il Sole e l’Eremita’ are full of yearning and really touch the heartstrings. This album touches something of simple play and discovery, the child in our hearts.

The music on this album sounds uncomplicated, direct and therefore amazing. Making music that simply captures the listener is hard because it requires to strip it of useless ornaments. Sometimes a simple rhythm suffices, the other time a lingering melody. The song needs to carry the listener along and that is something murmur mori does very well on songs like ‘La Tomba del Busento’. The beat is what you latch onto. Every song on this record is inspired by Italian folksong or legend. That makes this record a journey in itself.

A recommended record for those who enjoy the calm of nature, simple instruments and pleasantly soothing songs. Check out murmur mori.

 

 

Underground Sounds: Raventale – Planetarium

Label: Ashen Dominion
Band: Raventale
Origin: Ukraine

Raventale has been around since 2005. Since then the atmospheric black metal band has been steadily pushing out new records. The band revolves around Astaroth Merc, who seems to be a busy little bee with various projects. Just a to name a few; Deferum Sacrum, Balfor and Chapter V:F10. Raventale is his main project though, in which he does literally everything.

Raventale has dabbled with various themes, from Tibetan buddhism to Native American mythology. Astaroth draws inspiration from pretty much everything in order to create his art. It makes the music deep and ritualistic, with cosmic pretences. This is something special for sure.

‘Gemini – Behind Two Black Moons’ immediately launches with a big guitar wall and a thick, melancholic atmosphere. The slow pace is reverential, mighty and the backdrop for furious vocals, that preach in an apocalyptic tone. The guitar work feels very classic heavy metal. Soaring and full of strength, they really have an almost magical effect.

The regal sound makes way for a more forceful track on ‘Bringer of Celestial Anomalies’. Though the big wall of sound remains, it packs more aggression and energy. Another fact you’ll notice is how the production is exactly how it should be. Expansive at some points, and narrow at others to give you exactly what you need.

Even when the band interjects brief interludes of just guitar, a hazy wave of distortion keeps ringing in the background. Silence never falls in the universe of Raventale. For the following tune, titled ‘At the Halls of the Pleiades’, a more rigid, stripped-down sound can be heard. Blaring melodies and strong, steady rhythms are a show of muscle. Nothing about Raventale is gentle or measured, everything is about the grand gesture and that is something pretty cool in how this band does it.

A record for those who need some power and cosmic darkness in their playlist. I encourage checking this out.