Underground Sounds: Arkthinn – VI

Label: Fallen Empire Records
Band: Arkthinn
Origin: Unknown

Preface to this review is that the band Arkthinn is a completely mysterious entity ‘from the north’, connected to the bands Mahr and Voidsphere, who make up the Prava Kollektiv. Only one band has known origins, which are in the USA and France. Probably, Arkthinn shares atleast part of that origin. This is their latest demo, titled simply ‘VI’.

The band likes to repeat themselves in certain aspects of their work, like the magnificent images of the sky on the cover of each album. This one features a mountain peak underneath a starry sky, with a snow-capped peak. An image that instantly sets the mood and sparks the imagination of the listener.
There’s something hazy to the sound Arkthinn spits out on ‘I’. Aptly named by the way, so it gives away nothing in further information for the listener. It’s heavily distorted sound, creates a distance to the tormented wailes and in effect emulates the starry sky in its untouchable, ungraspable nature. This works particularly well for the listener experience, as the 20+ minute track unfolds in to a cacophonous battery of unrelenting chaos with blunted blast beats and inhuman screeches and abyssal wails.
The second track is a lot less dynamic, but even so, much more harrowing. Droning sounds enter the vastness of space and form a singularity that disturbes the cold silence. None of the sounds is clear enough to really make out, but it is very clear that the music is not ment to please but disturb from the get go. Twenty minutes adrift in the dark and by that time fear and nervousness emerge in the listener. A bold effort indeed by Arkthinn.

Underground Sounds: Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath

Label: Metal Blade Records
Band: Visigoth
Origin: USA
With their second full length, Visigoth from Salt Lake City really hits it hard. They might hail from the States, but in spirit, they roam the wide realms of Conan the Barbarian with their brawn and heavy metal mettle. Or perhaps they are truly representative of the ones who stormed the gates of Rome back in 410. This is their ‘Conqueror’s Oath’.
With roots in bands like Gallowbraid, Folkodia, and Destructinator, you can tell that the metal-love runs deep with this group. They’ve already made quite a splash with their debut album ‘The Revenant King’. The artwork is a joy to behold, the logo a powerful statement and the music is everything you love about traditional heavy metal

As the Visigoth marches in or gallops with the thundering hoofs of his warhorse proposing the pace, you realize one thing: heavy metal is not dead. The charm of big, muscular riffs and grand, epic vocals is immediately there, enticing you to march along and scream your lungs out on ‘Steel and Silver’. Think Manowar, think Turisas and everything that makes you want to wield swords barechested and save damsels (or save princess as a mighty Red Sonja-like warrior lady, equal treatment!).

Thundering drums and thudding bass loops are the foundation on which the music roars and puffs out its chest. Solid sounding and full of confidence, every song is a hit to me. That’s why ‘Traitor’s Gate’ stands out with its catchy intro, which immediately sets the tone for adventure and daring. The groovy ‘Salt City’ is, therefore, another oddity on this release, but not unpleasant either. A bit Kiss almost, stepping out of their regular framework. Whatever way they turn, the mighty vocals of Jake Rogers are a force by itself. What an incredibly fun and feisty album this is!

De Veneficas Inferi: Pyrenean black metal from Andorra

Landlocked by the Pyrenees lies the small nation Andorra. A left-over of past struggles throughout Europe, the nation is a rarity, ruled by the French president and the Bishop of Urgell. The country also has the highest life-expectancy in the world. It is home to the act De Veneficas Inferi.

The country is known as the setting for various myths and legends, giving it a particular aura and attraction as one of those places where something else may still hold sway. The voice of De Veneficas Inferi speaks in mysterious words, befitting this high place in the mountains.

You would imagine that the mountainous nation generates a very specific sort of sound and experience. That is very true for this one-man band. Séan B. is its sole member and kind enough to answer some questions about his project.

Andorrean black metal from the Pyrenees

Could you be so kind to introduce yourself and your project? Are there other people involved in De Veneficas Inferi?
De Veneficas inferi is a one-man act, a spiritual and philosophical representation of a resilient ‘ars moriendi’, that at some point draws a line as a transcendental ritual. It may be narcissistic art. The futility of pleasure. But the ego of oneself acts in a work that ends in vain, in conjunction with the same life as the chaos of this; madness and the symbolism of nothingness. A nihilistic expression of the evolution of a person or a destiny of kindness to learn. I, the path of a sorcerer in hell, will be the one to narrate this path. This is what De Veneficas Inferi represents.

How did you set up De Veneficas Inferi? Do you have other projects going?
De Veneficas Inferi arises from the return to my roots, In Ignem Aeternum. It might be a homecoming to the black metal that I once shared and composed with Manu Rodríguez (TFWM, Morth Wyrtha and Torb Key’s Master) at the end of 2007. It could not be another melodic project and as truly elegiac as it was then, but the balm is the same. So I differ from another solitary project that I started in 2010 and that I coexisted until 2016: Aessênce. Declaration of a trip in the light and noisy, depressive and tempestuous urban modernity.

I’ve listened to your 2016 EP. Is there more work by you out there? How would you describe your specific music style?
No more than what remains from the ashes of my beginnings, Bloody Violent Little Red, and its conceptual core in Aessênce. A single recorded in 2008, rescued and released along with the consequent and subsequent works of Aessênce. Although, for my consideration, it’s an endeavor in hiatus.

As far as the style of music is concerned, with De Veneficas Inferi, I do not differ from a genre like black metal, as feeling. I could specify the style as Pyrenean Black Metal as part of the concept. It would not be erratic, in that there’s a representation of where I was born and I’m currently living in, winter passages through the Pirene mortuary monument. Part of its elder or modern histories and cantatas, non-sees or popular experiences and myths.

Your project has a very specific aesthetic in the artwork you share and use. Can you tell more about that and the general idea or concept behind De Veneficas Inferi?
De Veneficas Inferi might be faceless, non-image aesthetic that merges with the arcadian medieval iconography. Inspiration, partly, of those who agreed with the individual mysticism. Incentive, greatly, of the land I’m from. The impetus of draconian tales. Catalyst aside Luciferian visions. And encouraged by Anubis dexterity. All, or none of them.

The Great Decay appears to follow a narrative through the record. Could you tell more about that?
The Great Decay as a first unique concept, set, differs from each part in allegories represented by demons or fates, somewhat they were once, the Roman genii.
The first demon is ritual (“Daemonic I, Stone Witches”). The second is vanity (“Daemonic II, Altar Of Vanities”). The third is a circle (“Daemonic III, Nemini Parco”). Just as the first demon is belief. The second is conflict. The third is eternal return. Memento mori, Vanitas and Dansa de la Mort. Three concepts in order to the beautiful and concise adoration of Death. Concepts intimately related to Western society, whether in the contemporary pseudo-medieval times we live in or in past ages. Concepts in Aristotelian dyes. Concepts of the most glorious Rome. Death is, has been and will be godsified. Choose to feel dread or dance with the terror. That might be what life is for and what you leave behind for the future that you will never see.

Separately each piece of music has its own idea. The first demon, a witch anthem, a replica of those that once sounded in the Andorran mountains and lakes so, therefore, the Pyrenees, performed in sort akelarres and coronations of witches; lost pagan bonds or effusive carnal adorations. The second demon, a song to the memory of the belligerence that, still, this old Europe drags. The third demon, a song to the Dance of the Death, a rhythm of drums and dance of skeletons, histrionic representations of those Danse Macabre that still serenely vibrant between the valleys and the Mediterranean Sea.

How do you go about creating your music? What does the writing and recording process look like and what sources do you use for inspiration?
As it is absolutely an art without limit there is no process other than the equal limitation in our life. The same music is a personal experience. And it is the same inspiration that manipulates the process, which can last a short period or years. But the whole makes the concept as a product: once I have in mind this concept is practiced in influences and experiences. It’s a no more. There is always the intention to go to the nucleus of the idea since technically there is an experiment in the composition, the lyrics, and the background; to later or during the recordings.
Aside, the inspiration is the own project in question although I nourish of external sources and influences as any other kind of. If don’t, you kill every form of creation. Random or deliberated.

Does hailing from Andorra play any part in how you shape your music? As in, is your location part of the art you make?
The Andorran monolithic society has been an influence, of course. But it is his legacy, inheritance of the dark age, that I embrace in its rustic emblem. From its imperative nature to its black history, whether in the past or more recent come together in misfortunes or fantastic jeweled tales, processions of its feudal people, summon the soul of a Romanesque past. Not its religious aspect, but its dirt that emanates each individual that forms the place, its anachronistic hierarchy in harmony with the remains that remain of that dark age.

Is there something like an Andorra metal scene or is it mostly connected to the Spanish and French scenes? What places would be required visits for metalheads visiting Andorra?
There was, then, a strong Death Metal scene from the beginning and middle of the 2000s in affiliation with a sort of melodic bands like Persefone, Perseverance, Egophobia or The Ethereal. In relation, others kind of played core or trasher like as Umbrella Corpse and its entourage Far From Beyond or It Never Rains Eternally. Many of its members co-segmented in their interests as bands and evolved to reach the Prog Collective that coexists today with continuity with its greatest exponents, Persefone or Nami in its Death Metal side and others more colorful(ed) by rock and soaked in funk, psychedelia or darkwave as Experiments or Redthread.

Chapter and verse and more or less at the same time Morth Wyrtha and Torb loyalized their concept of Black Metal in the Principality Valleys. They were those who idealized the concept of Legions Pirenaiques (inspiration may, in advance, come from Les Légions Noires of France and/or the Norwegian Inner Circle), lyrically inspired by the winter and the Pyrenees so parse a Pyrenean Black Metal Circle.

Strong dishes such as Guturalfest or Testarrock were concerts showing many of these bands. Usual concert organizations such as Dijousderock still have continuity today. And as far as I know, there are certain groups related to the noisy and melodramatic panorama of the Catalan Black Metal (Foscor, O.D.I, Maleït or Entropia). Fuzzed concerning it’s gothic and anarcho-satanist contour, more precise from Barcelona, such as Akollonizer.

Although many of the places that were stalked by metal music already disappeared, there are some places in the capital city, like the Rockódrom or the Harlem Bar, where some formations are exposed Metal bands, among others styles that do not share anything with this genre. The Harlem Bar also recently exhibited and disseminated graphic artists, such as Print This Valley Collective composed by societies such as Dead Flag (artistic contributions made with bands like Persefone, Witchthroad Serpent, Malämar or Belzebong) that have done really spellbinding prints.

Are there other bands from Andorra that people should really be checking out?
Even though they are directly or not directly related to the orbital of metal’s genre there are formations that personally for his style of music associated with the drone and darkwave electronic music I might recommend.

The adroit conceptual musical project in several facets and faces that Nazo Fushigi builds includes a dark music, sometimes cacophonous sometimes lucidly melodic, which I appreciate in its artistic whole. Thespian performance of the Soizu proposal, by a  member of Akollonizer, is powerful and hypnotic in its system plus drone and subtle, clearly inspirational. Also, in addition, would like to praise the satirical sort of humor indeed, hard rock blended core of Mordigans done on “El Sabor de una Taza de Té”, and so the jazzy experienced productions of the veteran band Hysteriofunk.

What future plans do you have for De Veneficas Inferi?
I am involved in the slow process of a subsequent LP, mainly lyrically and aesthetically related and inspired by the principle of Prometheus, a myth torn apart in time and countless as names as the Devil has; a lecture of those Bearer of Light, following a Luciferian journey to the Abyss to present ourselves in a Hellish Dante’s way a ethos of his story. May I continue my path.

If you had to compare your product to a dish, what would it be? And why?
Maybe compare it with wine. That sour wine that when you’re satiated invites you to vomit, but you still drink it to quench your thirst. It is worth concomitant it with few lemon stems, as more acid better. The reason is the fun of the same drink and a long night.

Underground Sounds: Atrium Carceri/Herbst9 – Ur Djupan Dal

Label: Cryo Chamber
Artists: Atrium Carceri & Herbst9
Origin: Sweden/Germany

It’s a given that Cryo Chamber releases are superb. My expectations for this joint release by Atrium Carceri and Herbst9 are therefore high and I expect some exceptional material here on ‘Ur Djupan Dal’, which is a cooperative piece of gloomy ambient music.

The story starts in a harbor, warm and mysterious, perhaps in the orient? But this is a land of magical beings, of giants and dragons, but also of mystic vapors and strange rituals. Atrium Carceri is a project by Simon Heath, known for his involvement with Cold Meat Industries and founder of Cryo Chamber. Herbst9 is a mysterious new age/ambient project from Leipzig with various other expressions.

Unearthly mumblings and rumblings open the record and allow you entrance into this realm, as a shrill whistle blows and various ambiance and field sounds seem to fill your consciousness. Slow, gliding and with a sense of immenseness drums guide you forward as the utterances keep disturbing the sense of tranquility. In the sound, there’s always something at the edge of your perception happening though. Something ominous, foreboding even, of other events that might lurk.

That whispering takes a clear shape on ‘Ur Evighetens Pipa’, where an almost mechanic rhythm is disturbed by utterings in an unidentifiable language. This mysterious tongue seems full of mystery. On ‘Drakhuvud’ we even hear ritualistic chanting, as the sound drones onwards with unremitting power and booming strength. That is what draws you into the sound of this record, it’s sheer force and overwhelming ability to captivate and demand attention with heaviness you feel in your gut.

Underground Sounds: Parzival – Urheimat Neugeburt

Label: Mighty Music
Band: Parzival
Origin: Denmark

Parzival can be considered the Danish answer to Laibach, but their inspiration comes from the distant past. Their music is truly Wagnerian, influenced by Gregorian chants and mysticism in a way no other act really ever emulated. Their release ‘Urheimat Neugeburt’ is a piece of art if ever there was any in my opinion.

The group centers around Dimitrij Bablevskij, a musician of Russian origin, who has a booming voice that is the obvious link to the Slovenian avant-garde act mentioned afore. Musically the group takes various topics but always sounds surprising, bombastic and completely overwhelming. Something very special if I may say so, particularly since the band here covers their own original album Urheimat.

The booming sound I remember from their record Blut Und Jordan evaporates from my expectations soon. Sure, the low, sonorous voice is there, but the music seems very minimal, restrained and cut back to nothing more than needed for a visceral effect of marching sounds and a strong, emotional swelling that you get with the national anthem (or that one song that stirs your feelings of pride). It’s the sound that makes you want to puff out your chest, yet the vocals can also bring you down to a brooding, pressing state.

A noteworthy element to emphasize is an operatic quality. On ‘Peitsche und Zuckerbrot’, soaring vocals set the song in an almost Therion-like atmosphere, with the slow progression only further supporting the grandiose impact of the tune. ‘Lord of the Sea’ is the new tune on this record, which instantly stands out due to the melancholic opening sequence and layered sound. More dense and richer than the other material, it is a stand-out track on the record. On ‘Navida Purana’, we are even treated to some bright riff material, that contrasts with the languid, ritualistic chanting with crisp and bright notes. Parzival definitely understands the value of contrast and various textures, which makes this such an immersive, powerful record.

With an atmosphere that switches between the Wagnerian 19th century grandeur and the far eastern mysticism, Parzival conveys a unique feeling. At times a mild playfulness emerges, but overall this is serious music, more suitable for the grand theatres of yore. Immerse yourself, enjoy.

 

Marijannah: heavy and far-out tunes from Singapore

The band Marijannah hails from Singapore and plays a very fresh and catchy style of stoner/doom. Inspired by films, their music is captivating, playful and a bit unnerving at times. Havint checked out their recent release, I needed to know more about them.

Signed to Pink Tank Records, their ‘Till Marijannah’ is well worth a spin if you haven’t heard it yet. To get you started, first learn something more about the band and where they come from.

Marijannah takes you to Paradise

Hey Marijannah, how’s everything going?

Everything’s great.

How did your band get started and where does the name come from?

We all individually wanted to try something different outside the usual styles of music we’ve been playing for years in each of our respective bands and this is something we’ve never created before.

The name is sort of an accidental double entendre initially. It loosely translates to “come to paradise” in Malay, which is a native language where we’re from and it’s also bluntly a pun to you-know-what.

 

What inspired you to make this particular sound your own? To me ,it feels very much like a mixture of classic psychedelic rock with a hint of occult rock on a thick slab of stoner, which together gives off this timeless sound. What do you think?

I don’t know if we do but if anybody thinks we sound any different from the usual stoner/doom, it’s really just because half of us never regularly listened to this style of music up until like a year ago. We all have roots in different genres. Some of us come from a punk/emo/hardcore background and some of us almost strictly listen to extreme metal so it’s truly a mash of clashing influences.

Can you tell me how you wrote and recorded the album ‘Till Marijannah’? How did the process go and what sort of working method do you have?

Rasyid writes most of the music and I write the lyrics. We record riffs on our shitty phones and send them to each other on a daily basis and dig em out when we need to. There was quite a bit of spontaneity in the studio as well, using weird, new pedals and ancient gongs lying around the room.

I’m interested to learn what inspired the four separate songs. They all have a distinct quality and theme but differ a lot. So what stories and inspiration did you use for each? I’m particularly interested in All Hallow’s Eve.

Lyrically, they’re all tributes to films. I’m a big “film buff” and they go hand in hand with heavy music aesthetically. All Hallow’s Eve is of course about John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and the “Laurie” mentioned is Laurie Strode, portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis in the series.

Tell me more about the artwork. Who did it and what inspired it? I originally thought I was going to listen to something more like Yes!

Again, it was a mash of very different ideas we all had individually backed and executed by a very talented artist in mr. Riandy Karuniawan. Like most metal musicians, we like sci-fi imagery and mystical shit so there’s that.

What sort of response did you get this far to the record and what future plans do you currently have?

They’ve been almost all positive from what I’m aware of. I don’t really pay much attention to reviews, I think the record is dope and so does most of my friends who have a good taste. We’re working on new material right now and have been jamming about 5-6 new tunes, probably aiming to enter the studio by August. We’ll be announcing a short tour really soon, maybe it’ll be announced by the time this interview is out and we have another planned for the year’s end.

Is having a Rasyid in Wormrot in any way limiting for what you can do with Marijannah? Do you feel that your other bands in general have an influence on your output?

Not at all. Neither band is looking to be super busy or touring full-time and I think the rotation works well for Rasyid and the rest of us. I think its inevitable that we will share certain influences amongst our bands, we’re the same people as we are in other projects, just expressed differently through multiple entities.

What is currently happening in the heavy scene of Singapore that the world really should not miss out on? Like exciting bands etc?

Radiant Archery, Bethari, Hollowthreat, HRVST, Yumi, Zodd. None of them are similar to us but all worth checking out.

If you had to compare Marijannah to a dish, what would it be and why?

Bolognese. Rustic, traditional, timeless, best served hot and consumed wearing dark-coloured clothing.

Underground Sounds: Chained To The Bottom of the Ocean – Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress

Label: Independent
Band: Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean
Origin: United States

Chained To The Bottom of the Ocean is a rather new band and the I haven’t found any names connected to the group. The band plays something that could be fit in between crushing doom/sludge and hardcore, with a righteous streak of poison running through its veins.
‘Send every God and King to the Gallows,’ reads their powerful tagline on Bandcamp. This forceful statement probably says a lot about the group from Massachusets in the United States. Their name is derived from a Thou song and the album is titled ‘Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress’. Abandon all hope.

The abyss opens up, when ‘Confusion Hath Fuck His Masterpiece’ crashes down and wrecks the party. All-consuming vitriol is spewed out by the sludge monster that appears, with devastating hits on drum and bass alike, that open up the caverns from which the vocals emerge. What a fucking hellish trip this record is from the get-go with the almost 9-minute track of utter destruction.

As the music settles into a regular pace, the screams keep coming at what feels like random intervals, bellowing defiance at anything or anyone. The words deal with destruction and a nihilistic worldview, yet the fury suggests hope is not lost. The riffs keep their crushing force coming and never cease to be full on, right in your face in their vigorous delivery on tracks like ‘Four Cubits and a Span’. Yet, the words offer complex lyrics, with meaning and direction in a sonic swamp of despair with hardcore muscularity. That combination is what makes the band stand out and a really cool sounding entity.

Underground Sounds: Marijannah – Till Marijannah

Label: Pink Tank Records
Band: Marijannah

Origin: Singapore

Marijannah is a project that features members from Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult. As their bio says, two of the hardest touring bands from the island nation Singapore. As it often is, these gents had an itch to do something different. That is, to play stoner/doom, which they do surprisingly well and now on their first record ‘Till Marijannah’.

The band started out in 2016 and it being a side-project, took its time to really get going with their heavy, psychedelic sound and release a record. Sounding rather classical and hazy, this band definitely harks back to the retro-doom sound you hear coming up on and off. Think of bands like The Sword and maybe even a bit of that St. Vitus or Goatsnake vibe. It’s helluvalot catchy.

The foundation of the sound Marijannah offers is a rock-melting buzz of bass and drums, that never lets up. A solid stoner bass on which to build the tunes so to say, like the classics. The lyrics are steeped in horror influences with an occult flavor on opener ‘1974’ and the following ‘Snakecharmer’. It’s really comfortable music to sink into and just ride its waves as you listen to their spaced out sounds. I have to point out the cover, with an interesting color pattern. Definitely does its job too.

Powerful repetition shapes the track ‘Bride of Mine’, which even harks a bit to the sound of Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats with its snarling, whiny sound that just clings to you. The snide sound of the track is pretty catchy. ‘All Hallows End’ is the strange big rock anthem on this record. It stands out like a sore thumb, which is exactly what makes it so interesting. The emotional vocals and the ooh and aah backing makes for a pleasant outro, with creepy lyrics of course.

The charm of Marijannah is that they don’t do anything overly complex. It’s pretty straight forward stuff, but with a tinge of their very own mystery. Looking forward to seeing this live.

Underground Sounds: Ulvesang – The Hunt

Label: Nordvis
Band: Ulvesang
Origin: Canada

Back in 2016 Ulvesang created a splash with their northern influenced folk tunes. Their self-titled record was an absolute joy to listen to. The Canadian group takes their influence from the more atmospheric and folkish black metal bands, condensing it into mournful, but clean, clear folk music. This is the same path they still walk on ‘The Hunt’, their latest endeavor.

I was surprised this band was not signed. Although it clearly is not an easy genre to sell, their music was so good and cinematic, that it must be attractive. Luckily, so thought the good people at Nordvis. This album offers the narrative of a hunt, the awareness, effort and also consciousness that is part of the killing for your personal needs. It’s imaginary and powerful, subtle and measured.

A ritual chanting opens the hunt, with ambient sounds taking you to a different place. Tranquil, wavery folk music follows and flows naturally, with mellow sounds and finger-picking guitar play. The drums give a mild bombast to the songs, taking them back to that primitive aspect inherent to the music of Ulvesang. Chanting becomes more mellow and almost Clerical throughout ‘The Dance’, which lacks the urgency the theme suggests up till the point where the guitars become a bit riffier.

One of my favorites is the title track, which meanders and dances in its simple yet beautiful way. The bass line is played with precision and a gentle touch, reminiscent of the galloping run over the wild planes of yesteryear. That is how a song like ‘The Gloom’ really feels like that remniscent moment you experience, while sitting next to a campfire in the gloomy night. When the mists surround you and time fades for just a moment. That is the absolute magic Ulvesang offers.