Label: The Moon on a String Productions Band: Trees, Clouds & Silence Origin: Spain
It’s pretty great if your name can tell it all about your sound and inspiration. I suppose that this is why Trees, Clouds & Silence chose theirs back in 2015. This one man project by Ocram is an ambient/post-black band with a focus on the natural realm (don’t we call this blackgaze now?). This is the second record by the band, titled ‘Let me die on your roots’.
The appraisal of nature has tempered the eerie fire of black metal in many occasions. The sound of bands like Winterfylleth, Grima or many other bands who draw upon that verdant realm, have a sound that is milder and more harmonic than anything inspired by the more human resources. The climate in the south of Spain, around Andalusia, definitely has that effect even stronger. Musically, however, this act may drift more towards the postrock sound.
The sound is mellow and flows like a cool breeze in the warm summer sun. Lyrically, the songs by Trees, Clouds & Silence, are personal, full of craving and hints to the majesty of nature. Clean guitars guide the listener onwards, like one of those appealing forest paths that invite you down further into the woods. Gently meandering keys provide a soothing path through the tremolo guitar sounds as the sound envelops you.
When vocals come in, like they do on ‘Echo’, I would not call them the strength of the record. Not a perfect singer, the voice is more a proclamation or an expressive dirge. The lady who adds chanting here does a bit of a better job. The screams of Ocram do a much better job in their biting and bitter tones on the same tune. The music is a continuous flow, a harmonious whole, but cut into various parts. A joy to listen to, regardless if simmering heat warps your vision or the cold hurts your face. It captures tranquility in sound.
Label: Heidens Hart Band: Uuntar Origin: The Netherlands
The Netherlands is flat, which is its distinguishing fact and trait. It also means that most of our predecessors were farmers, working the flat, endless fields… That’s what the cover of the new Uuntar album shows, which is aptly titled ‘Voorvaderverering’, which translates roughly as “ancestral worship”.
The record was on the shelf for a while, after being recorded in 2010 by Herjann (HeimdallsWacht, Cultus, ex-Countess, ex-Mordaehoth) and Nortfalke (Kjeld, ex-Lugubre, Tarnkappe, Standvast). In this project, they focus on a more pagan black metal approach with vast epic movements and a sense of the grand.
The record opens with meandering synths and tribal drums on ‘Intrede’, which translates as intro, so it makes perfect sense. Nature sounds enrich the pasture on which we tread, as the music slowly swells. There’s a sense of the dramatic in the atmospheric black metal tunes that open up ‘Een Germaansche Grafheuvel’. The flowing melody is not even overpowered by the blast beats and grim vocals, sung in old Dutch, and ever streams onward.
The vocals contain a trace of yearning and despair, as they beckon to the olden days of our ancestors. Praising and hailing them as from beyond the grave, which is what the title ‘Ganggraf’ refers to as well as ‘Lof op ‘t Hunebed’. Though the sound rarely shifts from its initial modus, the topic does on ‘Bloed om Bloed’, which is more battle ready and speaks of taking up arms against the enemy. The rhythm does punch harder and more densely, creating a more fierce and heated sound. An urgency takes over as the guttural barks bellow forth. German deities are appraised as we reach these calm, flowing pieces of utter static guitar play. An aural bath almost, with a heavy distorted sound form the strings.
The slow progression of ‘Uittrede’ (you can guess what that means) takes us back from the past to the here and now. With a sense of regret and forlorn emotions, we come to the end of this fantastic record by Uuntar.
Label: Vacant Fulfillment Band: Warren Schoenbright Origin: United Kingdom
Inspired by the Egremont region in Cumbria, Warren Schoenbright created an exceptional record after a residency at the Florence Art Centre, situated on a defunct Haematite mine. It captures the environment, the depressive mood of an industrial site fallen out of use, leaving its remnants behind. This is captured on the record ‘Excavations’.
The band is three-piece, consisting of Daniel McClennan on drums, Alex Virji on bass and vocals, and Iker Ormazabal Martínez on Guitar. While they create drone/noise, their music is quite easy to listen to. Imagine something in between 5F-55 and Godflesh, and you kind of have it. Add the human nihilism to a sort of found organic sound in the industrial decay, and there we have Warren Schoenbright.
The album opens with minimal sounds and a more ambient like atmosphere, up until the droning sound swells and unleashes in a torrentuous, sludgy mass of guitars. A massive, industrial water slide, that is both heavy and hypnotic, disgusting and harmonious at the same time. No wonder that the group collaborated earlier with Caina on their ‘Christ Clad in White Phosphorous’ album to add a heavy foundation of urban despair of nauseating, gritty firmness. Exactly that is what they bring to this release too.
The album only contains one, ongoing track, so it is like being caught in the worst and most grim water slide you could ever imagine. The clanging sounds of metal, the pulsating beats of machinery and the constrictive nature of the music emulate the work that once took place on the location that served as inspiration for this record. For just under 25 minutes, you are stuck, completely held in thrall by the beating, surging rhythm, and darkness of Excavations.
Label: Transcending Obscurity Band: Gaerea Origin: Portugal
Portuguese band Gaerea may be a rather new name on the block, but their album ‘Unsettling Whispers’ doesn’t show any reluctance or unjust humble beginnings. It’s a piece of work, forged like steel. The album has been out for a little while, but there’s no need to let that stop a review of this piece of sonic defiance.
The debut by the band comes rather soon, as they’ve only been at it since 2016. An EP precedes this slab of black metal and little effort is spared to make this something special as a release, including a booklet that gives context and contours to this project, that embraces the arts as much as the heavy and brutal of the music.
Gaerea embraced the big and bombastic sound, aligning themselves musically with the likes of Behemoth and DimmuBorgir, maybe with a little Blut Aus Nord thrown in there for good measure. Abyssal bombardments of drums and bass, with a sense of the infinite behind it At times the sound effects add interesting tones to the palette, but also the vocals switch to something more hardcore-like during ‘Whispers’, which functions very well within the dense repetitions and cataclysmic riffing.
The sound combines into a solid entity, yet allows for plenty of subtle nuances and clear energy flowing through the guitars and vocals. The risk of a sound like that of Gaerea could be that becoming a lumbering, hard to steer behemoth. That clearly has been avoided, creating a brimming sort of vitality in the sound. Massive and unrelenting, this is an album that completely blazes it’s own path, from start to finish. Disregarding genre rules and black metal clichés in order to create an all-devouring, black hole of sound. A sonic baptizing in their own bleak battering sound.
Gaerea claims their spot with this debut release, no doubt about that.
Parzival has intrigued me as an artistic collective since the first time I came into contact with their music. The booming, strong sound, the deep voices, the forceful, totalitarian notion to their expression. Coming across their latest release, I grabbed the chance to ask them a few questions.
Though the Danish group is very busy, they found time to respond to my questions. The group is currently working on the following release and has recently unveiled their record ‘Urheimat Neugeburt’. A work that engages the listener in a reinterpretation of their classic ‘Urheimat’ album.
Read about the group and their recent efforts here.
The Order of Parzival
Hello! How are you doing?
++ “We are doing fine by your prayer”
Parzival is unlike pretty much any music group I can think of. I am curious how your sound shaped itself and what inspired you to choose this very distinct direction that could perhaps be most closely described as a mixture of Laibach, Wagner and marching music?
++ “Laibach is a good band, no doubt – but if you listen to our music carefully, it is very different from them – especially the harmonies and the overall ideas. You can also compare Deep Purple to Uriah Heep – they don’t sound like each other, but basically they have the same roots. And I think that’s the same for Parzival and Laibach. We have a lot of the same musical roots, but we don’t think Laibach have ever made something that sounds like our album “Casta”. Our true inspirations are stuff like Swans and Diamanda Galas, but mostly classical music like Wagner, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. But also Vedic music. And sometimes you get some feelings you just suck in. All the best fluids are always in the air”.
What can you tell about the record ‘Urheimat’. What is its meaning and story behind its creation?
++ “We were trying to recall feelings of old school EBM mixed with our bombastic minimal music. The concept of the album was the lyrical idea about a pre-fatherland, which all of us are looking for. Primitive eternal questions… why are we here? Why are we here? And we do believe our presence in this world is not vain. Do you think your presence in this world for you is in vain?”
Why did you return to this record and brought it back as ‘Urheimat Neugeburt’? What did you do to reinvigorate the music and did you aim for a new message in 2018?
++ “We are still very satisfied with the original version, but we wanted to explore a new sound and it was a bit more easy to do it with new versions material already made. The original album is old school EBM, so of course it was not that easy to convert in this new “gnostic rock” sound. Basically, we wanted to introduce electric guitars and acoustic drums in our music again. You know, we didn’t use electric guitars and acoustic drums since “Blut Und Jordan” from 2002. When we started to work with the guitars we preferred to reconstruct some old songs for the new sound, but it was much complicated than we thought. But we really like the result. We need to add that there is also a totally new song there “Lord Of The Sea”, and a new version of a song from the “Casta” album.”
What has changed internally, with Parzival itself, in the time between the two releases?
++ “Spiritually we are always the same. But of course, we have experienced with our sound. It’s our challenge. The concept of the band will die with us, but music will remain”
I imagine that your aesthetics, sound and work is often misinterpreted. Even the name of this album might be cause for some to immediately ring alarm bells. In a world of ‘triggers’ and polarization, where does Parzival fit in?
++ “We do like totalitarian aesthetics, but we don’t have any political views from the art to the world. Because art exists separately from the domestic things, in our opinion. You can also misinterpret a Herculus statue, because it also looks aggressive – and you can describe the statue from any point of view. But no, Parzival is not a political band, we are an art and aesthetic band that suits our spiritual feelings”.
What future plans do you have right now with Parzival?
++ “For the coming time, we will concentrate on promoting “Urheimat Neugeburt” and play some gigs in connection with this. As mentioned earlier, we are already working on a new album, which we hopefully will record later this year. We never have breaks – as we have our own studio we can work really at all times on new music as well as rehearsing for live gigs. We have been going on for 20 years as Parzival (and 25 years as Stiff Miners/Parzival), so it’s a long journey, but it’s for sure not finished yet. And especially, the first news for you is that we already wrote half of the next album, which will sound even different from the last albums. So start spreading the news 😊
Label: Independent Band: Thirst Planet Origin: Israel
For some reason, having a band from Israel playing stoner metal makes complete sense to me. Thirst Planet has been around for a few years and after an EP, they now dropped their first full length, titled ‘The Essence’.
There’s really not so much background for me to divulge here, but let’s suffice that these gents have found a sound of their own in a land that definitely lends itself for this style, with a grim little edge to it for the sake of things. Leaves you thirsty as well.
Opening with stiff, rugged riffs, ‘The Chain’ is a stoner classic with a feisty little nuance in the flow of the sound. Something is slightly off, creating a restlessness in the listener at times. Vocal efforts by Leonid Mickoliuk remind me a little bit of that top-of-throat squeeze you hear with bands like Conan and maybe even a little bit of Weedeater.
The music of Thirst Planet has an unmistakable groove to it, catchy and easy to dive into. Some samples are used, but overall you just surf on those excellent riffs and imagine sand between your teeth as a strong gale blows it up on tracks like ‘Into The Unknown’ and the bone-dry ‘Planet of Thirst’. One track that particularly stands out, is ‘The Arrival’, with its hooky riffs and build-up. The song seems simple, but really builds up some excellent tension, supported by the angst in the vocals.
Perhaps Thirst Planet never really pushes the envelope and brings in some new sound. I’d gladly take a second glass of this though.
Label: Kuunpalvelus Band: Cosmic Church Origin: Finland
The final chapter in the remarkable career of CosmicChurch is finally there. Erratic, devoid of conventions and solitary, the Finnish project has found its own place in the pantheon of the northern black metal and ‘Tättymys’ is the last and posthumous release.
The band has always been a singular effort by Luxixul Sumering, who also created his art under the banners of Frozen Grave, Asymmetrical, and AuraSaturnal. This project has always projected a different experience, an uncanny cosmic journey and this is an amazing one to embark on.
We enter a strange world of beautifully woven black metal with a variation of folk elements injected into the fabric of the sound. Dense, yet full of space the tunes unfold with an easy grace. That definitely goes for opener ‘Aloitus’, but the almost nine-minute long ‘Armolahja’ is a spectacular display of soundscapes. The cover of the record does its work to, playing on the imagination of the listener. At times that means some faerie-like atmospheres with the eerie singing on ‘Sinetti’.
There’s definitely something otherworldy about Cosmic Church, but also a classic grandeur and sense of decorum on the beautiful ‘Huuto’, which feels like a symphony, played with such gentle movements and warm tones. That doesn’t mean the band can’t put a bit of raw, straight-forward material in there with ‘Vangittu’. Yet, it also holds a piping madness, that you’d sooner connect to OranssiPazuzu and the like.
After a brief intro, we then find ourselves at the final song, wich is a mournful dirge for its opening part. From a low, churning riff we then start the ascent to the climactic ending of Cosmic Church. Densely atmospheric, almost aetherial, the last notes die away after a good while. Ascending, we find a highlight of this remarkable band, that I found out about way too late I believe.
Label: Bloodcrown Records Band: Noctu/Augu Sigyn Origin: Italy/Denmark
This split features two doomy bands, the first being Noctu from Italy. Noctu happens to be the sole member and also plays in Atra Mors and Necromist. After a full length, this is the first record with an English title by the funeral doom project from Crema.
The slow, dirge-like doom by the Italian artist has a certain cinematic quality and minimalism to it. Only lurching forward with an ever lumbering pace, the vocals are muddled into the mix where they hardly seem to really convey any meaning anymore. On ‘Lacerazioni Tra Le Ombre’, they merely appear as abyssal murmurings, rumbling in the distant haze of the sound. With a long intro and outro to his part of the record, Noctu demonstrates a knack for dense atmospheres and troubling ambient.
Strangely enough, AugaSigyn immediately hits you with a sort of crusty doom sound. The Danish act from Svendborg has released some EP’s before, mostly in the native language too and now the duo, also active in DjævlesSkrig, Blackhorned, Grimnismál and a gazillion other projects, participates in this split.
Instantly noticeable are the vocals by Sarah Lee Berthelsen, who bars and howls as if possessed on ‘Antropomorfisk Form’. it’s unnerving, resounding clearly over the distorted, warped guitar sound of their primitive pitch-black doom metal. The harrowing sound of the Danish duo is definitely for the sensitive souls, particularly on ‘Den Hængte Mands Bøg’ the sound is quite derailed and maddening even. Rabid barks and an almost ritualistic drumming is accompanied by piping guitar tunes. It helps to bring the record to its creepy ending.
Djinn are creatures of fire, which is why they are invisible, yet destructive. Another creature in Saudi Arabia, that features those characteristics is the elusive AlNamrood. An entity operating under a veil of mystery for very real and tangible reasons. In this country, it can be punishable by death to play dark blasphemous music.
AlNamrood has been steadily delivering music since 2008 and the international attention for the project seems to have given it a boost. The last album Enkar, released in 2017, clearly caught many listeners ear with the raw sounds or protest that could easily be compared to the better bits of Darkthrone. A live show however, that will not happen soon unfortunately.
Through their label Shaytan Productions I managed to ask Mephisto, the master behind this project, some questions. Unfortunately a Skype chat or such is for obvious reasons not possible, but he was kind enough to update us on Alnamrood.
Fear is Slavery, it sickens us
Hello Mephisto, how are things? How is it going with AlNamrood? AlNamrood is going progressively as usual.
Understanding your need for anonymity, could you shed some light on yourself as a person behind the band? What made you want to do this music and how did you arrive at black metal? I play guitar, I’m influenced by the extreme metal of fast picking, open strings, and catchy riffs. The main driver to start AlNamrood was the need to express the rage of daily oppression we deal with. Black metal was a great platform, although we fall toward punk more often, either ways, this music satisfy our needs.
Who are currently in AlNamrood and how did you get in touch? I imagine that reaching out to find members can be challenging and even risky for you. Could you tell me about that? Humbaba and I are the main members, we knew each other for years, but we only came to work together since 2013, we released the album Heen Yadhar Al Gasq Translates to ‘when dusk appears’. I think I’m very lucky to know Humbaba, he is literally the only mate I share my thoughts with, not only music. Finding members indeed is a risky business, not if it is impossible in the first place. This is why the AlNamrood line up is limited.
Your most recent album came out last year. What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of this album? Enkar was fairly experimental, it was a very interesting experience, the roughness, and the low down dark sound was exactly what we cooked for. The guitar recording was aimed to be down tuning, drums were built based on thrash/punk beats, Arabian instruments were pushed back in the background, the bass is clear. We also used the stem mastering done by EndarkerStudio in Sweden, however, the recording and mixing were done by us.
What is the story on the album? And what message are you trying to convey on this record? “Enkar” translates to “denial”, and this album (as each album had a core point and narrative) articulates the phenomena of social denial, in particular, what we experience in a daily basis in our community. We expressed the psychosomatic drivers or psychological tricks used to program thoughts as if those are ideas and believes shoved into people minds, and how people accept repression as a safe ticket than speaking out against it. The issue about the Middle East in general, is people riddled with religion, ignorance, and fear. Fear has created slavery, and authority has succeeded to use religion as a tool to empower this fear and make people kneel to tyranny, in order to get the big prize in afterlife heaven, while this life is mortal and not worth it. This has extended to the point of people started to enslave themselves without anyone asking them to. Nowadays, the religious icons do not need to go into platforms to push for their ideologies like in the past, the people themselves will start to defend religion and raise flags of patriotism even though their rights are crushed, this programming is well done and it sickens us to see people suffer from their own doings.
When I listened to your album, I felt it contained a certain level of punk elements. From the artwork (and of course the anarchist symbol in the band logo) to the raw and direct sound of the record. I felt the music was truly rebellious. How do you feel about this? You described it very well.
In previous interviews, I’ve read some pretty strong convictions when it comes to religion. Can you tell me some more about your name and views?
As the name implies, we are sick from the religion and its affiliation, we are sick from nationalism and its idiocy, we are sick of the system and how it aimed to work for the specific class in society. We renounce ourselves from all of that.
You’ve used a lot of traditional or if I may say folkish elements and instruments. I’m very interested in what these are and where they originate from.
Typically, we used oud, Kanoon, Ney and of course darbuka.
As the situation in the middle-east seems to be changing in many places, what is the status of censorship, dangers, and liberties you are facing as a musician in Saudi Arabia?
No change in term of censorship and liberties. The claim in moving the country into liberalism is a hoax and no merely than a propaganda.
You have had, as far as I am aware, one face to face interview with a Dutch journalist. What was it like to do that for you, coming from a risky situation and meeting in such a manner?
As long as the interview was not done on Saudi soil and it is purely aimed at Dutch readers, we assessed the situation and agreed to it, after all, there won’t be any public prevalence of our identity. The meeting was fine, the interviewer was flexible and understanding, it was a nice meeting.
I understand that everything when it comes to facilities is pretty challenging too, from instruments, rehearsal spaces to recording and having music or merchandise. Can you describe that to me? Also how you work on getting your work to the label etcetera and influencing all the aspects of the creation.
It is very difficult; we do everything in the home-based studio, very discreet. We get our equipment from close by countries and online, usually the problems occur with getting guitars, there could be some questions, but we manage. We communicate with the label online, everything is sent online.
You pay particular attention to the certain symbolism in the words, but also in the videos. I’m very curious to learn how you do get to make videos, merchandise etcetera, even though there’s an obvious limit on what you can do. I understand you travel a lot, is that key for all this?
The merchandise is handled by the label, the music videos are also handled by the label, expect the last video was done by a Dutch friend. Yes, traveling helps a lot, we created good contacts around the world.
In a previous interview it was mentioned that due to a criminal record, the band would not be able to fully leave the country. How is that situation now and could you shed some light on what might constitute a criminal record in your country?
We can’t disclose any details on this question, all that we can say is what many people are thrown in jail for stating their opinion. Which is not considered a crime in any developed world.
Are there any other bands that play metal in your country at the moment and what sort of history does the music style have in Saudi Arabia?
None that we know or heard of. Saudi Arabia has little history of music, unless if you count national music as a musical event?
Are there any bands currently active that you would recommend?
Nothing that we can recommend.
I wanted to ask you if other bands faced similar difficulties as you do?
I don’t think so, as long as they are nationalist and with a side of religion, no problem at all. Maybe they will be misjudged for a satanic group, that’s the worst it can be.
What are your future plans for AlNamrood or any other projects?
To continue what we do, until one day when can leave and start a normal band life somewhere in the world. (AlNamrood is releasing a new record
If you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?
Spicy course, because spices make your blood pressure goes up and your ear to ring and you will sweat if it not suitable for you.
Is there anything you would like to share?
Label: Antiq Records Band: Régiment Origin: France
Many bands have a fascination for World War II. It’s atrocities are those of a modern war but on an exceptionally large scale. We often seem to forget that it was the second for a reason. Régiment takes as a topic the first world war and makes an album on just that with the very enjoyable ‘On Les Aura!’.
Featuring members of Astaroth, AnusMundi, Lugnasad, Braquemaard, Hanternoz and many, many more (even Peste Noire), this is a talented group. Interestingly, they share their topic with only a few other artists, amongst them 1914, who I spoke with before. This is, to this point, the only release by the band and even though it’s a couple of years old it can hardly be ignored.
Starting with the hopeful, proud banner song that drives the soldiers into battle, this record instantly sets the vibe for the Great War. Call it black metal, or maybe war metal if you’re into that sort of thing, but ‘Sauvagerie Prussienne’ is a rude awakening to the horror of the trenches. Referring to the anti-German sentiments, it also evokes the powerful warmachine of the Reich with big, lumbering movements and heavy rhythms. There’s a venomous intensity to the sound of Régiment though, one that makes you want to storm those enemies. The whole concept is full of paradoxes though, with the cover showing a glorifying portrait of Philippe Pétain (also the title refers to him), known as the French commander, but also remembered for his way of dealing with mutineers. It’s not a glorification of war, but a very particular experiencing of the events through singular, personal eyes.
We slow down a bit on ‘La Mort du Negre’, which conveys the story of a black soldier, dying next to his enemy. Also it refers to a Joseph Conrad novel, It combines heavy metal riffing with black metal barbarity in a very effective manner, which offers moments of relief and strong melodic passages for the listener. The sound is exceptionally gritty as we move on and hit ‘En Avant!’. It’s the sonic equivalent of crawling through the mud flat on your belly. It’s such an exceptionally enjoyable record. Full of power and energy, enriched with samples to set the right mood. You can’t go wrong with this. When is the next release due, guys?