All posts by Guido

I'm just a geek.

Underground Sounds: Häive – Iätön

Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede
Band: Häive
Country: Finland

Janne Väätäinenis clearly not a man that allows himself to be rushed with things. His project Häive has been around for 15 years and this is the second album. A noteworthy fact is that the predecessor to ‘Iätön’ came out 10 years ago. Well, good things take time and that’s definitely the case with this release.

The theme Häive uses is mostly nature, which can be deduced from the great record cover. Väätäinen hasn’t been sitting still for the last 10 years either. The last thing this band did, was contribute to a compilation with bands like WinterfyllethPrimordial, and Drudkh. In the meantime, the musician juggles projects like Antabus, Auringon Hauta, My Blood and Tevana3. Well, enough banter, let’s get to the music.

Iätön opens with an intense bit of Iron Maiden-esque guitar work, which is immediately catching on. The title track opens (which translates as ‘Ageless’ by the way), with 2 minutes of fine screaming guitars, before we launch into ‘Turma’ (translates as Ruin). The sound of Häive is big and open, with a lot of that grand riffing. A folky vibe is in there, when the sound evokes vistas of valleys, mountains and rough, unscathed nature in all its splendor. The cover of the record, of course, stimulates that sort of imagery as well, but I think the spacious sound helps.

A grand sound is constantly present, even on the doom-laden ‘Kuku, kultainen käkeni (Sing my Golden Bird)’, with its slow procession and those laborious guitars. It’s a dense atmosphere that the band sets out and most praiseworthy is that it never feels like most one-man bands with that one-dimensional sound. The layered elements create something spectacular. A rare acoustic bit fits nicely in the mix, like on ‘Tuulen Sanat (The Spell of Wind)’. Truly, this record reminds me of some older Moonsorrow stuff.

There’s no typical folk metal vibe here, but the essence is present. Not the type where you bring your kilt and a drinking horn for a dress-up party, but something more deep and meaningful. I really enjoyed this record because of that and the particular attention to the composition.

Underground Sounds: Jassa – Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis

Label: Fallen Empire Records
Band: Jassa
Origin: Russia

The Russian band Jassa hails from the St. Petersburg region. They’ve released three albums thus far, dealing with pagan themes of chthonic deities. These deities are, frankly said, quite unknown to me, but that hardly diminishes the force and grandeur of this pagan black metal band. They’re entities that are hinted at in archeological finds and myths but elude our knowledge. Jassa is a deity worshipped by the ancient Novgorod Slavs. That makes for a great mythical theme obviously for ‘Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis’.

Jassa has some experts in their ranks, who honed their skills in some fantastic bands before. Guitar- and bass player Vladimir and drummer Aeargh are mostly known for their project Sivyi Yar, where they create magnificent atmospheric black metal. The drummer additionally hits the skins in Zoebeast, Toxic Bleat, and Death Rattle. Singer Erier has tons of projects, was active in Fimbulwinter, but now is active in Khashm, Bestial Deform and Septory and more.

The bluster and rage in the sound of Jassa are quite overwhelming. From the opening track of ‘Beyond Time, Shapes and Names’ it is a pure onslaught of obliterating drums, massive riff-work, and unearthly vocals. It matches the name of the band in its subterranean cavernous darkness. This is the pagan rage at its best, bestial and abhorrent in it’s thrashing and punching. The way the drums are applied is really quite the captivating part. From a wild battering to the fierce rhythms that give the sound its backbone, Jassa keeps you hanging on for your life.

Oh, there’s also a mouth harp in there somewhere, which to me has been a great piece of instrumentation in black metal ever since Moonsorrow did it. I particularly enjoy the vocals of Erier, who has embraced a vocal range for this record that truly compliments the whole compositions. These are dense and heavy as fuck. On ‘Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis’, we hear something different though. Eerie, thin guitar lines pierce the hazy sounds and offer a base for murmured, deep spoken word passages. It offers a rare calm to the listener, with a ritualistic atmosphere that envelops you as a listener.

Another particular song is ‘Shadows Glide Quietly Among the Trees’, which has a particular sound in certain passages. They seem to drop into a more mechanic sound, more condensed and pushed together. The intensity of the sound increases as it slithers and merges. It brings you to the climax of what can only be called a fantastic record of pagan black metal.

Reading of Books #33

A bunch of books I read, with Elaine Pagels, Teresa Iezzi, William Shatner and Aaron Mahnke. Satan, lore, Leonard Nimoy and copywriting all in one post.

Elaine Pagels – The Origin of Satan

Elaine Pagels had previously written about Gnosticism and therefore has e wide and deep knowledge of the early history of the Holy Bible. I’ve always found it very interesting how the Christian faith supercharged a Manichean worldview thanks to their black and white view of the world. You have people that are saved and people that are doomed, which is pretty much how Judaism and Islam view the world too. This was not an unheard of concept, the ancient Greeks viewed everyone who didn’t speak their language as inferior and barbaric, but even that was not to the same extent as the Christian faith changed the way we look at the world.

Satan embodies the other half of the dichotomy in Christianity, raised from a more pagan-like spirit to God-sidekick, he was cast as the opposing force. There’s a lot Pagels has to say about this, pointing out the incongruities of that whole viewpoint, but its shaping by human intervention in the teachings of Christ really has influenced our worldview and the complete dominating nature of these Semitic religions. I was mildly disappointed by this book, simply because most of it is not dealing with the name of Satan itself or its conceptualizations, but its socio-political meaning. This is highly interesting, but the book is mostly a critical reading of Biblical formation and censorship. A topic that can’t be highlighted enough in this illuminated world.

William Shatner – Leonard: My Fifty-Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man

The passing of Leonard Nimoy hit sci-fi fans around the world hard. I still tear up at certain fragments in the new Star Trek films, like the brief scene where Zachary Quinto’s Spock receives word that Nimoy-Spock (time-loop thing, use google) has passed away. There was much ado about the fact that at the funeral one guest was sorely missing. That was William Shatner. His two daughters were present though and Shatner did have a huge event to attend. Though the two grew apart in their later years, Shatner probably felt the hurt of this sudden gap Nimoy left more than anyone else. So then he answered with this book.

The book is the life story of Spock and Kirk, of the men behind them and their long-lasting friendship. The story tells about elements of both their lives, the connective pieces and the discrepancies in the context of busines where friendships are rare. It’s a heartfelt story that includes a lot of painful moments that both men shared. Some moments are quirky and at times there’s a little too much Shatner in the story and too little Nimoy, but friendship is a process and feeling at the same time that is highly personal. It’s a good book, a pleasant read for those that want to experience that remarkable man through the eyes of his remarkable friend. Probably as close as you can get.

Aaron Mahnke – The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures

Aaron Mahnke has been hosting an amazing podcast for a while now and I had never heard of it until I came across this book. Lore is a rather complex term, that involves an element of common knowledge, mystery and its embeddedness in general consciousness. In the podcast, and obviously in the book as well, Mahnke explores the world of mystery and stories that fill our daily lives. Old superstitions are a big part of the book, for example, the story of where the vampire myths come from. The way they shaped and merged into the modern Bela Lugosi-esque view on the mythical being, illuminated through stories of vampire hunters, frauds, and very suspicious happenings.

But Mahnke uses the term Lore very broadly. Modern-day myths also are a part of the book. What you get is a collection of remarkable stories with dubious truths, that put a bit of mystery back into the world we live in. I became aware of the podcast and surrounding outlets during the book, so there’s a tendency in the writing style of short, bite-sized internet communication. You know, sometimes a bit too much suspense and almost sensationalist cliffhangers are a part of the way the stories are brought to you. But that’s what makes them so appealing, the way they often are told. In that sense, this is a great book for those who love the strange and weird.

Teressa Iezzi – The Idea Writers: Copywriting in a New Media and Marketing Era

As someone who has been involved with professional writing for most of my working career (and recently have started to work as a copywriter), I have a constant interest in the field and its development. I have a particular love for language, for the way it captivates us and how we gravitate to good storytelling. Even the opening line of my beloved Star Trek is an example of that: “Space, the final frontier…”. That’s still copywriting in an age where we have a different landscape of media. Advertising has changed a lot through that and Teressa Iezzi brilliantly outlines this in her book.

The best part about this book is that it’s not trying to summarize or conceptualize this new way of advertising. Iezzi tells it, the way it should be told: with stories. The book describes the heroic tales of new advertisers, innovative products, and daring ventures to tell the world about a product. Mostly without talking about the product. It aptly describes the heavy kind of jobs copywriters face and how their job has changed in these recent times to a more and more art-director-like position. A thoroughly enjoyable work, that builds up my enthusiasm more and more for the way words still carry magic as we used to believe.

Underground Sounds: Rebel Wizard – The Warning of One

Label: Prosthetic Records
Band: Rebel Wizard
Origin: Australia

Yeah, yeah… I’m late to the party again, but I’ve been following the Rebel Wizard for a bit now and I actually published an interview with the Australian negative anti-shamanic black metal artist before. So ‘The Warning of One’ has been an EP I’ve listened to regularly for a while, but the words just never came.

First thing you notice is the oddly colored cover. This is highly personal, but for me it strongly stands out. All songs follow a similar pattern of title and are short bursts of frantic energy and ‘wizardly’ negativity. This Nekrasov side project (if I may call it that, because Rebel Wizard seems to have become more active) is definitely not for the fans of traditional black metal. Then again… in a way it really should be.

The opening track ‘ The One I seek’ immediately rips everything apart with furious barks and screams and some of those insta-violence riffs that you’ve come to know the wizard by. The Teutonic thrash vibe with lo-fi recordings creates this gritty, raw feeling that so befits the project. Soaring guitars just hit that nostalgic passion for what makes metal so cool in the first place.
Often that’s the big contrast in the sound; the accessible and catchy riffing combined with the dirty blast beats and raspy snarls of black metal. We stay on that for the duration of ‘One I Know’. After an almost ballad-like intro on ‘One I See’, we get the full brunt of that black metal end of the stick. A distorted, hazy pounding of about 5 minutes follows, with NKSV’s voice that feels like it’s been stretched out with painful methods for an extra grim effect. We end the EP with ‘The One I Call’, which is a demonic track full of turbulent heavy black metal that keeps firing at you. With a crushing climax, this peculiar EP ends and once more Rebel Wizard delivered one hell of a tasty, rifftastic record.

Avarayr: Upholding the Armenian identity

I got in touch with Avarayr and was under the impression that the band was Armenian. I was right, but the band is located in Iran. Getting in touch with bands from these various places in the world, is often a learning experience in itself. Avarayr is thoroughly Armenian, but part of the Armenians that live in Iran. They were brought there 300 years ago by King Abbas and ever since, Armenians have lived in Iran.

The Armenians as a people have been around for a long time. In antiquity, the Armenian Empire was one of the first nations to adopt Christianity and due to its wide spread territories, we can still find Armenians far out of the region that is currently the country named Armenia. This old part of the world has seen much of history and is therefore rich with stories, fables and tales to tell. The perfect soil for a great metal project that Narek Avedyan started back in 2013.

I got in touch with Narek to talk about making metal music in Iran, Armenian identity, System of a Down and much more. He was kind enough to give open and clear answers to my stream of questions so thanks to him for his time.

Upholding Armenian tradition in Iran

How are you doing?

Barev! Doing fine, hopefully everyone else is as well. Surviving, dealing with the occasional existential crisis. The usual, I guess!

Can you tell me how Avarayr got started and what inspired you to go in the musical direction you’ve taken? Which bands inspired you musically?

Avarayr started in late 2012. I kind of got tired from doing what I was doing musically at that time and decided to take things in another direction. Having a keen interest in Armenian/Persian folk music and folk music from different countries in general led me to the direction the band is currently in. There are a lot of inspiring bands and artists I guess. The classic metal stuff we all grew up with. But for Avarayr specifically, the German band Empyrium and their album ‘Songs of Moors and Misty Fields’, as well as Armenian black metal band Vahagn and of course, Armenian folk music. Particularly the works of Komitas.

What does the name Avarayr mean?

Avarayr is historically the name of a battlefield in which a battle of the same name took place between Persian and Armenian forces. It also represents the dilemma a Diasporan Armenian faces. In this case, an Armenian like myself who is born and lives in Iran, but considers himself an Armenian. It represents a clash. A battle, if you will.

As I understand you started out under the name Symphony of Silence, but in 2013 you switched names. Why so? Was this also the point where you decided you wanted put Armenian folklore in the themes of your music?

SOS ceased to exist as a project. The members took different directions and everyone except myself left Iran for good. That was the main reason. Another reason was that I thought SOS would not be an appropriate title for the direction I was about to take musically. I had always wanted to mix Armenian folklore and actually did with SOS (the only EP features renditions of two Komitas pieces, albeit horribly executed) but this time it was the main focus of my path. Finding out that there was another band of the same name out there as well as the Facebook page being hacked were the final nails in the coffin of SOS.

Avarayr is in essence your solo project. How do you go about writing and recording your music, do you get musicians to help you or is it a full solo endeavour?

I compose everything for Avarayr. There are two songs on the full-length which were written by ex-Avarayr guitarist Emin Khechoomian, but other than that everything is on me.  As for recording, the first EP had sampled drums while I handled everything else. The ‘Rituals’ single also had sampled drums, while Emin did guitars and handled bass and vocals.The full-length is a bit different. It features many musicians. Armen Manukyan (who also plays for Avarayr live) handled all of the electric guitar work beautifully. My friend Peter handled drums and percussion. The bass was handled by my friend Narbe (ex-SOS) and I did vocals, acoustic guitars and keys. Additional vocals were provided by my friend Armen Shahbegian and additional winds were performed by my friend Judie (also ex-SOS). Some traditional instruments were handled by some of my Persian friends. Including the Daf, an Iranian percussive instrument performed by my friend Mehdi. By the way these are all our real names. We have names that sound weird to people from other countries anyway, so we didn’t really choose kvlt black metal nicknames.

There is a full band for live shows. Is that something you initially wanted to do with Avarayr or did it evolve?
I did not intend to perform live shows with Avarayr. I kind of dread the “getting-ready” part of doing live shows, but I do love to perform on stage. It just happened by sheer chance. I found two Armenian musicians, Emin and Ervin, in Tehran who were into black metal and tried Avarayr live. I guess it went on from there.

 

Can you tell a bit about the folktales you use. Most people are probably not familiar with these tales, so perhaps you can share a bit about them?

Sure. I mean, the point of using those folktales is to generate interest in Armenian folklore. Which might be a bit naive, cause very few people are into that these days, but it is still important to me. For example, there is a song on the full-length titled Vahagn, which is about the Armenian pagan deity of the same name. Vahagn is the Armenian counterpart to Heracles and is the god of the Sun, fire and thunder. The song itself uses lyrics from Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents, who laments the death of Vahagn, hinting that the traditional values of a nation die with the death of their gods, who are national symbols to many. Another song is called Gelkheght which is about the Gampr, a breed of dogs unique to Armenia. The song tells the tale of a Gelkheght (roughly meaning “it who suffocates wolves”) who descends from Mount Ararat (national Armenian symbol currently in Western Armenia, or modern-day Turkey) to devour the usurpers who are driving Armenia to ruins. Pretty cool stuff, eh?

As I understand it you currently are working on new music with ‘A Symphony Carved in Stone’? And what can the world expect and what is the concept and story on this album? I’m also interested in your recent live album.

Yeah, progress on the full-length is slow but relentless. It was stuck in “production hell” but friends, especially Armen Manukyan, helped it get back on track. I am busy with my studies and have little time to work on it, but it is almost done. Two years in the making! The world can expect an interesting album because there’s everything on it. From black metal, to acoustic ballads and Wardruna-ish folk pieces, all with a specific Armenian twist. It covers a lot of ground. The concept was born naturally from my ancestral Armenian heritage, countless wanderings in nature and wanting to create something new, if not original. It is an album which sprouts from the Armenian highlands and is dedicated to Armenia, hence the name. As for the live album, it was a sentimental release to celebrate the first (and now defunct) Avarayr live line-up. It includes music which will be released as studio versions both on the full-length and future releases.

I saw on your Facebook page that you’re looking for a drummer in Iran, how so?

I’d really like to have a stable band in Tehran which can always rehearse and be ready for shows in Armenia (and in Tehran, in case of a miracle). Most of the live line-up resides in Armenia and we have little time to rehearse for shows. Everything works out great every time, but having at least a stable drummer would be pretty cool. Shout out to Arthur, our lovely drummer from Armenia and Astghik, our keyboardist. They always managed to help the band put on a kickass show. Double horns to Emin Aghajanian from Outcast Minority, Mher Azizbekyan from Araspel and Side Project (yes, that’s a band name!) and my brother Christopher Amirian for filling in on bass.

What is it like to play metal in Iran, are you allowed to play metal and isn’t it lonely as an outsider?

Well, we can play metal here, but only if concerts are performed with clean vocals or only instrumental. You also need to have permission from the ministry of culture. It’s all quite strictly regulated and people must remain seated at the show. Personally, I don’t associate much with the Persion metal scene, but I do know almost every act there is from Iran. I’m not in contact with most of them though, but one act to look out for is From The Vastland. The story of Sina’s music is quite remarkable, you can see it in the Blackhearts documentary film.

What is the metal scene like in Armenia? It seems that it’s quite a thriving scene, can you also tell a bit about its history and which bands started it?

Armenia is a small country. Hence, the metal scene is also small. Nowadays it consists mostly of teenagers and young adults who like going to shows and having a great time. My love to them all, because they truly support my music. As for the history, the origins are somehow obscured. Many consider the band Apostles (from the 70’s) to be the first Armenian rock band, and I agree.

The band Ayas was definitely one of the first metal ones. Think thrash mixed with classical and King Diamondesque vocals. There was also Asbarez. This was in the 80’s. The 90’s had bands like MDP. Progress was slow because of this little annoyance called the Soviet Republic (until Armenia gained independence in 1991) and that’s why not a lot remains of the early years except some low-quality cassette/vinyl rips on Youtube. In the 2000’s, the scene grew because of two main promoters. MetalFront (now defunct; they brought the likes of Melechesh and Arkona) and Zhesht Events (who would go on to bring giants such as Sepultura and Napalm Death). Zhesht still regularly organizes underground shows in Armenia. Some of the prominent bands of this new era were Sworn, Sadael, Aramazd and Dogma. A company called Vibrogreipus (I probably butchered the name) has brought the likes of Jethro Tull and Ian Gillan to Armenia. Interest in rock and metal grew a lot in 2015, when all-Armenian band System of a Down performed in Armenia for the first time, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

How significant is System of a Down for you and for metalheads in Armenia?
Almost every Armenian metalhead loves at least one song from System of a Down. For me, they are idols and I think the same goes for many other Armenians. I grew up listening to their music and they inspired me in countless ways. Meeting them in Armenia was surreal. They are such humble guys man. They do and have done so much for Armenia and the Armenian cause. That’s why people react to them in such a strong way. In a world where people like Kim Kardashian are the ones representing Armenia globally, System of a Down are like gems. They have become part of our national identity.

Is everything readily available to you, like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music and places to play gigs at?

In Tehran, almost everything is available. Avarayr has always had its own rehearsal space. I also have access to a recording space, though I do most of my work from my bedroom. Places to play gigs at in Iran are very, very limited due to metal being illegal in the country. Hence why Avarayr doesn’t play in Iran that much. We can only play shows in Armenian centers for Armenian audiences only. Outside of that, you could secure gigs for a Persian audience, but with no harsh vocals. It’s a bit complicated and anticlimactic for me. Which is why I prefer to perform in Armenia.

In many places, playing black metal brings with its risks and taboos. I’m talking about censorship, politics, religion etc. Is there anything like that you have to deal with?

Well, I never add any political/religious message to Avarayr. Because let’s be honest, one wrong move in Iran and you’re done for. People might call me a coward for not speaking on taboo subjects, and I probably am. But to me, music comes first and foremost. Even though almost all metal bands from Iran are underground, and quite frankly nobody cares about what they do, even underground bands can get into trouble for crossing the line. I like being behind the line. It’s comfortable. It’s cozy!

Which bands from Armenia should people definitely check out (and why)?

Oh gods…so many to name! Off the top of my head, I’d go for Sworn, Vahagn, Dogma, Aramazd, Unaesthetic, Divahar, Eternally Scarred, Ildaruni, Symmetria, Aralez (based in Germany), Araspel, Nosferatu, Highland (based in the US), Odz-Manouk, Tork Angegh, Ghoulchapel, Sickdeer and Vox Clamantis (also from the US) and many more. Why? Because they are amazing. And you can find some very refreshing ideas in the Armenian music scene. I also recommend non-metal acts such as Hogh, The Clocker, Miqayel Voskanyan and Tigran Hamasyan.

Is there a political aspect to Avarayr? You’ve recently put out a live album titled ‘Echoes From the Diaspora’ and covers of Inquisition and Burzum that might hint to a political agenda.

The answer to that is definitely a no. I do have my political ideas, but I keep Avarayr (and most of my music in general) apolitical. I focus mostly on preserving Armenian culture. People may call that nationalistic, and it might be. I don’t think it is. I don’t put Armenian culture above any other culture. It’s just highlighted in my music because that’s what I enjoy doing. I believe in the promotion and preservation of national history and heritage, but not at the cost of belittling other cultures. Cultures and races are different and that difference is what makes this world exciting.

As for the Burzum and Inquisition covers. The first Burzum cover was done simply to promote the band. It was an easy cover to do. The rest were done for the sole reason of myself being a huge fan of Burzum’s MUSIC, not the ideology behind it. I do not support nor condone the non-musical ideologies of Varg Vikernes. As for the Inquisition one, it was simply done to test my recording equipment. I needed a simple song. That one only has 4 chords which are repeated again and again. As for the ideology, I again am not in line with whatever those guys believe in. I’m just a fan of their music. In retrospect, if I could go back in time, I probably wouldn’t choose that song because a lot of people misunderstood it and misunderstood me. But what’s done is done. No point in regrets. I am, however, fond of it because it brings back a lot of great memories. The recording process for that cover was frigging hilarious.

What future plans does Avarayr have at this point?

The release of the full-length is definitely a priority. After that, a hiatus from playing live is probably inevitable. Our guitarist Armen is going to serve at the Armenian military for two years and I kind of need a break to get back into composing mode. Avarayr will definitely be active in the studio.

If you had to compare Avarayr to a dish (food), what would it be and why?

Chalaghach (Armenian pork dish), with a side of Tolma (a common dish in countries from the region) and a pint of Armenian Kilikia draft beer. If you haven’t had any of these, then I’d say a visit to Armenia is long overdue! Thanks for this interview! Let the metal flow!

 

Aleksey Evdokimov, Author of Doom Metal Lexicanum

Cult Never Dies and Crypt Productions are soon releasing a book that has been rightly called a behemoth: The Doom Metal Lexicanum. This is the work of endless lost hours in late evenings and forgotten nooks and crannies in the life of Aleksey Evdokimov.

The impossible undertaking slowly took shape and Aleksey found the right people to collaborate with to get this passion project out there. Dayal Patterson, known for the fantastic series of books on black metal, is releasing this under the banner of Cult Never Dies Productions. There have been books on death metal and black metal, but doom metal seems to have been overlooked… until now.

I got in touch with Saint Petersburg inhabitant Aleksey to ask some questions about this massive undertaking, which he was kind enough to answer. If you are already keen to get your hands on the book, make sure you order it now!

The Scribe of Doom: Aleksey Evdokimov

Hey Aleksey, how have you been?

Hi Guido! Much better now, because we’ve finished with this. Now only this interview and two more for Esquire and Men’s Health stand between me and long-awaited relax time.

Can you tell a little bit about yourself?

I live and work in Saint Petersburg, Russia. I listened to metal since my school days, and back in the late 90s, I was a real fanatic, reading every magazine I could find here, translating songs’ lyrics and etc. I work in the field of electrical engineering, but I write for different e-zines, blogs and sometimes magazines since 2006. I have few interviews dated 2004 and 2005, but it wasn’t serious. In around 2010 I’ve joined the doommantia.com crew, then was TempleOfPerdition, few interviews for Doom Metal Front magazine, SludgeLord and PsychedelicBaby e-zines. Nowadays I write for doom-metal.com, nocleansinging.com, OutlawsOfTheSun and bi-monthly magazines InRock (Russia) and Fire (Italy).

Aleksey originally suggested a picture of him dancing amongst the tombstones, but time restrictions made this the result.

So, what got you attracted to doom metal in the first place, what was its appeal to you?

Originally it was death doom metal: Tiamat with Clouds, Paradise Lost album Icon, a few videos from the “Beauty In Darkness” compilation like Celestial Season and Substance For God… Some bands who played doom in their early years like Anathema, Cemetery Of Scream, The Equinox Ov The Gods, Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy and so on. From some point onward I was satiated with this aesthetic and here Reverend Bizarre and Abysmal Grief appeared! I already knew Cathedral, but Reverend Bizarre is a turning point. II: Crush The Insects appeals me both with its instrumental and lyrical components. I guess that I always give my attention to songs with good lyrics. In a case of Abysmal Grief its grim sepulchral atmosphere, it’s impossible to resist.

You’ve mentioned that your motivation for starting this project, was mainly that there was simply no book about the genre. Is there really nothing?

As far as I know there was only A-Z of Doom, Goth & Stoner Metal by Garry Sharpe-Young in 2003. The scene has changed a lot over these last 14 years, and its name speaks for itself, right? Two years ago when I started working on the Lexicanum, it seemed to be right time for another one. I really don’t know why no one has written it before me, I don’t pretend to be the mister Know-It-All. I just knew how to do it, I wanted to pay some respect to the bands I like, and I wanted to finish with my time-consuming and free hobby of doing reviews and interviews with one final work.

When you started out, how did you imagine the end result would look. What was your initial approach to this daunting task?

In 2015 my friend had shown me Bible Of The Devil, a self-released encyclopedia written by Italian enthusiast Alberto Bia. I even wanted to write it together with Alberto, but we have different methods of work, so that wasn’t good idea. I’ve written down the list of bands I suppose to fit in the book, and I’ve checked how many interviews I already had with these artists. There were about 550-600 names in this list, and I interviewed less than 200 bands from this list.

I decided to limit myself to the traditional doom scene and sub-genres related to it because it would be impossible to include also death doom and funeral bands in one book. Big bands deserve more space, and when you have Candlemass, My Dying Bride and Pentagram in one book, you barely find space for new outfits with shorter discographies. For the same reason, I tried to avoid pure stoner bands, though if you’ll take a look at bills of Doom festivals, then this genre is a big part of the scene. Nevertheless, purists probably will be disappointed. Well, they’re free to write a better thing. I did talk with Sami Hynninen, the General Doom Puritan, and he points that if he ever managed to write a book about doom scene, then he would include there 5 or so bands. Also, don’t forget that none of the doom legends even knew that they played “doom” until some journalists told them they did.

My vision was to have a book built up out of articles which combines reviews and interviews; I prefer interviews because they allow artists themselves to express what they really mean, the reviews are subjective thing… And speaking about discographies: I tried to mention in the articles every release bands have, but I only mentioned LPs in the discographies section. If I started to list all smaller records of Reverend Bizarre or Pentagram, that would be a nightmare.

Most of the project you did by yourself, how did you manage to keep yourself motivated and did you experience any noteworthy things with the bands you were writing about?

At some point, I just know that there’s no turning back. Also, I worked together with Mike Liassides (editor of doom-metal.com) and Tana Haugo Kawahara (Eternal Elysium’s bass player), I couldn’t tell them: “Thank you for your job! I prefer to stop!” My English is far from perfect, and they both edited all my bad grammar, scanning the texts I send them. It would be impossible if Mike and Tana didn’t lend me helping hand back then.

Also, I had the plan, I knew how to fulfill it. The only thing that I usually didn’t have was enough of time. But strict planning and love of the doom genre motivated me enough.As for noteworthy things… Communications with some bands are an interesting thing in itself most of the time.

Did you experience any setback during the writing?

One of my goals was to have an interview’s quote in each article, a direct speech from each band I write about. I have interviews done for one big part of my list, and I intended to interview others bands as well. That means I did send requests for interviews to each band you find in the book. And if you don’t see the direct speech in the article about some band, that just means that interview never happened. Few bands didn’t reply, few promised but didn’t answer in the end, with few big bands I almost organized interviews through their managers but it didn’t happen too. People are people… Anyway, I had a chance to interview a lot of excellent bands, which really counts.

Another problem I had is reviewing the albums. We cut some albums’ descriptions during the final proof of the whole text, yet anyway, you know – doom metal has its own rules, doom rock or stoner doom have their own as well. So when you write about 360 bands, you’re doomed (pun unintended, ed.) to repeat yourself when you describe their music. It’s not prog rock.

The problem to get proper photos with credits from the bands is another story… It seems that a damn lot of bands don’t care about it. Or in some cases, it was difficult to learn the name of the photographer from some band, from their label or even from their PR-crew. We couldn’t use photos without credits, we try to do it legally.

The big deal was to find a publisher. Really I was thinking naively that this part is easy (the doom community is a large family and so on). I wasted a lot of time since January 2017 until February to reach an agreement or even just understanding with few persons. So I was happy when I got in contact with Dayal Patterson of Cult Never Dies in March. And the last painful thing was the necessity to stop. Until very last moment I did want to add one more band, to write more about this or that album and so on. It’s good that Dayal stopped me.

Which parts are your favorites, or which bands did you enjoy writing about most?

Hard to tell… I would tell that I like how articles about Cathedral and Pentagram look. I re-listened their whole discographies in writing these parts. For example with Cathedral it was good to get comments from Adam Lehan and Mark Griffiths; it was the case when I wrote for every band’s members whom I could find including Dave Patchett and exclude Scott Carlson and few members who were there for one year or about that. But I’m disappointed that Dave Patchett didn’t reply, for me his artwork is one of most important Cathedral features. In the case of Pentagram I did interview Joe Hasselvander, originally I did it for Russian magazine InRock, and he’s right person to ask some tough questions.

But my favorite thing in this book, in general, is the fact that there’re such bands like Barabbas, Bevar Sea, Dreaming, The Hazytones or L’Impero delle Ombre amongst big names like Candlemass, Reverend Bizarre or Trouble. It was one of three main points for me – to spread the word about such bands that deserve more exposure and more attention from doom fans.

The original artwork as done by Mila Kiselava

Then at some point, you must have realized that this is really was happening? How did you get the right people to team up with?

When I started writing Lexicanum (autumn 2015), I regularly contributed interviews for doom-metal.com. So, I’ve just asked Mike Liassides if he can proofread my English, and he said “ok”. I guess that Tana Haugo Kawahara joined in June 2016. It was obvious that I had too many texts to put it all on one person (who did this entire job for free), and it was a miracle as Tana suddenly did agree to take part into this mournful labor. I’m endlessly grateful to them.  Also, I should mention Mila Kiseleva, she did the original artwork for the book in a period when I had no publisher yet. You can see it on the back page of the book, she caught my idea well.

You work together with Dayal Patterson and his Cult Never Dies company. How did you get in touch with him and were you familiar with his work on beforehand?

One gentleman from the band which story you can find in the book advised me to ask Dayal. It was March 2017, about 85% of the book was written. So, it was the right man. I see that I couldn’t find better publisher indeed. He got my idea, he did accept it wholly, he knew how to run the project (I already had the Facebook profile for Lexicanum, but he knows few more things how to promote such things more effectively). He was the bridge which leads to this brilliant artwork done by David Thierree, who not only caught my idea well but also perfectly fulfilled it in his painting. But no, I didn’t read Dayal’s books before.

Now, the pre-sale has started. Why should everyone get their hands on this book? What can they expect?

It’s a good Christmas present for doom fans. For people who’re totally into this, for those who collect vinyl. Those who still know how to deal with audio tapes… Like in Cathedral’s song “Cats, Incense, Candles & Wine”, you know? It’s a detailed and honest guide through the doom scene, it’s the right choice for those who want to learn more about doom genre. Also, I heard that it help to build relationships with fair ladies and to gain respect in high society.

What is the next project you’re ready to sink your teeth into?

As people ask, and the monkey on my back demands… It would be right to turn on more extreme doom territories. But it depends on few factors, and I suppose that in a month or two I’ll put my foot down.

Get your book here!

Underground Sounds: Mephistofeles – (((I’M HEROIN)))

Label: Creep Purple Promotion
Band: Mephistofeles
Origin: Argentinia

Allegedly, the doom scene in Argentina is booming and as far as I can judge from this release by Mephistofeles, this is absolutely true. The band from Parana in the southern country, have released one full length before and look like they’re into reviving the oldschool sound and look with their band. As far as I can tell, they’re doing a pretty good job at it in fact.

The trio has only been playing music since 2013, but have racked up a solid array of releases. Now, with the light shining on the regional music scene, things might pick up for them, particularly since this album ‘((( I’M HEROIN )))’ is pretty damn cool if you ask me. From its somber look to its classical vibe, it’s a joy to listen to.

The vibe of this record is totally that of an Electric Wizard record. Thick slabs or doom, catchy riffs and the vocals drowned in effects. Now and then an organ provides a bit of a horror vibe, but most of the time you can just surf the waves of the lingering riffs. The vocals display exactly that bite, that you know well from the Ozzy-style doom followers. In that sense, Mephistofeles sticks to what works in their sound.

Though there’s little originality in the sound you hear, the foreboding horror melodies, the slow, steady progression and heavily distorted sound-swamp are classics that captivate time and time again. A track like ‘Transylvanian Funeral’ is a joy to listen to. You can just hang back and bask in tracks like ‘Thrash Lord’ or in the drug haze of ‘Heroin’.

On ‘Addicted To Satan’, we even have mister Anton Lavey playing some calliope, which is a fitting addition ot the ound of Mphistofeles. A great record, lots of fun, but nothing new under the sun.

Underground Sounds: Vindland – Hanter Savet

Label: Black Lion Records
Band: Vindland
Origin: France

Though it came out in 2016, ‘Hanter Savet’ is seeing a re-release which brought it to my attention and I felt it would be fine to cover it then. It’s the first full length for the band Vindland, who hails from Brittany, the coastal region in France with a dense history and distinct culture. Vindland embodies that.

The sound of the band must make some people think of another group from Sogndal, Norway and smile with a certain melancholy. A noteworthy fact is that all lyrics are in the native Celtic dialect of the region, which is carefully preserved and expresses the Breton identity. Members of the band are or have been active in the grand-sounding Belenos too, so they know how to spin a tale.

It’s a bit odd to hear a band sound so much like Windir did back in the day, but that’s exactly what the epic sound of Vindland promises with the big, majestic riffing. It’s soaring, heroism is catchy and warms the heart of a passionate fantasy-reader like myself. The keys and crisp production really help to emphasize that side of the band. Particularly on songs like ‘Serr-Nozz’ and ‘Treuzwelus’. The tight, battle-ready rhythms of songs like ‘Skleur Dallus’ do their part in turn.

It’s the melodies that really work their magic in the sound of Vindland. Those are the story tellers, that illuminate castle ruins and forgotten wisdom of the ancient Breton lands. Sometimes the downside of the keys and production is the lack of certain organic aspects to the music. Never is Vindland dull or insincere, but the fade in sometimes lacks the natural feel (like on ‘Skorneg Du’). On the other hand, the Breton language offers a whole different dimension and the rock’n’rolling sound definitely catches on easily.

As we move towards the end with ‘Kreud Ar Gwez’, we hear meandering, acoustic tones and the Atlantic winds. The beautiful shores, from where brave ships have sailed and where so much vital history took place. It tells its own story, while we still remember.

Stranger Aeons End of Year List

Another year comes to a close and that means lists. I never really get excited when the prospect comes around because a list is never as complete as you’d want it to be. In a way, it’s a moments recollection of all the good music that came by in the past year. Still, it’s important to look back and share with the world what it might have missed otherwise.

I can mention a load of bands I would gladly have included here. For example, I didn’t really get around to listen properly to Enslaved and Converge’s new records and I had to chose to omit the likes of Power Trip, Akercocke, and Pillorian.  Oh, and Dool came to me in a big way. Well, you can’t have it all, but here is the list as it is:

  1. Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Ceasar
  2. Amenra – Mass VI
  3. JupiterianTerraforming
  4. Au-DessusEnd of Chapter
  5. Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
  6. Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
  7. FiefIII
  8. King of Asgard:taudr:
  9. Al NamroodEnkar
  10. Eschatos – MÆRE
  11. Der Weg Einer FreiheitFinisterre
  12. RaganaYou Take Nothing
  13. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
  14. SpaceslugMountains & Reminisce
  15. GrimaTales of the Enchanted Wood
  16. Myrkur – Mareridt
  17. Hair of the DogThis World Turns
  18. BotanistCollective: The Shape of He to Come
  19. CyaxaresHouse of the Cosmic Waters
  20. Falls of RaurosVigilance Perennial

I would also like to express thanks to the labels that have kindly supplied me with promo materials and support for realizing my goals. In particular thanks to Transcending Obscurity and Qabar Extreme Music PR. Also, thanks to Echoes & Dust for lending weight to my 195 bands project, by publishing these interviews.

May 2018 be a great year in music again. Live long and prosper.

Underground Sounds: qqqØqqq – Burning Stones Of Consciousness

Label: Casetta
Band: qqqØqqq 
Origin: Italy

qqqØqqq is a project dedicated to silence. It’s a creation by Tomasso Busatto (Plasst) on synths, who also runs the Casetta label and Carlo Mantione (Contemplatio) on guitar and pedals. Their sound is a dedication to silence, to meditative calm and the serenity that can be found in there.

The duo hails from Italy and has a certain affiliation with murmur mori. Their music could be described as minimalist and meditative. Their record is out on Casetta, but also on E’ Un Brutto Posto Dove Vivere , Contemplatio, Dreamingorilla Records and Insonnia Lunare Records. This is the sound to immerse yourself in and simply drift away.

The music feels like triphop meets postrock, with plenty of audio samples. The sound has a certain flat flow to it, which just carries you along without ever deviating from its continuation. At times the sound swells to a more violent timbre, but never leaves the current where it is in. Particularly ‘All this Heaviness is just my monolithic self’ stands out by its intensity.

It’s peculiar how spacious the sound can be of qqqØqqq, because the sound at times feels so immense as if you are completely getting lost in it. Ethereal and earthy at the same time, the lazy beat and eerie soundscapes offer a profound expression. The titles appear to refer to states of mind, which are invoked by the sound. For example ‘Crumbling plains and burning stones of consciousness (Feat. H!U)’ has a certain forlorn sound to it. The slow beats crush anything that is still out there, untill only void remains.

This is how qqqØqqq completely blows you away with abstract sounds and immersive beauty. Classify this as ambient or drone, it doesn’t matter, it’s music for the mind.