All posts by Guido

I'm just a geek.

Underground Sounds: Cân Bardd – Nature Stays Silent

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Band: Cân Bardd
Origin: Switzerland

Nature is never really silent, but sometimes you find yourself in a spot where only the silent humming, gentle trickling of water and wind is what reaches you. That is where Cân Bardd takes you on their very first full length, which has a cover that kind of gives away something of what you can expect.

The Geneva natives have been at it for 2 years. The band consists of two members, namely Dylan Watson and Malo Civelli, who both share membership of the band Kaatarakt. That means the folky, traditional themes in their music are not really coming out of nowhere, but a more subtle take is definitely there on this recording.

A medieval, folky intro starts the record, including the ambient sounds required. Slightly dungeon synthy keys enrich the sound and create an extra layer of grandeur. The launch into the atmospheric sound is black metal with a lot of space. The sound is like a valley with a lot of open air for it to breathe in between on ‘My Ancestors’. The folk music never really leaves and even more, it takes the forefront on ‘An Evolving Painting’ with a strings effect.

Though the black metal parts of songs can sound dense and heavy, there’s always an element of condensed force to it. The sound never gets the full space of the spectrum, so folky passages and soothing synths are always at the edges. For example, check the song ‘Océan’, which harrowing cries and silent intermezzo’s, but also the waxing of the waves and burly drums of war. On ‘A Gift of Nature’, we leave the album in smooth tones, pleasant and warm.

A remarkable record by Cân Bardd, hard to really pin down as a black metal record but captivating nonetheless. Enjoyable to day the least!

Underground Sounds: Turia/Vilkacis – Split

Label: Altare Productions, Psychic Violence, Haeresis Noviomagi 
Band: Turia & Vilkcacis
Origin: Netherlands & United States

Turia is an excellent black metal band, hailing from the east of the Netherlands in the ancient parts of Gelderland surrounding Nijmegen. Ok, that’s slightly mystifying, but being on the Haeresis Noviomagi label, it does tell you a bit about the band and their angle. After two remarkable full-lengths, they return with the impressive collaboration split with Vilkacis.

With a high paced rhythm section, Turia immediately lurches forth on ‘Tuchtroede’. The vocals are inaudible screeches that pierce the flow of the music, which meander gently and are filled with intricate melodies, woven into the tapestry of sound. The tremolo guitar play fades into the second track, titled ‘Spiegel der Eenvoudige Zielen’, unleashing the next torrent of dense black metal, with remarkable melody and beauty entwined with the harshness of tormented vocals. A remarkably haunting piece of music.

Vilkacis is the brainchild of M. Rekevics (Yellow Eyes, Vanum, Fell Voices). An uncompromising black metal project, that captures the essence of Eastern European black metal in a full-on barrage. Having released two albums thus far, the project now appears to pick up speed with a new album ant this split coming out in this year. All excellent pieces of music.

The first track immediately feels like a free fall into the abyss. Titled ‘In The Night’s Grip’, it indeed grips your throat instantly and as the melody sinks away in the endless stream of tumultuous guitars, you are going to be swept away. It’s massive grandeur, the epic scale of the notes and eerie melodies, all converge into one show of force. The fatalism shines through on ‘Final March Into Flame’, a dark dirge that takes us away from the album after a long, lurching march. Heavy and filled with grief. Hoarse howls permeate the music as it slowly crawls forward, on battered and broken knees….

 

 

Underground Sounds: Wytch Hazel – II: Sojourn

Label: Bad Omen Records
Band: Wytch Hazel
Origin: United Kingdom

The Lancashire band Wytch Hazel has carved out a special place for their classic heavy metal sound. They trace their roots to the more pre-metal bands with a heavy and epic sound, which is an intriguing experience for those who love a good rocking piece of music. Inspired by the likes of Judas Priest, Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy, you’re in for a treat on this concept album.
Wytch Hazel are, after all, storytellers with a traditional approach to the craft of music making, which is exemplified by their coherent and solid releases. I find it should be noted, that Christian influences are clearly present in the music, which might deter some from checking them out. Don’t let that frighten you though, because it only enhances the conviction and strength of their subject matter and sound on ‘II: Sojourn’. They’re not a Christian band though, but they have religious members in their ranks.
The vocals of Colin Hendra are like honey, so smooth. Those merge with the guitars by himself and Alex Haslam, that truly have that old screaming and wailing quality with a silky touch to them. You can hear a little of Iron Maiden in their ‘Brave New World’ days too, in my humble opinion. Yet, for the influences of these gents, we can go back quite a bit, as there are some music students that take elements of Baroque and Renaissance music into Wytch Hazel, creating a diverse and captivating tapestry of wildly different music, that still resonates as classic hard rock with an edge.
Outstanding tracks are the likes of ‘Save My Life’ and ‘Come See My Demons’, where the clarity of the voice gets special attention. Surely, there are some of these well-known cliches hammered into the lyrics, but the solid bass and drums provide that stiff backbone of the song (in the hands of Matt Gatley on bass and Jack Spencer on drums). They’re even getting to a rather epic point on ‘Victory’, but always stay mellow and grounded with those languid guitar parts, simply sliding along.
The grand finale comes with ‘Angel Take Me’, where additional piano and violin enrich the song, by the hand of Rob Last and Kieran O’Malley. It opens with that soft acoustic playing but slowly unfolds into a blooming dirge. Lamenting vocals lead the way out of the magical world, crafted by Wytch Hazel. An astonishingly great effort.

Underground Sounds: Urze de Lume – As Árvores Estão Secas e Não Têm Folhas

Label: Equilibrium Music
Band: Urze de Lume
Origin: Portugal

The album ‘As Árvores Estão Secas e Não Têm Folhas’ is the latest effort of Portuguese outfit Urze de Lume. Their third album in a string of releases that all carry a particular glowing tradition with them from the Iberian peninsula with gentle guitar music that harks back to a timeless identity.

Little more is given away about the entity that is Urze de Lume. To me, they carry a feeling not unfamiliar to that of Sangre de Muerdago. The same nature-steeped, exploratory melancholy is spicing up their somber music.

The music of Urze de Lume is almost like a little babbling brook, with gentle guitar play that holds an almost tangible passion and temperament of the southern heritage. The main feature for the melancholic sound of the group is the use of the rebec, a bowed stringed instrument whose fiddle-like timbre evokes medieval ideas and emotions. It is pure magic on tracks like ‘Prenúncio de Gelo’, where ambient effects and a lo-fi timbre creates that meandering, weary effect. The sound itself tells a story.

‘Encruzilhadas’ has that classic, droning, stomping sound of traditional Celtic songs, with piping and a solid beat marching the song forwards. Its strong sound breaks the soothing sound of the guitar tracks for a brief moment. The sound effects are those of nature and traditional ways, bringing together the whole story that Urze De Lume desires to tell. Solemn spoken word passages tell the story in a stripped-down way, bare of emotion and feeling. The music though, the strings and guitars, keep making magic for the listener throughout this exceptional listening experience.

Underground Sounds: Raum Kingdom – Everything & Nothing

Label: Independent
Band: Raum Kingdom
Origin: Ireland

Raum Kingdom is a fascinating act and has been working on their very distinct sound for a couple of years now. I had the pleasure to discuss this with the group earlier and with their latest record ‘Everything & Nothing’, they definitely capture my ears once more.

The influences are the like of Deftones, Amenra and more sludge bands with a mythical vibe to them. On this record, I feel that an addition of Urfaust is in place, particularly due to the vocals and the flood of sound that just drags you along. Though they’ve been around for a few years, this is finally the debut from the Irish band and it’s a welcome one indeed.

The howls on ‘Summon’ are the main reason I mentioned the Dutch black metal band a moment before, as they make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The music is more meandering, more Isis than the bombastic torment of Amenra for this song, but the similar force is undeniable. Heavy and full of that channeled rage, the music just keeps pumping on tracks like ‘Dig’ and ‘Winter’, featuring Mia Govini from Makavrah.

The word you look for when describing the sound of Raum Kingdom on this record is ‘flow’, because that is what the sound does. It’s an endless flow of energy and barely contained emotional tension. The deception of calm and harmony on a tune like ‘Walk With Reality’ is exactly the line that Raum Kingdom likes to walk. Playing with the smooth movements and then harsh, bursting riff-rife explosions, full of tremolo waves, the band sets itself apart in the more blackened sludgy corner. Not particularly driven, the music follows its own path. Lyrically, the songs are personal, highly contextually valid and fierce in their bared essence.

Raum Kingdom has found its place with this record and it is merely a matter of time, before their due recognition is there I hope.

Colombia as it once was: Guahaihoque

Metal runs deep in the veins of South America and Colombia is no different. Though most people will know the country through its recent troubled history, there’s an ancient past in the Andean country. Guahaihoque tries to catch that in their music, and have been doing so for a good while now.

Having started in 1996, it’s been a good two decades for the band, who merge Andean folk with black metal in a very own way. Having started ahead of the folk metal boom, their sound is unique and hardly unchanged from the raw roots it stems from.

I found them willing to answer questions about Colombia, their history and music and what freedoms they currently have in their country.

Ancestral traditions and black metal

How have you guys been?
Hello, Yes, everything is fine.

How did Guahaihoque get started and what does the name mean?
Guahaihoque started out as an entity with the intention to evoke our ancestry. So, we formed the band with that main goal.
Guahaihoque is an entity, also a god of an ancient mythology from our homeland, it´s the lord of death, the one who protects the threshold of eternity, one of its duties is to wait for the souls of the dead to guide them to the eternity, in its deep dominions in the center of his sacred lagoon.

What bands got you into this kind of music in the first place?
To be honest, we had no specific bands guiding our musical path. We don´t deny that we have been influenced so far, but perhaps most of the music that helped out to find our style is not metal, but traditional ancient music from the Andean mountains. We feel respect for so many bands, especially of the 90s, like old Ulver, Cruachan, Thyrfing, Borknagar, Falkenbach, Panthymonium, Opeth, Withered Beauty, Master’s Hammer, Arcturus, Hypnos, icons like Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath and many more.

In your music, you put a lot of traditional elements. Could you tell what sorts of stories, instruments, and ideas make up the music of Guahaihoque? And of course, the cultural heritage that you try to emulate.
Our music is deeply inspired by the ancient tradition of our continent. Guahaihoque is not focused on one culture, but in many of the 3 Americas (North, Central & South). Our songs speak of myths, legends, battles, epic topics, rituals also we evoke the ancient times before the invaders came. We use woodwind instruments, such as Quena flute, Quenacho flute, Pan flutes, Tarkas, Toyos, Zampoñas, Ocarinas and others. Our intention was/is to blend extreme metal with the ancestral music of our continent, not only for intros, instrumental songs or passages but also in extreme metal parts full of chaos.

We felt the need to pay tribute to our ancestral tradition, as other bands did/do with their folklore in Europe, Asia, etc. There is a big source of inspiration because of great cultural heritage, such as Mayas, Aztecs, Incans, Muiscas, Calimas, Taironas, Moches, etc.

What sorts of instruments do you use into your music and how do you bring all of that together in a fierce metal sound? Do you start with a base of metal or with the folk parts?
As I said on in the previous question, we use several different traditional instruments, those instruments existed prior to the cultural blend when Spaniards came to our continent.
The songwriting process is not planned, each song is created in a particular way, some start with acoustic instruments and woodwinds, but also with the metal formula as most bands do, it depends on the feeling and mood of each song.

How does the creative process for Guahaihoque look and could you describe this?
It starts in a natural way, we always try to do our own thing, we don´t want to be a copy band, if we feel that a riff or melody sounds similar to another band it´s changed or deleted to avoid such thing.

Are you currently working on something new? Your last record appears to be from 2007, how is it that your production is quite minimal and as I understood in the past your band has been kept on hold for a long time?
Yes, we are. Well, we are not the typical band releasing an album every year, we have no the intention to be a massive act, we make music for passion not for business. We have had several years of silence because we live in different countries, but we are still working in silence and when a new material is ready, it will see the light.

You’ve been active for a long time, through some turbulent times. Can you tell me something about the scene in Colombia through the years and how the social changes affected the music/scene and its development?
The scene in Colombia is full of concerts, mainly international ones actually, most support is for those big bands, the local scene is full of bands, few small labels. Our scene is not organized or solid, every band works in an independent way. There have existed a few good acts for years, nowadays most of the bands don´t worry for making or finding it’s own sound or style, most of them are fully influenced by European or North American bands, I mean in sound and style.

Your record came out under Xue Productions. What can you tell about this label?
Xue is our own label, we decided to produce everything by ourselves because most of the offerings from labels sucked off, they only wanted to get a master recording and to release an album without giving us support, we did it because it was not fair for us, most labels only want to make money and they don’t give a fuck for the bands they are supposed to support. it´s a shame. so why not do it by ourselves?

How did metal music come to Colombia and which bands pioneered the genre in your country? What places were important for its incubation?
In past years most music came by tape-trading or some metalheads had relatives living in Europe and those sent the music to Colombia, also there a few ones promoting music through magazines, radio shows and so on, later on, the internet was the media to make it popular and almost commercial. According to my viewpoint, there were no pioneers in Colombia, most of the bands played Thrash, Heavy, Death and Black metal and those bands didn´t do a big thing for the genre.

How well is everything available to you? Rehearsal spaces, recording facilities, instruments, venues to play live? From neighboring countries, I’ve learned that this can be a challenge.
Nowadays there are tons of rehearsing places with good equipment, also a lot of studios, what we don´t have are good producers or engineers, most of them are empirical and their lack of knowledge does affect the final result of so many bands work. For concerts, there are some good venues. instruments are easy to get. With the new technologies it is quite easier to record, so most bands or musicians are learning to make their own recordings and also have made own home studios. This helps a lot because you have the option to work in a free way before entering professional studios (as those are very expensive). We are doing the same in our own homestudio.

Do you face any sort of censorship or social pressure as metal musicians in Colombia? In the documentary Blackhearts, I saw that religion is very present in your country and extreme music often seems to clash with this and I wonder if that causes tension for you?
Well, Metal is very strong in Colombia, most bands do their own thing, the government has no censorship, there are some festivals supported by the government. Religion is everywhere, but our constitution makes actually Colombia a secular country, so the religion has no power to control metal music in a legal way. There is no tension for us, a curious thing. We have received good response from people not into metal because of our topics and musical label ( I mean style and lyrical content). We are not connected with blasphemous acts, we are not the typical “hail satan” outfit.

What current bands from Colombia should people really check out and why?
There are good bands in Colombia, like the necessary folk bands, they are worth checking because their music is good and they work in an honest way. Also such bands as Thundarkma, Apolion´s Genocide, Exgenesis, Chaquen, Endeathed, Nameless, Gutgrinder, Ignis Haereticvm among others.

I have noticed a lot of nature imagery on your Facebook page. What role does nature play in your work?
Nature has been and will always be an important thing for Guahaihoque, everything and all of us do belong to nature, the forests, highlands, sacred lagoons are a big source of inspiration, many of those places were/are sacred for our forefathers and for us too.
We feel respect for our nature, including animals and sacred places. We are against destroying nature.

What future plans does Guahaihoque have?
To release new material, so we are working on it and sooner or later it will be heard for those who have supported us so far, our main goal is to create honest and sincere music instead of releasing music each year as a mainstream act. our music is not for all kind of listeners, it´s for all those who are connected with the ancient traditions and paganism of these Andean mountains and land named nowadays as America.

If you had to compare your band to a dish (type of food), what would it be and why?
G: I see no reason to make such comparison, but to give you a response I might say that our musical recipe isn´t the typical shit you eat at a McDonalds or KFC. We are not stating that we are the most original band, but we have always tried to work in our own way and sound. so every listener should taste it and say if it´s a good or bad dish, it´s not our thing, …our thing is to give and raise the best ingredients for it.

Thank you for the support and interview

Underground Sounds: Verval – Wederkeer

Label: Tour de Garde
Band: Verval
Origin: Netherlands

The Dutch black metal scene is brimming with life and creativity but lacks the exotic splendor of the Icelandic movement. I wonder if that is why so much of the creativity here is overlooked, by bands like Verval on their debut record ‘Wederkeer’. An explosively colored cover and fresh approach, that stirs the sound in a new way.

Members of Verval have been active in Sea of Trees, Nevel, Wrang, White Oak and notable name Laster. Having shared many projects, they’re obviously used to collaborating and adding vocals to this project is singer Galgenvot, known from some of the same bands. That makes the record a cohesive and well-conceived effort.

The intro to ‘Uit As Herezen’ is a folky, gloomy tune, reminiscent of a Game of Thrones tune. It takes some time for black abyss to open up and swallow you whole. Melancholic black metal with grand yearning blasts out, unleashing tremolo guitars, big, lumbering rhythms and wildly frantic passages of eerie black metal in a track that lasts over 13 minutes. There’s a certain pop-sensibility in the music of Verval, which is immediately audible.

The daring guitar in ‘Vervreemding’ particularly stands out with its haunting melody, but also clean sound. The riffs are clear and never muddled away in a haze of riffing as most common in black metal music. During a calm intermezzo, fingerpicking guitar play really steps away from the assault of a more common sound, creating some fragile beauty.

On the final track, titled ‘Diepten Eeuwig Zwart’, we get even more classical, hauntingly beautiful passages. The music spirals onwards endlessly as the poetic, profound lyrics are howled at the heavens.

 

Underground Sounds: NYIÞ/Old Burial Temple – Caput Mortem

Label: Signal Rex
Band: NYIÞ/Old Burial Temple
Origin: Iceland/Australia

Of all the Icelandic bands that work the dark arts, NYIÞ is probably the most elusive and mysterious. Sure, the members are traceable through the not so thick ranks of Icelandic artists, but their sound is a ritualistic, dark ambient music filled with gloom and foreboding. This split will be their fourth release in 7 years.

Australian formation Old Burial Temple is a one man project from the prolific musician, named ‘Old’. He’s also active in Drohtnung and Snorri, but various other projects are listed under his name too.

Eerie drones welcome the listener to NYIÞ. A sparkling sound falling through, creating a bright sound in the middle of the gloomy darkness of an eternal night. The music features strings and minimal effects from various instruments on the first track by the Icelanders, titled ‘Rót’. Harrowing screams emerge from far away in the deep void of behind minimal guitar play and the sound of the wind. ‘Iða’ follows, with somber and sonorous tones, with ragged flares of string instruments floating around, which generates the experience of an empty chapel or tomb. Ever crack or sound becomes a frightening disturbance, any shift a landslide. That is the power of minimalism and ritual music.

Old Burial Temple takes us below ground on ‘Movement XIII’, with frightening murmurings and samples, merging into a deep and disturbing drone. Clanging is audible in the distance, as an uncanny chanting picks up through the hazy fogs. The drums kick-off, but dwindle down instantly. The rhythm is slow, ominous, and feels less like a progression, but more like a prelude to doom. The intense banging and rattle work to unnerve with a continuous procession of harrowing sounds. Exceptionally effective, this side of the split.

Underground Sounds: Trees, Clouds & Silence – Let me die on your roots

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.

Underground Sounds: Uuntar – Voorvaderverering

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 (Heimdalls Wacht, 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.