All posts by Guido

I'm just a geek.

Reading of Books #28

Another edition of my book bit, with a lot of new books read. R.A. Salvatore is very present with the last two trilogies of Drizzt, Paul Stanley from Kiss and Duff McKagan from Guns’n’Roses. Totally not geek + music geek edition.

Books!

R.A. Salvatore – The Companion Codex (Night of the Hunter, Rise of the King, Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf)

source: Goodreads.com

In this series of books, we pick up the dark road that the party of heroes seemed to have ahead of them in the inbetween book ‘The Companions’. Drizzt is reunited with his Catti-Bri, his friends Bruenor, Regis and Wulfgar. It seems however, that war is brewing everywhere and the Orcs are marching with support of the drow. The Silver Marches are besieged by the thousands and cities fall. The dwarves are locked in their underground citadels and no one seems to be able to push them forward. That changes when Bruenor Battlehammer picks up his plight as king among dwarfs. When he starts listening to the whispers of the old dwarven gods and the counsel of his friends and fellow Dwarf kings.

In the most desperate situations the united dwarfs of the Forgotten Realms find their brightest moment. They unearth their greatest treasures after millennia. It is not an easy fight though and much will be lot and much must be sacrificed to get there. In these novels, the world turns a bit more dark and grim and many mechanisms seem to be at work. The wheels are turning and Drizzt and the companions of the hall find themselves in the middle of it all, but also in the middle of their own turmoil and demons. Salvatore creates the profound story that looks at a world, where good and evil are not such simple concepts anymore. What is war if one loses all that holds value? What is a war if you forget the values that you fight for?

Paul Stanley – Face the Music: A Life Exposed

source: goodreads.com

Paul Stanley has always been the most mysterious member of Kiss. His biography is one of the most anticipated ones among fans of the band. The singer has always been a bit of a puzzle for most people, but in this biography he is very open about himself. Even though at times it isn’t pretty and some band experiences come out, he manages to touch his readers. Paul Stanley is the first Kiss member to write a biography that leaves him standing as a victor in the end. The book is also not as filled with spite and dislike. I can’t say that for the other ones by Kiss members and that is a pleasant thing to be sure.

Paul Stanley describes his life from his early days onward. Being born with only one ear intact (and working), turns out to be the source of most angst and insecurity in his life. It’s the red threat through his whole carreer and experiences. Reading this, it outshines even all the fame and fortune. Everything related to the ear problems seems to be key in his development. The surgery to reconstruct it, the way he positions himself on the stage and in the end how he starts working for a childrens organisation. Sure, there’s the necessary amount of rock’n’roll extravagance going on as well. You’ll get some good stories about the women, sustance abuse (of others, since Stanley never really was the crazy one on that front) and quite some Gene Simmons. Pauls story is touching and captivating, never free of a good critical look at himself, but at times blissfully unaware of his own being and impression. A joyful read for sure.

R.A. Salvatore – Homecoming (Archmage, Maestro, Hero)

That was the respons I got from mr. Salvatore himself about my earlier thoughts on the series. Now, I did get here and after 33 books I was fearful for quite a few pages that all would end horribly in tears. For the characters, but also for me since after all this time I had become quite attached to the figures in the book. This whole series has the vibe of an endgame. Things are getting serious in here and that makes for some really daunting reads. Some surprising developments and character innovations take place and we all somehow get them together for a final push.

source: goodreads.com

We find Mithril Hall at peace for once, but things are always stirring in the Forgotten Realms. The drow in Menzoberranzan have not finished with their prodigal son. Internal power struggles literally open the gates to hell and demons flood into the realm. They happen to be causing more havoc to the drow themselves than to their enemies. The primordial under Gauntlgrym stirs and Yvonnel the Eternal is reborn. Facing these great enemies are our heroes; Drizzt, Catti-bri and Bruenor. Their other two friends are on a quest of their own, where Regis and Wulfgar will find great challenges and old companions on their road. Artemis Entreri and Jarlaxl site with the heroes…  but things get really interesting when a runaway archmage joins them and a very important priestess of Lolth. But what if your real enemy is within your own mind?

There’s a promise of more to come though. This is good, because I love these books. Unfortunately, mister Salvatore has announced he will not answer any questions on the matter for now.

Duff McKagan – It’s So Easy (And Other Lies)

source: goodreads.com

I’ve never really been a fan of Guns’n’Roses, but when I heard their bass player talk on the Danko Jones podcast about his book. I knew I had to read it. Duff McKagan is the epitome of cool, the laid back voice, the self awareness and self depricating jokes… In his book he is telling the world his story including all the stupid decisions, bad choices and all about the rampant drug and alcohol abuse that brought him to his knees and made him rise up again a new man. The book starts with the McKagan of now. He is walking out of the backdoor of his house during his daughters birthday party and finding two kids making out. He goes through a mental checklist of drugs, sex, alcohol and other things… it’s a funny opener and shows how comfortable McKagan is in writing about himself. Then the good stuff starts.

Duff McKagan is a Seattle-born musician. People sometimes forget that he was in a bunch of bands in the past. It’s good to get some info on that too with his early bands. Also a near death experience at an early eage seems to have contributed to his personality. The writing style is casual, almost off handed as if things just emerge and happened, but sometimes we get back to the internal monologue from the start. Especially when bad things happen. A rock’n’roll book with drugs and alcohol has a lot of grief in it. McKagan never makes light of that. He is funny when he talks about himself, jovial when it concerns weird things that happened to a bunch of guys and cordial when he writes about problems in the band. He always seems  to have the right tone for all situations, never goes down avenues of boring thoughts and just keeps this easy to read. One of the best rock’n’roll bio’s I’ve seen this far.

Forgotten words: lost languages

On this years Kilkim Žaibu festival I saw the group Romowe Rikoito play live and it touched a nerve in me. Almost with tears in my eyes I listened to their captivating folk songs. I would like to talk a bit about that here.

Last words

Language, it’s a peculiar thing and often too easily put aside as something irrelevant. Language is a tool, we use almost daily in a peculiar manner and it is shaped by the peculiarities of our daily lives. I never reallly realized the importance of language, I have to say, untill later in my life, after I read a peculiar story.

In a school book, not sue for which subject, I read about a place called Sakhalin. A peninsula on the far side of Russia, At some point in time, I think it was around the year 1900, researchers went there to meet the last speakers of a regional language. They recorded these speakers on wax rolls (that was the thing way before records).  So there was some form of preservation, but a while later those last speakers had all passed and at that point we call a language extinct. Peculiar, is it not?

The disappearance of a people

There’s something so incredibly sad to me about that story. There were people there, with a language, culture and history. With the end of their language all of that is gone, it has passed away with the last words. When a language dies, a bit of our humanity dies… that’s the way I see it. No one remembers the words and the lives of those people.

It seems like something from the past, but even in Europe languages die. The Livonian language has about 10 speakers left they estimate. Tsakonian (a Greek dialect) is almost gone and Prussian (an old Baltic language) only exists because some stubborn ethnic Prussians try to revive it. One Saami language will probably be extinct as well in 50 years (Pite Saami has 20-40 speakers left). Outside of Europe, the Yaghan language of the most southern part of Chile has one speaker left, who is 89. The language is an isolated form, so nothing will be left soon. There’s a few more examples and luckily most are documented now… Still, something ends.

Our words are very precious, they are shaped by the way we live and how we interact in our culture and part of the world. Our language is our testament to whoever comes after. I think we should cherish it more. English is great, I write in that language to reach more people. But that shouldn’t become our only tongue. We’ve lost so much already of who we are.

So no language is better than the other, but every language is owned by the people who speak it.  It’s a part of you, of who you are and where you come from. That matters.

This is in no way intended to support any political agenda’s. 

Underground Sounds: Slegest – Vidsyn

Label: Dark Essence Records
Band: Slegest
Origin: Norway

Slegest

I found out about Slegest, thanks to the Cult Never Dies: The Megazine book by Dayal Patterson. I read about the multi-instrumentalist Stig Ese Eliassen, who played in Vreid before. He now does Slegest, combinging ’70’s hardrock, thrash and black metal into a unique sound.

Like many people making extreme music, Eliassen is a guy with a history. A person with conflict and a need to expres that. This is where Slegest is born from and now growing into an entity that hopefully will play live soon. The lyrics are in Norwegian, but the sound had a universal quality to it I think. The album was received well so time to share it with the world.

Dirty black’n’roll from Norway

The cover is immediatelly different, catching the attention without being anything special. Then there’s the opening riff of ‘I fortida sitt lyss’. Catchy, driven and timeless, this is music that alway works. A little like the crustpunk albums of Darkthrone, catchy bit dirty. It’s an interesting contrast, the catchy music with the gritty vocals. That gives it a dark edge and a real rock’n’roll feel. It’s got that underground edge, but also a great mix and production. Slegest doesn’t rely on grimy distortion to cover up anything, it’s a band that really knows how to deliver a great tune.

Specially on a gloomy track like ‘komfortabelt nommen midtvekes’ the formula of Slegest works. With a wicked grin, you listen to the chugging riffwork, the playful guitar loops and the trollish (yes, I used that word) vocals. This record is great stuff to listen to in the car, the clean production, the energy, it all falls into place. Would this record benefit from clean vocals? I think it would lose it’s dark shine without, I enjoy the punky, raw but still slick sound. It really fits into the tradition somewhere between Skambankt and Abbath.

I love this album by Slegest, the dirty Norwegian biker sound should appeal to a broad audience. If Speedfest was still around, this is a band that should play there. This album totally rocks.

Underground Sounds: Falls of Rauros – Vigilance Perennial

Label: Bindrune/Nordvis
Origin: United States
Band: Falls of Rauros

The band Falls of Rauros has a lot going for them. Firstly, their name is  a Tolkien reference, which always resonates with me. Secondly, their music rates as black/folk metal on various sites (though you can disagree on the terminology, I think it covers their sound well). Also they’re politically charged, citing anarchism as a theme.

This all would not even be necessary, for the Appalachian folk wink in their sound puts them on par with Panopticon and do I love that band. This is the fourth album by the group from Portland in the States, following ‘Believe In No Coming Shore’ from 2014. Artwise, the band takes a move away from their more nature depicting covers with something a bit more fantastic. Also good to have some new material, after all the re-releases ofcourse.

On opener ‘White Granite’,  you immediately hear the combination of beautiful melodies, maybe almost a bit of stadium rock, with scorching vocals. The constantly walk the thin line between beauty and grimness, somehow very akin to nature in that sense. This is not a bad thing though, because the band completely in a natural way finds their path through the different sounds and builds layers upon layers of riffs and expressions to create their specific brand of black metal. There’s  a densely emotional side to songs like ‘Warm Quiet Centuries of Rains’, something truly soothing.

Album highlight is, I think, the track ‘Arrow & Kiln’. It shows Falls on their more heavy end. More massive and cohesive than the rest of the album and therefor in 12 minutes being the song that exemplifies the album. It contains all the strong sides of the band in one go. Great stuff!

On final track ‘Impermanence Streakt Through Marble’ the band completely lets go of the black metal and trickling folky tunes, acoustic play and shoegazy meanderings lead the song forward. When the music gets some more weight after two minutes, this still feels like a beautiful postrock tune, evoking a certain sadness. Vocals come on a bit later, but for me those were not even needed (though they do give the song some body).

Bucovania: Romania remembers the past

Romania often gets less credit than it deserves, but the country has a wealth of history and a pretty intense and intriguing metal scene. Many interesting sounds come from that neck of the woods, and one of them is the band named Bucovina. A thriving folk metal project with a distinct flavor to it.

Bucovina is also a region of the country, which the band is named after.In the east of Europe, Romania often gets lumped in with other countries as part of the Eastern block. That’s a shame, since the country definitely has a history of its own. The region called Bucovina is part of that but due to history’s unfolding events, it is now part of Ukraine.

Florin “Crivăţ” Ţibu is the man behind the group. Crivat was willing to answer some questions over email, which took quite some time due to various reasons. I’m glad to say that he really gives a lot of information.

Originally published on Echoes & Dust

Bucovina

Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell what your role is in the band?

Hi there, I am Crivat, I play guitar and vocals in Bucovina and I am the mastermind that put everything together.

How did you guys get into metal?

They say that it’s metal that finds you, not the other way around, haha. Each of us, back in the day, happened to listen to the right song and meet the right people. Honestly, it’s almost impossible to describe what exactly got us into metal, but we’re ever so glad it happened. On the other hand, what KEEPS us into metal is the fact that we really enjoy what we do.

How did Bucovina get started? What were your inspirations, both musical as well as thematic?

I started the band after I went to college, with the bass player from the bands I had back in highschool. I’d say that the biggest thing that made me want to have a band and write music was Vintersorg’s first CD, the Hedniskhjartad EP. I was struck when I had listened to it for the first time and felt like there are things that needed to be said through music I could write.

The first Bucovina tracks were mixture of viking/norse/pagan/call-it-what-you-like and black metal, even though it was obvious since that early stage that we might not fall that easily into just one category. Then things evolved, yet we’re still dealing with a lot of influences, most likely because we have different backgrounds.

As for the lyrics, they go from nature, philosophy, old lore and magic, to more mundane themes, but they all relate in one way or another to whatever purpose human existence has in the universe, and how the noblest goal is to be able to understand at least minute fractions of all that existed, exists or will exist.

You combine a folkish sound with metal. What is the reason or motivation you chose to go this way with your music?

Again, it was music choosing us; and we’re lucky for this, because we don’t feel like „hey, let’s write a song like X, or Y, or Z.” In my book, what we are doing is proper neofolklore because we just don’t pick up traditional songs and add distorted guitars and heavy/black metal sounds. Most of the songs start as mere tunes I hum and record using whatever tool I happen to have at hand, and it’s the smartphone almost all the time.

Then, as I get home or to the studio, I grab a guitar and replicate the tune. Most of the time it turns out into a part that is useable or even an entire song theme. Sometimes it’s just useless crap 🙂 In a way, it’s like the peasants of old, who went out into the fields to work the land or to hunt, and they would sing. That’s why I say that we’re doing is actual modern folklore.

In the past bands that work with national/historical themes have often been criticized for or linked to the far right. How do you feel about this and has Bucovina had to face such issues?

Well, I guess there will always be people who feel like they MUST add some of their improperly-founded opinion to the game. Likewise, there will always be people who feel that the NEED to feel offended by one thing or another. Our paths crossed several times and, what can I say, I pity these folks. Instead of trying to see what lays beyond what they BELIEVE things are, they prefer to stir up shit and call bands names, put words in their mouths and so on. Thankfully, we know better and make do and mend.

We simply like Romania and would love to see it fare better these days, and leave a nicer place to live for our kids. We never agreed with the political views of the guy who owned the label that released our first album, and that’s why we put an end to the collaboration. The fact that we dealt with a label that was perceived as being a spearhead in the NS direction affected us in the early years, but through hard work we managed to shake off that burden.

Bucovina is named after a region. Can you explain the choice of name and the significance of the region? I understand that half of Bucovina is part of Ukraine, is that a cause for tension?

Indeed, Bucovina is a region in the north of the country, with its northern half beyond the Ukrainian border. We went for this name because I and Luparul, the other guy playing guitars and vocals, are from Bucovina and wanted to do something for that amazing part of the world.

Well, tension I wouldn’t call it. It’s more like regret, regret for a past where the Soviet Union used to rule that part of Europe and when the western countries left the entire East Block go fuck itself under Soviet dominion.

Honestly, I believe that the wounds of the aggressive Soviet regime will never heal, and this is so fucking disheartening. Nevertheless, I do believe that it’s worth not forgetting the errors of the past and passing a rich heritage to our offspring.

What are the themes and subjects in your music? Can you tell us more about them, since little is known about Romanion paganism, history and so on in this part of the world (and I’m most interested in these).

Well, it would take years to tell you about Romanian lore. We have stories and legends that seem like they could go hand in hand with whatever fiction masterpiece modern history produced, and we are slowly showcasing them in our songs, albeit in a rather laconic way.

Mostly it’s about the relationship between man and nature, and how certain gifted individuals rise above the human condition to become better integrated with the forces that govern the universe. From merely abandoning yourself in contemplation of a sunset in Bucovina’s mountains, to traveling through vales and woods, to the high plains where horses roam by the hundreds, from the secluded small villages where magic is still a part of everyday life, to the everyday thoughts, aspirations and fears, we’re one with them.

Is there in any way a mission or message that you try to convey with Bucovina?

Of course there is, and maybe this is why our albums are rather short. They simply seem to end when we feel like we said what needed to be said in a certain moment. There is no bullshit on any of our albums, and I do hope we keep it that way despite people way they’d enjoy longer albums. If we will have a lengthier message to pass on, you bet your asses that the album carrying it will be longer.

The main message, although it’s not that easy to understand by everyone from the first spin, is that people would do better to try and be who they really are deep inside, while also trying to make the world a better place. Life is too short for crap, and it can end quite abruptly in a thousand ways, so trying to understand as much as possible from the universe almost sounds like a must.

We are a part of nature, whether we like it or not, and despite the fact that some religions are trying to hijack and downplay the message. We often describe our music as being “Of mountains and magic,” and at times, it just couldn’t be any closer to the truth. We like the nature and the magic way it can still oppose the dumbness of the people who think they are the supreme being. We, as a species, may be cool, indeed, but we’re definitely not the icing on the cake 😉

 What can you tell about your last album ‘Nestramutat’, which came out in 2015? What is the story you are telling on this record?

The name of the album could be translated to “Unswerving,” and it speaks about how certain individuals with a strong spirit cannot be broken or changed. In a way, it’s like nature/the planet itself: you fuck with it, it will fuck you up in ways that are far worse, and then there is nothing you can do about that. It’s just the fact that you can’t mess with the planet/universe and get away with it.

Or, speaking about people who are so dear to someone that their memory lives on and on even though they have been dead for a long time. A lot of things change, but some don’t. The latest album is about the latter.

What was the recording and writing process like? Does every band member have a specific role in it?

It’s so fucked up that it almost pains me to remember doing the last two albums. We are so chaotic and so reckless that I keep wondering how do we make it. The truth is that we are incredibly lucky to work with Dan Swano for mixing and mastering.

The guy is a genius and a gigantic name in metal and prog, and even though we’re not even able yet to tap into a tenth of his true potential, he gets the job done where other would simply fail or deliver mediocre results.

I’ve learned a ton from him and keep doing so each time I get to talk to him. Also, Dan is an amazing person and we get along very well; and I have to thank him for his patience, too. We are independent so we don’t have a production crew, so sometimes, things are friggin’ difficult and downright nasty, but we always manage to pull through.

As for the studio work, another round of thanks go to Maanu, our former keyboard player. He’s the conductor of the National Opera choir and his duties and schedule prevent him from touring with us, so we had to part ways. Even so, we’re still in excellent terms, he even has a set of keys to our studio. He helps us with tracking when I am not able to, and we’re also writing some choir parts together. As for roles, everybody is taking care of their own stuff.

Lately, Dan Swano became quite busy and with us not having a very clear schedule of how a new album should progress, things are becoming a bit harder. Nevertheless, we worked with Martin Buchwalter, the drummer of Perzonal War, who is also a studio producer, and the first results – the Asteapta-ma Dincolo (de Moarte) single turned out great. We’ll see  what the future brings…

Currently you’re self-releasing your music. What prompted that choice? What is the story with the label Lupii Daciei?

It was a lousy choice we made without fully understanding that the fellow with whom we were dealing (a chap from an obscure label that had signed us) was more interested in pursuing his dumb neo-nazi racist shit than he was in metal. We are a bit nationalist, but not in a way that relates to such political crap.

We disliked (and still do) the direction things were heading for, because we’re not fighting a fucking racial war here. We don’t hate Jews, black people, the Slavs, we don’t believe in Aryan ideology, race purity, untermensch and all the crap. We don’t need any Heil Hitler and swastikas in our music to find a purpose for what we are doing.

We realized that the label’s purpose was in no way close to our expectations so we called it a day. If anything, I could be mad at ourselves for making the deal in the first place, but young people DO make mistakes, ain’t that true?

As for releases, yes, we are a completely independent band and we plan to stay that way. We’re doing just fine, as it looks like being true to yourself and not write music just to have another track on the upcoming CD pays off. We have the money we need to produce top-notch digipacks, we have our own studio and bus, we can afford mixtering by Dan Swano, also do our own booking and merch.

We can deal for small endorsement deals ourselves, but we’re in no hunger for gear, because we are able to buy what we need and plan to not sell out for the sake of some guitars or other stuff. We CAN manage our own shit. Why would we change that?

Hire some fuck who only thinks about money? Why, it doesn’t make any sense. We are also making our own deals for shows abroad and we enjoy touring on our own efforts. We already toured in Brazil in 2016 and booked nice festivals in Germany this year, with more gigs coming up in Poland, UK, the Czech Republic and more. We are extending our operations, for lack of a better word.

What is the Romanian metal scene like currently? What bands do you think are worth checking out?

Still, the Romanian metal scene is a fairly young one. Before 1989, the Communist regime did not take good of rock and whatever metal people made then, so we can say that we’re a bit behind schedule. Nevertheless, I do perceive some sort of crystallization, with some bands understanding the need of good production, good and – if possible – original sound (even though being completely original is rather impossible).

Without being too stiff, I’d say that we are far too busy trying to make things right here (in the band) to have the time to analyze what exactly is going on around. People have better gear, have learned more about music and some of them are really putting up serious efforts to make it as big as possible.

The Romanian metal scene may be a rather small one but certain things are not different from any other part of the world. We do need people with money to put up records companies and distribution networks, we do need support from the public, and no –  nobody becomes a star overnight. We’ve spent like 15 years of sacrifice and hard work until results started to show up the way we wanted. Making good metal is hard. As it ever was.

We do have certain interesting bands, such as Dor de Duh, Hteththemeth, Adamo Caduco (though it’s not metal). Also you could check out Ashaena’s new release, Implant pentru Refuz, Asemic, Bucium or Dara.

Can you tell a bit about the history of metal in Romania? Which bands got it started and when?

There were some feeble metal acts before 1989, but it all started in a rather primitive way after the Revolution, with a mixture of punk, thrash and hardcore-ish bands which are no longer active. We were so hungry for rock back in the day that we enjoyed everything and everything seemed like a godsend for the masses.

Unfortunately I haven’t dedicated time to becoming a metal historian for the scene, therefore it’s impossible for me to speak about this subject. I’d rather say we’re still in the “history in the making” stage.

In 2015 there was the fire in a nightclub in Bucharest that has not only shaken the metal scene, but Romania as a whole. In what way did it affect Bucovina?

The blaze at Club Colectiv put an untimely end to the life of one of our best friends, Adrian Rugina. He was not only a great guy, but also one of the best show producers in the country, having worked with the likes of Metallica and Madonna and everything in between. He played drums in Bucium, a folk-rock band we toured with, with whom we released albums together and was a true friend.

He died after returning to the burning club several times and saving other guys, and he became a national hero. Sad to see that people forget way too easily about guys like Rugina. We don’t; both me and Mishu, the drummer, have his name tattooed on our bodies and we wrote a song to his memory. Eventually, the song became the Asteapta-ma dincolo (de moarte) single and we even shot a video for that particular song. Adi goes with us wherever we may roam, he’s not alone and neither are we. He just lives on inside our hearts.

Other thing that changed in Romania after the blaze was that the number of people who can attend a show is now much smaller. Safety, laws, shit like this. In a way it’s better and safer, that’s true, but when you can no longer host 400 people in a place that can handle these guys, things are nasty; and this is because of some small inconvenient stipulated by the law. I do hope things will be better in the future as far as this goes. We have even done two shows back to back in the same place to have all the guys who wanted to see us play well and happy.

What future plans do you guys have as a band?

We are working on a new album for 2018, a special show for the end of 2017, but I can’t tell you more details about this one, at least not now 😉 We intend to dedicate more time to playing shows in Europe and become more professional. Also, new videos are being worked on, albeit in the planning phase, so far. Expect to see us more in Europe in 217 and 2018, with a big South American tour in 2019.

Please use the space here to add anything you feel should be mentioned.

We do feel that we are part of a new wave of bands that managed to raise their heads independently and without having someone pumping money to make us grow. The fact that we are an independent act has its pros and cons, of course, and maybe, when the time is right and the deal is fair, we’ll even take that step to sign a deal with a big production company. Until then, we’re working our asses out to deserve that fair deal. Otherwise, we’re doing fine, and that’s why we’ll keep on delivering fine metal to our fans.

 

Dungeon Synth: bedroom dreaming

Dungeon synth is probably not something you’ve heard of if you are anywhere near the cool kids. If things like Dungeons & Dragons, books like Lord of the Rings and other nerdy things are an instant ‘turn back’ for you, you probably should now as well. Unless there’s inside you an unappreciated geek with a liking for black metal and classical folksy, dreamy music. Perhaps this is more for you.

This article is highly speculative, based on what I’ve read and perceived as dungeon synth. Reading about it, I found out there was really very little concrete mentioning and attention for the phenomenon, so it’s merely an attempt to create a basis of a description.

What is the charm of Dungeon Synth?

Are you someone who thinks back with remorse to those oldschool dungeon crawler video games and RPG’s? You might really be into dungeon synth.Dungeon synth is much a hidden genre, a special gem only for those who seek it. A great quote describing it by Tiwaz from band Gvasdnahr:

I kind of think of dungeon synth as a lone, ancient castle, hidden in a dark desolate corner in the shadow of black metal. Only a few knows it’s there. And out of those few who dares to enter, only a few is capable of finding it’s treasure.

Tracing its roots, its boundaries and offspins is noteworthy hard because of this. The dark tower is an image born out of dreams and fantasy, it’s why I titled this article bedroom dreaming. Much dungeon synth probably never left bedrooms of D&D loving, black metal spinning people.

Dungeon synth has been mocked nad misunderstood a lot. This picture probably illustrates the narrow view of its broadness, its fans and its artfulness. It also holds some truths about the genre. Mortiis is pretty much the Sabbath of the genre. Its roots are very steeped in black metal and there’s a lot of atmosphere and geeky themes to it. But those are things I love. So I’m just trying to convey that

As the quote above says, it’s a very hidden corner of the music world, hardly understood by people who haven’t travelled there on their own. What I mean by travelling there, is either through ambient, soundtracks, game tunes or black metal, but preferably a combination, you come to like, appreciate or even love this sound. It’s not an easy starting point. Not that dungeon synth is complex stuff, but its appeal is rather narrow.

“The door of the tower swings open… A breeze of undisturbed air escapes and the darkness beckons as much as it repels you. The unknown awaits in the dark. What do you do?”

This sort of lines always give me that shiver. If it doesn’t do that for you, return to the tavern and just stay there, you common NPC.

What is Dungeon Synth?

Dungeon synth can be a lot of things and a lot of things aren’t dungeon synth. Dungeon synth, has been described as the ‘pinnacle of basement music dorkery’ by the kind people at Toilet Ov Hell. They also describe it beautifully in the following passage, as a style that is inspired by the mystery and awe of high fantasy or dark dungeons as you explore them in role playing games. Oh, and it doesn’t get you any chicks (though that article was probably published early in the wave of the geek as hot, so it might be different). So what is it like? Let’s look at some cases that might make up what it is.

Theme

It really seems that J.R.R. Tolkien finally has a genre dedicated to him. But not completely, the themes of dungeon synth are… dungeons! But more generally it’s fantasy, though I think it could very well fit in science fiction themes too. It relies on repetition and works great as a sort of background music. Knights, dragons, but also unspoilt nature work pretty well. In it’s origins there’s also the black metal aesthetic, so that is still present now and then and probably shaped the dungeon aspect. As we know, the early black metallers were quite a bunch of geeks and most released records that are the foundation of dungeon synth (like dungeon synth god Varg).
This is not the limit for dungeon synth. Specially in its original form it could embody any theme. Nowadays more realistic themes are often put in the dark ambient category though.

Sound

The nicest way to describe the range of sounds is to go from old DOS video games to something akin to dark ambient or a completely stripped down version of a musical piece with just synths. There’s quit some room for other additions though. Vocals, instruments and effects are all more than welcome in the dungeon synth style.

It’s often very much ‘out there’ music, as in it doesn’t feel like a part of the daily world. I’m switching to a more ‘experiential’ description here. The music is a way of evoking feelings, imagery and situations that are ‘different’. This can be done with film score like tapestries of sound, but it can also be more ambient or more folky.

Roots

The roots of Dungeon Synth are hard to trace, but think synthesizers, atmosphere and black metal. Think of folk meeting black metal in a more movie/game-like setting. So the clearest way to say this is to put its roots somewhere in the early black metal scene in Norway. Inspired by the evocative sounds of their bands, some artists started to search for that sound in synths. Think Jean Michel Jarre, think filk, think Vangelis, think soundtracks to video games. Oh… and Burzum. No Clean Singing definitely puts the roots of the style in black metal. Mortiis is often considered fundamental.

Origins of Dungeon synth

There’s different readings of how dungeon Synth came to be. One would cite black metal as the main driver, the other would focus on the film scores. It’s hard to tell, but what can be told is that there’s a definite wish to bring something to life in the music. The name of Tolkien gets mentioned pretty much anywhere when it concerns dungeon synth.

Norway

Mortiis is generally considered to be the founder of the genre or atleast the first moving in that direction, particularly with ‘Født til å Herske’. The former Emperor member really made a carreer out of Dungeon synth and probably is the most familiar face and master of the genre. Originally he started out with four projects in this direction, which seem to have converged into Mortiis later: Mortiis, Vond, Cintecele Diavolui, and Fata Morgana.
Burzum did some synth albums, of which ‘Hliðskjálf’ to me is the best, while Vikernes was in prison. His influence on the genre is much more profound and the track ‘”Rundgang um die transzendentale Säule der Singularität’ is key listening (on the ‘Filosofem’ album).

Around that time Satyr (Satyricon) did an album with Wongraven, a keyboard based medieval project. Fenriz from Darkthrone contributed with Neptune Towers. Though there’s probably some more influential artists to the dungeon synth genre, these black metal-known faces helped propell it into the world.

Austria/Germany

A part that can’t be overlooked when it comes to the roots of the genre is the follow-up the genre had in Austria. The band Summoning, known for their atmospheric Tolkien-inspired black metal is definitely a massive catalyst for the genre thanks to their synth heavy sound. Directly linked to this group is the act Pazuzu, who’ve definitely left an impact on what has become. German act Depressive Silence should also be mentioned for their pioneering work in the genre and possibly its connection to the DSBM genre later. There’s a logic to the German connection. Dark music, synths and such you see in the kraut movement already, which was moving into realms of fantasy and mystery. Acts like Bethlehem embraced the depressive side. Gothmog ‘s ‘Medival Journeys’ is considered a key work in the genre.

Edit: Two names that I have to add to that are those of Grimrik and Murgrind, two current dungeon synth artists from Germany, who have released influential records. You will find their work linked at the bottom with suggestions for listenig.

Other origins

Looking at early releases in the genre, it’s clear that countries that adopted black metal were quick to sprout dungeon synth acts. Greece (Erevos), France (Moevot), Sweden, Finland, England, the Netherlands and ofcourse the United States (Cernunnos Woods) soon sprouted their own acts. Russia has given the genre a spin of its own and it seems to be one of the most active scenes out there. To really put your finger on origin stories is hard, because dungeon synth by its essence is a hobby project, it’s bedroom dreaming at best and much stuff might have never come out.

Games

Dungeon synth now

As a genre, dungeon synth is rather limited in what directions it can move in. Experimental acts like Trollmann av Ildtoppberg (check them here) get lost in a drone/doom environment, where others slide back into minimal black metal or simply ambient. A noteworthy act for me is Fief, who seem to have found a more lighthearted sound away from the oppressive, dark dungeon sound.  Til Det Bergens Skyggene is another remarkable act, who’ve veered into experimental electronics in the ’70s it seems. This list of records really gives a good feel of the scope of the genre.

So Dungeon Synth hasn’t got that much room to grow or develop. On the other hand, acces to things like bandcamp or other free sharing services does allow for the genre to really become an online phenomenon. It is clear from my explorations that lovers of the genre, to which I like to subscribe, are a global group. Listeners in the direct region of the artists might not be enough to sustain production, but the global reach of internet makes it possible for this to really become a thing. The 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons is probably a great help as well.

Some very productive acts, that seem to thrive in this day and age:

Рабор

This Russian act has really captured an audience with their combination of synth and Slavic folk tunes. The fact that everything is in Russian ofcourse adds a flavor of mystery to the whole thing. Even their merch comes with hand-painted cards and traditional dolls. That sort of immersion is what makes this genre tick. The folk parts are mellowed down in the mix, which makes it easy to acces.

Sequestered Keep

This act from Utah in the US is one of the most insanely productive ones out there. The music of Sequestered Keep is simple, catchy and melodic. Though it works for fantasy, it seems to have more roots in the real world, maybe referring the lost magic that our lands had before the industrialization and such. This depends on which of the many records you listen to ofcourse.

Ranseur

I wasn’t sure about including Ranseur from New Jersey at first. The sound here is much more 8-bit oriented, simple and functions more as an ambiance sound when gaming. It really fits the bill as a soundtrack. Molding that out of padding drums, noise and synths is a craft, the artwork is also something quite special. The idea of this record is Goblins playing and dancing. I get that.

Elric

Another interesting adition is Elric from the United Kingdom. Elric is a character from the Michael Moorcock books. I’ve not read them, but I get how personal and direct inspiration can be. Swooping synths are the soundtrack for that inspiration in the work of Elric. It’s strangely minimalist, but doing exactly what it needs to; create that aura of the fantastic (but remaining warm).

Barak Tor

Greek artist Barak Tor is one of the more polished acts and sounds much closer to an actual soundtrack on this album of barbarian dungeon synth. It demonstrates how far you can push it when it comes to quality with this music. Though I’m personally a fan of more simple and dark sounds, this is a pleasant intro to the genre and good soundtrack to roll dice to.

Nazgal Dracul

What if you add to the game sounds, that remind me of Final Fantasy to be honest, some proper beats. This Norwegian act is as diverse as it gets in the genre and well worth a listen. I like the black and white artwork a lot.

Mystic Towers

Well, this is a lot of purple, but the whole look and feel of the work by Mystic Towers evokes images of early day D&D game play and adventure modules. The slow pace and long tracks make for a fine soundtrack for things that take time, like reading.

Erang

Erang from France is to me one of the current day high rollers in the genre with sublime quality, top class production and an expensive thematic reach. Their recent ‘Anti-Future’ even delves into the blossoming synthwave movement of Perturbator and Gost. Still, their sword and sorcery stuff rules.

Grimrik

German artist Grimrik is staying close to the Burzum-esque sounds of dungeon synth with his ‘Eisreich’ album. A release from 2014, but a great introduction to the music genre. Grimrik also runs the Deivlfrost Label.

Murgrind

Collaborator of Grimrik, with a series of fantasy inspired releases that maintain a black metal feeling to it. Music to completely submerge into, to forget yourself for a little while. The production is really good and creates an almost filmic effect.

Heading out to Kilkim Zaibu

At the moment I’m packing up my gear to head to Lithuania for the festival Kilkim Zaibu. A combination of metal, folk and  re-enactment all in a package near a lack in Varniai. I’ll be reporting for Echoes & Dust on this fest and I’m extremely excited about it.

Now, since I don’t have too much knowledge about re-enactment, let me give a little prelude to the music program Kilkim Zaibu has to offer and why it is so exceptionally awesome.

Headliners

A festival is often judged by its headliners and on that front Kilkim Zaibu has a treat in the mighty Abbath as a headliner on the main stage on saturday. The former frontman of Immortal might not be the force of the past on some levels and true, his shows are not always great… but when they are great, they are awesome. I had the pleasure of seeing Abbath play at Netherlands Deathfest this year, where hey was supreme.

For the other days, the program is slightly different. On thursday we have a folk day, with Skyforger sort of headlining the event with a folk set. Now, those acquinted with the Latvian folk metallers know that they have mastered that craft well enough, having even done an album of folk. On friday, we have Mgla from Poland taking the honours, which is since ‘Excercises in Futility’ nothing else but very well deserved.

Baltic Connection

The paricularly interesting thing for me is the Baltic line-up. Having bands from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania filling the bill is a joy, because there’s some excellent material available to see, whether it is folk or metal.

Ūkanose from Lithuania is one of the latest additions to the Baltic folk metal pantheon, with their self titled debut album having come out in 2016. Bridging between folk and metal and truly meeting half way, they are an excellent listen. Loits from Estonia may have caused controversy in the past, mainly based on misunderstanding the artistic vision the band had and the stories they wanted to convey, but is one of the best black metal bands out there as far as I’m concerned.

On the folk end I’m overjoyed to see that Ugnivijas is playing as well as Romuwe Rikoito. Two excellent formations, breathing life into the ever simmering folk traditions on a biggers stage.

Light a Pagan Fire

A festival is more than just the bands lined up on stage, it’s a complete package and the wrapping is the atmosphere. Kilkim Zaibu aims to offer a modern pagan experience, which works extremely well in a country where the roots are so important and appreciated. The combination of black metal and folk is in fact a great combination and I for one am extremely excited about it.

There’s a lot of ritual and tradition to be found at the fest and a lot of work goes into it. Great artwork by the way, which puts it on par with the more cultish festivals around Europe.

I can’t wait and I hope to see you there. Don’t be a stranger and say hi!

How to become a Kiss fan for people that don’t like Kiss

So, it turns out that over the last couple of years, I’ve become a staunch supporter of Kiss. Yes, the band with pyro and make-up on stage, with that obnoxious, unbearable singer that tries to trademark the devil horns.

That’s just one of the challenges that faces you as a person who is into Kiss. Let me tell you how to get over the things that make you not want to like Kiss this far in your life.

But maybe first… Why the hell am I bothering with this? I never was into Kiss as a kid much. I dug their looks, I liked the footage I saw and the comics that were out, but the sound just wasn’t up to par with my expectations. Years later I rediscovered the band, finding that my original snobbism was unfounded and ultimately uncool instead of cool. Kiss is a band that always puts the fans first, regardless of the offstage antics. Having seen the band live recently, I was blown away by the show they put on. I was in awe of the entity Kiss and its dedication and love to what they do, even 40 years down the road. Kiss is a lot of things, but they definitely don’t suck. Kiss also isn’t Gene Simmons patenting the Devil Horn (that is really Gene Simmons on his own). As Kiss, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer are out there to please you as a listener, fan or visitor. Regardles of all the other crap, that is Kiss. That’s a band you can fall in love with.

Well, that and Danko Jones’s podcasts that turned me onto Kiss.

Make-up, show and weird suit. It’s so silly…

Sure as hell, fans of loud music have this demand for authenticity. I don’t mean by that the uniqueness and originality of a band. I mean that a band is genuine in what they do. The history of Kiss has been well documented and though it always seems that the band are more savage business men (Read: Gene Simmons), their concept was always about a cohesive band that was really together as a group, who delivered a show to remember full of spectacle. Even after all the trouble with the band, with members falling out, adding new ones and so on, they remain true to that image as you can see in the documentary ‘Kissteria’. Sure, it is well orchestrated, but they never did any different.

Another great source are the biographies of the band members, to really feel the concept, the genuine passion behind what has become the biggest band in show business. Paul Stanley describes Kiss as a band that makes you forget your troubles: “You’re troubles will be there in the morning, but tonight we can party” (sort of what he says in ‘Face the Music’). Music is after all an emotional experience, as soon as you let go of that and enjoy the fact that you’re watching and listening to a band that is genuinely catchy and that looks like superheroes, you’ll be alright. Did you go see the latest ‘Guardians of the Galaxy‘ film? Then you should probably not complain, you’re a grown-up watching men in tight costumes be superheroes. Just enjoy the band.

But I’m a serious music fan, their simplistic muck doesn’t resonate with me.

Give me a break please. People love making that sort of claim about Kiss, that their music is simplistic. And you know… the silly show and all, they would not be about the music. This is a great statement if you didn’t list Ghost, Rammstein and Slipknot among your favourites. Even more underground bands like the ones in the black metal scene are all about theatrics. Theatrics are part of rock’n’roll and Kiss simply is the best that pushed this to the maximum level. If you sell out stadiums, it is hard to argue with the success of that and people would not go see the band if their songs didn’t resonate with them.

That being said, you can write the most technical, complex music and be playing for two people that don’t have anything better to do. That can be really cool, but it was never what Kiss wanted to do. They make songs that resonate with people,  songs that you can sing along to and even sing in the shower. The make music that is simply catchy. This is an art form in itself, because most of the things in this world that catch on are those that stick around. And is it really so that you want to listen to microtonal, experimental black metal based on literature set to a special translation key on your friday night in the pub? No, you want to ‘Shout it out Loud’, ‘Rock’n’Roll all Night’ and so fort. Yes, you do.

They made ‘I Was Made For Loving You’…

You know all the words to that one, you probably do a little dance when it comes on. Shut it and sing a-long. Let it go, they also did a grunge album, hair metal album, heavy metal album and something that sounds like a Disney soundtrack actually.

The endless drama in and around Kiss…

That is quite an easy one to tackle, we all love a bit of drama. We’ve been relishing the Guns’n’Roses drama, we loved the ‘Some Kind of Monster’  Metallica and the same goes for Kiss. Did you hear about the 5 Finger Death Punch show a few days ago, where the band members (well, the singer) didn’t come on to the stage and left early? There’s some important distinction between that band and Kiss here. Kiss would never bring that drama to the stage (well,  not counting the days they were dragging Ace and Peter along, but that was different).

There’s a difference between the entity that is Kiss and the members that make up Kiss. That is the undeniable force of the band and has been for more than 40 years now versus a set of individuals with some obvious flaws. Gene with his money (read his books, it’s all valid), Paul with his dalliances and air of arrogance (read his book, it’s really different), Ace with his substance abuse (yeah, his book reads as a trip) and Peter (haven’t read it yet, is apparently well worth it). Creating those individuals mentally really helps to separate them from the entity itself. It also offers a wide range of entertaining material.

….but Gene Simmons said he was patenting the devil horns and Dio…(And they’re old and all).

Yes, yes, yes… Dio also joked that Gene Simmons would one day claim he invented breathing. Paul Stanley jokes in a similar way about Gene. About the first time he met Gene, Paul said: “Gene seemed to believe that only Gene Simmons, John Lennon and Jimmy Page could write a song” (again, aproximate quote). Gene Simmons spends 24/7 promoting Gene Simmons. Gene has brought his own persona to the absolute hilarious point of patenting the devil horns, just like Dio sort of predicted he would. The result? Everyone is talking about Gene, and probably that is exactly why he started this thing in the first place. Gene is not the totality of Kiss though…

If you look at individual Kiss members, you are bound to pick a favourite and see the others as jerks. Especially this is true for the original four. This is part of the charm, but the same thing  goes for Gene. The problem with Gene Simmons though, is that he actually is everything you imagine him to be. But… There’s one thing though, that people often forget. Gene is 67 years old. You might have family members, grandparents or such, who are way less vital at that age. Gene is still spitting blood on stage, getting shot up in the air and breathing fire. He does that for his fans, he is still touring for his fans and Kiss never plays a shit show. I’ve seen bands in their young days, who couldn’t do what Kiss does for a week. Gene is part of that, so Gene may be an absolute prick, but like his band members, he’s still going strong for you. Kiss must really love its fans, because why else would they still be doing their insane stunts on stage.

So… Kiss loves you, why don’t you love Kiss?

logo source: wikipedia media

Underground Sounds: Pillorian – Obsidian Arc

Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede
Band: Pillorian
Origin: United States

On Roadburn this year, Pillorian was well impressive. The sound of the group is densely atmospheric, but also heavy and very much something that grabs you as a listener. The group from Portland, Oregon in the States is ofcourse the group of John Haughm, who we know from Agalloch.

Haughm gathered some experienced musicians to form Pillorian after Agalloch split. Members have gained experience in groups like BanewreakerUada and Maestus. Soundwise, the group goes in similar directions as Agalloch, but just darker and more heavy in my opinion. The complex poetry in lyrics and titles is still there though.

On opener ‘By the Light of a Black Sun’ the ingredients are immediately employed. An epic intro, with a majestic intro leads us to a song that feels a lot like the bombastic, iconoclastic sound of the great Primordial. From those big, moving intro’s, the songs move towards a frantic, high-paced black metal sound with rapid barked vocals, creating a sharp sound. There’s an urgency to the sound of Pillorian that is very noticable. The voic drags you into a narrow tunnel of sound for a moment, only to throw you out into the big chorus again.

The production is rather clean, so every aspect of the music is audible. It allows the listener to hear the tight and merciless precision of the band, not a blanket of distortion. ‘Forged Iron Crucible’ moves to a more traditional sound, but really all the effort again is in the build up, the dense atmosphere and grandeur of the music. That is the absolute strength of Pillorian, to really get the listener to immerse and be touched by the profundity and heaviness of their expressions. A bit of clean vocals would not have been amiss here, to create even more of that feeling.

Pillorian is a band that delivers black metal in a majestic manner. Everything is well balanced, polished and tells a story if the listener is willing to hear it. John Haughm is a creator of beauty, even when that beauty is grim and bleak. That is what makes Pillorian so good.

New Wave of Dutch Black Metal Part 2

The New Wave of Dutch Black Metal was coined by Never Mind The Hype and I was amazed by the sudden realization that we have so many good bands in the Netherlands.

This is my attempt to give you an overview of the amount of stunning bands that the Netherlands has to offer, but there is more in part 1.  I have to say though, the more I’m looking into it, the more I seem to find!

Black metal fury with Cirith Gorgor, Tarnkappe and Turia

Some bands stick to the fierce sound that characterizes the original outlets of black metal. Almost unrecognizably mutated from the Venom-roots, the sound is furious, overwhelming and battle-ready. These bands to my experience hold the fort, while adding distinct own aspects to it.

On their last album, ‘Visions of Exalted Lucifer’, the band Cirith Gorgor pretty much showed that they are one of the most esteemed black metal bands from the Netherlands, producing a sound very close in praise of the traditinol, thunderous black metal from the nineties. Their latest offering is an EP titled ‘Bi Den Dode Hant’,  a reference to the infamous ‘Bokkenrijders’ from my parts of the world in the older days. Their four track EP has two absolute gems on it, but also one of the songs from the previous album. Bummer, because I knew it already. On ‘The Luciferian Principle’ we actually get a bit of a weird atmospheric outro, which is pretty cool. It’s the title track though that completely takes the cake here, a blistering surge of hatred. A continuous abyssal assault, lead by singer Sathanael and the vicious guitar assault.

Tarnkappe was featured earlier on my blog, but this band really fits in that traditional black metal framework. Maybe a bit towards the natura-inspired sound, but the artwork and vibe is staying close to the core. The band name means something akin to ‘Wizard’s hat’ in the old tongue of these lands. Looking at the cover and the landscape depicted there, you might easily link this band to a Burzum, but their sound is much less hazy and dreamy, filled with repetition and firm waves of guitar sounds. The vocals really speak to the listener in my opinion.

When it comes to unleashing minimalist fury, the band Turia needs to be mentioned here. I’ve seen them play at Roadburn as a three piece act and there is just something completely desparate about their flow of misery that takes you to the vast desolation that only black metal can evoke. Their album ‘Dede Konde’ is a steady swirl into darkness and well worth listening to. Every sound on this record is measured, directed and controlled to evoke the maximum of feelings from the listener.

Outsider music with Iskandr, Kjeld, Folteraar and Fluisteraars

Black metal is an expression of the individual, of that which makes us distinct from others. These groups clearly have found a way to give shape to their own identity and place in the world, wether it is with language or other elements.

There are some bands that I find hard to place, though everything above is done on an overall feeling and emotion it evokes with me as a listener. A band I find harder to really put somewhere, but would not want to set apart is Iskandr, which hails from the Nijmegen area like Turia. Iskandr feels much more atmospheric, almost filmic in the tragic, impressive melodies the band uses on their album ‘Heilig Land’. Iskandr is also a one man band, with just O making the music, which is something you can sort of hear in the focussed stream of energy in the music. O also plays in Turia, Lubbert Das and Galg, some pretty great bands. The sound is so immensely tragic and harrowing, I love it.

The Netherlands has a second language, which you may or may not know, namely Frisian. One of the best bands to come out of the wood work in recent years happens to sing in that language and that band is Kjeld, who truly hit a high note on their album ‘Skym’ from back in 2015. The production of this band sounds a bit cleaner and more focussed, but remains firmly rooted in the Northern tradition. The musicianship is one of the claims to fame from this group  of four with much experience in other ensembles (like Asregen, Krocht, Kaeck, Gheestenland and many more).  Though the band has been in existence since 2003, the last few years saw them at their most productive, releasing a split with Wederganger recently.

Folteraar is another gritty project of excellent noisy, fierce black metal. It seems that this duo leans towards a bit of an industrial approach to the musical expression. With a thick layer of distortion and a gritty sound with low paced rhythms and grim barks this is some intense stuff. It seems there’s even a mild death metal influence to create the severely intense sound this duo produces. Originally the releases came out on an own label of bandmember K., namely ‘The Throat’, but now Iron Bonehead has picked up on this excellent band.

Folteraar is not for the fans of catchy melodic or atmospheric black metal, their sound is harsh, repetitive and ugly. The delivery is excellent though, offering a rather different take on the genre.

From there on, we move to Fluisteraars, who’ve done a magnificent job on their EP ‘Gelderland’ to create black metal that sometimes almost feels like indie rock. That’s how streamlined the riffs are, with a strange, playful melody in there. I wouldn’t go so far as calling them a gentle sounding band, but the strength of Fluisteraars is the use of melody and catchy hooks, while remaining loyal to the grim and black sounds. The 7″ is out on Eisenwald Tonschmiede in Germany, a label that knows how to deal with the narrative, gripping sound of bands like Agalloch. Fluisteraars fits in there somehow, though they can also unleash hell if they need to.

Into the underworld with Lubbert Das and Wederganger

Two more names that have a sound that is particularly haunting to round up this second installment, two names that are definitely worth checking out.

Lubbert Das is an odd reference to the work of Jheronymous Bosch, in which we find a painting, titled “Cutting the stone’. A text surrounds the painting in golden letters, saying: “Master cut away the stone, my name is Lubbert Das”. So, there the band found their name and a logo. The sound of these guys is really a lot of doom and gloom, with long, repetitive passages. The cavernous sounding guitarplay and drums really makes you feel that the sound is all submerged, under the earth’s crust where madness reigns. Tumultuous and unrelenting, this is some bad ass black metal.

Born out of some of the best bands in the more Folky corner that the Netherlands have on offer, namely Mondvolland, Heidevolk and more, Wederganger is one hell of an outfit. They combine theatrical swagger with dark, gloomy black metal. Clean vocals and ghoulish barks and howls work in concert to create a special eerie atmosphere. Wederganger translates as ‘one who walks again’, and their debut album is titled ‘Halfvergaan ontwaakt’ (‘Half decayed, awakened). After the succesful release of that album and numerous really cool live shows, the band has unleashed splits with LasterKjeld and Urfaust. This group definitely is part of the elite of the dutch black metal scene witgh a well thought out act.