I’ve been reading a lot of books, but I guess too many at the same time. The progress has been slow, sorry about that. I’ll give you some here that I feel you might want to know about.
Henry Rollins – Get In The Van
As a huge Rollins fan I obviously had to read his magnum opus, or atleast his most discussed work to date. I have heard Henry mock his own book in many of his spoken word performances and on his podcast (Henry & Heidi, it’s awesome). I read this mostly during my holiday, it tells the story of the Black Flag years up till the phonecall when Greg Ginn dissolves the band (well, he quits his own band which is kinda the same thing….). It’s a harrowing, dark journey with many grim passages, ugly truths and ugly people and a personal journey. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it, it felt cathartic.
The writing is extremely raw, direct and not really the most literal form of writing. It’s an expression of angst and anxiety in a situation that amplifies anything to the max. As a reader, you start wondering why Henry Rollins ever decided to be in a band and tour the world, because it sounds horrible. There are beams of light now and then though, there are moments where the beauty of it all shines through, but they are rare. I have little right of speaking, since I was not there, but this may be the ultimate book embodying the USA punkrock scene and its grimy origins.
James Bowen – A Street Cat Named Bob
Rarely have I been touched by a book the way this did. The book is about James, but also about Bob. James had a pretty rough life after he moved to London for 6 months to persue music. He got kicked out of his sisters house, lived on the street in a haze of drugs, theft and survival. When we meet James, he’s on the way back from the addiction, trying to kick it. He’s busking on the streets of London when he finds a cat in the hallway of his appartment. It takes a while for them to get together, but it changes the world.
The cat is soon named Bob and he becomes the companion of James… Or James the companion of Bob. James Bowen writes a compelling story that captivates the attention and love of anyone who has a pet themselves. Its his life, but also the life of someone that loves a pet and treats it in that way. I think its a beautiful story of what it means to care and be responsible. How a cat brings out the very best in a person. I truly love this book and would recommend it to anyone.
Timur Vermes – Look Who’s Back
The concept of this book was already baffling to me. Imagine the Führer waking up in this time and age and going about his business? Well, that is pretty much what Vermes must have been thinking when he started working on his debut. Hitler wakes up in Berlin in 2011 and sets about his business to conquer the world and win the hearts of his people once again. It leads to a surprising series of stories, a frightning view into our media-culture and the humanizing of who is generally considered the ultimate devil of history.
Vermes manages to be witty as well as completely critical of current society and manages to show how Hitler could easily rise to power in current mass media. Our inability to distinguish between threat and humor is a sharp pang in the gut to those who feel offended by this book. The most beautiful thing is how Hitler becomes a human. I’m no fan of the politics, but the hypocrisie of a whole Europe pretending Hitlers ideas are mad forget that there were massive votes in Germany but also outside of it for similar minded parties. Still we love our shouty populists, who are just as human as we are. Their beliefs are just a little creepy.
Colin Ward – Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction
Anarchism is now in everyones mind the politics of bomb throwing leftists students, who have nothing better to do and live in filthy squats wearing Ché Guevarra shirts. That would be wrong. Colin Ward explains in this brief book the origins and outlines of the one political system we’ve never actually tried out and how it has evolved from an ideal to a solution that can be seen in education and health care around the world.
He focusses on the key figures and events that shaped the current philosophic idea about anarchism. Interesting and rather unknown to most is the episode of brief anarchy in practise in Spain, before the fascist regime took over for decades. Ward manages to illuminate a forgotten topic, which is much, much more relevant today than we may think and offers much more than just flipping your finger at the ‘man’.
This installment of Sounds of the Underground features Dragged Into Sunlight/Gnaw Their Tongues, Revolted Masses, Dopethrone and Deathmøle. Enjoy these awesome tunes!
Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V. Prosthetic Records
Ok, this is a collaboration that should shake you up from any lethargic status, you may have gotten yourself into when it comes to exciting music. These are two of the most amazing acts in the black metal/drone/experimental niche/corner of the musical spectrum and they do something together? Awesome! The Dutch Gnaw Their Tongues is known for atmospheric pieces, horrific soundscapes and subtlety, where their Brittish partners in crime excel in harrowing, overwhelming black metal. The product is rather staggering in ferocity. Intense and filled with industrial black metal and atmospheric elements to keep things exciting.
The record opens with a sample, which is something that keeps returning. Building site sounds work their way into the music rather quickly. The sound is harsh, the vocals tortured and no rest is given to the listener in the onslaught of sound the band produces. Demonic screams are uttered, above highly distorted guitars and pummeling drums. The songs deal with madness and murder, with the thing just beyond that lurks. It’s beautifully horrible, this record with five songs of the utmost urgency. The songs hit home like a baseball bat to the gut, with swirling patterns and a grizzled feel. This is one hell of an album.
Revolted Masses – Age Of Descent Inverse Records
Having formed in 2008, the band Revolted Masses blends thrash and death into a potent mix, enlightened by oriental elements. The band actually hails from Greece, which explains the guest appearances on the album (Fotiss Benardo, Septic Flesh). The band has a sound that is blistering, full of fury and well polished. This is the first effort of the Athenians since their last record in 2013. The overal theme of the band is political, as can be seen by their red star bandlogo already.
The music is specially good if you are looking for your clean sounding, high energetic melodeath. It’s not as smooth all the time. Though sounding very produced and technical, there are still passages of mere battering, furious assaults of barked vocals, ripping drums and guitars. Unrelenting, the band plays forth, setting up the vibe of standing in the middle of a revolutionairy battle field. Now, for me personally this is not something I’d readily listen to normally… But, this band sounds tight and catchy, it’s the right mixture of groove and brutal to latch on and enjoy the ride. Good work!
Deathmøle – Present Peregrine Self released
Yes, I’ve been surfing the bandcamps and found this gem of weird post-metal with the most odd drum drone stuck to the inside of my head now. The bio reads: ‘Deathmøle is a fictional band that makes actual music. It is all done by Jeph Jacques.’. Jeph Jacques mostly occupies himself with a the most long running webcomic I have yet to find, which is quite fun if you’re a mixture of music geek and nerd with a lot of life questions, like myself I suppose. Then he also makes some music now and then, which is fairly pleasant.
There’s a tranquility to the clean sound of the post-metal produced by Deathmøle. The thunderous bass sounds like it’s not entirely natural, but in a genre where attaining organic vibes is the cool thing, it’s kind of refreshing to hear a sound that really does have a techy vibe to it. Five tracks, no bullshit, just energetic and fun music that makes you want to pound your fist. I like it!
Dopethrone – Hochelaga Totem Cat Records
Do you like your slugdy, dope addled doom with a particular mix of dirty and fat? Because that’s what you get with the blokes from Dopethrone. These Canadians have sound that is like mudslides, massively, gradually moving forwards and making all sorts of dirty, soppy sounds. The band proclaims to be from the meanest ghetto of Montréal, and definitely aims to sound that way. Heavy, oppressive and dark, which are some words one would definitely use to describe the sound of these guys.
The riff is master of every song. Lingering, dark and slow but mostly superheavy. The vocals are more like screams, barks of rabid dogs in dirty alleys, but I guess that is what the band intends to sound like. Add some elements of black, stoner and crust to the mix and you get this dirty cocktail that is too awesome to miss out on with tracks like ‘Scum Fuck Blues’. A dirty, dragging tune that actually has a bluesy streak to it. I personally dig opener ‘Sludgekicker’, but that may be too much Sleep for you. If you want it real slow and dirty, pick ‘Bullets’. A man, just take the whole damn album, because it’s awesome.
I’m truly excited to bring you an interview with a pagan-metal band from far-off Venezuela, namely Odosha or Odo’sha as it is originally written. The interview was kindly published by Echoes & Dust.
Metal is a global phenomenon, and I cannot stress enough how significant that becomes when you start looking into the more extreme genres in places that are less likely. South-America has in general a violent and intense extreme metal scene, of which most of us only see the tip with bands like Sepultura, Soulfly and maybe some Krisiun and Sacrofago.
In Venezuela the metal scene is much localized, but very aware of the outside world it appears. I found, in talking to the black metal band Odo’sha, that there are remarkable things that a band from a Latin America can derive from the Nordic fury that is the second wave of black metal. If any part of the world can boast of repression and washing away their history, it must be there.
And that is the surprising link and why it completely makes sense that black metal can be so much more than a European thing. Second guitarist Marco Leon was keen to answer some questions and was fortunately quite elaborate in providing information about extreme metal in Venezuela.
Can you introduce yourselves and maybe say a bit how you each got into metal music, if you played in other bands and such? First of all, thank you for the interest and support for our musical work. Odo’sha currently consists of Irwin Hernandez on bass, Yonht Figueroa on lead guitar, Marco Leon on second guitar and vocals and Juan Delgado on drums. We all come from bands with different styles. Irwin Hernandez and I (Marco Leon) are founding members of the band, Yonht Figueroa is also playing guitar in a thrash metal band named NWD. Juan Delgado, the newest member of our band, is involved in a death metal project, named Initium Vortex.
How did Odo’sha get started as a band? (is it Odosha or Odo’sha) What does the name mean, both literal and symbolical? It has a double meaning, has it not? Odosha was created as a band in 2005, with Irwin Hernandez and Marco Leon as founding members The initial idea was to create a band with influences like Bathory, Burzum, Necromantia, Dissection, Emperor and such. These were the black metal bands we listened to in those days. We also were inclined to bands like Moonsorrow and Windir, who had a more melodic sound to them, but from the start we wanted to make our identity about our geographical area. Away from the European styles and copying those, we wanted a sound that was from South-America. This is how we started out and adapted our musical influences and lyrics to the context of our indigenous cultures of our region.
We’ve taken all those beliefs and stories our ancestors held before the Spanish arrived. The band name is taken from the mythology of the indigenous ethnicity of our region. ‘Odosha’ according to its mythology is the protector of the great mountains of the south of our country, but also the god who thought man the art of war and hunting. It’s an evil deity, but not a necessary one. Originally it is Odo’sha, as it appears in our logo, but for easy writing Odosha can be used.
What is the theme or story you are telling as a band? According to Metal Archives your themes are South American primitive cultures and Paganism. I’m very curious what that actually contains for a band from Venezuela and how you bring it into you work? Well, when we started with Odosha there was nothing like what we wanted to do in Venezuela. Extreme metal bands with indigenous themed lyrics or who represented an ancestral heritage of our part of the world was pretty much unknown. Obviously as musicians we were influenced by the big bands in the scene, which were mostly European bands, but we always kept in mind that their lyrics are from their history and based on their roots.
For us it felt unnatural and even disrespectful to simply copy their styles and pretend we came from the same geographical or historical reality. Our approach has been from the beginning to take all that magnificent musical influence of all those bands and adapt it to our reality and context. This is how we became the first black metal band from Venezuela, who based all their lyrics on ancient cultures of our continent.
Here, as elsewhere and everywhere in the world, is an incredible cultural heritage full of stories of warriors, struggles and ancestral beliefs, mythology and paganism. That is the basis for our lyrics and the essence of Odosha and we are proud to open that way for many more bands with this idea. Many bands in Venezuela now reflect their regional identity in their lyrics,
Can you take us a bit more in debt on those themes? Well, all of our lyrics focus on aspects of the South American pre-Hispanic cultures, before the arrival of the Conquistadores. There were so many peoples living here before they came, who lived a total pagan way of life in communion and harmony with the elements. They worshipped the sun, moon, rain and thunder. Nature as a whole was very significant in their lives, it was full of superior beings to whom they paid tribute in ceremonies that were transmitted from generation to generation. They built miraculous monuments to those Gods in the forests in honour of them.
They were not benevolent or specifically kind, but they deserved respect and took their places in the balance of the universe. With the arrival of the Spanish a series of massacres started, the colonization was a process which enforced the Catholic Church with blood and death to worship one God that no one knew. The indigenous people fought fiercely, fighting big battles through obvious disadvantages across the continent. It is told in one of our songs, ‘Cultura pagana(Pagan culture)’ says:
The blood of our ancestors was cruelly shed Our gods were humiliated and defiled our land The strength of the cross was imposed, and temples to an unknown god rose
The brutal colonization deleted a cultural legacy and we walked away from our roots. We are not Catholic by choice, but by submission. So our lyrics are imbued with these stories, battles and rituals, with beliefs and paganism and the worship of the elements and the natural world. We take this cultural legacy and put it in our songs, which is the basis for our lyrical ideology.
Many black metal bands are trying to convey a vision of sorts, a view on the world or lesson. What is that for Odo’sha? Everyone should take their own position and accept the consequences of their words and deeds. We are not false prophets or preachers trying to impose our vision of what the world should be like. We are metalheads and musicians and that is our philosophy of life. Odosha is an extreme metal band and our purpose as a band is to transmit through a strong and aggressive sound our cultural heritage, which we believe has been underestimated and neglected.
Are you currently working on something and can you tell a bit about it? Sure, we are currently working on what will be our next studio album, which will hopefully contain 8 to 9 tracks. It should be out before the end of this year. A couple of months ago we released two songs a s a preview: ‘Solstice Ritual’ and ‘El Dorado’, both can be checked out on YouTube, to get an idea of what’s coming.
What are your main influences, both musical as non-musical, to make the music you make? It’s a bit difficult to define our musical influences, every band member has their own tastes. Those range from the black metal of the 90s to thrash and death from that period. Even folk and viking metal are a part of that influence. Beyond our music, the identity as South-American metal heads, with all the complications and difficulties of doing this kind of music in our part of the world.
What is a live performance by Odo’sha like? In the early days of the band we used war paint, but now it’s more focussed on the music. That what is heard live has to be as close as possible to the studio sound for us. So what you can expect is a presentation of Odo’Sha as an extreme, strong sounding metal band with energy discharging with every song. We are a metal band and as such we want to transmit the aggression of the genre in our presentation. We also often play covers of bands that have been very influential for us as Bathory, Emperor, Dissection or the old Samael.
Do you consider the metal scene in Venezuela locally orientated or more outwards? Do you get many bands playing in your country from abroad? Venezuela is currently going through a very difficult political and economic situation, the “bolivar” our national currency is in constant devaluation and free fall against the dollar, for that reason
Performances of foreign bands in our country have disappeared almost completely. There were better times, in which Venezuela would be a spot for touring bands to play, but this no longer happens. The situation for national bands and the projection to other countries is similar because of the unstable economic situation. Local bands are not able to open doors to other countries, there are virtually no labels or producers specialized in metal music in our country so everything is pretty much do-it-yourself. Some bands have managed to get their music to other places, but the presence of Venezuelan bands abroad is unfortunately something far removed from reality these days. Beyond the bordering countries like Colombia, it is almost impossible to play abroad.
When speaking of metal from South-America, it often focusses on Brazil. Can you say a bit about how the metal scene in Venezuela started, developed and grew into what it is now and what bands were major influencers? Certainly Brazil is the home of great bands in our part of the world, like Sacrofago, Sepultura and others. The history of metal in Venezuela is very diverse in terms of bands and periods. In the 80’s it was mostly heavy rock with bands like Resistencia, GrandBie and Arkangel. Thrash started as well with a band called SS. It was a period that paved the way for the metal scene that would harden with the passing of years and had this higher moment with extreme music in the 90s with bands like Bahometh, Noxius, Natastor, Krueger and many others. There is now a big and varied movement in Venezuela with great bands in many different styles like thrash, death, black, heavy or any other.
What is the current scene like in your country? Are there record stores, venues, clubs and such? The local scenes are quite underground, there’s no big stores, only small distributors in different parts of the country. There are not many places that are dedicated exclusively to metal. Concerts usually take place by renting places that have nothing to do with metal music. In the main cities of the country, you’ll find one or two pubs, but metal head pubs are very scarce. Play or listen to this music in these regions is always tricky, it has not reached the point where it’s respected and supported as an art form. These are lands with tropical rhythms and also with a very outdated mentality, where metal does not own any space.
As a metal head do you face forms of censorship or not being accepted in Venezuela society? As far as I gathered your country has a strong religious practise going on and some strong set values. Does that show in the metal scene? Yes, that is correct. Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country and extremely conservative. Metal is seen as an aggressor that violates the values and traditions of the region. The scene is growing though and getting stronger in a significant way. Those who listen to or played metal in this country for real are willing to go against the outdated and obsolete system in which we live.
Fortunately there are a lot of young people that are breaking taboos and opening their minds to a globalized and intelligent world, who start regarding Catholicism as a major obstacle to free thought and integral human development. We hope that at some point these walls of ignorance will be torn down.
What current bands do you recommend for people to check out?There are a lot of bands here, I personally prefer to let everyone judge for themselves. Pick one and listen, I assure you that you will get very good stuff.
To mention some, Funebria is an excellent band that plays blackened death. Noctis Imperium is another black metal band that has been around for years. Natastor is a thrash band with many years in the scene behind them and Hereja plays a brutal form of dark black metal.
That’s jus to name a few. If you ask others, I’m sure you’ll get some different replies.
Do you think there is something typical about metal from Venezuela? Could you describe it? Well, I am not sure. Maybe someone from outside the scene could spot something like that from an objective opinion. I think metal is a language that knows no boundaries. You can have a playlist with German, Dutch, Greek and even Venezuelan bands and all of them make you bang your head without even speaking their language, that’s the essence of metal.
Please use the space here to share anything you’d like to add. First of all, thank you for the opportunity to present our work. We hope this will be a door for many maniac metal heads to meet Odosha! We invite you all to check our stuff out on Youtube or on the Facebook page of the band.
You can also check out our page on Metal Archives. We’ll keep in touch, soon there will be new material from the band. Greetings and raise your horns up!
I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
– U2, Sunday Bloody Sunday
The title is taken from a book by Jonathan Safran Foer about 9/11. A stunning account of what it could be told like. The title always felt so alien to me, though I remember rushing home to watch those events home and looking at the tv in unbelief. Yesterday in Paris felt exactly like the title suggests, it was so loud that I felt like all music died for a moment. It was so close that it hurt.
I suddenly realized how precious and fragile freedom can be, how easy it is to cause ruin and destruction. By estimates 87 people were killed in a rock club, for no other reason than them not being the other, not being whatever the group responsible believes they should be. I turned around on my chair to my girlfriend, who was looking as lost as I was and I asked her: “What has rock’n’roll ever done to these people?” It felt like a silly question, but it was all that I had in my head. That stupid question, that song that we still sing. Disbelief is a strange thing, it shuts down your brain and comprehension.
She said she was afraid. I said I wanted to fight.
And then I started to put words down. I wanted to write hate, but all I could think of was love. I believe music, like the music the people in that club in Paris were coming to enjoy, is love and not hate. No matter if its black metal, R&B, hardcore punk, techno or classical music, music is a good thing and I love those shared moments at live shows, where we come together regardles of who and what we are to just enjoy the music. All because of love and I love every person there at the concerts I visit. Why? Because I feel part of something, I feel we share the same thing and for a moment we are united.
And therefor I prefer not to say hate, war and fight. I’d prefer to say I love you. Everyone of you, because we all make up this beautiful society filled with all sorts and kinds. All in freedom, everyone free to be whoever you want to be, but united by music. I refuse to let that be shattered by fear. Next week I’ll be going to see bands again and I won’t be standing there in fear. I’ll stand there , we’ll stand there united for the music, because that is love.
The music died down, but this morning I want to play my favorites. I want to play it loud, because it should never be made silent. So should you.
A bit on the late side, but another installment of underground tunes that I checked out with Panopticon, Venom, Deathspell Omega and Joanna Newsom (shut up).
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
As usual, I take records that I feel should be getting the attention. This one-man band from Kentucky is part of the movement described as ‘Cascadian black metal’. That requires some background, because Cascadia is a perceived bioregion in the west of the USA. Metal involved with this usually has some atavistic or ecological tendencies in their sound and ideology, making Cascadia more or less a concept in the way I perceive it. A band doesn’t need to be from this region to adhere to its views. The naturalistic elements in the sound of Panopticon definitely allow for this band to be included. The record follows up on the majestic ‘Roads To The North’ from 2014.
The result is a melancholic album, depicting the beauty and also the sorrow that is enveloped in the time of the year. Beautifull sunrays dancing on colourful leaves, but also blistering wind and rain, it’s all audible in the organic sound of Panopticon. The warm blanket sound of ‘Pale Ghosts’ in all its soothing and eerie beauty, but also the barrage of ‘Oaks Ablaze’, full of vitality and turmoil are part of that expression. The album is one that deserves the word beautifull, it’s a journey through a sonic landscape that is clean, stretched out and full of natural wonder. It’s an album that is surprisingly calming and pleasant to listen to. Check it out, you wont be sorry.
Venom – From The Very Depths
It’s f*cking Venom and they are back with a new album. Ok, let me just briefly touch upon the topic of ‘the real Venom’. Venom Inc includes two original members and a long running vocalist, Venom has Cronos and two other dudes… For me Venom Inc has a bit more credibility, but Cronos is producing songs that sound like Venom so I have no winner. Cronos and his croonies did this album in 2015 and it is absolutely awesome. Is it a progress from the original sound of Venom? No way, it’s really just as much Venom as their debut.
The whole album is really just balls to the wall rock’n’roll with a dark, angry overtone. Add to that a bit of gothic grim and the harsh bark of Cronos and you’ve already got enough elements to be the basic sound of black metal. Stand-out tracks are the self-deflating ‘The Death Of Rock N Roll’ and ‘Long Haired Punks’. Still, the band manages to impress with an unparalleled fuck you attitude and riffs that are solid like rock. The filth and fury was a term used for the wrong band back in the day, because nothing is as dirty and gritty as a Venom album and these guys have proven on their latest effort to be still as relevant as ever. PS. I do hear they suck live, still.
Deathspell Omega – Paracletus
So I totally forgot to pick up the latest album by Deathspell Omega. The French black metal giants, fronted by Finnish fetish porn prince and Clandestine Blaze musician Mikko Aspa, have been known to push the frontier on the genre ever outward and forward and they do so again on this frantic endeavour of progressive black metal. Ok, I know it has been out for a few years but I felt it was worthy to pick up the release on bandcamp, because it’s Deathspell Omega. Right?
Even now, five years further, the band is still pushing the envelope on this record, which reminds the listener of the likes of Nihill on their utter chaotic, gritty and mesmerizing last release. There’s a certain grandeur to the sound fo the band, but also a continuous barrage of intensity that will not go down easily. There is also a lot of beauty, of soundscapes that remind you of postrock bands with a heavy touch, samples an slow passages. A captivating album with a classical tone to it, a certain high class within the metal world I guess. Its a tangible thing throughout this continuous transforming record.
Venom – From the very depths
Joanna Newsome – Have One On Me
I’m a huge Joanna Newsom fan, so I think it was high time for me to throw it in here. Though this is also a slightly older album, I never really took the time for it. It opens with the angelic and overly sweet ‘Easy’. From there on you have not one, but basically three records in one to enjoy, because Joanna just does what she feels like it seems. The vocals have become much more polished over the years, moving away from the freakfolk roots to a more orchestrated, full sound. Where predecessor ‘Ys’, was very minimal and cozy, this does feel wider and more open.
The music of Joanna Newsom on this album is a bit too polished to sound like the appalachian folk tunes, it was once compared to. Still that is somewhere in it, in the telling of stories and conveying of clear feelings. There’s a simplicitiy to it, without trying to dumb things down. ‘Soft As Chalk’ has some of that typical singing and a feel of americana. The voice of Newsom is still something you might just not be into. It might sound more polished nowadays, compared to the pre-Ys recordings, but its hooks, jumps and hoots are never tamed. That and the unique playing style on the harp, an angelical instrument of bygone days, is still something that touches my heart for sure. With a new album coming soon, I still cherish the progress I enjoyed hearing from the debut and demo’s on. I’m not sure if I like ‘Walnut Whales’ the best as yet.
There are these heart songs that resonate with me more than others, that I can listen to endlessly. Therefor I will discuss the song by King Dude, titled ‘Lucifer’s The Light Of The World’ here. I don’t intend it to be a review, but an expression of thoughts.
Why does the occult so intrigue me? I had this profound experience the first time I listened to heavy metal, again when I listened to martial folk and then when black metal came around it came back to me again. I think a similar feeling occured with punkrock. There’s something special, something unique happeneing when that comes around. I thought it was for finding new extremes, but then this song kinda destroyed that theory. The musician behind it used to be in a black metal band Book of Black Earth, but now changed his course.
King Dude is more a blues musician than anything else. Sure, his themes are on the dark side, but blues has always been a genre with a shady past. Think of Robert Johnson, who made a deal with Old Nick to play the blues the way he did. If that is how things work, then the deal that TJ Cowgill made with Lucifer must have been a good one, because that is some dark and haunting blues the man makes. His last album, titled ‘Songs of Flesh & Blood – In The Key of Light’, was one I got to review that gave me chills and got me puzzled what to name the thing. There’s some Johnny Cash, some Nick Cave and definitely something that is not of this earth.
It was not a song of that album that totally captured me but this one:
Why is this song so overwhelming? Is it the jangling repetition, is it the slightly unnerving set of tones? Is it the confidence and relaxed vibe that Cowgill has when singing this song in a gentle and comforting matter? I feel the latter is very strongly part of that. The lyrics name Lucifer the light of the world, the great comfort, illumination and wisdom. It’s a comfort to bask in this unholy light, to let Lucifer into your heart and warm your bones.
There’s something soothing and warming to the voice of Cowgill, the lyrics make it all feel ok. We all love the light, right? The light is a good thing that will make you feel better. We are part of this world and if Lucifer is the world, then isn’t that alright? I can hardly put to words how warm and pleasant this song feels, even though it has a dark edge to it. You feel like closing your eyes and just bask in the warmth of the sun, it’s like a sunny day where you stand in front of the window and really feel that warm your bones like nothing else really ever does. Lucifer is there for you, making this a song that touches the heart (hence heart songs).
All blaspheming aside, it is a beautiful tune and actually refers to medieval dualism of Christian Gnosticism of the 11th century practiced by groups such as the Cathars or Bogomils. You can read the proper explanation by the man himself in the interview hartzine did. The song is a response to another old blues track by Son House. Regardles, I was a bit scared by this music at first since it enthralled me so easily. I guess there is still some Christian angst inside me somewhere. Its time for me to pick up my book on Gnosticism I guess.
The occult is a refuge for those like me, who seem to be looking for some spirituality that doesn’t clash with certain life views. I do not look for a spirituality that tells me I do wrong, I need one that empowers me and tells me I am right sometimes. Might that be it? Perhaps Lucifer is in fact the light of this world…
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur Nordvis
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will notserve Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.
This is an interview conducted with Malthus from Vaalghul, originally published here on Echoes And Dust.
Metal is a many headed beast and mostly we hear about the bands that roam the western part of Europe or North-America. In the quest to find out what else is out there I stumbled onto the band Vaalghul from Macedonia. Now, just saying Macedonia causes bad blood, so usually the country is known as the Former Yugoslavic Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM). That depends on where you come from though.
I find that many people in my country don’t even know this place exists, which is quite interesting. It borders on Kosovo, which is another great unknown together with Albania. The main conflict concerning the countries name is with the southern neighbours, which is Greece. The country has bene heavily investing in its identity, even following a policy of antiquisation. Macedonian identity is a part of the music, Malthus readily admits, it seeps into things.
Vaalghul is a black metal band, which is currently unsigned. In 2014 the first EP was released and work is underway to fix the second release. Malthus answered them on e-mail and through the chat, because he’s currently residing in Australia.
Can you start with where the name comes from and how you started out with the band? Vaal is the name of a demon, ghul is just an addition to give it a better sound. Vaalghul is the ‘Tyrant Overlord’ (God of Terror). The vocalist got that name when we were wondering about a band name a couple of years ago. There were some other options but we felt this fits pretty well. Back in those days we weren’t entirely sure if we would be doing something serious. Not that it was a joke of course. We came with some good ideas and then recorded the first demo. The production was very raw and almost impossible, but some people liked it.
We recorded the demo in the classic way with one guitar amp, a shit soundcard and then this is the result you get. There are many ideas behind this project, but one of them was making something different in our country. We wanted to be unique in our country with some extreme music.
The lyrics were satanic initially, but the point of them was to provoke people. Shake them up from their regular ways of drinking coffee on Main Street and gossiping. They enter the church when they have to and that’s that. We did enjoy writing the lyrics. I guess the Satanism is mainly provocative, but it also is a tribute to those who want to live free and do what feels good.
You’re using the name Malthus, can you tell me why you chose that name?
In demonology Malthus is a prince of Hell and I liked the name. That’s why I took it.
Which are the bands that inspired you to get into heavy metal? I’m not sure I remember what I was listening to, but I’m sure I listened a lot of Death, King Diamond,Psychotic Waltz, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio and Slayer.
I read that you used to have some band members, what made you continue on your own? Which bands inspired you? Yeah, I used to have some band members. We were three people in the band, but one of the members never had time to record, another had no time at all… It wouldn’t work out that way.
What made me continue was my passion for the music. I also had the time to write and record music. It’s not that I had big hopes, but I wanted to make everything more extreme and more provocative. I guess the biggest inspirations were Mayhem, 1349, Dark Fortress, Isegrim, Leviathan and Setherial for me.
How did you, living in Macedonia, get into metal music? Where there any local bands inspiring you? I happened to have really good friends who were listening to all kind of metal music, when I was in my youth. My best regards to them! Actualy local bands were my inspiration and drive to record something new and more serious. There are lot of good bands though, but most are not my style but still unique in their own way.
Are you playing live shows? Back in the early days we never had plans to play live. We did want to at some point, but we didn’t had a drummer who was up to the challenge. There are quite good shows in Macedonia though, even though most are hardcore shows. At least they’re very energetic.
I don’t think the hardcore scene is much bigger, but it’s just more acceptable to people. It’s hard to find a true black and death metal music fan…
I read you’re working on a new album. Can you tell a bit about the record, the artwork and the message you’re trying to convey? It will take some time before I actually finish this album, it was supposed to be out a few months ago. It’ll be out sooner or later though. The vocalist of Septuagint (kick-ass band from Greece) will perform the vocals on the album as a guest musician. The artwork is going to be done by Gediminas Kiaunė (Manum Diaboli Art) from Lithuania. He is a really passionate artist, who makes the perfect artwork. If you need some artwork, he is your man. He just popped up on Facebook, which got my interest. I checked his work out and was amazed, so I got in touch and we struck a deal. I check his work again for new stuff every week.
On the new release the lyrics will be more spiritual satanic, the message itself I’ll leave in the middle. Each can figure out their own from it.
What to you makes a band a black metal band? It’s hard to give an answer to this that feels right. It depends, it can be thrashy, mixed with doom or anything these days. Many bands have been taking black metal to whole different levels. Look at bands like Dark Fortress mixing music but still good kick ass and still black metal maybe not pure like raw one line but still black metal. If you listen to the records ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ and then to ‘Ordo Ad Chao’, you hear two different worlds, but still both black metal. Both completely Mayhem. Uniqueness? I took these because of the good vocal range of the vocalists, Good “scream” “grim” cold evil vocals, good atmosphere in the music.
Can you tell a bit about the scene in Macedonia, its history and what bands are standing out according to you? Sure, back in the 80’s it got serious here with bands like Orion and in the early 90’s. They played thrash/death metal with some excellent riffs and solo’s. On their tail followed bands like Dismay and Sanatorium. Later band like Arhont and Hall Of Sins rose up in the 00’s. Those are the most important names I think.
I also think they represent the spirit of metal in Macedonia. There’re only a few extreme metal bands, but they have a good history behind them. The same goes for most of these bands. When you have the time, take a listen to each one carefully.
I noticed there are more bands than I thought in Macedonia, but I hadn’t found them due to the Cyrillic writing. What makes bands chose either? The Macedonian alphabet is in Cyrillic, so many bands just want to represent themselves in their own language, which is their choice. Personally, I prefer the English, because this way everyone can grasp your message, whatever the lyrics are. If you write in your mother tongue, it’s pretty hard for foreign listeners to get your lyrics and translating them is not really it I think. But what do I know, there are people who care nothing for the lyrics, so it doesn’t matter whatever language it is.
If I visit your country, what spots should I as a metal head definitely visit? There are many great locations in Macedonia to visit, especially in Bitola. The city has a history behind it, but as a metal head I think only summer is a good period to visit. Usually people (metal heads) are gathering in the park, drinking a beer. A lot of people do that anyways.
There used to be some good places to hang out, but not anymore. The new generation of metal heads is trying to change that and I think they are getting there. There are no real record stores you could go to, the only choice is to buy music online or go to Thessaloniki in Greece. That’s an option since my city is close to it. There are gigs though.
I understood there’s quite a rivalry between Greece and Macedonia, based on a name and cultural dispute. Is that in any way tangible in the metal scene? Yeah, a lot of people are curious and asking about that. For me, I have a lot of good friends in Greece here and there, these days not many people think the way about this as they did in the 90’s (when this was an actual political issue red.). Especially people involved in the metal scene and who don’t care or are against politics from both countries don’t care much for these issues. Governments are the problem I think, not the people.
Do you think anything of the Macedonian identity seeps into the music? Yes definitely.
What future plans do you have with the band? For now, it will be the new single that is going to be released. The album will be out later some time. Who know, for now when I think about the album release, I have no clue what’ll happen after.
Thanks everyone for reading my ‘Sounds of the Underground’. It’s much appreciated, so here’s #25 with Graveworm, Murg, Witchsorrow and Fluisteraars.
Graveworm – Ascending Hate
Things tend to get back to you in time and bite you in the face it seems. Graveworm is one of the first extreme metal bands I got to hear and genuinely scared me at the time. Their album covers fascinated me, specially in the early days. Now, the Italian band is back with a death/symphonic/blackened explosion titled ‘Ascending Hate’, which to me sounds most like Cradle of Filth having a car crash with Therion.
The album is very well produced, which helps bring forward the symphonic and melodic elements in the music, which has soaring guitars and ambience enhancing keys playing throughout the songs. The harsh, barked vocals offer a contrast of brutality, together with the death metal barrage of guitars, but the bands doesn’t shy away from using their softer side when they can, like ‘To The Empire Of Madness’. There’s a beauty to this album, that unfortunately not the whole world will appreciate.
Murg – Varg & Björn
Fuck yeah, black metal the way it used to be made, that’s what I want! This album brings back the fury of the original second wave in the hand of this Swedish company. Blistering guitar play and a dense, northern atmosphre make this a well worthy ride, full of frostbitten grimness. These are songs with blast beats the way you love and cherish them, in full furious swing and high on energy. There over you hear the tremolo guitar play, reaching up to this static buzzing sound.
It is rather hard to find info on the band, but there’s a good interview out there if you are interested. To the sound, though it can be murky and harrowing, there is also a certain beauty and melodic nature to the sound, hidden underneath tones that speak of decay and morbididty. Big, wavy guitar parts speak in no uncertain terms of a grandeur and power of nature, which is an influence clearly to be felt in the music of this mysterious duo. This record brings back the past, but a bit more in its grandeur and passion. A next album might come into being, so I’m rooting for that one.
Witchsorrow – No Light Only Fire
Brittish doom lords Witchsorrow have a new one, which looks rather good on first sight. The eye does not lie with this record, but it’s not just doom. Opening title track is a jagged, heavy stoner anthem with a break neck speed. The vocals are restrained, as if the full power of the band is waiting to be unleashed as yet on this record, which happens on the thrudging ‘The Martyr’. The celebration of their 10 year anniversary is definitely one this three piece does by showing the full scale of their skills.
The slow and heavy part is definitely in order with these guys, who manage to combine that element with a certain hardcore vibe. All the sound is crisp, clear and filled with a certain venom. This is however, without ever sounding like anything that isn’t doom. Witchsorrow is one of those bands that reinvigorate the genre with a catchy and open sound. It is not without reason that album immediately resonates with me and I sincerely recommend it to anyone who bears love for the genre as a testament to its enduring longevity.
Fluisteraars – Luwte
There’s this new wave of black metal in the Netherlands, which seems to rely strongly on a certain poetic aesthetic. I think of Laster and Terzij De Horde, but Fluisteraars also puts on a particular brand of sweeping majesty into the sound they paint. In their bio, the band speaks of windswept black metal and that sort of makes sense when you listen to the organic, wavering sound of the band. The Gelderland collective is definitely taking the listener on a journey with their specific sound.
Continuously surging guitar parts drag you along in a sonic river of grief, remorse and sadness, where now and then an echo of hope seems to be woven into the sound. The band manages to lift that sound up to etheral hights. Without any hesitation the sound then twists and turns around again, like a u-turn into a shouty cacophony on ‘Angstvrees’. The track then resumes the stream. The record takes an epic approach to the black metal genre, which is truly captivating.
I wrote a blogpost about the hipster metal thing and Deafheaven. Unfortunately, not everyone got the point. I was not trying to defend Deafheaven by saying they are TRUE and KVLT. I was defending the necessity and value of progressing as a genre. You can read that bit here.
It was also pointed out to me that there are bands doing great stuff and that is ofcourse an absolute fact. I named some myself in that blogpost. I was confronted with names like Ghost and Nihill for example, as true progressive acts in the genre. Now, for Nihill I can only agree that their intense blend of black metal and an almost noise-like soundscapism and industrial barrage is going onwards down the path where I guess Dodheimsgard, Mysticum, Aborym and recently Blacklodge have been travelling. Ghost is a whole different story, and a good way to get into another thing I wanted to write about: the heavy metal gimmick.
Do I need to say more than Okilly Dokilly, Babymetal and even that weird death metal band paying tribute to Breaking Bad?
Disclaimer, if someone actually reads those
I’m not saying that any band is a gimmick, but I’m going to point out a tendency that is rather worrying next to the elitism, mentioned in my previous post. I’m trying to make a point about a tendency that is very visible and slightly worrying, regarding the future of the music genre and the shape its taking.
Gimmick Gimmick Gimmick… I need some more
A gimmick is, according to google ‘a trick or device intended to attract attention, publicity, or trade.‘ Now, a gimmick in itself is therefor necessary. There are other words in use for it, but it’s kinda like your party trick, the thing that makes people look at you or your band. Gimmicks in metal are as old as the genre, from Black Sabbaths obsession with crosses to He-Man outfits for Manowar or the make-up and lingerie of the glamrock scene. It’s an element of the showmanship and hedonistic character of metal, even when it comes to the most conservative elements of the genre.
Some genres have managed to become gimmicks in themselves or make the gimmick part of its general identity. Black metal is one of those, which is why breaking with that identity is such a major crime (deafheaven again). Hardcore is not much better, specially the beatdown/tough guy side of things, which is a look you can practically mailorder from Impericon or whatever. But why am I making a big deal out of it?
Mainliner, Headliner, Headline
Magazines always have headlines and for years those names where those of the great bands that we still know and love. Slipknot seems to be one of the last in line for that, a band that becomes bigger than their next release and big enough to survive it. According to many metalheads, Metallica has not released anything decent since the black album (and there are those who hate the black album as well), but they’ll still buy a ticket to the show (sure, ‘Lulu’ was really pushing the patience of the fans). Same goes for a bunch of names, some slightly smaller, others bigger.
The headlines of a magazine like Metal Hammer have in recent years not featured the names of new bands that are up and coming for their progressive and spirited music. It’s always been that way that the industry can be massively wrong. Who remembers certain bands from the eighties and nineties that were hailed as the next big thing? Hell, who remembers the likes of Mudvayne and Ill Nino as bands that actually where significant to the genre? A shift has taken place to the circus act, the fantastic and weird and in a sense the gimmick in metal.
Recent favorites of the metal press include: Steel Panther, Ghost and … Babymetal. Next to those, you’ll find bands whose greatness was built atleast 10 years ago. Ok, and the rare Feed The Rhino or Upon A Burning Body, which is really just for the kids (or is it?).
The Power of the Press
Do I think lesser of these bands? No, I actually believe all three of them are great at what they do and in the case of Babymetal, it’s giving metal that odd edge and different thing it probably needs. This is not why the band gets attention, they get it because of the gimmick, the circus act. Same goes for Steel Panther, who are an overdone blast from the past act (in a way then a postmodern full circle it seems). Articles and reviews are not so much concerned when it comes to these bands with the music, but with everything around it. That is really worrying for a genre. This is ofcourse the curse black metal carries, the sensational overtook the musical.
It’s all about clickbait, being funny and getting some likes and that is a general problem with the press, both online as offline. Everything has to be insta-awesome, there is no time for records that take time. Metal has always been partly about being big and imposing, sensational and shocking, but also about music and that side keeps losing ground.
The question is, where do we go from here?
Ghost has just lived up to their name with the latest album, featuring my personal favorite ‘He Is’, connecting the band to Selim Lemouchi. It is an interesting fact how this song keeps the band attached to the undeground, atleast for one more record. Instead of going for the big hit sound, amplifying the gimmick, the band has with this move created credibility. Is that selling them short? Maybe, the album is totally great but isn’t it rather far removed from the metal sound (and does that even matter)? Should they drop the masks on next album maybe, or would the Kiss effect happen? It’s hard to say, but right now they are flagbearers for the genre with an album that sounds remarkably little like metal.
The Babymetal hype has died down and I think that Steel Panther had its moment of glory too. Ghost might be heading down the path of Slipknot, taking a gimmick all the way to the top. Who knows? But where is the purism?
What was the last band that made it on music alone? Whose merit was just that they knew how to write a great tune without some over the top sensationalist antics on stage or crazy outfits? Volbeat managed to walk the line in a way. Mastodon relied little on their artwork in the eventual sound and bands like Bullet For My Valentine and Avenged Sevenfold can hardly be considered names that made the genre move any step forward. Still, these are bands we liked for the music, not the arty things around them.
The problem is that the metal scene seems to be way to crazy about its gimmicks and is in danger of becoming the novelty itself. If metal doesn’t put the music first again (this goes for the metal music press even more so), the beloved genre will become a bastion for has-beens, hipster post-metal kids and odd Wayne’s World references in films. Perhaps Ghost has a part to play in that, perhaps your band does?
Metal has always been rich with gimmick bands. Look at GWAR, Kiss or anything fromt he eighties. Look at the whole folk-metal genre and Austrian Death Machine. Even a project like Nekrogoblikon is hilarious but based on the gimmick. It is awesome though and we should not be without it. We just need some balance now.