Category Archives: Music

Underground Sounds: Bergrizen – Der Unsterbliche Geist

Label:  Purity Through Fire
Band: Bergrizen
Origin: Ukraine

Bergrizen is remarkably enough a solo project by Myrd’raal. The band hails from Kiev. The music is self-described as HelCarpathian black metal, which was not a term I was familiar with up till now, but listening to this record I’m quite sure that its a fitting term for the furious sound.

The band has been around for a good 10 years now and in the live setting, there is a full band playing the songs, so that must be something to behold. This is the fifth album by Bergrizen, with the ominious Hegellian title ‘Der Unsterblichen Geist’.

The sound of Bergrizen combines a classic somberness with the rigid sound of straight-backed black metal. Pitch black, but surprisingly enough, also very listenable. There’s an inherent darkness to the sound of this band, with many remorseful and melancholic passages in the quieter bits. From the points where the music swells, we get powerful arches, tremolo riffing and pained howls.
The singing is often inaudible to an extent that only the feeling is conveyed in almost bestial screams. Musically the record cover might suggest much grimmer and harrowing sounds, but surprisingly Bergrizen is full of melody. On ‘ Ankunft der Winterdämmerung’ we also hear a deeper, more abyssal voice full of evil promises. Then again, on ‘Entsagen’ we actually get a bit of that rock’n’rolling sound and feel.
Bergrizen has a lot of the traditional black metal vibe while being much more easy to listen to. That doesn’t diminish anything of the grim and dark atmosphere on the album. It just makes it pleasant to delve into it.

Underground Sounds: Weed Demon – Astrological Passages

Label: Dissonant Society
Band: Weed Demon
Origin: USA

With a name like Weed Demon, you can already pretty much guess that we’re getting groovy, spacy doom metal from this Ohio quartet. The massive, rocky vision on the cover, which I love, tells everything anyways. It immediately captures my attention when a band like this gets some cool artwork. It shows the dedication to the general drive behind the sound.

So Weed Demon has been around only briefly. These gentlemen have no massive music history, so the quality of this release is especially fresh. Previously the band released an EP titled ‘Stoned To Death’, which seems to have stuck way closer to the more stereotypical stoner schtick. ‘Astrological Passages’ is the thing you should check though.

Weed Demon kicks off with foreboding guitar picking in that dropping doom style. Massive reverb gives the thing a cavernous (or spacy if that fits the title better) effect. The roaring vocals really give off the vibe that one listens to a maddened caveman who’s roaring into the dark in pure rage. Big, lumbering riffs progress at their own pace, sound effects create a foreboding, creepy effect at times. Weed Demon is a menacing beast, crawling towards you. Bringing the sound of Sleep and Spaceslug together in the best possible way.

The sound has a lot of space in it though, regardless of its full pounding force. Every hit of the drum, strumming of the guitar, it just floats on as if in space. Even the lyrics are huge, talking about almost abstract concepts like the immensity and awesome power of space in a burly roar. It’s interesting that the sound still has a lot of groove left thanks to that freely soaring guitar work. I imagine this band really kicking it live thanks to that. My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’.

My favorite track I suppose would be ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, thanks to its foreboding, dark lyrics. Here and there the band uses some little tricks to keep you on your toes, like some samples or mysterious chanting on ‘Dominion of Oblivion’. It’s a bit cheesy, granted, but the gents pull it off for most of the song to sing sonorously in this meditative style. The music just works alongside it. Weed Demon is heavy, without ever being oppressive. Their music is awesome and that’s why you should listen to this.

Underground Sounds: Lör – In Forgotten Sleep

Label: Independent
Band: Lör
Origin: United States

The group Lör has been around for a while. Three of their members also played in Top Hats and Effigies and Ashen Waves, the exception being drummer Greg Bogart. The gang of four hails from Morrisville in Pensylvania and seem to hold a special place for nature in their hearts judging by the band photos. The group started off in 2009 and released two demo’s in the past.

‘In Forgotten Sleep’ is the product of some gents that know music. Most members have a background in orchestra and concert band class in school. This makes for a different sound and a remarkable approach to music. It makes for a fascinating record, that is for sure.

A particularly folky sound is what greets you when play is pressed on ‘Dusk’. Warm acoustics and gentle singing, that swells to a puffed-chest epicness soon. Flutes join in this jolly hero song ‘Dusk’, with swooping rhythms and a swelling voice. I kind of want to go and polish my sword a bit. It’s like Ensiferum playing an acoustic set of Blind Guardian songs in a smoky tavern in Waterdeep (D&D geeks will understand).

When the music launches into its metal parts, it does so with a frenzy. The guitar licks sound thin and unadorned but retain every bit of their sharp catchiness. The drums sound thunderous within the clean sound. It leaves you with a sound that feels like the essence of a power metal song. It leans more to the folky fantastic that it tries to emulate and therefore has a more authentic feel to it. Still, the sound takes on epic proportions on a tune like ‘Song for the Lost’, with those Dragonforce-y riffs and Wintersun-y eclectic bursts of energy.

Lör takes you to a place of fantasy. It’s not folk and you don’t feel that organic, natural sound, but they put that in the mix as an ingredient. It flavors their music, which is different and exciting while also weirding me out a bit. I think that this is a good thing.

Horde of Silence: Angola is quiet no more

Angola is an unlikely place for heavy metal, but a small scene has started to develop in the African country. The documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’ showed this to the world. One of those bands is Horde of Silence, who refuse to remain quiet in their homeland. The documentary showed how metal is taking root in this corner of the world, brilliantly showing its force.

Photos byJosé Alves

The country came out of a civil war in 2002 and peace hasn’t come cheap. A generation grew up with conflict and strife. The country is still recovering from the years of turmoil and people have been displaced. Metal music seems to be one of the most fitting forms of expression from people who have had a lot bad luck coming their way. This is a way to find their voice and identity once more

On behalf oof the band Yannick Merino was kind enough to answer questions about Horde of Silence, Angola and metal music, so that the world may learn a bit about their refusal to remain silent.

Could you start by introducing yourselves and telling us how the band got started?
A: William Sazanga: Vocals, Denilson Jayro Cardoso: Guitar, William “Seth” Neto: Bass, Yannick Merino: Drums

The person that had the idea to startthe band was Edilson “Pagia” Chitumba (currently he’s the vocal / bass player for Dor Fantasma. He wanted a band with fast riffs and heavy tunes, similar to Divine Heresy. He invited Jayro, also from Dor Fantasma to join the band and the two called me to be on the drums. They asked me, because at the time I was one of the few drummers that was able to play fast double bass and blast beats.

We first met at a concert in Luanda, at King’s Bar, in February 2009. Jayro and Edilson went from Benguela to play with their band (Dor Fantasma). I was one of the organizers of the concert and I played in a band called Last Prayer (a Groove Metal band). Horde of Silence started at the end of 2009 when I moved to Benguela and we first played live in January 2010.

What bands inspired you to start playing this kind of music?
A: The bands that inspire us are Behemoth, Dark Funeral, Sodom, Rotting Christ, My Dying Bride, Cannibal Corpse, Divine Heresy, Fear Factory.

How did you settle on this name, what does it mean to you?
A: This name was chosen by Denilson Jayro, it’s supposed to be contradictory, because we aren’t silent.

What is the theme in your music, what sort of stories are you telling the world?
A: We talk about religion, mythology, wars. The main focus in the songs is the Angolan culture, we talk about the different religions that are in the country and the Angolan mythology. The wars is a normal thing that most of the bands in here talk about, we exited a war in 2002 and some of us still feel some repercussions. We try to put our history, the things that we lived through in the past into the songs, the conflicts, the deaths, the mysticism…

So you’ve recorded a song for a split album ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ with some of the bands from the Angola metal scene. Can you tell us how that record came to be?
A: All the bands that recorded ‘You Failed…. Now We Rule!!!’ are from Cube Records. The idea was to each band record one song and tell Angola and the World that in Angola we have metal bands. It was a bit hard to record because we recorded in a home studio, but it was worthy.

How do you guys go about writing your music, who is responsible for what element of it?
A: The lyrics are the responsibility of the vocalist, as for the instrumental part, the main parts are done by Denilson Jayro and Yannick.

You’ve mentioned you are working on your first EP. What can we expect and how is the progress? Where will it be available?
A: We are working in the EP, it’s in a slow process but we expect that it will be done in the end of the year. We will launch it through Cube Records, but it’ll be online a bit later probably.

Angola’s scene got quite some attention thanks to the documentary ‘Death Metal Angola’. How has that impacted you guys as a band? Did it open doors for you guys?
A: It did open a few doors to the Angola bands, we receive some invitations to play in other countries, so has a lot of bands, such as Dor Fantasma (that’s Denilson Jayro main band), Before Crush, Last Shout and many others.

What is super typical about metal from Angola?
A: The speed, the heaviness, the mosh pits , and especially the union that exists in the metal.

How did metal come to Angola, what was the thing that made the scene start and how big is this music where you are from?
A: I honestly do not even know how to respond to this, I know there were a few metal bands in the early 90’s, but the main scene here in rock was punk and hard rock. I think the metal bands start to came out because of the speed and the heaviness in style. In the 2010’s there was a boom on the metal bands, but right now is starting to fade a little bit, metal bands right now are not as much we would like to.

So do you have things available like rehearsal spaces, instruments, music stores, venues etcetera? Or how do you cope with the lack thereof.
A: In Angola to get good instruments is hard, especially for metal. Most of our instruments are bought outside of the country. In terms of rehearsal spaces are to limited, most of the bands (90%) rehearse in a part of their homes.

What do you feel is typical about the music scene you have over there. What is its beauty and what are its downsides? And how do you connect to metalheads from neighboring countries?
A: Most of the people in Angola dont listen to metal, they say that’s noise, so it’s difficult for us to show our thing. When we have the opportunity to do it, the people are amazed with our performance, and most of them ask if we are from another country hehehehehe. We connect to the metalheads in other countries through social media (Facebook, WhatsApp).

What sort of position does metal music have in your country now, how does society respond to it? Is there forms of censorship?
A: Its very low, the people in Angola prefer to listen to soft music, for most of them, Metal is noise. We are censored all the time, even by the local rockers, they state that we should play soft like Coldplay or U2. We only play in certain places at certain times, if we played another rock genre we would be more acceptable.

What other bands from Angola should people really check out (and why)?
A: You can check Dor Fantasma (Thrash Metal, they sign in Umbundu – a dialect from Angola) , Mvula (2 time winner for best rock band in Africa from AFRIMA), Black Soul (winner of the best rock band in Angola from Angola Music Awards), Sentido Proibido (winner of the first battle of the Bands), Singra, Projectos Falhados, Ovelha Negra.

What future plans do you guys have right now?
A: Right now the plan that we have is to finish recording our EP.

Final question: If you had to compare your music to a type of food, a dish, what would it be and why?
A: That’s difficult, but we think it would be palm oil beans with grilled fish, because it’s a dish that represents a little bit what’s the Angolan culture, and we sign in our songs some elements of the Angolan Mythology.

 

Underground Sounds: Raventale – Planetarium

Label: Ashen Dominion
Band: Raventale
Origin: Ukraine

Raventale has been around since 2005. Since then the atmospheric black metal band has been steadily pushing out new records. The band revolves around Astaroth Merc, who seems to be a busy little bee with various projects. Just a to name a few; Deferum Sacrum, Balfor and Chapter V:F10. Raventale is his main project though, in which he does literally everything.

Raventale has dabbled with various themes, from Tibetan buddhism to Native American mythology. Astaroth draws inspiration from pretty much everything in order to create his art. It makes the music deep and ritualistic, with cosmic pretences. This is something special for sure.

‘Gemini – Behind Two Black Moons’ immediately launches with a big guitar wall and a thick, melancholic atmosphere. The slow pace is reverential, mighty and the backdrop for furious vocals, that preach in an apocalyptic tone. The guitar work feels very classic heavy metal. Soaring and full of strength, they really have an almost magical effect.

The regal sound makes way for a more forceful track on ‘Bringer of Celestial Anomalies’. Though the big wall of sound remains, it packs more aggression and energy. Another fact you’ll notice is how the production is exactly how it should be. Expansive at some points, and narrow at others to give you exactly what you need.

Even when the band interjects brief interludes of just guitar, a hazy wave of distortion keeps ringing in the background. Silence never falls in the universe of Raventale. For the following tune, titled ‘At the Halls of the Pleiades’, a more rigid, stripped-down sound can be heard. Blaring melodies and strong, steady rhythms are a show of muscle. Nothing about Raventale is gentle or measured, everything is about the grand gesture and that is something pretty cool in how this band does it.

A record for those who need some power and cosmic darkness in their playlist. I encourage checking this out.

Underground Sounds: Apricity – Bipolar Shift Doctrine

Label: Independent
Band: Apricity
Origin: Lithuania

Apricity took their sweet time making this album. Most of it was recorded in 2014, but the whole vibe of the record fits the prevailing sound of that melodic death metal era a while earlier. Now, I’m not calling this a retro act. They sound great and the recent production is awesome. It just happens that they clearly take their inspiration from a very melodic corner of the metal scene.

The band originates in Klaipeda on the Lithuanian coast and should not be confused with their American counterpart in name.  The album was produced this year and finally unleashed on this world. I for one wish them a lot of luck and success with this release.

The style of Apricity fits best in something that is both technical and melodic, bearing with it influences from melodeath and metalcore alike. The way they implement this in their sound from ‘The Afterflow’ onwards creates a strong sound. The vibe is that of a narrative with gritty effects and interesting effects. As if we’re in a sci-fi horror film. When the riffs kick in a moment later, they sound smooth and clean. A very accessible sound for a metal band. This reminds me of the days when I’d listen to this endlessly while gaming. This is the kind of band that lures the kids in. That’s not a bad thing.

So with the grunted, roaring vocals, the particular arch they take, I have to think back to bands like Norther. Particularly on ‘Bridging The Infinite’. I’m less impressed by the vocals on ‘The Human Hive’, where they seem to try a bit too hard, even on the clean parts. The keys are ever so present by the way, which is noteworthy. This avenue of metal was sort of abandoned years ago, but Apricity picks it up on their album like it never left. It’s a dangerous sound, like on previously mentioned song, where the listener really surfs along on those clean waves. The catchy melodies, the production, it all promises way too much. That is what makes Apricity so damn nice to listen to. The catchy riffs, the smooth drums, this album is just super slick and a great lure for future metal fans.

Hardcore Sounds: Bloodclot – Up in Arms

Label: Metal Blade
Band: Bloodclot
Origin: United States

This is a bit of a special little thing for me because Bloodclot is not a new band. It’s old as fuck and it revives a sound that is very dear to me. Raw, straight up hardcore with a metallic tang in its delivery. Bloodclot originates somewhere in 1981 and revolves around hardcore royalty, Iron Man athlete, vegan activist and Cro-Mags frontman John Joseph.

Joseph rekindled the fire of this band due to a chance situation, where AJ Novello was unable to play and Todd Youth (Agnostic Front, Danzig) was called in to fill in on guitar. Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo (Queens of the Stone Age) joined up and here we have an all star band. In the previous incarnation in the noughties (2008) the band featured members from Bad Brains, Cro-Mags, Biohazard, Sick of it All, Dead Kennedy‘s and Monster Magnet.

So this is a band full of people that have seen it all but are still keen to play snotty, in your face hardcore music. They do it so well on ‘Up in Arms’, which is a whole record of fun, fury, and groove. Clocking in just under 30 minutes, from the opening riff of the title track on, you’re hooked. Joseph sounds clear and venomous. The energy and drive in the music are frightening. Blistering guitar work, high paced drumming and lyrics that actually have something to say race by.

Sure, this record lacks that ratty vibe of early hardcore. These are musicians who lay down solid tracks, but that also means that they channel their frustration in much more effective and to the point ways. That’s exactly where this record shines brightest. It’s where Joseph lets his voice go in overdrive on ‘Manic’. When the guitars just leave you on edge, waiting for the explosion.

Bloodclot sounds fresh, it sounds like hardcore sounded when it was good and meaningful. There’s no room for any ego’s, just for great and powerful music.

 

 

Ūkanose: Out of the Fog

It’s a rainy day in Varniai and we’ve found a dry spot for a chat with Lithuanian folk-metallers Ūkanose at Kilkim Žaibu festival. The band has been around for a little while and released an absolutely great record with classic sounding songs. We’re sitting down with guitar players Robertas Turauskas and Linas Petrauskas to discuss the band.

The sound of the band is a complex matter. It’s not full on metal, but it also isn’t rock. The songs are almost purely folk though, which all the force and bombast merely support. It’s as if the band tries to make the songs more vitalic, more powerful, without losing any of their integrity.

The group has six members, who have all been active in some form in the metal scene. They’re currently changing drummer, so half their set at Kilkim Žaibu festival was played by Vilius Garba (who also plays in Sagittarius) instead of Vilius Panavas. It turns out it’s not the first shift in the band’s line-up since 2012.

Originally published on Echoes & Dust.

Ūkanose: Folk, Metal and Lithuania

I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach.  – Martynas Švedas

Q: Can you tell me a bit about the origin of Ūkanose?

Linas: Well, I started the band back then together with our accordion player Tadas (Survila red.). We both had a love for folk music and wanted to do something together. We wanted to be like folk music, but heavier and for that, we needed a drummer and so on. So we got a band together and played our first show in Trakai back in 2012.

Mind, back then we were a very different band, we had a girl on vocals next to the male vocals and the line-up was vastly different.

Robertas: When I joined the band 1,5 years ago, there were seven members. Some of those were dropped, it was simply not working. We also decided to not have any females in the band. No, I’m just kidding about that, but the singer was just not fitting in with the sound we wanted to attain. We wanted to play, as a band, a much heavier sound so some members left at that time. We were simply not on the same line and that showed in the productivity in songwriting. By that time the band had written 5 songs in 4,5 years. In just 1,5 year we wrote 6 songs now and we’re working on more.

At this moment singer Martynas joins.

Martynas: Songs that I actually can sing!

Singer Martynas in action at Kilkim Zaibu 2017

Q: It seems to me that this addition was very significant for the sound of Ūkanose?

R: The thing with Martynas is that he doesn/t play anything, but he listens very well and has a good overview of things. Het looks at it as an outsider.

M.: You really have to take your time for the songs to come together and keep an eye on the theme and topics. For example, we did a song about Viking raids and the Curonians, a tribe from current day Latvia.

R: We have to make the songs relevant to what we want to communicate. We take inspiration from the partisan songs during the Soviet occupation, we make resistance metal!

L: What we write about comes from the inside.

Q: What sort of reception did your music get at first?

R: A friend in Poland, named Leopold, said that we sound like an amazing folk punk band. I guess we have a mixture of punk, metal and folk going on. This is also because Tadas is the punkrock guy, so I think that also helps with a unique sound.
L: There’s something in there for everyone, even for the people in the small villages there’s something to be found in our sound.

M: We want to do a lot of things with our music, it has to be as Linas says something we truly feel like. For example. today I have three events to partake in. Participation is essential to feed the base. You have to be there to make it genuine. But we play only to please ourselves in the end.

R: We participated in a band contest a while ago, where everyone gets to play three songs. For some reason, the judge of that contest decided to say we were Nazis. That makes no sense at all. They decided that our music and message was in that spectrum somehow. That sort of crap comes easily if you try to be different.

Q: So how did that work out? That sort of accusation can really be damaging for a band.

R: It happens a lot here. Maybe itś something political, but there’s a lot of generalization involved with it. Folk metal would automatically be nazi, even though these bands, like ourselves, rarely have any political content.

L: We shouldn’t care about this, but it ruins our reputation.

R: What we did after that is share that information as a video online and asked people this: “These people think we are nazi’s, what do you think?”. No one agreed with the jury…
M: I think these were just very narrow-minded people, who have no clue about music. They are only focussed on that mechanical music and disrespect attempts at making something genuine. They miss the effort that goes in it, the lyrics and the message of a band.

Q: Since you guys sound so different, what sort of reception did you get from the metal crowd?

R: There was this German guy who kept writing to us to tell us that Martynas sucks, he made a whole study of why and how he sucked and kept telling us about it. Unfortunately, there’s always a bit of a negative response from the metal crowd.

Thereś a huge divide between the pop audience and metal crowd I suppose. Metal really resists societies norms, wants to be evil and about satSatand stuff… Though I think it is not as bad in Lithuania.

Q: So what I’m getting is that you guys are about the past in a sense, but is it to reinvoke or reimagine the past or to take from there and be in the now?

R: I think we are a modern band, we are a continuation of that past. There’s something to take and learn from that past. You see Martynas and Linas here, they are real. Let me explain, Martynas for example plays three shows today and takes part in the viking reenactments. Martynas makes things like this leather satchel he is wearing, because he learned how to craft that. Linas is a shieldcrafter and also a reenactor. They are living the things we sing about. Martynas can just live in a forest and be happy there, you know? That makes what they do come from a real place.
M: I just think that if you want to say you are a warrior, if you want to sing about being a warrior, you can’t be some lazy guy just blathering about this while smoking your cigarettes. You have to be what you preach.

Q: Are there any bands you look to as an inspiration for the sound of Ūkanose?

L: When I started shaping this band and its sound, I didn want to sound like anyone else really. I wanted to sound like Ūkanose. Something that wasn’t around at that time and I think that is what we are now. I guess there is some black metal inspiration in the sound though.
M: I wanted this band to sound like Martynas…

R: I think Skyforger would be an automatic inspiration for us, we even covered one of their songs. To me thereś even something of power metal in the music, which is partly the ideas and context it invokes, like Sabaton does.

Q: How do you create your songs as a band?

R: We really start with one idea that comes to the table. We get on top of that with the whole band as a team. In a band like ours, you sort of have to. For example, I can’t write the melodies for the accordeon. We can help eachother add things, change things that don’t work, but we have to work together on that. We make a lot of changes. An then we have to make the songs a lot shorter every time…

Q: Ok, so let us talk a bit about your album that came out last year, the self-titled release. What can you tell me about it, how was the response?

R; The overall response we got was quite positive. We were quite happy that it finally got released actually. The original line-up of Ūkanose couldn’t do all these songs, this one can. Martynas sings all the songs and they are some great songs. Unfortunately the mix was done by someone with a metal background, so the folk is a bit missing when you listen to it.

L: It’s a good start, I give it a 7.

R: I think the album gives a good picture of what we are about, what we try to express and is a great way of saying to the world ‘here we are’! This is us coming out of the mist, as a band and a message. This is what the word Ūkanose actually means; ‘out of the fog’. I also feel it shows artistic integrity, it feels like an honest record to me.

L: For me Ūkanose has a lot of meaning to it, it is about life and death, being between the sky and the earth, it is the connective tissue that binds all of this together. I think the album captures that.

All money was put into this record and it was released on a Russian label. That was not the best idea I think, we should have done that part different. I have nothing against Russia, but with everything going on it may not be such a good thing.

guitar player Linas at Kilkim Zaibu

Q: I just watched you guys play live. It’s a great experience with a sound, you can’t really compare to other bands. How would you describe your live show?

M: Well, I like to play as offten as possible actually… I want people to feel welcome at our shows. But now I have to go for the next act of the day. (red. Martynas plays later with Ukanose, a folk project and with Lithuanian black metal legends Obtest).

R: I think it’s a very genuine experience. Martynas is a great frontman for us live, he is just very authentic. I never was into this folk metal sound myself, but I think we sound very speial. Our music is different, it stays closer to something authentic, but it also has something spiritual to it for me.

L: I think we have a bit of a classic rock feel on stage, but itś also really metal to me.

R: The message is to express yourself, like we need to express this in Ūkanose. Don’t let the constraints of society stop you from sharing your message. Just play!

M: But make sure that you have a message!

Q: If you had to compare Ūkanose to a type of food, what would it be and why?

M: Mead…

R: Well, that is sort of cheating, but it fits. Mead can be sweet and spicy, but not too shy. We drink mead to Perkunas. We would be a good honey mead of 14,5% alcohol.

M; It’s a celebratory drink.

L: It’s a drink that expresses strong friendship and praise of the bees and honeys, that’s us.

 

Underground Sounds: Varkâna – Rite

Label: Independent
Band: Varkâna
Origin: Iran

Dungeon synth is a peculiar genre and is being made in strange places. One of the acts I came across recently is Varkâna. The inspiration for their sound comes from Iranian paganism and history, which obviously offers a wealth of inspiration for any artist seeking topics to work with. Varkâna is the old Persian word for a region south-east of the Caspian sea, now known as Hyrcania. A region now partly in Iran and partly in Turkmenistan, which was incorporated in various historical empires.
So, because I was really curious I got in touch with the artist behind the project and I’ll share the reply the way I received it: “It’s based on Iranian mythology and nature. I composed all the tracks when I was away from the city and deep into the vast lands and forests of northwestern Iran, the name varkana means land of wolves which is a part of Iran it’s called Gorgan now which means the same.”
The music of Varkâna summons images of the tranquil beauty that this verdant realm in Iran is. It’s vast forests and radiant green colors. Of course, a few pictures that I could browse don’t cover the full extent of the region, but it links you to the visions that inspired the artist. Mellow drones and calm, thudding drums bring on a trance-like feel. Intricate melodies weave through this flow of sound. There’s an aspect of dungeon synth present in that the music seems to be produced with the traditional software. The music is slightly different though. If only simply in the atmosphere that the sounds and patterns evoke.
On ‘Gathering’ I feel I can actually hear the oriental vibe. It’s the way the heavy reverb of the drum is followed by the cascading music, the little tang right after and the way it fills you with a sense of foreboding.  It’s where you really realize that this is a different place when you stumble upon ancient ruins and imagine the sounds of those past places, obscured in the mists and fog of history.  Mellow folk influences dance through the tunes, which really work the imagination.
There’s a serenity in the music of Varkâna, a peaceful spaciousness. Dream away with forgotten histories and far of lands with this piece of remarkable ambient music.

Underground Sounds: Bròn – Зарђала Круна/White City, Black Circle/Ruins/Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

Label: Kunsthauch/Independent
Band: Bròn
Origin: New Zealand

The project Bròn originally released an album with a very natural vibe to it. It had the eerie magic of the night sky over the mountains as depicted on the cover of ‘Ànrach’ and I absolutely loved it. I wrote a little about previous release ‘Fògradh’ too.  Bròn is the project of Krigeist, or Andrew Campbell, from New Zealand. Campbell relocated to Scotland and there’s a definite connection between that move and the sound of Bròn it seems. He also plays in the amazing Barshasketh and Belliciste.

I missed the fact that Bròn had become a prolific outlet for the musician in the past year, so high time to catch up with the astonishing 4 releases of last year. I was reminded of this, because of the live show I saw in Little Devil recently. All exploring new aspects of nature and different sounds that express that passion and beauty found there. So this is 4 reviews of one artist. Never do words like this do justice to the full force of these albums, but I feel that I need to cover all for completion.

Bròn – Зарђала Круна

January 2017 saw the release of this record, which sticks close to the familiar Bròn sound with a lot of soaring guitars and tremolo riffs. The inspiration comes from the devil in nature, that is the only info given. The choice for a Cyrillic font does say more than that though. A later notification on Facebook said that it was inspired by the Serbian wilderness and the darkness within. There’s a definite darkness to the Balkan forests that is caught in the looming, dark sound of this new EP. The untarnished sky above it at night, the shades of the trees.

The record is a multi-part atmospheric black metal piece, with a definite Burzum doom and gloom vibe to it and the grandeur of an Elderwind.  The crisp clear production sometimes borders on overly polished but keeps on the right side of the track in all its overwhelming force. At other times it has the gentle trickling of an empty forest, where all you hear is the gentle sounds of the natural world around you. Pure magic and all of that in one long piece of over 32 minutes. Unfortunately, it’ll be the last black metal release, thus wrote Krigeist. His newer soundtracks take on different shapes.

Bròn – White City, Black Circle

Living in an urban environment requires a different soundtrack, wrote Krigeist on Facebook. He explained the sound of ‘Зарђала Круна’ while introducing this new release. The organic sound of the previous releases is vastly more fitting for the verdant realm indeed. The album signifies a radical turn in sound for Bròn. With a groove that is more triphop we enter the realm of tarmac and concrete, with lamp posts illuminating the grey jungle around you. Meandering between the aforementioned, synthwave and maybe a little dungeon synth, the sound is peculiar but fitting.

The titles are in Croation, referring to central themes revolving around that of Bròn (sorrow). It offers songs of those dark, nameless places we dwell in. Whether that’s a city in Croatia, Norway, Scotland or I wager even in New Zealand, there’s a sort of nameless grief there. The mixture of beats and ambient drones conveys that feeling very well. I particularly enjoy the mixture of that with the synths, which is always the sound of the urban environment. Towards the end of the record, the music is lighter, warmer as if the sun has broken through the smoggy haze. We leave the city here to the free part of the world.

Bròn – Ruins

On Ruins we find the same instrumentation, but a more Ulver or even folkish vibe at times with spun out tones and long passages of melancholic music. The music is calm and soothing and does, like the title tells you, remind of the tranquility you find in between forgotten ruins. That is also what the song titles refer to, to various locations of ancient ruins in corners of Europe, places that make you think and imagine. The vocals are gentle as well, almost chanting in a meditative way. The record even includes a folk cover ‘Twa Corbies’ from Scottish lore.

The sound has a clarity to it, everything is wavering and calm like an easy breeze. It’s almost like listening to an acoustic performance with various musicians, all delivering the minimal bits of sounds that make out the complete tapestry.For me, this might be the most beautiful album that Bròn has created this far. The music is so intricate, without ever sounding difficult or overly contrived. It’s a natural expression of the feeling in easy flowing, but still heavy music. After this record, Krigeist announced a hiatus for Bròn. That was definitely not meant to last after this june 2017 release.

Bròn – Where The Leaden Dawn Meets Iron Shores

A trip back to New Zealand was the impulse that Bròn needed. Krigeist was revitalized and inspired to make music again under that banner and three tracks expressing the untapped dark energies that dwell in New Zealand’s wild places. There is definite darkness on this album, which almost faded on ‘Ruins’. A long murmured intro with foreboding synths leads us into this new record. Eerie synths slither out of the speakers, while a creepy, scifi tune is played on the keys in the most bombastic tones.

But then there’s also the guitars and the screams. It would appear that Bròn comes full circle here and finds a sound that truly embraces the atmospheric output that Krigeist is looking for. The melancholy of the synths, combined with the harsh, ruggedness of the guitars. The ragged fury of the vocals, like that furious sea wind biting at you, while ver in motion on the waters. Three tracks tell the story that is both beautiful and grim at the same time. I guess it makes sense what Kant once said on the sublime in art, which really goes for nature. It’s overwhelming force can overwhelm us with awe and wonder in a sense. This is well conveyed in this piece of music by Bròn, which I really enjoy.

Let’s see what the future holds for this explorer in both the geographic and artistic realms.