Category Archives: Music

Hades Ghosphell: Laotian metal upstarts

The land-locked nation of Laos, or in full ‘Lao People’s Democratic Republic’, is not a place known to be brimming with heavy metal artists. There is a thriving underground scene happening and interaction between the south-east Asian countries occurs often. One of those bands is Hades Ghosphell.

The band plays black metal, which does make them stand out a scene that is overwhelmingly death metal of the more brutal kind. The band was kind enough to answer some of my questions about playing metal in Laos.

Photo credits: 906 Photography

Hades Ghosphell

Could you start by introducing the band? How did you guys get together, can you give me a bit of a history of the band?

The current line-up consists of Lounty (Drums), Tun (Bass), Ben (Guitar) & Aof (Vocals).

Ben: the band was initially formed by Aof and me. I was in Laos for 2 years already and was desperately looking for an underground scene, to no avail. One day a friend brought me to a fun little bar, where there was an acoustic duo playing covers. The singer went on break, grabbed a beer at the counter and asked the owner to play some heavy shit. That was Aof. We spent the rest of the night gulping beers and talking about metal, about the local scene, and how we definitely had to start a band. That’s how Hades Ghosphell started.

We struggled a bit to recruit a drummer and a bassist but eventually managed to cover a couple of classics and organized our first concert (and the first black-metal concert ever in Laos!) in October 2010. I then moved to Thailand for 3 years and our vocalist has had some serious health issues. But we are now back in full force, with a new line-up ready to lay down some devastating shit!

Do I understand correctly that you are French? So how did you end up in Laos?
You understood correctly indeed, je suis Français. I came to Laos 10 years ago as a Trainee for 2 months (on a hydropower project), as part of my university graduation in Supply Chain. The Project then proposed me a 2-year contract at the end of my internship, which I immediately accepted. I joined a logistics company afterward, moved to Thailand for 3 years, then moved back to Laos 3 years ago and here I am!

What made you guys get into metal music and which influences do you consider your most important ones for the sound of Hades Ghosphell?

Morbosidad, Proclamation, Black Witchery, Archgoat, Blasphemy, Tsjuder.

Where does the name Hades Ghosphell come from?

It was proposed by our singer, Aof, and it was immediately adopted. We liked how the imagery of ritual chants in honor of the Underworld could be interpreted in several ways, both literally and figuratively, as our humble and dedicated contribution to the underworld that the metal scene is.

Did you play in other bands before Hades Ghosphell?

Aof: no
Ben: DCS (punk-HxC) back in France, Sapanakhith (brutal death metal) in Laos, REMAINS (thrash metal) in Thailand, Dissevered (brutal death metal) in Laos.
Tun: Acclaim of Sinner (slamming death metal), Rotkin (brutal death metal), Buddhlust (brutal death metal), Dissevered (brutal death metal) and another dozen bands. This guy is everywhere!
Lounty: Morrana (brutal death metal), Killerz Virginal (grind/death)

What story does Hades Ghosphell tell in the music? What sort of themes do you weave into your own works?

The main themes are centered on the denunciation of religious fanatism, the deceptive and manipulative aspects of any religion under their great holy truths. Desecration, basically.
We will talk a bit about our personal battles, as a band, in our future works as well.

Are you currently working on any releases? If so, can you tell more about it?

We are currently preparing a demo and should start recording real soon. We are truly itching to record our first material after so many years and so many struggles. The current line-up is working very well, we have a good alchemy and shitloads of energy to insufflate in our songs.

What is available from you guys this far, is a couple of covers of true originators of black metal. Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem. You even have the pigs heads on stage. Are these bands your main inspirators and how far will Hades Ghosphell emulate that sound and feel in their music and live shows? Or are you intending different directions?

These classics are undeniably a special influence, among many, many others. But as said, we now have a solid line-up and are more able (and inclined) to pursue our own sound, our own style. We have been and will continue going for an even rawer sound, more black/death vocals, war drums and incisive riffs.

The original black metal wave fiercely rebelled against Christianity. In your country, Laos, the dominant religion is Buddhism followed by Laotian folk religion. There’s hardly any Christianity to rebel against. How do you look upon these religions in relation to the satanic and profane in your music?

There is a quite consequent Christian community in Laos, but nowhere near important or influent as the Buddhist main base. We are more in an open rejection of the holy, the sacred, and all the deviances it brings and justifies. Buddhism here is very much tainted with Animism, which is more a belief, than a religion as such.
It’s an acceptation that spirits exist in all things and that they can manifest or that you can interact with them. Ethnic animistic ceremonies are more rituals, animal sacrifices are pretty common and it can sometimes be related to black magic. There are a lot of folk’s tales about ghosts, evil spirits and it really can make a good inspiration or base for our materials, as the underworld, the dark and incomprehensible side is omnipresent.

I’m curious about the metal scene in Laos. How big would you say it is and where does it center mostly? What sort of styles are dominant in your country?

It’s definitely still a small scene, with its positive and negative sides, gathering around 30-40 core members. Everything metal happening is in the capital, Vientiane. The good thing is that it is pretty much united, there is no segregation between genres, as soon as it remains underground enough. Everybody knows each other and each concert is like a kinda family reunion hahaha.

But that also means a limited musician pool, with many bands sharing the same guys. Our bass player, Tun, is playing in almost all the bands here! You always have some bitching, people that used to play together and for some reason came to hate each other’s guts, but all in all it remains a very united scene. Brutal death metal is big here, there is also a bit of thrash and Hades Ghosphell for black metal. People do listen to quite a wide spectrum of underground music and usually know their stuff, just not enough musicians to represent more styles.

Can you give me a bit of history of metal in Laos. How did metal come to the country, which bands pioneered the scene, are there any important venues or festivals?

There are some old-schoolers, like Sapphire and The Exile (Canada & US), who played during the 90’s and are actually considered the pioneers of the heavy stuff here. It’s more heavy-metal, but all generations of metalheads here acknowledge and respect them.
Very few die-hard metal fans at that time but they never gave up and although not playing music themselves, they always supported and continue to support the scene. Big Joe is the most prominent figure in this respect.

Then came the next wave circa 2005 (Sapanakhith, Hades Ghosphell, Dictator, Awaken the Dreamer…) and the beginning of the Metal Destruction shows (THE metal event in Laos), organized every year by Big Joe.

Today there are 6-7 active bands, including some youngsters from the new generation who are willing to take on the torch. The Vientiane Death Fest was introduced in 2016 and a new 2018 edition is under preparation, mostly for brutal death. All concerts are organized at bars/discos/restaurants, whose owners are somehow related to the metal scene and are willing to sponsor the gigs.

Do you face any sort of censorship in Laos by the government or other institutions? And how does society look at metal music?

Censorship is real in Laos but luckily the metal scene is not big enough to attract Big Brother’s eyes, so we are not exactly bothered by the communist institutions. We don’t have issues with gigs either, as it is always very friendly. There is, however a strong societal weight on anything or anybody not going with society’s flow.

As you may know, the weight of social rules and regard is pretty important in Asia as a whole, and Laos is no exception. Losing face or appearing shameful to the eyes of society is a much greater humiliation or failure than breaking the law for example. In this context, the external appearances and the musical violence of metal in any form do stand out. As a result, a lot of kids actually stay away from the scene, precisely not to stand out. I personally believe it takes a lot more balls and commitment for Laotian kids to get and stay into metal than, say, in Europe or in the US.

Perhaps a weird question, but is everything easily available to you? Like music, instruments, rehearsal space, recording studio and venues to play live?

Music and merch are now easily available thanks to online stores and it’s really easy to import from neighboring countries, Asia or even internationally. Instruments are another story: there are very few shops and they usually don’t carry a lot of stuff designed for metal musicians. There again we have to rely on import, but it’s always tricky to purchase an instrument/parts without testing beforehand.

The one thing that is easily found in Vientiane is rehearsal studios. There are quite a few and it’s pretty cheap (~5 $ / hour). The equipment provided is crap, but as soon as you have your own gear, no problem. The recording is not an issue either, with a couple of really talented guys for recording & mixing. We are very lucky to have our own rehearsing & recording space with my other band, Dissevered, so we can take all the time needed for practice and recording, it really is super convenient! We plan to record there with Hades Ghosphell, maybe even mix ourselves.

As said previously, all the concerts are organized through connections with bars or discos. They mostly lent us the venue for free, with a percentage of the entrance fees. Plus they are guaranteed to sell quite a nice amount of beers.

Are there any bands from Laos that people should really check out? Can you name them and explain why?
Dissevered (brutal death metal). It’s the first Lao band to sign & release albums on an international label (New Standard Elite, USA). Both Tun (bass) and Ben (guitar) play in this band. Straightforward, ultra-brutal stuff!

Buddhlust (brutal death metal). Another spearhead of the brutal scene here, they just recently joined Reality Fade Records (Ukraine) and are to release their debut album in 2018.
Rotkin (brutal death metal). With just a demo available for the time being, they are the youngsters of the metal scene. Great dudes and tracks, a debut album should be released soon.

What sort of connection do you have with the metal scenes from surrounding countries? Is there any sort of contact and cooperation happening?
Most definitely, we are in touch regularly with the neighboring metalheads, especially in Thailand. No language barriers as Lao people all understand the Thai language. Metal shows in Laos will always see Thai counterparts joining the party and Lao metal heads regularly attend major shows in Thailand. But we also have good friends and contacts in Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia…

It’s a small scene everywhere (except in Indonesia where metal, especially death metal, is huge) so it is pretty common to have gigs with regional bands.

I’m interested in what the connection with Thailand in general is. I’ve noticed that a lot of metal musicians from surrounding countries have moved there. Has this got to do with liberties?
On paper, it is not exactly a good time for liberties in Thailand with the current regime. But in reality, nobody really gives a fuck if you play in a metal band or organize metal gigs, it is just another form of music. So yes, unless you criticize or instigate hate towards the monarchy (which is really not recommended), I would say that the freedom of speech and of being yourself completely is better in Thailand, compared to most of its neighbors.

Plus the scene is good, the public is good, there are some really active organizers who manage to book great international bands…
Traveling to Bangkok from surrounding countries is usually pretty cheap and easy, and staying there for a couple of days will not bleed your bank account dry. You will not have any visa/immigration issues on arrival even if you carry your whole drum set with you.
So yes, all-in-all, Thailand is an easy place to go or to be for underground musicians.

What future plans does Hades Ghosphell have?
A demo very, very soon. Then more composing, more shows too if possible and why not a debut album within early next year… we are back from a long slumber and more eager than ever get things moving forward!

If you had to compare Hades Ghosphell to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
A cured ham. One that you forgot you had, until the day you discover it hidden in a dark corner your fridge and devour it with tears of joy in the eyes.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for the interview man, and keep an eye (and an ear) on the growing Laotian Metal Scene!

Underground Sounds: Is – Into my Own

Label: Wolfspell Records
Band: Is
Origin: Russia

Towards Karelia

Karelia is a fascinating part of the world for me and hearing bands from there, it always evokes a certain imagery. This goes as well for Is, who hail from these northern realms. They captivate their homeland in atmospheric black metal on the album ‘Into My Own’

Is revolves around the sole member and creative mind behind the project, named Nøkken (a reference to a mythic water spirit). In the four year existence of the band, he has produced an immense load of music in various formats. Always the theme revolves around life in the far north, nature and all that it embodies, since that is the magic of Karelian life.

Slowly the music oozes out, with big, lurching movements and a minor melancholy in the guitar arches. Immediately, clouds block the sun as Is delivers their atmospheric black/death. Guttural vocals come up as if rising from the Karelian bogs. On ‘Into My Own’ you really hear the different sides of the band. A clean guitar part, soaring and speaking in its own distinct voice, yet clashes with the heavy battery of blast beat drums and roaring vocals. The guitar-play in an intermezzo even has a bit of jazzy groove to it, which makes these guys so interesting, because at the same time they throw in these eerie synths. Full on contrast, that seems to be the thing for Is.

‘All that is Gold’ takes us into the Opeth realms, with the intro full of feeling. The guitar really becomes the sentimental instrument in the work of Is, where the rhythm section and vocals offer sheer brutality, with again grooving riffs that almost hark to Pantera if the endings were less stiff. But there’s the peculiarity about their sound, it’s very accessible. It flows quite casually, due to an excellent production and now hooked corners to it. Yet you could at some times even lump it into the post-black metal corner, if it wasn’t for the blunt beating of the drums and concrete-grinding roars of the vocals, who take it back to a rougher corner.

Is holds a very own regal beauty, and that’s why you should listen to their music.

Kazar: Madagascar’s metal fathers

Madagascar probably invokes very different images, but metal has been on the island for decades and Kazar are one of the first bands on the African island. Center of the band are Lallah and Milon Kazar and have been since the start.

I got in touch with Nix Adkin, the latest addition to the band that is still growing strong. With only two albums in their decade-spanning carreer, the love has not diminished for the music genre that caught their attention back in the eighties.

Nix was kind enough to answer my questions about metal on tropical Madagascar.

Kazar

How are you guys doing?
First, we are full well!!

How did you guys get into metal music? What bands inspired you to make this music?
We got heavy metal through Iron Maiden’s songs! that’s our first influence and by the time, we discovered Slayer, Coroner, Metallica, Overkill

Lazar was started by the high school classmates! they have seen Lemmy (Motörhead) so, the band began to play. In the band, we’re not a really a family but we act like a true family.

Kazar is probably the oldest active band on Madagascar, is that correct? What is your secret recipe for staying together this long?Yes, Kazar is one of the oldest active metal band from Madagascar, the secret is just the mutual understanding and respect! It’s a Malagasy wisdom

You’ve released, as far as I understand two full length albums, one in 2002 and one in 2004 (titled ‘Two’). What was the reason that your production in 30 years is so limited and yet both albums came out very short after each other?
Kazar has 2 albums since 30 years. The reason is just that in your country, Madagascar, heavy metal can’t be considered as a job (showbiz) so the production wasn’t the priority.

What stories are you telling in your music? What messages and such do you try to put in your lyrics?
Kazar often tells scared scene, in order to encourage people to be brave to face fear.

When I listen to your music I hear thrash, power, and prog all in one. Would you say that describes the sound of Kazar adequately?
Thrash, prog, speed… Let’s be cool and just say “heavy metal”.

Madagascar as a country is a francophone nation from the past and now Malagasy is the dominant nation, your musical tradition has had influences from all over the place, how did metal come to Madagascar? Was it through French metal music or English? 
Metal came to Madagascar through English music. After the discovery of glam, metal came to Madagascar around the 80’s under the influence of Motörhead, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden… Different metal Malagasy bands were formed such as Green, Red MetalLokomotiv, Martù Gass, Kazar, Apost… The main metal genre at this time was heavy and thrash.Those groups often gave shows together through festivals such as Tohivakana metal and Big Rock.

Having your own traditions in music, is there anything of Malagasy musical tradition, instruments or songs that you use in heavy metal? Do you find there’s anything typical about Madagascar metal music? I have the feeling there’s something there.
You are right! We use Malagasy roots music with heavy metal! check the song titled “Mmpangalatr’omby” on YouTube.

How big is the metal scene in Madagascar and how did it get started? Can you give me a bit of history on it and your place in it? What bands pioneered the genre?

Big rock festival was one of the biggest Malagasy metal moments! It was started in the middle of the 90’s. This festival was conceived by some Malagasy journalists, the latest date was in September 2000… The reason was just no more promoter.

Are there any problems in acquiring instruments, rehearsal space, a place to perform etcetera? Do you face any limitations being from a country like Madagascar?
In Madagascar, metal is still an underground music genre! we really have problems with instruments, music tech, promoters, sponsors,…

Is there any censorship on music, any form of repression in your country? Do people understand what you guys are doing?
There is no censorship nor repressions but with the trunching-system (marketing system based on giving money to radio an TV tech to broadcast songs and video clips) tropical Malagasy music overruns all places on radio and tv.

Which bands from your country should we be checking out? And why? Have you seen a lot of them come and go?
About other bands, let me suggest you some young guys such as Behind the Mask, Beyond Your Ritual, Urban X Tribe(UXT Mada).

What future plans does Kazar have?
For the future, Kazar hopes to go abroad to participate in metal festivals.

If you had to compare your band to a dish (food) what dish would it be and why?
You make me laugh with this last question,😄…if we compare Kazar with a dish, it will be a Malagasy sausage + beens+ tomato sauce!!

Underground Sounds: Akvan – Forgotten Glory

Label: Shaytan Productions
Band: Akvan
Origin: Iran

Some metal is created in corners of the world that seem much more surreal than hell. Akvan is one of those acts. Though Iran apparently has a certain tolerance when it comes to metal (read this article for example), Akvan remains an oddity in the strict country, particularly due to the content of his music, which is strongly anti-Islam. Contrary to the Norwegian teenagers, the price for iconoclasm is a lot higher in his home country.

Akvan started his quest of provocative musicianship in 2015 under the moniker Dominus Vizaresa (as artist name). He’s been extremely prolific in his output and that eventually led to his signing with Shaytan Productions, where the music is released right next to Al-Namrood. A fitting label for an artist that defies normal definitions with music that really makes for something special on ‘Forgotten Glory’.

The intro of ‘Path to Chaos’ instantly takes you to a different place. As the odd radio-samples come in, the pace picks up and the intensity really makes your heart beat faster as the drums rattle and the rambling instruments clang. The vocals cut right down to your bone marrow with a jagged, piercing quality. It’s the use of the setar and tar, that really creates the otherworldly spirit of Akvan. Its primitive fury is evident on ‘King Ov Kings’, with the vocals that must be derived from the ghastly and cruel djinn’s that roam in these realms.

I love how there are these samples and folkish parts interwoven in the structure of the album. It helps to create that magnificent atmosphere of the Orient, while never becoming gimmicky. Akvan pulls of what most artists fearfully steer clear of in that sense on tracks like ‘Realm ov Fire’, not shirking to really ride the mood and implement it into the black metal parts of the songs too.

I could go through this album track by track, but it would be better if you give it a spin yourself. Akvan truly opens the gates to a different world with black metal that embraces a raw and unpolished sound, while completely giving a very own flavor to it. It works through in the bareness of the sound, the rough distortion, and color in the atmospheric elements in the sound. Just let a song like ‘Legacy’ truly drag you along for a moment. Experience how the rooftops look different and even the sky has an aura of elsewhere. To a forgotten past, but not that of a Viking boat and northern gods, but a land which past has been clouded by recent history and wrong perceptions. I would love to learn more from Akvan.

Underground Sounds: Astral & Shit – Divo

Label: Black Mara Records
Band: Astral & Shit
Origin: Russia
Astral & Shit is not a band name I recommend if you want to make it big, but for an underground ambient project, it works to get the interest peaked and look a bit odd in the big mass of releases. This is their latest release on one of my favorite ambient labels, titled ‘Divo’.
The act in fact only contains one member, namely Ivan Gomzikov, who hails from Nevyansk, a town north of Yekaterinenburg deep into mother Russia. Astral & Shit is extremely productive and releases records by the month it almost seems.
The record opens with ‘Riphean Mountains’, which opens up like the sun going under over a rocky facade. First gently cresting the edges, before becoming fully removed from your vision. Then every sound intensifies, with the nightly sounds and rumblings of the earth around you. Repetitive chirps accompany the droning sounds produced by Gomzikov, enhancing the nightly aura. But the drones keep swelling. The concept of the album revolves around an alien entity, that once came out of the earth. That is Divo, dangerous, but mostly not understood by us.
The drones turn very heavy at times, almost taking up the whole of what you hear, for example on ‘Polota Crossing’, where it simply seems to surge and pulsate as crackling or breaking sounds fill up the sonic gaps. It’s powerful, looming, but most of all fully submerging the listener. It’s the sound of nature, the silent droning you only hear when you are really, really quiet yourself for a moment. That’s the beauty of it.

Underground Sounds: Koniec Pola – Cy

Label: Devoted Art Propaganda
Band: Koniec Pola
Origin: Poland

Something is stirring in our urbanized habitats. She’s calling us again, mother nature. The mountains, the oceans and the fields, we feel that disconnect deeply and profoundly. In black metal and spirits akin, this movement has been visible for a while. From the nature-inspired dark ambient to the regal black metal and the farmer metal from the countryside. And that… is exactly where Koniec Pola hails from.

The name Koniec Pola translates as ‘the end of the field’. Their music is a clash of postmodernist rock and countryside tools, trying to capture the sound of the imaginary farm village. Their setting, though consciously vague, is the area of the Polish village Zalesie, near Kozienice forest. The title of this second endeavour, after their 2017 ‘Mrzyglód’ is simply ‘Cy’.

From the chiming of bells to the beating of tools, the bustling of the village is evident on the first song instantly. Titled ‘I’, it offers a gloomy sound with a warm voice offering what feels more like a voice-over than singing, relating the story in a story teller’s voice. Musically the band seems to linger somewhere in the realm of Furia, with the provincial brashness of certain French black metal bands. It’s music with the spade, not with the genteel pencil. At times a bit quirky, but when the music unleashes it’s dirty and gritty, dissonant and filled with muck. This is not the ball anymore, Cinderella.

There’s a simplicity to the sound, a lack of complication and subterfuge. Words are spoken plainly and the music casually frames the rural life. The mellow pace of the record and earthy gloom is somehow comforting. An odd folk instrument here and there put a different spell on the narrative, which is, unfortunately, all in Polish.
It’s a particular bit of music, hard to qualify as any specific genre. Often more leaning to ambient experience meeting postrockish liberties. It’s well worth a spin though.

Underground Sounds: Tannöd / Rauhnåcht / Hanternoz – Tannöd, Rauhnåcht – Anciennes Légendes Des Alpes

Label:Percht Records/ ANTIq Records
Band:Tannöd / Rauhnåcht / Hanternoz
Origin: Germany / Austria / France

‘Spukgeschichten – Anciennes Légendes Des Alpes’ is a very peculiar release. Four sides, but a 3-way split release from the bands Tannöd, Rauhnåcht, and Hanternoz. Every band gets a side, and Rauhnåcht filled side D with field recordings from the Alps and a joint rehearsal.

Let’s start introductions with Rauhnåcht, which is a one-man enterprise by excessively productive Stefan Traunmüller(Golden DawnThe Negative Bias, Wallachia), who focusses on Alpine legends and heathenism. Tannöd is a mysterious collective that plays Alpine black metal. This is actually their first release. Hanternoz from Angers expresses Breton and French legends in their Celtic black metal.

After the gentle intro ‘Höhlenzauber’, Tannöd really bursts loose with an almost Burzum-like screech on ‘Die Schwarze Wolke’, accompanied by the screeching, eerie guitar play that almost feels like it cracks and breaks at the edges. The thin sound grabs you by the throat, with its unrelenting battering, particularly on ‘Schicksalsschlacht’, where Tannöd really excels with their cold and anguished sound, truly taking cues from some of the best aspects the genre has to offer in my humble opinion. Their sound can also be a bit more polished, edging more towards the sound of Equilibrium. Definitely, a band that impresses here on side A.

Rauhnåcht comes in on side B with ambient nature sounds and a slowly progressing guitar and drum intro, on ‘Der Einsiedler’. Chanting accompanies the gentle intro, which immediately sets the calm, majestic mood of the Alpine peaks. The atmospheric black metal progresses slowly, with a particular melancholy and humility among the rising peaks. The chanting and booming drums evoke imagery of ancient inhabitants of these regions. The sound whips around you, like the eternal gale. Full of mystery, the music of Rauhnåcht is a spectacle in itself.

‘Le Baron Des Adrets, 1513-1587 : La Légende Noire Du Dauphiné’ is the first track on the C-side by Hanternoz, a story of a notorious character during the reformation. The track is notable, because it contains a lot of spoken word, together with rich sounding folk metal. The tormented vocals hit you even harder when delivered through a blast-beat induced fog. What I find peculiar about their sound, is how open it is. It feels a lot like Enslaved, but then clashing in mid-air with Peste Noire thanks to the raw, barked vocals. Smooth production, big stories, it makes Haternoz a pretty exciting band to listen to. Tracks like ‘Diables Des Cloîtres Dans Les Monts Du Matin’, show a band that really fits in with the rural French rebellious sound.

The D-side is utilized by Rauhnåcht, with a collaborative rehearsal of the title track. It’s a jagged endeavor, full of fury and rage. The sound batters you like an alpine hailstorm, while the vocalist barks at you a demon of the night. Sharp, snappy words snap like a whip. This is some other side of the band, which completely turns around again with ‘La Voix Des Alpes’. For a bit over 11 minutes, simply field recordings from the alps, offer you a peaceful outro.
This record is peculiar, to say the least. The bands are vastly different. Tannöd has a very classic, eerie feel, while Rauhnåcht excels in the atmospheric and essentialist sound. Hanternoz is where the French farmland meets the soaring peaks, captured in notes. The exceptional material on this record, is well worth adding to your collection!

Underground Sounds: Eternal Valley – The Falling Light

Label: Heavy Gloom Productions
Band: Eternal Valley
Origin: United States

A band like Eternal Valley, manages to clash two things together into successful pulp. Take a big barrel of dungeon synth and simply drop some pitch black metal in the middle. That’s what Orszar, the sole member of the group, must have thought. The weird contrast between tranquility and violence is peculiar to ‘The Falling Light’.

Orszar has been steadily making music under this moniker, next to Right To Die and Grimfvck. Since 2012 he has managed to spew forth a stunning amount of 6 albums, next to some other releases. That makes the project quite prolific.

The storm rages at the center of tranquility on the track ‘The Passing of Golden Skies’. Eerie ambient trickles calmly as heavily compressed black metal drums emerge in the middle of the musical fog to pound relentlessly and creep onwards. The sound never gains full force and keeps feeling like blackness at the core, with typical tormented vocals howling defiance in unearthly grunts and barks.The droning synths always seem to embrace the sound, similarly on the more sober and melancholic ‘The Awakening of Autumn Storms’.

Things appear to intensify later on the album, with the violent ‘Remnants…’ for example. The vocals are a furious roar here, while the whole battering and ramming just plough onward, with catchy, venomous riffs. When ‘The Wandering Winds’  comes around, we fall back into atmospheric parts, which pluck the old heartstrings. It’s a bit schizophrenic almost, how this band offers atmospheric black metal with that brisk undercurrent of something barely contained. From the lengthy ‘Adrift…’ onto the title track, both are there. ‘The Last Sunset’ then forms a sad and forlorn outro to an exceptional record.

Underground Sounds: Qayin Regis – Blackthorn

Label: Pulverem Mortis Productions
Band: Qayin Regis
Origin: Spain
No one expects the dark inquisition! On first sight, the Spanish black metallers might evoke the idea of Batushka, but Qayin Regis is something else. This debut EP ‘Blackthorn’ is their first offering to the realm of dark music and little information is available about this band.

‘Blackthorn’ kicks off with ‘Niantel’, which offers much what you’d be expecting to hear from this band. This grim and dark record explores vast crypts and impressive, vast castle walls made of cold stone. An ominous gloom is represented in the cold riffing and ghostly vocals, while the rhythm simply batters on in merciless bashes.

The band sticks with the classic black metal sound, enriched with some ecclesiastic chanting here and there. The catchy heavy metally riff on ‘Sceptre of the Shadow of Death’ also catches on in a big way. I particularly like how within the construct of the music, the vocals consistently evoke the feeling of shady halls in an abandoned mountain castle. Dark, looming shadows fill the rooms, where the unearthly denizens dwell. That’s the thing with a vampire’s abode.
The vocals are guttural, like an evil priest muttering incantations over repetitive blast beats. There’s a constant surge of atmospheric effects, over what in essence stays close to an almost death metal-esque rigidity. Pounding drums hammer ever onwards, while the guitars add minor feeling to the sound. The progression is steady on both tracks, while ‘Prunus Spinosa Litourgiya’ functions as an outro for Qayin Regis. What a trip.

The Stone: Serbia’s black metal pride for over 20 years

Metal music, like any cultural expression, is shaped by its surroundings. The Stone hails from Serbia and started out in 1996, in the wake of the black metal boom. Not much later the Yugoslavian civil war broke out, turns out this is actually audible on their debut record.

This did not put any breaks on the band though. The Stone has been going steady for more than 20 years, creating a steady output of records with classic black metal. Their sound is powerful, without trying to sail along with any trends or movements, simply black metal.

The band has recently released a new album, titled ‘Teatar Apsurda’. That and seeing them live was reason enough for me to get in touch and ask some questions to singer Nefas and guitar player Kozeljnik.

Serbian black metal kings

How are you guys doing?
Nefas: Not bad.
Kozeljnik: Doing fine so far. Busy with promoting the new album we’ve recently put out.

For people who are not familiar with The Stone, can you tell a bit about how the band got together originally?

Nefas: Classic story…that begins in 1996. We were just kids who wanted to play music they like. The Stone is some kind of artistic pact between Kozeljnik, as the composer, and me, as the lyric writer. It works last 22 years…and it works fine so far.
Kozeljnik: Back in time of our gathering the initial idea was to form the band, the entity of Black Metal which defines the art within uncompromised line of musical and lyrical expression.

Many black metal bands go through periods of lesser inspiration, sometimes years, before releasing new albums. The Stone has consistently been delivering new music at regular intervals over the last 2 decades. What is the drive or motivation behind the band that makes you keep on delivering top class music?

Nefas: Simply, we really enjoy creating the music. Some kind of artistic madness drives us…

Kozeljnik: A sort of creative appeal madness which takes us every time when the art leads the way to the upper states of creativity. It’s not a cliché when saying you are dealing with a certain kind of ritualization of your art. It’s the rite of your subconscious which delivers magic.

In line with that, you also all have plenty of side-projects. Can you say a bit about those and how do you keep those going at the same time?

Nefas: Actually, I never had a side-project. Kozeljnik always had a surplus of ideas he presented through his other bands/projects like Kozeljnik, Murder, May Result, Occulus

Kozeljnik: Sometimes the creativity extends the defined lines, so there’s a need of having other artistic sources, like different bands and projects where you can execute your ideas, is a natural step for the artist.

Your latest release is Teatar Apsurda, which is your eight full length. What can you tell about this album, it’s creative process and it’s message/expression? To me, the title itself might be a good reflection of the world at large in at this time, is that something that you took along in creating this album.

Nefas: Yes, Teatar Apsurda is a view of the world through the eyes of pessimist, satiric review of human grotesqueness. It’s fast, aggressive, intensive black metal, yet chaotic and epic in the same time. We are very satisfied with this album. Definitely, our best shot so far.

Kozeljnik: We’re about to say that after many years we finally recorded the album the exact way we wanted to sound. It’s not that we are displeased with previous works, but this new one simply transcends our expectations.

How do you guys go about creating an album? Is it a similar process for every record? Since there’s definitely a continuity in your sound and the overall feel of music from The Stone through the years. What does the process look like?

Nefas: First and the most important step would be making a vision, the common vision that will be driven with no compromise. Everything else would be just a routine after all these years. It just got out of us.

Kozeljnik: On the other side every new record has a different perspective of creating, a dimension which goes beyond the borders we’ve delivered for the previous ones. It’s a challenge, to express your inner state within the new, refreshing ideas and forms which are, at the same time, carrying the mark of your own identity. We decided not to walk the familiar footsteps, but still keeping the same path.

Your record is out on Mizantropean Records, is that your own label? What prompted you to release through Mizantropean instead of Folter records, which you’ve released the previous albums?

Nefas: We wanted to have an absolute control and freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want. Mizantropeon Records is our own label formed primarily to provide better work conditions for The Stone. And for the beginning, we are very satisfied indeed.

Kozeljnik: It’s not a secret if we say that bands and labels are natural enemies since the creation of music business, especially when it comes to controlling the freedom of creativity. After many years of dealing with other labels, we have decided to be enemies to ourselves, trying to control something which hardly can be controlled. So far, we do not regret our moves.

In your early days you used Slavic paganism as inspiration, later it was more nihilism, misanthropy… In an earlier interview, I read that you expressed that these were never meant literally, but more a starting point for your expression. Can you explain how that looks for both the paganism and the more recent themes? What is the idea you try to put into your music and what do you hope listeners take from it?

Kozeljnik: The Stone’s lyrical side was most of the time misinterpreted in the past, especially by the non-speaking Serbian media circles which declared our band as pagan just because our 2nd and 3rd albums deal with times before monotheism took its role. Judging from that point of view they can easily proclaim Mayhem as a pagan metal band, just because they have a song called Pagan Fears. Not so professional way of giving a conclusion. Anyway, we’ve never considered our band as pagan oriented, despite the fact that in the past we used heathen inspired lyrics which were based on Nefas’s individual approach strictly. His quill has the most significant poetic role in expressing The Stone’s message and definitely, it’s a powerful tool in the band’s arsenal.

The Stone started out as Stone To Flesh during the time when your part of the world was in a total uproar due to the civil war. As I’ve understood from previous interviews and other articles, the scene in Yugoslavia was just beginning to appear at that time. I’d like to ask you how that scene started out and which bands were instrumental in it and how the civil war influenced it and you as a band in your ability to create music. Can you tell about that?

Nefas: The civil war has changed many things in our lives, but I’m not sure it had any influence on our music in a creative way, maybe on our subconscious. Technically speaking, everything was harder to do in war surrounded country, isolated…, but we survived. On our first album, we included the intro, the true sound of NATO bombs falling on Belgrade heating a plant. That’s the exact piece of the warlike atmosphere in which we worked on our debut album.

What’s happening in the current Serbian metal scene? And is it in any way connected to the neighboring countries of former Yugoslavia or are you drawn more towards other countries? Which bands should people really check out from the current scene (and why)?

Nefas: We never had a massive scene, but we have some quality bands to mention. My personal favorite is deathrash legion Infest. As for black metal, try with Kolac, Zloslut, Wolf’s Hunger, Samrt

What does it mean for The Stone to be a band from Serbia? Is there something typical and unique that you take from your culture, history or even nature in your country that to your view, colors or impacts the way you and/or other bands from Serbia make this sort of music?

Nefas: We took the pillar of our culture, Serbian language. Native language gives you the opportunity to express yourself better.

Kozeljnik: Serbian language, with its strong accent, gives us more radical, yet aggressive audible approach to the art we create. During the years we’ve created our own style and usage of our native tongue definitely has a strong impact on that.

Black metal has been gradually changing and taking new forms in recent years. I’m interested to know, what to you defines black metal? Is it something ritualistic, does it need to be ugly or can it be beautiful… How would you define this music now, after having played it for so long?

Nefas: For me, Black Metal is the art of controlling sonic madness in order to make the obscure atmosphere suitable for expressing the negativity and narrating the inner gloom. It’s the darkest corner of musical art.

What future plans does The Stone have at the moment? What are you aiming for in 2018 or will this be a time for the side projects (if so, what are you focussing on)?

Nefas: We have tour plans with Inferno and IXXI settled for March and after that we will enter the studio to record 2 new songs for the upcoming 7”ep. That’s the plan for next six months.

If you had to compare The Stone to a dish or type of food, what would it be and why?

Nefas: A piece of bread and a glass of water, if you are hungry, you will enjoy it.

Is there anything you’d like to add? Please add it below.

Nefas: Nothing more, the point is said. Just to thank you for the support.