Category Archives: Music

Dylan Carson and Earth’s Universal Vibrations

Our world still holds plenty of mysteries. There are intricacies, complexities and connections, we can hardly fathom, all around us. Some people tap into the beyond, into the mystery of sound and vibration. One of those is Dylan Carson, a modern day musical shaman and explorer, who by that time had just released ‘Full Upon Her Burning Lips’ with his band Earth.

On this album, he is exploring a more feminine spirit, a sensuality that is almost transcendental. Carson has his roots in the grunge scene, has gone through the darkness of addiction, lost his good friend to suicide (yes, Kurt Cobain) and somehow has emerged as an icon in a musical style that is entirely his own.

Carlson is often called the father of drone metal. Not a moniker he would pick, but one he gratefully accepts. Currently, as we talk over Skype with a bunch of disruptions on the line as friends try to reach him, he is staying in Los Angeles. For the film soundtrack he is making, but also because he will be moving there in December. It’s a lot more sunny in L.A. he concurs: “It’s way warmer up here, nicer weather for sure!”, he chuckles.

We talk about the new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, which recently came out. But also about his solo record Conquistador, on which he collaborated with Emma Ruth Rundle. And Bagpipes.

Never Mind The Hype let me interview Dylan for last years’ Le Guess Who? festival, a fest I’ve never visited. I was happy to do so anyway.

Good vibrations and universal harmonies

What do you think about the Le Guess Who? Festival yourself?
“It’s one of my favorite festivals. I’m not crazy about festivals, but this one always has an interesting program and many people are there that I’d love to meet. Not that I get to usually, but last time I was there I saw jazz icon Pharaoh Sanders perform. That is really cool!”

How does Earth fit within the confines of a festival like Le Guess Who? And how did you end up playing there this year?
“Well, The Bug is one of the curators and we did an album together, so I think that’s how it went. But why we fit in is that even though people love boxing us into genres or microgenres, Earth has always tried to do something new, always pushed itself into new directions. That fits within the confines of this festival very well. As a musician, I don’t feel confined to microgenres. I make music, as best as I can, but I can’t affect the way people deal with that. But we play all sorts of festivals, because we are not limited to just heavy music. We’ve done Hellfest, Primavera, but also Le Guess Who? and Levitation festival. That’s a big range. Big Ears in Knoxville is another one of my favorites by the way. We’re not stuck in a corner, we can go many different ways with Earth.”

Is that what gives you more freedom in starting up collaborations?
“Definitely. I’ve done a lot of those and I’m always open for new opportunities. It’s all about being open to possibilities and look for that ‘common ground’. If that’s not there, it won’t work. Our collab with Kevin ‘The Bug’ Martin is a good example. Even though he grew up hating guitars, we have a lot of similarities in our taste for music and love for dub. Even though we come from opposite worlds, there was enough of a match to do something very cool. So kudos to Kevin for having the guts to do this.”

Do you ever worry if such a collaboration will work out?
“If it doesn’t work out, you just won’t release it. No one will have to suffer through it. I’ve had those in the past, where it just didn’t work out. But now, I think I’ve done this long enough to know early on if something will work or not, if the audience would like it or not. I believe in ‘happy accidents’, just letting things happen. If it’s a lot of work and effort, the magic just isn’t there.”

For your solo album ‘Conquistador’ you worked with Emma Ruth Rundle. How did that happen?
“She’s just fucking amazing. I seriously can’t praise her enough, both as musician and as a human being. I’m so happy to see all the recognition she is getting, because she deserves every bit of it. She is one of the few people I always love seeing perform. She is signed to the same label as us, Sargent House, though I met her earlier when we did a show with Marriages and Deafheaven in LA. I borrowed her amp and we’ve sorta become friends since. When I was working on ‘Conquistador’, our schedules matched and we met in the studio of Kurt Ballou to work on some music. So that’s what happened.”

How was it for you to create a solo record, instead of an Earth record?
“With Earth there are always multiple people involved, which makes the process more complex. Solo I simply have more freedom and a white canvas, possibilities for collaborations, but it also feels more free for me. Though Earth is not a formula, you always look for progress and continuity. Not that there’s a set course, but we don’t want to repeat ourselves while there may be directions I’d like to play with a bit more. The theme of an imaginary western you could here on ‘Hex, Or Printing in the Infernal Method’, so that was a done deal for Earth. ‘Conquistador’ allowed me to further explore that theme.”

“But what was also an influence, is that we had just left Southern Lord. I knew that finding a new label was going to take time and we had just toured intensively for our previous album Primitive & Deadly. There was need for a break, and I had all this music I wanted to work on. So I took the progressions I had and made my own songs with those. So it was a time of finding our bearings and experimenting.”

If I understand you correctly here, Earth is kind of your highway and solo work enables you to take all those interesting byways and explore, is that correct?
“That’s basically it. Earth is the main focus of my career, but there’s so much else I want to do. This enables me to do that and it helps my creative process. Making music is one of the few things in my life I haven’t had problems with. It helps me find the right flow, also in other aspects of my life. I feel very fortunate to be able to work on music all the time and I don’t want to waste any of that time. The fact that I once just… disappeared for 5 years, showed up again and was embraced, is something I’m very grateful for.”

But that’s also your own doing. You get called the father of drone for a reason.
“Well yes, that. The fact that people respect what I did so much and validate it, that’s an incredible honor. That’s what motivates me to try hard and keep innovating, not rest on my laurels. I could have made Earth 2 25 times, but that’s not how I want to be remembered.”

Does the solo work make you hungry for more?
“Definitely. I’m currently working on the soundtrack for the film From A Son and I hope this will be released as a solo album too.”

Conquistador (2018)

You’ve often said you’d like to make soundtracks and this is your second, right? How did this happen?
“I’ve made a soundtrack for a German film, called Gold. This is the second. The director of From A Son is Gilbert Trejo, son of Danny Trejo, who plays in the movie. His production manager Kyle pitched my music and Gilbert liked it. He tried what it would be like by using some Earth songs and music from Conquistador as place holders and it was a fit. Kyle happened to know my manager Cathy and contacted her. Long story short, I got to make a soundtrack.”

“The process itself has been pretty intuitive. I watched the movie, which gave me some ideas. We then played the movie and I basically jammed to it. Then it’s a whole process of cutting, pasting, filling, adding… Until you have it. Austin from Starcrawler added percussion to the recordings. All in all, this was a very straightforward process. Similar to Gold actually, though there they were shooting while I was composing, so I would get bits of the film sent my way. That was interesting.”

I’ve actually seen you play another soundtrack. In Ghent you did a live soundtrack for the 70’s psychedelic movie Belladonna of Sadness.
“Ah, but that was a different process. They actually expected us to play an Earth set, but instead we composed a whole soundtrack. We watched the movie a number of times, chose a number of themes and worked with that. That developed into what we played live that night and which has shaped part of the new album, like the song Descending Bella.

We actually should talk about your new album, but first, you did sign with Sargent House. What made you join their roster?
“Cathy Pellow was already our manager and that’s why my solo record is out on Sargent House. Going there with Earth was a natural choice. Cathy is fantastic, really good with artists, supportive and I like her way of doing business. We just click and Sargent House is a great label, with camaraderie between artists I haven’t experienced before.”

Full Upon Her Burning Lips is the first record you’ve done with Adrienne Davis as a duo. Why did you choose for that and how did it work out?
“I felt that on previous records, we had to give way to a lot of other instruments. That’s not a complaint, I worked with great people and I’m happy with those records. But I wanted to see if I could give more room for the essence. The drums also could do with more space I felt. By making this record with the two of us, we get to show what Earth sounds like at its core. And I got to play bass, which I like, so that is cool.”

“The process was very smooth. Most of the material was composed a month before we went into the studio, and there everything just got together naturally. It’s again a very intuitive process, where most of the overdubs, solo’s, and bass lines are improvised in the studio. The basis for the song was just there to complete.”

Did you have a clear concept for this record, like you did for previous ones?
“That’s actually one thing that was very different on this album. I had various ideas, but not one big concept. My wife, Polly, she’s a dancer and I thought a lot about music and dance, which are so separate in today’s world. I also read a lot of books from Tanith Lee, which have many sensual themes. I wanted to create a record that was more feminine, more sensual, as opposed to the hypermasculinity of heavy music, but also play with dance. Dance is not just for EBM, it’s a form of getting together, interacting physically, of ritual. It’s a communal thing that I find very important.”

I noticed that this whole record refers to that essence. Just the design of the cover, with its 70’s hardrock reference and the picture of you two, it really points to your roots.
“That picture was not intended for the cover, but when I saw it, I knew it was just right. It’s the band itself, and this design makes me think of classic albums like the debut by The Stooges. It was just right.”

Could you tell me what, in your view, is that core or essence of Earth. That which makes the band unique? Is that drone?
“I see drone as more of a technique. In music theory, it’s called an oblique motion and that can be found in numerous types of music. From Indian meditation, classical music, blues to even Scottish bagpipes. What attracts me to that sound is the open string you work with or against. I think that’s what I’ve always done in my music. Many people think of massive amps and volume when they hear drone, but there are drones in a hurdy gurdy or acoustic music. That’s what I love anyways. Tempo has always been less interesting to me so we’re sort of countering that, which was particularly interesting when we started out in a time when each band wanted to be the fastest in the world. Within those factors there are many directions to explore and as long as this is all in there, it’s Earth I think. Currently I’m using a lot of chromatic movements, which is something new in my music. But that’s still an oblique motion.”

All these examples you mention, like a hurdy gurdy and bagpipes, those create a sound that I think resonates with people. Isn’t that part of the charm?
“It might be my Scottish heritage, which makes me cursed with liking bagpipes. But did you know the bagpipe was really used everywhere until the accordion became available? I read somewhere the king of Hungary even burned all bagpipes then and forced people to buy accordions. Maybe that’s where bagpipes got their bad name, but it’s definitely a global instrument.”

“But I feel, making music, that I’m just a conduit for music that’s already there. Like a pipe, the way I’m shaped affects the final form. That vibration though, it’s already there, the universe is all about vibrations. Solid matter are standing waves and I like the idea of a sustained note, that is fed and keeps resounding, which touches us. It’s a shared, universal resonance. Music and dance are the original technologies for ecstasy and transcendence. When I play a really good show, I never remember it afterwards, I disappear into it. When I think too much, when it’s a lot of work, then I remember it. It’s still a good show, people enjoy it, but it’s where I don’t lose myself in that vibration of the music.”

Is that how you experience collaborations? Is there that shared resonance that you look for?
“I think so, but it’s also a form of synergy. The sum needs to be larger than the parts, if that’s all good, it’s going to work out.”

Out there with Earthencloak, Elbrus, Castle Zagyx and Zandvoort & Uilenbal

Now and then, I write some reviews about records that I find enjoyable. I enjoyed these pieces of drone, synth and magic.

Earthencloak – Pipe Smoke & Faery Magick

self-releasedEarthenclock pipe smoke and faery magick

Something exciting is happening in the dungeon synth genre. To be honest, it’s been going on for a while, but the sound is expanding. Certainly, purists argue about things like winter synth and other names, but the root of all these artists to me is similar. Steeped in atmosphere and storytelling in a straight-forward, isolated fashion that takes me back to the books and video games I grew up with. Yes, let’s nerd it out to this one, inspired by the artwork of Rien Poortvliet’s gnomes: Earthencloak. True fucking gnome synth and I love it.

Much like Fief, Earthencloak is not echoing the vast, dusty crypts of the traditional dungeon synth, but emulates joyful, foresty freedom. You feel that pleasure, that lush green land, with the bells and sprinkly keys on ‘The Rabbits, the Bees, the Whistling Trees’. It’s carefree and joyous music, certainly with the regular elements, but free from the doom, gloom and lurking darkness.  Yet, listening to ‘To Picnic Beneath Toadstools’ I feel the same transportation to fantasy land. Yet, it is much like in a videogame with a sandbox world: you are often happy to find that peaceful, tranquil place in between all the darkness, and that’s what Earthencloak offers. The xylophone-like sounds also help to embellish the theme, as you imagine the gnomes creating the music. Get lost for a while, the other stuff will be there when you return.

Elbrus – They Grasp And Fight For Wealth As The Whole World Burns

Self-released

Elbrus
is the highest mountain in Europe, to the great chagrin of the French. Its inclusion in the European continent was an interesting one at least. I’d love to climb that thing one day, that’s for sure. Anyways, Elbrus is also a drone/doom project by Tanya Byrne, known from Bismuth. She started the project in 2011, coding and playing soft instruments and playing through many many pedals. Byrne is also a scientist and that approach ad look at the world permeates her work, which is very environmentally conscious, as you can gather from the title of this release.

‘All Life Suffers’ rises up gradually, slowly. There’s a power behind the trembling notes, a force that can be instantly felt, but it’s also mournful. A dirge for a world in collapse, although that is my interpretation based on what I’m presented with. The howling winds of the drones take you into ‘The End of Man’ and as emotions overwhelm you, you find yourself wondering if that would even be such a bad thing. A torrent of noise, crackling and static, unleashes on ‘The Collapse’. Sparing notes reverberate through the haze, coming from everywhere bouncing back at you as the drones start swelling to an almost painful intensity. ‘The River’ rolls in towards the end with a lot of peculiar sounds. The flowing of water, chirping of birds and ethereal vocals as the sound waxes and wanes.

Castle Zagyx – Cavaliers of the Western Heartlands

self-releasedCastle Zagyx

D&D inspired dungeon synth? Well, yes, I’m interested in that and Castle Zagyx (a play on Gygax?) has done quite well with this record, titled ‘Cavaliers of the Western Heartlands’, an album full of songs dedicated to aspects of the sword coast in the Forgotten Realms. For those who don’t know, the Forgotten Realms are campaign setting created by Ed Greenwood, who also holds the rights to it. It’s the most successful setting, which has spawned a ton of books and background materials. Including are Ed Greenwoods self-gratifying Elminster books, a character based on himself that bangs absolutely any fabled beauty in the realms and survives death endlessly. It’s weird. Anyways, Castle Zagyx describes himself as a musician, grognard and reader and that’s what we have on him. Time to dig into the sounds of this one.

Castle Zagyx plays with drones and folky tunes, a bit in the vein of the above Earthencloak, but more rigid and stern, paying homage to the high fantasy aspect of its inspiration. ‘Rite of Passage’ includes Gregorian chanting, bagpipe sounds and eerie percussions. It’s like walking between the massive pillars of a forgotten temple towards that which is holy. But then the sound dwindles, shimmers and takes on a more mysterious vibe. And this is how we travel the lands, from the gates of Myth Drannor to the Dragonmere lake and onwards, ‘In Search Of Adventure’, full of strings, hope and bravery. It’s a bit cheesy at times, but if you didn’t like that you wouldn’t be reading this. And if you do love it, then ‘Honoring Tempus With My Vorpal Sword’ is the absolute climax of the record, soaring upwards with strings swinging and tensions brewing in a truly Hollywood-way, dazzling you with bright lights and explosions. Oh yeah!

Zandvoort & Uilenbal – Folk Triumfator

Nightwind Records
Zandvoort & Uilenbal
This is an intriguing project where electronic music meets medieval instruments. Collaborating under the alias Zandvoort & Uilenbal, we find medieval music expert Jimi Hellinga and electronic musician Danny Wolfers (Legowelt) working on a crossover between those classic instruments and electronic drones and ambient. Think hurry gurdy, Victorian harmonium, thumb harps and a German Mixtur Trautonium. Medieval drone space jazz sounds about like the weirdest stuff you are going to hear, but if you dig transporting music, this is something to really delve into. This is the second album the duo has made under this name, and by all means, they should make some more if it were up to me.

The result is a droning, dreamy collage of sound-stories, like opener ‘Safe Sailing for the Galleon Caladrius’. There’s also some use made of spoken word on ‘But Slowly I Made It My Own’, which helps in creating a narrative, but mostly the duo just allows you to sink into the mellow drones and easy melody lines. Stretched out with some dungeon synthy elements, that still have that organic quality of the instruments used to create them. It feels like a highly crafted album, no easy stuff here. I particularly like the play on ‘A Ski Resort Was Buried In The Avalanche’, which makes me think of Kraftwerk a little due to the disjointed elements that still create a vivid image together.

 

Descending into the world of Krigeist

Most of the interviews with an artist are because of the release of an album, or relevant news that involves the band. But, sometimes there is an artist that just that never sits still, continuously  working on a total of fourteen projects at the same time. Krigeist, also known as Andrew Campbell, plays in Barshasketh, Brón, Belliciste, Dunkelheit and who knows what other musical project he is involved in…

Andrew carries out everything he does with enormous passion and dedication. This is very fascinating if you keep in mind these are not only studio projects. Barshasketh visited the Netherlands several times. Andrew found some gaps in his busy schedule for us to answer questions about his music, inspiration, and how he keeps everything in balance, whilst traveling the world.

Interview originally published on Never Mind The Hype.

Header: Krigeist in Tampere, foto Porta Atra (Source: Facebook page Barshasketh)

Following the Left Hand Path

I was wondering if you could tell me about yourself. Where you originally are from and how you got involved with black metal and in so many projects.
I’m originally from New Zealand, but I’ve not lived there in almost a decade now. I’ve relocated several times since I left, but I’ve now been based in Serbia for a few years.

Since a young age, I’d been looking for a type of music that fits with what I had in my mind and went through many phases searching for it, until I discovered Black Metal, which was everything I’d been searching for, both musically and ideologically. I got into the genre quite late I suppose, when I was around 18 or 19 years old. I think it was Dissection first, followed by Gorgoroth, Emperor, Mayhem as well as newer bands, such as those on the NoEvDia roster. From there it spiraled out of control until I was utterly consumed.

Most of my own projects outside of Barshasketh started due to the fact that the material I had written didn’t suit any of my existing projects, so new ones were needed to accommodate them. The other projects I am involved with were a result of strong connections with other individuals. As well as the projects I’m involved with that already have releases, I’m working on a multitude of others which should see releases in the near future.

How did Bashasketh get started and how would you describe the concept and idea you are expressing?
For me, it feels like your themes and lyrics hold a high level of complexity, though the words themselves are very direct and strong.
I started the band as a solo project around 12 years ago, almost concurrently with my discovery of Black Metal. Since then a number of members have come and gone, but the current lineup of GM, BB and MH and myself has become a lifetime brotherhood. When I started the band, it was a vehicle for me to explore and understand my spirituality and now it serves the same purpose for all four of us. As it’s a natural exploration of our paths through this sphere and beyond, it’s inevitably complex, as these things are never straight forward.

I’m very curious about what that spiritual aspect entails and what directions it has grown into. Could you tell me more about what inspires you? And would you say other projects have sort of grown out of that personal journey?
In the simplest terms, it’s an exploratory approach to the Left Hand Path. We don’t adhere to any specific school of thought, but rather use our own experiences, which we make sense of through our music and lyrics. With the creation of the last album, we have come to realize that this involves a continual cycle of destruction, purification and rebirth. Each time we throw ourselves deeper into the pit and the spirit is reborn in a stronger cast, with more knowledge and more certainty.

The inspiration behind what led us to choose this path is something difficult to pinpoint, however, the reason we have chosen to follow it purely through our own experience was that it seemed to be the only honest way for us to do so. We believe that spiritual growth must come from within, hence we have shunned extraneous influences for the most part.

I wouldn’t say this path has had a direct link on my other projects, although it has an effect on my existence as a whole, so there is undeniably some underlying influence on my other endeavors.

You mentioned that the band is now a whole as such. Does this mean the creation of this latest album was more of a cooperative effort? And can you tell me more about the process?
It was definitely more of a collaborative effort in some ways. As before, either GM or I would write all the guitars for a song, but this time BB and MK were left to write their own parts and put their own stamp on songs-so basically less dictation from our part. All members put forward ideas that were considered and taken on board. MK also contributed some synth parts and provided backing vocals, which was a first for us. Lyrically, I was responsible for the entirety of the lyrics (except for the Latin phrase in Recrudescence, which was the work of GM), but it was something that was discussed and reflected all of us.

BB and MK have also led GM and I to feel less restricted in our songwriting, as they are more than able to handle anything we throw at them.

As for the creative process, it was quite drawn out, with some of the songs being completed in their larval stages even before the release of Ophidian Henosis. As we are all separated geographically, there were months of sending material back and forward in various demo forms. If I recall correctly, the four of us were never in the same room during this process, but we did have one or two occasions with most of the members present to work out the finer details and experiment with structures.

The lyrics came last and were a much quicker process, as the concept was firmly in my mind when I began writing. I feel I should say that a lot of the lyrics were written while in Hungary with the Inner Awakening Circle, so I must thank them for their inspiration.

Can you tell me anything about the Inner Awakening Circle? And what made them so influential.
The Inner Awakening Circle is a Hungarian group of individuals and bands including Lepra, Niedergang and Dunkelheit (who I’m now playing guitar for). They’re very serious about what they do and there’s absolutely no bullshit. The experiences I had with them pushed me out of my comfort zone and pulled me further down, and solidified my conviction that I’ve chosen the right path for me.

Do you believe that this exploration, leaving the known behind, is essential for your art form as much as for personal growth? And are there instances you can describe to clarify how this has impacted your art and person with an anecdote? 
Yes definitely, the two are completely intertwined. The personal growth from these experiences is reflected in the music. The music is the medium through which we make sense of the exploration and experiences.

As for specific instances or anecdotes, these are our own. All the things that we want to share in a public forum can be seen in our music and lyrics.

So you said that during the creation of your latest record under Barshasketh, you were never together in a room. But then I’m really curious how the process took place and how you arrange things. I also was wondering what makes you as a person so unbound by a place and how you relate the change of home perhaps to the music or vision you describe. As I see it, this could be a form of exploration too.
For the creation of the Barshasketh album, either GM or I would write all the guitars for a song, then we would send it to MK and BB to work out their drum and bass parts respectively. This involved a lot of sending demos back and forth until we were mostly satisfied. After that, when some of the members were able to get together, they would iron out details and small structural changes. It was quite an interesting way to do things as I’d often get one of my songs back sounding a lot different than I had originally had in mind.

When it comes to the various changes in location, it was all circumstantial really. It was mostly moving from place to place in order to stay in Europe so that Barshasketh could remain active, just keeping my head above water. The places themselves never had an influence on Barshasketh, but I think the upheaval of having to leave certain places without much warning did. The various places I’ve lived is something that is expressed more through Brón than any other of my projects.

Yeah, I was sort of steering in that direction because I’m very much fascinated by Bròn. Can you tell me how that entity came into being and how it has shaped up to be as diverse as it is?
As with all ‘side’ projects, Bròn came out of writing music that didn’t fit with any of my existing projects, both musically and thematically. Fògradh was written after I found out I would have to leave Scotland and it was inspired by my experiences living in that country. It was intended to be a one-off, but while living in Slovakia, shortly before moving to Serbia, Ànrach was written. The three songs deal with the influence that the natural environments of Scotland, New Zealand and Serbia had on me. It became clear at this point that this was a project dealing almost solely with the place.

I think I’ve reached something as absurd as 14 individual projects now – Krigeist

The diversity in material is due to the environment and the relationship to that environment that I’m expressing with each release. For example, the White City releases deals with Belgrade and day to day living in a huge urban expanse, which is quite far outside of my comfort zone. Black metal of any sort would simply have been an inappropriate medium to express those feelings. Ruins was unsurprisingly influenced by various ruins I have visited throughout Europe. Coming from New Zealand where such structures don’t exist, they had a profound impact on me. Again, black metal felt inappropriate, so a more folkish approach was taken. The black metal releases are invariably influenced by nature and an absence of human life, whether it be in New Zealand, Serbia or elsewhere.

I always feel that Bròn is a very personal project, because it just feels very well-conceived and every release is very cohesive and ‘whole’. Is that how you envision it and how do you feel about the term side project, because I don’t feel that any of this is done with a lesser form of commitment and passion?
All my projects are personal in their own right, they just express different aspects of myself. I have no problem with the term ‘side project’ as Barshasketh is more of an expression of my entire being and my perception of this sphere, whereas the other bands are intended to express one specific thing. Perhaps the fact that I share Barshasketh with people who are very meaningful to me makes it a more personal too.

How does Belliciste fit into this whole world as well? As that does seem to stick more northernly, in language at least.
As for Belliciste, this band also has no relation to place. It is an outlet for pure animalistic, reckless hatred with no bonds to anywhere in this world.

The lyrics deal with the filthiest side of my spirit. Absolute misanthropy, apocalypse and the eradication of all life in this world. There are numerous references to deities from various mythologies, but these are not limited to those from the North. There are also many references to the Maori pantheon, most specifically Whiro, but I believe these all to be some sort of archetypes of the Devil, just through a different linguistic lens.

Do you feel that your current projects and themes are for now it, or are you constantly finding new inspiration as you travel and explore and will new entities see the light of day?
I think I’ve reached something as absurd as 14 individual projects now, so there is a lot of new material on the horizon. Some are black metal, others are not. Some are solo projects, some are with other people I’ve met over the years.

These projects all stem from internal exploration and even just musical exploration, rather than anything geographic.

Ok, so I’d like to ask you if there are any ties you still have to the black metal scene in New Zeeland and if there’s anything happening that you’d like people to be aware of.
I never really had very strong ties to the NZ black metal scene, even while I lived there. I only knew and associated with a small handful of individuals, but I am still in contact with most of them and I’m even working on material with some of them. As for things happening within the NZ scene that people should be aware of, I guess most would already be familiar to those into black metal. Bands of note include Vassafor, Heresiarch, Vesicant, Ulcerate, Diocletian, Creeping.

Lesser known bands include Winter Deluge, Exaltation, Vicissitude. I’m surely forgetting a few more…

So what future plans do you currently have with your projects? What’s coming up next?
A lot at the moment. I’m currently working on two Brón releases. One will likely be part of the White City series and the other is back to the black metal style, but this time features a real drummer. It’s being done in a proper studio setting, so things are moving slower than usual.

Other than that, a few Barshasketh and Belliciste releases are in the works which should see the light of day soon. Dunkelheit and Svartgren albums have been finished and shouldn’t be too long either. The other projects are still being worked on, so news about those will follow.

We have some exciting performances lined up for Barshasketh and Belliciste is also becoming more active in the live arena again.

Bismuth: Existing in Sound

The primal movements of the earth can be felt when Bismuth plays its second set at the Ladybird Skatepark at Roadburn 2019. Slow, purposeful drone doom, delivered with a mantra-like repetition over a fundamental groundwork of drums by Joe Rawlings. The guitars produce a growling, textured sound that hits you like sonic waves with full force.

On guitar is Tanya Byrne, who also plays in Monoliths, Nadir and Dark Mother. Having been pummelled by the live delivery by the band, I wanted to know more about the duo from Nottingham and contacted Tanya to ask her some questions about Bismuth, sound, studying the environment, gear and, of course, playing Roadburn.

Interview with Tanya Byrne from Bismuth

 

I understand you are originally classically schooled, if I may use that term. How did you move from that to the music you create now?

That’s right. I play the piano, played clarinet in an orchestra and studied music theory and composition. I think I moved to drone when I discovered minimalism. Artists such as Arvo Pärt and Terry Riley. Space is an important feature of that, and I wanted to see if that could be explored within the sphere of heavy music. So much metal tries to bludgeon with riffs, but I feel contrast, space and dynamics are needed for something to remain heavy. That’s why I loved Lingua Ignota so much. It has a weight to it, without the usual metal and noise tropes.It would seem that this background really shapes your approach to music than, which is not based on, let’s say, the pop format songs. So where in this development did feel you transitioned that classic approach into a metal framework?

It happened when I was around 25. Through minimalism, I started to discover bands like Khanate, Asva and Sunn O))). For the longest time, I found guitar-based heavy music boring, but these bands showed me that heavy music could be interesting.

I like your mention of Arvo Pärt, because his music is for me essentially attentive listening and very heavy in its intentional nature, as every note has meaning… What attracts you to the minimalism and more so the slowness in music (as you play ‘very slowly’)?

The focus of minimalism is what drew me to it. You have to give each note your full attention. Playing slowly helps with that. Nothing can be rushed and you have to exist in the sound. Everything else falls away as the sustaining of the music becomes everything.

What does heavy mean to you and what role does volume play in that, which is what most people would assume to represent heavy?

Heavy is more of an emotional response. Volume can be helpful in reaching that intensity, but for me, the intensity in performance is so much more important. I’ve seen bands that are quiet in volume, but their music has a connection that makes it truly heavy.

I’ve seen you perform, but I wonder how you feel you put the heavy in the performance you deliver with Bismuth. Is it physical or in your own experience of the meaning and voice of the music?

A lot of my lived experience comes out in the music. Obviously, both Joe and I are fans of volume to add to this, so that comes out too. When we play, nothing else exists. I see nothing and just share what is normally hidden.

Is the meditative aspect of that sound on some level relevant to what you do? And by that, I mean the ritualistic or even religious aspect of music, but also may be a connection to your academic field?

Very much so, yes. Becoming lost in the sound is a form of meditation. It not so much religious for me, but I definitely think that playing so slowly helps me feel connected to the deep time of the geological record, in a small way. People need time and space to contemplate processes that take millions of years, and I think the state of feeling nothing but sound and time can tether me to that. Day to day worries fall away, and for a time, notes seem like infinity.

I am intrigued by the connection though, between your academic interest and music. Which came first and when did you first connect them like they are on ‘The slow dying of the great Barrier Reef’?

I’ve been playing music since I was five, but I only started studying environmental science within the last 6 years. Barrier reef was the first time I attempted to connect the two. The music and themes arose due to my increasing frustration with the world government’s inaction on climate change. I read journals pretty much every day showing the way in which humans are degrading our environment, and I can’t believe the inaction of governments around the world.

There’s a lot of disinformation going around, or fake news as we call it today. Was that attitude, the inaction, was it a driver for you to connect these two?

Or was it something brooding already to make this connection and just got this push here.

Both. As a scientist, it’s very frustrating to hear talk about ‘beliefs’ when there is solid evidence that climate change is happening, and that our species is causing it.

For you as a person, what does it mean to bring these two together? Is this a platform?

I’m not sure if it’s a platform so much as me trying to process the thoughts I have around this subject. It’s great if others are prompted to research, but joining music with this subject matter helps me deal with the anger and despair that I feel at times. It’s difficult to maintain hope when all you read about is destruction and death, but we must hold on to hope and work together.

For me, as a listener, your performance felt very cathartic too, as the music is delivered with a certain laborious effort. It helped to connect, to move in harmony with you as artists. Is that something you feel is important, this connection through the music?

The connection is one of the most important aspects. When you are playing with others, it’s important to get into the same space. I’m not very outgoing in real life, and the way I connect the most is through playing music.

How big is the role of your equipment when you play music like yours?

Very. Very important. I use multiple amplifiers set up so I can use each amp to cover a different frequency range.

Coming back to your approach of music not as simply bludgeoning with riffs, is this an example of your way of creating this heavy effect?

For sure. Cutting the bass amp and reintroducing it later can help add heaviness. I also run different effects chain for each amp. It’s important to have different amps for different tonalities.

So what is your process when creating music, because by what I read about your gear expertise it feels like an engineering job, so I was wondering if you could describe how that happens?

Generally, Joe or I will have an idea, a riff or a drum beat. We then work in that for a while and see if it’s something we can expand on. Vocals are always written secondary to this, as layers of sound are very important to us.

Is there a lot of tinkering with the equipment involved?

Yes…I tend to have a pretty precise idea of the sound in my brain. There have to be lots of playing around with pedals to match up the sound I am aiming for.

Do you consider yourself a bit of a gearhead?

Yes, in other aspects of my life I work as a programmer, so I get really interested in tech of all kinds.

Now, this is usually a pretty male-dominated terrain. Is that something that ever came across your path of an artist and do you notice the shift that’s happening and was very visible at Roadburn this year?

Yes, I have had a couple of amps and pedals custom made for me, and only I and the person that built it knows how to work them. This still hasn’t stopped some guys trying to tell me how to use my own equipment (they usually shut up after they see us play). Sometimes I feel like I need to be super nerdy about it so I can stand my ground in male-dominated spaces. It was very heartening to see that Roadburn is showing that creating experimental music is not just the domain of men.

So, can you tell me about your Roadburn experience and history?

Both Joe and I are so overwhelmed by our experience of Roadburn. Becky, Walter and the rest of the Roadburn crew are amazing. When they asked us to play a second set in the skate park. We couldn’t believe it. I watched the Lingua Ignota show there and it was amazing.

Bismuth started 8 years ago and we’ve recorded two albums and a few splits and EPs., but this was our first performance at Roadburn, yes. We’ve done a few tours in Europe and the UK. We have always wanted to play Roadburn and were so so excited to be asked.

But then to get a second set, what was that like?

Disbelief! When my friends told me about the queues for the first set, I really didn’t know what to think. It was a great honour for us.

Did the second one feel different?

Yes. I think we were both more at ease. I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because it’s more similar to the usual places we play? I think its because its closer to the DIY spaces a lot of the bands are used to normally play. I definitely felt more comfortable there

Do you think Roadburn is a different place to play?

Definitely. I think many bands aspire to play there. The friendship and open-mindedness of the people that attend is something I’ve never experienced at any other festival. It’s really special.

What does the future hold now for Bismuth?

In the next couple of weeks, we are playing Northern Discomfort fest in Copenhagen, DIY fest in Nijmegen and Raw Power fest in London. We also have a show in Leeds with Thou and Moloch. That should be fun. After that, we are going to take a little live break to focus on writing for our third album and a few splits.

If your band was a dish, what would it be and why?

Hmmm well, it depends who you ask! Joe would definitely say kebab. However, I would say tasty lentil dahl, with rice and chipati. We would both agree on tasty Oreo brownie though.

Is that because you both like it or is there a more complex idea?

Haha nope, we both just think it’s tasty. I think it would match is as it appears sweet but can be intense.

Synth, wave and blackgaze from Iran you should hear about

Seena Arya is a musician from the unlikely location of Iran and specializes in otherworldly synth sounds. His various projects include Varkâna, Sun Addicted Family, Vanelikt, Driftwood, and Beam Keeper. All this is part of the Ardawahisht collective.

He has been kind enough to keep me up to date on his work, which has fascinated me from the start. It’s therefore important to share this and give you a little idea of what awaits you in the crypts. Or in the discotheque… or the forest? As it seems that Seena is working on all fronts to expand the reach of his musical vocabulary to express the harrowing silence and sadness of the world.

You gotta love that.
Header image from Varkâna Facebook page. 

Beam Keeper – Volume 1

Label: self-released
Beam Keeper is pure synthwave, but clearly steeped in the slow trod of dungeon synth where it originates in. If you imagine a dungeon synth project based on ‘The Neverending Story’ or another eighties-vibe movie (I know it’s a book first, I read it), this would be it. Slow, sonorous synths weave through the air, the beats come dully, indicating a slow pace and the vibe is more Blade Runner than happy Goonies. It’s dreamy, captivating and perhaps a bit too strangely droning to completely take you elsewhere and isolate you from your surroundings. For me, it is a perfect record to listen to at any time when I need to close myself into this pristine world that Beam Keeper creates. The throbbing bass lines of ‘Palm Trees Dream’. Please, if you dig synthwave, check this record out. You will not regret it.

Varkâna – Ahrimanic Chambers

Label: self-released
Ahriman is the entity embodied with destructive force in Zoroastrianism, and therefore a great topic for a dark, cavernous dungeon synth record, so that’s exactly how Varkâna follows up ‘Rite’ with ‘Ahrimanic Chambers’. The oppressing, grinding synths have a bit of that Burzum vibe, though that may be the dry tom sound that pops up. Slow drones, and that feeling of disturbing the dust in ancient crypts hardly touched by the sun. But these crypts are different, more ancient and unfamiliar to you and speak of an even older myth. Slowly, with a tinge of the oriental hidden in its notes, it sucks you further in, further down the dark tunnels with strange glyphs and carvings, unto the underworld. Varkâna provides a specific atmosphere, which is particularly captivating thanks to the vastness of the sound. It’s dark, without immediate threat, but always something is lurking, something older…

Sun Addicted Family – Solar Dreams

Label: self-releasedSun Addicted Family
It would be easy to start referring to Deafheaven here, but sonically Sun Addicted Family is far removed from the driven, grandiose sound of the vilified post-black act, yet there’s obviously a thematic connection somehow. This project relies on heavy sonic tapestries and keys to provide a sort of story anchorage throughout. The screamed vocals are intense within the frame of this blackgaze experience. It’s strange to have these sonic flares, chip tuney beats and mash it with that intensity. But that, to me, is exactly what makes Sun Addicted Family so enthralling, it’s otherworldliness, it’s weirdness in a way, blending synth-wave sentiment with black metal intensity and atmospheric black metal emotion. I mean, reading that sentence alone, how would you say that in a way that explains what you’re about to listen to. You should, by the way, do so. Listen to it and immerse yourself in irradiate sunlight, soak in solar dreams and drown in the astral driftways. Blissful forgetting, white light, white heat.

Varkâna – Cosmic Terror

Label: self-released

And here my own slow pace has caught up with me because Varkâna has released a new gem inspired by none other than the great H.P. Lovecraft himself. ‘Cosmic Terror’ is a much similar release, with the creeping, meandering synths taking the listener down aeon-old pathways, basking in the gloom of Eldritch things. Obviously, there’s a connection to the Ahrimanic Chambers record released before, both speak of unspeakable entities that dwell in the dark recesses of our minds. I do feel though, that this album clears up come of the eastern elements in the composition, but this may also just be my perception. More ritualistic even, it expands the realms of Dungeon Synth into more obscure territories, where a haze emerges as the sand and air hit. Nothing is certain, nothing is absolute when elder gods dance in madness in the maelstrom. From the malign and dreamy ‘Space Lord’, to the creeping madness that is ‘Nyarlathotep’. It’s full of foreboding of threat and terror.

From The Bowels of the Dutch Black Metal Scene II

So much darkness in the underground of our welfare state called the Netherlands, that I just have to keep going and share it. This time, the furious harpies of Asagraum, the gloom and doom of Dodenbezweerder, the aerial soundscapes of Nortfalke and the icy hailstorm that is Asgrauw.

Please, enjoy, listen and perhaps purchase some of these tunes.

Asagraum – Dawn of Infinite Fire

Asagraum
Edged Circle Productions

It doesn’t take long to stumble upon the combination of the name Asagraum and ‘all-female black metal’. It is an oddity in black metal for sure, but I can’t say it makes a difference in the sound. Perhaps in the pitch of the vitriolic screams of Obscura, also active in Draugur, Wolvenbloed, Gestalte, and Hekel (both live). She also played in Nargaroth live, which is cool. She runs the ship with A. who used to beat the drums in Sisters of Suffocation. Originally, it was a cross-continental band with T. Kolsvart on drums, and a number of international musicians involved, but now the core is Dutch. Jeez, what an intro, did I mention that they play some sick black metal in the traditional way we love and relish?

Asagraum can sound harsh and unrelenting, as they do on most of their songs. There is, however, a melodic streak in their sound. The excellent production (no necro stuff here) helps to let that musical side open up when you listen to it. Particularly the track ‘Guahaihoque’ does a great job at dragging you in with its sweeping flourishes. It’s really good stuff to take your mind off things, but we return to fire and brimstone with songs like ‘Dochters van de Zwarte Vlam’. An energetic rhythm, ominous, and just that right speed-up moment when we surge into a new vocal bit. Personal favorite though is the final track that also features clean vocals. ‘Waar Ik Ben Komt De Dood’ (where I am, comes death) is a mid-paced burner, moving along a mist of distortion. The chanted words emerge from that same fog, difficult to hear at first in the haze, but on the other hand clear within the production. This is a great black metal record, full of fire and fury. You might want to check it out.

Dodenbezweerder – Vrees De Toorn Van De Wezens Verscholen Achter Majestueuze VleugelsDodenbezweerder

Iron Bonehead Productions

I am in no way surprised to find the name Mories connected to this project. The brain behind Gnaw Their Tongues, Aderlating, Cloak of Altering, Capuut Mortem, and a hundred other bands never sits still. Santino van der Aa plays drums, which he also does in dsbm legends Hypothermia. Dodenbezweerder was launched in 2019 and the full length is listed as released in 2020. You just know it’s going to be good, but somehow this has remained under the radar up to this point for me. Might be because the releases followed each other at a rapid pace. The artwork already shows an artistic inclination to the classic black and white, so I expect a sound like that.

Which is an expectation soon to be fulfilled with atmospheric, lo-fi, distorted darkness. The title track is all hissing, crackling, and has that good old necro sound to it, but Dodenbezweerder never goes into screeching overdrive, but calls up a fog of distortion, that clouds a massive sound of slow, lumbering movement. The tracks are full of anticipation, foreboding of a lurking presence. From the fog, the vocals arise in gurgling, gibbering tones, as a ghoulish reminder that there is something coming at you. Shimmering comes to mind when you listen to ‘Glimmende Zwaarden Door De Mist Van Het Evangelie’, minimal yet, maximal impact. Spartan is a word the band uses in their bio and that makes sense as a duo, yet the wall of sound Dodenbezweerder unleashes is not to be trifled with. You want to hear this.

Nortfalke – Atmosfeer

Heidens Hart RecordsNortfalke

Is it dungeon synth? Not entirely, but there is something of that vibe in the Krautrock leaning sound of Nortfalke, which reminds you a bit of Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream with its spun-out, soaring electronics. Nortfalke is an alias of Swerc, who is known from bands like Tarnkappe, Gheestenland, Asregen and a dozen other fascinating projects. This one, however, explores the cryptic mysteries of dungeon synth with a classic approach that never fails. It’s the sort of sound that immerses you in mystery and dreams, particularly this thematic album, titled ‘Atmosfeer’ (Atmosphere).

Repetition is one of the key tools for dungeon synth acts. It has a meditative and hypnotic effect on the listener as it all sort of starts to melt together into one flow. We don’t descend into crypts though, but ascend to the clouds and explore the beauty of the heights on ‘Hoogten’. I particularly enjoy the krautrock vibe on ‘IJskristallen’, which translates as ‘ice crystals’. The looped keys resonate like he pristine, crackling of ice that would surround you in the upper atmosphere (that’s pure speculation, but the shimmering sound matches my imagination). And this is the true strength of Nortfalke, it catches the atmospheric elements it describes. The sensations, the perspectives, they’re all there within the sound. And then we fall into the depth on ‘Diepte’. It’s notable that the sound is more organic, natural, thanks to the use of actual synthesizers. The result is quite remarkable.

Asgrauw – IJsval

Death Kult Records/Pest Productions

I’ve commented before on the peculiar artwork of Asgrauw, but I have to admit that it does kind of grow on you. ‘IJsval’ is the fourth full length by the band from Groesbeek (the bad end of Nijmegen I’ve been told). Keeping a steady pace of dropping a record every 2 years, the band is on a roll. Members of Asgrauw are also active in Meslamtea. And that’s great stuff and only offers more promises for their latest release, that seems fitting in these times.

Asgrauw relies heavily on the tremolo guitar sounds, the trickling, cold melodic elements and double vocals. Not entirely uncommon, but in their synth-heavy sound more than welcome to offer depth and complexity to the sound. ‘Leegte’ instantly delivers, creating a lot of space to breathe and just wallow in the sound with melodic breaks. But there’s also violence and cascading, icy riffs that flow with a thundering roar. ‘Stortvloed’ is one of those tracks, that just keeps going. What I like so much about this record, is that the title just permeates every single track. ‘Ijsval’ translates as ‘ice fall’, and that cold hits you every tune again. Sure, a little warmth seeps in with that Iron Maiden-esque bass line in ‘Broeihaard’, but it’s back into the cold again a moment later. Asgrauw is like a bike ride through icy rain in late autumn. Dutch people know what I’m talking about.

More records Stranger Aeons missed out on…

Life is a curious thing, especially when it fills your time with work, hobbies, sports and other activities. And then, there’s this… A global pandemic that makes everything come to a grinding halt.

But it’s cool that it got me writing again because I have so much music I want to share with you. Here you have Vaelastrasz, Smear Ghost, Hiemis and Tarkin Turfer. Dungeon synth, ambient, dark electronics, all there.

Smear Ghost – Earth Is For God, Hell Is For Men

Moonworshipper RecordsSmear Ghost

A Smear Ghost is what occurs when a false image follows the image that you see on your telly. Like a shadow. It’s well creepy if you think about that. And rarely do I get properly creeped out by an intro, but ‘How Will You Be Seen In His Eyes’ does the trick, alright. You could call the sound of this act from Romania, something like electronic black metal and that would make sense. Or call it black ambient it both hits the mark of dark, atmospheric music with a hint of synth to it. I mean, how ‘hunted in the dark’ do you feel when listening to ‘Encroachment’ in the dark?

I find it uncomfortably fitting that I can’t find any information about this act. The sound becomes more ambient-oriented though on ‘Words Are Empty Without Belief’. Yet, you can sense the same tension you get from the ambient Ulver records, which to me are the summit of how dark electronics can get in the ambient area. But even when Smear Ghost picks up the pace, the sound remains fantastic. I mean, this is stuff I really can get into. Everything dark and grimy, but also stuff to move to at times, if you an get your Jack the Ripper groove on that is.

HIEMIS – ThuleHiemis

Gradual Hate Records

This project by Juan Carlos Toledo from Silent Love Of Death has a long story to tell with this record, which addresses the myth of Atlantis and Thule. Not always considered to be the same, but highly connected anyways. It’s a fascinating material in itself, but it made me curious about the music which even on the first track already shows a tendency to the megalomanic with an overwhelming of hazy noise. It’s all grandeur, but it works and that is the strength of this record. But it gets better all the time, in fact, I love the eerie tinkling sounds on ‘Wrath of the Gods’ that breaks with the tumultuous storm that keeps emerging.

But from there on the sound opens up, becomes more ethereal and wavery to my ears. Particularly ‘The Offering’ stands out in its evocative moods. ‘The Ten Kingdoms’ is another mythical reference, of which I have not found a particularly clear basis, but it appears to refer to ancestral realms. It’s an exemplary track in the work of HIEMIS, on mythologizing the past that is shrouded in shadows due to the lack of written sources. A grand basis for material that makes you think of forgotten places.

Tarkin Turfer – Old Finnbar Furrowbrow

Tarkin Turfer
Ancient Meadow Records

The pool of dungeon synth records to delve into is an ever-increasing well with a lot of interesting works and more and more mediocrity. That’s why I’m excited to find something like Tarkin Turfer, which moves away from the gritty, dusky, dusty sound with a more energetic and full type of music. It’s really the old PC RPG versus the SNES JRPG’s, but here in sound. More natural, full sounds, more feeling and depth. I love the classic sound though, but the expansion is where the novelty thrives. What’s even better about Tarkin Turfer is that this album follows a Dungeons & Dragons narrative.

What you immediately notice is the layers in the sound. Sure, they’re easy to distinguish and hardly complex, but there is more texture, more elements to the construction. Wood, stone, fabrics, glass, it feels more tangible as we follow Old Finnbar Furrowbrow on his trips. At times, like on the title track, it can even feel a bit synthwave-like. Which is cool, the styles are not so distinct, but it’s the melodies that follow that really kick it to a new level. Certainly, the basics are still there. As the narrative builds, we go to a darker, more gloomy place and the repetitive rhythms are always there on ‘The Staff of the Underworld’. But it’s always about going towards events, instead of the husky melancholy you are used to. Particularly fond of ‘Shadow Visions’ which is a quite different track again, I love sinking into this record and forgetting about the world for a bit.

Vaelastrasz – The Birth of Naxxramasvaelastrasz

Self-released

A release dedicated to vanilla World of Warcraft? Yes, that is of interest to me and particularly this one as I’ve actually never run it in my day. Naxxramas is one of the most daunting places in the original World of Warcraft and woven into the game lore with a lot of grief and sadness surrounding it. I mean, you can tell me fantasy is camp, but the level of emotion woven into the stories is often exceptional. Blizzard has been very, very good at this. Vaelastrasz has created a wide catalogue of recordings on the very topic of World of Warcraft. Where the game has gone slightly downhill in my opinion, this music just gets better.

The music unfolds in six pieces, that are slow, densely atmospheric and rich in their sound. No meagre synths with some gritty lo-fi sound, but a full immersion from the first piece onwards. The parts flow together smoothly, effortlessly. It helps the experience and immersion, as you drone along with the repetitive rhythms and circular melodies. What Vaelastrasz succeeds in, is evoking a much grander feeling with the music. Listen to the transition between part I and II (around 6-8 mins in) for that swelling sound. Part II is my favourite anyways, but Part III is even more loose and frivolous. I’m not certain if there are vocals or a semblance, but it works as a seductive lament, enticing the listener further into the adventure. In the final sections, we build towards a final moment, a crescendo if you will, where the story wraps up. It Is that I read about the six parts, but they work so well together. I would not change a thing about this fantastic piece.

Dymna Lotva: Belarussian pagan fires burning bright

Belarus, the last really mysterious place in Europe under the auspicious leadership of a president that seems to be boundlessly popular in a country that is prim and proper like you’ll never see a street in Western Europe. Belarus has a dark underside though, an underground scene full of exciting bands. One of those is folky doomsters Dymna Lotva.

The band has been quite prolific over the years and plays a very distinguished type of music. Their origin leaves a little in the way of the language barrier, but they were kind enough to answer my questions. This took some time, but I’m certain that it will provide you with many new insights on this exciting band.

Dymna Lotva might sound dark and misty, but also presents the listener with the other magic that is Belarus. A country with a long history and a mysterious past.  This is part of what Dymna Lotva is about.

From the fogs of Belarus

First of let me thank you for taking the time to do this. 

Thank you for the interview offer. We apologize wildly for the delay. We have been answering these questions for so long that during this time we have changed our lineup and had to start all over again.

First, can you introduce yourselves and how you got together?

Jauhien: Hi, I’m a Jauhien and I’m the father of Lotva 🙂
It all started with the fact that after writing about 5-6 demos, I made a post on a local music forum about the search for a vocalist to record an EP. Nokt wrote to me and we started to work on material. After the release of the single “A Solitary Human Voice” we began to receive proposals for the concerts and started thinking about a concert lineup.

Forladt: I am Forladt and I play guitar and do some back vocals in Dymna Lotva. For me, Dymna Lotva was the first and is still the only band I joined. I wanted to play in a band so I gave an advertisement on a forum and Nokt replied to me. We met, talked a lot about music and other things. Nokt and Jaŭhien were already making Dymna Lotva and she invited me to play with them. Since then I’m here.

Nokt: I am Nokt and I am the mother of Lotva. I work on vocals parties, lyrics, concept, costumes, etc. In short, in the band, I do everything except what is really important. And sing.

By the way, we were acquainted with Jauhien and played together for some time before Lotva. We just don’t usually mention it. That is why I immediately responded to his post about vocalist search. We got acquainted with Forladt on the topic of music and his own project (now this is Absence of Life), but I didn’t then consider him as a musician for Dymna Lotva because of a very young age. However, we quickly became best friends. And when Lotva began to look for a concert lineup, we listened to a lot of guitarists, no one approached us, and we still had to call Forladt. And I put him before the fact that he would sing (he didn’t know how to do it at all, but he had to learn quickly). Forladt brought us a young drummer, Shen. He played with us for 2 years, but recently our paths diverged. Now our drummer is Barmaley. We also couldn’t find a second guitarist for a long time, so our friends played at concerts like session musicians. However, a little less than a year ago, Igorr joined us.

Dymna Lotva

Do you guys play in any other bands or projects? And what bands inspired you to pursue the type of music you make?

Jauhien: I prefer to play my music, but recently Forladt asked to play in his band Absence of Life and I could not refuse. I was probably inspired by Mastodon, Amenra and Leprous.

Forladt: I have my own DSBM project Absence of Life. About the bands that inspire me… I listen to a lot of different music; it is difficult for me to highlight. But at the moment I joined Dymna Lotva, I listened mostly to DSBM.

Nokt: Everything around inspiring me. Singing is the most important thing in my life, so I’m ready to be involved in as many projects as I can. Unfortunately, free time is not as much as we would like. So besides Dymna Lotva I am the second vocalist in the Absence of Life. I also occasionally record guest vocals for various projects and prepare to start another project with my friends.

Barmaley: Darkthrone and Grazhdanskaya Oborona (seriously!) are my inspiration. I will not talk about playing in other bands, otherwise, it will be a too long interview. Favorite drummers are John Bonham and Buddy Rich.

Igorr: I play covers on Opeth, Tool, Lamb of God, Gojira, etc in a jam band.

Where you inspired by bands from Belarus to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands?

Nokt: I am fully inspired by Belarusian metal and folk scene. Unfortunately, it is not very well known in the world. And it is, even more, a pity that the negative towards all made in Belarus is very characteristic for our mentality.

Forladt: My first metal band ever was Accept, since I listened to lots of heavy metal, then it came to trash, death, black and so on. So I was inspired to start playing guitar and making music mostly from foreign bands.

Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Belarus? How did metal music come to Belarus in the first place?

Nokt: We are not so old, so we did not see the start of metal in Belarus with our own eyes. The most famous of our group was and remains the Gods Tower, they have been playing since the 90s.

You’ve released the single ‘Трудна, нудна на сэрдуньку’. A collaborative effort with Andrei Apanovich. How did this come to be? And are you working on anything new?

Jauhien: It was a very funny story. In fact, this single is the result of losing a bet. In the Russian-language social network VK under one post with voting for the best folk metal band, there was a huge discussion with calls to vote for one or the other side, and we jokingly decided to support Apanovich with his band Trollwald. It was like this: “If Trollwald wins, Dymna Lotva will record folk”. As you can understand – they won.

Yes, at the moment we are working in parallel on several releases. The main one is the second full-length album.

How do you work on creating your music? Is it something you do together as a band or do you have divided tasks?

Jauhien: In general, we have divided the tasks. I write music, and Nokt writes lyrics. Also with the writing of music Forladt helps a little. Well, I hope our new guitarist Igorr will also join this process.

Can you tell a bit about the way you approach creating music and how that process looks like for you as a band? I feel there’s a very distinct feeling to your sound and I really wonder where you derive your inspiration from.

Jauhien: I cannot say that I am inspired by nature, books, films or other music. I am rather inspired by the process of creating music, the search for new sounds and interesting moves and combinations. But one cannot say that I am engaged in such a dry business, for I still write based on my inner feelings and mood.

 

What themes and topics do you put in the music, what topics do you address with your lyrics? The imagery and overall feeling hint at the land, mysteries, and folklore. Can you tell more about this and perhaps provide some examples?

Nokt: Our country has a very sad fate. So at this stage, all our lyrics are somehow about Belarus. This may be the tragedy of a particular person (as in A Solitary Human Voice I and II). This may be something more abstract, general view of the problem (for example, the total passivity of the Belarusians in the “Into the Swamp” track). Of course, in each text, my own history is also explicitly or implicitly present. They are just on different levels. This year we twice used non-original lyrics – the folk song text in “Sick at Heart” and the poem of the Belarusian poetess in “Dying” – however, the approach remains the same.

In pictures, some Dymna Lotva wears traditional clothing. How deep are these aspects connected to Dymna Lotva? Is there a pagan religious side to your work too?

Nokt: In fact, these are not exactly traditional clothes. In any case, not a reconstruction. But yes, Dymna Lotva deep inside is a pagan band. We do not stick it out clearly in the music and lyrics (at least now). But personally, I have long been deeply interested in Belarusian old traditions and mysteries and YES, I am pagan. I really want to work with folk spells as lyrics. I still do not know whether it will be in Lotva or in some kind of side project, but it will happen necessarily. As for the other musicians, they are all pagans to one degree or another.

Do you face any sorts of censorship in Belarus as a musician or are you free to do and say as you please?

Jauhien: Dymna Lotva is not threatened by censorship. We don’t go into political and social issues, we don’t praise Satan and we don’t incite hatred. But yes, there is a lot of censorship in Belarus. Often concerts are canceled, or musicians are simply not allowed to perform. For example, I am sure that in Belarus you should not wait for concerts of such groups as Batushka or Behemoth.

Nokt: I do not fully agree with Jauhien. Almost any band can have problems with censorship in our country. For example, a concert of the Belarusian group TT34 was recently banned. The band has been playing for many years, and as far as I know, they had no problems before. They do not touch dangerous topics in their lyrics. As regards DSBM, rumors have long been circulating about the adoption of a new law on the promotion of suicide in Belarus. Theoretically, then the problem can become much more serious than just canceling concerts. If we talk about the situation specifically now, for example, I cannot cut myself on the stage if I want to be able to perform here in the future. And more recently, our lightest sounding song was not taken on the radio (it completely fits the radio format) because of the lyrics. We used poem of the Belarusian poetess, the winner of one of the national poetry contests. The poem tells about dying and did not pass censorship on the radio. Our folk song was also not accepted because of the lyrics (despite the fact that this is a folk text).

By the way, Behemoth performed in Minsk about 6 years ago.

Which bands from Belarus should people really check out? And why?

Jauhien: Oh, we have such great guys as Nebulae Come Sweet. In my opinion the top 1 in Belarus. Make a unique mixture of Doom and post-metal. It seems to me that in terms of interesting arrangements, they surpassed even some famous groups in the genre.

Forladt: I do not listen to a lot of local scenes, but I think that my favorite Belarusian band is Nebulae Come Sweet. Their music is really deep, sensual and unique, especially for Belarus where most of the music is folk or black metal. They are definitely worth checking out.

Nokt: Of course Nebulae Come Sweet is also in my top. But I have to mention other bands. My favourite are: Pragnavit (ritual folk ambient), Vietah (atmospheric black with bright live image), Dzivia (epic orchestral folk), Vicious Crusade (folk trash), Medievil (black), Massenhinrichtung (melodic black with folk elements), Zaklon (atmospheric black), Re1ikt (post-rock with folk lyrics and really fantastic clean male vocals).

What future plans does Dymna Lotva have?

Jauhien: World musical domination, not otherwise.

Nokt: after the new album release.

If you had to compare Dymna Lotva to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?

Nokt: We are smoked roach. For Russian-speaking people, this is consonant with our name (do you know that in our homeland we are affectionately called “Plotva”?) And it is good with beer =)

Forladt: I can’t say properly why, but Dymna Lotva for me is associated with mushrooms. Jaŭhien, for example, is boletus, Nokt is death cap, Shen is amanita and Igor is armillaria.

Jauhien: Alcohol is a dish, right? Then we are absinthe. Hard, but it is not felt; smells like wormwood, and you will like it. 🙂

 

 

Zarraza: spreading the virus from Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan definitely got a bad rep throughout the years. The country became the but of the joke, thanks to the Borat film and that pretty much might be everything you know about the country. Zarraza might change that with their slabs of grooving, thrashing metal on their latest album ‘Necroshiva’.

Nick Khalabuzar is one of the founders of Zarraza and to say he’s a passionate metalhead would be a vast understatement. His energy alone when it comes to his band might push them to big things in the near future. Nick was kind enough to tell us something more about his band and playing metal in Kazakhstan.

Raising the flag for metal

Hello, how is Zarraza doing?

Great! We just get approval for two SEPULTURA shows in Central Asia. Our first full-length album “Necroshiva” is gonna be officially released in China on May 11 through MusicDish. After that there will be some special local gig in June – I am working on details now.

How did you get started with Zarraza and what does the name mean (why did you choose it)?

About the name – I did not want to create another SUPER-BLOODY-KILLER-TORMENTOR kind of name. I liked irony behind ANTHRAX name. So one of the options for me was Infection – Zaraza in Russian. The word has second meaning – unbearable and annoying but maybe a funny person. So I liked it. Only after I realize there was a Russian metal magazine ZARRAZA – it was published through 1990-1991. I decided to keep the name – for me, it looks like we raise a flag dropped on the battlefield by a fallen soldier – the founder of the magazine was very supportive about all kinds of metal and unfortunately died in the 2000s.

About the starting point… It was me and my friend Max Saklakov – we decided it’s not enough for us to go to bars together so we should start a band! For a couple of years, we were looking for a proper drummer – and found Ruslan Konon. Then bassist Alex Filatoff came in. But Max left after we recorded the first demo – and from then there were few guitar players. Every one of them brought something special to the band so we are thankful to them. Damir Yunussov, Vladimir Grigoryev, Daniyar Aktayev…

What bands inspired you to start playing metal music?

Before I start to drop big names like MEGADETH, SLAYER and SEPULTURA… I should say it was my mother – she supported my passion and bought me my first guitar. She was patient when I spent my last money on tapes discovering not only big bands but something special like ACID RAIN, LAWNMOWER DEATH, POLTERGEIST, THERAPY? etc.

Can you share with us what sort of theme, message or idea is behind Zarraza?

Musically it is about energy and adrenaline exported into sounds. We considered our role on a scene as shamans who twist your muscles with sounds and then release it helping your inner demons to go out in mosh and slam.

Lyrically it is about spreading the infection of sarcasm. Viruses of free thinking. The face of gods, idols, and politicians should be erodingafter this infection.

And on live performances, it is about having fun in a mosh and slam as much as possible.

Ok, lets talk about Necroshiva, your latest record. How did the writing and recording process go?

From the starting point of writing, I wanted a record full of fast songs hitting listeners in a face. When it was recorded I was a little bit disappointed – not all songs seemed fast enough to my taste. Then we started to play it live – and I see how the audience became too exhausted too fast. We tried to put slow songs among fast and… Realized that all songs are pretty fast. Some of them have slow parts but finally, all of the shit is fast enough. So… Mission complete!

We work on songs very hard and carefully. The first demo was recorded in 2015 – and most of it was butchered. Some songs were re-composed, some – erased. The only song that remains the same is “More Than Hate” – except the title and lyrics. Initially, it was called “Government hates you”. The idea stays the same – I just decided that the new title is a bit cooler. Too much politics make music boring.

We were happy to work on the album with Arkadiy Navaho from Moscow, Russia. He is famous for his work with KATALEPSY, SIBERIAN MEAT GRINDER and a lot of other bands. He understands our style, is very open to our ideas and last but not least – very patient. There were few strong arguments between me and drummer Ruslan during mixing. Arkadiy waited silently the moment when the storm weakened and then just asked: “so where do we go now?”

What sort of record is it, what does it tell the listener?

It is short – we prefer to make it with “All killer – No filler” formula. That’s why we cut one song off the record before starting mixing. That’s why “Shadows” was written for an album few days before recording started – we needed something stronger than the removed song.

Three pieces could be easily released as concept EP – “Abyss Above Me”, “Echo Of the Future”, “Dead Star”. These songs tell one story.

AAM is the first part – it’s about Giordano Bruno story with some quotes from his revelations about the infinity of the Universe and narrow-mindedness of human-made gods. First lines inspired by the poetry of famous Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov and it’s about the infinity of the Universe too. Two scientists from different countries and ages were talking about similar ideas… But story concentrated on Giordano Bruno – he realized he cannot be blinded anymore by church’s lies despite threats of inquisition. “Echo Of the Future» musically bonded with next song, “Dead Star”. «Echo» created on the same chord progression that you can hear in a middle part of “Dead Star” – but chords played backward with a different rhythm. It is the same but different. So the name for it was obvious – it’s like an echo of chords from song that will go next… Echo of the future.

«Dead Star” is lyrically the second part of Giordano Bruno’s revelation. But here listener will find him on his way to the inquisition’s stake. He is doomed but not broken still standing on his beliefs and visions of the future. Keeping in mind the picture helps me to perform the song with anger and emotions.

All three songs fit each other musically and lyrically. So I considered the triplet as hidden EP on the album.

As you can see from here it is anti-religious anti-state themes. “Shadows”, “More Than Hate” and “Necroshiva” follow the same agenda.

You guys have performed with bands like Arkona, Tyr and Ektomorf. Im particularly interested in the first two, is there an ethnic element to your music?

– No, but yes. No – there is no ethnic elements in our music except dombra intro on “wRRong Song” – you will hear it on upcoming release this year. Yes – I give you the names of our gods and you will give the name to my tribe: SLAYER, MEGADETH, NAPALM DEATH, DECAPITATED, CANNIBAL CORPSE, SEPULTURA… Probably you are one of us.

And how did you happen to end up performing with these groups?

About ARKONA and TYR it was as simple as that – I asked the local promoter to add us. He listened to our album before, he knew we were gonna play with EKTOMORF so the answer was positive. As far as I know, the promoter from Russia who was responsible for the whole tour attended our gig with EKTOMORF and agreed too.

Honestly speaking, ARKONA/TYR gig was worst gig of the year for me – I told it to my mates right after I came from the scene. My ear monitors went down, and I didn’t hear my voice, my amp had some issues and the whole day before was nervous. But the whole gig was ok. It was interesting to see ARKONA and TYR soundcheck.

There was a funny story. During soundcheck, we muffle a kick drum with a very old fur coat. Our drummer brought it from home – it was made from faux fur I guess. We need it to make drum kick resonate less. But TYR needs this resonance. Their drummer checked the kick drum and found our fur coat inside. He sighed very loudly – “OH MY GOD!” After he discovered it was very old fur coat he continued: “I will perform in this shit!” Other guys from TYR did not let it happen but during soundcheck, he was wearing our fur coat all the time. He really liked the old junk. Now, this relic is lying in our rehearsal room. Inside of the kick drum, of course.

And About EKTOMORF… I was impressed by their “Fury” album. I tolld my friend Arseniy from KASHGAR my desire to bring the band here with gigs. He contacts some promoters in Moscow and together we arrange a short tour for EKTOMORF and played with them.

Would you say your music could be created anywhere else than in Kazakhstan?

Definitely – yes. We don’t have any specific ethnic motives and I not fan of that kind of metal though I like a lot of ethnic music. I know it is possible, but it is not my way. Some people like to incorporate ethnic elements into metal, jazz etc. But it is not my way. No disrespect to others – I just don’t express myself this way.

Youve said on your website that you guys are on the wrong side of the planet. What is it like to be a metal band in Kazakhstan?

You are arrogantly ignored or someone is trying to make laugh of you. You are overdosed with boring revelations from neighbors, colleagues etc like “I used to listen to metal when I was a kid and then I grew up, so when will you grow up?” Never. Let me clarify that word. It is not me who will never grow up. It is you who actually never grow up. Never understand and never value metal music. It was a joke for you. Probably you were a joke. And still is. That is why you try to bring me down with these meaningless disrespectful words. My condolences to your betrayed and buried dreams and beliefs.

By saying “we’re on the wrong side of planet” I react to other kind of discussions and suggestions. “You should move with your music somewhere else, nobody listens to it here”. But somehow we gathered more and more people on our shows – from 100 to 250. Not bad!

Kazakhstan has 52 bands listed on Metal Archives. Now, I know this is not always representative of the actual scene, but how big is metal in your country and can you tell a bit about the history?

The scene is growing but it is not so big – local metal gigs are a pretty rare thing. One in two months approx. First metal bands started in the middle of ’80s. It seems strange but there are no proper releases from them like LP’s or CDs. Even a demo with good quality is a rare thing. Just total underground things.

One of the first important releases I like is tech-death band LEAD WEIGHT and their “Penetrator” album. As far as I know, it was the first album from Kazakhstan metal band officially released on a label outside the country – Russian “CD Maximum” is responsible for it.

Is your music socially accepted or not? Do you face any censorship?

Currently we out of sight of any censorship – probably we are too small for them. There is no official censorship in Kazakhstan but it exists In a form of oppression from so-called “Uyat” («Shame») groups – people who claim themselves as defenders of old traditions. They are very active against young girls wearing short clothes but never say anything against corruption which is really corroding the society. So, does it mean corruption is an important part of tradition or it is just a good way to finance these groups?

Beside that metal and rock in common are no strangers to the culture here in Kazakhstan. It is not so popular, but it is OK to wear metal t-shirts and long hair. Of course, some idiots can try to provoke you but if you can stand for yourself they will f- off.

Are there any bands from Kazakhstan or neighboring countries you feel people should really check out?

Kashgar, My Own Shiva and Shahid – all of them are from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Seven Sins and Tishina, Doubleface, ZeroVoid, Noise Execution from Kazakhstan. All these bands released full lentgh albums with good quality and you can easily listen to them on Bandcamp or Spotify. I believe we should call it new wave of Central Asian metal – and as for me those are the best releases from the scene in a whole time.

What future plans does Zarraza have?

Here is to-do list:

  • to release New EP this year;
  • to record a demo for the second full-length album for next year release. I got three new songs, Den bring another one so we are in the progress;
  • To film 2 new videos.

At the same time I’m trying to figure out the best options and headliner for second edition of Hellmaty Metal Fest – festival I started last year.

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

Weak roasted meat with rings of red pepper or ginger. Because I like it, haha. And because I like music with blood, with adrenaline.

Pamirt – Mausoleum

Pamirt translates to ‘to die gently’ from Latvian and is an artistic project by Kristiāna Kārkliņa. It emerged from experimentation in Berlin in 2017, creating a different sort of expression than her black metal band Eschatos. The result is a stunning display of darkness, and it’s regal beauty in sound. Pamirt has now emerged as a trio, with Kārkliņa being supported by Edgars Percevs (Eschatos) and Edgars Gultnieks (Protean, Eschatos).

What you get in recording, is quite exceptional, but there is a place that can be ascribed to the music of Pamirt. To me, that is somewhere in between Diamanda Galas, Dead Can Dance and Lingua Ignota. For the sheer recklessness of combining classical sophistication and composition with meaty bass lines and darkness expressed in the vocal style. Listening to the album, it is evident that at the heart of each song is just the piano and voice, the other instruments serve to enhance, thicken, macerate and fortify the sound into what it is: Pamirt.

Mausoleum

The record starts off mildly, with the song ‘That Day’, which relies mostly on the basics, but when the sound does swell it is tumultuous, overwhelming. It’s there where the vocals pierce the haze of distorted guitars and mesmerizing keys. ‘Mausoleum’ as well, sticks to the more common sounds, with a doomy sound and sense of foreboding every step of the way, but towards the end, these notable sounds emerge in the noise. The voice whoops and soars, as Kārkliņa rides and tames the waves of sound.

The lyrics tell us stories, which are partly inspired by Pushkin’s ‘A Feast In Time of Plague’ and by own experience. The result, at times, is grotesque, confrontational and heavy. ‘This Dinner’ is a noteworthy track in that sense, with vocals that put us on the path of Diamanda Galas if I may be so bold to make that comparison. Banging sheet metals, diabolical laughter, unnerving…but bewitching at the same time in all its splendor. We slowly wander into ‘Early March’, an intermezzo instrumental track.

Whatever you may feel of this music, that radiates discomfort, the voice is ever-present. It’s multi-faceted, of many colors. It’s absolutely stunning in execution, wildly dancing through the songs. Though the piano is almost battered with the crushing sound on ‘Danube’, the singing is calm, measured and again has all the right ups and lows. “I flee the bright white fields, I once used to call home…”, Kārklina laments a few moments later, and the pace picks up into a marching rhythm.

‘Crazy’ is the only cover on the album, a classic by Patsy Cline. The song was recorded almost 70 years ago. Pamirt turns it into a dirge, with a trudging pace, that slowly swells. As the singing soars, the music reaches a grudging crescendo. On ‘Bloodletting’ you might notice more bass, which is the double bass from Stanislav Yudin (of H2O, not the hardcore band), a composer who has, in fact, won awards for his folk music. It adds more depth to the song, which already has some of the most gutwrenching vibes of the whole piece. The vocals provoke, gibber and taunt, but towards the end, there is merely repetition and surrender:

“…With the needles, we swallow.  You hold me on my death bed, baby. You hold me on my death bed baby… You hold me on my death bed baby….”

Mausoleum is a mighty piece of work. A record that stands on its own, it doesn’t need any of my references above to convey its meaning. It’s all there, in raw honesty and daring artistry. It’s an album bravely created by a bold soul, and this you feel every minute it lasts.