Underground Sounds: xSERVITUDEx – Path to Amnesty

Label: Rage Records, Life.Lair.Regret Records
Band: xSERVITUDEx
Origin: United Kingdom

Fresh blood in the UK hardcore scene, that’s what xSERVITUDEx  delivers with their raw, straight edge sound. Edge metal, that’s what the band calls their sound on this first EP, titled ‘Path To Amnesty’.

Int he artwork and titles, an oriental theme reverberates, yet this is hardly present in the content of the music, which deals with anguish and hardship. A bit of H8000 is definitely in there, but you can read all about that here.

The peculiar intro sets-up an oriental atmosphere forxSERVITUDEx, which is soon shattered by the first track. ‘Temple’ breaks down the door in full stride, with dissonant, screaming guitars, jagged riffing and vocals that are spat and screamed with furious conviction. The grinding bass lines and tight-strung drums put a bit of a metalcore vibe into the sound of this band. The sheer intensity of the tracks is immense and ‘Stained’ hits repeatedly, with sharp cuts.

Lyrically, the band is as blood-soaked as it gets, full of pain and anguish, connecting their themes to the straight edge philosophy on title track ‘Path to Amnesty’. You constantly get that nineties vibe with this band, thanks tot he rigid sound, the fire that drives it. Certainly, the buddhist theme you may expect is sorely lacking here, but hey… What do you do.

Underground Sounds: Wayfarer – World’s Blood

Label: Profound Lore
Band: Wayfarer
Origin: United States

It’s hard to not draw parallels between Wayfarer and Panopticon because both embody atmospheric black metal that relies on the folklore of the United States. If the second embodies the northern wilds, than Wayfarer takes the west as their home and inspiration for their latest record ‘World’s Blood’, their third full-length release.

Featuring members of Cobalt, (ex-) Kitezh, Blood Incantation and Centimani, there’s a definite amount of experience in the formation. In a way, the band has captured the soundtrack to Cormac McCarthy’s ‘Blood Meridian’. Their use of dusty, sun-beaten soundscapes and long, meandering passages evokes the image of a frontier land, a lawless place where blood and gold are equally abundant. That alone makes this the music of its own mythology.
The way the album opens would almost suggest a stoner record, but then galloping pace hits full speed and you know this is something else. Yet, even the slow, atmospheric parts of ‘Animal Crown’ hold that mirage-like quality in the way the sound just shimmers into a whole. It takes the edge of the blistering tremolo riffs and feisty drum work in other parts of the song. Vocals are roared, in a bellowing, desolate form. This works just as well with the doomy ‘On Horseback They Carried Thunder’, which carries its own distinct mood of darkening skies in the desert. Barren, yet full of venom and threat.
That feeling of desolation is best conveyed on ‘The Crows Ahead The Warcry’. A slow, trudging track in parts, but when that melody line picks up its pace, you want to gaze at the sky, raise your arms and scream defiance. What a majestic showing, yet sticking right in that atmosphere with at thick nod to the might of the Nordic black metal gods. The sound shifts to something more ethereal and dreamy on ‘The Dreaming Plane’, which I suppose the title already gives away.
Yet the true brilliance of Wayfarer radiates on ‘A Nation of Immigrants’, with its acoustic play, distant, murmured vocals and folky string-picking. The thudding drums set that western vibe as well, taking you right to that frontline, where life is hard and rough. That’s the story Wayfarer tells us, which they do with a particular shine!

Underground Sounds: Yob – Our Raw Heart

Label: Relapse
Band: Yob
Origin: USA

Listening to Yob has given many people a special experience and the wait for a new album was long. The trio from Oregon has a solid string of releases in the noughties, had a hick-up before their ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’ masterpiece in 2014 and after that things dried up for a bit.

Of course, there are always many reasons for a drought in releases, but in this case, the health of singer Mike Scheidt definitely played a part. At least, judging by interviews like this one. We are lucky that one of the most beloved bands in the doom genre has now returned with a fine slab of doom to sink your teeth into. This is ‘Our Raw Heart’, probably to be heard at Roadburn soon again.

Yob doesn’t use cold or eerie sounds, but massive riffing that claws to the heavens in a struggle of despair and grief it seems. Yet these always feel veiled and just the turmoil under the surface. The vocals are capturing an instantly take you into the mind-swirl that is ‘Our Raw Heart’. The music often relies on the heavy pummeling, though never chooses to be sharp and directly expressive. There’s a pensive nature to the music that is undeniable, with that transcendental, meditative quality to it.  An album that sets you to thinking and reflecting.

The absolute highlight is the gentle ‘Beauty in Falling Leaves’, where it’s for large parts just guitar and the wavering vocals of Scheidt. Even when the song swells to its full, climactic sound, it remains an easy flow, with a warm and calming sound. The gruff vocals carry with them a passion that is undeniable. The almost 17-minute epic is a testament to the singular genius, that is Yob. Of course, afterwards some more heavy pummeling is delivered with ‘Original Face’, which relies on the heavy drumming and bass, while the vocals sound more like Amebix‘ Rob Miller. Yet, something in the sound harks to the calm and soothing nature of Earth. Particularly, there at the very end with the title track and it’s languid riffing. Mountainous, rugged but completely flattened out and easy to traverse. A record that meets all expectations, with a final ascending into the clouds, leaving us mortals wondering what it is we’re doing.

 

 

Underground Sounds: Runeshard – Dreaming Spire

Label: Independent
Band: Runeshard
Origin: Hungary

Do you like your dragons? And your dungeons? Or are you a big fan of Rhapsody and their type? Then you probably want to give Runeshard a spin. This Hungarian group plays dreamy metal, with a bit of power and some symphonic black to make up a grand sound on this all too brief EP.

The project is a solo endeavor by Bálint Kemény, who has also been active in bands like Numénor, Astor, and Niburta. Playing the guitars and keys, he sets you up for something grandiose and boisterous that reminds me mildly of Bal-Sagoth.

It’s that layered sound, the density of the riffs and the interplay between the vocals and booming spoken word that make that link most tangible on ‘Dreaming Spire’. The vocals are actually offered by Alethiuz, who offers both gruff sounds and narrations. The bombastic sound never ceases to rise during the tunes and only intermittent parts of fantasy music break the tension.

That path is followed forward on ‘Crimson Gates’, which has lyrics that see the hero pronounce his determined position and posture. Notable in the key passages is that here and there they receive a slick guitar solo companionship, giving them even more dynamic effect. The epic, jagged pace on ‘Atlantean Sword’ makes me think of bands like Turisas too, as we already reach the end of this brief taste of magic, offered by Runeshard.

Underground Sounds: Vėlių Namai – Kúrir

Label: Self-released
Artist: Vėlių Namai
Origin: Lithuania

I’ve shared music by Vėlių Namai before, for the reason that it is exceptionally beautiful, harrowing and evocative at the same time. This time Julius Mité is delving in a different piece of earth, namely that of Kurland or Kurzeme. Though parts of this are lost in history, this is believed to be the realm in the west of modern-day Latvia, currently also called by the same name, and western Lithuania.

With ‘Kúrir’, a sound is being delved into. Moving away from the ambient vibes of previous records, this feels much more like entering the catacombs of history with more synth-based sounds, stronger beats and a different level of intensity and forcefulness, but that’s never a bad thing, is it?

Instantly, you recognize the almost dungeon synth-y vibe to the sound. Though not falling into the dusty tomb cliché, we do experience that claustrophobic experience on ‘Sussrúmnir’. It swells up at some point with a clearly traditional element, which is a persistent thing in the music of  Vėlių Namai. This is different though, it takes you really to a human place in history with the deep drones and easy passage of the sounds.

This record feels more like story telling as well, it really takes you through somewhere, instead of letting you simmer in a mystical atmosphere. On both fronts Vėlių Namai performs great, but for me tracks like ‘1042’ and ‘Sventovit’ speak to the innovation in a more concrete way. Granted, I’ve been to Lithuania and Latvia and have seen these lands and meditated on their past and for that, this recor is the perfect soundtrack in all its warm, overwhelming glory.

 

Ifernach: Mi’kmaq heritage and black metal

Black metal is rapidly becoming a kaleidoscope of styles and themes, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Gone are the days of strict confines in the music, but at the same time… something goes missing. Luckily in the strange corners of the world, we find bands like Ifernach, who bring the danger and violence back to the genre with a distinct voice.

Ifernach is a one-man project by Finian Patraic, who has a heritage in the native Micmac people and the Irish immigrants. His identity is much intertwined with the project. Ifernach uses French, an expression of the regional identity of Quebec, which metal scene is close to Patraic’s heart. His native language is English and he hails from the city of Chandler on the east coast of Canada. Ifernach has released the latest EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’ this year.

Finian Patraic was kind enough to answer some questions about black metal, his roots, the need to protect what is left of his heritage and his way of life.

Ifernach: Roots, bloody roots

Can you start by telling a bit about yourself, your roots and how you started Ifernach? (and when, because that appears to be a mystery). Also, have you been active in other bands?

Ifernach started as my life turned into something really dark.

I was in terrible sadness, madness. I am an active musician, done 9 years of classical music, I play all kinds, but I kept black metal away for all these years because I just wasn’t ready for it. I think black metal was the only option left this time, my punk riffs turned darker, so did the lyrics, so did my opinion of life in general. When you go into black metal, it’s a journey, and maybe there is no way out. It’s hard to explain, but I found peace in this whole darkness, a quiet place where I can dwell and suffer in peace. I won’t mention any of the bands I’ve been into because there is simply no links with what I do today. I record music every day. Someone said Ifernach would release a lot of EP’S because there is only one person behind the project, I guess it’s true. Like I said, I wake up in anger and fury every morning… the day that I will be a happy person that says life is beautiful, my project and journey would probably be over. Anger is what fuels Ifernach.

What bands influenced you musically and how did you end up moving into this particular type of music with extreme sound and, often, extreme thoughts and ideas?

No shame to say Burzum and Darkthrone. Everyone says that, but I think it’s the way we experience their music that changes from people to other people. And also at what time we discovered the genre, what we felt, what we were going through at the time. I will remember that day forever. Putting the needle on Darkthrone’s Transilvanian Hunger was, to me, a tempting invitation to the depths of Transylvania, or Norway… A wild call, and mostly something really really terrifying. Going into Burzum first albums was also a turning point, I don’t want to compare to punk here, but the horrific quality of the audio was inspiring me a lot, just like the punk days at school. That was way before I got into NSBM. No way I’m going to explain that, but this is devil’s music. The more evil it gets, better I like. For me it’s revenge on society, like on Halloween the dead rise back up. Always been a Samhain / Misfits / Danzig fan by the way. It’s crazy that people can love watching murders and torture on the screen and being such dedicated horror fans, but then automatically calls someone out when listening to NSBM or ”racist bands”. If you like murder, if you like guts and blood, you just can’t apply to any ethics code or human-wise shit. ALL MURDER, ALL GUTS, ALL FUNNNN.

Your music deals with very particular topics, related to your own origin. What made you choose this path and black metal as the vehicle for its expression (you may have already answered this above) and can you tell me more about the culture and expression you are sharing in your music?

Norway made me connect with the forest here. Simple as that. Black metal music is forest worshipping, so from time to time I got back into the forest I grew up, and started understanding more the whispers I heard from when I was young. I live on the land where my ancestors (from my mother side) lived and traded with the Europeans. There is a lot of mysteries and untold stories about the natives, and my project speaks about that. I try not to unleash the truth about the culture, but in exposing the dark side of it (wild hunt, torture cults, fire dancing, scalp collecting, to mention a few). I would say I do not speak for the natives. I am a lone wolf. But Ifernach is definitely a native Miq’maw inspired black metal band.

I am fascinated by the way you wear the corpse paint. Can you tell me about its significance? Also, I think I saw pictures with the more traditional form of corpse paint. Did it take much time for you to shape the visual identity that now is Ifernach and how did that process go? What symbols and meanings are people witnessing?

The one I was wearing at the Messe des Morts is a facepaint used for war by the natives more located in the south (USA).

My ancestors were proud warriors but I found no trace to this day of their face looking. They were wearing animal shapes on their bodies, and clothes. Animals were very important to their lives.

Ifernach needs to expose a violent image, you saw it with the knife and moose blood. Sick and tired of victimizing the culture. I was raised in hunting and I will practice the tradition from father to son. These things need to be shown on stage. Passamaquoddy used to wear swastikas on their clothes, don’t be surprised if I’ll wear some one day. Antifa is already crying. Sick of the people bashing our roots, culture, and runes. Ignorant fools raised up by the system!

Separately, I want to ask you about the knife, an item that seems to recur in aesthetic images like the absolutely stunning header image on your Facebook page, to the live shows and photo’s where you wield it, while covered in blood. Can you tell me about that and its meaning?

Just did it. Maybe next time with a gun. Who knows. Too much safe place in metal these days. I hate to play live because of that. Censorship.

Your latest record is Gaqtaqaiaq, which came out on Nekrart Records. Can you tell how this record was conceived and what the theme of this particular release is? I’m also curious how you go about the recording, do you do everything yourself and on what fronts is that most challenging or satisfying?

I record in the most terrible and annoying way possible. Nothing is wireless, cables are all jammed up together, I can barely move my head when I record the drums because I’m losing signal with the headphones. I record drum first, without any ghost track guitars. Crappy computer, one microphone. Cheap ass guitar amp. I play with the EQ’s, volumes, and that’s it. The way native American black metal should be done. Wild, raw and rude. Gaqtaqaiaq is a native word for End of the trail, journey. I wanted to expose the first contact between Native Americans and Irish men that came from the sea, sometimes dying at the end of the sea road. And for the ones who survived, witness a journey inside the mysterious northern woodlands of Gespeg. Fires at night, war cries and drum beatings. A soundtrack for my land, for what happened years and years ago. I sat there on the seashore and been thinking about it. A lot of Irishmen died on the coast, with sinking ships, not to mention the coffin ships. Musically, I couldn’t get a better result in being alone. Looking back at it now, I hate creating something with others, can’t stand it.

Listening to the record musically, I am fascinated by two elements. The first is the ever-present punk vibe in the music, the other is the sound of the guitar. I want to ask you if the first is a correct conclusion and how you created the second.

Right. Always been a punk fan. But not the peace-activist genre. You know the street punk with no future genre. Discharge, Exploited, stuff like that. Real punk. Don’t fucking tell me Sid had something to do with veganism and politics. Fuck ’em all. I love Carpathian Forest because of that, they got that same pissed off mentality like we’re gonna kill everyone and piss on their bodies, whether you care or not. ‘Laments of Eriu’ had a pretty raw guitar sound, when you look on Gaqtaqaiaq, it has a more atmospheric vibe with some delay. 4 guitar tracks playing all different paths and sometimes an old piano, that’s how I manage to do it.

I’m curious about your choice for the French language, as I understand it is not your mother tongue. Being a speaker of multiple languages myself, I can see how one may be more fitting for what you desire to express, but I’d like to ask you about this.

I been into a lot of Forteresse and Monarque records, two important acts in the Metal Noir Quebecois genre. Also, we all know native Micmacs fought the English alongside with the Canadiens-Français. It was some sort of dedication to the French language, and also that, as an English-born person, I am proud to speak a good French language, in the province, I grew up. Finally, I have to say it’s a little protest against all the Micmac books all written in English. The reds destroyed everything here, on my land and all around, their language even got into our culture and legends… It’s a shame.

You’ve described your style as savage black metal. Where would you say the savage element is and what does it embody to you, as in how would you describe that element of your music?

I try to express what I hear and what I feel when going into these familiar woods within my music, I want the people to hear the wild call I’ve heard. Transcend the voices into the music. I don’t know. These forests are filled with old legends, sometimes still marked with the signs of the past. Savage also because I want to expose more ”savage” themes with the music, like mention before (hunting, war rituals…) you know things that are not into books at school, some Anti-evolution practices. Against the modern world. I go outside in winter at -40 with some cheap ass fucking boots that I bought on the internet when I can go outside, kill a beaver, and make me the greatest boots I ever had of my life. This is how I would describe it. Even if we live in 2018, my main goal is still to learn how my elders used to survive on the land. There are so many techniques and tools that are lost in time… For example, I saw an old Innu tradition, that was literally to put blueberry paste into a tree bark cone, with teeth-written imagery on it, to survive the cold winters. How crazy is that? It was more important to learn chemical formulas or maths at school. Fuck that shit. Don’t think savages are fools, because they can’t do math, it’s because they are happy without numbering what they have.

When I asked you if you were willing to answer these questions, you made a point of not wanting to be associated with Antifa. Can you elaborate on that?

Fuck the code. Fuck censorship.

My ancestors died because of an immigrant invasion.

In the Antifa codebook, I am a total nazi for stating these… facts.

Graveland got canceled in Montreal because of Antifa, and the famous sign shown in the news saying: Heil Satan, Not Hitler.

These kinds of things remind me why my culture has been erased from its own land.

Well, to be honest, basically it’s free hate for everyone…
– about black metal and politics.

There’s a thin line between proud of one’s roots and hatred for the other. How do you look at this, in the light of your earlier mentioning of NSBM?

Well, to be honest, basically it’s free hate for everyone. It’s how I see it. It’s also a political thing but you know, in life I’d rather be the wolf, the lion, not a sheep following the others blindly… In my culture, the natives were strong people, fast hunters, we kinda lost our path. My hate comes from there, now we’re just rejects from the system, looking good buying things and feeding this whole monster that mixes everybody into the same mold; working, paying. I never said my color was better than another one. But my color has vanished (the red skins). People these days are putting tags everywhere like you say something, automatically you’re this, you’re that. Like just because I fight for the nativity of my land, automatically I am against black people. I truly believe that with the school system, social mentality and internet going on with their stupid trends, all hope is lost for native culture revival, so why let all these newcomers in? Back then we had tribes, separated by the habits of life and the ways to survive in our own environment. I believe in war, I believe in adversity, I believe in fighting, I believe in violence. Go take a walk into those woods you’ll find out. Life on earth, we changed everything, but it all comes up to one thing; survival.

Perhaps on a related note, what do you think that the role is for black metal in the world of today? Is it still a voice of rebellion and if so, what does it rebel against?

I think the problem is bands that are saying don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t support this, people will follow you blindly. Black metal is total war. No code, no rules. I think it is still a voice for rebellion (if you look at Kiev and their awesome festival) , and surely something more than just canceled shows by Antifa. In the end, some of them are musicians earning money, and I’m okay with that. But I hope it will always be the voice of evil, no matter what evil is (and I’m not talking about black metal coffee). Black metal went mainstream with Varg and Euronymous. I saw a rapper talking about Euronymous.. wow. Internet world today also, very hard to come out with something real and authentic.

What future plans do you have for Ifernach?

I have one show in the record, maybe one next in the winter of 2019. I am alone here, the guys who played with me at the Messe des Morts are very far from me (8 to 12 hours drive). It’s very hard to play a show live. I keep recording and reading. And learning the native language. Ankami, Wije’wi. Kiwaja’lin, We’kwata’si… I have a surprise release for Halloween eve. A tribute to horror, something a little off-series for Ifernach.

If you had to compare Ifernach to a dish, what would it be and why?

Raw meat. bloody flesh. The way my elders loved it. The way I am trying to enjoy it. Hahaha…

Disclaimer: The opinions voiced in this article are those of the artist. In no way am I endorsing these ideas as they are not my own. As we live in a time of turmoil, I feel that trying to understand others is a lost art at times and I hope this provides the reader with insights. 

Dungeons, Wilds and Ancient Past: A journey

Daily life can be quite a drag and I vividly recall the sense of otherworldliness that hit me when I played these oldschool RPG video games as a kid. Something about their sound just got to me, because it took you to that ‘other place’. It’s not much different with modern games, though my last efforts where with World of Warcraft and, repeatedly, Skyrim.

The rise in popularity of styles like ambient, film music, dungeon synth and such suggests I am not the only one and that is a good thing. People need a little bit of magic in their lives don’t they? The imaginative experience of playing a game of Dungeons & Dragons, playing a video game where you are the warrior-hero, or perhaps make some music. I come across a lot of this and sometimes it’s really good, sometimes it’s not. Let me take you down that forgotten path for a bit.

Blót Heathen – Migrations

Origin: Italy 
Label: Dark Coalition Records

Orlando Li Mandri and Leonardo Sorrentino are probably not of full-blooded Viking descent, but it inspires them enough to let them create ‘Migrations’. The idea is to catch the migrations of old when the people were in an uproar and moving away from where they had their homes and origins. This seems ancient history, but it emulates something very in the present. We are still not granted homes and food shortage and political upheaval forces us to move onwards. The music emulates that movement with drones and sounds that resemble animals, packed and trodding down the road. Tribal vocals sound on some tracks, where forgotten instruments resound and horns blare in the distance. It captures our continuously in-transit state, whether we let our minds wander or are actually on the run, which people still are.

The Gamelan of the Walking Warriors – Gamelan Beleganjur and the Music of the Ngaben Funerary Ritual in Bali

Origin: Italy
Label: Akuphone

This is a recording-collection, gathered by Vincenzo Della Ratta, PhD in Ethnomusicology from the Sapienza University (Rome). As a specialist of the gongs music from the Austronesian cultures of Southeast Asia. It captures the listener instantly with the magic of gamelan music. The rattled, drumming sound is hypnotic and in that sense seems to emulate the journey onto death nicely, as I easily drift away to this sound that follows a completely own path. The Balinese music is repetitive, dense, but mostly simple and taking the listener away towards other realms. The thudding drums are incessant, but the metallic gamelan sounds are simply ever present and rattling onwards. You almost have to move to it, shake and rock gently on this journey to the beyond. Wow…

Kink Gong – Tibetan Buddhism Trip

Origin: France
Label: Akuphone

The eerie chatter awakes me from my haze of gamelan music, but i’m entering a much more dense trip with this recording by Kink Gong. Laurent Jeanneau, the man behind this project, has recorded over 160 albums. He has plenty of material to work with and by manipulating and cut-pasting the mantra chanting with various effects, the word trip is definitely the most fitting for this aural experience. Its repetition is even more intense than the gamelan as the pieces continue and I find myself immersed in its incessant chatter and otherworldly nature. I imagine mountains and the high-places where these cultures dwell and were recorded, in Tibet (free Tibet!) and China. Finding calm in the flow, reaching deep within the self. ‘Tibetan Buddhism Trip’ is a beautiful distillation of the ancient Buddhist culture.

Gargoylium – Chroniques de la Citadelle

Origin: France
Label: Self-released

But what if we move over and under into the world of phantasy and imagination? This we do with the tunes of Gargoylium, a one man project that creates black metal and dungeon synth of the highest quality with a medieval vibe. Ever walked through a castle in that strange, top-view setting like in Zelda? This is the soundtrack of my dreams after playing these for hours upon hours. ‘Chroniques de la Ditadelle’ captures the grandeur of ancient castles, perhaps even from the viewpoint of a Gargoyle sitting high above, rigidly gazing out over the adjacent domains. Pleasant notes, with a mild reverberation for the spacious, stone halls of the old buildings take you from the high peaks to the dungeons. Particularly ‘Le Tombeau des Valeureux, Repos des Preux’ embodies the sonorous, underground tranquility one could find in the abondoned vaults of these ancient castles. Yet, there’s always a sense of might and glory. It even features the neighing of horses on ‘Gloire aux Trépassés, Par le Destrier de La Mort Menés!’. For a moment it breaks that wall of the strange, unreal world I’m in, connecting it to reality, but it fades rapidly with the bells in the great towers chiming and the sun touching the great, granite walls.

Earthencloak – Commune of the Gnomes

Origin: United States
Label: Self-released

I’ve grown up with the books, illustrated by Rien Poortvliet, at hand. Of course, I also watched David the Gnome at times, but I found it mildly cheesy at a very young age. The drawings of Poortvliet though, they captured me with the horrendous trolls and dark, grimy nature. The same seems to go for the Yawning Druid, who is behind Earthencloak. On ‘Commune of the Gnomes’, he captures the fascinating world under leaves and branches of the mythical Nisse from Scandinavian mythology. The dulcimer hammers on, creating that sound of tiny feet pattering over the branches. Songs like ‘The Trolls are Near’ convey the fear of my younger years, where ‘Conical Caps’ has that funny playfulness to it. The record also contains a cover, namely ‘Land of Elves and Gnomes’, by Acheulean Forests. There’s something profoundly soothing and peaceful to a lot of this album. Something uncomplicated and pleasant, that I find hard to catch in my daily life.

 

 

Underground Sounds: Mistwalker – Terra Nova

Label: Viridian Records
Band: Mistwalker
Origin: Canada

Isolation has always been a great source of music. And this definitely captures that. Mistwalker is one of the many projects from Greg Sweetapple. The  Canadian region of Newfoundland is one of the main inspiration for this record, which is the second full length by Sweetapple under this moniker, titled ‘Terra Nova’. A reference to the history of his region.

In total, he has released 8 full-length records, most on the regional collective label Viridian records. Musically, this project has been greatly inspired by the remote region of origin. That in itself makes this an interesting creative outlet to listen to!

The music of Mistwalker has a versatility with one binding factor, which is the melancholic overtones in the sound. In the introducing Juniper Lament’, I find similarities with the meandering, depressive pop songs of the ’90’s lo-fi scene, where the second track goes to a different place. ‘Terra Nova’ has a blistering guitar sound, metallic and cold, like the northern sea. From this point on, the sound reminds me of Glittertind in their primitive early days. A sense of the grand, captured in the clean vocals, and powerful arches. The guttural vocal part is particularly grim and venomous, leaning to the Bathory sound.

With a song like ‘Bloody Bay Massacre’, Mistwalker demonstrates the uncanny daring to touch upon topics, obscured by history. The doomy song tells of the Beothuk people, native to Newfoundland, who have been extinct for almost two centuries now. A song that is as a witness of a people, no longer able to accuse. It’s just one example of the local influences that fill the album and define its sound.
At times, the music is truly gritty and sounds like the unpleasant climate you might face in the realms like Newfoundland. A grey sound, with a feeling of desolate remoteness. All that is well captured in the sound of Mistwalker.

Furia: Silesian Nekrofolk between concrete and green

You either love what they do, or you don’t. Furia is not for everyone, but the Polish band has continuously searching within the realm of black metal and folklore for new expressions. Nekrofolk, they call their sound, which at times definitely combines that necro sound with folky passages. Intriguing is the world that fits here.

It’s been a while since their latest release, which was ‘Księżyc milczy luty’. An album that truly moves away from the black metal stigma and earns the band some interesting artistic comparisons along the way. Even more interesting was their EP ‘Guido’, which I liked for obvious reasons, but it was recorded far underground in one of the mines of their native Silesia. An interesting region historically, if you are interested in that (which I am).

During Roadburn 2018, I met with Nihil and Sars from the band, to have a chat. Upon arrival, it is clear that we deal with intense personalities. Nihil hides behind his sunglasses and smokes one cigarette after another. When he speaks it’s slow and with a mild slur at times. Yet as we progress and touch upon interesting topics, he becomes more pronounced and lively. Makes sense, since most of the times the questions are the same (and so are some of mine). Sars is more quiet but brooding and intense. His gaze bores into you and his words are like daggers, sharp and spoken with an urgency and directness.

Of mines and the moon

How was it to play Roadburn for you?
Nihil: It was almost perfect. I didn’t like the beginning of the show, there were some problems with the sound. I didn’t like that it was daytime, but the show got better as we went and the last song felt like a full 100% for me. I really enjoyed it, people seemed satisfied.

Your last song, was that a very personal experience?
Nihil: The last song is very important. For me personally, as during the live set, this is a kind of ‘wydinia’, a release of what we have inside of us. I don’t know why, but it is perfect for the end. You can’t put it to words. Every song is a personal expression, yet that song is special to us.

As I hear your music, it’s very hard to put you down in a genre box. Do you feel that a festival like Roadburn is the right fit for a band like Furia to play?
Nihil: Yeah, I think every festival is right for a band like Furia, because we’re just playing music. For me it is just music at least, so we play different festivals like OFF festival or Primavera in Barcelona. I think you can say pop festivals?
Sars: One festival we were playing featured a post-black band and a pop artist from Poland and we were in between, and that was ok.

Furia live @ Roadburn by Paul Verhagen

Would you prefer this to an exclusively black metal festival, since you are usually put in that category?
Sars: Actually, I don’t like black metal festivals, because it is so narrow-minded. It doesn’t fit for us.

What is often used for your music, and I’m curious where it comes from, is the term ‘nekrofolk’?
Nihil: Hard to say, what inspires us is not different bands so much. Sure, we pick up their influences, but that’s not the main thing. Most important for us is our lives, where and how we live. That is very special for us because we live in an area that is both industrial and very green. It is very weird to have those two things, I’ve never seen a similar place anywhere. I think that’s why we are strange.

Could you then say that the term is a combination of the two elements, that the nekro represents the industrial barren and folk the green?
Nihil: I think that nekro is us, we are nekros. We are dead.

That requires some explanation, why are you nekro?
Nihil: I don’t know… (turns to Sars) Why are we nekro?
Sars: We are not useful for society. It’s hard to explain, but like Nihil says, we are playing nekrofolk because we are from Silesia. Of course, when we started we wanted to play black metal and we listen and play in many black metal bands. Now, that is not the most important thing. We want to express ‘us’.

I get from that that you have shaped your music into something very much more personal, strongly based on where you are from. I am interested in where you are from, can you describe Silesia as your place?
Nihil: You have to come see it. It’s industrial and the mentality is different.
Sars: Historically, the region belonged to everyone. It has influences from Czech, German, Polish and other owners and that has shaped it in a way. Silesians became their own sort of people because of that. When the Germans invaded Poland and took over Katowice, one of the biggest cities of Upper Silesia, there were people firing at them and others waving and welcoming the soldiers as if they were part of them. It’s complex to this very day because there are still people who might not feel German but have a strong kinship with all these nations. They’re not from anywhere really but from Silesia. These days, when nationality is very important in Poland for the government, saying you are Silesian is a controversial thing.

So to round up, Silesian identity is shaped by its history, gaining a very distinct identity due to not really being a part of any other nation? As I understand, you also derive a lot in your music from that history and folklore. What sort of stories or ideas are those?
Nihil: I think it is not so much about stories, but more our feelings about these.
Sars: We are part of those stories and we want to create new ones. Not just about our area, but also about us. We use parts of that local folklore but in our own way. We tell them through our own perspectives and experiences.

I think that nekro is us, we are nekros. We are dead.  – Nihil

Furia live @ Roadburn by Paul Verhagen

As I understand it, you don’t view yourself as part of the black metal scene or any scene at all really. You’ve also stated that as a musical entity you are hermetic. How big or small is that unit, to what does it extend or is there any kinship that fits in your circle with other artists?
Nihil: It’s just us, not some group of people. There are some bands in Poland we are close to in such way, but it’s more on a social level and not coded with rules. We really just play our own stuff without plans of getting bigger.

Does that help to hold on to the identity, that you consciously control what comes into your work?
Nihil: Actually, I think we are starting to control that, but earlier it was much more unconsciously. We were not really in control, just drunk and playing all the time. Now, we are getting older and more mature, more aware of what we want to specifically do.

I would like to talk about your latest record a bit too and I am particularly fascinated by the release ‘Guido’, recorded hundreds of meters underground in a Silesian mine with that same name. How did this idea come about and how did it all got done?
Nihil: For us, this idea came very naturally because the coal mines are for us a regular thing and part of our industrial region. Mining culture is a part of the Silesian environment we come from. When we saw it was possible to record a record down there, we just did it.
Sars: It just makes sense, because when people think about Silesia, they think of Germans and coal mines. It was obvious we had to go underground to record it.

Wasn’t it a challenge to get down there and did you write your songs with a specific feeling to them?
Nihil: It was our first time down there and obviously it was technically hard to get our stuff down there. We only had one day to record, but that went rather well. I didn’t feel very unusual down there, just very focused and I didn’t think about anything else. In one way it was like every recording, but I can’t put to words the uniqueness of the experience.
Sars: We were prepared for that, we knew we had one day and so our mindset was set to do it. There were interesting situations though, like the typical elevator that was used by miners years ago, which had 3 levels and on every one was a part of our equipment.
Nihil: The strange thing is that the second part of the recording is improvised and we are not good technical musicians, but it came out the way we wanted it to be. We are satisfied.

When I listen to this record, it really is essentialist, very stripped down. Perhaps it captures the essence of what you do, do you feel that way?
Nihil: Well, in some way. But every record captures something and is very different, but the feeling you describe might come from the fact that it was recorded in the coal mine, underground, which influences your perception.
Sars: It really is a part of this record. We were 320 meters underground and listening to this music you have to think about these surroundings. It is part of the record, the place where it was made. We could have done it in the studio too and claimed it was done in a mine, but I think this made us perhaps push harder and work more intensely.

I suppose that in a way, recording down there, is in a way the most isolated place you could find to record, yet also be in the center of where you are from, both physically and conceptually.
Nihil: We should do every record in a mine. It won’t be cheap though…

You also released the album ‘Księżyc milczy luty’, and what is mostly written about this great piece of music is noteworthy. Firstly, you are more and more often compared to bands outside of the black metal sphere and secondly, a lunar quality is ascribed to the record. Could you tell me what that is?
Nihil: We need a whole night to talk about this, but the most simple way to describe it for me is that the moon leads us and we want to escape from the earth. The moon is our goal and guiding light, that is what the record is about. By which I mean, that we don’t belong to this world, so the moon is a symbol of different worlds to us. That’s all I can say right now because it’s very hard to talk about the lyrics. I don’t like that sort of questions, because what we try to say, we say in the lyrics. These are poetic and we shouldn’t demystify them by talking too much about them.

I definitely am not going to ask you to explain the lyrics, as you say they contain a lot of meaning to be found by the listener. What I am curious about is the concept behind them, the way you now describe the moon as a guiding light, an otherworldliness, which is very familiar from mythologies.
Nihil: Well, you mention the mythologies and you are right there, but it is not like we try to follow the mythologies, but we fill them. This mythology comes through us, it is our own experience shaped as if we are those ancients. We are not playing to be the ancient people, but like them, we make our own myths, our own folklore.

In a sense, we are simple people, which again is part of being from Silesia. We are common people that experience and feel. It’s not intellectualizing that but just express.

When you write music like this, where do you start? Is it with music or perhaps with an idea?
Nihil: It’s always an idea, which grows for a long time before you start to play. From the idea flows a concept of lyrics and then we begin rehearsals. That’s really the whole process for us, but the idea is central to how we make music.
Sars: The idea shapes the context you need, so it helps to make sense of what you’re doing and where you go. The sound is merely the expression of that idea.

You all play in a ton of projects and you’ve been making a variety of nuanced changes in your music over the years. How do you then know where a piece of music or lyrics fit in best?
Nihil: It’s always hard to put this to words, but it feels really obvious. It comes completely natural, because I don’t play a riff and then try to fit it, but the other way around. When I’m in Furia, that’s where I am and nowhere else. There are no other projects, it’s very simple at that point. It’s not like you make a choice doing it, you just do that which you are doing at the moment.
Sars: As he said, there’s the beginning of an idea for Furia, then there’s music coming from that idea and lyrics. That must be for Furia, it comes from that ground and it works in an organic way.

We are part of those stories and we want to create new ones.
– Sars

Furia live @ Roadburn by Paul Verhagen

Your sound is definitely moving away from the black metal roots, but where do you see yourself moving in the near future?
Nihil: We are going nowhere. That’s the truth of it because we don’t think that way. The music is a tool for our expression, so it comes when it comes. We are working on a new idea with more blasts, more black metal sounds, but it’s not like we want to move back to black metal. It is just the next idea and the form it takes. We see what it is when it comes, it’s a gut feeling.

Would you see a possibility of Furia becoming even more stripped down, creating a folk sound? Not traditional folk, but Furia folk.
Nihil: I don’t know…
Sars: We’re not planning so that is hard to say and we play what we feel. Unfortunately, we don’t know where that may go.

You mention that you feel an affinity with certain bands, an association if I may. Which are those and why?
Nihil: Most important for us would be Licho, they are a new band with a strong folklore element in their music. Perhaps even more strong than in ours. Members are also active in Koniec Pola. What I like about them is that they look to the inside as well. They don’t imitate other bands but follow their own experiences.
Sars: The folklore aspect is intriguing to me, so I hope they will keep recording and working on more music. We like to help them with live shows and such, so they are important to us.
Nihil: There is a project, titled Túrin Turambar, which is a very old band but quite underground. It’s with them the same as with Licho, they base their work on their own experiences, so I love it. It’s Polish, which is partly why I love it. It’s not nationalism, but it’s an expression of our way of life, the way we think. If you then sing in Polish, it captures that identity, it’s the truth.
Sars: More importantly maybe, are the people in these bands. Like in Licho, when we meet them, they are a lot younger but it doesn’t create a divide. We connect and we understand each other and what we do. There’s a kindred in our way of expressing.

Does it feel as if you go abroad when you leave Silesia?
Nihil: Maybe a little bit, but not so strong. We are different, but we’re also Polish.

If you had to identify Furia as a kind of food, what would it be and why?
Nihil: A rotten apple?
Sars: A big sausage with onions!
Nihil: Sausage with onion and rotten apple it is.

 

Pictures by Paul Verhagen

Underground Sounds: Cân Bardd – Nature Stays Silent

Label: Northern Silence Productions
Band: Cân Bardd
Origin: Switzerland

Nature is never really silent, but sometimes you find yourself in a spot where only the silent humming, gentle trickling of water and wind is what reaches you. That is where Cân Bardd takes you on their very first full length, which has a cover that kind of gives away something of what you can expect.

The Geneva natives have been at it for 2 years. The band consists of two members, namely Dylan Watson and Malo Civelli, who both share membership of the band Kaatarakt. That means the folky, traditional themes in their music are not really coming out of nowhere, but a more subtle take is definitely there on this recording.

A medieval, folky intro starts the record, including the ambient sounds required. Slightly dungeon synthy keys enrich the sound and create an extra layer of grandeur. The launch into the atmospheric sound is black metal with a lot of space. The sound is like a valley with a lot of open air for it to breathe in between on ‘My Ancestors’. The folk music never really leaves and even more, it takes the forefront on ‘An Evolving Painting’ with a strings effect.

Though the black metal parts of songs can sound dense and heavy, there’s always an element of condensed force to it. The sound never gets the full space of the spectrum, so folky passages and soothing synths are always at the edges. For example, check the song ‘Océan’, which harrowing cries and silent intermezzo’s, but also the waxing of the waves and burly drums of war. On ‘A Gift of Nature’, we leave the album in smooth tones, pleasant and warm.

A remarkable record by Cân Bardd, hard to really pin down as a black metal record but captivating nonetheless. Enjoyable to day the least!