Underground Sounds: From The Bogs of Aughiska – Mineral Bearing Veins

Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Band: From the Bogs of Aughiska
Origin: Ireland

From the Bogs of Aughiska returns with their masterpiece ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’. A harrowing piece of dark ambient, black metal and folklore, with samples, stories and spoken word. After their previous experiments with Irish culture and atmospheric music, the group hereby establishes themselves as frontiersmen in the advancement of dark music.

It is the third record by the act, under the guidance of Conchuir O’Drona. The sound is ever still bleak, full of threat and with an aura of otherworldliness. Ken Soceron (Abigail Williams, Perturbator, Leviathan) mastered the album and the artwork was done by Ken Coleman (Morbid Angel). The cover depicts druidic figures, in front of a megalithic structure. The figures are facing away, eyeing the moon, but their inhuman features are clear to see. A notable departure from their previous style of work.

Intro ‘Scuabtuinne‘ offers gentle waves, that just move with an easy grace. Named after the boat of Celtic sea deity Manannán mac Lir, it immediately sets the mood for the whole album in another time and place, far from Instagram-fame and famous vloggers to a place of loneliness and self-reliance. ‘Poll An Eidhneain’ follows with the sound of water dripping, under the earth, cavernous and cold and desperate black metal starts to unfold. When it then launches, the music is slithering, raw and merciless, but also contained. Constricted by the narrowness of its underground domain.

Departing from those realms, we enter ‘Wake of Buzzards’, a tune that takes us to the ambient/drone roots of the group. A story is told about the birds, who are squawking you hear, and what this means. Here we are taken into the seanchai-storytelling that is so much the distinctive part of From The Bogs of Aughiska, which we stick to on the following ‘Crataegus’, which is done in Gaelic. It has a peculiar frantic drumming passage in it, that suddenly breaks through to the surface and just hits home in stripped-down, cold tone. The track unfolds in a bit of a Bal-Sagoth-esque grandeur, where the teller speaks in a booming voice offer hemorrhaging black metal blast beats. The song ‘The One Whitethorn Bush’ deals with o lone faerie bush and its dark story, told by Eddie Lenihan, with the animated voice of an experienced storyteller. The eerie sounds surrounding it, make the track so suspiciously powerful and nerve-inducing. A highlight of the album.

But this only brings us to greater depths, with the abyssal drones and church bells from ‘The Devil is an Irishman’, which builds up laboriously and stumbling to a black metal barrage with a deeply melancholic angle and cold atmosphere. This slides into traditional Gaelic sung ‘An Spealadoir’, with that sensitive waver and shiver in the delivery, drowned in distortion and hazy guitars, that slowly slip away.

‘Lios Duin Bhearna’ is the all-consuming outro, where ambient violently merges with the black metal explorations of From the Bogs of Aughiska. It brings this trip to a close, after traversing the deep realms and the mysteries of the green island. These mysterious explorers of the dark and obscure have definitely found a new place on this record, which will probably haunt your dreams.

Underground Sounds: The Flesh – Dweller

Label: Independent
Band: The Flesh
Origin: The Netherlands

The Flesh made their first appearance on the main stage during Netherlands Death Fest. I forgot who they were replacing, which is a good sign. It means I do remember the replacement very vividly. Though the lights could have been a better effort and the stage is really big for such an intense, threatening live act, they ruled.

Now, finally, you might say, the band has released their debut album. Titled ‘Dweller’, it’s one big jar of hot sauce with death and black elements and a lot of groove and thumping hardcore vibes. Featuring former members of Herder, Blood Diamond and Feast, no real surprise there I suppose.

The slow, crushing intro of the record is an instant hit on ‘Tot In Den Treure’, with that jangled, buzzing bass-line curdling up from below. When the band picks up the pace with those vitriolic, venomous vocals it’s a straight-up hell ride. They stick to a hardcore pace with songs clocking in under three minutes, as ‘Black Rain’ and ‘Siren’s Call’ ramble past at break-neck speed and intensity, with muddy, sludgy streams surging through the dense guitars and drums.

‘Dweller (In the Dark)’ is a truly harrowing track with a doomy premonition whispering through its cosmic horror-infused tunes. The inhuman roar on ‘Salax’ helps keep that vibe going onto the next half of the album, with that thick, death metal sound, barrelling onwards onto the high-paced ‘Thrones in the Sky’, where the bellowing vocalist takes the band to a whole new level of awesome and overwhelming. Full-on killer ‘A Knife To The Conformist’ is the closing cut for an excellent debut record. Where are you, label bosses?

 

Dividing The Element: From Zimbabwe, for Zimbabwe

Dividing The Element hails from Zimbabwe and has been around for a while now, playing a modern style of metal with a lot of aggression and vitality. It’s a young scene, fresh in its infancy, but full of power and drive, which is mostly embodied by the band from Harare themselves.

The group has been around since 2012 and claims ‘From Zimbabwe, For Zimbabwe’. That’s a great sentiment in a world swamped with bands that sound like they were made in the same factory. Afro-metal is another term the band uses, as they implement parts of ethnic music and language into their sound.

In 2018, the band also dropped their debut record and I had the privilege to ask the band about making metal music in Zimbabwe, their self-titled debut and more, as Chris Van was willing to answer all my questions.

A positive outlook for the future

Could you start by introducing yourselves and your musical background? Do you have any other bands you are currently active in?

DTE is comprised of myself (Chris Van)- lead vocals and guitar, Archie Chikoti- guitar, Mat Sanderson- bass and backing vocals and Nick (Newbz) Newberry- drums. With the exception of Newbz playing percussion now and then for our friends Evicted, none of us are active in any other bands.

How did the band get started and how did you meet up?

Initially, the band, or rather the idea of a band was inspired by myself (Chris Van) and Sherlic White. Sherlic and I met online early in 2012 on a Facebook group called ‘Rock and Metal Lovers Zimbabwe’, which was in fact started up by a mutual friend of ours, Valentim Miguel Marques Pereira: another brother in arms hoping to kick-start a metal scene in Zimbabwe. Sherlic and I established a rapport with each other on the group and one day decided it was high time we met up to have a jam. From there, ideas began to flow and it got to the point where we thought it was time to get other people on board so we could execute the ideas in a band setting. Sadly though, Sherlic left the country to study in South Africa. He and I then agreed that I would continue pursuing the project without him.

I had played in previous bands with both Archie and Newbz and because of the long history I had with them, I asked them if they’d like to join.
At that point, we were one musician short so I decided to get an audition advert put up for a second guitarist. A while after that Mat came in to audition at Newbz’s house. Although, to this day I’m not sure Mat was ever aware that he was even in an audition because the setting was so informal – more like a jam session with more beers than any of us could justify than an audition. At some point, we ended up doing a switcharoo experiment putting Archie on guitar and Mat on bass. That arrangement seemed to work better, and it’s stayed that way ever since.

What sort of bands inspire you and are the basis for the sound of Dividing The Element?

For me, Metallica and Nirvana were big influences in my early teenage years, if you listen to our song Kumba Kumusha I’m sure you’ll notice the similarities in James Hetfield’s vocal style in places. System Of A Down also provided a lot of inspiration with the idea of vocal harmonies. When I discovered Numetal bands like Korn, Linkin Park, Disturbed, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot etc. that’s when I taught myself how to scream. As I got older though and discovered more music, my taste got a lot heavier. Discovering bands like Lamb of God, Parkway Drive, As I Lay Dying and various deathcore bands like Suicide Silence and Carnifex inspired me to learn how to growl.

On an instrumental front though we like to experiment with fusing different styles of music so it’s quite hard to pinpoint the exact sources of inspiration because it can basically come from anywhere, but it always reverts back to some kind of metal sound at the core.

Which would you say is the core message behind Dividing The Element. As in, what do you want people to take away from your music?

I guess the most common theme in our music is that lyrically, we write about personal life experiences in Zimbabwe that either one of us or all of us have gone through. That said, it would be nice to know that there are other Zimbabweans out there who can relate to what we write about.

Can you tell me a bit about how you go about making your music? Is it a cooperative process, or does every band member have his own part to play?

Mostly it starts out with me writing the skeleton of a song and then the other guys come in to help bash it out and fill in the blanks at rehearsals. I’d say it’s both.

A few months ago you released your record, which was self-titled. What can you tell about the record, the process of writing and what inspired it?

As I mentioned before, the content of each song lyrically was inspired by life experiences, so the album is quite personal.

Some of the songs seem to contain traditional elements and language. Can you share a bit about that and why you’ve chosen to make this part of your music?

This was an idea my fiancee suggested to me prior to the conception of the band. It was done in order to help initiate a metal scene in Zimbabwe. There was once quite a big rock scene in Zim, especially in the 80’s. It seemed to die a slow, silent death though and then all of a sudden there was nothing left. So because I am a Zimbabwean and a metal head, the idea was to bring the two together and make a metal band in Zimbabwe for Zimbabwe. Using the local vernacular and incorporating traditional themes into the music was the best way to go about it as a means of identity. So when the band eventually formed there was already a direction and sense of purpose in mind.

What sort of scene is there in Zimbabwe and how big is it?

The scene is small. When we first started, metal heads were around, but few and far between. None of them seemed to know each other either, but it has grown in leaps and bounds from where it first started and seems to continue to grow. At every show we play we see new faces which is very encouraging.

Which bands brought the genre to your country?

As I mentioned, there was once a rock scene here in years past. I sadly did not have the privilege of experiencing it though. So I’m afraid I can’t accurately say to be honest, although I’m sure there are other more historically learned people around who are able to offer their opinions on the matter.

What sort of attitude do people have towards your music? Is it frowned upon, censored in any way or so?

No one’s censored us or anything like that but Zimbabweans can be conservative. So I’d say generally people who haven’t heard of us or the genre before approach it with caution, coz it’s new to them and people always seem to have preconceptions. But metal is mostly an underground thing anyway, it’s not for everyone nor is it meant to be.

I notice that a few African countries have a metal scene, notably South Africa and Botswana, with a few bands like yourselves in surrounding countries but then it would seem to simply dry up. Is that also the reality or do you connect with bands from Malawi, Tanzania, DRC etc.? How important are the cross-border connections for you?

Yes, we do connect with other bands, it’s very important. I think there’s always a chance that things could go wrong and all of a sudden the wheels stop turning. Cross-border connections are very helpful especially if we want to tour outside of our own country. Knowing where the scenes are and how big they are really helps. It’s also just a good support system to have, and provides a great opportunity to interact with other like-minded people, in some cases even make new friends.

How’s the availability for everything, like rehearsal space, instruments, music, venues to play at and so forth?

The Zimbabwean economy is still in a fragile state right now so it can be tough. Entertainment doesn’t fall high on the priority list, although there is a lot of optimism that things will make a change for the better, economically speaking. Hopefully, they will.

Which bands from Zimbabwe should people definitely check out and why?

Definitely check out Acid Tears, Chikwata 263, Evicted, Kamikaze Test Pilots, and an industrial melo-death project called Nuclear Winter. These bands range from hard rock to soft afro-rock to mbira punk. All of them have their own flair and character.

What future plans do you guys have?

Our plan is to promote our album in whatever capacity we can, so hopefully a few more shows in Zimbabwe this year. We’ve also been invited to a metal festival in Botswana next year and have committed to it. We’re very excited about it.

If you had to compare Dividing The Element to a dish, what would it be and why?

I’d say classic meat and potatoes with a hint of some kind of fish taste that you can’t pin point why it’s there or where it’s coming from. Reasons for that- we haven’t really reinvented the wheel but there are times where things can get changed up in a very unexpected way. That, and I really like fish.

Underground Sounds: Vreid – Lifehunger

Label: Seasons of Mist
Band: Vreid
Origin: Norway

The triumphant return of Sognametal is here, with the new album by legendary Vreid. Following in the spirit of originator Windir, the band freely creates their own brand of black metal, quite distinct from the overall Norwegian sound but also very much a part of it. ‘Lifehunger’ is the eight full-length of Vreid.

We also have to mention Ulcus, since the Sogndál metal network is small and cohesive. Their music shaped through the years into something more melodic and accessible, with war-themes. In fact, I sometimes have to think of Loits in that context as much as of Kalmah, but hey. I’m thinking out of the box here.

The melancholic intro of ‘Flowers & Blood’ promises much as an acoustic guitar casts a moonlit setting for this album. As a prelude, it opens up for ‘One Hundred Years’, which combines the penchant for the epic and melancholic that Enslaved and Opeth have perfected. The sound is tight and polished, with the occasional marching beat as displayed on the title track keeping everything as tight and organized as possible. In that sense, Vreid follows the trajectory of bands like Satyricon to a more vitalistic and rigid sound.

The vocals are particularly captive, sounding like a vicious snarl that bites and snaps at the listener with fury. Yet, on ‘Hello Darkness’, we have the big outsider track. Clean vocals and maybe even a little nod to the true masters of darkness Simon & Garfunkel here? It’s mellow vibe and acoustic parts are truly dark though and capturing a different kind of melancholy. The rest of the album kinda picks up the pace again with steady quality, catchy riffs and a razorsharp bit of songwriting. I don’t know if anyone ever thought Vreid was gone, but then they’re back with a vengeance with killer tracks like ‘Sokrates Must Die’.

Underground Sounds: Trappist – Ancient Brewing Tactics

Label: Relapse Records
Band: Trappist
Origin: United States

Trappist is maybe one of the coolest bands to come out of the woodwork in recent times with their beer-inspired thrash-core-metal. The group has embraced the moniker (pun intended) of the famous brewing monks you mostly find in Belgium, and plays fast and loud on their debut album ‘Ancient Brewing Tactics’.

Having earned their name and fame in Spazz, Infest, Despise You, Crom, Killed in Action and probably tons more, its a group of musicians who work on auto-pilot and I guess also on beer. The guys also had a joined podcast, named ‘Hour of the Barbarian’, which sparked their collaboration for this project of beer-infused thrashing, which is actually pretty damn good when you check it out and get into it.
Much of the tunes are fast-paced, straight-ahead thrashy d-beaty metalpunk, with a lot of fun, tongue-in-cheek and energy. ‘No Soldier Left Behind’ is instant screaming mayhem, with a fast pace and some intense guitar torturing. Meaty riffs, chunky drums and a burly, brawling set of vocals combine for an excellent, fun-packed pile of beer-soaked songs. Titles like ‘This means Wort’ or ‘Giving the Boot To Rheinheitsgebot’ are simply hilarious. The last is actually a strangely mellow song, allowing you to just roar along while raising a pint.
There’s something profoundly visceral about the music, much like a night of intense beer drinking it leaves you wondering what’s what with the almost uncontrolled ramblings on ‘Frank The Tank’. Then it launches into some classic metal riffing, deliciously! Following is the new anthem for hardcore craft beer drinkers ‘No Corporate Beer’, a tune for the masses. Yet, lets not forget ’99 Problems (But a Beer Ain’t One)’, as the perennial classic or ‘Wolves in the Taproom’, an obvious reference to Wolves in the Throne Room.

Underground Sounds: Insect Ark – Marrow Hymns

Label: Profound Lore
Band: Insect Ark
Origin: USA

Insect Ark is Dana Schechter (bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers) and Ashley Spungin (drums, synthesizers). These two ladies have a knack for perfectly executed doom/drone with heavy atmospheric overtones. Their latest effort is called ‘Marrow Hymns’.

The duo has been working their musical magic since 2012 when they dropped their debut ‘Collapsar/Piledriver’. Dana Schechter has played with Gnaw, Arabrot, Locrian, Bee and Flower and also does film scores. Ashley Spungin worked with Taurus, Negative Queen, and Normus. Together, that means a pile of experience in creating tunes that truly hit home… and hit hard.

The word cinematic has often been used in conjunction with this band, but there is a very good reason for it. The droning, meandering sound is never meant to just pummel you, but slithers around, enveloping you in the atmosphere that the duo desires to unleash. The whining guitar on ‘Arp 9’ instantly works as a brush on a canvas, painting the illuminated visions of Dana Schlechter on bass. The unity in the sound is so particular, it creates a harmony that unnoticed, submerges the listener.

Dreamy is indeed a captivating term for the music of the duo, but at times those drums hit you in the head with unrelenting force. On ‘Skin Walker’, walls of sound hit like a tidal wave with a massive force. It’s eerie, how they so easily switch from post-rocky soundscapes to pulverizing doom. You hardly notice the switch even. One of my favorites is the track ‘Sea Harps’, with embraces grandeur and that feeling of nautical doom metal. The scratchy strings and foreboding drumming evoke the surging tide of the waves, holding the tension up and then let it all flow out. Perfectly.

At times drones and distortion create peculiar sonic tapestries, warm sounds, and cold electronics. It all culminates in the harrowing outro ‘Daath’. A track that just eats you alive in all its industrial buzzing and droning. What an exceptional piece of music here, by these doomsters.

Underground Sounds: Theudho – De Roep van het Woud

Label: Heidens Hart
Band: Theudho
Origin: Belgium

The Flanders band Theudho has been ravaging the shores and land with their pagan black metal for a good 15 years. Having left behind their original Scandinavian signs, the band is now using the proto-Germanic word for ‘people’ or ‘nation’ as a name. Maybe ‘folk’ captures it better. The band has actually been very prolific and part of a number of tribute compilations throughout the years.

In 2016, Theudho returned to being a one-man outfit under the creative guidance of Jurgen S., who also played in a number of different projects, amongst his recently established Slithering Decay. ‘De Roep van het Woud’ is a record in the best pagan metal tradition, embracing the natural realm as inspiration and topic. Inspiration is also derived from Scandinavian stories, which is always a good thing.

Brisk black metal finds itself interchanging with soothing passages through the woods. At those moments, the vocals also turn to a speaking form, proclaiming the will of the woods. Some unexpected breaks hit the listener during ‘Waar Kraaien de Ondergang Bezingen’. The lyrics are sung in Belgian with an unearthly voice. Belgian, for those that are confused, here means the Flemish Dutch. The sound of Theudho is strong, firm and very well crafted. The repetitive nature harks back to the originators, such as Bathory and perhaps a harkening to the likes of current-day Darkthrone with that raw, direct sound.
Nowhere this sound comes out as clearly as on ‘De Boom van Hakiloheim’, with jagged, violent riffing and vocals barked in harmony with their onslaught. It’s a similar vibe that you get a little later on ‘Slangentongen’ and the vitalist ‘Saksenslacht’. Songs with a cold fury, impersonal but burning with force. Synths add the needed atmosphere here and there, enhancing the black metal that clasps on to you like the resin from the endless trees of the primordial forests that are sung about by Theudho.
We leave the realm of Theudho with the atmospheric outro track ‘Het gedrocht in de diepte’, which leaves you with the sense of foreboding doom and ever-present evil. It’s a great way to end on a high note I suppose.

Rugged Shores: Mistwalker & Viridian Records from Newfoundland

Metal pops up in many places, but it appears that the remote and cold has a particular attraction to many artists. It creates a specific kind of man, living in those places and that means a particular type of music. Mistwalker and the affiliated projects on the collective Viridian Records are such entities from the far north and distinct they are indeed.

Greg Sweetapple comes from the coast of Newfoundland originally but has since changed his native Glovertown for Montréal. The hard life and special nature of his home still affect his music though, and probably always will as the project shapes up and new creativity flows.

Greg was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his music and the place he comes from.

Mistwalker

Hello! Could you tell me something more about yourself?

Well, my full name is Greg Sweetapple (yes, that’s actually my real surname). I’m originally from a small town on the east coast of Newfoundland called Glovertown, whose population is only about 2000 people. In the summer of 2017 I moved to Montreal, Quebec and I’m still here at the moment.

How did you get into music and what projects are you involved in?

Believe it or not, my first musical love was ABBA, mostly because my dad used to listen to ABBA Gold in the cassette deck in our family car when I was a kid. But my first introduction to heavy music was “Iron Swan” by The Sword, which was a righteous kick in the ass if there ever was one for the pre-teen version of me. When I got older I started to mess around with drums, either in the music room at my school or at my friends’ houses, until eventually, I got my own. I played in a couple of bands during high school, but nothing too major. Then when I went to college I couldn’t bring my drums with me because I moved into a tiny apartment building and drums are way too loud for that sort of setting. So I brought my electric guitar with me and decided to learn to play that instead. After about a year I finally decided to try and record something with the serious intent behind it, thanks to my friend Aaron Powell (Fog Lake) who kept urging me to do it, and thus Mistwalker was born.

When it comes to other projects I have a two-person black metal project called Impaled Upon the Mountains with my friend Kristopher Crane (Nemophilist), though that one is kind of on hiatus right now since he recently moved to the UK. I’ve also got a neofolk project called Wavering Radiant (named after the Isis album), a hardcore punk project called Goddammit that satirizes Newfoundland politics and culture, an ambient project called Icefog, a drone project called Inverted Coffins and a stoner rock project called Trinidad Gunfight. I’m also the official live drummer for the aforementioned Fog Lake.

What’s the idea behind Mistwalker and can you share something about the background, moods, stories, and ideas that shape up the music you make with this project?

There isn’t really a consistent feeling behind Mistwalker, because the whole idea is that because it’s my flagship project I can do whatever I want with it. I don’t stick to one particular style of metal with it. There’s elements of black metal, death metal, thrash metal, hard rock, stoner rock and ambient to it. I can really make it whatever I want. But when it comes to what things inspire the music itself that can be anything as goofy as video games like Skyrim to serious personal feelings. For example, the album Strix Pantheon consists of instrumentals dedicated to some of my favorite female characters from fiction, while the album Alexander Bay was basically a loose concept album about my hometown. The last song on that album, ‘Willower’ is about the feeling of knowing that one day your parents are going to die and you’ll have to come to terms with that when it happens. So really I just write about whatever I feel like writing about, and that changes as frequently as the weather.

What sort of size group is associated with Viridian Records? And how did the label get started, how did you get together and what sort of cooperation do you have?

The thing about Viridian Records is that it isn’t really a record label, per se. It’s more of a name that’s used for a collective of artists to release music under. Mostly it’s just myself and Kristopher, though occasionally my friends Walter, Aaron, and Kenney will release music under the name too. Most of us just record music at home in our apartments/bedrooms, so it’s not really a professional setup. We’re just people who like to make music and put it out there for our own satisfaction, more or less.

Tell me about Newfoundland, what sort of place is it in your words and why does it inspire such a distinct sound?

I’ve heard people say before that Newfoundland is the Iceland of Canada, and I think that’s true. A lot of the landscape consists of rugged coastline, boreal forest, and dense bogs and the livelihood of the people there is really dependent upon the ocean. There’s a lot of respect for nature to be found there, and I think that really inspires the music that my friends and I make, though of course, I can’t speak for all of them. But aside from that, it’s also a hard place to live because right now the economy is suffering, which is part of the reason why I moved away. Making music was partially an escape from that atmosphere of living paycheck to paycheck. I guess when it comes to making black metal, or at least music that is heavily inspired by black metal, turning to nature is a form of escapism.

How do you approach creating music for various projects? Like, how do you know a song is particularly suited for Mistwalker?

That’s something I find a bit hard to define. Usually, it’s just some form of intuition. Like, I’ll come up with a riff and I’ll think to myself “Yeah, that’s a Mistwalker riff” and then sometimes I’ll say “Yeah, that’s more like an Impaled Upon the Mountains song.” With Mistwalker I like to experiment more because it’s my main project and I have complete creative control over it, so a lot of my weirder ideas find their way into that project more so than others.

As interest, you’ve listed quite some pagan and mythic elements on your Facebook page, could you tell more about that?

While I’m not a pagan myself, I do have an intense interest in mythology, pre-Christian religions, and folklore, especially when it comes to the Norse and Celtic variety. A lot of this comes from my love of the fantasy genre in fiction, which is obviously inspired by mythology and folklore. I’m a big nerd so I love all that stuff about elves, dwarves, magic, etc. I’m especially a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Elder Scrolls series so that often finds its way into my lyrics too. I aspire to be a fantasy author myself someday so naturally, my music is affected by that too.

What sort of recording and writing process do you follow to create music?

I don’t really follow any set process. It really varies. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics first and write something based around that structure and try to evoke the feeling of what I’ve written into the melodies. Other times I’ll compose the music first and record all the instruments before I even get into writing lyrics for it. When it comes to the actual recording I always lay down the drum track first, and then follow that up with guitar and bass, and vocals come last.

I‘m curious about the scene from a more ‘availability’ side, as in there’s a group of people creating works under the Viridian banner. Is that all very DIY? Or does Newfoundland have all the facilities like record shops, rehearsal spaces, venues etc. available in proximity?

When it comes to Newfoundland the metal scene really only exists in St. John’s. Sure there might be a band or two in other towns like Corner Brook or Stephenville, but everything is more or less constrained to the provincial capital. With record shops, the only one that exists is Fred’s Records, which does cater pretty heavily to local artists. Venues are pretty limited too, the only ones I can say for certain that cater to this style of music include CBTG’s, Distortion, Valhalla Tavern, The Rock House, Bar None, The Rose & Thistle and Factory, so you’re always going to the same four to five places every weekend to play and/or see metal and punk shows. These venues also sometimes double as rehearsal spaces in the daytime, and if not a band might just have to make do in somebody’s garage or basement. When it comes to Viridian like I mentioned before, it’s mostly just my friends and me recording stuff on our own time, more often than not in our bedrooms, and then self-releasing it on Bandcamp, so it’s definitely very DIY. There are professional recording studios in St. John’s but none of us really have the money for that.

Is it love for where you are from or loathing, that you feel when writing for Mistwalker?

Admittedly I laughed when I read this because honestly, it’s a bit of both. I love my home and I do miss it to an extent, especially living up here in Montreal where you have travel so much further to be immersed in nature. Back home I could go out into my backyard and ten minutes later I’d be in the middle of the woods on the top of a mountain. But like I mentioned before, living there is pretty difficult. It’s the reason why so many people who are my age have left to go work in Alberta’s oil industry. It’s just a better opportunity for them. Writing about Newfoundland in my music is equal parts love and loathing and I channel that respect for the land into it, while also expressing the frustration of the economic difficulty that rises from living there.

What future plans do you have and does Viridian have?

Mistwalker is a name that I plan to record under for as long as I live. Of course, things always change but I hope to be playing heavy music even as an old decrepit grandpa. Eventually, I’d like to get a band together and start playing shows here in Montreal, even go on tour if my music gets enough traction, but these things do take time. I can’t really speak for the other artists on Viridian, but I know that Kris records music sporadically under both of his projects: Acorn to Great Oak and Nemophilist.

If you had to compare Mistwalker our the whole Viridian roster to a dish or various dishes, what would it be and why?

That’s a hard question. I wouldn’t really compare the music to a specific dish, but rather a smell. The scent of evergreen trees, especially fir and spruce, combined with the smell of the ocean, really encapsulates the atmosphere of the island and the music that I try to create. Again I can’t really speak to the creative process of the other artists.

Thanks for the interview! I always appreciate opportunities like this.

Myth, dreams and the old forest

The colder days of January are always a time for contemplation. To dream, to wonder, to sleep and recuperate, as the icy cold takes hold of the land. It’s where you prepare and have time a plenty to fill your head with wistful memories of places never seen and myths never witnessed.

It’s also a time when the forest becomes more haunting, more dark in it’s slumbering days of winter. When leaves have fallen and the darkness descends earlier with a gibbous moon shining through the branches. It is at that time, when music can become ever so much more powerful. It can tell you of places untold and that is what these records do.

Holy Fawn – Death Spells

Origin: United States
Label: Whelmed Records

Nothing hits you quite as hard as some solid wall of sound delivered by Holy Fawn. The band may work with sounds that are both ethereal and translucent at times, the full wave of the shoegazy sound just slams into you on opener ‘Dark Stone’. Their tagline says ‘Loud heavy Pretty Noises’, and this is surprisingly apt. Perhaps you can compare the organic sound of the band with Icelanders Sigur Ros, who have that same mythical side to their sound. At times the shifts are very tangible, adding a little jolt to your experience in songs that feel oddly complex.

Holy Fawn is an immersion, a fall into the full sound of the Arizona group on a record that is enthralling to the listener from start to finish.

Dwalin – The Red Book

Origin: France
Label: High Cathedral Records

If you learned about Lord of the Rings in the post-movie age, you might not know what The Red Book is, but for those who do it is an instant gateway to adventure. No, thank you very much, good morning! Dwalin produces traditional dungeon synth of the more open and wavery kind, based on the works of Tolkien.  With sonorous passages and samples from the classical animated ‘The Hobbit’ film, it forms the narrative of this beloved work of literature. The long, meandering tracks offer a great backdrop for re-reading it actually, but also for your own exploration. It’s a narrative record, with one very notable and peculiar exception and that is the ‘bonus’ song ‘Dreams of Eschaton’, which is a Manilla Road cover. It only lasts 1,5 minute, but it completely takes you off guard with the dreamy vocals and acoustics.

Hiemal – The Wanderer

Origin: France
Label: self-released

Ever taken a walk on a stormy day in nature? This is the sound of wandering in the darkness when the trees become ominous and looming and every shadow lives life on its own. It is the music French dark ambient act Hiemal produces on ‘The Wanderer’ (and their extended work). The drones and eerie synths emulate the rain and the wind, as they slowly envelop you, unfolding and rolling out over the plains. At times the music just drifts away from you, only to return a moment later with force. Only rarely does the feeling arise of a sudden twist in the sound, rarely does it feel as if this record is man-made, that is what makes ‘The Wanderer’ so elusive, yet fascinating to listen to. In this, Hiemal is hugely successful in this single, over 25-minute long track.

Secrets of the Forest – The Amorphous Concept of Nature’s Essence

Origin: Norway
Label: self-released

The dungeon synth of Secrets of the Forest is another trek through the woods with eerie melodies in a haze of distortion. Is it the sound of the outdoors or is it actually the screaming of entities that dwell just outside the corners of your eyes? ‘Father Sun’ is a slightly warmer track, opening up the record with rays of light peeping through the hazy sky. ‘Mother Moon’ offers a similar warmth, but more cool and distant, which is the common emotional association with the two. The sound of the synthesizers feels almost brittle, so sensitive and peaceful, yet also steadfast in the middle of the bitter haze and stormy darkness. That’s what makes it so captivating to listen to this record, as it simply takes you to a different place, where the singular beauty is your only hold.

 

Underground Sounds: lcbrt – Incarnatie

Label: self-released
Artist: lcbrt
Origin: the Netherlands

Dutch black metal has started exploring the more recent cultural realms for inspiration and this is not without its benefits. lcbrt is the most recent of these acts, combining experimental black metal with the work and concepts of Dutch poet Lucebert.

Sole member Evio is also active in Morvigor from the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands. With this act, he creates death-black metal. Also appearing on this record is the voice of the poet himself, who did a lot of recordings during his lifetime of his complex and bewildering works.

Raw black metal hammers on, much in the lo-fi veins of early Burzum, intermixed with samples of poetry. The dulled, flat spoken words resonate with the static riffing and metallic twang delivered by lcbrt. He simply picks up a riff and goes with it. Sometimes fast and bashful, at other times soothing and layered. As these parts continue, there are some tempo changes, but not too much. It just works, it delivers a straight-up piece of art with dissonant and confusing black metal.

As the main track ‘i t/mv’ lasts almost 15 minutes, the second song on this record only takes a little chunk of your time. ‘Incarnatie’ continues in the peculiar vibe and sound, that is lcbrt. It’s harrowing, cold and unpleasant, yet offering a warm bath to sink into at the same time with its haggard sound and feisty riffing. The ploinky outro is particularly enjoyable. Yet, at the same time, the guitars are sharp and almost cut your hearing. That is part of the delivery and particular concept behind the act. Curious to see where this moves from here.