This year I went to Roadburn for the second time. Only the second? Yes, goddammit, only the second time. I also reviewed the festival for the second time, but this time as press. There’s a lot you can say about a festival in your review, but I need some space for something more personal.
For me it feels like home, feels like sitting down in a warm bath. There is a calm coming over me when I walk into the weirdo canyon, the small street on which 013’s entrance is. I let go of all my other concerns, because the next four days I will be immersing myself in music. Only music. I look around to see who else is here, but I don’t know that many people to be honest. Still, I’m home and everyone here is a potential friend.
I take a moment before jumping into the fray by watching my first band. Taking a moment to take it all in, to embrace my environment and bask in it for a moment. I know that when I enter a venue to see a band, I’ll be on a roll for the rest of the day. I check out some art in the hall ways, make mental notes on coin machines and food trucks, so I’m ready for my stampede.
Then I find myself checking band after band after band. I take short breaks to talk to friends and fellow music writers. There’s a gleam in their eyes as well, in which I see reflected my own. If music is a drug, we’re all high as kites these days. We’ve all come home to a place were music reigns.
Open minds, open hearts
It’s a strange thing, that Roadburn experience. In a normal situation I’m a critical listener. I can see a band and judge the book by its cover, like most people who’ve seen and heard a lot of music. We’re judgemental and we need to be convinced that your band is going to be an experiental addition to our lives. It sound sour, but for people who review around 200 albums a year it makes sense. Some music is just not very good…
You wouldn’t eat shitty junkfood by choice for days in a row either, would you? It’s slightly different on Roadburn. I feel my mind completely open up to any band on the bill. Why? Because you sort of know that whatever is playing, was picked with great care. It was picked for its uniqueness, for its quality or simply because you need to see it. As a visitor of Roadburn, you completely surrender your pre-judgement to the organisers, you submit to them and just accept what they throw at you. It’s strangely liberating and with an open mind, you let the music into your heart.
Magic on stage
This effect works both ways, it seems like bands realize the kind of crowd they are getting and the way the crowd is experiencing them. No band plays a bad show at Roadburn, because they all try that little bit harder. It might also be the pink glasses that everyone is wearing during the festival. That open mind and hunger for more music, does make everything sound a bit sweeter, doesn’t it.
To me it feels that way though, that every band is just giving it their all. You see bands doing things, they’ve not done live before ever. See the Úlfsmessa this year, by some Icelandic black metal bands or the great Skúggsja performance by Wardruna and Enslaved. Or that haunting Blood Moon session by Converge? Bands reunite for the festival, old arguments are buried for Roadburn and creative fires rekindles. It has to be something else than something weird in the water, no?
More than anything, Roadburn feels like a tribe. Going there makes you a member, pretty much automatically it seems. We gather once a year, to feel happy for a few days. To immerse ourselves in that which we love and cherish. It’s like a bond, that runs deeper than you’d think. Through out the year, we nod to the people wearing the shirts or caps they could only have gotten at the festival. A knowing smile is all it takes.
For a few days I feel less lonely than I normally do. It’s one of the best feelings in the world. That’s my Roadburn experience.
Let’s bring out some new sounds from the underground, with Rive, Book of Sand, Woman is the Earth and Illyria. Check these amazing records out please.
Rive – Sorg Self released
Imagine being in one of the most desolate places on this earth, in a windswept, frozen mining colony on the island of Svalbard. What music would come out of that? Well, now we know with this release by Rive from Norway. I was not convinced that this depresssed black metal band was actually from Svalbard, but Danthor Wildcrow told me that this was the case. The songs were made there, in the far north where only ice and polar bears can be found.
‘Sorg’ is not a complex record, but it speaks of weariness and being alone. It’s an eerie, subtle recording, leaving room for streaks of beauty and sunlight in its otherwise hazy, white sound. The drums sound a bit electronic and they hold a lulling effect, which very well adds to the vast stretched out effect the music seems to evoke. Imagine the early polar travellers, stranded and hoping for the ice to melt. The hopelessness and vast emptiness they must have felt is embrased by the music. The vocals are howls, getting lost in the gale of distorted sound with minimal riff work. This is the soundtrack of the mining colony of Sveagruva, which is only part of the year inhabited. That makes the song melancholic, as must be the temporary residents of the town. It’s a record full of yearning. Perhaps sonically not laced with complexity, but definitely captivating in its raw beauty and picturesque beauty.
Book of Sand – Occult Anarchist Propaganda Mouthbreather Records
Let me start with the basics, Black metal usually is pretty right wing, but Book of Sand really is on the veganism, feminism, anarchism and other lefty-isms with their words. The band from Minneapolis has been around since 2009 and may be one of those bands you find hard to really say much about. They’ve been out there, splitting opinions in the black metal world for a long time now. The band has had a lot of unorthodox releases, which to the purists is an offence and an outrage. Sole band member dcrf must have an interesting sense of humor. Then there’s this release.
I sometimes find myself puzzled by what black metal can sound like, but this record is like the absolute essence of that sound. Stripped of any nuances, grooves or other luxurious elements, this is rip-roaring raw black metal. It’s that place where guitars are dissonant cuts and sweeps, blending together with the bass into a droning, static unity. The tortured screams are in the thicket of noise, where constant blast beats reign. It’s a bit like the olden days of black metal, so pure and direct. Here and there the instrumental side of Book of Sand can be heared though, how could it not be. This takes you back to the early days of Emperor and their ilk. Which is cool, no?
Woman Is The Earth – Torch of our Final Night Init Records
Well, sometimes you just stumble on the most awesome things. One of those is the band Woman is the Earth form Black Hills in South Dakota, a remote location which apparently fosters a unique atmosphere in sound and words. The band draws their inspiration from “inspired by the earth being a powerful creator and provider and man being the one who takes from it and returns to it” according to an interview. There is something very ‘gaia’ in their sound for sure, on this fourth full length of the Americans. I had a listen and couldn’t stop doing so for a while.
The tranquility you feel when the record starts is that evoked by gentle guitar play. It’s warming you untill the sound explodes out, like the sun finally climbing over a hill in the early morning and shooting its beams out. Though the fierce vocals are clearly linking this band to the black metal genre, the music is often warm and nearly jubilant during the lovely passages on a track like ‘Brother in Black Smoke’. There’s a lot of borrowed riffs from postrock in the music, which makes it easy comparing these guys to Wildernessking or Wolves in the Throne Room (for obvious, Cascadian reasons). Take also the melancholic guitar play on ‘Broken Hands’. There’s something truly unique about this sound, every song has its unique embrace. I can not stop listening to this.
Illyria – Illyria Self Released
Every now and then a band is for some reason unsigned. Thus it is with Illyria, the band released a debut that can’t be denied though. The Australians aim to blend postrock and black metal, which obviously puts them somewhere out there with Alcest, Deafheaven and other post BM bands. The band name of the Perth group might be derived from ancient times, the name Illyria would refer to a region roughly encompassing a part of former Yugoslavia on its coast. Never fully a nation, the concept has intrigued artists through the ages from Shakespeare on to these guys.
The sound of this band therefor lacks a lot of the typical black metal attributes, embracing more that flowing postrock sound in a more upbeat and pleasant form. Listening to this record makes me realize that blackgaze is a thing now, its an undeniably new genre. Devoid of the traditional characteristics, only atmosphere, vocals and the rare passages offer an inkling of its roots. There’s no feeling of hype or trend to the sound of the group, it’s a mesmerizing completeness that their sound attains. The only dischord in the sometimes even classical sounding music may be the vocals, which never seem out of place at all though.
Greenland is not a place you would associate with music directly. You might not even really know where it is, who live there and what they’re all about. You may never have heard of its struggle for independence and native culture.
It turns out music played a big part in what has been dubbed the ‘Thaw Revolution’, which is the slow shift to self-governance Greenland made in the years after the Second World War, when the United States actually opted to buy the country from Danmark. Music was a lot more important in this process than you might think.
It’s one of the topics I got to chat about with Kunuk Grønvold, a solitary metal artist from the town of Ilulissat (Danish: Jakobshavn). With a population a bit above 4,500 people, it’s the third city of Greenland, which should tell you a lot about its empty, wild stretches of coat and land. If the land shapes the music, there must be some interesting stories to tell. I got in touch with Kunuk about his music with Tempel and The Perfect Mass, but also the tradition of progrock in Greenland, finding out about metal, Greenland’s prog scene and being a metal chef.
How did you get started on playing metal?
I think that I really first started being really metal when I was around 15 or 16 when I first saw the Live After Death concert video by Iron Maiden. Before that I was into The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. But if I really look back to around 1997 I heard the first Greenlandic metal band Siissisoq for the first time when they released their first album. That intrigued me as well.
When I was just a kid, my mother sent me to my uncle’s place to borrow horror movies, and I saw this cover of a VHS cassette. It depicted a zombie breaking out from a grave, in chains, and lightning striking the skull. The back showed a very large zombie above some musicians. Little did I know that this would come back about 10 years in the future. I swapped my Ozzy Osbourne VHS for a Concert footage of Iron Maiden’s Live After Death. This brought back memories, and the instant Maiden started playing after Churchill’s speech, it kind of knocked out a block of rock’n’roll out of me, replacing it with a large chunk of Heavy Metal that has not come off since. Accident, as you asked, may very well have been a touch of fate.
What albums do you find most inspiring, who were your idols? The most influential albums to me would be Iron Maiden’s “The Number Of The Beast”, as I would daydream day in day out listening to that album and shred along the classics on my guitar. I would imagine playing onstage with the Beast. Then we have “Somewhere In Time”, “Piece Of Mind” and “Seventh Son”.
Apart from Iron Maiden I have found a lot of inspiration from Queensrÿche, Black Sabbath and Megadeth. Recently I have been “in the spirit of” Sepultura and a little bit of Scent Of Flesh, to add a bit of weight and darkness to the melodies and the tones.
But when I played guitar I would always pretend I was Dave Murray. He is the absolute winner in my world.
Do you take anything of your country into the music you make? I don’t add Greenlandic elements to my music whatsoever at this point. But there is another project I have been planning for a while. This will be mainly inspired by the shamanism and legends of the greenlandic mythology including demons and evil spirits.
You’ve pretty much done everything alone this far. How is that working out for you? How do you go about creating music? Being alone with the music I make, is both good and bad. Good thing about it is of course that I can put the music down the way I want it to be. I feel very free in that way. Bad thing about it is that I can’t “bounce the ball” to anyone. There are no inputs or advices and it can sometimes get frustrating when I for example want the drum part in a certain way but I can’t play it well enough, so turns out chaotic or messed up. But it suits the music just fine when I master it, because I don’t want my music to be too well structured or something. It’s evil, it’s dirty, it’s chaos and hell, and that is just fine.
So, first I write the lyrics, then I write the music, and record the guitars first, then the bass, drums, guitar solos, and the vocals and additional effects for last. Works for me that way. It is quite difficult to get enough exposure, as of to this day, all that I do promotion wise is merely DIY style, but I am now in collaboration with the Swedish underground label called Salute Records, and we’re looking forwards to releasing a few albums, and if it goes well, this will grow to longer period of time making music. So I can say that, yes, Greenland is isolated but getting the music out there, no matter how long it takes, will surely be worth the effort, especially without the aid of major labels, though the dream is still a major label to carry out the music.
Do you find an audience at home that is like a sounding board for you? Home offers very little audience, as most people are clearly “brainwashed” from the pop era. Hiphop, rap and that stuff is blinding people all over the world, from the very young, going up. This is bad for the rockers that are trying to get through to a larger audience in Greenland. Via email I get a few response about the music, mostly positive and constructive criticism, and I find that very helpful.
Your projects are Tempel and The Perfect Mass. Both are solo projects, can you tell me about the separate projects and their meaning (idea and inspiration)? Is there any religious component to it? Tempel was actually the original name for this project. I wanted to use the name “Jerusalem” but there were actually about 3 bands named Jerusalem. So I thought about the temple of Jerusalem. I wanted the name to be linked to the destruction and the rebuilding of the temple there in the past. And for the siege of Jerusalem in 79 AD. People starved and some even cooked their kids to survive.
After a while I had to change the name. I googled stuff about sacrifices and cannibalism. I had to find something evil. Then I came across an article about the Borborites from around 330 ad. They were priests and nuns that would perform orgies and smear their hand with menstrual blood and semen then eat it. When the women got pregnant, their foetuses would be extracted to be consumed as a variant of the Eucharist. A bishop who was defected from that particular group described it to be the perfect mass. So I took it. The Perfect Mass. With the new name, the music got a bit darker and the tones gained more weight and heaviness.
I was raised Lutheran Catholic, but now I am not religious in any way. But it does not stop me from writing music with satanic themes and hell and blood and death and destruction. For all I care, writing a song with the word “God” in it might as well be the equivalent of a song with the word “unicorn” all over it.
What other musical endeavours are you on? I am also the guitarist with my brother in Ullorissat, a folk/rock band from my hometown that my uncle established in the late 70’ies.
Is there anything that can be described as a scene in Greenland? If so what is there and what is it like? There are scenes allright. Mainly progressive or folk rock. A little bit of hard rock, here and there, but major events are very rare. And the radio stations just keep playing the same old boring stuff day in day out. The music in greenland is very boring. Nobody really plays to excite or to create an actual show anymore.
Can you recommend some bands so people can get the vibe? From the older days of rock in Greenland, I would recommend SUME, which has been identified to be the sound of the Greenlandic revolution during the liberation of the Danish state in the 70’ies (for more info,check this page. ed.). Then we have Ullorissat, which is one of my all time favourite bands, with songs that are more melodic, very dear to the people, and just awesome musicianship and wonderful lyrics.
Over the years there have been bands breaking through to the rest of the world, but the most famous these days would be Nive Nielsen and Simon Lynge. Then there is Small Time Giants, My Itchy Little Finger and Chilly Friday. My mother is from the old mining town of Qullissat, and there is a band from the 50’ies called the Vaigat Orchestra that I really love, and they play jazz with the most inviting melodies that just captures you, and the guitarist is none other than Pele Møller, one of the best guitarists in Greenland over the years.
Since there’s not much of a scene in Greenland, is the music frowned upon? The music is struggling as a result of Danish and American hiphop and pop brainwashing madness. People are brainwashed from childhood to think that rap and hiphop is “cool”. Like when they said that Christopher Columbus discovered America. It’s all a lie and we know that Columbus was a rapist, a thief and a murderer and he never even set a foot on the American mainland. That’s how it is.
Your other passion is cooking I deduced from your posts. Do you find there’s a link between metal and cooking in some way? Do you take elements from one to the other? I think there must be ways to link both cooking and metal together. But so far, music and cooking have been two very seperate worlds. Good food deserves elegance in flavour balance and presentation, and must be seasonal and creative. Heavy Metal is always the same, though it evolves endlessly.
What future plans do you have musically? For the future, I would like to make a living with my music. But to really make it a serious project, I have not yet found band mates who would be willing to commit to this the same way that I do.
So Underground sounds, I’ve been silent but I need to tell you about Rorcal, Zhrine, Sun Worship and Unru.
Rorcal – Creon Lost Pilgrims Recordings
This four track album by Swiss doom masters is by now their number four of the full lenghts. De group from Geneva has a sound that hits you like a brick in all its glorious majesty. The albumd deals with the tragic death of four greek heroes. The names are the songtitles, written in Greek, which offer a record lasting over 50 minutes. The names are Polynices, Antigone, Haemon and Eurydice. The record was recorded in three days and mixed in Sweden, it’s out on vinyl now (just ordered mine!). Check this out.
The description invites you to immerse yourself in the savage fury and beauty of this album and I think that this is exactly what the record offers. Four turbulent tracks full of blackened sludge/hardcore that feels quite on the bleak side most of the times. Continuous, surging riffs give that typical sludge feel, but the tempestuous blast beats link it to black metal joined by the vocals. The riffs lash down upon the listener, sometimes giving way to those high rising atmospheric moments, while the drums batter on. This would seem to be one hell of a consistently strong record, offering no rest for the listener in the ever dangerous mythical age of Greece. The vocals scream and sear you even further, landing like blows to the face. This record is a black pit of tar, once you fall into it, you’re doomed.
Sun Worship – Pale Dawn Golden Antenna Records
One of my favorite metla bands for suer, these guys from Berlin. A while ago I did conduct an interview with the trio and their hipster black metal approach. I think that whole label is nonsense by the way, rarely will you find a band that so profoundly makes music from the heart that sounds so dark and oppressive. It’s the second full lenght of the band, who played Roadburn last year and are generally pretty awesome. You can read my interview here if you like. Artwork for this album was once more done by the people of View from the Coffer. It looks pretty cool as we’re used to with these Germans.
I don’t know if the band in some way intended their cover to give a slight reference to the cosmic music of the 70’s krautrock movement. One can detect something like that in their music though, with a lot of repetition an an almost ‘motorik’ beat in the opening track. Maybe its just being highlighted in the music of these guys, who also use a lot of distortion to create this cosmic, cloudy feel of air filled with electricity. This brings me to ‘Lichtenberg Figures’, which is a the name for electric emissions that can be captures. The use of cymbals evokes that feel, but it all lingers in the wide, melodic play of the band. This is not black metal for a black night, it’s for that starry heavens above us, filling us with wonder. The tremolo guitar play and hoars, far away focals are an expression of facing that. The words echo despair. It’s one hell of a record, do take your time to listen to it.
Unru – Als Tier ist der Mensch Nichts Monotonstudio Records
When you look at this weird collage cover, you may think that this whole record is just some joke gone wrong. I doubt that though, because ‘As Animals mankind is nothing’ is a blistering assault on the eardrums by Bielefeld black metal/crusties Unru. The band has released some surprising demo’s and then came out with this piece of unholy matter. Many fans the band has attracted with their vitriolic sound, but this album kind of tops it all I think. Judging by their facebook pictures, we’ve got another band like Sun Worship here, that has little scene pretense, but probably an artistic statement to offer.
Chaos, that’s where you dwell on ‘Zerfall & Manifest’, with a continuous onslaught of blast beats, wavering guitars and agitated, bestial barks. What might be the typical cascadian riffs, just melts into this distorted blanked of sound. Radid screams add to this grotesque experience. ‘Hēdonḗe’ offers an opening of crushing riffs, that make it sound like some shattered speakers are being tested. Add to that guttural howls through broken microphones’ and you get the illuminating experience this track offers. It’s an abbrasive, punitative ride down on this abbrasive record. With a torturous thred the song marches on. I don’t know what it is, every time the band seems to produce somehthing that sounds mildly intelligent, a blast of noise has to be woven around it, like ‘Totemiker’. Still a great record though.
Zhrine – Unortheta Seasons of Mist
Iceland offers many natural wonders. It also has a shitload of good black metal bands and Zhrine is just the next kid in town, that’s gonna blow you away with their grand blackened death. On first hearing they might remind you of a mixture of Behemoth and Skepticism, but there’s much more violence to this sound. The band is not a bunch of young dogs, but have already earned their name and are earning it in various others like Naðra, Svartidauði and Ophidian I. The good label is there already. This appears to be bound for glory already after having changed the bandname from Gone Postal to Shrine and now Zhrine.
There’s a majestic side to the dragging sound of Zhrine, but there’s also the bite when they speed up and chase you with overwhelming force into a corner. Brutal with so many subtleties, that’s the cool bit about these guys. You can definitely sense some of the experimental elements on the more straight forward tracks, but it’s the other songs that mesmerize you. Both dissonant and harmonious, imposing and gentle, the record goes in all directions without ever losing its intriuge. Unconventional and progressive, this is one hell of a record to give a spin.
Well, sometimes you get to do an interview with a really cool band and it really did feel that way when I go to interview none other than the great Ahab from Germany. I got in tocuh with drummer Cornelius Althammer and this interview appeared on the Sleeping Shaman. Enjoy.
We at the Sleeping Shaman like ourselves a nice slice of doom now and then and who better to provide some of the thickest and most salty slices of it than Germany’s Ahab. The nautical doom pioneers have a new album in store for those who love a good story and it sure as hell ain’t a sea shanty.
The Boats Of The Glen Carrig is a heavy album that carries literary references and a poetic approach to their music. Surprisingly gentle at one moment and surging wildly the other, the band has reinvented itself. We got in touch with drummer Cornelius Althammer and asked him about album number four, literary inspirations, water and other wet topics, so enjoy…
Hello, I hope you guys are keeping well as we creep into the grip of winter.
For my taste that old fucker doesn’t have to appear at all. I like sun and warmth… But inside the rehearsal space weather doesn’t play a big role. So everything is going fine for us, we just spent a weekend rehearsing for our upcoming tour.
You recently released another great album The Boats Of The Glen Carrig, which is out now on Napalm Records. What can you tell us about the writing and recording process of the album?And what has the feedback so far been like?
Finally we had that kind of writing process all of us ever wanted. Ideas were brought to the rehearsal space where they were composed into songs by all of us. Every song has undergone this process. On our previous album The Giant we already had started to work this way, but about 40-50% of the songs had been composed by Daniel Droste alone at home. It’s not like these were bad ones, but Ahab feel as much more like a band that does things jointly. Each one of us loves to hang out in the rehearsal room and create music with the other dudes.
The process itself went as probably every single band on the planet. Some songs just ‘happen’, other ones need a very long time. We didn’t stop until all the four of us were happy with every single note on the album. The process of recording was very stressful this time. Especially Daniel, he looked like a zombie in the end. It wasn’t so easy to manage getting enough days off from work; the typical shit you have to deal with if you’re not in a famous mainstream act. In the end I have never been that much happy with any record before. It simply sounds … huge… The production is perfect, that’s all I still can say.
Peoples and press reactions to the album were from very good to amazing, judging from what I heard so far.
You’ve also released a video for the track Like Red Foam (The Great Storm), can you tell a bit about it? It feels like it is touching upon political topics, far removed from the album’s theme. Do you face issues making a video due to the length of the songs?
Well, when we became aware of the fact that there will be a video of one song there obviously was only one choice. Like Red Foam is the shortest song of the album, so it had to be this one. I am happy with this choice, because I really like this song (in fact I totally didn’t care which one it would be, because I love them all).
So then we had to come up with ideas. As an underground band you surely can’t produce a € 100.000 video with ships, huge sea creatures and all that stuff. So it had to be something that works on the metal level. The only one who really was involved in the process of creation was Christian Hector. But the main work was done by a team of creative people. The other three of us were not really sure about what to contribute to a clip. It just was a very new thing for us.
What came out in the end is a really good clip that deals with a political topic. Which is no problem for me, because I am a political person. My problem here is that I just cannot find the connection between the clip and our music. I really don’t see it and therefore I don’t like the clip so much… Which is not a problem for me. In the end I have learned how to contribute to a clip the next time.
What made you chose The Boats Of The Glen Carrig as your literary inspiration for this album? Do you ever think of your music as a soundtrack for reading the literary works you use as inspiration?
Seen from our point of view it works exactly vice versa. Obviously the stories function as the lyrical groundwork for our album. They inspire us in mood and vibe. I don’t think any of us read one of the stories we used so far again, listening to the album that was written about this story. But, yes, I think one could easily turn the tables on this. For I am damn sure that some fans read and listen. Which means they ‘use’ our music as a soundtrack for those books.
It was also fan who called our attention to W. H. Hodgson (author of The Boats Of The Glen Carrig). Our bass player Stephan read some of his stories and especially pointed at this one to read. When all of us had read it, it had become very clear that this tale would make it. Perfect in terms of gloom and horror and with a message that comes across when you read between the lines. “Doesn’t matter who you are, within the elements fierce ire” is a line from Red Foam (The Great Storm) pretty much hits the bull’s eye.
What I definitely enjoyed on your album is how powerful the more clean parts sound and the specific gloom it evokes. Do you feel you are moving to a more subtle sound in that sense?
Well, if it comes to clean vocals Daniel obviously likes to surprise us every time for he never shows any single vocal line before entering the studio. This time he was even better than ever before, in my opinion. Next to the idea itself, clean guitar parts depend very much on the sound. During the last three years the guys bought lots of effect pedals and in my opinion, especially their non-distortion, sounds extremely profited from this.
Generally, I can absolutely not make any predictions for our future direction. I only feel what possibly can become during the very process of composing. And for sure we are not composing at the moment. I just assume that the fascination for sound in general will grow on in this band. And I surely expect Daniel to have great visions for his vocals in the future as well…
What song would you pick out as illustrative for your current musical course, and why?
That would probably be my favourite track To Mourn Job. I love its flow and diversity. From psychedelic to jazzy, from mellow to brutal. Everything Ahab is about is in there, combined in a very natural way.
What is the origin of your passion for the nautical theme and can we ever expect the concept album about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
Why not? Never say never! For I am a huge Maiden fan I’d love to have an album called The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, that’s for sure! The nautical theme just fits perfectly. When Daniel and Christian were writing stuff for their new funeral doom project one day they came up with this idea and the name Ahab. What was just a good idea in the beginning, became our trademark. Surely our personal obsession with the sea grew with Ahab. The sea itself is as well fascinating as its symbolism. Depth… Source of life… End of life… Philosophically looking at it, I could go on for hours now…
And to following on from that, what is the sea/ocean to you?
I consider my music as my personal Ocean. I need it to go for a swim, to escape from the main land called ‘daily life’. Without my art I am nothing, my life would barely make any sense. I never consider it just as music, it’s more like a cosmos. In the first place it is full of those people (= close friends) I create, play and therefore share with. And it’s not only the people. In this very moment I see flashes of grooves, tour busses, vocal lines, interviews, broken sticks, ear plugs, beer, time schedules, weed, clubs, cymbals, my dear, dear friends, cover artworks, laughter, more laughter, gaffa tape, writing sessions, listening sessions, recording sessions…
Doom metal has had a recent surge of popularity so with that in mind, what active bands are you currently listing to and why?
There are tons of great bands, so I have to pick some few ones:
The first one on this list has to be the mighty Black Shape Of Nexus (B.SoN) from Mannheim. These guys started about at the same time as Ahab did and we shared the stage at their AND our first live show ever. They play a very heavy and sludgy, sometimes a little psychedelic style of doom. I just got some rough mixes from their next album. As expected this one will be the shit! I highly recommend to check out these guys!
Esoteric probably are the most horrific band in the world. If somebody would ask me how a nightmare sounds I would give him a random Esoteric album. Besides, they are the best tour-buddies I can think of…
Omega Massif unfortunately split up. They played this more modern, postish, sludgish way of instrumental Doom. Karpatia was their last album and it simply was the best album ever written in this particular style. Everybody HAS to check this one out. Fortunately all of the members split up in different bands: Cranial, Blacksmoker and Phantom Winter which I also would recommend.
For Electric Wizard’s way to present themselves in public has become some kind of ridiculous to me (sucking at live shows, wearing SS Uniforms…) I have the perfect alternative to them. Witchsorrow from the UK play this very, very English Style of doom. And they are fucking cool.
Conan, the heaviest band in the world, also consists of a bunch of lovely guys we always love to meet and have some drinks with. My favourite album of these fine Englishmen is their second one calledMonnos.
Monarch from France are very special. Their droning sound is being enriched in a very unorthodox way by singer Emilie. Also a big recommendation here. Besides, the guys are absolutely lovely folks of course…
There is so much more great stuff to discover. Old farts complaining about the scene just can fuck off. I don’t get which scene they are talking about, but it must be on mars or the moon. There has never been more diversity and quality than nowadays. You just have to pick the pearls from the dirt.
Cough, Yob, Samothrace, Monachus, Windhand, Jex Thoth, Obelyskkh, Chelsea Wolfe, Watered, Lumbar, Mammoth Storm, Generation Of Vipers, Grime, Whalerider… And these are just the more doom or post-like bands…. I could give you a huge list…
What does the near future have in store for Ahab?
First of all there will be a tour in the end of October/beginning of November with High Fighter and Mammoth Storm. For some personal reasons we will take a break in the beginning of 2016. And then we’re hopefully back on the road. For UK… France… There are lots of options and we’re about checking out which ones will work for us…
I keep finding great underground records, so here are some with OranssiPazuzu, Deströyer666, Ulvesang and Plateau Sigma.
Oranssi Pazuzu – Värähtelijä 20 Buck Spin Records
The name of the Finnish weirdo’s translates as Orange Pazuzu, a demon from Babylonian mythology. Vocalist Jun His’ used to be active in surrealist rockband Kuolleet Intiaanit. Apparently the band started after seeing Emperor play live. There’s little doubt about the fact that Oranssi Pazuzu is a black metal continuation of that concept. The band thus incorporates psychedelic and progressive elements into their own brand of black metal, which leads to interesting results. The band prefers to not repeat itself, leading to even more fantastic fun, every album is different.
The strange, repetitive riffs feel strangely captivating and lull you into a state of mind that is perplexingly relaxed, while maintaining a sense of wonder. The weird sound effects around the songs are enhancing this weird, submerging experience befitting such a band. Weirdly hypnotic riffs, combined with guttural barks are a strange thing to behold. The almost circular atmosphere the band generates is slightly unnerving, but fascinating at the same time in all its weirdness. Its some truly remarkable music, I have to say. I think I detected a locomotive beat somewhere between the twangy riffing.
Plateau Sigma – Rituals Avantgarde Music
Nothing wrong with a good bit of funeral doom, specially if the band takes the easy going direction that Plateau Sigma embraces. Taking inspiration from the traditional doom/death direction, but also from the Greek and Roman societies of the ancient past, this band is on an interesting trajectory. The cover tells as much, with a warrior lady in full weaponry depicted as on an ancient fresco (the goddess Athena?). The songs are dedicated to the Roman deities and the album itself to Bacchus, because Plateau Sigma believes that their style is the best to represent Dionysian themes. I would disagree, bu tthey make an interesting case that is well worth listening to before judging.
One thing I notice rather quick into listening to this record is the limited vocal range of one of their vocalists (not sure, since most of them take on vocal duties). It just doesn’t add up to the epic scale of the riffs here and there. The general feel of the music makes up for most of that though, in its laid back, pleasant atmosphere. This is normally not the feeling you get from a bit of funeral doom, bu tthe lingering sense of nostalgia somehow captivates you as a listener into a lulling, dreamy state. For a Dyonisian experience I miss the vitality on this record though. It all seems so tame and controlled. It’s a nice listen though, specially when you’re reading D&D novels.
Deströyer 666 – Wildfire Seasons Of Mist
Deströyer 666 is an interesting band with an even more interesting history. Originally the band hails from Melbourne in Australia, but later they moved to the south of the Netherlands, where they resided for a while. When members left and visas expired, the band seems to have scattered towards London. I guess it’s that Eindhoven connection that made me look into this Motörhead of the black metal scene, who’ve come back to the forefront after a long, long time with their new album ‘Wildfire’. K. K. Warslut gathered some new minions around him and its on!
From the fierce opening riff of ‘Traitor’ onwards. There is no fillers on this album, just relentless blackened rock’n’roll with a lot of oldschool swagger and rawness to it. Deströyer 666 is in no way a band that is opening new doors or is innovating the black metal genre, but they are doing everything in a way that suggests they simply don’t give a fuck whether you like it or not, This is rock’n’roll purity in its natural surroundings. What is very noticable is how the band manages to incorporate various traditional metal elements into their sound, without starting to sound cheesy. It actually makes it even more catchy and fun to listen to these guys. I really love this record, I hope you do to.
Ulvesang – Ulvesang Unsigned
They might be unsigned, but someone should catch this haunting trio of neofolk musicians quickly, because wherever this music is coming from I want more of it. The Canadians have many influences, but want to state that they are looking for their very own sound within the genre they describe as dark/neofolk. Spiritualism, paganism and nature combined with an element of melancholy are their main sources of inspiration. It’s clear that bands like Ulver and Agalloch have, wether the band knows them or not, a profound impact on the neofolk scene and I think it can be traced to records like this one.
The music is subtle, evoking images of nature and the northern forests. There is a tranquility to the calm and measured presentation of Ulvesang. It all takes its own pace, the way nature works and how time passes in that realm. Trickling gently, the acoustic instruments are not simple clean sounds but echo and reverberate in the air. The production really facilitates that organic feeling in that sense. There is a darkness to the sound though, which I think prompted the band to note their black metal influences in the tag cloud. Its that dark edge that makes them so captivating to me.
There are sounds of the underground you must hear, this time with Hoth, Breabach, Rotting Christ and Inverloch. This means doom, gloom, folk and black, offering a wide listening experience to those who can handle it.
Hoth – Oathbreaker Epicurus Records
Hoth consists of Eric Peters and David Dees from Seattle, who took the name as fitting with their icy concept. The name obviously can be a reference to the frozen planet in the Star Wars universe, but also refers to the blind Norse god who killed his brother Baldr. The duo has been making epic black metal with clean melodic death mixed into it since 2011. Their album was re-released (originally it was self-released 2014) by Epicurus Records. The theme is a concept “that follows the story of an individual from his conception and follows him down a path that grows darker and darker.” A promising sonic journey it is then.
The result is something much more than what you’d expect. Not majestic black metal, but real storytelling with upbeat, majeure riffing and playful folky melodies. The riffing here and there reminds one of bands like Norther, who combined the grim, cold sound with melodeath in a cool manner. One can even detect a bit of classical influences and some Spanish guitar on some tracks, giving a bit more of an aura to the overall experience. ‘A Blighted Hope’ fore example is an extraordinary track, but so is ‘Cryptic Nightmares’ with its gothic piano intro. No worries, there is plenty of bleak, black metal left for you to indulge in. This record with its crisp production just doesn’t start boring you easily.
Breabach – Astar Breabach Records
Breabach plays Scottish folk music, but manages to do that in a contemporary form. The problem with folk is that it’s more often than not stereotyped, thus crippling the originalities that can be easily found in the local/regional scenes. The group has found compelling ways to emphasize their aesthetic, but growing as well by adding music from other folk scenes, like that of Norway (Olav Luksengård Mjelva), New Zealand (Scott Morrison), Australia (Yirrmal Marika) and Quebec (Olivier Demers and Le Vent Du Nord). Like any folk album there’s a lot of connections and meaning to this piece of work by the award winning group.
The sound of Breabach feels authentic and natural, upbeat and energetic with the throbbing energy of early spring in all its vibrant tones. Still, there is an element of modernity to the music, which reminds you of the timeless tunes Michael Danna made for the film ‘Boondock Saints’ in its filmic pictural force. It’s as if the band tries to depict the blooming heather. The interesting part is ofcourse the implementation of the ethnic instruments from the other parts of the world. It creats a multicultural harmony, that can hardly be found in real life, but shines in its singular beauty. For me, this is beautiful stuff and I truly recommend this to you as a listener.
Rotting Christ – Rituals Seasons Of Mist
Bombastic, grand and unrelentingly great are some words that come to mind when I think of Rotting Christ. On their last couple of albums the Greeks have truly found a connection to the ethnic roots of the band in mesmerising albums that depict bits of history through the magnifying lens of black metal amplification. The turn the band has taken since ‘Aealo’ has grabbed my interests for sure (2010). It’s been 3 years since the highly praised 12th album by the ever productive Tolis brothers, who still hold the reigns on the creative output of the band. There’s even an Aphrodites Child cover on this album. It’s so awesome, I can hardly stop going on about it.
For this release the band has gathered a ton of guests to add weight to the already heavy sound. Among those you’ll find Vorph (Samael) and Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), but there are many more delivering their sacrifices to the sonic titan that is Rituals. Slow, massive riffs pulverize all in their path on a larger than life scale. The blaring bagpipes add another layer of frightning threat to the whole endeavour. The shift to the more pagan oriented metal really works great for this band and allows them to bloom to their fullest potential, even more so on ‘Rituals’ I think than on their previous work. The cthunderous choires and the exact placement of all the elements creates the epic feeling of a Hollywood blockbuster, which I mean in all the right ways. Sure, maybe this puts the band more in the corner between Cradle Of Filth and Eluveitie, but they completely dominate that corner, so its all good.
Inverloch – Distance | Collapsed Relapse Records
The band Inverloch started out under the name d.USK a few years ago, but the roots of the Australians are in the band Disembowelment. Interestingly this is just one of the many creative directions following the group that was active untill 1993. The band has also been booked on Roadburn, so the forward path has been taken by Inverloch. The interesting thing is that Inverloch came to be, when the two old members of Disembowelment decided to go have some fun with those old tunes. It sparked the creative fire in the two and that is what created this band, which was soon signed by the great Relapse Records for a full lenght. Time to check out what that does on a sonic level.
This record is something else, it’s very far away from the traditional death metal, but still incorporates elements into its desperate doom sound. The band truly sounds like a more swampy funeral doom at times, but then a blast of muddy, sticky death metal like on the song ‘Lucid Delirium’, with its catchy rattling drums. Crawling drumlines are like skittering, while gloomy riffs make the room feel darker. This is just a pretty awesome record, combining doom and death in the only way you really can do it. It’s overwhelming, disgusting and unnerving, but done with beautiful skill. Awesome.
Boy, what records to be found in the underground this time, with Downfall Of Nur, Skuggsjá, Cormorant and Fuath. Great music for great listening!
Downfall Of Nur – Umbras de Barbagia Avantgarde Music
Seldom have I heard music, blending folk and black metal, that feels so full of yearning for something lost as I did with Downfall Of Nur. The band is a one-man project by Sardinian musician Antonio Sanna, who moved to Argentina and there started making his music, inspired by the Nuragian society, which inhabited the island of Sardinia since the old days and still show some traces in the wild central parts of the island. So, the band is based in Argentinia where the young Sanna released a demo, an EP and this full lenght.
The music is a mixture of two styles, but balanced in such a way that you hardly feel the transfers from one to another. The production is phenomenal and the sound completely captures the forlorn spirit of its topic matter. The eerie screams of Sanna are haunting in the sometimes completely overwhelming waves of bleak, black metal. The special touch is the folk instruments, which start the album, but also help it to close of in a similar manner. This way the album becomes a unity, instead of a collection of seperate songs. It’s an absolute masterpiece, that combines the best of the atmospheric black metal bands of nowadays and folk music.
Skuggsjá – A Piece For Mind And Mirror Seasons Of Mist
The magical collaboration between Einar Selvik (Wardruna) and Ivar Björnson (Enslaved) was already succesful in its limited run of live shows. I had mixed feelings when it came to an album version of it, due to its temporary and unique nature, It was an event, a once in a lifetime thing, but now there’s an album. I have to retract any objections, because this is a music for the ages. With many collaborators on this piece of heathen heritage appraisal, it’s a work like no other. The Norwegians have tried to captivate its essence on this recording.
Though labeled as a blend of metal and folk, it feels more like a ritualistic bit of music. The changing of Selvik is combined with the riffing of Björnson en Grutle Kjellson. Mystical foggy fjörds are being painted with words and music. Through the mist of traditional instruments you journey into the Norway of a long forgotten past. It’s music that makes your heart pound, that makes you look at the stars with a new sense of wonder and embrace the forgotten past. The wide range of instruments comes together for something monumental and grand, but also dreamy and nostalgic for a time in the past. Thre’s hardly any true metal in the music, which is surprisingly not making it lack in power. It’s hard to really go into it, because it knows no equal. I’m for one very glad this music is available on vinyl now.
Fuath – I Fortriu Productions/Neuropa Records
I’ve had this record on my shortlist for reviewing for a while, but somehow dropped it for a while, due to its musical nature. The post black metal that praises the land of the Britons has often represented in my reviews so I let it simmer for a while. That did not diminish anything of the beauty that Fuath has to offer. Andy Marshall knows how to make this kind of music. The Scot was also responsible for the work of Saor, Falloch and various others. Where Saor and Falloch are mellow, representing the wide heathers and hills, the music of Fuath is more harsh, more overwhelming and seemingly more about the deep forest.
The name Fuath translates as ‘Hatred’ in Gaelic. That tells you quite a bit already. The sound is more streamlined than the previous efforts and relies on that stream to create an atmosphere of a misty forest and being lost in its foggy depths. It invites you in, takes you into its warm embrace. Only then you feel the eerie cold and the fury behind it all in icy riffs and cold, distant drumming. Vocals are howls, raw and filled with hatred, in the background. Ever seen that scene in the old BBC Robin Hood serious where Guy Of Gisborne runs scared through the haunted forest? This was the soundtrack of that bit.
Cormorant – Dwellings Self released
Yeah, this is something else. Cormorant is a black metal band that can trace its roots to the melodic and grandiose sounds of Emperor and Satyricon in the early days of the genre. Where the focus of bands is lately much on returning to its roots, like the Icelandic and Nidrosian scenes, this band returns to its mystic, fantastic origins. Think Bal-Sagoth, but without the cookie monster gutturals and and He-man like landscapes. The Bay Area band of Americans have released this album in 2011, but it crawled up on bandcamp for a bit and I had to check it out. I was amazed.
You think progressive usually takes a more agressive, extreme angle, but interestingly enough these San Francisco boys have taken it to a more traditional folk/heavy metal direction. More riffing, more soaring guitar parts and that galloping rhythm you’ll find in the power metal corner. Maybe even a bit of Iron Maiden? It creates a unique sounding band, that unites the cravings of angered D&D players with the need to stand bare-chested in a forest wearing corpse paint and wielding swords. It is not filled with hatred, but with longing for that other worldliness. On top of that, they do what they do in a magnificent manner. What an album! They did release a new one in 2014, but I’m most keen for more.
Sludgy doom from India? Yeah, that’s right and it’s as dirty as that fecal pool in Slumdog Millionaire and heavy as fuck. I asked bass player Abhishek Michael and guitar player Namit some questions about their music, India, getting recognition and future plans.
This year the band released their debut album titled ‘Stereolithic Riffalocalypse’, filled with riffs and grooves that would not be misplaced on a Sleep album. This is one of those bands that should be playing Roadburn in the near future. Not recommended for Bollywood fans. This interview was originally published on 3rd-Eye Magazine.
Hey! Can you please kindly introduce yourself and your band? (Have you guys been active in any other bands you’d like to mention or doing any side projects?)
Michael: Ahoy! I’m Abhishek Michael, and I play bass, Deepak’s behind the kit, Namit’s on guitars and we’re all on vocal duties.
I joined Shepherd in 2012, after Muneeb had left, and Dee asked me if I wanted to come jam with them. I still remember Dee asking me if I wanted to play bass, back when they started off in 2011, but back then I didn’t think I could commit to it, as I was playing bass for Inner Sanctum. But, when he asked me again in 2012, I decided to give it a shot. I had always wanted to play this style of music and I felt like I needed to a change from Sanctum as well.
I used to play with a thrash/death band called Inner Sanctum till about a few months back, which was awesome fun too. We released an album earlier this year as well. It’s been a great year for me musically, haha.
Dee also plays with stoner doom heavyweights Bevar Sea, who also released a belter of an album last year. Definitely a shit ton of good music coming out of the subcontinent I must say.
Namit: Sup! This is Namit, and I play guitars and share vocal duties with the rest of the band. Shepherd has pretty much been the only band I’ve seriously been involved in.
How did Shepherd get started?
Michael: Shepherd started out as a bunch of dudes wanting to play some heavy, ballsy, rock n roll. Basically music we enjoyed listening to ourselves. We’re all into different styles of music, but everything slow, heavy and dirty, brings us together. The band started off with Dee and Namit jamming together, and back then the sound was a lot different, it still was Shepherd, and you can hear that from the early demos, but compared to what the album sounds like, it’s really matured over the years.
Namit: Always wanted to be a part of a band that writes the kind of music we do, but there wasn’t that vibe with any drummers in college – in fact there were no drummers at all in the neighborhood. There were quite a few guitar mates with whom I shared the same taste in music – more than anything else that resulted in me filling in on the drums for a quite a stretch.
I had met Deepak a couple of times and had an understanding that if he ever was in Bangalore we should try to do something – the weird acoustic riffy jams that had been recorded and sent over interested him as well. It was really after college, when Deepak moved to Bangalore that we decided it was time to take shit to whole new level. Our initial jams were productive in terms of riff content, on the fly tempo changes indicated good understanding and willingness to adapt – hence we thought that basing the band around an improvisational jam based structure would be a good place to start.
Why are you called Shepherd?
Michael: From what I hear, a fungus had something to do with that. Crooks in hand, we’re just here to lead the sheeple towards the opium mist.
Namit: It was during a trip to Kodaikanal, where we were lazing around amidst nature and discussing band names. In the distance, there was a dude trying to herd a flock of sheep. Out of all the names that we floated around, Shepherd sounded cool and it stuck.
What is it like to be a sludge/doom band from India, what kind of scene is there to step into?
Michael: Not much of a scene here actually, and if you’re talking specifically sludge/doom, then it’s even smaller. That being said, I think we’ve got this whole exotic factor going, since we’re a sludge band from India. So that probably helps with getting out to an international audience. There aren’t that many gigs here either, we probably play once a month if we’re lucky.
When we started out, I guess Bever Sea were the only other band, that I can think of, that were doing something similar. There have been others who’ve popped up and disappeared just as quickly though. It’s growing slowly though, you see newer bands in the genre slowly popping up, which is a good thing. I guess people realize that there is an audience for this style of music here.
Namit: In a way, it’s good to be doing something that not a lot of people are into. There’s no scene so to speak of and gigs are hard to come by. It is tough trying to survive as a musician in India – especially if you it’s against your principles to sell your soul to the devil of Bollywood.
In the past couple of years there have been more bands that worship the riff – Dirge, Witchdoctor, Grim Mage, Primitiv has elements of stoner doom. Existing stalwarts of doom – Bevar Sea, Djinn and Miskatonic keeping gigging and releasing new stuff consistently.
If you’re a new band, there would always be a show or two to get you started and it would mostly depend and how you would take it from there.
Since most people’s frame of reference of India includes little more than ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, can you tell a bit about your personal background and how you got into heavy music?
Michael: Apart from enjoying the occasional dip in the fecal pool around the corner, we all love the heavier forms of music, and that’s probably what draws us together. All of us are pretty much from what we call middle class India, we’ve grown up in an urban environment, and have had access to tapes and cd’s and we were lucky enough to be part of the generation that witnessed the internet boom. I think without the internet I wouldn’t have really got into heavier forms of music. My brother did play with a progressive rock band while I was growing up, so I had access to a lot of his music collection. I had an uncle who had a nice collection of classic rock tapes, which also played a part in me getting into the music I’m currently into. For me it’s been a musical evolution ever since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed music, and it’s a big part of my life.
Namit: I think it was the sight of bands in music videos doing cool stuff with instruments, and just the raw energy that made you want to jump and destroy shit, that attracted me to the music in the first place. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the power of generating music through your own fingers, and hence in a way expressing that fucking rage, is way more authentic and skillful than that artificial pop, Bollywood shit that was being aired when I was growing up – it made me stare in awe at the rack of guitars and drums in any musical store and that was pretty what I wanted to do. Black Album, Number of the Beast were the first few albums that blew my head out of water and really just wanted to play and try to reach the levels at which my idols could. Couple of years in a local music school back home was just an insane learning and mind opening experience – listening to stories from my school teachers – Miles, Giles and Axel about bands like G’nR, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Slayer, Van Halen, Metallica, Jaco Pastorius, etc. was the kind of fodder I’m glad I fed on.
What is happening music wise in India?
Michael: Well, there’s a lot happening. There’s obviously a ton of crap floating around, but we do have some interesting music coming out of here. I guess there are small pockets of good music, similar to everywhere else in the world.
We’ve caught onto the whole EDM boom as well. You can always see what the masses in India are listening to based on what Bollywood goes with, which is our mainstream. Right now it’s a ton of EDM, everything sounds like they just took a turd of a sample from some shitty DJ/producer. But then again, to most people who really listen to and enjoy music, we always are looking for something that you can really connect with and not just LCD radio friendly tunes.
If you look close enough you always find something interesting. I don’t think there are that many artists who are reinventing the wheel or anything, but they are still making good enjoyable music. We’ve got our fair share of good metal, rock, pop, electro and even hipster tunes, haha
Namit: Apart from Bollywood getting mutated and brainwashed by the likes of Yo Yo Honey Singh and the whole disco swag party DJJJ club mentality jing bang, (the stuff of ‘60s and ‘70s is pretty decent), you can find good bands from all genres if you tried to look for it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a guy who is itching to check out new bands in India, but by the looks of it there are people trying to keep it real and do what they love doing. You could try to say that the blame lies with the apathetic attitude about people – who want new bands and killer gigs but don’t buy your shirts, cd’s, shit and don’t go to gigs. I’d like to blame, if I may, the naysayers that ceaselessly try to put their opinions in a relevant light, crib on social media for pointing out these maybe distorted facts about the scene. Everyone should know what they sign up for, because complaining is not good for your health.
Where do you get your inspiration from, both music wise as well as for lyrics and themes?
Michael: Well, it’s hard to pinpoint specific influences, but I guess everything influences us, from living in India to what’s going on in the rest of the world and the different music we all listen to. With the music, we don’t have any fixed way of writing. We just jam, and see where it takes us. Someone might bring in a riff and we take it from there, or we just jam. That’s what’s worked for us so far.
With the lyrical themes, it’s basically whoever is handling the vocals, would decide the theme and write the lyrics. Dee and Namit have handled pretty much all the vocals on the album, and have written the lyrics for all their parts. We all are really happy with the way the vocals turned out, and with 3 of us singing, we got to experiment a bit.
Namit: Some of it is personal experience, and the way you convey that could be down to how you’ve been influenced by and relate to the material of your choice. It’s tough to know when you’d feel inspired. When you do, it’s kind of rare, but you’re able to get a decent amount of work done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping at it, and over time one fine day everything might just fall into place from your perspective- in terms of the words, the idea or the visuals you want to convey, the brevity of the structure and rhyme. Looking back, most of the lyrics I’ve written are shit and could be better – maybe it was the pressure of just finishing it as soon as we could, but writing lyrics is not something I look forward to. Working on vocal melodies is way more interesting!
How has the reception of Shepherd been this far? Are there things you’ve found particularly interesting?
Michael: The reception has been great! We didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. For a band from India to get the amount of international press we did, was pretty impressive. We’ve managed to make a lot of year end lists, which is really good publicity for us. The rest of the world usually never knows bands coming out of India, so it’s a good feeling having your music get out to a lot more people. Hopefully we can get the music out to more people outside India with a tour in the near future.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the whole stoner/sludge community is how supportive everyone is of each other. Bands are always helping out other bands, and the zines and blogs are all very supportive of new bands.
Namit: Getting signed onto Helmet Lady records was sick! Didn’t expect the kind of reception we’ve had so far, but it’s motivating to hear the stuff being said – that helps in us wanting to put in the effort to make a really good next record.
The passion with which people work and care for about the underground has really caught me by surprise.
Let’s talk about Stereolithic Riffalocalypse, what was the writing and recording process like?
Michael: Well the album was written quite a while back, and we’ve been playing most of these songs live for a couple of years now. Most of the music evolved from jams, which later turned into completed tracks.
When we decided to record back in 2013, we pretty much had everything ready before we went into the studio. We started tracking around October, in 2013, and we got done with the drums, bass and guitars pretty quick, and tweaked the songs a bit here and there. But then, we had to part ways with the vocalist. So basically, we had a bunch of instrumentals with us, with no vocalist.
I still remember we were trying to figure out what to do, and whether we should try and find a vocalist. We ended up doing all the vocals ourselves, and over the course of the year we sat down and figured out lyrics and vocals for the whole album. It’s funny, but I remember Dee saying something like “Fuck it, let’s just do the vocals ourselves” which I thought was a joke at the time, since none of us had any real singing experience. But I have to say, that we were all really impressed with the way the vocals turned out on the album, and it seems like a lot of people enjoyed them too.
Namit: The first time I heard Dee belt out the vocals, I was taken aback by how well he could sing and how much better the songs were starting to sound. Yeah, writing the vocals, and then learning to play the riffs and sing at the same time, was insane amounts of fun.
How did you get in touch with Brad Boatright to work on your album? And what was it like?
Michael: We decided to work with Rahul Ranganath, a live/studio engineer from Bangalore for the mix, but we were looking around to find someone who we could work with for the master. Brad was definitely one of the choices all of us thought would really work well for us, not to mention he’s practically worked with every band from the scene and put out some brilliant records. So we got in touch with him and he was quite excited to work with us as well. It was really easy to work with him, and the guy knows what he’s doing. We talked a bit about what we were looking for and the bands we liked, and basically the albums he had worked on that we liked the production on. When we heard the first master, we knew we had gone with the right guy, and we really happy with how it turned out. So everything was done pretty quickly, we did a few runs and we were set.
Namit: Brad is just super quick and super professional with his stuff. Not to mention the initial runs that came out couldn’t have sounded better.
Apparently, I understood from some other reviews, some people feel offended by the song titles ‘ Black Cock Of Armageddon’ and ‘Turdspeaker’. Did this surprise you and do you wish to say something more about these songs?
Michael: Haha! Yeah, honestly we didn’t think about that, but then again, if people want to get offended, they will. Someone is always going to be offended, even if you write a song about magical ponies. So no, we don’t really have anything to say about them, if people were offended by it, fuck that, they can move along. We’re not going to go about tip toeing around everything, just because someone is going to be offended.
Namit: HAHAHAHA! Good for them! 😀
What future plans does Shepherd have?
Michael: As of now, get back to writing some new material, which we’ve already started with. It’s a bit nerve racking since there’s a lot of pressure now to put out a really good album. Haha!
Apart from that, we’re looking to tour Europe at some point and play a few festivals. Also the vinyl of the album will be out soon, there has been a delay because it’s quite hard getting vinyl’s out now with all the delays in production. So look out for that!
Namit: Can’t wait to jam and write some stuff with the guys, because basically there’s a ton of riffs and semi-structured songs / ideas that are in there. Need to take a massive dump, and let it all out.
If you had to describe Shepherd as a dish, what would it be and why?
Michael: Haha, this is a hard one. I’m not quite sure actually. But maybe a spicy taco/burrito? It’s got a lot of different textures, it’s meaty and spicy, and it could give you the shits too.
Namit: Shepherd’s Pie? It’s a good thing to have when you wake and bake, but just like the dish it could get boring after a week or so…
Please use this space for any further things you’d like to share.
Well, people can follow our ramblings and updates on our facebook page
All corners of the world in this sounds of the underground with Skáphe from the USA/Iceland, Wildernessking from South Africa, Burial Dust from Bangladesh and Cadaver Eyes from Israel.
Skáphe – Skáphe² Fallen Empire Records
I came across these guys, while doing a SoU about bands from Iceland. They were cool, but not Icelandic, so you get them now. Skáphe is a band from Philadelphia in the United States (partly Iceland too) and this album came out after Trump started rampaging across any sort of decency that you’d find. I guess it is what fuels their anger. The band sounds pretty much like they’re actually part of that Icelandic scene and are indeed part of the Vánagandr group, which in its own peculiar way is embrasing the nidrosian idea of pure, back to basics black metal. I feel that this is in large parts what you get when listening to their relentless record.
Think of early bands like Blasphemy and you get a similar, overwhelming and raw delivery. The sound in general is a roaring and thunderous one, with little subtlety. There is a slight bit of that tremolo guitar sound, you’ll find in the post black-metal bands now usually, but it’s used sparingly. Cacophonous sounds peep through the solid wall of sound now and then, offering you a glimpse into the swirling malestrom of madness behind it all. The whole recording seems to have done in a concrete storage hall or something, because there is no sense of subtlety or grace to the sound of these Americans. Only after the full album I checked its members: D.G. is known from his work with Misþyrming and Naðra (see this SoU#33) and Alex Poole, who did his thing in Krieg, Esoterica and Chaos Moon. Things make more sense to me now.
Wildernessking – Mystical Future Sick Man Getting Sick Records
I had to check it twice myself, black metal from South-Africa? That seemed wild. Not because I don’t think it shouldn’t be played in Africa, but the relationship seems like one that is bound to face with troubles. Wildernessking has been around for a good while though. In 2012 they released their debut, but in 2010 the band formed under the moniker of Heathens. The range of topics is broad and obviously inspired by the countries own nature and sensibilities. The Cape Towners fill their music with progressive elements to create something unique.
Think Winterfylleth, but set in the wide stretches of land of South-Africa and with probably better weather. You can hear that sensation of sunrays in the warm and beaming feel of the riffs. Though intensely played and full of hard work, the sound feels languid, relaxed but also danger lurks. The bestial roar of Keenan Nathan Oakes rips through that languid mood with an urgency, while the riffs smoothly cascade onwards in a dramatic though doomy way. There’s a longing or lamenting in the music and voice that grip you. It’s that amazing sincerity that makes this feel so good.
Burial Dust – OshubhoAhobaan Independent
Bangladesh is starting to develop it’s very own black metal scene, with primitive, furious and quite convincing. The main theme appaers to be the ancient death cult and occult religions, but more than anything the denunciation of the false gods that rule our society. Reminds you of Norway some decades ago? Bands like this show that black metal has matured and found a deep rooting within counter culture and anti-religious thoughts with serious followers. Wether that’s a good thing, is not up to me to decide, but it lends a certain gravity to the expression in the music itself. The title translates as ‘Ominous call’.
Though the sound may come off as pretty lo-fi (necrosound!), it works in the favor of the band in the sense of aura and vibe. Blistering, crackling blasts and deep, unearthly gutteral vocals show the mixed ancestry in both the death and black scene, giving a similar feel to the band as the primitive origins of Mayhem and Darkthrone (maybe even a little of the more death orientated sounds of Von and Morbid). The attentive listener can detect some oriental influences in their sound, where the evocation of ancient Egyptian deities is no strange occurence. From the guitar crescendo’s to the unbidding chasm of the vocals, this is a powerful bit of dark magic.
Cadaver Eyes – Class Mammal HCB Records
Sometimes you get these requests that sound just too intriguing to be ignored. This Israeli band claims to implement elements of doom, noise and experimental sounds into their product and that alone is quite peculiar. The sound that you experience when listening to it is even more weird and unsettling then you’d think. To give a bit of context, the band is a project more than anything, based in Jaffa, Jerusalem and New York. Bandmember Zax indicated in his e-mail that he also plays in Lietterschpich and in Hyperion Ensemble, along with drone deity Stepehen O’Malley’. It should give you some context on what these guys are doing.
The line between fucked up noise and brilliance is a rather thin one, leaving a band to be often misunderstood. As one, I presume Chinese, site described Cadaver Eyes: “in these music there is nothing but amounts of buzzing”. Brilliant quote, but there’s much more to it. The base of the music is a drone that truly unsettles the listener, specially when David Opp (also Lietterschpich, Balata etc.) starts barking at the listener through a fog of distortion and rage. The drum patterns make little sense, giving you hardly any space to breathe and find a calm in the music. Though it lacks a certain sonic intensity, the experimental, fuzzy crackling of electronics gives no quarter. The record also has two cover-like tracks, one being ‘Acetone’ by Mudhoney. You can’t go wrong with Mudhoney, but for some listeners Cadaver Eyes might feel like you’ve really been walking down the wrong kind of alley.