Self Help Books

I know that most of you will read this and make a frown or do a face thing expression of confusion mixed with disgust at this ridiculous topic. Self Help Books, yes. I have read some and I can tell you about a few that I think for my fellow nerdy readers might be useful. I have to say, they might not be the standard ones you’d expect. It’s just stuff that I feel helped me learn.

Granted, I’m not a perfect being and still heavily in the proces of learning to control my anger and hatred for the human race, but I believe that these books have actually helped me come to grips with myself and learn to love the bomb…. Not the boob, I already praised that highly. Let me list them for you here with some explanation and perhaps you can find something for yourself.

Mind that I’m part of an audience that likes the nerdy-side of things and therefor finds solace in reading books that are nerd-inspired, geeky and that I can relate to on a personal level. I’m sure there’s plenty of sports writers and such who can do that just as well for you if you’re into that more. Oh… and hockey. Let’s see about that bullshit of the self-help industry.

Stephen R. Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

Oh yes, you’ve heard this one before, so stop me, stop me oh stop me…. It is after all still the most effective, well written book in the whole genre. Sure, it’s a bit idealistic and supposes some grand wisdom in its seven habits, but not without reason pretty much every other book refers to this one. I guess in a way it speaks to so many people due to it being very middle of the road and staying close to an abstract level. The anecdotes help in giving you a sense of understanding though. I do believe that this book may be a bit over some peoples head though. If you want to give it a try, go for the abridged audio version first. Not  only does it speak much more to you, it also stays closer to the core ideas instead of jumping in the deep end.

I mean, this is kinda like the Jedi manual when it comes to it. So it might scare you away at first, because you first need to grasp some basics and be OK with not moving at immense speeds forward. I felt empowered at first and disillusioned after a while, because of its almost religious striving for mastery. This kind of brings me to my next title.

Wil Wheaton – Just A Geek

What I felt was most important to help understanding myself is being understood and able to relate to things. I have never been able to put my anxieties and worries to words, they never made much sense to me and felt very instinctive. The Covey book put me onto reading more and so I started getting into this biographical account of Wil Wheaton. Wil is the kind of guy, whose humor and take on life I really appreciated as soon as I started to get into his stuff. Specially his ‘law’ on gaming really appealed to me and even got me to name my blog after it.

In his book he tells his story and though I havent been a struggling actor with a glorious past, I was a guy (or am, but I chose not to see it that way. anymore) who graduated with a thesis  that was called brilliant and then failed to live up to anyone’s expectations, mostly my own. I felt I could relate to that. In his book, there’s some shifts of personality, of approach to things that you can learn from. For someone in the acting bizz, everything is larger than life. Not just the successes, also the failures. It thought me about those, but also about what it means to be driven and follow your gut.

Chris Hardwick – The Nerdist Way

Thanks to Wil Wheaton I found out about Chris Hardwick, a dude that, like me, had struggled with some health issues in the past and had shifted that around. The difference is that Chris is, unlike me, highly productive and succesful. That is exactly what Hardwick tries to bring across in this book, making it awesome. The silly way he does it in appeals to me too, because self-deflating humor has become a huge part of me and the way I deal with myself. I mean, you can hardly be a dick to yourself, right?

Turns out you can and I do that a lot. Instead of rising above, facing things head on, I tend to flee. I do that in an almost scorched earth way sometimes. Chris speaks to me in the sense that he has been there, he has been down to a lost, alcohol guzzling has-been and back to the top in a place he wanted to be. that feels amazingly powerfull and therefor something to learn from.

Kevin Smith – Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. 

Yeah, I found inpsiration in the work of Kevin Smith, you know… the guy who is Silent Bob. It’s maybe not even this book, but the podcasts he did with Jason Mewes (Jay) about some real life problems. A lot of the book is about this friendship and it shows how far you can go in doing your best for others. Also another story of falling down and getting up again, learning and growing and finding that crock o’ gold at the end of it all.

The podcasts deal more with looking back and making fun of your own fucked up mistakes in the past life that you have to deal with. Acceptance is a way to growth that is pretty hard and that lesson is definitely in here too.

Gordie Howe – Mr. Hockey

I did say I love hockey, right? This book is about the challenged life of Gordie Howe, the absolute superstar of hockey. He went on to play till he was 50 years old, being the oldest NHL player of all time, only surpassed in points way later by Wayne Gretzky. It is kinda ok if you are surpassed by ‘The Great One’. The book shows remarkable love for the game and humility from the man. Its amazing to read how even in his eighties he still notices every aspect of a game he watches. There’s a lot of quirky little things in there that show how normal the guy is.

Gordie Howe is an inspiration to go for what you believe in and stick with it. Not untill they tell you to quit, but up till you think its time to quit. Humility, respect, acceptance and love, its all in there in the life of a real stand up guy.

Alright, I suppose this is sort of a weird list of books to consider self-help. I also have to admit that by now, I hate Covey’s book. It’s way to high flying. Anyways, I think books inspire, not the ‘right books. What inspires you might just as well be Harry Potter. As long as you keep reading, you find idols, icons, villains and dreams. The most important thing is to keep having those.

I tricked you a little bit into reading this. I hope you still enjoyed that and maybe you’ll pick one up from my list.

That Biographical Bit Everyone Looks So Cool In

I think this blog might be found by someone who needs to figure out what and why I’m the one they’re facing one of these days. I have more and more of these meetings and maybe all that info people are looking for, they couldn’t find on my blog. Only the sad annotations of my self-help proceedings in trying to overcome the demons of my childhood.

From a bullied kid to a shy teenager and a calculated young adult, I’m not the child of the flowers and sunshine. I’m a kid of the 80’s, which might explain my love for the bleak reality of Joy Division and the Smiths.

I’m just a day dreamer who has embraced his romantic side but leaps from rock to rock, in order to cross the river of his own fears and awkwardness. I don’t read people well… Or maybe I do read them very well, I am just not the ‘judge by the cover person’. Small talk is for me like Kierkegaard is to you.

My heart doesn’t beat like a jungle drum, but buzzes like the fuzzed out, lo-fi recordings of early black metal albums in Grieghallen studios in Norway. I wear hockey jerseys at home, because I feel the game of hockey is the last bastion of true gladiators.

I live in books and music and dwell in despair, understand hatred and the loss of meaning but love to grapple with the unknown. My persistence and tenacity takes its own pace.

My dream is to become a researcher. It’s all I really want. To boldly go where no man has gone before. I’m Guido Segers, I’m most pleased to meet you.

The Reading of Books #10

A new selection of books I’ve read, with work from Haldor Laxness, Kevin Smith,  Thich Nhat Hanh and Chris Hardwick.

Haldor Laxness – Iceland’s Bell

“Have you ever seen Iceland rise from the sea?” Asks the protagonist of the Icelandic people Arnas Arnaeus at some point in this book. That sentence stuck with me in this novel by Nobel price winner Haldor Laxness about the impoverished people in Iceland during the Danish reign. The book consists out of three parts, of which the second and third are the more serious ones. The first part mainly features Jón Hreggvidson, a farmer who happens to be at the wrong places all the time and instead of getting his head lobt of ends up travelling all the way to Danmark to plea for his case.

The other character is a noble lady from Iceland who is instrumental in the continued existance of Jón Hreggvidson and embodies a different Iceland. She and Arnaeus have a bond, a romance that is like the fleeting romance Iceland has with its liberty. It never truly comes to pass in the book but always seems near. There’s a lot of black and bleak humor in the book, specially on the account of the Icelandic population, personified in crook and fool Hreggvidson, who the reader cannot but love, regardless of all his foolish behaviours and constant reciting of the same ballad. It’s a book that instills a love and sympathy for that strange island. Well worth reading, specially thanks to its complex symbolism and folk like telling style.

Chris Hardwick – The Nerdist Way

source: goodreads.com

I started on ‘The Nerdist Way’, because I felt particularly in need of something to help me elevate my spirits. Originally I expected to find a fun book about the life of Chris Hardwick, but it turned out to be a very well intended self-help book for people with the same sort of obsessive syndroms and social awkwardness as him. Something I can relate to, but also filled with that particular humor, filled with self-deflating jokes. I was impressed by the upbeat nature and strenght of the book, which is an honest attempt to make a difference and really help people.

At various points Hardwick admits he is not a professional and suggests seeking professional help if you as a reader deal with specific problems. He talks about an attitude in life, a generally healthy lifestyle and even gives advice when it comes to excersising. The book outlines an alternative for those of us that have caught the nerd syndrome of sticking to the indoors. This book can really give you some motivation to make some changes and thus be living your life to the fullest. Chris Hardwick is an inspirational figure, not just in what he does, but also where he comes from. His punchline for this book seems to be: “I’ve been at my worst and now at my best, so I just want to try and share this so aothers can learn from it.” It really works because of that sheer honesty.
Thich Nhat Hanh – Living Buddha, Living Christ 

In this book the Vietnamese monk is attempting to define the underlying similarities between most big religious movements in the world. It’s a praise worthy attempt, because Thich Nhat Hanh seems to be spot on with a lot of things. He succesfully peels of the layers of dogmatism and classic indoctrination to reach the essential meaning of religious movements. He lists similarities between the Buddha and Christ, leaving out a lof of the fundamentelist motives inherent to various religions In that way, he sincerely opens up the dialogue with an open mind.

The author also describes the dismayed responses he has gotten over time, but points out that as religions learn from eachother, they can also remain relevant. This touches upon an issue that pretty much every major religion seems to face in recent times: loss of touch with the followers. Speaking from my own knowledge, I see that less and less people are visiting church. Some people rejoice over this, but I see it as a spiritual bankrupcy and I’m fairly sure that we’ll start seeing that some time in the future. I feel happy that books like this excist, offering a third way of finding a spirituality through the things that you find appealing in various religions, atleast I think Thich Nhat Hanh grants us that liberty, as long as we do it sincerely and respectfully.

Kevin Smith – Tough Shit: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good

Source: Goodreads.com

So I continued with this biographical book by Kevin Smith. Smith is one of my favorite directors, whose films I think I’ve all watched. Red State is the last in line and Im planning to watch this very soon.  In this book Smith talks about his life and whatever stuff happened to him in the  same way his characters talk in the early films. So yeah, there’s a lot of metaphors involving dick jokes and such, but one needs to get over that to find the gold underneath, which is various life lessons and hilarious anecdotes about a lot of weird stuff and the film industry.

There’s also going to be a lot of Clerks being mentioned. I feel a bit of embarrasment now and then about the direct words used by Smith, but that just says more about me. I recommend this book for the simple reason that it is hilarious and cathartic. Im pretty sure that Kevin Smith has faced enough tribulations in his own way. Sure, there’ s that whole different level where it takes place, in Hollywood and all. Still, this is transferrable to real life and sure as hell we all need some advice from a fat man who did good.

Oh, there’s also bits about Jay & Silent Bob, Dogma, Clerks, Chasing Amy, Jersey Girl, Ben Affleck and Bruce Willis.

The Reading Of Books #9

Some more reading done, so new books that I have an opinion about. Good books, I might add.

Haruki Murakami – Norwegian Wood 

Source; Goodreads.com

Though probably the most well known book of Murakami, this novel is an actual ‘return’ to the popular style in his home country according to the added information in the book. It’s a dreary love story with some strange triangular relationships occuring. That seems to be the returning element in the story of Toru Watanabe, who is recollecting his past in the book. At a young age, his best friend Kizuki killed himself. A while after that he reconnected with the girlfriend of his best friend, who he took walks with. He then sleeps with her in a strange, emotion filled night, after which she runs away and signs into a sanatorium.

Watanabe falls into despair, hanging out with his friend Nagasawa, who strings him along in a quest to bed as many girls as possible. Nagasawa also has a girlfriend, which makes another triangle. Then Watanabe visits Naoko in the sanatorium and has a great time with her and her room mate Reiko. He also strikes up a friendship with live loving Midori, a girl from his drama classes. it all falls apart when Naoko kills herself as well. The interactions are complex and are presented in an order that might at times be confusing. It’s the story of a young guy who tries to do what is right, but also tries to live a life that is fullfilling. This struggle seems to be at the core of the book. The title is derived from the Beatles song, which is recurring element in the book.

Haruki Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Source: Goodreads.com

This book follows the trials and tribulations of Tsukuru Tazaki. A peculiar person, who considers himself to be empty, like an unwritten sheet of paper. He only knows he really likes trainstations and like trainstations considers himself to have been the connecting factor in a colorfull group of friends in high school, who were a harmonious unit. One day he was cast out and almost driven to suicide, he changed completely in the way he looked and after half a year finally regained control of his life.

Now, years later, his girlfriend reminds him of the past and asks what happened that so shook him and limited him in connecting with others. He decides to revisit his old friends and find out what happened and find himself again. The story is laced with references to the past and future, there’s an element of mystery and dreams, like is common in the books of Murakami and we follow a person who is not in touch with himself, but seems to slowly gain a hold of the essence of his being. The musical piece ‘Years of Pilgrimage’ by Liszt is a recurring theme in the novel.  It’s a powerful book that once more offers the reader a path to fulfillment and a coming of age story. In the typical Murakami fashion though.

 

Gavin Baddeley & Paul Woods – God’s Assassins: The Medieval Roots of Terrorism

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve read a book by Baddeley in the past, which dealt with the role the Devil has been playing in Rock’n’roll through the last couple of decades, back to it’s very start. Baddeley even harks back to bygone ages in that book, which is something he does in this book as well. Together with Woods, the writer traces an analogy of sorts throughout the ages with a critical view on terrorism and religion and it’s roots in the Assassin cult in the middle-east. A topic surrounded mostly with myth, magic and mystery. From the ‘Old Man Of The Mountain’, which must refer to either Rashid ad-Din Sina or Hassan Sabbah, the original leader of the cult, all the way to the Kennedy assasination and modern Islam terrorism and the books of William Burroughs.

This is not one of those typical self-explanatory obscurantist views on a past that is partly imagined, this is a critical reading of both facts and perception of the historical phenomenon that involves terrorism in the form the assassins preached. It’s arguably easy to draw a direct link between current day Islamic State/Al Quaida movements and their historical counterpart, but that is not what the authors do. They remain critical and rather trace this sort of terrorism to general means of indoctrination, threat and subterfuge as practised by superpowers. The book leaves the reader with questions and I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.

Oswalt Patton – Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Source: Goodreads.com

Patton is a comedian and also an avid writer of books with a love for scifi and geekiness. In this book he writes down how his life unfolded and how his geekiness played a part in shaping and reforming his perceptions of his surroundings, dividing people into Zombies, Spaceships and Wasteland wanderers. It’s a good read full of fun but also with some lessons in life and what to do to get ahead.

There are curious elements of sudden empathy with other wanderers, disgust and lost cases along the path and a whole lot of self loathing and mockery happening in this book. Also song lyrics from REM come into play, which is cool I guess and read by Michael Stipe. Oswalt Patton is a hilarious dude, but also a person you might recognize if you’ve struggled with your inner and outer world and finding a place of peace for yourself and acceptance.

Romuvos: Appendix

With the interview I did with Romuvos there came a whole appendix with further information about pagan traditions in the Baltics. I like to share them here.

Calendar Feasts of the Pagan Balts

Pusiaužiemis, January 25th
Mid-Winter Festival, though in some parts of Lithuania they celebrate Kirmeline instead, whcih means Day of Serpents. It’s the day when symbolicly the snakes wake up from their winter slumber. Food and milk is put out for them, and if it’s gone later it will be a good year.

Perkūnas Day, February 2
Gabija Day, February 5
Užgavenes, March 1st

The exit of Winter essentially waits for Spring and helps prepare for the new season. The holiday consists of processions, costumes, tomfoolery, games, and plays. The main parts are: receiving guests with treats; rides and races; processing the More statue and then destroying her by fire; plays with people costumed as animals, strangers and mythological beings; performing the war of Winter with Spring symbolized by the Lasininis (the bacon-being) with the Kanapinis (the hemp-being); portraying weddings or funerals; spraying people with water; fortune-telling.

Velykos, Spring Equinox
Christianity incorporated Lithuanian equinox traditions into Easter, and replaced the ancient Lithuanian name for the equinox with the Slavic word ‘Velykos’, i.e. Easter. ‘Pavasario lyge’, meaning Spring equinox, remains the only non-Christian name for the holiday. The week before equinox, called the Velykos of Veles (souls), concludes the annual cycle of commemorations of the dead. As during Kucios (Winter Solstice Eve), families remember their dead and leave their dinners on the tables overnight for the veles to eat.

Jorė, Spring Festival
Samborai, Spring Festival
Sambariai, which names the ritual meal at the conclusion of sowing, or Paruges, which means the day by the rye. Households gathered on their fields with food and drink, where an open-air ritual meal was held. Households held the ritual separately; it was not a community rite. The ritual included ancient sacred songs called dainos and ancient ritual rounds or sutartines that blessed the grains. Families would prepare for Sambariai by stocking up on food, especially meats, and by brewing a special beer (traditional ritual drink and libation beverage). If the ritual was held at home, the house would be decorated with fresh-cut birch branches. Occurs at the end of May, after the planting of rye and other grains is finished and the seed has grown. This tradition survived undisturbed until the beginning of the 20th century in parts of Lithuania. Sambariai also once marked the start of the swimming season.

Rasa, Summer Solstice
Order of celebration: (1) dancing around the gates, (2) dancing around the kupolas, (3) misc. games, predictions, circle dance, (4) vaises (ritual meal), (5) greeting the setting sun, (6) lighting the bonfires and offerings, (7) visiting and blessing the fields and trees, (8) principal bonfire, burning of the More (straw doll symbolizing the old), circle dances around the bonfire, (9) swimming and bathing, a boat with a bonfire sails to shore, symbolizing the nocturnal trip of the sun, (10) casting the wreaths (11) greeting the moon and the stars, (12) worship of the rising sun and bathing in the morning dew.

Žolines, August 15
In honour of Žemyna, Earth Goddess. Associated with Rugiu Svente.

Rugių Svente, Rye Harvest
Beginning with the end of July and throughout August — depending on the growing conditions each year — the Lithuanian farmers start to harvest rye, the single most important grain cultivated in Lithuania. Rye is a divine grain; its fields are sacred. The harvest begins with the ritual Festival of the Rye, which expresses thanksgiving for the harvest. Women and men wear their finest white linen for the ritual, and harvest the rye in these clothes.

Dagotuves, Winter Rye Planting Finished
Velines, All of October
Velines is in honour of the Veles, the shade of the ancestors – either of the family or the village. Because families would live in the same house/village for centuries, Lithuanians came to believe that the veles acted as guardians for the family and for the village. This is when the veles would enter the family home for the rest of the winter – leave at Velykos to go into the fields, to encourage the fertility of the land.

Kučios/Kaledos , Winter Solstice Eve – Beginning of the Year
Marks the end of the year, when the world returns to darkness and non-existence. However, as death begets birth, the two holidays also herald the rebirth of nature and the return of the sun. The Lithuanians distinguish the two subsequent days, now celebrated on the 24th and 25th of December, with a variety of ritual customs.

Baltic deities.
Here are the gods and dieties of the pagan Baltic people. Mind that the perception of Gods was/is different than that of current day Christianity.

Dievas: Supreme God
Lada: Great Mother
Perkunas: God’s Scourge, Sky/thunder
Patrimpas: Spring, joy, peace, earth
Pikulas/Velnias: God of the underworld
Sky Gods: Menulis: moon Saule: sun (the planets and stars are their daughters).
Zemyna: earth, birth, growth, ripening.
Domnestic Gods: Nonadieve/Dimstipatis/Zemepatis/Gabjauja
Laima: fertility, newly-born, pregnant women
Giltine: death, ordained the end of a life
Fertility Gods: Puskaitis: fruits of the earth and grains, lives under sacred elder tree. Pergubre/Pergubris: Goddess of blossoms and field work. Kupuole: Field vegetation, her daughter Rasyte would water the plants with dew. Vaisgamta: Stimulating growth.

Other Gods:
Jurate: The queen of the Baltic Sea was a beautiful mermaid.
Kastytis: A son of the earth.
Siaurys: The North wind.
Aitvara: Considered to be divine creature, regulates relations and wealth
Pilnytis: The wealth god.
Kovas and Junda: War god.
Ausaitis: The health god.
Ganiklis: The schepherds’ god.
Keliukis: God of roads.
Milda: Godess of freedom.
Krumine: Godess of corn ears.
Nijole: Wife of the underworld god.
Medeine: The goddess of woods and trees.
Austeja, Bubilas: The goddess and the god of bees.

Vanad Varjud Interview

The two song EP of Vanad Varjud from Estonia is a grim first encounter with the band. The songs last well over the 10 minute border and envelop you in depressive darkness. The slow starting ‘Tumm Rongkäik’ (Silent Procession) features silence and the occasional drum sound in the first ten minutes. Some eerie sounds can be distinguished, but are barely audible.

This article was originally published on Echoes & Dust.

When the music starts playing, first there’s the cascading guitar riff, played in such speeds to create a static wave pattern. Slow drums are being played, as in a ritual setting. Slowly the sound becomes more menacing, more grim and full of cold hate. Like a torrent, the music drags you in, slowly nodding along, one barely notices the change where a melody is sounding through the layers of guitar, untill it gently comes to a close.

‘Absurdiinimene’ (Absurd Human) is the second track, which starts with the sound of an icy gale blowing. The sounds that seep through are ominious. Clean guitar tones are being played in the same minor setting as Metallica’s ‘One’. A thunderous drum sound reverberates though the air and in a flash the riffing starts. A furious roar and samples start playing in Estonian. `

Logo of the band
Logo of the band

The Estonian extreme metal scene is very hidden and mostly known through a few bands that have somehow captured the interest of the media, like their folk-metal outfit Metsatöll or the sludge duo Talbot. I talked to Sorts Aposta and Thon from Vanad Varjud about the underground in this far-off corner of Europe, where winters are long and cold and where faith is minimal.

Who are Vanad Varjud and in what other bands did you play?

(Sorts) Vanad Varjud is me, Sorts Apostata is the so called ‘main man’ of the band. The band was born in 2000. I was already far into other things, but this became the main project. Thon played the drums and did vocals, so the ‘main man’ started to become a bit blurrier. So far it’s my thing, but Thon is responsible for all the drumwork. We both have been around in the Estonian ‘scene’ for years, though it’s hard to still call it a scene. It might be just me, there are some new winds blowing.

Thon of Vanad Varjud

(Thon) I have been in several metal bands over the years. For a list of all my bands and projects, you can check my bandcamp page (there is a lot to check out. ed). Most of the music can also be listened to there. There is a complete list of bands I was in or connected to.

(Sorts) I’ve been involved with Ignorabimus in the past. Also with the band Nihilistikrypt. The band Mass In Comatose is my brainchild, though we will have to see if it ever rises again. When it comes to the scene in Estonia, the best source to check is estonianmetal.ee, though it has moved more to facebook. What is happening and where the action is can usually be found there.

What does Vanad Varjud mean? What is the idea behind the band?

(Sorts) Vanad Varjud means in English ‘Shadows of the past’ (though there are multiple interpretations, literally Old Shadows, meaning that the night is a calm time). This is, as far as what I did goes, the crown jewel and my most important project. It is mostly mine, where I create atmosphere like I’ve never done before. It feels very natural to me to do this the way I feel like. Being free of dogmas is a theme, as in can we even do that? We move to live grabbing hold of these dogmas to give us meaning and answers. They prevent us from thinking and we obey them quite unquestioning instead of looking at ourselves and others as human beings.

The music needs to be slow. Watch a snowflake fall, watch how it rains and feel the beauty and eerie atmosphere, the timelessness… Think of the smell of old trees, the foggy moon and sunrise (don’t take this as sounding too much like hippie stuff). Whatever you believe is your way and yours alone. It is good to have some travellers with you though, maybe even to the end?

Sorts Apostata, the brain behind Vanad Varjud

What is the general idea/thought you are trying to convey to your listeners?

(Sorts) I dont try to convey anything really. I give something and you can take from it what you want, like I take things from other artists in the same way. It’s a matter of sharing, growing and learning and always moving forward. This is not as easy as it sounds ofcourse, trying to be original and following your own parth. We all wear certain chains, though we link up and find connections, but that is not always easy. It can even be a painful proces, but through pain we might achieve even greater things and more happiness.

We obey others, we are mastering others, we enslave others and enslave ourselves. Who are these others though, what others are there and why don’t we try to master our own self first? I think that’s the hardest thing, to find meaning in all this. It’s not the most original dilemma, very Nietzschean…Take your pick: Socrates, Gailit, Tammsaare…

Where do you draw inspiration from?

(Thon) Inspiration is everywhere, in books, music, film and nature or wherever you look.
(Sorts) I can’t add much to that. Maybe what is inspirational to me is that feeling of pure loneliness that we humans feel. You are born alone and you die alone and in some way you always are alone. Growing is a solitary process, but we can try to share this maybe.

What is it like to be an Estonian black metal band. Does being Estonian have any influence on your music do you think?

(Sorts) There are bands here and some projects, but no tight knit scene in the way people would imagine. We meet, greeta nd have a drink now and then, but not too often I guess. Metal in Estonia, specially black metal, is quite underground. Everyone is doing their own thing in their little corner and I think that’s fine the way it is.

If you consider where and how Estonians have lived historically and geographically and what th weather is like, then the usic dfefinitely is influenced by being Estonian. Then again, it might be my thing, we are very closed off people.

I’ve listened to your 2 song EP. What can you tell about the writing and recording?

(Thon) The idea of VV has been growing in Sorts for years and it first came to life after we finished recording with a metal band. Me and Sorts had the studio to ourselves and started to record the dripping water from some pipe near the door. We messed around with effects and created this eeriesound that just needed some drums. We recorded those as well in some takes, then sorts did the guitars. We did the vocals in a second session, but the rest of it… It just happened.

(Sorts) In a basement in Põlva we built a studio. There were pipes all over the place, it was underground and you could hear people flush their toilets. For recording we had to predict when people were going to do their business… You never knew what you’d find in that place before you had opened the door. There was also a radiostation operating from there. It was a legendary and strange place with ice cold winters. When it started leaking one day we put a metal tub underneath it and started recording the dripping.

Thon was doing the editing for some other band and I was freezing, reading the book ‘Maagide Kool’ by Vladimir Weidemann (translation: School of Mages: Estonian Occult Underground 1970-1980 ). When ‘Talv’ for the band Sõjaruun was done, the drumkit was still there, so we did this basic stuff. It was spontaneous and pure joy to make and I wish every album could be done this way. The writing was done in my head and we had the basic recording. After that I spend some time to adjust things and do the vocals.

Is there a theme to it, do you chose specific messages for a release you make?

(Sorts) Its not like a story of any kind is integral to our music, there are themes that just follow and we pick up on what happens around us. The future material is planned to involve dark themes. It seriously will be very dark.

new member Ott

What are the samples from that are in the songs? Why did you chose them?

(Sorts) The ambient elements there are mostly recorded and modified by us. We chose those to creat a kind of eerie atmosphere, like a church/monastary atmosphere. These are things we just did, you know? It was very inspiring stuff to use and create. It was a cold november when this came from my mind, before I turned it into flesh.

The EP is out on Hexenreich records. How did you get on this label and why did you chose for tape as a carrier?

(Thon) I have known Volly (boss of Hexenreich) for many years. I talk to him almost every week, so it was quite a natural thing to happen.
(Sorts) Yeah, Thon did the talking on that one. I’ve known the same person for many years, but Thon was more on a business level with this I suppose. Hexenreich has been functioning as a label dealing with this music for a long time now and it’s not like there are that many places for our kind of music. He’s a good person to work with.

Actually we released a sort of split with Hexenreich and Eerie Moonlit Trees, which is a label I started to create an undergroundlabel. I have to see if that’s going to work out. Chosing the casette format is partly because it is simply very cheap. I would like to release material on cd, LP and MCD, but as long as we don’t have that kind of deal, we will work with what we have. Anyone who is interested in helping us forward is most welcome.

Can you tell us a bit about metal in Estonia and mainly extreme metal?

(Sorts) I don’t know that much of the new Estonian metal scene. There is stuff going on and if someone is interested in it, the best news source is estioniametal.com, though it doesn’t offer the most recent news right now. We’re simply outside of it I guess.

Some fresh things that are going on as far as I know, Ingmar Aasoja from Thou Shell Of Death has some interesting things going on. The bands Urt and Aghor are active and interesting, Tharaphita has some nice progress and Süngehel has new stuff going on that are worth checkin gout. Goresoerd you can look up on facebook, is definitely a cool band.

I’ve got a list of records that are, in my opinion worth checking out, which offer a good impression of the Estonian scene. My opinion also varies ofcourse, it depends on what I feel like.

Sõjaruun – Talv (2010)
Mortified – Wilderness (1993)
Tharaphita – All pool Lund Ja Jääd (1997)
Aggressor – Legal Requirement (1993)
Nihilistikrypt – I hate everything (2006)
Skydancer – The Dawnhunter (1996)

Why do you think Estonia is the most atheistic country in Europe?

(Thon) I think it’s a good thing, it seems a natural fact to me really. Studies have indeed shown it’s the most non-religious country in the world and it feels like a good thing.

(Sorts) There are all sorts of studies, so I dont agree with Thon on this. Right, in reality we may not be on level with the classic religious countries, but we’ve been fucked by religion enough as a small nation. Religion in my opinion is like a slavery in the classic way. We are officially a Lutheran country in so far, but there is no official religion in our country. There are big churches and such, with big budgets, but where does that money come from? We live and believe in a more protestant way I think, more sober. I dont believe a God that promises good things for those that serve is a good thing, its a mental slavery, being fooled by these promises who tell us we are blessed if we obey. What bothers me most is why we behave like believers still, even when we claim not to believe.

Fun fact, the Lutheran church wishes to build a skycraper in Tallinn, which will be the biggest building in the city. What should we think of that?

Anything else you’d like to share?

(Sorts) Bottle of cheap whiskey and two dark beers? Thanks for this oppertunity and everyone, support bands that you enjoy and perhaps we’ll meet some day.

During answering these questions, I was listening to some old material and some weird stuff came to my ears. It feels like a great journey to answer this and get back into listening to old material.

Sounds of the Underground #16

Again, some tunes to bop your head to in Sounds of the Underground! This time A Forest Of Stars, Woods Of Desolation, Shylmagoghnar and Promethean Horde.

A Forest Of Stars – A Shadowplay for Yesterdays 

Source: A Forest Of Stars Bandcamp

Yes, I know this is not the latest album of these Brittish troubadours. I listened to them before, but due to a friends enthousiasm I did so again yesterday. I was amazed. The band brings together sounds of despair, string sections in minor, gritty black metal and the carnavalesque in a blend that is wonderfully powerful. A track like ‘A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh’ embodies that blend of epic doom, laced with twinkling folk passages and playful prog elements. The wailing ‘The Blight Of God’s Acre’ is another example of organic black metal embracing the play with elements.

Listening to this record brings memories of neofolk groups like Current 03, but also of doomers My Dying Bride. That has a lot to do with the Victorian charm of this league of gentlemen, as they describe themselves on their website. They don’t draw their inspiration from pagan Gods and nature, but from a time where romanticism and beauty was still something of importance. ‘Gatherer of the Pure’ is one of those unrelentingly beautiful tracks that display all elements in a blistering torrent of sound that has a warm, golden gleam to it. ‘Left Behind As Static’ lets you hear polished English and the ghost stories associated with electricity seem to be the inspiration for another magic song with static in the air.  The haunting ‘Dead Love’ is the great closer of this magic album.

I can’t wait to check out the new one.

Woods of Desolation – As The Stars

Source: Bandcamp Woods Of Desolation

The sound of Woods of Desolation is like the cold autumn sun, that caresses your face while your fingers feel frozen. The pain and beauty intermingle in a warm bath of nostalgia on this fantastic album full of post-blackmetal with static riffs and soaring elements in major, tremolo guitar picking and that unwavering cascade of atmospheric layers… I just want to rant about it, till I run out of breath. The song ‘Unfold’ is one of my favorites on this record.

I guess its the layers of ambient that make this record so alluring and filled with atmosphere that one can relate to. It has a simple beauty that still transcends the regular, the harmonies are just right. ‘An Autumn Light’ is another great track that seems to captivate exactly wht I said before. The vocals blend in with the rest of the music to create a unity. In a way they are the only dissonant sound in the music you can hear. These Australians did a wonderfull job in making this beautiful album, that still captivates the grim and cold of black metal. I could go on and on about it, but I feel that words fail to describe what my gut tells me while listening to this.

Shylmagoghnar – Emergence 

Source: Bandcamp band

I just happened to stumble across these Dutch prog-BM’ers on bandcamp. Clean sounding, technical and catchy are some keywords. Atmosphere does not need to be  dense tapestry of tremolo guitar obviously. It can also be the clean, hard walls of riffs that these guys unleash on their 2014 album. The long opener ‘Abyss’ immediately lets you hear some classical influences as well, this is not easy metal. An approach that hits the listener in the gut can also be taken, like on ‘This World Shall Fall’ and ‘Squandered Paradise’.

‘The Cosmic Tide’ is a track that stands out due to its soaring sound, full of aventure and bravery. The music is on that Cosmic level, always maintaining a feeling of tension and intensity. ‘A New Dawn’ delivers another blistering track with classic elements and full of epic grandeur. The band is not afraid of implementing anything in their dense and straight forward sound. The magic is in the exectution this great collection of songs. I’m well impressed with the variation and the openness of their sound. Recommended material!

Promethean Horde – Ashes of the Empyrean

Source: bandcamp Promethean Horde

What an awesome find, these blackening death tyrants from the United States. I love the frantic sound of the riffs and dense walls of guitars. The vocals remind me of the cleanish sounding black metal, like that of Keep of Kalessin on this album filled with pagan black metal. I’m not sure how deep that pagan aspect runs, but just bear with me for a bit more, while these boys roll on. The epic riffs are quite impressive, though not too original. This band is definitely energetic and filled with rage, creating an impressive rolling sound.

The vocals are a hoarse bark, a bit like Abbath, but lacking the deep cutting gritty qualities. Many people are fussed about some clean parts on the album, but I find those very easy to ignore and forget. The coiling sound and sheer intensity makes up for whatever flaws it may have, like some out of place tremolo playing on ‘Ördögszereto’. I will admit that during the listening to this album, my enthousiasm startst to go down a bit. It’s not the most original release and might not really have that forwards move in its sound, which is so typical for USBM. Still, I enjoy this record.

Heretic Interview

“We might be the most sympathetic black metal band from the Netherlands”

It’s a chilly autumn evening and we are sitting down in Café het Rozenknopje in Eindhoven with half of satanic sleaze rockers Heretic. The band has had a busy year behind them and its time to talk to the gents about their new records, shows, Ván Records and what it is like to be the most sympathetic black metal band of the Netherlands.

Heretic playing the mighty Hellfest
Heretic playing the mighty Hellfest

Slight shocker, Heretic has been around for 18 years already. Sure, there have been some breaks, but Thomas Goat has been playing dirty black metal under this name for 18 years. Fun fact also, is that this band only played their home town only once. That was in a support of the mighty Danzig in 2011 (in the Effenaar). That is one of the future goals for the band, according to drummer Tom Auf Der Axe: play an awesome show in Eindhoven. The drummer is keen to talk about the turbulent year Heretic experienced in 2014.
For Tom, it’s all still very new, even with all the events of last year: “I really was lucky to join Heretic at this time. I got talking to Thomas at a metal record fair. He needed a drummer for Heretic and asked if I was interested. I decided to say yes and three weeks later we did our first show together. Not a show in some bar, it was immediately a show on Roadburn!”. Tom learned enough songs for the show in a couple of weeks, where the band with a full line up had their big test. It turned out to be just the start.

“And then there was Hellfest on the agenda in France, which was another incredible experience. We went into the studio to record or new album and we have an agenda that is filled with cool stuff. As if that was not enough, we signed with Ván Records and booking agency District 19 (known as the organizers of the Eindhoven Metal Meeting). It’s been a great year this far!” tells Tom full of energy and enthusiasm. Its just as if everything the band touches turns to gold this year. Singer Thomas adds to Toms story, that is is definitely not just their drummer that was lucky, but the whole band. He chooses his words carefully, as if he only just started realizing that it all really happened: “Things started rolling for real this year for Heretic. We have a band, where all members want to go in the same direction. Adding Jimmy Blitzer (bass, also known from Urfaust) completed the picture. He thought it was cool to play second bass, which sounds odd, but really creates the sound we want. He also happens to be an excellent showman.”

Before we start looking at the successes from 2014, we should have a look at the past of Heretic. Founder Thomas always had an artistic drive with the band to express himself: “I wanted to satisfy an inner urge to create something, something new. The black metal scene was doing something that I wanted to go against, which is how Heretic started out, playing a different form of black metal.” That is the way the proces goes for Heretic, rebel against the image people create of them, but also against themselves according to Thomas: “Every record is a response to its predecessor for me. Everyone thinks they can label you and say what you are as a band based on your record, so the next one has to be completely different. Apart from that, I’m the biggest fan of Heretic and listen to the records time and time again. I then hear what I would like to have changed, what could be better. It’s a drive to develop. Every record is just a moment from what you do as a band, when one is released I’m already working on the next one. ‘Alive Under Satan’ is almost out now and I know how I want the next record to sound.”

The result of all those years of development yields its very own sound. “The black metal of Venom, sex drive like the Dwarves, punk vibe of Zeke and the sleaze of Mötley Crüe, that is the Heretic sound!” says Tom. “Thomas writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. Tony Hellfire does the bass loops over that, like our very own Steve Harris. Jimmy does another layer of dough on top of that and I can fill the gaps with my drums and make it into a whole. Because of the success and energy this year we’re all facing the same direction. Everyone has ideas, which keep on rolling and make nice things happening. It’s almost going automatically.”

Heretic playing a Devilish party.
Heretic playing a Devilish party.

A good example of these amazing things that happened to Heretic is their signing with German Ván Records, a label that also released music by The Devil’s Blood, Urfaust and Dread Soverign. The label is known for beautiful releases and special attention for the fans. “I knew Sven (owner Ván Records red.) from shows and of course Jimmy has been working with him through Urfaust for longer.”, Thomas chips in. “Sven thinks about releasing records, like a fan and an enthusiast, who wants to make it into something special. If we would want to release our record in a leather sleeve, he would basically be open to it. As soon as we would make a record that sounded like we do live, he would be interested. With ‘Alive Under Satan’, we have that record so the deal was soon made. Selim (Lemouchi, THe Devils Blood red.) told me a lot of good things about the label.” Live is of course still where it really happens for Heretic. This is obviously the place where Heretic is at its best, when the fans are right opposite the band.

The big similarity between Ván Records and Heretic is the love and respect for the fans. “We may be the most sympathetic black metal band from the Netherlands. We get so much respons from our fans, so we love giving them something in return.” Specially at the shows the band plays in Germany, the band has amazing experiences according to Thomas: “It’s amazing to play a show and see that the first rows of people sing along with every song, but it does happen to us. On the stage it’s all a big show, but after the show we are at the merch stand as soon as we can for a chat a beer or anything with the fans. I’m still a huge fanboy about the bands I love, so I know how important it is.” Tom agrees fully on that: “I’ve been touring with many bands, where I stood next to the stage, like Peter Pan Speedrock and Reverend Horton Heat. We get those same kind of responses, which is an amazing feeling. Sometimes its almost real!”

“Metal fans are, in my opinion, enormously dedicated. When I was nine years old I heard Iron Maiden for the first time. I still get chills when I hear that music. It sticks with you, that is what makes metal fans different, “ concludes TOm. “We played a show in Montbéliard in France a while ago. The support act was a band named Spermafrost. Before the show they came to see us, shake hands and tell us how cool it was for them to play with us. If you receive such dedication and responses, you have to give that back and we do that with all love.” This is part of the reason for the first uncommon release on Ván Records: a red flexi-disc with the song ‘It’s On!’. “That was one of those things, we made that single as a nice object. Then the Deaf Forever Magazine wanted a couple of thousand copies to send to their subscribers. A month later the release was totally sold out!”

The new album by Heretic, ‘Alive Under Satan’, is now out on Ván Records. The recordings were done in Eindhoven in three days and Thomas is looking forward to the next session: “It was a lot of fun in the studio and it turns out we have a great team with this little gang. I’m looking forward to making a full-length. Our previous record, ‘Angelcunts & Devilcocks’, was recorded at home with a drum computer. That is hard to compare with the raw, energetic sound that can be heard on the new record. You can hear that these are real, organic recordings. “Without changing the songs too much, there is much more dynamic in this new Heretic,’ says Tom. “We find a balance between the elements, which makes this a representation of the Heretic you can hear play live. If you manage to pull that off in the studio, then you’re doing the right thing.”

So the gang looks forward to the next record, for which Thomas has plenty of ideas already. The attention of all band members is with Heretic, playing live and enjoying the chemistry within the band. The new video is also out for you to enjoy.

The year 2015 might be the year of Heretic, including that long awaited show in Eindhoven.

Pictures; Eveline Vertommen

Originally published here and here 

Barreuh Label Night #4 @ TAC, Eindhoven

It is always good to do something on your friday night. This friday I went to the Temporary Art Centre in Eindhoven for the fourth label night of Barreuh Records. A label that has found a spot somewhere on the line where art and music touch and get intertwined.

The label aims to release affordable and special products of music that is challenging and experimental. This is available on their quite intriguing label nights, usualy filled with strange happenings. Strange tunes are played in between and a small, but interested crowd gathers for this live experience.

There’s also the release tonight of the new Skymme record, that you can enjoy on bandcamp as well.

First up is the experimental electronics of Rumatov. Three guys molding a mixture of ambient sounds and blipping noise on a range of devices. This creates soundscapes that drone on for the length of the set. The trio manages to put a bit of humor in their preformance of intriguing sounds, that challenge the notiono of what music is.

Barreuh Logo

Danielle Liebeskind is next up, playing a mixture of free-jazz postpunk jams, that frame the poetry of their singer. The explosive music offers a big contrast witht he stammered, flat spoken poetry lines that get spoken into the microphone in between. Though this is an interesting approach, it offers little in the way of harmony between the two elements and the poetry does not really appeal to me. Luckily there’s room for some respite in the cool venue, with some expositions open for visiting.

Final act of the night is Thaumaturgist, offering some bass driven beats. The music sounds old school, without the polished synthy stuff that you’re used to these days. Energetic and raw, the act captivates the audience in what seems to be a long, groovy jam.

Athens: Travel Report

Yes, I’ve returned from this ancient city that gave us democracy, a lot of statues and nightmarish traffic. Athens was a week of seeing and experiencing the city, but also good friends, good times, good food and a lot of laughter.

Traffic

What you notice soon, when visiting Athens, is that the traffic is a nightmare. Not that it’s stuck or slow, it just is totally random. People try to get ahead, slip in between, pass another by and so on in a total random fashion with a certain disregard for life. Usually, this is done while holding a phone or helmet on the arm. Beware of the pizza drivers and the souvlaki delivery guys, they are even more dangerous.

Statue of Zeus or Poseidon
Statue of Zeus or Poseidon

Old stuff

Greece has a lot of old stuff, statues, buildings and such. They take pretty good care of it nowadays and a lot is behind fences or under lock and key in the museums. Some items are weirdly accesible though, like old statues and vases in the archeology museum. You almost feel tempted to touch stuff, like on the Akropolis.

The collections are vast and you will see pieces of art that you probably saw on the cover of a book on ancient history before. The halls may look minimal and in some ways not doing justice to the importance of its contents. In a way that gives the works exactly the attention they need: it is placed at the very centre.

Quite a drive outside of Athens, you’ll find the temple of Poseidon in Sounia. A much more romantic and less visited spot for those who dare to venture there. You follow a road by the sea side for kilometres, facing some moronic traffic to reach this spot. It’s location on a cliff top makes for great sunsets that bring back a feeling of a forgotten past.

Sounia
Sounia

Athens: The City

The city itself is not so filled with ancient history and what is there is carefully preserved. The town itself feels modern and mediterranean. For those willing to see it or learn about it, it is clear that the city tells its own tale of its recent histories. It’s protests all the way back to the Junta government and the conflicts with Turkey or even the independence.

The city is strewn with coffee shops and places where you can buy some souvlaki or other quick meals. Greeks like to eat and they like to get some take-away, particularly on football days.

Roads in Athens are not always of the greatest quality and when it rains, you better put on some rainboots. When the sun shines, that matters little though. If you like cats, you’ll enjoy the city even more, because there are cats everywhere! Also pigeons, which are less loved.

Cats
Cats

Most of all…

The most important thing is the warmth and hospitality I experienced. I stayed with my friend K. who took great care of me during this week. Everyone has been remarkably friendly and that is definitely something that deserves some pointing out.

It was great to hang out with old friends and in a way, finally meet up in this great city, sharing drinks and stories. I hope this won’t be the last time.

"The Angels Of Death", Grombidal, Tyrus, Lovensand and Azdrubael.
“The Angels Of Death”, Grombidal, Tyrus, Lovensand and Azdrubael.

What we see in the media is angry protests, Golden Dawn radicalists and an unwilling government. That is not a story that just started, it is part of how modern Greece formed and shaped and grew in the last century. Protests have always taken place, for weeks sometimes. Golden Dawn is actually a marginal group that I have not seen a single sign of. Greece is a country with a heavy historic heritage, but a traumatic recent past. To understand that, visiting this country is a must.