Label: Season of Mist Underground Activists
Mystifier is one of the originals, one of the first bands to play what we now call black metal in their very own, distinct way. All the way in Brazil nonetheless, a country known for its vibrant extreme metal scene. Never shy to voice their opinions, the band took an anti-right stance in their early days and not much has changed in any part of their approach, ethically and musically.
For the last 18 years, however, Mystifier was quiet on the creative front. A box set and compilation were released, but their fifth full length took a long time to make. ‘Protogoni Mavri Magiki Dynasteia’ is finally here and offers those who love traditional black/death metal a tasty slice. Under the guidance of founding member Beelzeebubth, the band is going to war again. I saw them play in Tilburg, they were awesome! I have to mention Paolo Girardi, the legendary album cover producer. He made a piece that captures the cavernous, occult nature of the album very well.
The opening title track has something very remarkable to mention and that’s guest vocals from Proscriptor McGovern from Absu and Jim Mutilator from Rotting Christ. The second has not done much music in… forever. It leads to a dark invocation, with slow music and a fantastic vocal interplay. ‘Weighing Heart Symphony’ stays in the mumbling, ceremonial vibe, but also blasts some waves of tremolo guitar work in between the theatric interactions in the dark cave of Mystifier’s music. Melodic parts bounce off the walls with a lot of reverb as rackety vocals resound. I love how the vocals create this weird atmosphere and otherworldliness. Take ‘ Witching Lycanthropic Moon’, where the unearthly rasps and ambient sounds make you feel to have landed in an evil world, with a gibbering moon.
There’s definitely a sense of barbarism to the record, where the drums, bass, and guitars are purposely pronounced. At times, they hardly seem to work together in weaving the songs and go in their own ways. As the vocals and bass go into a doomy break on ‘Six Towers of Belial’s Path’, drums are like an anxious reminder of speed and intensity just there. But that’s exactly what works so well for Mystifier, their approach to black metal is almost tribal, expressionistic and I would argue a kind of storytelling. Rarely do they simply blast you with riffs, but heavy metal licks spruce up the flavor of the whole instead. The pace may be slow on tracks such as ‘Demoler Las Torres Del Cielo’, the explosive force of demonic winds is just one breath away it seems as the band launches into brief salvo’s throughout the song.
As the album comes to a close, you get pummeled around the head by ‘Al Nakba (666 Days of War)’. Sure, there’s a tasty guitar lick, but most is repetitive violence. The title shares some political engagement with the Palestinian cause, but it’s also a damn good track. Similarly, the feisty ‘Chiesa Dei Bambini Molesta’ is a piece of force and that means the album ends on a high note. Let these Brazilians not take too long for their next offering!
Label: Tartarus Records
Band: Grey Aura
Grey Aura kind of dazzled me with their first release, which I reviewed for Echoes & Dust. The record series is based on a book, created by singer Ruben Wijlacker’s novel De Protodood in Zwarte Haren (The Proto-dead in Black Hair). The records are full of references to cultural pillars like Malevich, the De Stijl movement and this time in title with ‘ 2: De Bezwijkende Deugd’ also Gustave Flaubert.
You’d think the mood would be sunnier on the Côte d’Azur in France, but Woest is a band which sounds particularly dark. Hailing from Marseille, the trio, takes their honey from the likes of Mysticum, Blacklodge and Aborym. Yet they sound like their very own type of beast on latest release ‘Le Grouffe’. That translates as ‘The Abyss’ by the way.
Woest has been around since 2016 and has been quite prolific with two released this far. Both sound dense and oppressive, but definitely strong. Their main pitfall might be that they sing in French, yet by supplying English lyrics they kind of tackle that issue and judging by this release, that should be no issue. It’s an absolute killer record, unique sounding and particularly distinctive in this day and age.
The intro ‘Éveil’ is a peculiar reminder of the Mayhem classic as this martial ambient track. It shows a little of what direction Woest has turned to on their new album. And that is a direction that is more industrial, more direct and punishing as is instantly clear on title track ‘Le Gouffre’. The drumming is crushing, pneumatic and reminds me a bit of the Mysticum live shows. Absolutely terrific, as are the joint chants.
Yet, songs like ‘Ô vide éternel’ also have that hatchet, militant sound of the later Satyricon. Threatening, but not in a figurative sense. It’s close, in your face in all intensity. At the same time, there’s so much happening. It’s an exciting narrative on ‘À la gloire de l’immonde’ with interactive vocals, intensifying rhythms and an overall sense of grandeur. The computerized drums have to be something you can get behind though, it has to be said. If you’re a sucker for the traditional bashing, you’ll likely enjoy ‘Spasme de haine’ slightly less. We move onwards to the ‘Tous restera carbone’ and ‘Vagues de Styx’, which carry a steady pace and even mellow sound due to the synths. The vocals are ghoulish, but very in opposition to the haggard emulation of a string section. his is hardly extreme, yet it’s a singular point of rest in an otherwise intense album.
Woest does something remarkable in a stale scene with ‘Le Grouffe’. You should probably listen to it.
Previously, Crimson Throne released an EP focused on Hegelian philosophy and history, but on ‘Of Void and Solitude’, we focus on human suffering and, as the title may suggest, the futility of it all. This is done by setting of a freight train of intensity down a hillside, rolling towards inevitable doom with harsh, fierce black metal.
Label: Ván Records
Band: Our Survival Depends On Us
Honestly, one of the most bewildering live acts I’ve seen in recent years must have been Our Survival Depends On Us. It’s a concept, an art, and the simplistic name barely makes you suspect what awaits you on stage in a pandemonium of taxidermy blood and pagan mystery. Though that last is maybe perspective from my end, or simply allegorical as it is on their latest record ‘Melting the Ice in the Hearts of Men’.
Pagan times have seen renewed interest over recent years. Perhaps it’s slightly one-dimensional with a wide range of Viking themed music, tv-shows and even fitness events. But for those willing to look deeper, there’s such a wealth of ideas and cultures to be found that inspired to this very day. That is a large part of Belgian band Theudho.
Band member and founder J.S. has been making music for many years and is inspired by that remote past as well as the extreme music scene. These two have always combined well and with Theudho, he recently released ‘De Roep van het Woud’, which translates as the call of the forest. He was also kind enough to tell us about his calling, inspiration and work, with some good advice for those looking to find their own green cathedral.
Hi, Could you kindly introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Theudho?
I initially planned to use the name þeuđo, as I originally spelled Theudho, for a keyboard/synth project back in 2002. Things rarely go as they are planned; guitars and drums were eventually introduced and the music shifted towards black/pagan metal.
The first demo was recorded as a one-man band and released in 2003. It was a fuzzy lo-fi ordeal that nevertheless resulted in a record deal. By the time of the second album, Theudho had become a band with a full line-up that also performed live. However, for the fifth and latest album, I decided to return to the one man band formula.
As for myself, next to a passion for music, I early on developed an interest in pre-Christian Germanic mythology and culture. Next, to the appeal of the rather notorious local music scene, this is the reason why I started to spend considerable amounts of time in Scandinavia since the latter half of the nineties.
What originally inspired you to create this type of music? Which bands would you consider your inspirators?
As strange as it may sound, I actually became inspired to play this kind of music again when a friend (my partner in crime in the neo-folk/industrial/martial project Weihan) and I were backpacking in Ireland back in 2002. We visited loads of Celtic and even some Norse sites in the south, but especially some of the landscapes we witnessed just breathed the imposing atmosphere that is synonymous with a lot of classic second wave black metal. I just had to do something with these impressions.
There were quite a few worthwhile examples when it came to this kind of music. The early albums of Blut Aus Nord, Falkenbach and of course Bathory and Burzum specifically because they were one man bands too (at least at some point), but there is a whole array of Scandinavian, Slavic and even some German bands that I would consider inspirational.
You’ve been active in a number of bands, lately also with a new project named ‘Slithering Decay’. Can you tell something about your musical endeavors and the latest projects you are working on?
I’ve been in quite a few bands and projects in the last 25+ years. The latest band Slithering Decay is inspired by all those great albums that were released in the Stockholm scene in the early nineties. I was in a death metal band too at the time, but we honestly lacked the skill and knowledge to write and perform music that was even remotely listenable. So this is basically a second attempt to pay tribute to that sound and feel. We released our first demo (tape!) last year and are currently writing our debut album. Hopefully, we will be able to release it later this year. We’re also looking into releasing another Weihan album.
Over the years, Theudho would appear to have embraced different aspects and themes in the realm of paganism, history and aesthetic representation on the album covers. Has this been a journey for you in a sense?
The lyrics have been inspired by themes from all over the Germanic realm, from the Bronze Age to Medieval times; that’s indeed quite a broad range. One could say that the lyrical themes gradually became a bit more obscure as obvious sources of inspiration were depleted early on. The additional issue is that a lot of bands are fishing in the same pond as far as lyrical inspiration goes, so it is a necessity to dig a bit deeper.
As for the aesthetics of the album covers, I tend to prefer actual paintings instead of photographs or digital art. We couldn’t find a suitable historical painting for the “When Ice Crowns the Earth” album, so that is the only one with a photograph as cover art. Definitely my least favorite one.
You’ve recently released ‘De Roep van Het Woud’ on Heidens Hart. What can you tell about this record and its message or concept?
The new album might surprise people as it does sound quite different compared to the old albums. The actual material is constructed differently as far as the compositions go. I use different guitar tunings and the philosophy behind the mix has changed, too. It sure sounds more “black metal”; most people seem to agree that this is the best Theudho album so far.
This time around I also chose to change the way I approached lyrics. The big change obviously is that all the lyrics are in Dutch. Instead of merely re-interpreting known tales or myths, most lyrics were conceived outside in interaction with nature or historical monuments or sites; trying to see heathenism as a living, continued tradition rather than a dusty literary one.
As I understand, you’ve done most of the work for this album by yourself. What made you chose to do that? Is it really a practical choice or is there perhaps also a sense of craftsmanship and creativity involved?
The main reason is convenience, really. The guys in the last full line-up are great musicians and people and greatly appreciate their contributions, but in general, I like to rely on other people as little as possible. The time was right to return to the original one-man band incarnation of Theudho and just do everything by myself.
How did the whole recording process and writing of the album take place? Where did you do most of the work and what sort of resources provide you with inspiration and input for the creative aspect of it?
I recorded everything at my own place. The writing and demo process was one phase where songs would get written, revisited after some months and then subsequently tweaked, re-written or even discarded.
When I finished the demos, I basically only kept the tempo tracks/metronome settings and redid the whole thing with a tighter, smoother and more convincing performance. The actual inspiration comes from a few different places, both literally and figuratively. I travel quite a bit, so there’s always new locations that leave an impression. Next to that, I tend to read a lot, so that offers a lot of new information and insights as well.
The title translates roughly as ‘The call of the forest’. Now, this may be a metaphorical forest of in general the call of a forest, but do you have a specific forest in mind and what makes it call so strongly?
The title of the album is not really meant to be taken literally. It refers to the contrast between the urbanized, Christian world versus untamed nature, which was regarded as “pagan”. The latter was obviously demonized, but ultimately still is the natural habitat in which mankind evolved for millions of years.
You specifically use the term pagan to describe your style of music. How do you relate paganism to life in this day and age? Is it a look backward or a re-application of ideas and is it more to you than a thematic vehicle for Theudho?
It is a philosophical stance in life – I hate to use the word religion because people seem to define religion by the characteristics of the cluster of Middle Eastern religions that dominate large parts of the world today. In the West, the modern consensus seems to be that being religious is synonymous with being intellectually challenged, mentally weak and inept in science, technology, … One only needs to visit countries in the Far East (where people have the highest IQ in the world, after all) to see that this contradiction doesn’t make sense and is unnecessary. It did not exist in Europe in Classical Antiquity for that matter, either.
As you deal with themes of Germanic history and mythology, you are probably bound to be misinterpreted at times (as seems to be the faith of many bands doing this) or even lumped into the NS category. Has this happened to Theudho and how do you view this matter?
Trying to comply with the sensitivities or correcting the misconceptions of others is a Sisyphean task. A much wiser man than me, the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, already advised: “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”
Are there still interesting things happening in the black metal scene today and how do you feel about the whole shift in sounds with more progressive bands moving in different directions?
I have to admit that I’m not really keeping track of what’s new and worthwhile. My tape trading days are long behind me, my shelves are bulging as is and I don’t have time to listen to a lot of music. If something survives the initial hype or buzz, I’ll get to hear it sooner or later anyway.
Which bands from your neck of the woods would you recommend at this time?
I coincidentally got the new album of Kludde last week and I would definitely recommend giving it a listen.
Do you have any advice for those wanderers who are feeling ‘the call of the forest’?
“Wit is needful
to him who travels far:
at home all is easy.
A laughing-stock is he
who nothing knows,
and with the instructed sits.”
What future plans do you currently have with Theudho?
I can’t reveal too much at this point in time, but a Dutch band and I are talking about putting out some music together later this year as a split release. Besides that, I’m working on new material for the next album.
If you had to describe Theudho as a dish, what would it be and why?
Well, that’s an original and unexpected question. I guess horse meat would be appropriate. Why? Christians outlawed the consumption of horse meat because it was a heathen custom. I’m sure it still offends a fair share of people even today.
Europe has a wealth of nations with separate identities and traditions, but in some occasions even between those countries, you find identities. The Basque country, partly in Spain and partly in France, is an ancient culture with a language that differs from anything else on the continent. Iluntze is a product and an expression of that identity.
Synder is the sole member behind the band and is currently (at the time of our contact) residing in the far another side of Europe, studying in Lithuania. He was kind enough to tell something more about his project, origin and the meaning behind Iluntze.
Tell me about Iluntze, how did this project get started?
Hello there! Well, Iluntze is a music project that helps me to elaborate my music ideas. I had some other music bands in the past, from high school rock covers bands to different failed projects, from Folk to Death metal. Mostly, the main problem was the coordination with band members and the different music perspective we had. When I moved to Bilbao in 2015 to start my university studies, my interested in black metal started increasing. This events mixed with my interest around Medieval-Ancient period and my craving to record my own creations gave birth to Iluntze. Going back to 2016, when I recorded my first demo, I realize that maybe I should have waited more and work more in the songs and process of recording. I didn’t have any proper equipment to record and my skills in this field were really low. This made me simplify my songs and to don’t allow me to record the lyrics of Ama Ilargia Ama Eguzkia (Mother moon, Mother sun) and Iluntze.
What does the name mean and what is its origin?
Iluntze means dusk. The root -IL is old, even found in inscriptions from Roman times, and it can be understood as ¨Night or Death¨. This word root is really interesting for me since many words have it, such as Ilargi (Moon), -IL (Night, death)+argi (light) or Hilerri (Graveyard), -IL (Death)+ Herri (Village). This interpretation of Night and death is really related to the Basque mythology, where the Day was the daytime of the living beings and the Night was one of the death spirits. So, Iluntze basically means ¨The process of turning night¨. I just liked the name and its sonority and I think I was right choosing it.
You identify as Basque musician with lyrics in this language as well, and themes derived from it. Can you tell me something more about this and what it is your music really is telling?
I really like this theory that explains how your main language influences your way of think thanks to how the language rules interact with your brain (Probably this is quite poorly explained haha). Well, besides I speak some few languages besides Basque, when I think about Iluntze and when I play music, my mind thinks in Basque. Since I was a child, I have been into European history (and Prehistory, Paleolithic times and so on), especially, into medieval years. The city where I come from (Pamplona-Iruña) and the landscapes surrounding it probably had some influence in my music but when I focus in the storytelling, my main inspiration is my own interpretations of Basque mythology and history. You can perceive some kind of nostalgia about old times attached to some rejection of the modern world. We also have auto-parody style lyrics like in Itziarren Semea (The son of Itziar- the name of my mother), where we see some kind of medieval parody of my character.
The artwork and whole style is very typical, what bands inspired you for your sound and the mood of Iluntze? I am mostly reminded of some of the French bands like Peste Noire on their La Chaisse-Dyable.
I am very happy with the overall result of the artistic part of the last demo. The Digifile edition released by Dawn of the Murk (Darkwoods) is really beautiful and the Illustrator, Alvaro M. Buendia did a splendid job. Peste Noire, musically, is one of my biggest influences and I kinda think that this influence can be perceived in my music. But mostly, depends in what I want to share when I think about making a new song. Sometimes, Dissection, Burzum or Isengard makes a big impact at the time of creating the song but when I’m in a rancid and musty mood, Peste Noire style arises. Their first works are masterpieces and I especially love ‘Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor’, really nice artistic style and very melodic sounds.
You are currently located in Lithuania, has that made the desire to make music about your land of origin more strong? And how did you end up there?
Currently, I have been living in this country for almost a year, although I’m coming back to Basque Country in a few weeks, to finish my studies and continue working on Iluntze. Well, firstly I came here to continue my studies but it seems I have found a deeper feeling towards this country, its forests, and people. Lithuania is a big musical inspiration, by its landscapes, history, and culture. For future Iluntze’s work, I will try to reflect this influence, maybe with Lithuanian Folkish influences or even singing in the language.
Iluntze was born in Basque Country and developed in those lands full of mountains. But this time expended in Lithuania is understood as meditation and inspirational. In this time, even though I haven’t created any music for Iluntze besides a few lyrics, I’m trying to improve my clean voice and focus Iluntze’s future.
You’ve recorded 2 demo’s this far, Antzinako Oihartzunak being the latest. What can you tell me about this release and the effort behind finding your sound with Iluntze?
The effort given and done behind this last release has been much bigger than in the first demo. I think that I have evolved the quality of the composition and started defining a sound direction. I was lucky to made contact with the label Darkwoods who has supported me a lot. I wanted to work in a proper way the artistic part of Iluntze so I contacted with Alvaro for that. Finally, I tried to improve my skills with music production, so overall, I think that this last demo has been a big step for Iluntze. To summarize, better songs, better production, beautiful physical edition, and nice collaborations have been archived this year. I hope that my next demo will at least as big improvement compared with the previous one.
How do you go about the recording and writing process for these records? Do you do everything by yourself and is it in one session or over multiple? And how do you craft the songs?
Till this last demo, I have done everything, from playing to recording, besides the mastering of Antzinako Oihartzunak. First of all, I create the melodies and riff with the guitar and later I start with the drums (by computer), that helps me to give a structure to the songs. When the drums are done, I start making the bass line and recording it. Later, I record the final version of the guitars with a shitty microphone and my amp. In the meanwhile, I think and write the lyrics so when all the instrumental parts are recorded, I record the voice. Quite a lot of work, so for futures demos, EP or LP I will try to search for collaborations.
Can you tell me more about the Ignis Fatuus collective?
We are a powerful lobby with the only objective of world domination through money control. In our free time and good days, we just name our self as Ignis Fallus.
Regional identity in Spain is very important. As you identify as Basque can you tell me how you view this and how it works through in Iluntze?
Well, since my mother language is Basque, my culture and traditions are Basque and my ancestors were Basque I obviously identify myself as Basque. This does not mean I do not like Spain or France. Both are beautiful countries with many positive (and negative) things to say about them. Being part of the Spanish state, I should not be fool rejecting this fact and reality. Iluntze has received a lot of support from Spain and I really appreciate that. But, on the other hand, Iluntze’s reality is Basque, from the atmosphere I try to create to the message of the lyrics, and probably that’s one of the most important characteristics of the band.
Can you tell me a bit more about Basque metal? Particularly that which employs the Basque language. When did this get started and which bands were the first to do it?
I would say that the metal is still popular in Basque Country, probably by its side relation with the Punk. Personally, I don’t know much about the Metal status in the French Basque Country. I know that Gojira is from there but they may not identify themselves as Basques. Besides that, I know plenty of basque metal bands that sing in Basque. I’m not an expert on this topic but probably one of the most influential bands has been SU TA GAR, classic speed heavy metal. Taking it to my terrain -black metal- Triarchy of Vasconia split is really important. It was a nice collaboration in 2001 between 3 Basque Black-Folk bands –Ilbeltz, Adur and Aiumeen Basoa.
Which bands from your region should people really check out?
Since the beginning of the century, we still have other good black metal bands, as Nakkiga or Numen. From Iginis Fatuus we have Aehrebelsethe, who recently released its first work. And finally, last week I discovered a new death metal band that sounds really brutal, Bullets of Misery.
Going out from metal, I would recommend folk artist as Benito Lertxundi or Mikel Laboa. I cannot forget about other bands as Hertzainak or Kortatu. Well, thinking about this in a deeper way, there is a strong local music environment in the Basque Country so I recommend everyone to check it out.
What future plans do you have for Iluntze?
Exiting question! There are many plans going on. First of all, I will start recruiting members so we will be able to play live. Second of all, I’m coming back home in the following weeks so I will start creating Iluntze’s next demo. This demo is gonna be something big, some kind of double demo where we will find my own songs in one side and black metal covers of traditional Basque songs in the other one. In the meanwhile, I will probably record a couple of songs for a split between the bands of Ignis Fatuus. I will reprint the design of the first t-shirt due to its success and at the same time, work in a new one with the singer of No Sanctuary. Many more things are in my mind but probably it’s too soon to reveal them
If you had to describe Iluntze as a dish, what would it be and why?
Roasted chestnuts (and if there are worms inside, more protein for the body haha). Well, you need to fight to open them but once it’s done you find something really tasty and hot ;).
Label: Tour de Garde
With this album, Wrang is dedicating the music to their home city of Utrecht. It’s also known as the Domstad and as you can see, that’s what the title refers to. This is their first full-length, titled ‘ Domstad Swart Metael’. Truth be told, it’s quite the remarkable display of Dutch black metal!
Members from the group have also been active in Weltschmerz, Grafjammer, Nevel and Iron Harvest, but of course many, many more. Their debut full length is only five tracks, but what a pummeling force of violence it contains.
Well, let’s destroy everything today with a wry smile on our faces, right? Wrang launches into the anthemic title track with gusto. ‘Domstad Swart Metael’ is an 8-minute show of force with an overwhelming opening and visceral patterns, all interwoven in violence. The music is particularly tight, with here and there some surprising chanting passages by the Utrecht black metallers. Singer Galgenvot is particularly present throughout the record, but on ‘Propaganda der Afvalligen’ we also hear some kick-ass guitar riffs with a bit of a classic heavy metal vibe coming on.
Regardless, the band sticks to doom and gloom, with heavy sizzling passages, like that fire and brimstone intro of ‘Stormend naar de Nietigheid’. It’s a song full of capturing melodies and darkness, delivered very meticulously once more. The driven pace is whipping the song up in a frantic bit of violence, but how good is that? The song builds to its rabid crescendo and then it simply falls apart. It’s only a prelude to the violent upheaval that is the final tune of the album. This record firmly establishes Wrang as one of the slickest and bad-ass black metal bands from the Netherlands, and that’s saying something!
Band: Realm of Wolves
‘Oblivion’ is the first full-length of this Hungarian trio, Realm of Wolves. Formed in 2018, the band has moved fast in their trajectory to create a debut after a demo and EP. The album comes in at the right point in between black metal and post-rock, so probably not suitable for hardliners.
As the melodic tunes open up on ‘Cascadia’, the title already tells us something of what to expect. Acoustic tremolo picking accompanies the swooning sound, which sounds warm and comforting. As we launch into ‘Ignifer’, we launch into something larger than life. The lyrics deal with the natural realm and clearly the Cascadian aspect runs deeper than aesthetics as the sonorous tune runs on. ‘Old Roots’ adds a bit more power to that whole sound, with some stomping rhythm and forceful delivery, but overall the listener can easily flow through this record as it just moves along.