Tag Archives: black metal

Underground Sounds: The Malnàtt Collective – Pianura Pagana

Label: Il Male Production
Band: Malnàtt/The Malnàtt Collective
Origin: Italy
Since 1999 the group The Malnàtt Collective has been paving the way with their experimental metal. Playing with poetry, futurism and black metal, they’ve settled on… Well, that’s hardly settling you hear on ‘Pianura Pagana’. Their logo even contains a bit of Marinetti’s futuristic writing, suggesting the perpetual, machine-motion of the dynamic art movement. Peculiar? Indeed, but well worth listening to.
The core of the group is Helios Pu, also Porz, who has rand the mechanism for a good 20 years now. He also played in Marbas Cult, Buzzum, Vedova and probably other projects. Surrounding him is a never rotating line-up of musicians, filling in the vacant slots. Translated from Bolognian dialect, Malnàtt translates as ‘swine’.

You might not think of the combination directly, but the melodic and emotional Italian singing, combined with metal riffing and poetry delivers a powerful, atmospheric experience. Call it avant-garde, or atmospheric black metal, it matters not, because this is unlike anything you’ve listened to before. After a brief intro, the tune ‘Io ti propongo’ opens in a rather common way, with blast beats and remarkably clean riffs. It’s when the melancholic singing pierces through, that you get the uncanny experience, where metal and the cantautori of Italy meet.

During ‘Il Collettivo Malnatt’, the group moves into a more power metal direction, with dramatic, powerful songs and big movements. Bravely and boldly, the band implements poetry and art into a sound that is so unlike anything I’ve heard before. It’s innate melancholy and power almost completely obscure the thrash roots the band has (though they shine through now and then). Limits hardly hinder The Malnàtt Collective, as they move to a more punk-driven sound on ‘Chiese Chiuse’. I would call this whole album fascinating and daring, and it should be listened to a lot more.

Underground Sounds: Garhelenth – About Pessimistic Elements & Rebirth Of Tragedy

Label: Satanath Records/The Eastern Front
Band: Garhelenth
Origin: originally Iran, now Armenia

Garhelenth must have a story to tell, since the band is on its third run, currently residing in Armenia after a spell in Georgia. The band now comes on with their latest record ‘About Pessimistic Elements & Rebirth of Tragedy’, which is quite the charismatic release if I may say so.

This is only the second full length for the band, which has been active since 2010. The duo is dedicated to creating true black metal, devoid of any trends or cool sounding niches like DSBM or blackgaze, yet they’ve been lumped in the depressive corner fairly regularly with their dark lyrics concerned with themes of morals and mental states.

An ominous, dark ambient intro with mad, cackling laughter welcomes the listener to the strange realm of this band. After that reception, we launch into it with the song ‘Destruction of the Will’, which sounds quite mellow in a sense. The music forms a continuous flow of ripping riffs that fit together as a fish’s bones in rapid succession. The peculiar chanting is a noteworthy feature, but almost every song has some oddity happening. It’s exactly that, which makes the band stand out a lot.

The barked vocals work well with the particularly melodic and emotive songs and the harrowing riffs on tracks like ‘To Impersonal Mankind’ really do their job. The almost whiny noise, sustains the negative that permeates the sound completely. I particularly enjoyed the slow, threatening pace of ‘Perspective of Exorbitant’, which is strong, powerful, but also on a steady pace full of lumbering drums and grand movements. Even some operatic singing is added to the mix in granting the duo an even more strong sound. An exceptionally strong record, with strong emotional overtones in a classic jacket.

Underground Sounds: Arkthinn – VI

Label: Fallen Empire Records
Band: Arkthinn
Origin: Unknown

Preface to this review is that the band Arkthinn is a completely mysterious entity ‘from the north’, connected to the bands Mahr and Voidsphere, who make up the Prava Kollektiv. Only one band has known origins, which are in the USA and France. Probably, Arkthinn shares atleast part of that origin. This is their latest demo, titled simply ‘VI’.

The band likes to repeat themselves in certain aspects of their work, like the magnificent images of the sky on the cover of each album. This one features a mountain peak underneath a starry sky, with a snow-capped peak. An image that instantly sets the mood and sparks the imagination of the listener.
There’s something hazy to the sound Arkthinn spits out on ‘I’. Aptly named by the way, so it gives away nothing in further information for the listener. It’s heavily distorted sound, creates a distance to the tormented wailes and in effect emulates the starry sky in its untouchable, ungraspable nature. This works particularly well for the listener experience, as the 20+ minute track unfolds in to a cacophonous battery of unrelenting chaos with blunted blast beats and inhuman screeches and abyssal wails.
The second track is a lot less dynamic, but even so, much more harrowing. Droning sounds enter the vastness of space and form a singularity that disturbes the cold silence. None of the sounds is clear enough to really make out, but it is very clear that the music is not ment to please but disturb from the get go. Twenty minutes adrift in the dark and by that time fear and nervousness emerge in the listener. A bold effort indeed by Arkthinn.

De Veneficas Inferi: Pyrenean black metal from Andorra

Landlocked by the Pyrenees lies the small nation Andorra. A left-over of past struggles throughout Europe, the nation is a rarity, ruled by the French president and the Bishop of Urgell. The country also has the highest life-expectancy in the world. It is home to the act De Veneficas Inferi.

The country is known as the setting for various myths and legends, giving it a particular aura and attraction as one of those places where something else may still hold sway. The voice of De Veneficas Inferi speaks in mysterious words, befitting this high place in the mountains.

You would imagine that the mountainous nation generates a very specific sort of sound and experience. That is very true for this one-man band. Séan B. is its sole member and kind enough to answer some questions about his project.

Andorrean black metal from the Pyrenees

Could you be so kind to introduce yourself and your project? Are there other people involved in De Veneficas Inferi?
De Veneficas inferi is a one-man act, a spiritual and philosophical representation of a resilient ‘ars moriendi’, that at some point draws a line as a transcendental ritual. It may be narcissistic art. The futility of pleasure. But the ego of oneself acts in a work that ends in vain, in conjunction with the same life as the chaos of this; madness and the symbolism of nothingness. A nihilistic expression of the evolution of a person or a destiny of kindness to learn. I, the path of a sorcerer in hell, will be the one to narrate this path. This is what De Veneficas Inferi represents.

How did you set up De Veneficas Inferi? Do you have other projects going?
De Veneficas Inferi arises from the return to my roots, In Ignem Aeternum. It might be a homecoming to the black metal that I once shared and composed with Manu Rodríguez (TFWM, Morth Wyrtha and Torb Key’s Master) at the end of 2007. It could not be another melodic project and as truly elegiac as it was then, but the balm is the same. So I differ from another solitary project that I started in 2010 and that I coexisted until 2016: Aessênce. Declaration of a trip in the light and noisy, depressive and tempestuous urban modernity.

I’ve listened to your 2016 EP. Is there more work by you out there? How would you describe your specific music style?
No more than what remains from the ashes of my beginnings, Bloody Violent Little Red, and its conceptual core in Aessênce. A single recorded in 2008, rescued and released along with the consequent and subsequent works of Aessênce. Although, for my consideration, it’s an endeavor in hiatus.

As far as the style of music is concerned, with De Veneficas Inferi, I do not differ from a genre like black metal, as feeling. I could specify the style as Pyrenean Black Metal as part of the concept. It would not be erratic, in that there’s a representation of where I was born and I’m currently living in, winter passages through the Pirene mortuary monument. Part of its elder or modern histories and cantatas, non-sees or popular experiences and myths.

Your project has a very specific aesthetic in the artwork you share and use. Can you tell more about that and the general idea or concept behind De Veneficas Inferi?
De Veneficas Inferi might be faceless, non-image aesthetic that merges with the arcadian medieval iconography. Inspiration, partly, of those who agreed with the individual mysticism. Incentive, greatly, of the land I’m from. The impetus of draconian tales. Catalyst aside Luciferian visions. And encouraged by Anubis dexterity. All, or none of them.

The Great Decay appears to follow a narrative through the record. Could you tell more about that?
The Great Decay as a first unique concept, set, differs from each part in allegories represented by demons or fates, somewhat they were once, the Roman genii.
The first demon is ritual (“Daemonic I, Stone Witches”). The second is vanity (“Daemonic II, Altar Of Vanities”). The third is a circle (“Daemonic III, Nemini Parco”). Just as the first demon is belief. The second is conflict. The third is eternal return. Memento mori, Vanitas and Dansa de la Mort. Three concepts in order to the beautiful and concise adoration of Death. Concepts intimately related to Western society, whether in the contemporary pseudo-medieval times we live in or in past ages. Concepts in Aristotelian dyes. Concepts of the most glorious Rome. Death is, has been and will be godsified. Choose to feel dread or dance with the terror. That might be what life is for and what you leave behind for the future that you will never see.

Separately each piece of music has its own idea. The first demon, a witch anthem, a replica of those that once sounded in the Andorran mountains and lakes so, therefore, the Pyrenees, performed in sort akelarres and coronations of witches; lost pagan bonds or effusive carnal adorations. The second demon, a song to the memory of the belligerence that, still, this old Europe drags. The third demon, a song to the Dance of the Death, a rhythm of drums and dance of skeletons, histrionic representations of those Danse Macabre that still serenely vibrant between the valleys and the Mediterranean Sea.

How do you go about creating your music? What does the writing and recording process look like and what sources do you use for inspiration?
As it is absolutely an art without limit there is no process other than the equal limitation in our life. The same music is a personal experience. And it is the same inspiration that manipulates the process, which can last a short period or years. But the whole makes the concept as a product: once I have in mind this concept is practiced in influences and experiences. It’s a no more. There is always the intention to go to the nucleus of the idea since technically there is an experiment in the composition, the lyrics, and the background; to later or during the recordings.
Aside, the inspiration is the own project in question although I nourish of external sources and influences as any other kind of. If don’t, you kill every form of creation. Random or deliberated.

Does hailing from Andorra play any part in how you shape your music? As in, is your location part of the art you make?
The Andorran monolithic society has been an influence, of course. But it is his legacy, inheritance of the dark age, that I embrace in its rustic emblem. From its imperative nature to its black history, whether in the past or more recent come together in misfortunes or fantastic jeweled tales, processions of its feudal people, summon the soul of a Romanesque past. Not its religious aspect, but its dirt that emanates each individual that forms the place, its anachronistic hierarchy in harmony with the remains that remain of that dark age.

Is there something like an Andorra metal scene or is it mostly connected to the Spanish and French scenes? What places would be required visits for metalheads visiting Andorra?
There was, then, a strong Death Metal scene from the beginning and middle of the 2000s in affiliation with a sort of melodic bands like Persefone, Perseverance, Egophobia or The Ethereal. In relation, others kind of played core or trasher like as Umbrella Corpse and its entourage Far From Beyond or It Never Rains Eternally. Many of its members co-segmented in their interests as bands and evolved to reach the Prog Collective that coexists today with continuity with its greatest exponents, Persefone or Nami in its Death Metal side and others more colorful(ed) by rock and soaked in funk, psychedelia or darkwave as Experiments or Redthread.

Chapter and verse and more or less at the same time Morth Wyrtha and Torb loyalized their concept of Black Metal in the Principality Valleys. They were those who idealized the concept of Legions Pirenaiques (inspiration may, in advance, come from Les Légions Noires of France and/or the Norwegian Inner Circle), lyrically inspired by the winter and the Pyrenees so parse a Pyrenean Black Metal Circle.

Strong dishes such as Guturalfest or Testarrock were concerts showing many of these bands. Usual concert organizations such as Dijousderock still have continuity today. And as far as I know, there are certain groups related to the noisy and melodramatic panorama of the Catalan Black Metal (Foscor, O.D.I, Maleït or Entropia). Fuzzed concerning it’s gothic and anarcho-satanist contour, more precise from Barcelona, such as Akollonizer.

Although many of the places that were stalked by metal music already disappeared, there are some places in the capital city, like the Rockódrom or the Harlem Bar, where some formations are exposed Metal bands, among others styles that do not share anything with this genre. The Harlem Bar also recently exhibited and disseminated graphic artists, such as Print This Valley Collective composed by societies such as Dead Flag (artistic contributions made with bands like Persefone, Witchthroad Serpent, Malämar or Belzebong) that have done really spellbinding prints.

Are there other bands from Andorra that people should really be checking out?
Even though they are directly or not directly related to the orbital of metal’s genre there are formations that personally for his style of music associated with the drone and darkwave electronic music I might recommend.

The adroit conceptual musical project in several facets and faces that Nazo Fushigi builds includes a dark music, sometimes cacophonous sometimes lucidly melodic, which I appreciate in its artistic whole. Thespian performance of the Soizu proposal, by a  member of Akollonizer, is powerful and hypnotic in its system plus drone and subtle, clearly inspirational. Also, in addition, would like to praise the satirical sort of humor indeed, hard rock blended core of Mordigans done on “El Sabor de una Taza de Té”, and so the jazzy experienced productions of the veteran band Hysteriofunk.

What future plans do you have for De Veneficas Inferi?
I am involved in the slow process of a subsequent LP, mainly lyrically and aesthetically related and inspired by the principle of Prometheus, a myth torn apart in time and countless as names as the Devil has; a lecture of those Bearer of Light, following a Luciferian journey to the Abyss to present ourselves in a Hellish Dante’s way a ethos of his story. May I continue my path.

If you had to compare your product to a dish, what would it be? And why?
Maybe compare it with wine. That sour wine that when you’re satiated invites you to vomit, but you still drink it to quench your thirst. It is worth concomitant it with few lemon stems, as more acid better. The reason is the fun of the same drink and a long night.

Oscuro Mito: Bolivian Death Dancers

Bolivia is a South-American nation, still struggling at some fronts to become one of the stable entities on the continent. Life is interesting there and the metal they play is fierce and proud. Two words that aptly describe black metallers Oscuro Mito.  Often overshadowed by other nations, like Brazil, in music, they are carving out their place on the map.

Bolivia is a nation without an obvious origin, perhaps even more in existence for the mutual benefit of its elements. South-America, like Africa in a way, was chopped up by colonial powers and when nations declared independence, the shape had little to do with any original ethnicities or state-entities.

Bolivia’s borders have been sifting through the years and even in 2003 a dispute raged with Chile over part of the nation’s borders. Oscuro Mito expresses a particular part of the ancient cultures, which have become muddled through the ages, unfortunately. I had some questions for the band and vocalist Fernando and guitar player Andres had time to answer them.

Dancing untill death follows with Oscuro Mito

Hey guys, how are you doing? Can you introduce yourself?

Fernando here, I’m the vocalist
Hey! Andres, here I’m guitarist and make some chorus
We are the founders of Oscuro Mito

How did Oscuro Mito get started? How did you guys meet and what got you into metal in the first place?

Back in October 2008, Armin, Fernando, and Andres decided to make something different mixing music common among them. They used Black Metal and folkloric Bolivian music (it would be Andean music more precisely). Bolivian Traditions and tales are full of stories, experiences, and myths; we chose to talk about that traditions, but we only took that dark gloomy and those that have mystic energy.

As an influence, you name bands like Bathory and Windir alongside Bolivian folk groups. Can you tell me what you took from these Scandinavian bands and what you found appealing in them? Following that, how did you bring these two aspects together?

It had started as a rebellion, burning churches as a repudiation of Christianity. Throwing what it had been self-imposed and embrace back what you are as sons of Odin, it was the clear message. Oscuro Mito are not Scandinavian, Oscuro Mito is from Bolivia.

In your music, you put ancestral legends of the Inca and Aymara heritage. What made you chose to do this and can you also shed some light on what sort of stories these are for people who are completely unfamiliar with it?

Because Scandinavian speak their own heritage and people from Bolivia should talk about their own.

How do you make sure your sound is black metal, but not in the Scandinavian style. What to you makes your music similar but at the same time distinct?

That’s a really good question you know, I think it’s only the feeling when you do compose the songs. I think music leaves things on your soul and this comes out when you are making music. Music is about feelings it’s been said, and you hear this on Oscuro Mito, it’s music inspired on Black Metal from the north but it’s done by Bolivians and it doesn’t have to sound like the north.

We use traditional instruments on all three songs on our demo. About song structures I’d rather say that we mix traditional rhythms than structures, and example is ‘Danza en trance’, it mixes a traditional rhythm called pujllay and electric guitars and metal riffs, basically in this song we used this rhythm for the chorus and verses.

I’ve been listening to your demo/EP ‘Mientras las nubes ciegan la luna…’. The sound is very specific, very unique and I find it very captivating. Can you tell me how you shaped this sound and of course this record and did you find any inspiration in bands that approached black metal similarly?

The three songs were inspired by Bolivian traditions/myths. We tried to concentrate that energy on these topics on the sound of the music. ‘Murmullos de espectros’ is a very common tale that happens on the countryside in a small town. A goblin that lurks in the trees scares a person who was kind of drunk and was going home. So basically, it’s the energy taken by the goblin and the rush to get home.

‘Danza en trance’ is an old underground tradition where a person dances until dying, mixed with a traditional rhythm called ‘pujllay’ (this word is in Quechua another ancient tongue spoken in Bolivia). I think we have found on this song a good mix between metal and Bolivian folklore. It is also very the preferred song for our fans, it also has a video clip that you might like to see.

‘Danza en trance’ is a tradition that has a person dancing until dead. This idea would call your attention, wouldn’t it? Dancing till dead, who would ever dance till they die. It has to be something else… who would choose dance till dead? The answer comes with the culpability of something. Something that makes you feel really bad until the point you want to die. Betraying and killing your best friend for nothing, Killing your mother or whatever really bad to get you broken and wishing to die. This kind of stories on somehow chills you or scare you. This kind of stories is what we want to talk about.

Then we have ‘Luz naciente’ represents a well-known tradition, it is the Inca’s new year tradition that is celebrated on 21 of June Most likely it is on Bathory music in Twilight of the gods or Hammerheart discs. You can hear in ‘Danza en trance’ some chorus that has been used as Bathory started to use with clean voices.

Also ‘murmullos de espectros’ moves to a more black metal sound perhaps touching something of Windir or traditional black metal.
I think the 3 songs are talking about the same, thanks for asking this question and I think what is explained on this, it’s the key for understanding the Oscuro Mito demo.

I’ve gathered that you use traditional instruments in your music. What instruments are those and can you describe them? Do you also use them in a live setting and what is the motivation to put these in your music?

Yes, they are called Andean wind instruments; they vary in the size and the sound they produce. We can have zamponia, quena, quenacho, malta, zanca and toyos. All of them look like a pipe maiden of wood, quite like a flute but wider and large. When you blow they produce a sound depending on the length and width.
Yes, we use these instruments alive. We are not Oscuro Mito if the winds are not present, we are dependent on them.

What process do you follow in creating new music? Do the traditional elements have an effect on the songwriting? Do you start with a story or maybe with music and what roles do all band members have?

I can say we didn’t follow a specific flow on composing the songs. Each song followed a different way like writing first the lyrics than the music, thinking about the wind melody and then the guitars, or having a complete song then doing the winds arrangements.
We also said we wanted to compose a song for a specific myth and then I came with a couple of melodies, then each one gave the remaining pieces.

What sort of experience is a live show by Oscuro Mito? As you find inspiration in black metal, do you also apply the ritual elements to a live show?

We are making to watch Oscuro Mito performance a good experience, we have corpse painting as our basic beliefs, headbanging, chorus with the people and I think we transmit the energy set on our music. Once we have a presentation where a person with the same mask that is on ‘Danza en trance’ danced along this song.

South America has a rich and vibrant metal scene all over, but some countries are lesser known here for their metal music. I’m curious if you can tell me a bit about the scene in Bolivia, about its history and bands that really shaped the scene.

It has started in the 90s very narrow, there were a bunch of bands though. Very few are active now: Subvertor, Hate, Bael, Estertor, Infernal Malice, Lilith, and Subterfugio are some names to share on that starting.
Other great bands that are and they are not active I can mention: Necromancy, Katalepsy, Sabathan, Track, Bestial Holocaust and Atmosfera Funebre.

What are things like in a more practical sense? I understand there are quite some cool festivals happening. Are there plenty of places to play and is everything like instruments, rehearsal spaces, studios etcetera easily accessible for metalheads or is it more DIY?

The only problem I’d say is that the music is not well supported; you cannot live here doing metal so for that the studio is not quite accessible.
Yes, there are good amounts of places for shows, most of them are pubs. Nowadays the scene is getting bigger I think because of the internet and its easy way to spread the news there.

Often we take liberties for granted here in my country, so I’m curious if you can sing about whatever you want and if the metal music is tolerated in Bolivia. Is there any sort of censorship or public discouragement?

Not at all, there are shows every city most of the weekends. There are many bands here in Bolivia. You can sing whatever you want.

What bands from your part of the world should people really check out and why?

We’d probably lead you to really big bands and you’d probably think we would, but not, I’d say look into the very bottom of the box you will find really interesting things. Such as the case of Al-Namrood or other middle east bands. I think when you feel and like the things you are doing, you will do some of the best work in music, especially if it is metal.
So you have to look for it, sometimes it takes hard but it worths.

What makes it important for you to put your Bolivian identity in your music?

I’d say it’s kind of a pride of our origins, but I’d say it’s something philosophic idea for our lives, ‘first embrace your culture then you will who you really are’. We admire our culture, we try to honor our culture and we think this can be shared with music as well.

Are you working on any new releases? And what future plans do you have?

We are finishing a new work with 10 songs, and then we will start the production of this work. We are planning to have this ready in next three months.

Alright, if you had to compare Oscuro Mito to a type of food, what food would it be and why?

Well… it would’ve been something very traditional very Bolivian. It would’ve been a very spicy ‘pique macho’.

Thanks for the patient, thanks for your time, thanks for all!

Oscuro Mito

Underground Sounds: Underdark/Antre – Split

Label: Grandad Records
Band; Antre/Underdark
Origin: United Kingdom

Underdark is a gritty sounding band from Nottingham, who combine screamo and black metal. Their message seems to be both in the Forgotten Realms and anti-fascist, with a name referring to the dark under-realms of evil dark-elves. The Britons have one EP to their name and plenty of shows on the calendar.

Antre hails from the same parts, and you can find the bands Bandcamp page here. These guys, likewise, have one EP out. Both groups add one song to this split, with pretty bad-ass cover art that I find, makes the record more appealing instantly.

Whether it’s a nod to Mortiis or not, ‘The Smell of Autumn’ by Underdark has an environmental take on the topic of rain and the unique scent it leaves in the air. The hazy riff sounds lazy, it hangs in the air as the omnipresent smell the autumn brings, with its lingering haze. Thudding drums keep the focus on the sharp guitar play, thanks to the dulled sound, as the atmospheric black metal progresses slowly. When it does pick up the pace, it somehow feels muffled, distant and reminds the listener of the distance between the self and the natural realm. One we slowly destroy with our human inventions.

Antre takes a more melodic approach, bringing down vast waves of sound, that surge over the listener. The sound is pleasant, yet remains strong and comes on in full force during this track. The vocals are uttered in a foul, harsh bark, which makes them mildly hard to make out, but then again isn’t that a regular feature in the genre? In a constant onslaught, the band hammers down on the listener. Never relenting with a harrowing beauty to their sound.
A small taste of a new breed of bands. Make sure to check them out for more endeavors.

Hades Ghosphell: Laotian metal upstarts

The land-locked nation of Laos, or in full ‘Lao People’s Democratic Republic’, is not a place known to be brimming with heavy metal artists. There is a thriving underground scene happening and interaction between the south-east Asian countries occurs often. One of those bands is Hades Ghosphell.

The band plays black metal, which does make them stand out a scene that is overwhelmingly death metal of the more brutal kind. The band was kind enough to answer some of my questions about playing metal in Laos.

Photo credits: 906 Photography

Hades Ghosphell

Could you start by introducing the band? How did you guys get together, can you give me a bit of a history of the band?

The current line-up consists of Lounty (Drums), Tun (Bass), Ben (Guitar) & Aof (Vocals).

Ben: the band was initially formed by Aof and me. I was in Laos for 2 years already and was desperately looking for an underground scene, to no avail. One day a friend brought me to a fun little bar, where there was an acoustic duo playing covers. The singer went on break, grabbed a beer at the counter and asked the owner to play some heavy shit. That was Aof. We spent the rest of the night gulping beers and talking about metal, about the local scene, and how we definitely had to start a band. That’s how Hades Ghosphell started.

We struggled a bit to recruit a drummer and a bassist but eventually managed to cover a couple of classics and organized our first concert (and the first black-metal concert ever in Laos!) in October 2010. I then moved to Thailand for 3 years and our vocalist has had some serious health issues. But we are now back in full force, with a new line-up ready to lay down some devastating shit!

Do I understand correctly that you are French? So how did you end up in Laos?
You understood correctly indeed, je suis Français. I came to Laos 10 years ago as a Trainee for 2 months (on a hydropower project), as part of my university graduation in Supply Chain. The Project then proposed me a 2-year contract at the end of my internship, which I immediately accepted. I joined a logistics company afterward, moved to Thailand for 3 years, then moved back to Laos 3 years ago and here I am!

What made you guys get into metal music and which influences do you consider your most important ones for the sound of Hades Ghosphell?

Morbosidad, Proclamation, Black Witchery, Archgoat, Blasphemy, Tsjuder.

Where does the name Hades Ghosphell come from?

It was proposed by our singer, Aof, and it was immediately adopted. We liked how the imagery of ritual chants in honor of the Underworld could be interpreted in several ways, both literally and figuratively, as our humble and dedicated contribution to the underworld that the metal scene is.

Did you play in other bands before Hades Ghosphell?

Aof: no
Ben: DCS (punk-HxC) back in France, Sapanakhith (brutal death metal) in Laos, REMAINS (thrash metal) in Thailand, Dissevered (brutal death metal) in Laos.
Tun: Acclaim of Sinner (slamming death metal), Rotkin (brutal death metal), Buddhlust (brutal death metal), Dissevered (brutal death metal) and another dozen bands. This guy is everywhere!
Lounty: Morrana (brutal death metal), Killerz Virginal (grind/death)

What story does Hades Ghosphell tell in the music? What sort of themes do you weave into your own works?

The main themes are centered on the denunciation of religious fanatism, the deceptive and manipulative aspects of any religion under their great holy truths. Desecration, basically.
We will talk a bit about our personal battles, as a band, in our future works as well.

Are you currently working on any releases? If so, can you tell more about it?

We are currently preparing a demo and should start recording real soon. We are truly itching to record our first material after so many years and so many struggles. The current line-up is working very well, we have a good alchemy and shitloads of energy to insufflate in our songs.

What is available from you guys this far, is a couple of covers of true originators of black metal. Darkthrone, Burzum, Mayhem. You even have the pigs heads on stage. Are these bands your main inspirators and how far will Hades Ghosphell emulate that sound and feel in their music and live shows? Or are you intending different directions?

These classics are undeniably a special influence, among many, many others. But as said, we now have a solid line-up and are more able (and inclined) to pursue our own sound, our own style. We have been and will continue going for an even rawer sound, more black/death vocals, war drums and incisive riffs.

The original black metal wave fiercely rebelled against Christianity. In your country, Laos, the dominant religion is Buddhism followed by Laotian folk religion. There’s hardly any Christianity to rebel against. How do you look upon these religions in relation to the satanic and profane in your music?

There is a quite consequent Christian community in Laos, but nowhere near important or influent as the Buddhist main base. We are more in an open rejection of the holy, the sacred, and all the deviances it brings and justifies. Buddhism here is very much tainted with Animism, which is more a belief, than a religion as such.
It’s an acceptation that spirits exist in all things and that they can manifest or that you can interact with them. Ethnic animistic ceremonies are more rituals, animal sacrifices are pretty common and it can sometimes be related to black magic. There are a lot of folk’s tales about ghosts, evil spirits and it really can make a good inspiration or base for our materials, as the underworld, the dark and incomprehensible side is omnipresent.

I’m curious about the metal scene in Laos. How big would you say it is and where does it center mostly? What sort of styles are dominant in your country?

It’s definitely still a small scene, with its positive and negative sides, gathering around 30-40 core members. Everything metal happening is in the capital, Vientiane. The good thing is that it is pretty much united, there is no segregation between genres, as soon as it remains underground enough. Everybody knows each other and each concert is like a kinda family reunion hahaha.

But that also means a limited musician pool, with many bands sharing the same guys. Our bass player, Tun, is playing in almost all the bands here! You always have some bitching, people that used to play together and for some reason came to hate each other’s guts, but all in all it remains a very united scene. Brutal death metal is big here, there is also a bit of thrash and Hades Ghosphell for black metal. People do listen to quite a wide spectrum of underground music and usually know their stuff, just not enough musicians to represent more styles.

Can you give me a bit of history of metal in Laos. How did metal come to the country, which bands pioneered the scene, are there any important venues or festivals?

There are some old-schoolers, like Sapphire and The Exile (Canada & US), who played during the 90’s and are actually considered the pioneers of the heavy stuff here. It’s more heavy-metal, but all generations of metalheads here acknowledge and respect them.
Very few die-hard metal fans at that time but they never gave up and although not playing music themselves, they always supported and continue to support the scene. Big Joe is the most prominent figure in this respect.

Then came the next wave circa 2005 (Sapanakhith, Hades Ghosphell, Dictator, Awaken the Dreamer…) and the beginning of the Metal Destruction shows (THE metal event in Laos), organized every year by Big Joe.

Today there are 6-7 active bands, including some youngsters from the new generation who are willing to take on the torch. The Vientiane Death Fest was introduced in 2016 and a new 2018 edition is under preparation, mostly for brutal death. All concerts are organized at bars/discos/restaurants, whose owners are somehow related to the metal scene and are willing to sponsor the gigs.

Do you face any sort of censorship in Laos by the government or other institutions? And how does society look at metal music?

Censorship is real in Laos but luckily the metal scene is not big enough to attract Big Brother’s eyes, so we are not exactly bothered by the communist institutions. We don’t have issues with gigs either, as it is always very friendly. There is, however a strong societal weight on anything or anybody not going with society’s flow.

As you may know, the weight of social rules and regard is pretty important in Asia as a whole, and Laos is no exception. Losing face or appearing shameful to the eyes of society is a much greater humiliation or failure than breaking the law for example. In this context, the external appearances and the musical violence of metal in any form do stand out. As a result, a lot of kids actually stay away from the scene, precisely not to stand out. I personally believe it takes a lot more balls and commitment for Laotian kids to get and stay into metal than, say, in Europe or in the US.

Perhaps a weird question, but is everything easily available to you? Like music, instruments, rehearsal space, recording studio and venues to play live?

Music and merch are now easily available thanks to online stores and it’s really easy to import from neighboring countries, Asia or even internationally. Instruments are another story: there are very few shops and they usually don’t carry a lot of stuff designed for metal musicians. There again we have to rely on import, but it’s always tricky to purchase an instrument/parts without testing beforehand.

The one thing that is easily found in Vientiane is rehearsal studios. There are quite a few and it’s pretty cheap (~5 $ / hour). The equipment provided is crap, but as soon as you have your own gear, no problem. The recording is not an issue either, with a couple of really talented guys for recording & mixing. We are very lucky to have our own rehearsing & recording space with my other band, Dissevered, so we can take all the time needed for practice and recording, it really is super convenient! We plan to record there with Hades Ghosphell, maybe even mix ourselves.

As said previously, all the concerts are organized through connections with bars or discos. They mostly lent us the venue for free, with a percentage of the entrance fees. Plus they are guaranteed to sell quite a nice amount of beers.

Are there any bands from Laos that people should really check out? Can you name them and explain why?
Dissevered (brutal death metal). It’s the first Lao band to sign & release albums on an international label (New Standard Elite, USA). Both Tun (bass) and Ben (guitar) play in this band. Straightforward, ultra-brutal stuff!

Buddhlust (brutal death metal). Another spearhead of the brutal scene here, they just recently joined Reality Fade Records (Ukraine) and are to release their debut album in 2018.
Rotkin (brutal death metal). With just a demo available for the time being, they are the youngsters of the metal scene. Great dudes and tracks, a debut album should be released soon.

What sort of connection do you have with the metal scenes from surrounding countries? Is there any sort of contact and cooperation happening?
Most definitely, we are in touch regularly with the neighboring metalheads, especially in Thailand. No language barriers as Lao people all understand the Thai language. Metal shows in Laos will always see Thai counterparts joining the party and Lao metal heads regularly attend major shows in Thailand. But we also have good friends and contacts in Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia…

It’s a small scene everywhere (except in Indonesia where metal, especially death metal, is huge) so it is pretty common to have gigs with regional bands.

I’m interested in what the connection with Thailand in general is. I’ve noticed that a lot of metal musicians from surrounding countries have moved there. Has this got to do with liberties?
On paper, it is not exactly a good time for liberties in Thailand with the current regime. But in reality, nobody really gives a fuck if you play in a metal band or organize metal gigs, it is just another form of music. So yes, unless you criticize or instigate hate towards the monarchy (which is really not recommended), I would say that the freedom of speech and of being yourself completely is better in Thailand, compared to most of its neighbors.

Plus the scene is good, the public is good, there are some really active organizers who manage to book great international bands…
Traveling to Bangkok from surrounding countries is usually pretty cheap and easy, and staying there for a couple of days will not bleed your bank account dry. You will not have any visa/immigration issues on arrival even if you carry your whole drum set with you.
So yes, all-in-all, Thailand is an easy place to go or to be for underground musicians.

What future plans does Hades Ghosphell have?
A demo very, very soon. Then more composing, more shows too if possible and why not a debut album within early next year… we are back from a long slumber and more eager than ever get things moving forward!

If you had to compare Hades Ghosphell to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
A cured ham. One that you forgot you had, until the day you discover it hidden in a dark corner your fridge and devour it with tears of joy in the eyes.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thanks for the interview man, and keep an eye (and an ear) on the growing Laotian Metal Scene!

Underground Sounds: Is – Into my Own

Label: Wolfspell Records
Band: Is
Origin: Russia

Towards Karelia

Karelia is a fascinating part of the world for me and hearing bands from there, it always evokes a certain imagery. This goes as well for Is, who hail from these northern realms. They captivate their homeland in atmospheric black metal on the album ‘Into My Own’

Is revolves around the sole member and creative mind behind the project, named Nøkken (a reference to a mythic water spirit). In the four year existence of the band, he has produced an immense load of music in various formats. Always the theme revolves around life in the far north, nature and all that it embodies, since that is the magic of Karelian life.

Slowly the music oozes out, with big, lurching movements and a minor melancholy in the guitar arches. Immediately, clouds block the sun as Is delivers their atmospheric black/death. Guttural vocals come up as if rising from the Karelian bogs. On ‘Into My Own’ you really hear the different sides of the band. A clean guitar part, soaring and speaking in its own distinct voice, yet clashes with the heavy battery of blast beat drums and roaring vocals. The guitar-play in an intermezzo even has a bit of jazzy groove to it, which makes these guys so interesting, because at the same time they throw in these eerie synths. Full on contrast, that seems to be the thing for Is.

‘All that is Gold’ takes us into the Opeth realms, with the intro full of feeling. The guitar really becomes the sentimental instrument in the work of Is, where the rhythm section and vocals offer sheer brutality, with again grooving riffs that almost hark to Pantera if the endings were less stiff. But there’s the peculiarity about their sound, it’s very accessible. It flows quite casually, due to an excellent production and now hooked corners to it. Yet you could at some times even lump it into the post-black metal corner, if it wasn’t for the blunt beating of the drums and concrete-grinding roars of the vocals, who take it back to a rougher corner.

Is holds a very own regal beauty, and that’s why you should listen to their music.

Underground Sounds: Akvan – Forgotten Glory

Label: Shaytan Productions
Band: Akvan
Origin: Iran

Some metal is created in corners of the world that seem much more surreal than hell. Akvan is one of those acts. Though Iran apparently has a certain tolerance when it comes to metal (read this article for example), Akvan remains an oddity in the strict country, particularly due to the content of his music, which is strongly anti-Islam. Contrary to the Norwegian teenagers, the price for iconoclasm is a lot higher in his home country.

Akvan started his quest of provocative musicianship in 2015 under the moniker Dominus Vizaresa (as artist name). He’s been extremely prolific in his output and that eventually led to his signing with Shaytan Productions, where the music is released right next to Al-Namrood. A fitting label for an artist that defies normal definitions with music that really makes for something special on ‘Forgotten Glory’.

The intro of ‘Path to Chaos’ instantly takes you to a different place. As the odd radio-samples come in, the pace picks up and the intensity really makes your heart beat faster as the drums rattle and the rambling instruments clang. The vocals cut right down to your bone marrow with a jagged, piercing quality. It’s the use of the setar and tar, that really creates the otherworldly spirit of Akvan. Its primitive fury is evident on ‘King Ov Kings’, with the vocals that must be derived from the ghastly and cruel djinn’s that roam in these realms.

I love how there are these samples and folkish parts interwoven in the structure of the album. It helps to create that magnificent atmosphere of the Orient, while never becoming gimmicky. Akvan pulls of what most artists fearfully steer clear of in that sense on tracks like ‘Realm ov Fire’, not shirking to really ride the mood and implement it into the black metal parts of the songs too.

I could go through this album track by track, but it would be better if you give it a spin yourself. Akvan truly opens the gates to a different world with black metal that embraces a raw and unpolished sound, while completely giving a very own flavor to it. It works through in the bareness of the sound, the rough distortion, and color in the atmospheric elements in the sound. Just let a song like ‘Legacy’ truly drag you along for a moment. Experience how the rooftops look different and even the sky has an aura of elsewhere. To a forgotten past, but not that of a Viking boat and northern gods, but a land which past has been clouded by recent history and wrong perceptions. I would love to learn more from Akvan.

Underground Sounds: Tannöd / Rauhnåcht / Hanternoz – Tannöd, Rauhnåcht – Anciennes Légendes Des Alpes

Label:Percht Records/ ANTIq Records
Band:Tannöd / Rauhnåcht / Hanternoz
Origin: Germany / Austria / France

‘Spukgeschichten – Anciennes Légendes Des Alpes’ is a very peculiar release. Four sides, but a 3-way split release from the bands Tannöd, Rauhnåcht, and Hanternoz. Every band gets a side, and Rauhnåcht filled side D with field recordings from the Alps and a joint rehearsal.

Let’s start introductions with Rauhnåcht, which is a one-man enterprise by excessively productive Stefan Traunmüller(Golden DawnThe Negative Bias, Wallachia), who focusses on Alpine legends and heathenism. Tannöd is a mysterious collective that plays Alpine black metal. This is actually their first release. Hanternoz from Angers expresses Breton and French legends in their Celtic black metal.

After the gentle intro ‘Höhlenzauber’, Tannöd really bursts loose with an almost Burzum-like screech on ‘Die Schwarze Wolke’, accompanied by the screeching, eerie guitar play that almost feels like it cracks and breaks at the edges. The thin sound grabs you by the throat, with its unrelenting battering, particularly on ‘Schicksalsschlacht’, where Tannöd really excels with their cold and anguished sound, truly taking cues from some of the best aspects the genre has to offer in my humble opinion. Their sound can also be a bit more polished, edging more towards the sound of Equilibrium. Definitely, a band that impresses here on side A.

Rauhnåcht comes in on side B with ambient nature sounds and a slowly progressing guitar and drum intro, on ‘Der Einsiedler’. Chanting accompanies the gentle intro, which immediately sets the calm, majestic mood of the Alpine peaks. The atmospheric black metal progresses slowly, with a particular melancholy and humility among the rising peaks. The chanting and booming drums evoke imagery of ancient inhabitants of these regions. The sound whips around you, like the eternal gale. Full of mystery, the music of Rauhnåcht is a spectacle in itself.

‘Le Baron Des Adrets, 1513-1587 : La Légende Noire Du Dauphiné’ is the first track on the C-side by Hanternoz, a story of a notorious character during the reformation. The track is notable, because it contains a lot of spoken word, together with rich sounding folk metal. The tormented vocals hit you even harder when delivered through a blast-beat induced fog. What I find peculiar about their sound, is how open it is. It feels a lot like Enslaved, but then clashing in mid-air with Peste Noire thanks to the raw, barked vocals. Smooth production, big stories, it makes Haternoz a pretty exciting band to listen to. Tracks like ‘Diables Des Cloîtres Dans Les Monts Du Matin’, show a band that really fits in with the rural French rebellious sound.

The D-side is utilized by Rauhnåcht, with a collaborative rehearsal of the title track. It’s a jagged endeavor, full of fury and rage. The sound batters you like an alpine hailstorm, while the vocalist barks at you a demon of the night. Sharp, snappy words snap like a whip. This is some other side of the band, which completely turns around again with ‘La Voix Des Alpes’. For a bit over 11 minutes, simply field recordings from the alps, offer you a peaceful outro.
This record is peculiar, to say the least. The bands are vastly different. Tannöd has a very classic, eerie feel, while Rauhnåcht excels in the atmospheric and essentialist sound. Hanternoz is where the French farmland meets the soaring peaks, captured in notes. The exceptional material on this record, is well worth adding to your collection!