Tag Archives: black metal

Hanal Pixan: The Mayan heritage of Belize

There’s a chance that you’ve never heard of Belize. It’s a small country in Central America, bordering on Mexico and Guatemala. It’s surprisingly very thinly populated. Pictures make it look like a paradise, with beautiful nature, green forests and sandy beaches. The ruins of the ancient civilizations are also an attractive element. As a small country, Belize also has a metal scene and Hanal Pixan is as Belizean as it gets.

In a country that has only been independent since 1981, the search for roots is still going on. The cultural diversity in Belize makes it probably even more tempting to find out more about this now before tourism and migration completely ruin the artifacts of the past. This pre-Hispanic past is what Hanal Pixan explores in their lyrics. It’s what I am most curious about and Halach Uinik Chuc is willing to tell more about this.

Most fascinating to me is that for Halach the Mayan civilization is not something of the past. It’s still there and deeply embedded in the history and culture of Belize. We keep learning.

How is Hanal Pixan doing?
First of all, thank you for the interview, Hanal Pixan is doing good.

How did you guys get started as a band? You are all active in various other bands. Can you tell a bit about that?
The band started in 2013 as a one-man band to play extreme metal with lyrics based on the Yucatec Maya culture. As time went by, I wanted to expand so I invited Nojoch Brujo to join the project in 2015. Later i invited Thiago C. We all meet through internet as they are members of other bands and they liked the idea of Hanal Pixan. Nojoch Brujo plays in Flames of Apocolypse (melodic death metal) and Down in Flames (metalcore). Thiago C plays with Neverchrist (black metal), Crepusculic Shadows (black metal) and we both play together in Kill The Whore (goregrind/brutal death metal). I also have other projects like Sick Mutation.

The name Hanal Pixan is derived from a particular tradition in your part of the world. Can you tell us about that and why you chose it for your band?
Yes, Hanal Pixan, which is pronounced as “Hanal Pishan”, is a tradition which is practiced in Belize by people of Yucatec Maya descent. I am a Yucatec Maya of Belize and Hanal Pixan in our native language means “Food for the souls”. It is a tradition done to honor our loved ones, who have left this world and now are the spiritual one. I chose the name because I thought it would go well with the band’s theme. In other words, Hanal Pixan is a tradition to honor the dead.

In Hanal Pixan you express through your themes and lyrics Mayan history and culture. How do you go about this and can you tell a bit about those themes for people not familiar with them?
The lyrics are mostly based on the history of my people. Stories of war, which were told to us by our grandparents, about the Maya Social War from 1847-1930’s. This is more commonly known as the Caste War. Also about how the culture is today, the traditions, folklore and our daily struggles etc. So it is basically what I see every day and what our grandparents have told us.

Hanal Pixan’s music is mostly based on the last rebellion of the Yucatec Maya from 1847-1930’s to retake their lands which were stolen by the Spanish. This rebellion happened 300 years after the conquest when the Spanish reached the Yucatan peninsula. The Maya were able to put a Maya state in modern times called Chan Santa Cruz and were able to control territories in Northwestern Belize and southern Mexico. It was one of the most successful indigenous uprisings in the Americas. My great grandparents were Maya rebels who fought during that war also. So it is a way of telling my people’s history and struggle.

When you make an album, do you take specific themes and concepts to build them around? For example, your recent album. What story does that revolve around?
Our recent album name is U K’aayo’ob K’uyo’ob which in our native language means ‘The Singing of the Gods’. This album was more based on the modern Yucatec Maya culture of Belize. While our past album In Lu’umil Belice which means ‘Our land Belize’ was more based on the history of the Conquest of this region.

How do you go about making music as a band? Do you start with music or words and what roles does everyone have in creating the music? As I understand, Hanal Pixan was originally a solo project, has the process changed as a band?
Well, the band started as a one-man band but it has changed. In Lu’umil Belice was composed entirely by Nojoch Brujo except the lyrics. Our latest release U K’aayo’ob K’uyo’ob was done differently. The music was composed by Thiago C and myself. For both the albums, I wrote all the lyrics. First, we do the music and then by how the music feels we decide what name to give it.

What is your message on the Mayan themes? Is it simply interest in the past or a resurgence of awareness?
First of all, we want to show our Maya youths that we can still use our culture in the modern world and preserve our Maya identity. Also, it is a reminder of the struggle of our people. Many of our themes are basically ignored in Belizean schools. Belizean schools do not teach our history. It is a resurgence of awareness among the people of Yucatec Maya descent from Belize of their heritage since many do not know our history. To be honest, it is a resurgence of awareness happening right now for our people, who want to preserve their Maya identity in northern Belize.

How does a live show of Hanal Pixan look like?
Sadly, because we have other musical projects, distance and other responsibilities we have not played live. We have been planning to though…

I would like to ask you about the metal scene in Belize. What is the scene like there? And how did metal come to your country, what bands pioneered it and shaped the scene of Belize?
The Belizean metal scene is small and very underground. There are Metal concerts two or 3 times a year. The most known Metal shows are Metal Mayhem in Corozal and Metal Haven Bash in Cayo. Metal was brought by those who traveled to the USA in the late 1980’s. When they came back they brought the music and the dressing style. Also, MTV in the 1990’s helped the scene develop. Those were the days when MTV use to put Metal music videos, not like today. Also, our contact with Mexicans influenced us. I would say that two bands who are pioneers in Belize were Of the Fallen and Lasher Zombie.

Do you as a band face any sort of censorship or restrictions? And is everything like instruments, rehearsal space, music and venues to play in available to you easily?
Most of the scene is underground and seems like we do not exist. We do not have any censorship except in the mainstream media. Bands like Lasher Zombie, being a death Metal band, have been played for a rock special on mainstream Belizean Radio but most of the time the radios ignores the Metal bands. Most Belizean radio stations will not play metal music. Most instruments are purchased from mostly Mexico or the USA.

Space to rehearse is a problem, because of many people, especially religious groups, condemn this kind of music, labeling it Satanic. Venues are also a problem because many do not want Metal bands to play in their venues. Most Venues used are from family members of Metalheads, who are willing to give us our space to make shows. Religious groups have complained to the authorities about our music being too loud and crazy etc. Anyhow, we are still here, doing what we love.

Are there places in Belize that a metalhead should definitely visit?
Of Course, The metal events like Metal Haven Bash that takes place in October and Metal Mayhem in December.

Which bands from your part of the world should people definitely check out (and why so)?
I would recommend the Belizean Metal bands, so people hear how these bands sound in a country so small and with little support. My list is Kill the Whore(goregrind), Flames of Apocalypse (melodic death metal), Verge of Umbra (rap metal), Lasher Zombie (death Metal), Death Supressor (deathgrind), Of the Fallen (melodic death metal), Sick Mutation (grindcore), Hypnopompia (death thrash) and Zro Dclpine (hard rock).

From your social channels it seems that even though you are dealing with history, the band is very much in the present and politically aware too. Can you elaborate on that and is there to you a connection between the two?
We try our best to keep away from Politics in Hanal Pixan and just focus on our Maya history. Sometimes it is difficult to ignore politics because they get involved in everything!

What future plans does Hanal Pixan have?
Play live is one and the other record a third album. We want to continue doing what we love Musically and culturally.

If you had to compare your band to a type of food or a dish, what would it be and why?
I would compare it to Pib. Pib is a traditional Maya foodstyle, where it is cooked underground. Why? Because it is a food done for the Hanal Pixan tradition. Pib is very nice, just like our band sound!.

In kaaba’e‘ Halach Uinik Chuc ,Jach yuum bo’otik ,Kanantabaa( Yucatec maya language)
Translation: My name is Halach Uinik Chuc, Thank you so much , take care (English translation)

Underground Sounds: Summoning – With Doom We Come

Label: Napalm Records
Band: Summoning
Origin: Austria 
Summoning is a must-listen band for anyone who feels strongly about black metal and Tolkien, but Silenius and Protector have long since left behind their musical roots. The band stands apart, thanks to their programmed, composed sound. On ‘With Doom We Come’, that is once more extremely clear and within the dungeon synth world the band is hailed as if they’re venerated, liberators. Unfortunately, the biggest impact this far from their new album came through an interview with Noisey. Well, as long as they talk about you.
Summoning was born out of musicians from Abigor and Pazuzu (and many others), started out as a fourpiece playing black metal, but switched to their current approach in 1995 (two years after starting). Since then the members Protector and Silenius are responsible for the sound of Summoning, which is much more sountrack-like and composed rather than created in a rehearsal space. On the side they duo occupies themselves with some side projects. Silenius plays black metal with Amistigon and industrial with Kreuzweg Ost. Protector occupies himself with Ice Ages, creating EDM.

‘Tar-Calion’ is the epic story of the last king of Númenor, told in solumn progressing tones. Spoken passages and grunts illuminate segments of the tale. The song is highly repetitive, which immerses the listener into the unhindred and fatalistic path of this Tolkien-saga figure. A journey towards ultimate doom. That is the overlying theme for this record, the doom-laden parts of the Silmarillion and other writings, with electronically enhanced music, featuring flutes and heralding trumpets. The music is sonorous, slow and never really building to any sort of climax. Vocals are hoarse whispers, grittedly spat at the listener on tracks like ‘Silvertine’ (a reference to the place where Gandalf battled the Balrog, that even movie watchers must know) or ‘Carcharoth’ (Silmarillion).

A swelling sound can be heard on ‘Herumor’, where a choir appears to sing over the meandering, ambient-like metal of the Austrian band. It’s a noteworthily more expressive part of the record, amidst the static sound of the group. They never seem to really waver much from their flowing music. Generally, the atmosphere oppresses and sounds dense and hazy. This is of course one of the main reasons why this band appeals to the dungeon synth genre-fans so much because it clearly bridges between the two worlds. Playful melodies now and then create interesting nuances in the songs, filling the gaps between the vocals on a tune like ‘Night Fell Behind’.
On ‘Mirklands’ we get a bit grimmer, mostly thanks to the vocals, but the song stays synth heavy. With over 10 minutes of music, both this tune and the title track are powerful compositions that evoke Tolkienesque visages and imagery. ‘With Doom We Came’ offers the doomy, grand finale of the album. The voice is raspy, but clear, a bit like Rob Miller from Amebix/Tau Cross. The highlight of the album for sure.

Reading of Books #34

Some reading done in the recent days with the Elminster Series by Ed Greenwood, Cleric Quintet by R.A. Salvatore and the zines Bardo Methodology and Forgotten Path. Sometimes I feel that my way of grouping books is perhaps odd, but that’s just the order in which I’ve been reading them.

Ed Greenwood – Eliminster Series (titles grouped as main series fo first five novels): 

Elminster: The Making of a Mage
Elminster in Myth Drannor
The Temptation of Elminster
Elminster in Hell
Elminster’s Daughter
Elminster is a creation of Ed Greenwood. A bearded mage, with a sarcastic kind of humor, a kind heart and powers beyond anyone else. He is known as the great meddler, the storm bird and worse by his enemies. He’s also great with women. If you google Ed Greenwood, you might thing he idealized himself in one of his characters actually, so that’s a bit odd. As a D&D player myself, I read these books with great interest, but found them often complex, unnatural and slightly unhinged. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great works of fireball-throwing-blood-gushing-damsell-seducing-divinely-inspired-dragons-swords-and-whatnot fantasy. They’re not very much to my taste, let me tell you why. I read it with enjoyment at times, but never worried about any outcome. Sure, this happens a lot in fantasy, but it doesn’t have to be so bloody obvious.

As a player, there’s one pitfall and that is loving your character too much. Elminster is as close to unfallible as any character has ever gotten. I mean, Gandalf and Dumbledore have nothing on this guy, who keeps defying death, withstands the most extreme torture and if all else fails just fucking fireballs himself out of any sort of trouble. It becomes rather boring if every rising action in your story, is a mere hick-up for the protagonist, so while the first book is very satisfying, it soon becomes a bit of a bore. I know there is more, but I feel sort of reluctant to start reading those, for exactly that reason. Another point is that Elminster seems to be a singular shining light in a world populated by cardboard characters. Every other player in this game is pretty much insignificant or very one dimensional. That and the fact that Gods tremble when He Who Walks passes makes me less fond of the books. Sometimes, I completely got lost in the woolly, jumpy descriptions. Sorry.

R.A. Salvatore – The Cleric Quintet

Canticle, In Sylvan Shadows, Night Masks, The Fallen Fortress, The Chaos Curse
The Cleric Quintet takes us back to a more simple and pleasant Forgotten Realms, where not Goddes-infused Elminster blasts his way through the world or the troubled Drizzt cuts and slices through the underdark. Salvatore started on the quintet after a couple of Drizzt series, in an attempt to start something new. In future series, the cast of both books would meet. That to me, was a greatly positive thing for the Drizzt series, which went on for a good run more afterwards. The quintet takes place in a region, dubbed the Baronies, where Cadderly is a student at the Efidicant Library. The library shines as a light of intellect and knowledge in the realms and draws visitors from far and wide.

At the side of Cadderly Bonaduce is Danica Maupoissant, a monk of a peculiar order with an uncanny strength and agility. Their adventures start, when an evil trinity of forces plans to take over the Baronies with an evil curse. To defeat their enemies the duo, who are playful lovers from the start, team up with the fantastic dwarven brothers Ivan and Pikel Bouldershoulder. The second wishes to be a druid and speaks only in affirmative or negating sounds. It makes for a fun and loose party, which is a nice change from the serious and dour group around Drizzt. Together they are going to have some great adventures. R.A. Salvatore pushes in some new directions with these novels, in a realm that feels cleaner and simpler in a sense. More warm and welcoming, which for me felt liek an interesting exploration.

Niklas Göransson – Bardo Methodology #2

Some magazines simply go beyond mere magazine-form. Bardo Methodology definitely counts as one of the favorite things I’ve read in a long time. Not only does Göransson pick some extremely interesting interviewees, but he never goes for the low hanging fruits with his questions. There’s a refreshing honesty to his writing, also when things don’t seem to go his way. At some point during one of the interviews, it seems that a conflict starts to rise. As the interview cuts up here, the author explains what happens in a neutral manner, making the reader feel even more like a fly on the wall during the interview. That is one of the things that makes this zine so remarkable.

The depth of questioning and of the authors knowledge is astonishing to me. Questions really dive into the deep end with most of the characters, though here and there this means unmasking the pretenders it seems. One or two interviews really illuminated some charaters for me in a way that also dispelled the magic these figures once held. That’s the way of things, but also proof of skill from the one asking the questions. I’m looking forward to #3. Maybe it’s also interesting to mention that ‘bardo’ is not derived from bards. The word refers to the transition between life and death, where much extreme metal holds sway.

Various authors – Forgotten Path #6

Again, not that I’m in the habit of reviewing zines, but these thick slabs of metal history/journalism are well worth mentioning. Though Forgotten Path is not a one man operation, it seems that Odium, the main author, has an obsessive urge to put words on paper. The amount of pages in this edition astonishes me, the same goes for the wide range of bands covered. Pages full of miniscule font cd-reviews, dense interviews and here and there an opinion piece, make for a read that fills up multiple evenings and rarely starts to bore.

Opinionated is something that definitely applies to Odium. He has a very clear artistic vision and view on the world, which shines through in his introductions, questions and most of all opinion pieces. This is not a bad thing, unless there was any pretense of being the objective writer. A zine is always personal and shaped by the authors. That is for me one of the main charms of Forgotten Path. Apart from that, they also do a great job at writing in a way that feels very natural, using speaking language instead of complex, intellectual swivel. A joy to read.

 

Underground Sounds: Alda – Passage

Label: Bindrune Records
Band: Alda
Origin: United States

Can someone tell me what they put in the water in Seattle and surroundings? It seems like excellent music flows from the city like the rain pours down on it. Alda is my latest discovery, with their weary autumn sound. Their album ‘Passage’ feels like a sullen autumn day set in music by the fourpiece. It’s their third full length and it’s a remarkably beautiful album. The music just immediately hits me due to its calm, soothing warmth.

The catchphrase for this record on the bandcamp tells you, that if Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room and Ulver ever stirred something in you, that this is your album. I must add one more name to that. The first thing the vocals reminded me of is  a certain aspect of Opeth when listening to this album. The calm voice reminds me of tunes like ‘To Bid You Farewell’. Inspired by the rugged nature that fills the region, is this the contribution of Alda to current day American black metal.

I think this already pretty much covers opening track ‘The Clearcut’. The clean vocals are captivating in a very special way, but the melody lines woven into the more eruptive parts are equally mesmerizing. The music of Alda is densely atmospheric and very much made to just wallow in, particularly when those guitars create a sliding feel in their cascading salvos. Even though Alda clearly plays black metal, every sound feels full of something soothing.

Songs really weave together very easily, flowing like rivers in a particularly organic manner. In that sense I’m now and then reminded of some Ukranian bands actually. The song ‘Passage’ itself is an almost meditative journey of repetitive riffing. Closer ‘Animis’ offers the grand finale that the album requires, after a wonderful journey. The acoustic aspects with fresh black metal are a joy to the ear.

Underground Sounds: Häive – Iätön

Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede
Band: Häive
Country: Finland

Janne Väätäinenis clearly not a man that allows himself to be rushed with things. His project Häive has been around for 15 years and this is the second album. A noteworthy fact is that the predecessor to ‘Iätön’ came out 10 years ago. Well, good things take time and that’s definitely the case with this release.

The theme Häive uses is mostly nature, which can be deduced from the great record cover. Väätäinen hasn’t been sitting still for the last 10 years either. The last thing this band did, was contribute to a compilation with bands like WinterfyllethPrimordial, and Drudkh. In the meantime, the musician juggles projects like Antabus, Auringon Hauta, My Blood and Tevana3. Well, enough banter, let’s get to the music.

Iätön opens with an intense bit of Iron Maiden-esque guitar work, which is immediately catching on. The title track opens (which translates as ‘Ageless’ by the way), with 2 minutes of fine screaming guitars, before we launch into ‘Turma’ (translates as Ruin). The sound of Häive is big and open, with a lot of that grand riffing. A folky vibe is in there, when the sound evokes vistas of valleys, mountains and rough, unscathed nature in all its splendor. The cover of the record, of course, stimulates that sort of imagery as well, but I think the spacious sound helps.

A grand sound is constantly present, even on the doom-laden ‘Kuku, kultainen käkeni (Sing my Golden Bird)’, with its slow procession and those laborious guitars. It’s a dense atmosphere that the band sets out and most praiseworthy is that it never feels like most one-man bands with that one-dimensional sound. The layered elements create something spectacular. A rare acoustic bit fits nicely in the mix, like on ‘Tuulen Sanat (The Spell of Wind)’. Truly, this record reminds me of some older Moonsorrow stuff.

There’s no typical folk metal vibe here, but the essence is present. Not the type where you bring your kilt and a drinking horn for a dress-up party, but something more deep and meaningful. I really enjoyed this record because of that and the particular attention to the composition.

Underground Sounds: Jassa – Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis

Label: Fallen Empire Records
Band: Jassa
Origin: Russia

The Russian band Jassa hails from the St. Petersburg region. They’ve released three albums thus far, dealing with pagan themes of chthonic deities. These deities are, frankly said, quite unknown to me, but that hardly diminishes the force and grandeur of this pagan black metal band. They’re entities that are hinted at in archeological finds and myths but elude our knowledge. Jassa is a deity worshipped by the ancient Novgorod Slavs. That makes for a great mythical theme obviously for ‘Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis’.

Jassa has some experts in their ranks, who honed their skills in some fantastic bands before. Guitar- and bass player Vladimir and drummer Aeargh are mostly known for their project Sivyi Yar, where they create magnificent atmospheric black metal. The drummer additionally hits the skins in Zoebeast, Toxic Bleat, and Death Rattle. Singer Erier has tons of projects, was active in Fimbulwinter, but now is active in Khashm, Bestial Deform and Septory and more.

The bluster and rage in the sound of Jassa are quite overwhelming. From the opening track of ‘Beyond Time, Shapes and Names’ it is a pure onslaught of obliterating drums, massive riff-work, and unearthly vocals. It matches the name of the band in its subterranean cavernous darkness. This is the pagan rage at its best, bestial and abhorrent in it’s thrashing and punching. The way the drums are applied is really quite the captivating part. From a wild battering to the fierce rhythms that give the sound its backbone, Jassa keeps you hanging on for your life.

Oh, there’s also a mouth harp in there somewhere, which to me has been a great piece of instrumentation in black metal ever since Moonsorrow did it. I particularly enjoy the vocals of Erier, who has embraced a vocal range for this record that truly compliments the whole compositions. These are dense and heavy as fuck. On ‘Incarnation of the Higher Gnosis’, we hear something different though. Eerie, thin guitar lines pierce the hazy sounds and offer a base for murmured, deep spoken word passages. It offers a rare calm to the listener, with a ritualistic atmosphere that envelops you as a listener.

Another particular song is ‘Shadows Glide Quietly Among the Trees’, which has a particular sound in certain passages. They seem to drop into a more mechanic sound, more condensed and pushed together. The intensity of the sound increases as it slithers and merges. It brings you to the climax of what can only be called a fantastic record of pagan black metal.

Underground Sounds: Rebel Wizard – The Warning of One

Label: Prosthetic Records
Band: Rebel Wizard
Origin: Australia

Yeah, yeah… I’m late to the party again, but I’ve been following the Rebel Wizard for a bit now and I actually published an interview with the Australian negative anti-shamanic black metal artist before. So ‘The Warning of One’ has been an EP I’ve listened to regularly for a while, but the words just never came.

First thing you notice is the oddly colored cover. This is highly personal, but for me it strongly stands out. All songs follow a similar pattern of title and are short bursts of frantic energy and ‘wizardly’ negativity. This Nekrasov side project (if I may call it that, because Rebel Wizard seems to have become more active) is definitely not for the fans of traditional black metal. Then again… in a way it really should be.

The opening track ‘ The One I seek’ immediately rips everything apart with furious barks and screams and some of those insta-violence riffs that you’ve come to know the wizard by. The Teutonic thrash vibe with lo-fi recordings creates this gritty, raw feeling that so befits the project. Soaring guitars just hit that nostalgic passion for what makes metal so cool in the first place.
Often that’s the big contrast in the sound; the accessible and catchy riffing combined with the dirty blast beats and raspy snarls of black metal. We stay on that for the duration of ‘One I Know’. After an almost ballad-like intro on ‘One I See’, we get the full brunt of that black metal end of the stick. A distorted, hazy pounding of about 5 minutes follows, with NKSV’s voice that feels like it’s been stretched out with painful methods for an extra grim effect. We end the EP with ‘The One I Call’, which is a demonic track full of turbulent heavy black metal that keeps firing at you. With a crushing climax, this peculiar EP ends and once more Rebel Wizard delivered one hell of a tasty, rifftastic record.

Underground Sounds: Vindland – Hanter Savet

Label: Black Lion Records
Band: Vindland
Origin: France

Though it came out in 2016, ‘Hanter Savet’ is seeing a re-release which brought it to my attention and I felt it would be fine to cover it then. It’s the first full length for the band Vindland, who hails from Brittany, the coastal region in France with a dense history and distinct culture. Vindland embodies that.

The sound of the band must make some people think of another group from Sogndal, Norway and smile with a certain melancholy. A noteworthy fact is that all lyrics are in the native Celtic dialect of the region, which is carefully preserved and expresses the Breton identity. Members of the band are or have been active in the grand-sounding Belenos too, so they know how to spin a tale.

It’s a bit odd to hear a band sound so much like Windir did back in the day, but that’s exactly what the epic sound of Vindland promises with the big, majestic riffing. It’s soaring, heroism is catchy and warms the heart of a passionate fantasy-reader like myself. The keys and crisp production really help to emphasize that side of the band. Particularly on songs like ‘Serr-Nozz’ and ‘Treuzwelus’. The tight, battle-ready rhythms of songs like ‘Skleur Dallus’ do their part in turn.

It’s the melodies that really work their magic in the sound of Vindland. Those are the story tellers, that illuminate castle ruins and forgotten wisdom of the ancient Breton lands. Sometimes the downside of the keys and production is the lack of certain organic aspects to the music. Never is Vindland dull or insincere, but the fade in sometimes lacks the natural feel (like on ‘Skorneg Du’). On the other hand, the Breton language offers a whole different dimension and the rock’n’rolling sound definitely catches on easily.

As we move towards the end with ‘Kreud Ar Gwez’, we hear meandering, acoustic tones and the Atlantic winds. The beautiful shores, from where brave ships have sailed and where so much vital history took place. It tells its own story, while we still remember.

Underground Sounds: Blencathra – These Bones Became The Roots of the Forest…

Label: Unsigned
Band: Blencathra
Origin: United Kingdom

Blencathra is a hill in the north of England. A beautiful part of the country that immediately makes you think of the rich past the nation has. It’s also a band, that plays black metal with sole member Nicholas Fry in the lead. This is the first album, titled ‘These Bones Became The Roots of the Forest…’.

As an artist Fry, and therefore the sound of Blencathra is inspired by British bands like Fen, Winterfylleth, and Saor, which makes sense. The pictures he shares on Facebook show the landscapes that inspire a particular sound. Densely atmospheric black metal, with a slight sense of melancholy from the British Isles. You have to love that (and this awesome cover).

With a pleasant acoustic tune opening the album, we’re soon moving into a dense blanket of blackish metal. There’s a particular element of distortion in the sound that may not be to everyone’s appeal. It’s almost annoying how woolly the album sounds at times. That doesn’t take away the absolute beauty of a tune like ‘As the Shadows Rise’. Big blistering walls of guitar, but also the melancholic twangy intermissions that reverberate.

The meandering folk tunes now and then offer respite, like the haunting ‘Drifting Through Autumn Trees’. With only a distant cry of guitars, the song seems to give a little intermezzo, until a tide of distortion floods everything once more. For me, the biggest downside of this record is exactly that. The brisk nature sounds, samples, and acoustic parts are hauntingly beautiful but often drown in the reverb and distortion. It’s possibly a choice, but I’d like to hear a more crisp production Blencathra personally, so the riffs shine even brighter.

Underground Sounds: Black Kirin – Nanking Massacre

Label: Cold Woods Productions
Band: Black Kirin
Origin: China
Black Kirin makes a bold statement with their latest album. Earlier I listened to their acoustic album, which I found rather pleasing, but I can’t use those words when we speak about ‘Nanking Massacre’. The Chinese band appears to be particularly productive, but this takes their expressions a notch upwards.
The ‘Nanking Massacre’ is also dubbed the ‘Rape of Nanking’ and can only be described as one of the great atrocities of history. This is the name for a series of events, following the taking of the Chinese capital of Nanking by Japanese troops in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Earlier I also checked out their ‘Xiao Shiao’ album.
Thunderous metal greets the listener, spiced up with mournful strings from Chinese folk music and the wailing singing associated with the same musical heritage. Combined with the quite heavy, rhythmic music, it offers a quite different listening experience. Another aspect is the operatic sections, but all parts seem to find harmony on this album. Black Kirin uses contrasts for maximum effect.
It’s weird for western listeners probably, to hear radical shifts between classical passages and intense, full on heavy metal. Apparently that’s not such a big deal for bands from the far east. After the melancholy of ‘Da Qu’, you’re thrown into chaos on ‘Evocation’. Blistering, crushing riff work assaults you on ‘II. The Song’, with wild sound effects, singining, and screams. Brutal death metal pounds away, in that typical chaotic manner. Personally not my favorite style, but well fitting in this conceptual display of human horror.
And then there’s calm again with ‘Nai He’. Weary guitar picking and chiming sounds in a more free flowing way, never actually trying to build a song structure. The simple expression is enough to convey thoughts and feelings. I am filled with ideas and thoughts at the end of ‘Thousand Years’, the outro of the album. Again, Black Kirin has enchanted me with an amazing record.