Tag Archives: black metal

Rugged Shores: Mistwalker & Viridian Records from Newfoundland

Metal pops up in many places, but it appears that the remote and cold has a particular attraction to many artists. It creates a specific kind of man, living in those places and that means a particular type of music. Mistwalker and the affiliated projects on the collective Viridian Records are such entities from the far north and distinct they are indeed.

Greg Sweetapple comes from the coast of Newfoundland originally but has since changed his native Glovertown for Montréal. The hard life and special nature of his home still affect his music though, and probably always will as the project shapes up and new creativity flows.

Greg was kind enough to answer some of my questions about his music and the place he comes from.

Mistwalker

Hello! Could you tell me something more about yourself?

Well, my full name is Greg Sweetapple (yes, that’s actually my real surname). I’m originally from a small town on the east coast of Newfoundland called Glovertown, whose population is only about 2000 people. In the summer of 2017 I moved to Montreal, Quebec and I’m still here at the moment.

How did you get into music and what projects are you involved in?

Believe it or not, my first musical love was ABBA, mostly because my dad used to listen to ABBA Gold in the cassette deck in our family car when I was a kid. But my first introduction to heavy music was “Iron Swan” by The Sword, which was a righteous kick in the ass if there ever was one for the pre-teen version of me. When I got older I started to mess around with drums, either in the music room at my school or at my friends’ houses, until eventually, I got my own. I played in a couple of bands during high school, but nothing too major. Then when I went to college I couldn’t bring my drums with me because I moved into a tiny apartment building and drums are way too loud for that sort of setting. So I brought my electric guitar with me and decided to learn to play that instead. After about a year I finally decided to try and record something with the serious intent behind it, thanks to my friend Aaron Powell (Fog Lake) who kept urging me to do it, and thus Mistwalker was born.

When it comes to other projects I have a two-person black metal project called Impaled Upon the Mountains with my friend Kristopher Crane (Nemophilist), though that one is kind of on hiatus right now since he recently moved to the UK. I’ve also got a neofolk project called Wavering Radiant (named after the Isis album), a hardcore punk project called Goddammit that satirizes Newfoundland politics and culture, an ambient project called Icefog, a drone project called Inverted Coffins and a stoner rock project called Trinidad Gunfight. I’m also the official live drummer for the aforementioned Fog Lake.

What’s the idea behind Mistwalker and can you share something about the background, moods, stories, and ideas that shape up the music you make with this project?

There isn’t really a consistent feeling behind Mistwalker, because the whole idea is that because it’s my flagship project I can do whatever I want with it. I don’t stick to one particular style of metal with it. There’s elements of black metal, death metal, thrash metal, hard rock, stoner rock and ambient to it. I can really make it whatever I want. But when it comes to what things inspire the music itself that can be anything as goofy as video games like Skyrim to serious personal feelings. For example, the album Strix Pantheon consists of instrumentals dedicated to some of my favorite female characters from fiction, while the album Alexander Bay was basically a loose concept album about my hometown. The last song on that album, ‘Willower’ is about the feeling of knowing that one day your parents are going to die and you’ll have to come to terms with that when it happens. So really I just write about whatever I feel like writing about, and that changes as frequently as the weather.

What sort of size group is associated with Viridian Records? And how did the label get started, how did you get together and what sort of cooperation do you have?

The thing about Viridian Records is that it isn’t really a record label, per se. It’s more of a name that’s used for a collective of artists to release music under. Mostly it’s just myself and Kristopher, though occasionally my friends Walter, Aaron, and Kenney will release music under the name too. Most of us just record music at home in our apartments/bedrooms, so it’s not really a professional setup. We’re just people who like to make music and put it out there for our own satisfaction, more or less.

Tell me about Newfoundland, what sort of place is it in your words and why does it inspire such a distinct sound?

I’ve heard people say before that Newfoundland is the Iceland of Canada, and I think that’s true. A lot of the landscape consists of rugged coastline, boreal forest, and dense bogs and the livelihood of the people there is really dependent upon the ocean. There’s a lot of respect for nature to be found there, and I think that really inspires the music that my friends and I make, though of course, I can’t speak for all of them. But aside from that, it’s also a hard place to live because right now the economy is suffering, which is part of the reason why I moved away. Making music was partially an escape from that atmosphere of living paycheck to paycheck. I guess when it comes to making black metal, or at least music that is heavily inspired by black metal, turning to nature is a form of escapism.

How do you approach creating music for various projects? Like, how do you know a song is particularly suited for Mistwalker?

That’s something I find a bit hard to define. Usually, it’s just some form of intuition. Like, I’ll come up with a riff and I’ll think to myself “Yeah, that’s a Mistwalker riff” and then sometimes I’ll say “Yeah, that’s more like an Impaled Upon the Mountains song.” With Mistwalker I like to experiment more because it’s my main project and I have complete creative control over it, so a lot of my weirder ideas find their way into that project more so than others.

As interest, you’ve listed quite some pagan and mythic elements on your Facebook page, could you tell more about that?

While I’m not a pagan myself, I do have an intense interest in mythology, pre-Christian religions, and folklore, especially when it comes to the Norse and Celtic variety. A lot of this comes from my love of the fantasy genre in fiction, which is obviously inspired by mythology and folklore. I’m a big nerd so I love all that stuff about elves, dwarves, magic, etc. I’m especially a big fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Elder Scrolls series so that often finds its way into my lyrics too. I aspire to be a fantasy author myself someday so naturally, my music is affected by that too.

What sort of recording and writing process do you follow to create music?

I don’t really follow any set process. It really varies. Sometimes I’ll write lyrics first and write something based around that structure and try to evoke the feeling of what I’ve written into the melodies. Other times I’ll compose the music first and record all the instruments before I even get into writing lyrics for it. When it comes to the actual recording I always lay down the drum track first, and then follow that up with guitar and bass, and vocals come last.

I‘m curious about the scene from a more ‘availability’ side, as in there’s a group of people creating works under the Viridian banner. Is that all very DIY? Or does Newfoundland have all the facilities like record shops, rehearsal spaces, venues etc. available in proximity?

When it comes to Newfoundland the metal scene really only exists in St. John’s. Sure there might be a band or two in other towns like Corner Brook or Stephenville, but everything is more or less constrained to the provincial capital. With record shops, the only one that exists is Fred’s Records, which does cater pretty heavily to local artists. Venues are pretty limited too, the only ones I can say for certain that cater to this style of music include CBTG’s, Distortion, Valhalla Tavern, The Rock House, Bar None, The Rose & Thistle and Factory, so you’re always going to the same four to five places every weekend to play and/or see metal and punk shows. These venues also sometimes double as rehearsal spaces in the daytime, and if not a band might just have to make do in somebody’s garage or basement. When it comes to Viridian like I mentioned before, it’s mostly just my friends and me recording stuff on our own time, more often than not in our bedrooms, and then self-releasing it on Bandcamp, so it’s definitely very DIY. There are professional recording studios in St. John’s but none of us really have the money for that.

Is it love for where you are from or loathing, that you feel when writing for Mistwalker?

Admittedly I laughed when I read this because honestly, it’s a bit of both. I love my home and I do miss it to an extent, especially living up here in Montreal where you have travel so much further to be immersed in nature. Back home I could go out into my backyard and ten minutes later I’d be in the middle of the woods on the top of a mountain. But like I mentioned before, living there is pretty difficult. It’s the reason why so many people who are my age have left to go work in Alberta’s oil industry. It’s just a better opportunity for them. Writing about Newfoundland in my music is equal parts love and loathing and I channel that respect for the land into it, while also expressing the frustration of the economic difficulty that rises from living there.

What future plans do you have and does Viridian have?

Mistwalker is a name that I plan to record under for as long as I live. Of course, things always change but I hope to be playing heavy music even as an old decrepit grandpa. Eventually, I’d like to get a band together and start playing shows here in Montreal, even go on tour if my music gets enough traction, but these things do take time. I can’t really speak for the other artists on Viridian, but I know that Kris records music sporadically under both of his projects: Acorn to Great Oak and Nemophilist.

If you had to compare Mistwalker our the whole Viridian roster to a dish or various dishes, what would it be and why?

That’s a hard question. I wouldn’t really compare the music to a specific dish, but rather a smell. The scent of evergreen trees, especially fir and spruce, combined with the smell of the ocean, really encapsulates the atmosphere of the island and the music that I try to create. Again I can’t really speak to the creative process of the other artists.

Thanks for the interview! I always appreciate opportunities like this.

Underground Sounds: lcbrt – Incarnatie

Label: self-released
Artist: lcbrt
Origin: the Netherlands

Dutch black metal has started exploring the more recent cultural realms for inspiration and this is not without its benefits. lcbrt is the most recent of these acts, combining experimental black metal with the work and concepts of Dutch poet Lucebert.

Sole member Evio is also active in Morvigor from the city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands. With this act, he creates death-black metal. Also appearing on this record is the voice of the poet himself, who did a lot of recordings during his lifetime of his complex and bewildering works.

Raw black metal hammers on, much in the lo-fi veins of early Burzum, intermixed with samples of poetry. The dulled, flat spoken words resonate with the static riffing and metallic twang delivered by lcbrt. He simply picks up a riff and goes with it. Sometimes fast and bashful, at other times soothing and layered. As these parts continue, there are some tempo changes, but not too much. It just works, it delivers a straight-up piece of art with dissonant and confusing black metal.

As the main track ‘i t/mv’ lasts almost 15 minutes, the second song on this record only takes a little chunk of your time. ‘Incarnatie’ continues in the peculiar vibe and sound, that is lcbrt. It’s harrowing, cold and unpleasant, yet offering a warm bath to sink into at the same time with its haggard sound and feisty riffing. The ploinky outro is particularly enjoyable. Yet, at the same time, the guitars are sharp and almost cut your hearing. That is part of the delivery and particular concept behind the act. Curious to see where this moves from here.

Underground Sounds: Iskandr – Euprosopon

Label: Haeresis Noviomagi
Band: Iskandr
Origin: The Netherlands

Iskandr is one of the odd ones out in the Dutch black metal scene and on ‘Euprosopon’ they’ve made the next step in complexity, atmosphere, and mystique. The album deals with the topic of the impossibility of an ideal man and the value of strife and heroism in an age of loss. They aim for medieval symbolism on this record, that stands as a timeless piece of art.

Iskandr is a project by Omar K., who is also active in Galg, Lubbert Das, Solar Temple, and Turia. With this project, he explores more strange themes. The name itself is an eastern variation on that of Alexander the Great, which might explain some of that. This is the second album under this moniker.

The record opens much as a ritual, with slow, eerie passages and gentle prayer bells. Chanting emerges from the sides. Are we moving towards Clannad here? The guitars slowly turn dissonant, so I may be wrong as ‘Vlakte’ suddenly lunges into full speed with a remarkably melodic bit of riffing. There’s a subtlety to the sound, to the wavery riffing and the oft barely audible chants, woven into the texture of the songs Sure, there’s a working towards the summit of the song with violent turmoil and energy, but it is ever done with brute force, but smooth technical play. Much the same applies to ‘Regnum’, which contains some more mystique aspects and warm, upbeat sections. The vocals are commanding, but never full of venom, which is remarkably pleasant. I have to point out the Spanish guitar in the end as absolutely exquisite.

‘Verban’ is truly regal in its delivery. A slow-flowing tune, with grand movements and scapes, that lures you in effortlessly. The rattling drums emerge but sound as if covered by a blanket of atmospheric guitar play, dulling their crunch and submerging it into the overall shape of the song. Yet it is ‘Herlwalt’ that takes up that mysterious ending of ‘Regnum’ and weaves an oriental tune around it for close to 15 minutes, with an air of utter mystery and bewilderment for the listener. It is as if the band is taking you to a completely different place, with some truly abyssal black metal as an intermezzo of an obscure, religious meet. As if all fades, bewilderment remains.
Iskandr solidly establishes their name as a surprising obscure black metal band, paving their own way in the field with rich and atmospheric sounds, well worth checking out. ‘Eurposopon’ is a masterpiece in my book.

Underground Sounds: A Forest of Stars – Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes

Label: Prophecy Productions
Band: A Forest of Stars
Origin: United Kingdom

A Forest of Stars has been wielding their very own style of black metal for years. Inspired by a mixture of the Victorian age, steampunk-ish aesthetics and the gloom of old spooky tales, they’ve been paving a singular path through the scene. What bands would be on par with them soundwise? Maybe concept-wise Arcturus? Anyways, they have a new record titled ‘Grave Mounds and Grave Mistakes’.

The group, which I’ve seen play the Little Devil in Tilburg with their large numbers, is a grand ensemble of musicians, all working to create a little bit of magic. They’ve been around since 2017 and this record is their fifth. The album tells a story, that is as bleak as the cover would make you expect. It’s mesmerizing, messy and different, but also captivating and creative. So let’s sink our teeth in that one now.

This album takes a moment to get into because it doesn’t really offer you the typical ‘handholds’. The soaring violin and keys are the overly present ‘Precipice Pirouette’, which is the first track of the record. The vocalist shouts and rants like a disgruntled noble, with stature yet fearful poignancy. Perhaps it is interesting to note that members also collaborate in other set-ups, like The Water Witch and Hryre, which probably explains how all comes together so well in the well composed and recorded music.

Yet the record is filled with notable songs that sound more folky, mysterious or even slightly industrial. ‘Premature Invocation’ is one of those, that I can hardly place, except when I compare it to Hail Spirit Noir with that woozy sound. My favorite track though is ‘Taken by the Sea’. The ethereal vocals opening the song are ones that cause a shiver to go down your spine. The weariness, the longing, it simply could not get better than this.

As the record comes to a close with ‘Decomposed Deity Dance Hall’, a macabre type of humor and wordplay, it is clear how exceptional A Forest of Stars actually is. Not just in their direction, but also in their wonderful sound as thudding blast beats and gentle whistles wave us away.

Underground Sounds: Ride for Revenge – Sinking the Song

Label: Independent
Band: Ride For Revenge
Origin: United States

Ride For Revenge appears to have been around forever and are part of that dirties, grittiest segment of the Finnish black metal realms. Their sound is almost atrocious, disgusting and profoundly evil and that is particularly enjoyable from this band. Even the artwork resonates with its origins, with a red logo and black and white artwork.

The band has been out there since 2001 and the members seem to be in a ton of other acts. At the core of the group we find Harald Mentor, who has been riding the wave of hatred since the start as founder and also plays in Flooded Church of Asmodeus, Militaris-tic (in which bass player J. Pervertor is also active), and Uskonrauha. Drummer Harri Kuokkanen notably also plays in Hooded Menace and Horse Lattitudes, some excellent bands in my humble opinion.

Initially, you might think you’re listening to one of the rawest, unpolished demo recordings ever, originating from some basement, a tape recorder and a bunch of mildly untalented musicians. You may be on to something there because that is consistently the sound Ride For Revenge produces. Gritty, slow and muddy black metal, full of demented growls and rickety rhythms, that almost sound too simple to be considered fitting. Gnarly guitars welcome you from the first track, as the band drags itself onward.

Band leader Harald Mentor has a voice, that sounds barely human, which proves effective. Joined by the solid slabs of unpolished black metal, Ride for Revenge barrages onward on ‘The One and Same and All’ and never comes to a halt without the grinding squeaks and squeals of guitars being vigorously tormented. Lumbering rhythms make it sound as if there’s glue or slime attached to the skins, as the next dissonant guitar line is spun out on ‘Sinking The Song’. What a trip this record is, much like driving your car with only 3 wheels, barely any gas, no front window and 50 miles to go.

From The Bogs of Aughiska: Fairy trees, remote places and black metal

Far corners of the world breed the most astonishing music acts. ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’, the latest record by From The Bogs of Aughiska, is proof of that in all its splendor. From it’s mild, folky tunes, to it’s ambient and recorded samples to harrowing black metal, it shows the limitless possibilities black metal offers.

Conchur O’Drona is the single mind behind the entity that has become From the Bogs of Augishka. When you’ve stumbled upon this work of art in the past you must already be hooked to the mystique that is this band. Over the years, the project has evolved into a full band, but something singular always remains with the group and its sound.

With ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ out in the world, I was curious to get in touch and ask some questions about the music, this album and context of the group and kindly I was granted answers.

Above and below: From The Bogs of Aughiska

How are things going for From The Bogs Of Aughiska?

Things are very good, thank you. We’ve just completed a UK tour where the four of us played together for the first time and despite a few technical problems at some of the gigs, it was a successful run.

Finally, after some years in the works, the new album ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ is seeing the light of day at the end of the month. I think this is the strongest FTBOA music to date if I may say so myself.

Could you take us briefly through the history of the band and how it was formed?

FTBOA was originally created as a solo project in 2009 when Myspace was still a thing. The first FTBOA song that was written was the track ’Leabhar Gabhala Eireann’. The self-titled debut album was released in 2010 on Lone Vigil (Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth’s own label ). In 2011 I started performing live, the very first 2 show were in The Netherlands (one in Utrecht and the other supporting none other than Ulver in Rotterdam) and a split with Dark Ages (Roman Saenko from Drudkh / Hate Forest) came out later that very same year. ’Roots of This Earth Within My Blood’ was released in 2013 to much acclaim and around that time the band became a two piece and toured Europe. The ’Fenian Ram’ EP came out in 2016 and this year as a four piece we are gearing up to release our third album ’Mineral Bearing Veins’.

Now, I know that Aughiska is a place, as the new album deals with nearby locations, such as The Burren and surrounding region. Could you take me (and by extent the reader) on a mental tour of the region and why it is so essential as your inspiration?

Aughiska More is the region I grew up in. It’s an area on the road to the world famous Cliffs of Moher between Lisdoonvarna and Doolin in County Clare on the West Coast of Ireland. As a child, the place was a massive bogland (wetland created from a dead forest) but over the years the forest has been replanted. For such a small area it has so much interesting nature and has had a massive inspiration on my life.

Your sound appears to me more as a form of aural storytelling, through the atmosphere and spoken word fragments, combined with black metal as expressive means. What, the sort of feeling and maybe message, do you want your listeners to take from the music?

There isn’t any particular feeling or message, it seems everyone has a different reaction to our music.

FTBOA hails from Lisdoonvarna according to your bio. It would seem that this makes the band rather isolated and it has an impact on the sound. Do I understand this correctly?

Lisdoonvarna is a small town that’s famous for its spa water and believe it or not an annual matchmaking festival that has been running since the 1800s. Growing up there I was definitely feeling somewhat isolated and I discovered extreme music myself as a way to escape (I was listening to The Berzerker & Pig Destroyer amongst others from my early teens). I don’t really feel connected to any scene as such.

Can you tell me more about the latest album ‘Mineral Bearing Veins’ and take us through the process of its creation?

I think ’Mineral Bearing Veins’ is the most complete FTBOA album to date which combines dark atmospheric soundscapes with elements of black metal while still having the Seanchaí (a traditional Gaelic storyteller/historian) vibe going through the record. The album flows like a journey that will take the listener on an otherworldly trip.

Regarding the creation process, I record the dark ambient parts using basic computer software and add field recordings, the audio of which is usually taken directly from the videotapes of the footage we use when we perform. I tend to mix this all in stereo to give it a cinematic feel and then send my parts to the other lads who layer it with guitar, drums & vocals.

I would love to learn a bit more about the cursed fairy trees, dark underground cave systems in The Burren, isolation and Irish superstition that form the themes of the album. These are aspects most people might only have a very faint idea about and perhaps you can share a bit about it?

A running theme throughout his record is cursed fairy trees, this is influenced by the protest storyteller Eddie Lenihan held at the turn of the century when a lone whitethorn bush was going to be removed to make way for a new bypass between Newmarket-on-Fergus and Ennis in Co. Clare. He warned of terrible consequences if the fairy bush was destroyed, saying that the site in 10 to 15 years time would have a higher than usual casualty list, including fatalities. In the end, the developers changed the route so the tree wouldn’t be removed and it is still there to this day. The other main themes on ’Mineral Bearing Vein’s are underground cave systems and isolation which are portrayed on ’Poll An Eidhneain’, named after the Doolin Cave which contains one of the world’s longest known free-hanging stalactites which remained undiscovered for years. The track is about being a cursed soul trapped in the internal darkness of the cave.

On this record, you move towards a more harsh sound and more black metal elements. What made you go in this direction? Was it the themes and stories or a musical preference?

This was always my goal when I first started FTBOA. I wanted the music to be a progressive journey via extreme music that portrayed the atmosphere from living in a unique place and which told the stories I heard growing up in the west of Ireland.

Did you do any other things differently on this album that you’d like to share?

This is the first FTBOA album that was recorded as a band. With me doing all the electronics, fielding recordings and some vocals. Bryan on guitar. Ronan on vocals, guitar and recording and Padraic on Drums. We also had guest appearances from Eddie Lenihan (Storyteller who feels like a member of the band anyway), Liam from Soothsayer, Paul from Corr Mhóna and Johnny Rua on Harp.

What role do you consider for traditional music in the art you create? It seems to be an ever-present part.

Traditional Irish music is in my blood and will to a certain extent feature in the music I create. It’s really not something you can take out of me so I might as well incorporate it.

The mastering was done by Ken Sorceron (Abigail Williams), who worked with artists like Perturbator and Leviathan. Was he your first pick to create this new sound and how did this work out in your opinion?

Ken has been a friend for a good number of years and shares the same outlook on music as me, so naturally he was the first choice when it came to getting the album mastered. He heard the record for the first time while being snowed-in in Cork on his trip to Ireland in Spring this year which I thought was rather fitting.

Perhaps an out of the box question, but I wonder, would you make the same music, if you lived anywhere else? Also, what does it mean for you as a musician to be Irish?

No, I think the place you are brought up in shapes your life. If I had grown up in a city I might have become a Grime artist. What does it mean for me as a musician to be Irish? Playing the music I do, it’s just an expensive hobby with no support despite the fact that a lot of people chose to visit Ireland after seeing our live performance and seeing the visuals we play in the background. The Irish Tourist Board should be giving us a grant!

What future plans does FTBOA have?

Currently we are working on the final details for our first proper ’video’ and ’Mineral Bearing Veins’ comes out on September 28th so hopefully, the album is received well and we get to play live more often.

If you had to describe FTBOA as a dish, what would it be and why?

Braised Venison stew with red wine & redcurrant sauce served on horseradish mash. Rich food with a lasting aftertaste you won’t forget.

Underground Sounds: Neamh-Mharbh – Neamh-Mharbh

Label: self-released
Band: Neamh-Mharbh
Origin: Ireland

From the far Galway, Ireland, comes the act Neamh-Mharbh, who play a distinctly dark and gloomy bit of atmospheric black metal. It seems the west of the green island has a particular knack for the utterly dark and haunting you’d say.

Little is known about the band, and the only connective point I’ve found is the mention of Ben Merlin Wilkinson from the UK-based Where The Crows Gather as a guest vocalist on ‘Excursion of Cathrain’, linking the band to a wider UK black metal movement keen on the atmosphere.

The sound that greets you on ‘Genesis’ is unlikely described as atmospheric black metal. Yet, the band might actually more approach a sort of churning funeral doom with its slow, leveled drones. Deep, guttural vocals resound from the bowels of the earth. We do move more towards that black metal barrage on ‘The Terror of the Revenant’, though the sound never gets a flowing motion to it and sticks to the simmering and seething sound, offering a blood-curdling sense of doom.

As in a three-step rocket, it’s the track ‘Excursion of Cathrain’ that goes full on in its ascending riffing and tumultuous drumming. A fierce grasp to the heavens in full vigor and vitality. The record takes a turn on ‘A Grave of Thorns’, where a folkish, tribal tune slowly unfolds. A sense of serenity comes over the listener, as the slow, throbbing wavers like a fog over the hillsides. It’s a simple sort of beauty, hard to dismiss. The vast atmosphere comes to a close with ‘Remission’, which may be the best song of the album yet.

This record was a surprise, as the cover left me a bit puzzled. Yet, this record is a remarkable piece of heavy, captivating atmosphere that tells you something of its origins.

 

 

Underground Sounds: Ifernach – IV. Gaqtaqaiaq

Label: Nekrart Productions
Band: Ifernach
Origin: Canada

Our ancestry is often a source of pride our base of how we identify ourselves. But sometimes, it can be a cause of strive, of clashing entities. It would seem that this is at the base of what has become Ifernach. A band that looks to consolidate the Celtic and Mi’kmaq heritage in fierce black metal on this EP ‘Gaqtaqaiaq’.

Ifernach has released a series of records and though it is a solo project by Finian Patraic, has also been playing some bold live shows where knife-wielding and bloodletting appear to be a big part. Also interested in the style of corpse paint, which appears to evoke images of the native cultures of the land emulated in the music.

After a classical sounding intro, which sets the mood in bombastic tones, we move to ‘Extinction’. An eerie song with melancholic, twangy guitars and gritty, primitive sounding black metal. The vocals are also snapping, biting and raw, conveying the lyrics in French. The sound is eerie, strangely dissonant as if it comes from a different realm. In a way, it does of course. The punky beat meats intricate melodies on ‘Coeur boréal et païen’, creating an enigmatic track.

The guitar mesmerizes me constantly on this record, by invoking a kind of magic. It’s the alienness of the music, the strange different vibe it creates that sets Ifernach so apart. Yet, mostly what you hear is the sound of rebellion on a tune like ‘Elle Danse Avec La Mort’. Repetitive riffing, grooving bass and a thick palette of grimy, grinning anger, here you go. It hardly compares to the gnashing ‘Un Matin Fénien’, with a true menace to the riff.

We end the record with a traditional jam, yet even this sound ghostly and distant. It’s just out of touch with our reality, somewhere lurking in the wild. That is the spirit, captured by Ifernach.

Striborg: Unknown domains with Blackwave

Russel Menzies, known as Sin Nanna, lives on the fringe of the world in Tasmania, an Australian Island in case you’ve not heard of it. For years, he has created the most haunting, harrowing black metal with Striborg.

Moving into the DSBM genre later after making harrowing black metal for years, Striborg was part of the One Man Metal documentary by Vice, which explores the roots of his music (recommended material). Yet recently, he switched to a new sound he calls blackwave, an exploration that captures the soul of Striborg, cloaking it with new sounds.

As is always, the backlash was severe, yet I believe congratulations are in order for his musical efforts with ‘Instrumental Trans-Communication’ and ‘Blackwave’. In a genre that conflictedly embraces the freedom to explore and brings up rigid confines at the same time, it’s a bold statement that captures something essential of what this music genre could be.

I contacted the artist to ask him about blackwave and he was kind enough to respond.

Heading into the urban darkness

Which were the most ridiculous and best responses you’ve received? You’ve shared quite some online, with a note of self-mockery. Is that the easiest way to deal with this?
I guess the one that stands out the most is receiving 0% on Metal Archives. Thankfully that has now been removed. There has been a few negative responses from people who just aren’t open-minded enough to understand what it is that I am doing nowadays.
However, I have also had mostly positive and encouraging feedback for my new direction in which I truly appreciate no end too.
My self-mockery is merely a reflection of my own depression and disappointment that my blackwave music hasn’t really taken off or been fully accepted.

Striborg hails from a deep, very pure and essentialist black metal past. You’ve released albums that are hailed as absolute life-changing classics by many. In order to really place your latest efforts in perspective, can you take me through your creative past on a level of perhaps creative phases, like do you see a continuation or are there definite ‘periods’ in your work?
I think you can define Striborg into 3 eras, the black metal period, the DSBM stage and blackwave. It is a natural progression / evolution for Striborg.

Blackwave is, as you’ve voiced, an attempt to go somewhere new. At the same time a certain black metal-postrock hybrid (blackgaze) is here to stay. It seems that this journey you took was entirely free of outside influences, as is the music. Where did the transition start? Do you feel any connection on the musical level with any others?
Blackgaze is huge but I just can’t relate to it personally. I wanted to do something in a different direction with synths as opposed to guitars, hence… blackwave.

I had an epiphany to create this music, July 2017. You’ll need to read my interview with Invisible Oranges for further insight. A long story short, I was listening to some darkwave music and imagined what it would be like if you took it to the next level. What it would sound like if I mixed my years of BM experience with a completely different genre, boom! Blackwave. I felt this rush consume me, a revelation like I’ve never felt before. I draw influence/inspiration from darkwave artists amongst other musical styles too and a long love of 80’s synth pop.

I draw absolutely no inspiration from any black metal or black gaze bands for creating BW, this is why there is so much difference and your average metalhead is like… WTF? It must be said that the same feeling and atmosphere of Striborg is STILL present so why do people obsessively need to hear guitars?

‘Instrumental Trans-Communication’ feels like a hybrid album, a musical bridge towards ‘Blackwave’. Was it intended in that way or is it simply the formative process of this sound?
This is where you have a much better perspective of ITC and B over how I perceive them. Nothing was intended with the exception that ITC was just a starting point and Blackwave needed to exist to expand and define this new genre? Additionally, I felt like adding more content and detail to Blackwave using a ‘wall of sound’ production.

How much is nature still a part of your inspiration on ‘Blackwave’, or have we left the forest completely behind on this release? You’ve mentioned that the essence of the sound is to you the same, can you elaborate on that? I feel I do hear something new too, and I wonder if that how that is for you.
I feel this new direction works well either in a rural or urban environment.

To be honest the forests have been done to death. I sing about mental illness and personal struggles more so nowadays and I have an obsession with anything luminous or dark concrete settings like multi-car parks at night and how cold and mysterious they look when lit up with UV lighting, especially when empty. Blackwave music suits forested areas too, wandering in the moonlight.

Over recent days, you’ve been putting some of your older work out on Bandcamp for people to explore anew, like Cromlech, Veil of Darkness, Baalphegor, and Mondas. Having done so much, how do you look at this work now and is there any project we may see you continue in the future?
I’m rather fond of Krucifior / Baalphegor / Azimuth. I have great memories of the time I was in the group. There are other projects I will unleash soon. The only side project I intend to continue with is Veil of Darkness. I have purposely not been prolific with that project. I could actually record an album every week if I wanted to

What is the next step for Striborg and blackwave? You just released ‘Spktr’, which was done with the Australian Art Orchestra. Are you aiming for more projects like this in the future?
The recording of Spktr on Bandcamp doesn’t feature the AAO. I will be collaborating with them again next year for another live performance (not recording). This is for Mona again by their request.

Mona have been good to me and the AAO people are a pleasure to work with. I have briefly returned to BM for an upcoming split (I agreed to it 10 years ago).

My next blackwave album will be entitled ‘Leave the World Behind’. The title is not what you think it means, as in suicide, quite the opposite in fact. Forget your troubles and leave the world behind, overcome your struggles and carpe diem, seize the day! Start living!! Or it can mean the former too, an ambiguous title / double entendre.

Images courtesy of Striborg

Rauhnåcht: From the Alpine peaks

The Alps are a mesmerizing part of the European landscape. Inhospitable, inaccessible and full of inspiration for many artists throughout the ages. From composers to painters and writers, the mountains have a special attraction. I can tell… One of those artists is Rauhnåcht, hailing from Austria.

This band is the brainchild of Stefan Traunmüller, a restless musician with a small cohort of bands under his belt. Just a small selection contains Golden Dawn, A Portrait of Flesh and Blood, Wallachia and that’s just the start. Rauhnåcht takes a particular place in his work and feels quite distinct from most bands you might have heard before that merge folk with black metal.

Taking inspiration from the Alpine traditions, it’s a band that requires a different kind of listening. Music, that somehow emulates the eerie sounds of the peeks and embodies the myths and fears of the inhabitants. I found Stefan eager to answer some of my questions, which you can enjoy below. We spoke about the majestic feeling of the Alps I find in his music, his love for the authentic and aesthetically fitting and the collaboration on Sprukgeschichten.

Piercing the wall between dimensions

Hello, how did you get started with Rauhnåcht and where does the name come from?

The starting point was in 2010, when I met Max of Sturmpercht and was intrigued by the magic of some of these archaic Alpine Folk tracks. So I took samples and loops of their music and formed Black Metal songs out of it. The result was the first album „Vorweltschweigen“. The name comes from the „Rauhnächte“, which are, according to old belief of the Alpine region, 12 magic nights during the change of the year. In this time, the borders between this reality and beyond dimensions are open and communication with animals and the dead is possible. Another band holding the rights on the name Rauhnacht threatened me with legal action, so it was decided to make an å out of the a. In my local dialect (and especially in Bavaria) the a is more or less spoken like the Scandinavian å, so this makes sense.

You’ve been involved with various projects, I’m interested to ask you how they connect to each other. Particularly, of course, the project Sturmpercht and Rauhnåcht?

My initial project was Golden Dawn with three albums between 1996 and 2010. Yes, I am involved in quite a lot of projects in one way or another, too many to mention them. I work as a producer and engineer in my own recording studio and sometimes I am asked to play as a studio musician or to contribute something to existing arrangements. There are even projects where I am „ghost writer“ for singers that cannot play an instrument but want to have a band. Sturmpercht is such a case, the members of the first albums more or less disappeared and the main man asked me to carry on for him on the basis of numerous riffs, snippets, samples and field recordings from different musicians. The work for the split Zur Ew’gen Ruh was very interesting because I developed all songs in two different directions for two different bands.

What inspired you to explore Alpine heathenism and mysteries in your music, after having been active in various other thematic avenues? Are there any bands you see as examples for what you’ve done with Rauhnåcht?

The early Sturmpercht albums were the conceptual template for the first Rauhnåcht album. I have never heard such a fitting musical transformation of all the eerie and strange Alpine myths and rites. Of course, I know a lot of bands that call themselves Pagan Metal but many of them stay on a quite superficial level in exploring heathen traditions – at least some years ago, I witness that nowadays there is a growing interest of finding more honest and authentic approaches to this. More and more young people cherish the roots of their local culture, including dialect and special masquerade during rites. I think that this is a logic counter-trend to the globalized world that leaves less and less space for real individualism. But this should by no means be a political statement, nor should a support for local cultures in art be used in a political way.

I’m curious if you could share some views and insights into the myths and legends you voice through your music, maybe some examples or outlines?

I think that the concepts and ideas behind Alpine traditions and myths are not so much different to other regions, but they are exercised in a unique way. For example, the Perchten runs with the craftily designed masks are something very special. As with any folklore, this has been commercialized a lot but the deeper you enter the more remote Alpine valleys, the purer the traditions have been preserved. The Rauhnåcht lyrics have a lot of connections to tales that refer to certain mountains, moors or other places. For example, there is a rock on a mountain near my birthplace that is called „sleeping witch“, because it really looks like this. Of course, there is a tale that refers to this place and explains how the naughty witch was punished and transformed into stone. The tales are full of trolls, hounds, worms, and giants and when you are like me a lot on desolate mountain paths, you get an impression how each place has its distinct special energy that fits the mood of the tales. I had the big luck to grow up at the foot of the Untersberg. This mountain is often referred to as the heart chakra of Europe, we know sayings like this even from the Dalai Lama. There are a lot of really obscure tales surrounding the Untersberg, a lot of them contain time phenomenons and dwarves that lead hikers into the center of the mountain. Rauhnåcht breathes the atmosphere of this mountain and other places in my region, I have the music in my mind when I am hiking and I visualize the places when I compose and record. So actually I could also call the style Mountain Metal.

You’ve brought out records with both Sturmpercht and Rauhnåcht. Particularly enjoyable I find my first experience with your music, the release of ‘Zur ew’gen Ruh’ from 2014. How do you walk the tight line, where these projects are distinct, yet also really feed into each other?

I think that arranging is what I am best at. I am not someone who composes great tunes and songs every day, but when I have a basic idea or riff, I can take this as starting point and simply walk in two different directions from there. On this album, I wrote a complete song for Sturmpercht one time, a complete song for Rauhnåcht the other time and then I just deleted everything apart from the basic idea and built the song anew out of this fundament. Again I can use the metaphor of a mountain, this album is one mountain with two peaks, one rough and full of rocks enshrouded in mist, the other one calmer with meadows and fountains and Alp huts, where old farmers tell stories of long forgotten times.

How do you go about writing and creating the music you make? Do you start with the concept or with the music?

It all starts with a feeling. When I play something and my soul resonates in the same way as it does when I am walking some majestic path in the mountains, then I know that a good song has just come into being, I only have to stick to this feeling while doing all the „technical“ work of arranging and producing. Sometimes, even a sample of just one tone played in the right way with the right instrument can create this special feeling that inspires me. This is why I love to work with samples or loops, they immediately throw you into the right mood and often I can even delete them in the end, because I built everything well around them.

To be honest, I almost never start with lyrics or concepts, to the contrary, most of the time a song is already finished as an instrumental before I start to think about the lyrics. It is easy for me to find the best places and melody lines for vocals but hard to find words, especially in German. Sometimes, a few words or a certain line suddenly appears when I repeat a part again and again in my mind. I really like to be intuitive when I create music, usually, this brings much better results than stuff that has been mangled through mind and thoughts for too many times.

The latest release featuring Rauhnåcht, is the ‘Spukgeschichten – Anciennes légendes des Alpes’ record. How did this come into being and what brought the 3 bands on this record together? What can you say about its overall theme?

The idea appeared when I got into contact with Léon from the French bands Grylle and Hanternoz. He is also very fascinated by the old stories of the French parts of the Alps. Tannöd is a mysterious band from Southern Germany that is also rooted in topics about nature and local myths. So we decided to build a bridge over the Alps between France, Austria, and Bavaria. Each band represents its region and on the bonus side of the double LP, I combined field recordings of all three regions, so the listener really is on a trip through the whole Alps.

The aesthetics of your work get a lot of attention. Natural views, pagan imagery and also amazing editions. I imagine a lot of work goes into that. Can you tell something about this? What do you aim for with the physical releases you put out?

I just had the luck to work with the right people who know how to create a fitting visualization of my music. On the first two full-lengths, as well as on the upcoming album, I had Moga Alexandru (Kogaion Art) from Romania as artwork designer. This man really embraces the spirit of nature in his works, I know that he is in deep love with the Romanian mountains and he also takes great pictures. Max from Steinklang shares my faible for special releases like wooden boxes. For the first version of „Zur Ew’gen Ruh“ we had a box with branches from a fir and a bottle of „Zirbenschnaps“, I really like collectors’ items like this. For the Spukgeschichten split, Joanna (Atelier Chandelours), the girlfriend of the Hanternoz singer, drew a super-size painting of the Alps with a broken bridge. I don’t really like artificially constructed Photoshop-covers, at least not for Rauhnåcht, so I either aim for majestic photographs or for paintings of a natural scenery. I like it when a supernatural touch is added, like the creature on Vorweltschweigen, the album cover of the new album will also feature a connection of nature and let’s call it a higher sphere.

Are there any artists you would recommend, that you feel are kindred spirits for you?

For me, still nothing can or will ever beat Bathory, without Under the sign of the black mark, Hammerheart and Twilight of the gods I would have never started music the way I did maybe. I do not follow the current scene at all, in fact I do not listen to metal anymore, but Wolves in the throne room, Agalloch and Evilfeast would be three names that come to my mind now that you ask me this.

Could your music be made anywhere else in your perception?

The funny thing is that several other mountain regions in different parts of the world have similar myths and similar atmospheres in music. I use a lot of samples or instruments from traditional Mongolian music. These people have a long tradition of overtone and throat singing also. The new album will also feature a traditional flute instrument from Persia called Duduk, which has an exceptionally melancholic sound. When I use sounds of alphorns, why not also didgeridoo? Both instruments are clearly related. The first tasks of music as signals over long distances and as vehicle to support rituals and shamanic work were similar with many ancient tribes all around the world. So I don’t limit myself by excluding certain instruments, everything can be used that creates the atmosphere I aim for.

What to you is the meaning of this thing called black metal, specially today?

Okay, basically we have two groups of Black Metal bands, first the „traditionalists“ that still think that it is cool to burn churches and praising Satan in one way or another is essential for a „Black Metal lifestyle“. Second, we have the bands that don’t really care about topics and only like to play Black Metal as a music style. Most of them give themselves a pseudo-ideology and their lyrics are full of serpents and anti-cosmic chaos. When you talk with them, you often can’t find real knowledge about those topics. This is dangerous, because you still open the door to these energies, no matter if you invoke them seriously or only „just for fun“. And there is one thing that those people often do not understand in my opinion: When you want to follow Satan, you only have to swim with the tide of our modern society, he is omnipresent. Continue with your slave-job, eat supermarket-rubbish, follow the ideology of mass media and Satan will for sure be your companion. This does not go well with the rebellish anti-social attitude within Black Metal.

Personally, I respect when bands create a really negative and chaotic atmosphere in their music but this does not correspond with my lifestyle and spirituality. I accept my own inner dark side, as well as the dark sides of this material sphere we live in, but I for myself do not intentionally focus on chaos and destruction. Also I do not believe that anyone can reach true fulfillment through Satan. This is why I actually do not want to call my music Black Metal, on the other hand, people have the constant need to label something. „Atmospheric music with inspiration from Black Metal and Folk“ would be too long, so I understand when my label „Alpine Black Metal“ will still be used in the future. But actually Rauhnåcht contains more colours, so maybe I will be successful in bringing in the term „Mountain Metal“.

What future plans do you have for Rauhnåcht?

The new album called Unterm Gipfelthron will be out in autumn. By the time this interview is online, maybe people will already know the label to release it, right now we did not make an official announcement yet. I still have some ambient material aside, also one long track with a lot of nature sounds and relatively pure arrangement, this is ready to be released on another split or „special release“. In the next years, I’d like to keep up with both, serious well-produced full length releases as well as more obscure, raw and limited stuff.

If you had to describe Rauhnåcht as a type of food, what would it be and why?

Bread baked in a wood-fired oven, smoked cheese on it, mountain herbs on top. And a glass of Zirbenschnaps.

Rauhnåcht contains more colors, so maybe I will be successful in bringing in the term „Mountain Metal“.