Sounds from that ol’ Underground, this time with black metal from Grima, Ancestors Blood and Bucovina. Also in this is In Gowan Ring who add a bit more folk after Bucovina’s folk metal. Enjoy reading and listening please.
Grima – Devotion to Lord Naturmacht Productions
No, this ain’t no unblack metal band, this is nature worshipping, organic sounding intense Siberian black metal. This duo from Russia might be that answer to the Cascadian wave from the USA from the frozen wastes of the tundra. Ok, I’m romanticizing the whole thing now, but there’s s a truth to it. Naming it atmospheric BM, Grima could have just as well decided n the post-black metal description, because their sound is far removed from the fire and brimstone roots of black metal.
The shades of trees, the stingy needles of pines and the cold fog on the floor level are not hard to picture when listening to the music of Grima. Bewildered and lost in the middle of a primordial forest, one finds quiet and peace, but also the full intensity of nature as blistering salvo’s of guitar play imitate wind, water and earth in its full majesty. The music can be beautifull, but also cold and biting, with long, wavy passages of guitars and the drums brought really back in the mix. A great record for those who love the BM nature worship. Props.
Bucovina – Nestramutat Lupii Daciei
Hailing from the Carpathian mountains, this folk metal band from Romania has been around for 15 years now. This is their third full length, and it’s a special one at that. They demonstrate that Romania has more to offer than Negura Bunget, who used to be on the same label actually. Bucovina now operates through their own label Tara de Sus. The band explores in their music the ancient Dacian heritage and Romanian lore in a romantic fashion. The band implements folk influences and storytelling into their sound.
That results in a truly stunning album, where the vocals actually take a main role in it. While blistering blast beats bludgeon their way forward, the band also has melancholic singing, which appears to lean close to spoken word and chanting at the same time. The music is epic, but never bombastic and has interesting structures in its build up. The timbre of the sound is very earthy and at that also rather catchy I’d say. It results in distinct sounding album, that reminds me most of the likes of Dalriada. Recommended listen.
Ancestors Blood – Return of the Ancient Ones Heidens Hart
The unmistakable cold sound of this band reveals the Finnish origin instantly. Cold, harsh Finnish pagan metal, paying homage to the forefathers of the ancient times with magic and rituals and all. The album counts 50 minutes of dense, atmospheric black metal to commemorate the pagan times in a glorious manner. The band themselves describe their sound as Esoteric Heathen Metal. A fine description I would say, for a rather particular sound that the band embraces.
The sound of the Laitila band (that’s a town, not a weird spelling of Latino) is landing on you like showers of rain in a gale of wind. Continuous, gracefully waving windows of sonic distortion, combined with atmospheric synths that give an almost sacral, ritual aura to the sound. The vocals are wild howls, a deep despair oozing from, in the same way the rest of the sound envelops you, slowly bathing you in grief and mournful rememberance. There’s definitely a lot of emotion in the sound, without ever trying to really seem grim and dark. In a sense the comparison with Summoning makes a lot of sense to me when listening to the record. The way the keys and guitars work together, offers an epic bit of black metal, but without any sort of hope. The record has been out since 2007, but has been put out again. A good choice I’d say for the label.
In Gowan Ring – The Serpent and the Dove Les Disques du 7eme Ciel
Music does not need to have full on blast beats and bleating vocals to overwhelm. Music can be quiet, gentle and measured to achieve maximal impact and that is exactly what In Gowan Ring aims to do. This is the first album in a long, long time. Poetry, nature and folk instruments and stories of both stoens and angels, as the description states. This is an album to dream away with on these long, cold winter nights.
Gentle music trickles out of the speakers, with minimal sound and therefor so much more power. The opening strings immediately evoke the autumn. Wind swept fields and a rainy sky, with trees on the horizon. Then the clouds break and the tranquility of ‘Thousands of Bees’ is like a warm sun beam on your face in a dense forest. The beautiful words strung together warmly by the American B’eirth. His vocals lull you into dreamy realms of a different, other world that once was and maybe once may be.
Four reviews from the underground, as you know and love them. This time Tau Cross, Obsequiae, Sunn O))) and Kauan. Enjoy your own taste of them.
Tau Cross – S/T Relapse Records
Call it a supergroup if you will, I just call it great stuff. The band was formed by Rob “The Baron” Miller of UK metalpunks Amebix and interestingly enough you find a tau cross decorating the last album of that band. Add members of Voivod and Misery to that and you do have something that definitely can get the label super group. In my opinion that term usually totally misses the plot and makes a band sound shitty instantly. Not in this case, this sounds great.
Musically the band is not really reinventing the steel, but neither do they sound explicitly metal. In fact the band has a sound that comes remarkably close to quite catchy and middle of the road. The vocals of The Baron, would suggest there’s family ties between him, Abbath and Lemmy. Great guitarwork creates a soaring sound, that feels big and stretched out. A lot like a good bit of desert stoner, but with that rough, crusty edge to it. The band is surprisingly melodic and catchy at times, with these sudden hooks like on ‘Prison’. This band is one of the reasons to go to Roadburn!
Obsequiae – Aria of Vernal Tombs 20 Buck Spin
You’re never quite sure what you’ll get with these random black metal picks on bandcamp, but I’m pleasantly surprised by these boys from Minneapolis. There’s a sense of fresh sound to this band, they have found there own almost power-metal like sound somewhere (I’m struggling to describe this in the positive way it deserves, fully understanding power metal is not doing that). It’s the band’s second effort and well worth a listen due to its peculiar other influnces.
The wavy rhythm behind the song is in some way giving it a swirling, big aura. It makes the sound feel a bit bigger and warmer. Add to that the folk passages here and there and warm guitar lines and in the centre you have very condensed, powerful black metal element, enveloped in atmospheric elements. The clean instruments are working out very well in combination with the harsh vocals and blast beats. I mean, this is medieval black metal or black metal for dragonslayers, it just works. Sure, if you like harsh, then this might be too mellow for you. I dig this one for sure.
Sunn O))) – Kannon Southern Lord
If you want to really get a grip on the intense meaning behind this new project by lords of the drone Sunn O))) you should read this. The artistic angle on the whole project is so complex and globally involved that it almost overshadows the art itself that goes into the record. Luckily most will relinquish form and go for function, which in the case of this band is being baptized in body crawling drones and mythical chanting over a layer of fuzzy distortion. The fact that the band worked with Aliza Shvartz to me says a lot about the daring behind it, but also the artistic position of the band. But lets not digress further and talk about this trilogy.
The dark, foreboding drones follow eachother and pile up layer after layer. It creates also an atmosphere that is closely relatable to the oriëntal theme of the record, which can be alligned with buddhist ideas. There’s a calm to the music, that somehow lingers just long enough to keep holding that vibe. The vocals of Attila Csihar are the dark element on this record, because the music feels more earthy and calm. His guttaral meanderings are there to push the sun away. Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson succeed in blending their guitars an equipment into a captivating piece, with a certain mystic side that entrances the listener. A surprisingly accesible record as well, in which much more depth can be found by repeated listening.
Kauan – Sorni Nai Blood Music
The new album by the Chelyabinsk band is an attempt at telling the story of the Djatlov Pass Incident, where 10 hikers under mysterious circumstances found their deaths in the Ural. The band does their lyrics in Finnish, but likes to tell Russian stories in their music, which is a blend between folky doom metal and postrock-like passages, combining clean and distorted sounds into atmospheric pieces. The artwork is magical, which accompanies the record and depicts scenes from the incident that is the theme of the record. It shows an eye for detail and a complete approach. The band has been sharing footage from the hikers as well.
Weaving beautiful passages, the band creates the vista of snow covered mountains, the wind surging through the trees. Intensifying, it also relates of the weather, the danger and possible disastrousnes. There’s also trickling guitar play, gentle like nature can be with a ray of sun or the drops of water falling of a branch. Most of all, the music is absolutely gorgeous and haunting. It’s hard to describe the way this band manages to set up an atmospheric and dreamy record that tells a story like no other. The growled vocals speak of the harsh parts, while the clean sing of the adventure and nature. The sound remains natural and a bit as if the band is showing us a film, while in flowing motion the journey passes by in musical fashion.
I’m truly excited to bring you an interview with a pagan-metal band from far-off Venezuela, namely Odosha or Odo’sha as it is originally written. The interview was kindly published by Echoes & Dust.
Metal is a global phenomenon, and I cannot stress enough how significant that becomes when you start looking into the more extreme genres in places that are less likely. South-America has in general a violent and intense extreme metal scene, of which most of us only see the tip with bands like Sepultura, Soulfly and maybe some Krisiun and Sacrofago.
In Venezuela the metal scene is much localized, but very aware of the outside world it appears. I found, in talking to the black metal band Odo’sha, that there are remarkable things that a band from a Latin America can derive from the Nordic fury that is the second wave of black metal. If any part of the world can boast of repression and washing away their history, it must be there.
And that is the surprising link and why it completely makes sense that black metal can be so much more than a European thing. Second guitarist Marco Leon was keen to answer some questions and was fortunately quite elaborate in providing information about extreme metal in Venezuela.
Can you introduce yourselves and maybe say a bit how you each got into metal music, if you played in other bands and such? First of all, thank you for the interest and support for our musical work. Odo’sha currently consists of Irwin Hernandez on bass, Yonht Figueroa on lead guitar, Marco Leon on second guitar and vocals and Juan Delgado on drums. We all come from bands with different styles. Irwin Hernandez and I (Marco Leon) are founding members of the band, Yonht Figueroa is also playing guitar in a thrash metal band named NWD. Juan Delgado, the newest member of our band, is involved in a death metal project, named Initium Vortex.
How did Odo’sha get started as a band? (is it Odosha or Odo’sha) What does the name mean, both literal and symbolical? It has a double meaning, has it not? Odosha was created as a band in 2005, with Irwin Hernandez and Marco Leon as founding members The initial idea was to create a band with influences like Bathory, Burzum, Necromantia, Dissection, Emperor and such. These were the black metal bands we listened to in those days. We also were inclined to bands like Moonsorrow and Windir, who had a more melodic sound to them, but from the start we wanted to make our identity about our geographical area. Away from the European styles and copying those, we wanted a sound that was from South-America. This is how we started out and adapted our musical influences and lyrics to the context of our indigenous cultures of our region.
We’ve taken all those beliefs and stories our ancestors held before the Spanish arrived. The band name is taken from the mythology of the indigenous ethnicity of our region. ‘Odosha’ according to its mythology is the protector of the great mountains of the south of our country, but also the god who thought man the art of war and hunting. It’s an evil deity, but not a necessary one. Originally it is Odo’sha, as it appears in our logo, but for easy writing Odosha can be used.
What is the theme or story you are telling as a band? According to Metal Archives your themes are South American primitive cultures and Paganism. I’m very curious what that actually contains for a band from Venezuela and how you bring it into you work? Well, when we started with Odosha there was nothing like what we wanted to do in Venezuela. Extreme metal bands with indigenous themed lyrics or who represented an ancestral heritage of our part of the world was pretty much unknown. Obviously as musicians we were influenced by the big bands in the scene, which were mostly European bands, but we always kept in mind that their lyrics are from their history and based on their roots.
For us it felt unnatural and even disrespectful to simply copy their styles and pretend we came from the same geographical or historical reality. Our approach has been from the beginning to take all that magnificent musical influence of all those bands and adapt it to our reality and context. This is how we became the first black metal band from Venezuela, who based all their lyrics on ancient cultures of our continent.
Here, as elsewhere and everywhere in the world, is an incredible cultural heritage full of stories of warriors, struggles and ancestral beliefs, mythology and paganism. That is the basis for our lyrics and the essence of Odosha and we are proud to open that way for many more bands with this idea. Many bands in Venezuela now reflect their regional identity in their lyrics,
Can you take us a bit more in debt on those themes? Well, all of our lyrics focus on aspects of the South American pre-Hispanic cultures, before the arrival of the Conquistadores. There were so many peoples living here before they came, who lived a total pagan way of life in communion and harmony with the elements. They worshipped the sun, moon, rain and thunder. Nature as a whole was very significant in their lives, it was full of superior beings to whom they paid tribute in ceremonies that were transmitted from generation to generation. They built miraculous monuments to those Gods in the forests in honour of them.
They were not benevolent or specifically kind, but they deserved respect and took their places in the balance of the universe. With the arrival of the Spanish a series of massacres started, the colonization was a process which enforced the Catholic Church with blood and death to worship one God that no one knew. The indigenous people fought fiercely, fighting big battles through obvious disadvantages across the continent. It is told in one of our songs, ‘Cultura pagana(Pagan culture)’ says:
The blood of our ancestors was cruelly shed Our gods were humiliated and defiled our land The strength of the cross was imposed, and temples to an unknown god rose
The brutal colonization deleted a cultural legacy and we walked away from our roots. We are not Catholic by choice, but by submission. So our lyrics are imbued with these stories, battles and rituals, with beliefs and paganism and the worship of the elements and the natural world. We take this cultural legacy and put it in our songs, which is the basis for our lyrical ideology.
Many black metal bands are trying to convey a vision of sorts, a view on the world or lesson. What is that for Odo’sha? Everyone should take their own position and accept the consequences of their words and deeds. We are not false prophets or preachers trying to impose our vision of what the world should be like. We are metalheads and musicians and that is our philosophy of life. Odosha is an extreme metal band and our purpose as a band is to transmit through a strong and aggressive sound our cultural heritage, which we believe has been underestimated and neglected.
Are you currently working on something and can you tell a bit about it? Sure, we are currently working on what will be our next studio album, which will hopefully contain 8 to 9 tracks. It should be out before the end of this year. A couple of months ago we released two songs a s a preview: ‘Solstice Ritual’ and ‘El Dorado’, both can be checked out on YouTube, to get an idea of what’s coming.
What are your main influences, both musical as non-musical, to make the music you make? It’s a bit difficult to define our musical influences, every band member has their own tastes. Those range from the black metal of the 90s to thrash and death from that period. Even folk and viking metal are a part of that influence. Beyond our music, the identity as South-American metal heads, with all the complications and difficulties of doing this kind of music in our part of the world.
What is a live performance by Odo’sha like? In the early days of the band we used war paint, but now it’s more focussed on the music. That what is heard live has to be as close as possible to the studio sound for us. So what you can expect is a presentation of Odo’Sha as an extreme, strong sounding metal band with energy discharging with every song. We are a metal band and as such we want to transmit the aggression of the genre in our presentation. We also often play covers of bands that have been very influential for us as Bathory, Emperor, Dissection or the old Samael.
Do you consider the metal scene in Venezuela locally orientated or more outwards? Do you get many bands playing in your country from abroad? Venezuela is currently going through a very difficult political and economic situation, the “bolivar” our national currency is in constant devaluation and free fall against the dollar, for that reason
Performances of foreign bands in our country have disappeared almost completely. There were better times, in which Venezuela would be a spot for touring bands to play, but this no longer happens. The situation for national bands and the projection to other countries is similar because of the unstable economic situation. Local bands are not able to open doors to other countries, there are virtually no labels or producers specialized in metal music in our country so everything is pretty much do-it-yourself. Some bands have managed to get their music to other places, but the presence of Venezuelan bands abroad is unfortunately something far removed from reality these days. Beyond the bordering countries like Colombia, it is almost impossible to play abroad.
When speaking of metal from South-America, it often focusses on Brazil. Can you say a bit about how the metal scene in Venezuela started, developed and grew into what it is now and what bands were major influencers? Certainly Brazil is the home of great bands in our part of the world, like Sacrofago, Sepultura and others. The history of metal in Venezuela is very diverse in terms of bands and periods. In the 80’s it was mostly heavy rock with bands like Resistencia, GrandBie and Arkangel. Thrash started as well with a band called SS. It was a period that paved the way for the metal scene that would harden with the passing of years and had this higher moment with extreme music in the 90s with bands like Bahometh, Noxius, Natastor, Krueger and many others. There is now a big and varied movement in Venezuela with great bands in many different styles like thrash, death, black, heavy or any other.
What is the current scene like in your country? Are there record stores, venues, clubs and such? The local scenes are quite underground, there’s no big stores, only small distributors in different parts of the country. There are not many places that are dedicated exclusively to metal. Concerts usually take place by renting places that have nothing to do with metal music. In the main cities of the country, you’ll find one or two pubs, but metal head pubs are very scarce. Play or listen to this music in these regions is always tricky, it has not reached the point where it’s respected and supported as an art form. These are lands with tropical rhythms and also with a very outdated mentality, where metal does not own any space.
As a metal head do you face forms of censorship or not being accepted in Venezuela society? As far as I gathered your country has a strong religious practise going on and some strong set values. Does that show in the metal scene? Yes, that is correct. Venezuela is a predominantly Catholic country and extremely conservative. Metal is seen as an aggressor that violates the values and traditions of the region. The scene is growing though and getting stronger in a significant way. Those who listen to or played metal in this country for real are willing to go against the outdated and obsolete system in which we live.
Fortunately there are a lot of young people that are breaking taboos and opening their minds to a globalized and intelligent world, who start regarding Catholicism as a major obstacle to free thought and integral human development. We hope that at some point these walls of ignorance will be torn down.
What current bands do you recommend for people to check out?There are a lot of bands here, I personally prefer to let everyone judge for themselves. Pick one and listen, I assure you that you will get very good stuff.
To mention some, Funebria is an excellent band that plays blackened death. Noctis Imperium is another black metal band that has been around for years. Natastor is a thrash band with many years in the scene behind them and Hereja plays a brutal form of dark black metal.
That’s jus to name a few. If you ask others, I’m sure you’ll get some different replies.
Do you think there is something typical about metal from Venezuela? Could you describe it? Well, I am not sure. Maybe someone from outside the scene could spot something like that from an objective opinion. I think metal is a language that knows no boundaries. You can have a playlist with German, Dutch, Greek and even Venezuelan bands and all of them make you bang your head without even speaking their language, that’s the essence of metal.
Please use the space here to share anything you’d like to add. First of all, thank you for the opportunity to present our work. We hope this will be a door for many maniac metal heads to meet Odosha! We invite you all to check our stuff out on Youtube or on the Facebook page of the band.
You can also check out our page on Metal Archives. We’ll keep in touch, soon there will be new material from the band. Greetings and raise your horns up!
A bit on the late side, but another installment of underground tunes that I checked out with Panopticon, Venom, Deathspell Omega and Joanna Newsom (shut up).
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
As usual, I take records that I feel should be getting the attention. This one-man band from Kentucky is part of the movement described as ‘Cascadian black metal’. That requires some background, because Cascadia is a perceived bioregion in the west of the USA. Metal involved with this usually has some atavistic or ecological tendencies in their sound and ideology, making Cascadia more or less a concept in the way I perceive it. A band doesn’t need to be from this region to adhere to its views. The naturalistic elements in the sound of Panopticon definitely allow for this band to be included. The record follows up on the majestic ‘Roads To The North’ from 2014.
The result is a melancholic album, depicting the beauty and also the sorrow that is enveloped in the time of the year. Beautifull sunrays dancing on colourful leaves, but also blistering wind and rain, it’s all audible in the organic sound of Panopticon. The warm blanket sound of ‘Pale Ghosts’ in all its soothing and eerie beauty, but also the barrage of ‘Oaks Ablaze’, full of vitality and turmoil are part of that expression. The album is one that deserves the word beautifull, it’s a journey through a sonic landscape that is clean, stretched out and full of natural wonder. It’s an album that is surprisingly calming and pleasant to listen to. Check it out, you wont be sorry.
Venom – From The Very Depths
It’s f*cking Venom and they are back with a new album. Ok, let me just briefly touch upon the topic of ‘the real Venom’. Venom Inc includes two original members and a long running vocalist, Venom has Cronos and two other dudes… For me Venom Inc has a bit more credibility, but Cronos is producing songs that sound like Venom so I have no winner. Cronos and his croonies did this album in 2015 and it is absolutely awesome. Is it a progress from the original sound of Venom? No way, it’s really just as much Venom as their debut.
The whole album is really just balls to the wall rock’n’roll with a dark, angry overtone. Add to that a bit of gothic grim and the harsh bark of Cronos and you’ve already got enough elements to be the basic sound of black metal. Stand-out tracks are the self-deflating ‘The Death Of Rock N Roll’ and ‘Long Haired Punks’. Still, the band manages to impress with an unparalleled fuck you attitude and riffs that are solid like rock. The filth and fury was a term used for the wrong band back in the day, because nothing is as dirty and gritty as a Venom album and these guys have proven on their latest effort to be still as relevant as ever. PS. I do hear they suck live, still.
Deathspell Omega – Paracletus
So I totally forgot to pick up the latest album by Deathspell Omega. The French black metal giants, fronted by Finnish fetish porn prince and Clandestine Blaze musician Mikko Aspa, have been known to push the frontier on the genre ever outward and forward and they do so again on this frantic endeavour of progressive black metal. Ok, I know it has been out for a few years but I felt it was worthy to pick up the release on bandcamp, because it’s Deathspell Omega. Right?
Even now, five years further, the band is still pushing the envelope on this record, which reminds the listener of the likes of Nihill on their utter chaotic, gritty and mesmerizing last release. There’s a certain grandeur to the sound fo the band, but also a continuous barrage of intensity that will not go down easily. There is also a lot of beauty, of soundscapes that remind you of postrock bands with a heavy touch, samples an slow passages. A captivating album with a classical tone to it, a certain high class within the metal world I guess. Its a tangible thing throughout this continuous transforming record.
Venom – From the very depths
Joanna Newsome – Have One On Me
I’m a huge Joanna Newsom fan, so I think it was high time for me to throw it in here. Though this is also a slightly older album, I never really took the time for it. It opens with the angelic and overly sweet ‘Easy’. From there on you have not one, but basically three records in one to enjoy, because Joanna just does what she feels like it seems. The vocals have become much more polished over the years, moving away from the freakfolk roots to a more orchestrated, full sound. Where predecessor ‘Ys’, was very minimal and cozy, this does feel wider and more open.
The music of Joanna Newsom on this album is a bit too polished to sound like the appalachian folk tunes, it was once compared to. Still that is somewhere in it, in the telling of stories and conveying of clear feelings. There’s a simplicitiy to it, without trying to dumb things down. ‘Soft As Chalk’ has some of that typical singing and a feel of americana. The voice of Newsom is still something you might just not be into. It might sound more polished nowadays, compared to the pre-Ys recordings, but its hooks, jumps and hoots are never tamed. That and the unique playing style on the harp, an angelical instrument of bygone days, is still something that touches my heart for sure. With a new album coming soon, I still cherish the progress I enjoyed hearing from the debut and demo’s on. I’m not sure if I like ‘Walnut Whales’ the best as yet.
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur Nordvis
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will notserve Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.
This is an interview conducted with Malthus from Vaalghul, originally published here on Echoes And Dust.
Metal is a many headed beast and mostly we hear about the bands that roam the western part of Europe or North-America. In the quest to find out what else is out there I stumbled onto the band Vaalghul from Macedonia. Now, just saying Macedonia causes bad blood, so usually the country is known as the Former Yugoslavic Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM). That depends on where you come from though.
I find that many people in my country don’t even know this place exists, which is quite interesting. It borders on Kosovo, which is another great unknown together with Albania. The main conflict concerning the countries name is with the southern neighbours, which is Greece. The country has bene heavily investing in its identity, even following a policy of antiquisation. Macedonian identity is a part of the music, Malthus readily admits, it seeps into things.
Vaalghul is a black metal band, which is currently unsigned. In 2014 the first EP was released and work is underway to fix the second release. Malthus answered them on e-mail and through the chat, because he’s currently residing in Australia.
Can you start with where the name comes from and how you started out with the band? Vaal is the name of a demon, ghul is just an addition to give it a better sound. Vaalghul is the ‘Tyrant Overlord’ (God of Terror). The vocalist got that name when we were wondering about a band name a couple of years ago. There were some other options but we felt this fits pretty well. Back in those days we weren’t entirely sure if we would be doing something serious. Not that it was a joke of course. We came with some good ideas and then recorded the first demo. The production was very raw and almost impossible, but some people liked it.
We recorded the demo in the classic way with one guitar amp, a shit soundcard and then this is the result you get. There are many ideas behind this project, but one of them was making something different in our country. We wanted to be unique in our country with some extreme music.
The lyrics were satanic initially, but the point of them was to provoke people. Shake them up from their regular ways of drinking coffee on Main Street and gossiping. They enter the church when they have to and that’s that. We did enjoy writing the lyrics. I guess the Satanism is mainly provocative, but it also is a tribute to those who want to live free and do what feels good.
You’re using the name Malthus, can you tell me why you chose that name?
In demonology Malthus is a prince of Hell and I liked the name. That’s why I took it.
Which are the bands that inspired you to get into heavy metal? I’m not sure I remember what I was listening to, but I’m sure I listened a lot of Death, King Diamond,Psychotic Waltz, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Dio and Slayer.
I read that you used to have some band members, what made you continue on your own? Which bands inspired you? Yeah, I used to have some band members. We were three people in the band, but one of the members never had time to record, another had no time at all… It wouldn’t work out that way.
What made me continue was my passion for the music. I also had the time to write and record music. It’s not that I had big hopes, but I wanted to make everything more extreme and more provocative. I guess the biggest inspirations were Mayhem, 1349, Dark Fortress, Isegrim, Leviathan and Setherial for me.
How did you, living in Macedonia, get into metal music? Where there any local bands inspiring you? I happened to have really good friends who were listening to all kind of metal music, when I was in my youth. My best regards to them! Actualy local bands were my inspiration and drive to record something new and more serious. There are lot of good bands though, but most are not my style but still unique in their own way.
Are you playing live shows? Back in the early days we never had plans to play live. We did want to at some point, but we didn’t had a drummer who was up to the challenge. There are quite good shows in Macedonia though, even though most are hardcore shows. At least they’re very energetic.
I don’t think the hardcore scene is much bigger, but it’s just more acceptable to people. It’s hard to find a true black and death metal music fan…
I read you’re working on a new album. Can you tell a bit about the record, the artwork and the message you’re trying to convey? It will take some time before I actually finish this album, it was supposed to be out a few months ago. It’ll be out sooner or later though. The vocalist of Septuagint (kick-ass band from Greece) will perform the vocals on the album as a guest musician. The artwork is going to be done by Gediminas Kiaunė (Manum Diaboli Art) from Lithuania. He is a really passionate artist, who makes the perfect artwork. If you need some artwork, he is your man. He just popped up on Facebook, which got my interest. I checked his work out and was amazed, so I got in touch and we struck a deal. I check his work again for new stuff every week.
On the new release the lyrics will be more spiritual satanic, the message itself I’ll leave in the middle. Each can figure out their own from it.
What to you makes a band a black metal band? It’s hard to give an answer to this that feels right. It depends, it can be thrashy, mixed with doom or anything these days. Many bands have been taking black metal to whole different levels. Look at bands like Dark Fortress mixing music but still good kick ass and still black metal maybe not pure like raw one line but still black metal. If you listen to the records ‘De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas’ and then to ‘Ordo Ad Chao’, you hear two different worlds, but still both black metal. Both completely Mayhem. Uniqueness? I took these because of the good vocal range of the vocalists, Good “scream” “grim” cold evil vocals, good atmosphere in the music.
Can you tell a bit about the scene in Macedonia, its history and what bands are standing out according to you? Sure, back in the 80’s it got serious here with bands like Orion and in the early 90’s. They played thrash/death metal with some excellent riffs and solo’s. On their tail followed bands like Dismay and Sanatorium. Later band like Arhont and Hall Of Sins rose up in the 00’s. Those are the most important names I think.
I also think they represent the spirit of metal in Macedonia. There’re only a few extreme metal bands, but they have a good history behind them. The same goes for most of these bands. When you have the time, take a listen to each one carefully.
I noticed there are more bands than I thought in Macedonia, but I hadn’t found them due to the Cyrillic writing. What makes bands chose either? The Macedonian alphabet is in Cyrillic, so many bands just want to represent themselves in their own language, which is their choice. Personally, I prefer the English, because this way everyone can grasp your message, whatever the lyrics are. If you write in your mother tongue, it’s pretty hard for foreign listeners to get your lyrics and translating them is not really it I think. But what do I know, there are people who care nothing for the lyrics, so it doesn’t matter whatever language it is.
If I visit your country, what spots should I as a metal head definitely visit? There are many great locations in Macedonia to visit, especially in Bitola. The city has a history behind it, but as a metal head I think only summer is a good period to visit. Usually people (metal heads) are gathering in the park, drinking a beer. A lot of people do that anyways.
There used to be some good places to hang out, but not anymore. The new generation of metal heads is trying to change that and I think they are getting there. There are no real record stores you could go to, the only choice is to buy music online or go to Thessaloniki in Greece. That’s an option since my city is close to it. There are gigs though.
I understood there’s quite a rivalry between Greece and Macedonia, based on a name and cultural dispute. Is that in any way tangible in the metal scene? Yeah, a lot of people are curious and asking about that. For me, I have a lot of good friends in Greece here and there, these days not many people think the way about this as they did in the 90’s (when this was an actual political issue red.). Especially people involved in the metal scene and who don’t care or are against politics from both countries don’t care much for these issues. Governments are the problem I think, not the people.
Do you think anything of the Macedonian identity seeps into the music? Yes definitely.
What future plans do you have with the band? For now, it will be the new single that is going to be released. The album will be out later some time. Who know, for now when I think about the album release, I have no clue what’ll happen after.
Thanks everyone for reading my ‘Sounds of the Underground’. It’s much appreciated, so here’s #25 with Graveworm, Murg, Witchsorrow and Fluisteraars.
Graveworm – Ascending Hate
Things tend to get back to you in time and bite you in the face it seems. Graveworm is one of the first extreme metal bands I got to hear and genuinely scared me at the time. Their album covers fascinated me, specially in the early days. Now, the Italian band is back with a death/symphonic/blackened explosion titled ‘Ascending Hate’, which to me sounds most like Cradle of Filth having a car crash with Therion.
The album is very well produced, which helps bring forward the symphonic and melodic elements in the music, which has soaring guitars and ambience enhancing keys playing throughout the songs. The harsh, barked vocals offer a contrast of brutality, together with the death metal barrage of guitars, but the bands doesn’t shy away from using their softer side when they can, like ‘To The Empire Of Madness’. There’s a beauty to this album, that unfortunately not the whole world will appreciate.
Murg – Varg & Björn
Fuck yeah, black metal the way it used to be made, that’s what I want! This album brings back the fury of the original second wave in the hand of this Swedish company. Blistering guitar play and a dense, northern atmosphre make this a well worthy ride, full of frostbitten grimness. These are songs with blast beats the way you love and cherish them, in full furious swing and high on energy. There over you hear the tremolo guitar play, reaching up to this static buzzing sound.
It is rather hard to find info on the band, but there’s a good interview out there if you are interested. To the sound, though it can be murky and harrowing, there is also a certain beauty and melodic nature to the sound, hidden underneath tones that speak of decay and morbididty. Big, wavy guitar parts speak in no uncertain terms of a grandeur and power of nature, which is an influence clearly to be felt in the music of this mysterious duo. This record brings back the past, but a bit more in its grandeur and passion. A next album might come into being, so I’m rooting for that one.
Witchsorrow – No Light Only Fire
Brittish doom lords Witchsorrow have a new one, which looks rather good on first sight. The eye does not lie with this record, but it’s not just doom. Opening title track is a jagged, heavy stoner anthem with a break neck speed. The vocals are restrained, as if the full power of the band is waiting to be unleashed as yet on this record, which happens on the thrudging ‘The Martyr’. The celebration of their 10 year anniversary is definitely one this three piece does by showing the full scale of their skills.
The slow and heavy part is definitely in order with these guys, who manage to combine that element with a certain hardcore vibe. All the sound is crisp, clear and filled with a certain venom. This is however, without ever sounding like anything that isn’t doom. Witchsorrow is one of those bands that reinvigorate the genre with a catchy and open sound. It is not without reason that album immediately resonates with me and I sincerely recommend it to anyone who bears love for the genre as a testament to its enduring longevity.
Fluisteraars – Luwte
There’s this new wave of black metal in the Netherlands, which seems to rely strongly on a certain poetic aesthetic. I think of Laster and Terzij De Horde, but Fluisteraars also puts on a particular brand of sweeping majesty into the sound they paint. In their bio, the band speaks of windswept black metal and that sort of makes sense when you listen to the organic, wavering sound of the band. The Gelderland collective is definitely taking the listener on a journey with their specific sound.
Continuously surging guitar parts drag you along in a sonic river of grief, remorse and sadness, where now and then an echo of hope seems to be woven into the sound. The band manages to lift that sound up to etheral hights. Without any hesitation the sound then twists and turns around again, like a u-turn into a shouty cacophony on ‘Angstvrees’. The track then resumes the stream. The record takes an epic approach to the black metal genre, which is truly captivating.
I read some game books from Warcraft written by Christie Golden, Greg Keyes’ Elder scrolls novel and another one of Dayal Pattersons black metal histories.
Christie Golden – Arthas: Rise of the Lich King
Sure, you’re not getting high literature with the Warcraft books, definitely not if they are supposed to clean up a bit of the past and connect a previous game to the World of Warcraft ‘Wrath of the Lich King’ storyline. If you did not play Warcraft III, this book adds to your experience. If you did, this is the plaster in the wall for you and I can’t deny truly enjoying the gaps filling up and in fact replaying the Arthas storyline in Warcraft III at the same time. What a great game…
What is true is that the author really takes the time for the gaps and therefor leaves little room for describing the in-game events, specially towards the end. It feels like a sudden sprint to the Frozen Throne (you know what I’m talking about) through Ahzjol-Nerub in just a few pages. Remember that first target reader, for that reader this is very bad reading material, because sense it makes none. There’s also a symbolic element in the story, that never really comes to fruition. Christie Golden is a great writer, but even though this was highly succesful, I believe she could have done better. Still, well worth reading and almost required for the lore-lovers.
Gregory Keyes – Lord of Souls
Since the Elder Scrolls book I read the other time was part one, I guess it only makes sense that I continued with part II. I think it was dragging out the adventure a bit too long, because I go very dishearthened at some point and reading it didn’t seem as much fun anymore. Still, I did continue it and sadly the end of this was also not what I expected.
I normally try to say quite a bit about a book, but in this part the story just continues. You’d expect to find a good reason why the story is split into two books, but that never really seems to make sense. There’s not more depth to the key players, no new additions to speak of and basically just a long stretch of wrapping up the story in a rather clumsy way. I guess my fanboyism is not great enough for this.
Christie Golden – The Shattering: Prelude To Cataclysm
Since I quit playing WoW during the great years of Wrath of the Lich King, I never got to experience the Cataclysm content in its prime. I in fact skipped this whole part in favor of playing other things, doing other things and working. That being said, I know that Cata was an expansion with a lot of lore invested in it. This book by Christie Golden is part of that build-up, reading it in hindsight might be a bit disappointing, but still worth it.
I always lack the same things in the novels by Golden, I miss a certain amount of action and character depth. There’s a lot of expressions and inner monologues, but it always stays on the surface. Even the blossoming romance between Thrall (Go’el) and Agra is in a way never going deeper (only through ceremony a sort of spiritual expansion is mastered). That being said, the book offers an intriguing build-up to what was about to happen in game, which could also be found in Night of the Dragon. Is it a real addition? Not really and it bums me that the death of one main character becomes such a footnote in the history of Warcraft.
Dayal Patterson – Prelude to the Cult
Though this is not a real big read, I felt it was worth mentioning. In his histories of black metal Dayal Patterson found room to gather up some of his nicest interviews for an appendix piece of those. It’s a really cool read and still rather recent material. It gives some more depth to elements in the books and allows the artists to share some words themselves. This is a well worth addition for anyone rading the stories about this nocturnal cult.
If you are keen on this, please visit their website and buy your copy straight from the makers. Support this awesome project. Thanks.
This time from that deep underground, I’ve got Turnstile, Forgotten Tomb, Moloch and Anfinnsaas for you to indulge in. Enjoy listening to some cool music.
Turnstile – Nonstop Feeling
Oh shit! Did I just get pulled back into listening to hardcore with a cool nineties vibe, remniscent of Shelter and Cro-Mags both. There’s also a tinge of some of the groove metal stuff going on in the day, but surprisingly, this band is super young. In fact this is their debut. The Baltimorians (is that the word?) have been around since 2010 and now delivered an awesome debut record. The album is out on Reaper Records, known for acts like Terror and Trapped Under Ice.
Turnstile has no problem putting back some emo in the core, without becoming whiney. There’s less of the tough guy bullshit, which is too often part of the New York sound they embrace. That gives way more freedom for music, since the songs don’t need to be laced with breakdowns and circle pit frenzy. There’s a lot of that going on, creating that catchy vibe of the more ideological laden hardcore bands of the nineties, specially with the vocals feeling a lot like those of Ray Cappo. Some effects, like on ‘Can’t Deny It’ empasize this fact. Looking forward to seeing these guys play in my town.
Anfinnsaas – Anfinnsaas
There are records, that you put on and just gradually enter your consciousnes. They fit the patterns you expect to hear and just kinda mellow into your hearing. This is not one of those records. This record is a hectic, frantic, noisy and chaotic amalgation of different styles and genres into a product that feels loose and uncontrolled. That would be quite far from the truth though, this band seems to absolutely know what they are doing on this debut. The group exists since 2013 and the name is funnily enough a combination of the last names of both members; Knut Finsaas and Geir Anfinn Halland Johansen.
The record is out on Autumnsong Records and it has six songs on it. These are strongly percussionist songs, even the strings appear to be hammered in some songs, which brings a bit of a djent feeling forwards. No, it’s not like that. The loose sound makes sure that there’s a continuous flurry of twanging and clanging guitar strings, making this feel like an overdriven machine. It’s quite an atmospheric and enjoyable record with a lot of exciting elements to it. Just not for easy listening.
Forgotten Tomb – Hurt Yourself And The Ones You Love
Forgotten Tomb is one of the bands pioneering the genre of DSBM. Often controversial, always provoking and in a way brilliant, this is their latest album which immediately betrays some interesting influences in the arwork, atleas the music seems to take a bit more of an industrial/heavy metal approach. Not that the group around Ferdinando Marchisio (Herr Morbid) ever relents in their misanthropic views, but the sound is more accesible.
Tracks like ‘King of Undesirables’ carry a certain Satyricon-like groove and rhythm, which could be a crowd pleaser live. Take that with a big pill of Celtic Frost heavy and slow, and you’ve got yourself a winner. The theme remains very far removed from that greater audience, expressing a true disdain for humanity and life itself. Specially the title track expresses these feelings without any symbolism. The production is done very smoothly by Brad Boatright (known from Nails, Beastmilk and such), which works with the sound of this band. It is probably not their most extreme record, but it sounds pretty awesome.
Moloch – Abstrakter Wald
The idea of recording your album in the Carpathian mountains with an open tape is kind of bespelling, specially considering it was done in a winter night by the Ukranian project Moloch. So imagine that, in the forest and in a part where myth and reality are not that far apart. Where the night holds terrors that have no names. This is very much what sound you can expect from this black metal project. True, there is little metla going on, but that is not diminishing the atmosphere of the recordings one bit.
Eerie, slow rising synth sounds are reverberating gentle in the air. There’s a sense of peacefulnes to the sound, but always there is also a threat. A gentle drone is constantly there, humming, growling but just out of reach. I used black metal project earlier, since its in the description of the band on bandcamp. Obviously, this recording is much closer leaning to ambient and experimental music, even taking a bit of postrock into it. The titles are all the same, except for numbering. That’s why ‘In Dem Gewaltigen Wald Wo Das Echo Sich Selbst Verlier’ stands out, also due to its cold synths and fuller, more open sound, leaving the drone a bit behind for a short moment. A bemused experience, this record is all that.
New roars from that good old underground with Mgła, Perturbator, GosT and Heidenland. Black metal and synthwave for greater glory. Check it out!
Mgła – Excersises in Futility
The mighty Mgła from Poland has a new release out, which lasts a good 42 minutes. The abum is already number three for the band, who have a sound that is pretty impressive and reminds me a bit of a more blackened Behemoth (who, let’s be honest, have shifted to a more death sound). That makes this band sound strangely much like an orthodox band, creating very pure, beat driven black metal that is kinda mid paced for most of the tracks. Sure, then you get the blastbeats pounding and running amok, which gives it more of a full frontal attack vibe, but it never drags the rest of the sound with it.
The title of the album says a lot about the lyrical content and the general feel the album gives. There’s no veiled, atmospheric mysticism here. No grander scheme of things or deep meanings hidden behind it all. There’s just this and the bleak guitars o Mgła. There’s a certain compactness in that sense to the sound of the band, which allignes with the brevity of it all. Nothing more needs to be said, this is it brother. We live and then we die. Amen.
GosT – Behemoth
I was not entirely sure about this release. Regarding the title and bandname, it felt like someone was trying to cash in on the hyped bands in metal these days in a very weird way. Weirder even was the sound, but the label of Blood Music does bring with it some sort of status. Also the label tends to push the envelope a bit. So, first thing to really say is that this is not a metal album. It’s a weird, glitchy bit of synthwave that has strong eighties feelings to it.
That means it has none of the heavy artillery you’d be waiting for, but it does have a whole lot of atmosphere and cold electronics. Therefor it approaches a raw, cold sound rather smoothly and you can actually dance to it. There’s a tension in the sound, that prevents it from moving towards the slightly tacky region of electroclash and revival acts. There’s also some harsh electronics to melt away the clean feeling, all in all this is surprisingly pleasant record.
Perturbator – Sexualizer
Sticking with the Finnish Blood Music for another release, there pops up this strange pink/yellow cover of a re-release of Perturbator’s ‘Sexualizer’. Another bit of peculiar narrative synthwave, telling the story of an inception like story of a drug abusing porn star named Jimmy. The hazy rave like sound is telling the story of how reality start to fade away in the mix of all that. Perturbator is an artist from Paris, delving into the human consciousnes.
The sound you get as a result is a strange mixture between Miami Vice eighties synth and EBM beats from the DAF era. Jazzy loops cut through the rhythm in a spiralling manner, creating that musical high of the storyline. The attempt at creating a story really helps in your interpretation of the music, it sets your mind in motion to visualize and imagine this taking place. It also makes the music more sensible and not just a weird sort of harking back to a long gone past of angel dust, disco and porn. Perturbator is weaving a movie here.
Heidenland – Stormvloek: Beschonken, Kwaad en Goddeloos
The story of this release is rather interesting. The band has been around for 20 years it seems, but only now this compilation/full length is out. Originating in the Netherlands, Havoque started the band to play black metal in the same way as Darkthrone, Bathory and all the original bands. Harsh, lo-fi and anti-christian chants of hatred so to say. After having relocated to Canada, the record is finally ready now and out on Heidens Hart.
Don’t mistake this band for an NSBM band, which I was thinking it might be for a moment. This is simply anti-christian pagan rage as emphasized in the lyrics. Violent and back-to-basics sounding black metal, with that thudding blast-beat drum section, gritty sound and peculiar folk elements to emphasize the ancient pagan roots. The record is labelled as a compilation, which explains the difference in audio quality. It’s a great record for those willing to listen to some good, old black metal, the way they used to make it.