What if you let go of the clichés that make up black metal and you explore a direction that is more organic, more close to heart and understandable. Ok, Stilla is still a black metal band of the atmospheric sort, but there’s something honest and straightforward to the band that makes them stand apart in a sea of rather unremarkable acts.
Previous offerings by Still are already highly appreciated thanks to their authentic flavor. This third release somehow brings it all together. The Swedish band creates something that is both engaging and densely atmospheric.
What I find particularly typical to the sound of Stilla is the assault. There is no passive beholder/listener, because the elements that make the songs constantly assault you and create tension. That puts them a bit on their own trajectory compared to the run of the mill atmospheric bands. This is immediately on the opener ‘Irrfärd’. It translates as ‘roving expedition’, but immediately spells danger. Threat of predators, threat of the elements and of the companions on this journey. The true assault starts on the next song with natural sounding blast beats. There’s no polished production but a very natural, full sound to the music. The vocals are intrusive, confrontational even at points. As if another is shouting in your face. All part of the journey.
In the meantime the guitars create archs that give a more atmospheric feeling. They sound rather decadent in combination with the gruff rhythms. Sometime Still even has a bit of a bold swagger to their sound. For example the song ‘I Tystnad Vilar Själen’, which reminds me a bit of the Satyricon groove of later records. Clean vocals are a peculiar thing on the album, but on this song they’re there. Somehow it gives the track a more earthy, punky aura. I think that’s pretty cool.
You also hear some clear Enslaved influences, with more progressive, stretched out soundscapes being presented. The wild, wind swept nature is evoked by the sound, the image of a rugged land with strong bones jutting from the earth in the shape or mountains and hills. In that sense there’s a hang towards the Cascadian black metal genre (or post black metal as some call it). The chanting, the synths, they all point towards a more subtle and natural sound. Still, every time the band pushes that a bit, they soon jump back to the more conventional sound.
Maybe on that front the song ‘Till den som skall komma’ is most typical for where Stilla is at now. The free darting guitars, the subtle tempo shift, but also the ragged, traditional black metal buzzsaw drone still there. The eerie organ, but also the barked, commanding vocals and cymbal-clashing blast beats. This is also where the charm of Stilla is, it lies in their duality and tension between the two faces of the band. That’s what makes this record so interesting, by showing both the harshness and the beauty in one form.
First of all, boasting of guest appearances of Obsidian C. (Keep of Kalessin) and Torstein Parelius (Manes), this instantly grabs attention. You’d almost think they’re just throwing names around, but there is absolutely no need for it. Khonsu has used prime musicians in the past, as a result of which their concept was made into a reality with the musical extravaganza that it requires.
Khonsu combines black metal, industrial and progressive elements and is a project of two musicians. S. Grønbech is the brother of Obsidian C. and worked on the well known Reclaim EP. T’sol has been active in various bands. Khonsu” means “traveller” or “pathfinder” and is a reference to an Egyptian deity. The sound of the group really feels like a futuristic take on black metal with a strong narrative element to it. It’s quite awesome.
The band achieves an eerie vibe through long passages of keys and samples. You can taste the influence of krautrock with soaring passages and those weightless keyboard moments that seem to linger. The riffing comes in short, controlled bursts, overall sounding extremely tight and interwoven with various effects to increase the progressive feeling and story of the record. Vocals vary from monotonous chanting to deep grunts and soaring moments of operatic ecstasy. You may deduce from this, that the album has plenty going for it, while holding definitely enough variation to keep the listener intrigued.
I dig the aggressive nature and awesome art work of this album . You can let your imagination run with it. The depiction in sound the band offers is futuristic, while sounding dystopian in a way. Perhaps that’s what the galaxy under the boot of the Empire feels like in StarWars. It’s grim and dark, much like a Warhammer 40K universe, but more clinical I suppose. You can feel the empty void that is space in their sound. It’s VNV Nation without hope, Dodheimsgard without the blasting fury and maybe even a connection to Fear Factory’s desolate stories of a post-industrial, post-World War III landscape.
I’m just throwing tome things out there, while The Xun Protectorate is a great album full of shifts in pace, theme and timbre. Short narrative intermezzo’s form the intro’s of songs or quick breaks in between. It’s music for metal fans and sci-fi lovers alike, making it a great record, with all the right elements.
Label: Ledo Takas Records Band: Dissimulation Origin: Lithuania
Lithuanian black thrashers Dissimulation are one of the longest running bands in the genre for the Baltic country. Internationally the scene is little known, with rare exception for bands like Obtest and Luctus. Having been around since 1993, the band has plenty to show for it, which is released on this record ‘Juodo Mėnulio Archyvai’.
The record is a collection of their work, but therefor also a good introduction into the work of this band. The three piece from Kaunas plays a mixture of black metal and raw thrash. In the early days that was much more pure black. An interesting other fact is that as far as I know there was little time for other projects.
Listening to the album, you notice that the band clearly has that messy thrash element to them. That is interestingly combined with synths, creating folkish peculiar songs like ‘Būk Prakeiktas’. The energetic tune is captivating and fun for the listener and a little remniscent of Finntroll in their early days. The blistering, gritty sound features bleak lo-fi sound, blast beats, unearthly barks and an overall break-neck speed. The thrashy elements are easily detectable in the overall messy sound of the Lithuanians. That is, I think, what gives Dissimulation its unique dark flavor and raw fury. Peculiar vocals now and then are even adding to that sense of begin unnerved.
‘Mūšis Rūke’ is a typical track, with the heavy synths giving of the sort of epic dungeon vibe that is actually prevalent in all the work by Dissimulation. A typical looped synth jingle gives that special fantasy-feel of later ’90s black metal. It’s not sticking to that though, a few songs futher we get the blistering blackened thrash again, mayb exemplified by the cover of ‘Countess Bathory’, originally by Venom.
The quality on this record varies between some tight materian and rather distorted, gritty demo tracks (like ‘Pilnaties Kerai’, which sounds completely demented with its frantic, nervous roaring vocals). The all over impression of this record is a career spanning overview of extreme metal. Dissimulation definitely has their own flavor of raw, straight up black metal.
Label: Avantgarde Music Band: Botanist / Oskoreien Origin: United States (both)
The band Botanist is a one man metal project, that steers black metal into the realm of plant life. The apt name for that side of the split is not without reason ‘Green Metal’. The sound of Botanist has captivated me, even more after seeing them perform life on Roadburn. It’s vibrant, unrelentingly different and in its own sphere of existence. It’s use of instruments is also peculiar, mainly the use of a hammered dulcimer. I love entering that verdant realm of Roberto Martinelli aka Otrebor.
Oskoreien is less familiar to me, but the band has their roots in viking metal. This is also a one man band. Jay Valena has more moved towards black metal with a slightly philosophical theme to it. The two tracks of Oskoreien are under the title ‘Deterministic Chaos’. I’m a bit puzzled why these two artists have come together, but it makes sense soundwise and lets be honest, both are fairly strange acts in a league of their own.
The tracks of Botanist are marked by a peculiarly frantic percussion and lack of the blazing guitars. The harsh barked vocals are in sharp contrast with the often harmonious and very beautiful tones. It’s a bit like drifting through Wonderland, where a mad plant-man starts barking at you in the midst of the green overgrowth. It’s rare to use the word vibrant for black metal, but the blissful tones of ‘Varkoor’ evoke no other feelings. The epic lyrics describe plants and their reproduction in grand terms, like ‘Clathrus Columnatus’: “Lord of the flies, In pilgrimage they come, To its altar of slime, Gathering its children, Spores to arise anew”.
The final track by Botanist is an almost shoegaze affair, where only the vocals stand as the extreme metal element.’Saprophyte’ fades into another track, where that weird, hammering percussion is again on the forefront. This playful, lively sound is in sharp contrast with the noisy, distortion laden sound that Oskoreien delivers, including some big riffs by the way, to keep the rock element high. Droning, gritty sounds with melancholic guitars woven through is what you hear on the title track ‘Deterministic Chaos’. Though it feels black metal, it has a sludge/drone sound going for it that is so utterly bleak that the harsh vocals are all that gives life to the tune.
The most surprising track is the Placebo cover by Oskoreien. It’s like a long stretched, doom-gloom version of the track with tormented howls instead of the nasal Brian Molko. An improvement many would say, but what an unearthly emptiness does Oskoreien invoke with their cold soundscapes. Harrowing and haunting, combined with those tracks by Botanist, this makes for an excellent record exploring the far of realms of black metal.
Label: Hammerheart Records/ Graven Earth Records Band: Sol Sistere Origin: Chile
Chile always has surprising artists to offer in many genres. The long stretched land on the far coast of South-America (from where I’m sitting) is as diverse in its musical output as must be its climate. Sol Sistere is an exceptionally good atmospheric black metal band from the city of Santiago.
Sol Sistere is releasing their debut with ‘Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum’ and that’s always a good thing. Why? Because new bands have new ideas and interesting sounds. Sol Sistere has their own take on black metal that I’m keen to explore on their new album ‘Unfading Incorporeal Vacuum”.
That new sound is definitely something that the Chilean band offers in their captivating balance between intensity and control. Though at its churning core, the band can be brutal and relentless, like on ‘Relentless Ascension’ with its guttural barks and blast beats, the nuance is its specialty. On the outside tapestries of sound are spun out and landscapes are painted with a sonic brush.
A bit of groove isn’t strange to the band either, who use a nice bass line on ‘Sight of the Oracle’, which soon merges into a flow of unmistakable melancholic beauty. A bit akin to some of the work by Winterfylleth, the vocal work is much more black and abyssal. The combination is majestic and haunting at times, but undeniably black metal. An album full of great atmospheric music
There are some more bands in that direction, creating something beautiful while retaining the essentials of black metal, but Sol Sistere is standing head and shoulders above most. Though there is still a little catchiness missing perhaps, but this is the debut. Who knows what more may come.
On Eindhoven Metal Meeting 2015 I was trodding along in my Winterfylleth shirt and ran into Simon Lucas and Chris Naughton from Winterfylleth. During an interesting conversation we discussed various topics, which rapidly go from history to politics and metal theory.
I was already sold on the music of this band, but the sharp wit and keen minds of the duo made me even more interested in what lies behind the music and the band. As I’m still a major fanboy, I often forget to get to the point on these moments, but luckily I was able to throw in my question if I could do an article on them. They luckily said yes.
While I was working on this, the band announced the coming of a new album, titled ‘The Dark Hereafter’, which will be out soon on Spinefarm and Candlelight. Unfortunately I’ve not been able to go too deeply into that, but I’m well excited for that record. Having faced their share of controversy in the past and being the band that they are, not every topic was up for discussion.
I hope you enjoy reading about one of my favorite black metal bands around. Chris Naughton, singer and founder of the band answered my questions.
How have things been for Winterfylleth lately?
Great thanks. We’ve been a little quiet this year as we’ve been writing for the new and upcoming releases. Also a few of us became new fathers so we’ve not had the time to commit to being on the road as a result. But we are all now looking forward to the new release and to a fresh run of shows and press – with everything that brings.
You and Simon Lucas (drummer) played together in various other groups like Men Scryfa & Atavist so it seems like you guys go way back. Can you tell a bit about those projects and what they were about? Did they help you find what you wanted to do with Winterfylleth?
For me those projects are largely unrelated to what we’ve done, and become, in Winterfylleth. Simon and I used to do Atavist (and I still do, having resurrected the old line up of the band this year) but that band was much more about exploring Nihilism and Inner Darkness rather than any of the themes we have in Winterfylleth. We did a few albums with Atavist on Profound Lore & Invada over the years and stopped doing anything with the band (until this year) around 2008 (after our tour with Nadja & Satori) to focus on Winterfylleth. Men Scryfa was slightly more related to Winterfylleth, although only because they lyrics to it were about the ‘Men Scryfa’ standing stones and the folk lore and significance to our history. This was a one off song written for a label called small doses records and was a tribute to the work of Julian Cope and his ‘Modern Antiquarian’ book. We never did anything else with this band.
Your music is clearly heavily influenced by historical themes, the same seems to go for your other bands. How did you get into this? I understood there’s a professional background to this work.
Winterfylleth is the only band where we have a really strong link to history and historical themes. We’ve talked about this many times before, but Simon and I met over a mutual appreciation for elements of history and that is what sparked our interest in doing a project together. Initially Simon joined Atavist on the drums, but as we were winding down our attention on that band & starting to form what would become Winterfylleth we also began to solidify the themes around history and heritage that had brought us together in the first place. There is no professional background to this and we are both just interested in these topics and continue to be; linking them to our political awareness to formulate the themes of the band.
It’s been 2 years since the wonderful album ‘Divination of Antiquity’. Are you working on anything new currently?
Yes, we have a few things in the pipeline actually. The main thing is that we have a new record called “The Dark Hereafter” coming out on September 30th in UK/Euro. Around this we are also working on an Acoustic album (which will follow The Dark Hereafter) and then another Black Metal album to follow the acoustic album. As I mentioned before I am also working on a new Atavist album and have also completed work on 2 news songs for 2 new releases for my other band Nine Covens.
Listening to your music, I find it’s very much giving the feeling of paintings from the Romantics of great landscapes, the majesty of nature and such. Is that in a way what you’re going for?
Absolutely. The idea is, and has always been, to connect people with their history, with landscapes and with nature. There is a song on the new release called “Green Cathedral” that really sums this up for me. It’s about how we should focus more on localism and not globalism in our daily pursuits, steering power and influence away from a few people in big companies and moving it back towards people. Returning to nature, at least to some extent, is inevitable for us at some stage. Particularly as the world is so chaotic and resources are so finite. We will have to do something at some point to curb our excesses.
There’s something really upbeat to your sound, there’s an element of empowering in it. I feel, when listening to it, that I want to straighten my back a bit more and get my chin up. I especially like listening to it outside and experience it. Is that something you feel is in there?
Yes I think so. Lyrical themes and imagery can only get you ‘so far’ as a band. I feel like the music itself also has to live up to the beauty and sorrow of the tales we are telling, otherwise the message doesn’t get across. So we use upbeat melodies to highlight and accent the elements of the ups and downs of the stories we are telling as a band. I think that we firstly connect with music as listeners, rather than lyrics etc, so if you get that bit wrong, then the whole point it lost.
You guys took part in the compilation ‘One and All, Together, for Home’ with a lot of similarly minded bands (to an extent at least). Do you feel a connection between bands that are doing something similarly to yourselves?
Of course, particularly bands like Drudkh & Primordial from that line up. They are bands who seem to share similar sentiments about their history and folklore, as well as caring deeply about it. So I think we’ve stuck together to some extent and I think it’s right that bands support one another as some of our content is important around current affairs and is another way of getting the truth out to people.
What is your recording and writing process like? Do you have defined roles and where do you get your subject matter from?
We all write together in my home studio and demo everything before we try it live. Usually Nick or I come up with the initial song ideas and then we build on them together. Although now we have Dan and Mark D in the band, we will start to see some of their influences coming through, I’m sure. Once we have done all of the pre-production, I write the lyrics and we take the songs to the studio and let Chris Fielding help us bring them to life. Lyrically, the themes are about ancient history and how that relates to the struggles of the modern world. So sometimes we talk about wider global themes and sometimes we relate them to pressing issues. All through the lens of ancient poetry and prose, adapted for modern means.
When we met at Eindhoven Metal Meeting, we discussed some of the accusations you’ve faced as a band, being labelled nationalist and even NSBM. Can you tell a bit about what that all was about?
I think – to our earlier discussion – that there are still veins of people who think we are evil because they have seen some reactive nonsense on the internet about us from 2007. Things happened that are well documented and we took steps to distance ourselves from them, so while there is a bit of a back story, it’s behind us and was 8 years ago. The kind of people who dredge this up are usually just virtue signalling ‘right on’ types of people who have never bothered to dig deeper and find out the real truth about us; and who seem to like having a cause to post on social media against. People that read our lyrics or engage with what we have to say in interviews are typically much better informed about what we truly stand for, and are the kinds of people who would defend our points, and our name, to others who know very little about us. I try not to get involved in things like this online anymore but I am happy to speak to anyone and answer their questions (in interviews or to our band page) both positive and negative because I think it is important to confront accusations like these head on and to address our critics honestly.
You explained to me that the t-shirt with the Warrior herd print had a specific meaning behind it. Can you relate that story and is it representative for your views?
The Warrior Herd shirt visualizes how there is always an evil behind the banners of war. The image depicts an evil being behind the flag of men charging into battle. It basically shows how we send our troops off to war under the pretence that they are defending our country, or our way of life from tyranny, yet usually we are actually invading another country for their resources or for some kind of financial or political gain. We revere our soldiers (and rightly so) as they give their lives for what they believe. It just happens that usually they are sent to do that under false pretences and there is usually a hidden agenda at play. I think that is an important lesson for how the world works and is something we are keen to make people think about when considering the topical issues of the day.
Winterfylleth notably doesn’t use much of the black metal aesthetics that are traditionally associated with the genre. What prompted that decision and how do you feel about bands still adhering to the ‘traditional’ look of black metal?
We are a BM band from England who formed 15-20 years or so after that kind of aesthetic was used and it just doesn’t represent who or what we are. Also, it has been done to death by too many bands now as well. To me, the corpse paint/traditional aesthetic of BM is the property of the bands from that era and was a reaction to their musical/political/social landscape at the time, and represents a feeling they had. To me we shouldn’t be trying to emulate that, as we are from a different era, a different country and have different issues that we are confronting in our music. The genre started around nihilism and satanism and reaction to religion etc. To me now, we are discussing issues of nature, of environmental distress, of socio-political importance, of history repeating itself and of power structures. It doesn’t work for me to utilise their aesthetic to do that, we have to find our own. So that is why we choose to be as we are. Our outward personal image is less important to us than overarching image of the albums and the message of what we are saying. Thus we avoid the traditional aesthetics.
Recently I watched the documentary ‘British Black Metal: The Extreme Underground’. A really enjoyable view on the British scene. What bands do you think are currently carrying the torch for British black metal?
With no ego, I think we in Winterfylleth have always tried to lead the charge in terms of contemporary British BM and have strived to bolster and promote the British scene for as long as we’ve had a platform to do so. We’ve helped get lots of key bands signed, we’ve A&R’d lots of bands for labels and taken as many of them on tour as we could to widen their influence and exposure. That said I don’t think UKBM would be anywhere without the combined efforts of a key group of bands… Wodensthrone (RIP), Fen & A Forest of Stars – who were other bands that really helped to re-ignite the British presence on the global BM map around the same time we were forming.
I think what we and those other bands have done is to create a platform on the global stage for British BM again and have allowed other bands the space (and possibly the inspiration) to bring their own spin on it to the world. As a result, lots of bands have come to the fore over the last few years that are really starting to strengthen the UK’s position in BM. Bands like, Cnoc An Tursa, Saor, Eastern Front, Falloch, Old Corpse Road, Wolves of Avalon, Ethereal, Necronautical, The Infernal Sea, Mountains Crave, Kull, Arx Atrata and lots of others.
In the documentary you also mention travelling the country for inspiration. Which are the best spots to listen to every Winterfylleth album?
You should travel to the places where the cover images were taken (Castleton in the Peak District, Snowdonia National Park and the Lake District), go for a walk and take in the beauty and majesty of those areas while you do. They inspired us to write the music, so hopefully they’ll creatively inspire you as well.
What does the future hold for Winterfylleth?
A new release called “The Dark Hereafter” is due on Sept 30th 2016, and we will follow it up with some shows and touring next year. We are also working on 2 future releases as mentioned above, so we are busy with what comes next before the new release is available.
Final question, if you had to describe Winterfylleth as a dish, what would it be and why?
I think we’d be a satellite dish, as we help connect people to each other around important issues. 😉
Label: Independent Band: Rebel Wizard Origin: Australia
Imagine extreme metal that is free of trends, free of hip motivations and pure in its expression of angst, fear and frustration. That is a bit of a tricky thing, since most bands are connected to some other, bigger movement, some sort of trend. Then stumbling across the most raucous, rancid record in a long time, which is filled with an almost jubilant fury and enthousiasm. That’s what you get from Rebel Wizard.
What if you’d mix Angel Witch with Bathory and add some epic IronMaiden riffs? Well, that would be the most close I can get to describing the feeling Rebel Wizard’s music offers. Sole member NKSV, also known as Bob Neskrasov, has been active in Neskrasov and Whitehorse next to this project, which allows him a singular way of expression outside of that (Neskrasov is also a solo project).
The album opens with the quote: “There’s no reason to be alive…”. It sets the tone for a grim sound, but when the riff comes in, it’s not the static haze of typical black metal, but a thundering, fists in the air heavy metal riff offering you a build up like no other. The song serves as an intro with its mid pace marching vibe. Prepare, for metal is back as you love it. The riffs on the following thrack ‘Where We Surrender Completely To The Miserable Shaman’ the guitars fall down on you, but again with those recognizable heavy metal vibes. Combine that with hoarse screamed vocals and you have a potent mixture of fury.
Rebel Wizard combines the two unlikely sounds to a vibrant, energetic sound that you can not sit still to, it demands you to stomp your feet, rock your fists and scream along in the overwhelming frustration that is vented by the Wizard himself. The switch in sound is so intriguing, so different, yet so incredibly catchy. Though the recording quality is not studio-crisp, it’s that gritty element giving it even more of an edge. Just listen to the track ‘Eat The Warlock’, which has the screaming guitars that work so well, regardless of any other aspect. The high pitch of the vocals feels almost harmonious with that sound.
I find that in words I lack the means to truly describe how full of vitality this record is, how strongly it just resets the starting point for a black metal album. This is brilliant and feels like such a raw, direct expression that punches you in the gut and then knees you in your face. Bam!
Not often to you see a band just carving out their very own niche in a rather established genre. Maybe it’s not even a niche, but more of a return to the more pure expression that Rebel Wizard persues.
Rebel Wizard is Bob Nekrasov, in the notes of the album ‘The Triumph of Gloom’ put down as NKSV. He has been making black metal music the way he deems it to be right for a ling time now, either with Nekrasov or with Mors Sonat and in the past with Whitehorse, but Rebel Wizard is special.
When I was listening to the album, the most noteworthy element was its almost jubilant expression with old school heavy metal riffing and overwhelming approach. Just everything pouring out at you at once. All this from Melbourne in Australia. I was so excited about the record that I contacted the Rebel Wizard for a little Q&A. This is the result and it’s far more informative than I’d have expected. So thanks to Bob for taking the time to answer these.
As for you… enjoy reading!
How did you get started with your project Rebel Wizard?
I’m not sure. I’ve always written and made music like this. However ‘back in the day’ it was just guitar onto a 4 track recorder. I grew up obsessed with music, listening and creating. These days the process is all unconscious and done as a way to fill what I feel is missing.
But I guess it properly started as “Rebel Wizard” doing that first EP three years ago now. I just did and sent it to a couple of friends not really thinking anything of it apart from I enjoyed doing it and I liked the theme that was coming out of it.
What are your favourite bands? I’m assuming there actually is a combination of thrash, nwobhm and black metal there?
Cripes, that’s a huge answer. Many. All the usual however it does change. My favourite bands though are more a ‘presence’, attitude and uniqueness. Developing their own thing against trends etc. Big influences are Bolt Thrower, MercyfulFate, Crass, My Dying Bride, Econochrist, Man is the Bastard, Bathory etc etc
There’s something really classic heavy metal in the sound of Rebel Wizard. How did you develop that, to me, rather unique sound?
That’s really nice to read as there is normally complaints about the ‘shitty production’! For me it captures an energy that got me into metal which was then the pathway into punk, anarchy, philosophy, occult and breaking the shackles of a warped and fucked up conditioning.
I just have my sounds that I like that I have been using for a long time. I just do what resonates with me that I feel doesn’t show up anywhere else. No way am I saying my sound is important or ‘fucken raw as fuck broodal BM’ or ‘pure old school’ – there’s no point to it other than this is what makes me react in certain ways. I like ‘honesty’ in production – not ‘slickness’ or sterility which is so common. I just do what I enjoy. I tried to make each release sound unique whereby the production meets the riffs. Production, for me, is ‘spirit’/ atmosphere of music. Compare Iron Maidens original production of Somewhere in Time to Book of Souls and try not to cry.
How does Rebel Wizard relate to your other bands Nekrasov and Whitehorse, what made you start a different project from Nekrasov for this new outlet?
No way related to Whitehorse, nothing I do relates to that band. Nekrasov and Rebel Wizard are both things that are completely personal. They are not attempts to fit into anything other than being various expressions coming purely from my sub conscious nonsense. I’ve always done both from a young age. Whether it was playing guitar or making horror soundtracks as a kid.
I guess I feel older now and am able to channel a life time of influence whether musically, philosophically etc into either projects. They both allow me to be free to do as I feel I need to do. To be honest I wish I was a plumber.
You’ve been quite prolific in releasing music in 2015 with five EP’s seeing the light of day. How do you get so much out? And what made you decide to go for the album format now? What’s the advantage of the EP format?
Habit mainly. I’ve just always done this kind of thing. I’ve tried to quit over and over but I just ‘need’ to do it. I don’t really think about it.
I grew up with a metal and punk background, late 80s early 90s. Mostly I bought 7”s. There were tons of bands that would come out of no-where with these fucking amazing and powerful eps that you’d play over and over. Normally the full lengths would never meet that standard. I miss that feeling so I started doing it for Rebel Wizard. I like that ‘powerful’ ep life. There’s such a big deal on albums and their mostly boring these days. I mostly don’t give a shit what modern folk are on about and can’t spend an hour on their torture. But that’s just me. I probably shouldn’t really speak of such things as I am still stuck in the past.
Can you say a bit about your album ‘Triumph of Gloom’. What is the story that you are telling on the album and how much work went into it?
I’d prefer not to say too much. I like that it’s kept completely open for the listener as I hope it spanks various sized buttocks. Lots and lots and lots and lots of work, and then lots more. Then I spend way more harder work.
You’re releasing the music on a very limited run of physical formats, what is the reason for that?
Again habits from the past. Everything was done handmade. It makes it personal/ special. I still like doing that. I find that insane glossy inverted cross digipak nonsense is what Disney would do. I have a small audience so it’s easy to do and I enjoyed making something unique for those sad cunts who are hurting themselves with my stupidity.
What is the concept of negative (Wizard) metal? What is the idea you’re conveying with your music? Does it feel right that it’s received as such a positive, vibrant and energetic bit of music that it actually is?
‘Negative’ metal is lots of things: golden shower on bro metal, resurrection of anarchic mysticism on contemporary energy drink sub cultures, emphasis on negative concepts however not the ‘depression’ format and the use of the ‘negative’ to move away from what’s being told is ‘something’ to returning to ‘not this’ etc..
What’s your writing and recording process like, how do you actually get those great records into being? What are the things that inspire you or that you need to make music?
I literally do not know how to answer but it just comes out. There’s no trying. I just do what I need to do. I’m not trying to be anything. It covers all that I resonate with in all life matters. It’s habit.
My life has been long, rough and epic in so many ways. Like everyone who feels that ‘thing’ with the kind of music we do, it is a life line. I try not to let too many outside influences in. Of course they are imbedded. I would say that it comes from doing things I feel are missing for me. In so many scenes there’s a strong sense of replication, this exists is ALL scenes these days. There’s just shit I need to do that I feel is missing, for me. I don’t bother with marketing or labels as I feel it’s not what ‘the people’ want. I am a particular type of ass. I would not release anything if I felt like it was jumping on a band wagon but I also don’t think my way is the way, it’s just what works for me and what helps me process the multi levelled, super layered elements without jumping naked off a plane into a glass roof restaurant.
Since you do all by yourself, I was surprised to read on your Facebook page you’re putting together a live set. How is that working out?
It’s going very slowly and painfully. I am almost thinking it’s a stupid idea.haha.
Where did you get the samples on Triumph of Gloom from? Is it important to you to have these samples to invoke a spirit or convey a message?
That’s for me to know and you to do whatever you do with it all. Haha.
What would you like that people take from your music?
That’s completely up to them.
As I understand it, you have little love for contemporary metal music. If you had to name some bands that do get the spirit of what it is you’re doing, which ones would that be and why.
I have little love for all things ‘contemporary’! haha. I’m not aware of anyone doing a Rebel Wizard type thing. Now, this sounds like an asshole thing to say! Haha. But what I mean is that I make the Rebel Wizard stuff as I feel no one else is doing it and I enjoy it. It simply entertains me and offers me some therapy for this completely absurd and increasingly idiotic/ conservative world. That’s what bands of my early years did for me. If there was someone else capturing the ‘spirit’ of RW I wouldn’t do it so it’s best I stay ignorant. There’s tons of projects I have huge respect for. There’s just too many to name.
What future plans do you have?
None at all however I would really like that Triumph of Gloom on LP. That would be nice. But there’s no plans on anything.
Finally, if you had to describe Rebel Wizard as a dish (food), what would it be?
Urine soaked unicorn steak.
There was a little riot in extreme metal land the other day, which probably seems futile and minor to anyone who isn’t into it, but is also, like every confrontation saying a bit more than you’d think.
Even the whole #kimexposedtaylorparty concerning Taylor Swift and Kanye West (and Kim Kardashian, but whatever), is a debate that tries to create something bigger or maybe is. People choose sides on things, its the way it works. I have passionate Taylor Swift fans among my friends, hence me knowing about this… and I have a twitter account so yeah…
So what gives?
Since pretty much everyone I’ve seen debating this issue has retracted their statements and removed facebook posts, I’ll just get to some vague picture of what happened.
A band behaved badly and that was picked up by a metal zine. It then levelled some accusations at the band this pissed of the band, lets call them… SatanGoat. Something with goats, you see… Now, the journalist in question, might have made up some shit about the band or had drawn some conclusions that the band disagreed with. In response, they posted their rant.
But that wasn’t enough for the evil men in SatanGoat, who ofcourse all have pseudonyms and are very secretive. The band needed to doxx the writer (for what doxxing is, check wiki). Meaning, they posted a picture and all personal data of this person.
uncool bra, uncool…. But if you mention that, you’re told to go back to your hipster metal cave.
I’ve never written under a pseudonym, I’ve had bands say they were sad to read I didn’t dig their stuff and had bands say thanks for the nice words. Now, on this blog I cover stuff I like mostly. I don’t see the point in writing about a album I didn’t dig, sorry. Life is short and I have many things to do. But what if I would be doxxed? What if I’d written that SatanGoat was unoriginal (I think I did) and not really doing anything innovative, but was in the end a fun listen… What if I suggested that some lyrics are a bit edgy. I’m talking about a mostly anonymous band… should I be doxxed?
I hope not. I read two responses, one from another blogger who took offense and one from a black metal musician who considered it taking a stand. I have to say, I agreed with both. Branding someone as anything and writing cheap headlines to get clicks is just the sort of stuff that put #brexit in motion and might put Trump in the White House. Two things we will, I don’t doubt it, regret. Journalism needs to be honest, checking their stuff and getting that info others cant get.
Does that make it ok to ostracize these people and put them at the mercy of the audience? Not really, no. Specially from the comfort of anonymity. But this stuff goes both ways. Respect your topic, they are people too and respect people taking the time to write about stuff. I don’t know how it works for the big sites, but I, like many others, do this in my spare time for the love of the music.
I could and should write toaster manuals instead, it would make me some money.
Respect is the absolute key, but it’s only something you can give, not something you can demand.
This edition of Sounds of the Underground features musical gems from Winterlore, In Mourning, Release The Long Ships and Muscle And Marrow.
Some good music for lesser weather.
Winterlore – Winterlore Slaughterhouse Records
The cover of this second Winterlore record immediately speaks to the afficionado of dark fantasy/history with its gloomy depiction of a moonlit landscape. It says a lot about the sound of these Utah residents and their mystical black metal. The debut of the band came out in 2013, so it was high time for something more. With members of Ered Wethrin, Malignant Inception and many more, its clear that the band draws inspiration from various styles within the genre to create a perfectly balanced sound of their own on this record. Inspired by early Drudkh, Angantyr and Satanic Warmaster, you know what you’re in for! Back to the old underground.
Blending the right elements of oldschool black metal, this band sounds grim like you used to love them. Black, eerie guitar riffs create a static pattern that batters on forever, while the vocalist barks his dark incantations. Taking clear inspiration from their Northern predecessors, the band focusses on similar themes and cultural components. The sound is hardly full of variation, but leaves room for atmospheric guitar parts. Repetitive, droning patterns with a melancholic feel get the listener in a trance. Fascinating is the chanting on the end of the title track and in fact also the closer for the album. It’s almost Viking chanting, in a Wardruna style, which evokes powerful imagery surrounding that cover photo. Though stylisticly a bit retro, Winterlore has released an album that brings all the good from the old favorites in a fresh coat of paint.
Muscle and Marrow – Love The Flenser
It’s a peculiar thing how certain records end up in the black metal category on bandcamp, but for this album I do get it. Muscle and Marrow is an experimental duo, creating music that tugs at the heart strings. On This record the songs are trying to express the complexity of love, but not in the cheesy way we all know and hate. It’s much deeper than that. In this interview with Noisey, singer and guitarist Kira Clark talks about her influences for this record. The sound she produces with drummer Keith McGraw has been dubbed doom-folk, but if you like to call it doompop, experimental music or electronics, it’s all good.
If I have to clarify what this sounds like, I have to mention Chelsea Wolfe and (though many might disagree with me) Björk due to the free form of the music. In a way you can also not pass up on the chance to mention Courtney Love, who is a big inspiration for this album apparently and in some ways her influence can be felt in the music. The tunes feel very ambient, but the vocals are weary and expressive. It creates a feeling of darkness, almost gothy. The shimmering music and haunting vocals express an exhaustion almost, which is very convincing and giving the record a strenght that is hard to really put to words. It convinces you of truly complex feelings that drain you when even trying to comprehend them. Whispered or screamed, Clark is a vocalist with a powerful range and at the core of this record for sure. The rest is just framework. I’m struggling to write down what I hear, it reminds me of the description in ‘Lord of the Rings’ of the ringwraiths, who are stretched thin, almost ghost-like by their greed and the lifeforce eaten away by that one ring… that’s how the music of Muscle and Marrow sounds.
In Mourning – Afterglow Agonia Records
These Swedes know a thing or two about creating haunting tunes that find their way somewhwere in between goth and doom with a tinge of symphonic added. It’s no My Dying Bride, but in a sense that is not such a far shot from what these gentelmen produce on their fourth full lenght in their 16 year existence ‘Afterglow’. Maybe if you add a little Moonspell to that mix you do get the sound of In Mourning. The band from Falun has started moving in a more melodic death direction for a while now, which can be heard on their new album as well. With two original members in their, the core sound of contemplative and intelligent music with a classic hint is obviously maintained on this new outing. I enjoyed listening to this.
The band is hugely melodic, full of majestic arches that depict an autumn landscape of ever dying life. The tracks are notably long and not always leaving the impact you’d be hoping for, but on a track like ‘Ashen Crown’ the band is unleashed. A torrent of minor tunes is launched at the listener, conveying grief and torment in an intricate and beautiful manner. The riffing is pulling at you with grand, sweeping movements and a wide array of tones and layers. I can’t say that the vocals are all that convincing and distinct on every track, but the right approach is taken everywhere with grunts or clean contemplative vocals. It’s the guitars that take the reigns on the tunes with a fierce bit of bass and drums (in the capable hands of
Daniel Liljekvist, former drummer of Katatonia). The song sink down and then rise up again, higher and higher. Sometimes it’s just swooning and subtle, like the intro of the wonderful ‘The Lighthouse Keeper’. Though In Mourning is not giving the gothic doom the kick in the arse it so sorely needs, it’s bringing out all those elements that make it such a beloved genre.
Release The Long Ships – Holocene Self released
What draw my attention to this record in the first place was partly the bandname, Release The Long Ships, which reminded me of that stupid Unleashed song. The band is in fact Ferenc Kapiller, a one man musical wonder of multi-instrumental prowess and a knack for the mysterious. Perhaps known for his artwork for post-BM band Nullingroots from the United States, the Hungarian has released a wonderful record with ‘Holocene’. The musician set to work with nothing more than a guitar and a computer back in 2011 and has wrought some brilliant stuff this far. At home in Szombathel he creates simple but imaginative songs and I truly adore them.
Another point of interest for me was a song titled ‘Tesla and Tunguska’. I had heard a song earlier with Tunguska in the title by the T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society. The melancholy and the wide stretched feel of the sound feel similar. The mysterious Tunguska-event, an explosion thought to have been a meteor, has been linked to Tesla by obscure theories. It’s a reworking of an Erudite Stoner song. Kapiller translates this to minimalistic music, with a lot of background distortion and noise on moments when it needs to swell to bigger proportions. The trickling guitar sound is a prevailing element on this album, evoking imagery of fantasy landscapes and deep forests. The kind you don’t see anywhere anymore, but maybe in Hungary a part lingers. The music is layered and laced with emotion, this is not something to listen to anywhere else than at home or on a walk in nature. It has a taste of ambient, the flow of postrock and the organic vibe of folk. It really is worth your time.