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.
A new series of sounds from that good, old underground with this time Myrkur (sure, I’m the metal hipster), Heisenberg (yes…), Bròn and Aokigahara.
Myrkur – M
You can’t pass up on all major releases, specially not this project by Danish multi-instrumentalist Amalie Bruun. Produced by Krystoffer Rygg (Ulver) and supported by Teloch of Mayhem and Øyvind Myrvoll of Dødheimsgard, this is one magical release. The sound is full, eclectic and unpredictable. It’s essentially a one person release, but much more than just a black metal album as which it has been put down. It contains new age, classical, ambient and folk elements in a blend that is so potent, that a listener may easily be overwhelmed by it.
Angelic singing by Bruun (or should that be another word due to the clearly pagan elements on the album) over some effect creates a dreamy atmosphere of tranquility with an edge of unrest. The guitar work is usually dense and full on, creating walls of tremolo guitarplay and thunderous rhythms. This record is not made with the intention to sound grimdark, evil and cold, it’s a calm and eerie beauty. A passage into the otherworldy, where the black is more black and the white is more white, everything is more intense on this record. That’s what makes it great, trying to write about it as waking up from a lucid dream. It’s bewildering.
Heisenberg – Heisenberg
I’m usually pretty enthousiastic about the bands I write about, but I’m not going to praise this one very highly. After hearing the dreadful Okilly Dokilly (the Ned Flanders HxC band) I stumbled across this on bandcamp and was like…Hell no! I did not watch ‘Breaking Bad’, which makes this even worse. It means that I can not even bring up the little bit of fanboyism that might be required to experience this band in the way it intends to be enjoyed.
I’ve never bothered saying I know my shit when it comes to death metal. It just is not my cup of tea in a general sense, though I can enjoy quite a lot of this. I do think it is a funny idea and someone had to do it, but it kinda starts to put the gimmick in metal and truly… that’s something it’s already choking on. If you happen to be part of that small niche of people who dig both death metal, gore and Breaking Bad (talk about niche marketing), this is your band and this is your album. Enjoy. I’ll pass… The bit where you hear Pantera is good though.
Bròn – Fògradh
It takes some digging to find out what this project really is. The man behind this atmosferic black metal project is Krigeist, who is also active in Barshasketh,, Cathedra, Blood Of The Moon and Belliciste. It’s one track of almost half an hour. The intro part takes a bit of the shimmering electronics of Jean-Michel Jarré it seems but then the black metal part hits. The production is not perfect, which makes you really pay attention to hear what is going on. Interestingly, the black metal never takes the forefront on this recording.
It’s a bit like synths are being played loudly over a tape deck playing the black metal tracks in the background, which makes them gently merge into the streaming, clean sounds. Harsh vocals are barked here and there, but the mix of the two elements is just off. That is what creates a unique ambiance of warmth, with a tiny hurrican in the bottom of the streaming sound. An odd tremolo guitar playing follows later, taking away the continuous flow of synths for a short while, creating another odd part, where the fog is momentarily broken by sunrays. The sound is very warm and pleasant, but with a tone of remorse. An intriguing record for sure. Aokigahara – _ Aokigahara.
I might have an eclectic taste, but atleast I’m not putting this stuff out there on a regular basis in order to torment people. It’s electronic music, but the first couple of minutes of this Costa Rica based band are samples, noise and weird screaming. Named after the famous suicide forest in Japan, this is obviously a DSBM record. I don’t really check that stuff out for fun by myself, because some of it really makes me feel fearful sometimes. This band is no exception. There is virtually nothing to be found about these guys.
The music just gets more eerie and uncomfortable as the record progresses. Cold tones, grim chittering in the synths and then your eyes are drawn to the bondage image on the cover. A funny note is added with the final track, titled ‘Costa Rica Is The Happiest Country In The World’. I never really know what to say about records like this, but to convey feelings of unrest, crawling under your skin is a talent not to be underestimated. I think its worth giving this a spin. No surprise that its out on Ukrainian label Depressive Illusion Records by the way.
Some underground music to fit in with the failed summer days with Self Defense Family, Hope Drone, Dope Smoker and Lluvia.
Self Defense Family – Heaven is Earth
I’ve found out about Self Defense Family about two years ago, through my relentless interest in the works of the Deathwish Inc. label. This strange band was in the middle of the new releases with a bunch of 7″s. I guess this album number two from this experimental group under this moniker, where they previously listened to the name End Of A Year. The group consists of a large amount of members, spread out over the USA and the UK, who compile music together, which leads to an intriguing product.
The sound is different, playing with styles and influnces to create an eclectic different feel to punkrock with a political flavor to it. The rhythm can be tribal (‘Ditko’) or mellow (‘Everyone wants a prize for Feeling’), it’s never the traditional punk but applies the raw, edgy elements in vocals and drive. The melancholic, weary sound is catchy and emotionally laden. Musically the band can go either way they want within their concept, which allows a lot of creative freedom. That makes this album so much more than just a punk album, this is good stuff!
Dope Smoker – Dope Smoker Vol. 4
Where the other Dope Smokers are all about sand, processions and stonerrock, these take on a slightly different approach. The herb remains the same though for these guys from South-Wales. Yes, thats the one in the UK. These guys are inspired by that herb and surfing, which can be deduced from the water-filled album covers of the band over their last four volumes. Slightly more wet, but still as sleazy, slow and heavy as its supposed to be.
Buzzing bass lines cracklen and chafe down your earholes the whole records, while high vocals rip through this continuous cascade of bass sounds. The band approaches their stoner sound from a more surflike origin, sounding soft and warm, almost grungy at times. The vocals are one moment like Ozzy, the next more like the Beach Boys. It’s that interesting tension that keeps these guys sounding a lot like the character of the sea itself. Always strong, but sometimes oddly calm. It can break up any minute though. Good record for those whol love heavy and fuzzy.
Hope Drone – Cloak Of Ash
There’s the black metal album to blow away all others for 2015, that’s atleast what I experience while listening to this new Hope Drone record for the first time. It’s the third full lenght from these Australians, on which they combine black metal with hardcore and sludge into a feisty mixture of pitch black tar and ashes. The sound truly envelops you with bleak, droning guitar buzzing and eerie electronics, creating that despair you were hoping for.
The vocals are almost howled, a mad barking at the heavens filled with fury and remorse. The tremolo guitar play surges and creates a feeling of utmost urgency, that has a compelling beauty to it as well. The continuous, throbbing layer of rhythm is always present, harrowing and beckoning the listener. It’s like a lake, misty and muddled in your vision that lures you in, like spirits of fairy tales and myths. The lyrics deal with the intensity of these surroundings, the glaring sunlight, the deep emotions with a ferocious intensity. The band also plays the long game, with slowly reverberating guitar riffs, echoing and gripping, building tension by creating a feeling of stasis. This band is amazing.
Lluvia – Eternidad Solemne
Mexico, not the country that springs to mind when you hear black metal, but that would be missing out on things. Lluvia hails from León in the southern country, filled with more than enough of its own mysticism to create a particular black metal sound. The band describes their sound as Ritual ambient black metal and that feels very correct. The name means ‘rain’ in Spanish, a theme that comes back in the samples used on the album, pouring down grief and hatred in a metaphoric sense.
The sound is slow, droning black metal, that sounds ceremonial and melancholic. The venomous attacks of the guitar and vocals get blunted by this languid, streaming sound. The racked screams get smothered in this eerie stream. Now and then this ebbs away, leaving room for folk instruments, that add more lugubrious elements to the songs, with the slight echo to the recording. After the climactic track ‘Divinidad’, we return to an outro with trisful classic parts and the rain. The eternally flowing rain is still there.
This time I listened to underground sounds by sound artist Honda, ambient warriors Elador, black metal knight MoonKnight and the mighty Krallice. Plenty of stuff you should check out too.
Honda – Bells Beach
I use a lot of means to find music, but rarely the search option on bandcamp. Today I did and I picked the ‘devotional’ category. I was expecting Jesus stuff. I got this wonderful minimal/ambient recording. It has two sides and is made by an artist named Celer, actual name William Thomas Long, who lives in Japan. It was made with a Roland MC-202 Microcomposer and field recordings. It feels like a travel record, a description of landscapes in an aural way.
Side A feels minimal, just little bells in a wide landscape where the wind is blowing. Playful moments are exchanged with mild ambient noise and gentle wavy sounds. The sound appears to be blowing away a little bit now and then, adding tot he organic feel of the music. Side B has those astral projection like synth rays, remniscent of krautrock and Jean Michel Jarre. Buzzing drones and twinkly keys fill the sound up, on this much more energetic and vibrant track. This record feels special, warm and pleasant. A recommended listen for late night reading or enjoying a drink without the TV on.
Elador – Expanses of Syrim
Well, I’m a fan of Skyrim so I was intrigued if any concept band had been working on that theme this far. Sometimes you find the odd death metal band picking up on a thing like this. I found a load of covers or rip offs (some Vietnamese guy claims to be Lindsey Stirling). This Russian project is from Egor Morozov, who is inspired by epic ambient/medieval projects like Mantle Of Dust, soundtracks like those by Jeremy Soule (yes, Skyrim guy) and other similar projects. The logo’s used do show an influence from the black metal scene. Think Clanned, think Burzum… You’ve got it.
The soothing music feels cold at times, depicting the landscapes of Skyrima nd specific regions. The languid tones are nordic in atmosphere and other sound effects breathe life into the music by Elador. The gloomy ‘Folgunthur’ stands our for me, for its minimal and dark atmosphere, where the other tracks feel mildly playful. The trickling sound of ‘Snowfall in Winterhold’, the wavering of ‘Dawnstar’ and the gentle feel to the track ‘Rivenwood’, it all paints the landscape in aural perceptions. The latter makes you feel the gentle look, the simple habitations and the wind rustling through the trees. Elador captures Skyrims essence beautifully in this tribute.
MoonKnight – Valinor
This obscure one-man black metal band provides the listener with a particular dirty and grim type of black metal. MoonKnight is the project of Roach (James L. Brown) from Kentucky. Claiming to be influenced by Akita, Bone Awl and Ildjarn, this is the third full lenght from the project, after a series of splits. The sound is gritty, distorted and hazy. As if hearing music through a hail storm. The vocals therefor come from afar and the listener is challenged to really embrace the sound, entering the storm on opener ‘An Initiation’. It only clears up a bit when the intro notes of ‘Aconitum’ soar in, feeling cold and sharp.
The trebly, high guitar tones on ‘Helplessness’ create a cold atmosphere. The screeched vocals filled with despair, raging against that torrent of grainy sound that feels very lo-fi. The drum is just a rumble under your feet. Then there’s the warm rain of the title track, creating a strange after effect, following the bleak songs like ‘Broken Blade’ and the bludgeoning ‘Pleasure Funeral’. The slow epic final song is a crescendo to this powerful record. No need for tons of extra effects, synths. A one man metal band that knows how to make limitations in strenghts by not overdoing it. Thats why this is such a good record.
Krallice – Ygg Huur
Sure, I was going for somet different sounds this time, but then I came across thenew Krallice album. I used to think of Krallice as too fierce for my tastes, but the new Yorkers surprised with this new record. I always have a hard time with the word ‘hipster metal’. I feel it makes no sense when you deal with a band that creates atmosphere like the best of them. The sound is more clean, but just as harrowing. The jagged pace, keeps tensions high and creates a vibe of discomfort.
So, I couldn’t get into what they were doing before. I guess it was too smart, too complex and lacked a certain feel to it. That’s no what you get on Ygg Huur. Razing fast guitars, tremolo picking are enriched by deep emotions of despair and untamed wiredness. Blistering speed and incredible atmospheric wavering tremolo parts, generate an unheared of like vibe. Sudden assaults after seemingly ethearal calm. This is one amazing album. Clocking only 35 mins, nothing is overdone on this release. Everything in balance and fuck that hipster tag. Krallice know how to make a great record and put black metal on the road to recovery.
Another series of books read, this time Plutarch, Greg Keyes, Dayal Patterson and Richard A. Knaak. From Ancient Rome to the Elder Scrolls and Warcraft.
Plutarch – The Fall of the Roman Republic
Yes, another book by Plutarch. This time focussing on the transferral periode from the late republic to the empire, describing the lives of Marius, Sulla, Crassus, Pompey the Great, Cesar and Cicero, who brought an end to the Republic. It’s a fascinating bit of storytelling, where Plutarch clearly shows he’s not in love with Cesar. In fact, he barely manages to keep it out of his words. Then again, none of the figures in this book appears to carry his favor, maybe Marius a little bit in most of his life. Sulla doesn’t get of lightly and Crassus looks like a buffoon. Pompey is the tragic figure in this version of events, together with Cicero I suppose.
The one life missing would be that of Cato, who opposed Cesar for as long as he could. It was a great read, that I enjoyed very much. Enough to order some more actually. What is lacking here, is the pairings with Greek lives. I’m also very curious about those and I must say I doubt the way the publishers dealt with that. All in all, it gives good insights in a highly confusing period of our ancient history.
Dayal Patterson – The Cult Never Dies: Volume 1
Dayal Patterson started something big with his first book ‘Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult’. It was not enough, he had the desire to catalogue the entire black metal scene and its aspects, so here is the second book and first in a continuing series of looking at the blackest music genre you can find. Patterson takes a clean, journalistic approach to bands like Satyricon, Silencer and Mgla and many, many more. It opens up the scene to new investigators, without disclosing all and keeping its edge of mystery in place.
The print looks minimal, which is good. The pictures are only in black and white, which is also rather enjoyabable and fitting. Patterson illuminates specific sections in this book, like the Polish black metal scene and the SDBM scene that emerged as a progenitor of post-blackmetal. He does this by taking out pivotal bands, but also interesting marginal acts to illustrate the broader whole. A well worth read for fans of the genre and intriguees.
Greg Keyes – The Infernal City
This is the very first novel of the Elder Scrolls franchise by Bethesda (known for their game Fallout mostly, but also Skyrim). The book tells the story of a human character Annaïg and an Argonian called Glim (Lizard people) in the world of Tamriel. A strange floating city approaches and brings doom to the lands. Annaïg and Glim decide to assault this city and try to warn others of the coming doom. While being captured by the dark denizens of the city, they succeed in reaching prince Attrebus.
Another story there unfolds, with the Prince’s life being under threat and his carreer an apparent illusion to facilitate Empire propaganda. The central imperial city has little interest in helping those under attack by the floating city on the fringes of the empire (even just outside it). Attrebus sets out to carve his own destiny and to become the person he is supposed to be as a prince. The book is well written and the characters do get some background, though sometimes they are a bit foggy in personality. The work introduces the figures and peoples of the Elder Scrolls universe and thus makes for a nice read and introduction. Now I should get part two though.
Richard A. Knaak – Night of the Dragon
I felt this urge to read the only Warcraft book that was still unread on my shelves. Probably I was not up for some literary masterpiece, but the writings of Knaak for Blizzard are always fun and catchy. So I started reading this follow up to Day Of The Dragon, the very first in the novel series of Blizzard. In this book we return to the doomed mountain where the first novel took place and the same key players converge, unwittingly of eachothers whereabouts on Grim Batol. Krasus, the dragon/mage, Vareesa Windrunner and a bunch of angry dwarves.
The plot deepens, when another of the black dragon flight emerges and plans to…dare I say? Take over the world. This time the book does not involve Deathwing, but some familiar elements of his evil will return in this story. It rekindles and connects other storylines, which is always very pleasant for an afficionado of the game like myself. The series of near-death escapes is a bit too dense for my taste though, but you can’t win ’em all, can you now? Looking forward to maybe playing some more in that fabulous world of Azeroth.