Another taste of the Underground with some new music, some unreleased stuff that promises a lot and so on, this time Urfaust, King Woman, Crowbar and Kjeld.
Urfaust – Apparations/Die Erste Levitation
I love Urfaust, it’s one of the strangest and most whimsical black metal bands around. Everything about them feels hardcore, unless when you look a bit closer and it becomes a big mockery of black metal traditions. Booze and half arsed German seem to be the overlying themes of their work. Because the album ‘Apparations’ is not out yet, I’d like to look at their latest 7″ and the just released track, titled after the album. ‘Die Erste Levitation’ is a haunting record, that seems to have some oriëntal influences in it (a bit like the mighty OM). The screams are the typical dolorous screams of their singer, while the sounds seem to rattle all around them.
The new track continues that feel of a strange ambient atmosphere, even making me think about the famous ‘Sylvester Anfang’ as used by Mayhem. Wavering rhythms and harrowing vocals are always present, while the song slowly builds up to its crescendo. Is this still black metal? I wonder if it should be called that. There’s a classical or folky atmosphere to it, that moves the duo away from what it originally sounded like. I’m quite excited about hearing the full album, can’t wait for that one.
King Woman – Doubt/’Dove / Fond Affections’
The most particular thing about King Woman are the vocals, which remind you of either Rabia Shaheen Qazi (as on Earth’s ‘From The Zodiacal Light’) or, as commonly used in reviews, PJ Harvey. Kristina Esfandiari truly carries the sound of this band, formed by languid vocal, doomy drones and spun out riffs. Add to that a dark, gloomy atmosphere that reeks of neo-folk, and you have something quite special brewing here.
Though I’d love to make this all about the forthcoming EP ‘Doubt’, I can’t because it’s not out yet. So luckily one can check some of the previous songs. Only then it becomes clear what a leap the band made in between, they really seem to have found their sound. The poppy, clean sound of their earlier songs definitely doesn’t live up to the shattering, gloomy impression of this new work. I’m eager to hear the whole thing to be honest.
Crowbar – Symmetry in Black
Crowbar has been around forever with their New Orleans sludge, but I’ve never given them much thought. Truth be told, I never gave any band from over there much thought until I started getting into EyeHateGod. The heavy, monolithic sound of the band around Kirk Windstein is quite awesome. Being so heavy, yet so calculated and intelligent is a gift not every band seems to have. Since 1989 the band has been blundering through the musical landscape with their peculiar sound. The pummeling sounds of songs like ‘Walk with Knowledge Wisely’ are impressive and still as convincing as all that time ago.
Clean guitar wailing pierces the sludgy rhythm section for some respite. The sheer brutality of a song like ‘Ageless Decay’ provides a whole other side to the balanced songs you hear. It’s for those that worship the riffs this album provides the tasty bits you need. It always seems to hang near bombastic, but stays earthy and organic. The roaring thunder of Windsteins vocals gives every song the effect of a wrecking ball, if not for the sheer impact of the heavy riffs that is. This album is thoroughly enjoyable and a steady homage to the southern sludge sound. Filled with elements of doom, punk and depressed violence, its one for the road.
Kjeld – Skym
While yesterday I struggled to put words to paper (screen..whatever) about the sludgers of Crowbar, today comes brimming with inspiration from my own country with black-metallers Kjeld from the north. They hail from De Wâlden, Fryslân, and their debut sounds like the finest majestic stuff from the north with grim battle-readiness. The sheer brutality of the blastbeats is overwhelming, but the band continually maintains a melodic structure in their songs. Filled with great passages and captivating sections of intensity, this is one hell of a record.
Songs like ‘Brek En Bran’ are hectic and wild, hardly easy to follow for a casual listener. ‘Stoarm’ feels like an actual storm, raging around you but following patterns, slowly descending to a short calm before launching once more to the heavens. On closer ‘Bern Fan Freya’ we can hear an outro that adds to the mythical elements in their music, the attention to atmosphere and feeling for the listener. A few times the band shows this side, the capacity to maximize on the minimal, like the break in ‘Gerlofs Donia’. This band is the kind that keeps proving to me that black metal is alive and kicking.
Romuvos is the kind of band you will find only when you start looking for it. Pagan metal, inspired by the ancient Baltic tribes that roamed the lands we now know on our maps as Lithuania and Latvia. One could include the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, though the Prussian Balts are long extinct.
Behind the band is one person who goes by the name Velnias, which is Lithuanian for Devil. Most pagan entities seem to have been taken over by devils, which is shown in the Žmuidzinavičius museum in Kaunas by a large collection of statues. If we look a bit further the name Velnias is taken from the Baltic god of the dead, similar to Odin in Norse mythology. A trickster of sorts, one could say.
I got in touch with Velnias and he was keen to tell us more about his music. Like the trickster he took his name from, there’s more to him than you would think. He doesn’t actually live in the Baltic region, but lives in Israel. He moved there as a child with his family and once in a while he returns to his beloved Lithuania. Because his father is Latvian, he has decided to represent in his music the Baltic tribes as a whole in their pre-Christian form. It’s only fitting then, that I write down these words in the heart of Samogitia, the last pagans to be conquered in Europe back in 1413.
Though Lithuania seems strongly Christian now, not surprising due to their long lasting union with devout Poland in the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth, there are still plenty of traditions and customs here that remind you of a pagan past and the deep roots they have in both the people and the land. Velnias longs to move back to his beloved country, but feels like the viking warriors who got stranded in far of lands. But one day perhaps, he will return.
Who is Romuvos and how did you get started with this act?
Romuvos is my one man band, the operation is entirely in my hands. I started playing folk music after being part of various black metal projects. I started digging deeper for my roots and the folklore that I hold so dear and decided to dedicate a musical project to it.
Romuvos is music dedicated to the Baltic pagan traditions and way of life. It has always been in my heart, but only now I’ve come to the point where I express it in song. Thus Romuvos was created, a name that refers to reviving the religious practices and pagan traditions of the Lithuanians and Baltic people before their Christianization.
Did you play in other bands before Romuvos?
Yep, though its nothing worth mentioning. Nothing that got into thte studio or anything. Every band I played in had many rehearsals, worked on songs for a long time until it was time to record and then split up. Most of those were black metal bands with folk influences.
I’m not sure if this is interesting to mention, but I fought in the Israeli army. I fought wars and most of this music I wrote under threat of missiles and bombs. I’m not saying I’m a warrior of old or some brave knight, but I experienced war. Those were not my battles to fight though, not my wars. That however is a different story altogether.
Romuvos is clearly a reference to the pagan religion of Lithuania. Can you tell a bit more about what it entails and also the Durwi spin-off?
Well, Romuva is a way of life, tradition and belief. It’s rooted in every Lithuanian heart and deep in the history of the Lithuanian people. Romuva is the name of the most important sanctuary of the Prussians, which was destroyed by crusaders in the 13th century.
One of the most important aspects in the Romuva faith is respect for nature. There are many gods, rituals and festivals that take place and form a part of the yearly calender in the tradition. Many old folksongs teach us about the ways of the Romuva and pagan people fromt he past. Those are the Dainos (folk songs), which play an important role in the religion. They are ancient songs and hymns. There’s so much to tell you about this, fortunately the internet offers much resources for the audience to find out more about this. Im very proud to let people know about our Romuva traditions in my music.
Durwi in old Prussian means faith, its also a revival of the Baltic ancient religions. You can csee how the Lithauanians and other Baltic tribes are untill this very day connected to their traditions and pagan beliefs from before their christianization. I hope the movement will grow and get stronger.
Can you tell a bit more about these traditions, what would these be like?
The Baltic people have preserved their traditions through the ages and Romuva is a direct expression of these unique traditions. It gives a name to the folklore and beliefs that have existed for a long time in the region. I will give you some examples
This refers to the rituals surrounding birth. Before a child was born, the ancient Lithuanians believed in spirits that would influence the unborn child in a bad way. One never directly referred to someone being pregnant to safeguard the mother and the future child. Expressions are still being used in Lithuania, like “The oven fell apart at Petras” or “It’s joyfull at Antanas”.
Once the child was born, it would be inducted into the community. The christening was bound up with various ancient rituals, which tie the new-born to the world, his family and community. These would be performed either at home or in nature when it is the time of the full moon. The room would be decorated with plants and greenery, birds made of straw would be hung from the ceiling and in the middle of the room the hearth would be lit at all time during the ritual. Other materials were prepaired, a bowl of water, clean cloth and scissors. The room would be well lit with candles. In the ritual the mother, father, child, name-givers, relatives and other childern would be present, together with the priestess – Pribuveja (midwife), who would guide the event and take care of the child
The child is dressed in a festive linen shirt. A sash woven with folk decorations is used as a waist-band.
The feast is a cake, brought by the name-givers. The food upon the table traditionally includes eggs, scrambled eggs, bread, cheese, beer and such. Gifts are brought to the new-born and the mother. It’s all part of this important moment.
Vestuves is the word for a wedding, which was not just the concern for the young lovers. The entire community had an interest in the marriage and joining in the celebration. Weddings are so important in the ancient taditions, that there were over 100.000 dainos (songs) for Lithuanian weddings. There’s an extensive set of dances that represent the wedding – starting with the match maker introducing the young couple to each other, the parents agreeing, the young bride weaving her trousseau, and then the wedding ceremony.
There’s a myth of Perkūnas and the Heavenly Wedding: On his way to the wedding, Perkūnas strikes a gold oak – an exorcism to repel evil spirits (Velnias frequently hides under the roots of an oak). When a young bridal couple comes into their new home, before they enter it, the lintel is struck, leaving a “cross” – to ward off evil.
Funeral/Burial – the traditions surrounding funerals are fairly standard the world over. It is a time of mourning, and of friends gathering in support of the grieving family. But, there are some differences. In villages the coffin would lie in “state” for approximately 6 days, and in cities about 2 days. Every evening there would be the singing of laments, and prayers for the dead members of the family for three generations – each one mentioned by name. Every evening after the prayers a funeral meal is served, prepared by the best cook in the community. If the family has a pig, it is slaughtered for the occasion.
In villages the dead are usually buried in the morning, with final kisses being bestowed upon the loved one.
Velnias has given much more info on the pagan traditions in ancient Lithuania. For the sake of readability, you will find these at the bottom of this article. He mentions the yearly calendar, essential in the pagan rites, and the deities that the ancient Balts worshipped. One deity he goes into very elaborately, which I’m glad he did: Velnias.
In Lithuanian folklore Velnias is the character you will find most often, he originates from the god Velnias or Velinas. He has a relation to the animals, underworld, the dead, economy and magical things. In later Christian times Velnias became the devil.
The folkloric devil in the ethnic legends creates the world together, either alone or with God or only God (there are different versions). God is in some traditions his brother. They both have the same goals in creating the world, but also some opposingones, mainly all the bad things are explained by interference of Velnias. The God creates useful animals and the devil creates ones that harm people and are useless. Velnias is also connected with horses, oxen and cows, of which he would keep herds. In the legends he often harnasses and rides the horses. From the wild life, the wolf, rabbit and bear are closest to him and he assumes their forms.
Velnias is associated with low and wet locations, like moors and lakes, or he may appear in the forest. His dwelling is under the earth, inside the mountain, behind the water. He also may appear in the sky, flying or seen in a storm. The relation between Velnias and treesis also emphasized, he might be found sitting on tree stumps (the reference to the chtonic world, the lower part of the Tree of the World) or hiding in trees (like he hid from Perkunas). The fir tree and birch tree are his trees.
Velnias, also in later times as the devil, would often appears amongst women (at the village parties devils dance with the village girls or the devil would celebrate a wedding with a hanged woman and dances with her) and, in general, he is interested in the weddings and funerals. He often appears when a person dies to take his soul. The devil under the influence of christianity becomes the ruler of the hell (in lith. “pekla”) and there he rules the dead mostly in shape of the animals.
Generally Velnias is close to humans, it is not difficult to find him or call him he also comes without any invitation, let’s say if people decide to play ripka or other games. He often offers his services in farming, to clear the field and such. The manifestations of the devil have a sense of music, often they contract a violinist, play musical instruments themselves and dance. Both life and death are under the jurisdiction of the devil. He is an intermediary or guide for the living, but also was involved with the fertility of people and the land. The harvest was also his. He is inbetween the world of the living and the dead, between earth and the underworld. Therefor he received the patronage of the people who are connected to the both parts of this worlds (i.e. priests, magicians etc). Also, musicians, poets and artists, who are inspired by both worlds fall under this patronage, as they are set in an old Indo-European tradition that associates them with magic and the devil.
What are your personal beliefs when it comes to these traditions?
I can say that my beliefs are very similar to the beliefs of my ancient forefathers. It relies mostly on the pagan past, but I have to say that I walk my own path in this and I walk that alone. I am much influenced by the Romuva. The paganism is a big part of my life, but I follow the path I feel is right to take. I don’t want to impose chains on my life, that are in the hands of another. I will find the truth that is out there for me, which will bring me closer to enlightenment.
I appreciate nature and the pagan religion embraces those elements with deities that are the key to harmony or chaos in what surrounds us as humans. I tyr to represent that in my music, though in a smaller scale. When I use the word pagan in relation to my beliefs, my view is very much connected to those ideas that are part of the pagan traditions. I participated in rituals in the past, spending nights outdoors, camping and having a fire, getting inspired by the sound of the fauna and earth that I feel when I’m out there alone or with my wife. I try to put those experiences in my music, those are they keys or muses for the atmosphere I try to invoke.
I have mentioned my interest in the Baltic history and that is a big part of my music. It’s something I grew up with, the tales told by my grandmother, the sculptures and paintings in my childhoods home. Those inspired me since the day I was born. When I put this to song, the subject is a bit more general and I try to make it larger than life.
Lithuania is now one of the most devout Christian countries in Europe, though the pagan traditions can still be seen in a slightly mutated form. How do you feel about that?
Well, I think we can all agree that Christianity and other missionary religions have utterly destroyed native cultures around the world. I don’t hold any hatred towards them, but I draw strenght from this, deep emotions I can put in my music. Each religion seems to face the same stages and now the Islam has come to a point where people commit atrocities in its name. It led me to believing that one should shy away from crowds and mobs of people. I’m not a misanthrophist, but it gets close to becoming one. I like to be outdoors more nowadays, groups of people make me claustrofobic.
Many bands that pay homage to culture or country get lumped into the NSBM category rather easily. How do you feel about that and is there any political side to Romuvos?
I have no political views, nor do I think people are entitled to express such extreme political ideas as metal heads tend to do these days. Yes, everyone is born and living in a ‘country’, which we consider to be ours. That we think will stand by us and have our back when we need something. That country has been formed by past rulers and is governed by whatever government it currently has. They also have taught us to be proud of it and stand by its laws and order. Well, that is not for me. I can understand and respect other opinions about this topic, to each their own, but that crosses a border when people try to hurt or offend another.
The way I see it, I have no country. I don’t look at it that way atleast, which might be because I left my ‘homeland’ or maybe because I dont hold a vision like the common herd. Therefor I won’t see a country as a value to stand for. Countrys are owned by their governments, which might even be corrupt, and filled with people I can’t call my brothers, yet I would be expected to stand by it in war. The same people that will curse, violate, interfere with and disrespect you while living next to you, while sharing the land you should call ‘ours’ with them.
Yes, I will seek peace in my lasnd and I have the right as a human being to live on such a piece of land that I call home. I will raise a family and will seek friends, but also defend it from foes, but not as an act related to an old ideology and herd mentality that is alient o mine. I would do it as a person who wishes to be left alone by the brainwashing of society that surrounds him. I try to be free in my own space and accept no shackles from others forced on me. So NSBM? No, thats not for me. I would also not like to live in the old days under a man with a crown who can decide my fate, whitout me having any say in it. I dislike the ‘nazi’ ideas and steer clear of them. If others go there, its their choice.
Why did you chose to make music on your own?
I can’t say that I consciously made a choice to make music on my own. Because most bands I was part of ended up splitting up or just fading away, this was the easiest wat to go about things for me. I create music on my own terms, with my visions and no distractions.
Do you plan to play live? How would you go about forming a band?
Yes, I think that in the future I will gather few session musicians that I will play live shows with. Musically I will keep things in my own hands though.
What is the general idea you try to get across to your listeners? What story are you trying to tell?
In some of the songs I tell stories from the Lithuanian folklore, in others I make up a story myself based on my ideas. Sometimes I will use old folk songs from the old days, other times I will write songs that represent Baltic faith and traditions. With Romuvos I wish to represent Baltic history and the pagan beliefs of the people in close relation to the nature.
Your record has a very clear sound that is not typical. What inspired you to make this style of music? To mind comes a band like Glittertind, does that sound like a fair comparison?
Well, Glittertind is a great band and thanks for the comparison though they are not my main inspiration. I can say that Falkenbach is a big influence and one of my favorite artists for sure, Summoning, early Vintersorg, Storm, Hades, viking era of Bathory and few more…
Even today I mainly listen to black metal, it still is my favorite style of music. Obviously, it is not the sound I create in Romuvos, but that was never my goal.
How did you go about recording this record? How did your writing proces go? All in all, how did you make ‘Romuvan Dainas’?
I have my own studio at home, so I just go and write the music first. Then I take a classic guitar and start playing, sometimes it can start with keboards or electric guitar as well as for the harmonica. Either way, after writing the main theme, i start working around it and build up the entire song. The next step is writing the lyrics and few more adjustments for the song. Ivecord all on my own and when the recording part is done, I mix it and finally do the mastering as well.
What is the general idea behind the record, its story and message?
The idea behind Romuvan Dainas is to make a Baltic folk metal album. In some of the songs you can find old stories from the Baltic folklore and on others tales of heroic battles and myth that I mostly invented. I dont get to see these days many folk bands representing this great area that surrounds the baltic sea and I am happy to take that subject into my music.
You say you invented some stories. Do you feel you put a lot into this record emotionally?
I think I put a lot of emotion and care into my music, it’s as if it erupts out of me and when it does I cannot stop it. I invest a lot of time and effort in it, because I have no other way of doing it. I enjoy every moment of making music, it is a very fulfilling thing to do. When I finish one thing, my mind is already on the next creation.
You released the record through No Colours Records. What kind of label are they and how did you get in touch?
No Colours Records are a label that mainly releases underground Black Metal music, They have some releases that made it to the big pantheon. I just sent a youtube link with a song to Steffen, the AR of the label, and after few weeks he came back to me, expressing a great desire to put out my album.
What are, in your opinion, the best metal bands from Lithuania and are you in any way in touch with either the scene in Lithuania or Israel?
There’s a few great bands from Lithuania, like Obtest, Ha Lela, Peorth and Žalvarinis (though they are not that metal). There are also some great folk bands, like Rasa Serra, Gyvata and Ugniavijas. I’m not connected to any scene at the moment though.
A few people from the Baltics did buy the album and asked me some questions about it. It’s important to me that they feel connected to my music, but that goes for anyone who listens to my songs. I’m not trying to reach a specific audience or region with my music, but it is a confirmation for me when people from the region and cultural background appreciate the music though. It shows that my message of longing for the Baltic area and its nature and history is clear.
What future plans do you have?
I am planning to get session musicians for recording in a a big and high quality studio for my upcoming albums and live shows. Hope mainly to just make great albums!
Disclaimer: I share no views with No Colours Records or any of the artists. Pictures (except header) by Justina Lukosiute
A bit more than a year ago I did an interview with Latvian black metal band Eschatos. It was published on Alternative.lv and can be found here.
I loved the sound of this band and their genuinely intellectual approach to the genre. This is the unedited version that I received, giving you the raw insights into this band, which I hope to see in action some day. Reading this interview again also gives me some insigths into my own journey. I really was not sure about the stance I was supposed to take, so rather than being inquisitive I might have seemed boastful to the band. Lessons to be learned I suppose.
What remains is my admiration for this band, who make amazing music and have received raving reviews from pretty much anywhere
What can you tell more about how you guys got together and formedup a black metal band by the name of Eschatos? What have you guysplayed in before apart from Grondh and Ocularis Infernum?
Jānis: The formation of Eschatos was a natural outcome of things. We all knew each other, we knew what we wanted to achieve and what to expect from one another.
If we talk about other bands, Edvards is playing in a prog/death metal band „Opifex”, I – Jānis, Edgars and Edvards played together in another black metal band, called „Velna Krusti”, back in the days.
Did you have other names in mind as well? What does the word Eschatos mean for you guys?
J: The name symbolizes many things for us. It’s the end of something and life after death. It is also the highest point. It came to us pretty naturally. Before that we did briefly pass some other names, but when „Eschatos” rose up, it cleared all the doubts.
What do you guys do in daily life?
J: I earn my daily hunk of bread by working as a graphic designer. It’s one of the things I don’t dislike a great deal amongst the rest useless shit.
Kristiāna: There are a very few things I do not.
I am studding theory of art, designing, taking pictures, painting, making movies, organizing exhibitions, etc.
Edgars is studying Theory of Culture.
Edvards: Most of my time is occupied with Social Anthropology studies, but I somehow always find myself to be immersed in a vast variety of things, ranging from playing music to doing graphic design, video or audio editing, building something, and learning every new thing that I come across.
I find it interesting that you call black metal music Art, can you elaborate on that? Do you approach it as making art in the sense of creating something with beauty? (I’m asking this, because early black metal musicians and many purists still heavily oppose the term art)
J: Art is not necessarily associated with beauty. Although that which is ugly and rotten to one, is beautiful to another. Art is a product of creativity and imagination that triggers an experience. We use the term to describe the passionate and majestic work of our creation.
For me black metal has always been a really deep form of art. I can understand, that some people don’t understand, how destruction can be labeled as creation, but you do create it, right?
K: Considering the fact that the essence of art is still in discussion among art critics and theoreticians, especially due to the strong conceptual tendencies in visual art emerged on the other half of 20th century, I will not argue the nature of it. There is one thing I can say for sure, in “Eschatos’s” case music as art presents itself as combined spiritual experience resulting in a birth of entity of autonomous existence – music.
Is Art something outside of the personal, a product or expression if you will, or is it a part of life as you lead it?
J: Art is always personal. It’s the expression and reflection of the artist. A little piece of the artist’s soul, if I may say so.
K: I would supplement that the true art always involves personal perspective whether it is a painting, sculpture, symphony or a black metal composition for that matter. Art is the only way to travel to whatever layers of consciousness you can endure.
What are your main inspirations, musically and otherwise?
J: It is hard to emphasize specific things, because there are so many things that inspire me. Mostly it is not music that lights something in me that I strive to manifest in our creations. These are experiences from meditations, visions and vivid emotional bursts I’ve had.
Musically, there is a broad variety of genres, that I listen to, starting from black metal, to experimental, progressive, classical, ambient and even some indie music, to name a few. What I do search for in music is strong atmosphere and artistic and ideological background, because without that the music is empty. I really admire the Swedish and French black metal scenes of nowadays. They kind of have these profoundly dedicated scenes with so many good bands, but, as I said before, many things inspire me, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s probably a lame question, but how’s having a female vocalist working out in a scene that is pretty much from its start been devoid of women?
K: I believe this question was not meant for me, but I will answer it anyway. At first, I think that women in black metal are not something entirely new. There are bands like “Darkestrah”, “Astarte”, and “Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult”, etc., but unfortunately none of these bands are amongst my favorites.
Secondly, I cannot start to explain the insignificance of gender when it comes to musical abilities, talent, if you will.
So, about the Latvian black metal scene. How is that, are there many bands that play black metal and does it have some typical sound or own identity to it?
J: There is no Latvian black metal scene. You can count the active bands on the fingers of one hand, if you skip all the bedroom projects. There have been many bands that come and go without leaving much legacy.
Skyforger is a great band, but they haven’t got much black in their metal anymore. Dark Domination are the sole survivors of Latvian black metal, as they are the only band that has lasted so long. Urskumug is a notable act, also I want to believe, that Ocularis Infernum and Grondh have left a mark of influence on the scene. The rest, for me at least, are just dust in the wind.
If you try to find parallels in the sound, I guess you can stumble upon few bands, that had something in common, but not enough to talk about typical local sound.
Can you give me an overview of how black metal came to Latvia and what developed there?
J: I think, that black metal is still „coming in”. Of course, we have our history that started in mid 90’s but I don’t feel that black metal in Latvia has strong foundation and dedicated scene.
Is the Latvian metal scene tight knit or divided into the different genres?
J: I would say, that it is pretty divided, with emphasis on some genres like death metal and alternative metal, where the last one is like a completely different scene. I’m glad that the last years have brought more tolerance and appreciation for more experimental and unorthodox music in the metal scene.
Edvards: I would like to add that the whole scene thing, while being much divided, maintains certain interaction, due to the fact that almost every metalhead plays some kind of an instrument and is usually involved in a number of different projects. There is a saying in Latvia that “where there are two guys – there are three bands”, or something like that. Everyone seems to know everyone. And in concerts, the genres are usually very inadequately mixed together, which results in the mixing up of the sub-scene representatives attending those concerts.
Black metal has been associated with Satanism, white supremacy but also paganism ideals. I’ve noticed that Grondh for example also mentions Satanist philosophy as one of their ideals. Do you feel confined by the overall black metal culture and the strict anti-attitude towards what is conventional and what do you consider to be the views that Eschatos represents?
K: As unconventional as it may seem there are no such boundaries to our art as traditional black metal ideals – Satanism, racism, paganism or any other “ism” for that matter.
At this point I believe black metal has grown to be more of a unifying phenomenon than restrictive bridle.
It is not our purpose to express absolute ideas. Our art is quite autotelic, but surely – one who is willing to listen, will find one’s own truths as well as ours.
Edvards: In a way, the black metal culture with its ideals can also be seen as the conventional black metal culture, which seems to be in contradiction with the anti-attitude towards the conventional. I do not believe it is wise to present our attitude through some already given instructions/manuals, like the above mentioned “-isms”, because it is often the case that those ideals become in themselves the main point, and not what they represent or were used for in the first place.
Where from do you get lyrical inspiration?
K: I have always believed that in art only pain, suffering and loss can awaken the true genius. For me to write, a strong trigger is required, and the last year has been just that. Of course, amongst the sources of my inspiration there are literature, philosophy, visual art, music and after all – a human being, concealing such a great variety of different self-destructive passions.
What is a show of Eschatos live, what do you try to give people and let them take home from a live performance? Do you prefer to record or to play live?
K: I can say for sure that those are both completely different experiences and both – vital. Record gives the advantage of perfectionism when one is needed. Live performance appeals to all the other senses. For me it is hard to comment on the last one due to the fact that during performance the bound with reality is quite loose.
Edvards: I do not prefer any one thing over the other. When we play music it is almost as a spiritual experience, and during live shows we provide the opportunity for others to immerse in it. That is a difficult thing to capture in a recording, but nevertheless it is an inspiring and a very creative activity, which provides many new insights and ideas.
What do you hope to achieve in the next few years as a band?
K: We have already achieved the only thing that truly matters – we create.
Some new sounds from the underground, worthy a checkout: Cairo Pythian, Bigelf, Árstíðir lífsins and Toundra.
Cairo Pythian – Touched LP
The cold sound of Cairo Pythian is touching upon a more melodic interpretation of Joy Division-despair. An element of Soft Cell and the more swirling sounds of the proto-Goth sounds one could hear in the early eighties is added to that. The group from Olympia, WA has surrounded itself with mystery, which ofcourse adds to their image and credibility.
Musically there’s a combination of that coldwave sound, sampling and industrial. On tracks like ‘Down For The Crown’ there’s a shoegaze-like buzzsaw riff pushing the song forward. ‘A-Sexual Cake’ is much more droning industrial again, which shows the range between which Cairo Pythian is doing their thing. There’s an avant-
gardist streak to their sound, remniscent of the progressive postpunk bands that started implementing industrial elements, like The Residents and Devo. They may be 30 years to late, but their album is a testimony of the lasting fun that post-punk offers.
Árstíðir lífsins – Aldaföðr ok munka dróttinn
An Icelandic/German band that derives inspiration for their blend of folk and black metal from medieval literature from the land of fire and ice. They distance themselves strongly from the NSBM movement, which fills me with joy. Their music is peculiar, hauntingly natural at times and moments later a barrage of fierce riffing. I guess in a way this project sounds a bit like its inspiration. Deep vocals tell stories over fingerpicking guitarwork, violins seem to play and set down a haunting atmosphere.
The songs are long and more focussed on atmosphere then on brutality. Slow, cascading riffs move forwards, while traditional singing creates a powerful feeling combined with tremolo guitarpicking, soaring high above. Tradition and extreme metal meet eachother half way and that feels like the right matchup. The release itself looks amazing as well, this is definitely one of the records you wish to return to. The feeling of ancient wisdowm, the haunting folk music and blistering black metal segments (which are lesser than you think) are right up my alley.
Bigelf – Into The Maelstrom
I’ve started to get into the whole prog thing a while ago, after watching a documentary from the BBC. It’s not a big leap to start listening to a band like Bigelf after that, who incorporate the brilliance of their predecessors like Pink Floyd, Caravan and whatnot with that Cambridge sound. Just add a little swagger to it and some heavy fundamentals and you’ve got a metallized version. Listening to this Bigelf album I must express doubts concerning how metal they are. They’re not heavier than, say, King Crimson in my humble opinion.
Bigelf is the brainchild of Damon Fox, who carries vocal and keyboard duties. ‘Alien Frequency’ is a good example of how the group Americanized the sound, making it more accesible and down to earth then their progenitors. The sound is warm and technical, grand and like a great story the songs unfold with the necessary effects and structured elemens. ‘Control Freak’ is another repetitive and captivating track. I’m amazed at how enjoyable listening to this record is. Though complex, it feels as if it’s open and accesible. Probably a good one to listen to in bed with headphones on, for the ‘Alien Frequency’.
Toundra – IV
This Spanish band has just released their number four. I have no idea why its on the lists of new metal releases, but I’m glad it was. Gentle postrock with a folky feel to it, enriched with strings, right up my alley in many ways. Add to that some horns and you have an amazing trip, which might be the reference of the song ‘Strelka’, which was a Russian dog send to space. Also ‘Belenos’, which is a Celtic deity. The music is calm, languid and wavering on at its own pace. Musically there’s no point where anyone drops the ball and the continuity of this record is definitely one of its main strengths.
Think postrock with extra’s and perhaps thats what it should be labled as; postrock+? ‘Kitsune’, which means Fox and that is how fleeting the music sounds at times, like a fox running through the high grass. It almost escapes you as a listener but keeps circling you. It’s a record to immerse yourself in, to feel elated to, while listening to it on a long walk in nature. The track picks up a roaring sound, that swells up towards the end. I’ve totally fallen for Toundra, I hope you will too.
From the Green Island comes Raum Kingdom. They make bleak blackened doom that has little to do with any of the further stereo types that might pop up when you hear Ireland. The band released a refreshing album of material, that feels like a new wind breathing through what we know in this style. Inspired by the likes of Amenra and Neurosis, the band promises to be an interesting new act on the horizon. Time to check in with the guys from Dublin. Guitar player Andrew Colohan is keen to tell us more about Raum Kingdom.
Hello, yes we are all in good spirits, form and health and delighted to be doing this for the Sleeping Shaman.
Who are in the band and how did you get together, did you guys play in other bands before?
There are four of us in the band, Me (Andrew) -Demons Bow, Dave – Chant, Mark – Rattle and Ronan – Devils Bow. We have been close friends for a long time and big lovers of music and over the years have been in different projects with each other. The time came when we could eventually play together and this happened. We hope that real life can be kept at bay so we can continue with this for as long as we can.
As far as I can gather your bandname might be derived from the petty kingdoms of Norway, of which one was called Raumerike. Is that correct?
We have never heard of that place before, So sorry to say, but no. Sounds nice tho. Norway seems like a nice place. We were settled on just Raum but the name was taken so we added kingdom. It doesn’t really come from anywhere as such it was just trial and error.
What inspired you to that name?
We had ideas and a concept from the get go and even as we where progressing through creating the songs we didnt have a name. But the more we tried to find something the more it eluded us. The name eventually was found through trial and error and as everything else was taken. Raum Kingdom is supposed to stimulate the imagination of a place or earth with different values , principles and laws.
What can you tell us about your record, how did the recording and writing process go?
We had a blast writing this music and still are enjoying writing. The process is we basically say ” That’s to many notes.” Strip what we can back to the core, do a little shuffling and testers. When it fits the theme of what we want and are about, we take it from there. Recording is when we polish off everything, as we don’t know what it will truly sound like until then.
What is the general theme of the record?
We didn’t intentionality set out to have a theme for the EP but if we had to say there was one it would be Pain with a pinch of hope.
When I listen to it and also follow the lyrics, it feels like a story or like a stream of consciousnous from one person. Do you feel that would be in there?
Yeah for sure each song has it’s own story to tell.
What is in your opinion the best song on the record and why?
We all have different opinions about that and it changes with each of us as time passes. But it might be good to say that ” This Sullen Hope ” Could be generally considered one that we all go Yea thats what we want and are about as it has everyting in it.
The record seems to be generally well received, what makes Raum Kingdom stand out in your opinion?
We’re still a bit blown away at how good the response has been none of us really expected it. I don’t think there’s a lot of bands out there trying to do what we are doing.
What is the sludge/doom scene in Ireland like? What hidden gems does Ireland have to offer?
Being such a small nation and an Island. The scene is rather small, That’s not too say the ideals are small. It can get reptitive very quickly here. There are few gems we know of. Fuckhammer, Okus and Weedpriest. Just to name three. Some vile stuff happening there.
Are you going to tour for this release?
We would love too gig and tour and we will as much as humanly possible with the hopes that the numbers and tempo will increase in time. We are having our EP launch on the 05th Sep 14, Fibber McGee’s in Dublin Ireland, With a few other shows and surprises happening.
What future plans do you guys have?
As a unit we have many hopes and aspirations. But we gotta keep all that in check and be real. We are loving what we have at the moment and we are enjoying every moment of it. We are currently writing, gigging and hopefully playing in other countries soon. But we just gotta wait and see. There’ll be an album within a year called Raum Kingdom II.
Anything you would like to share?
In the absence of will power the most complete collection of virtues and talents is wholly worthless.
Raum Kingdom’s self titled debut is available through their Bandcamp profile http://raumkingdom.bandcamp.com/releases
This is the second sound of the Underground of 2015, with bands like Inquisitor, Odota, An Autumn For Crippled Children and Baptists. So much good stuff left over from last year.
Inquisitor – Clinamen | Episteme
The Lithuanian scene is a truly hidden gem and the band Inquisitor was recommended to me for listening. The band has been around for 12 years already and makes a dense combination of hard riffing and passionate melodies in what can be perceived as an organic whole. Funky, hectic grooves lace the song ‘Hearken, Memmius!’ that opens their new record. Soaring guitars. That playful weird sound is apparently their schtick, also the semi-clean vocals offer a new persective. ‘Hence The Mouthful of Time’ is full of progressive piano elements and peculiar elements.
Though progressive and embracing avant-garde, there is nothing tame about the groups sound. The album shows much variation, but also sheer brutality and grim atmospheres to the listener. The strenght however, is the detailed extremes the band seems to play with in their music, going from typical black metal to a form of jazz or funk and back again. The sound is always bleak and all you would expect from a band that labels as black metal. The intelligent sound of these guys is definitely worth the attention of the avid metal fan though and I cannot wait to hear more from them.
An Autumn For Crippled Children – try not to love everything you destroy EP
With probably the must fucked-up bandname in a long time of fucked-up bandnames, this group does make an extremely beautiful sort of post-black metal. Soaring film score elements accompany a layered, atmospheric barrage of guitar and sonic effects on the titletrack. There’s a warmth in the sound of this mysterious group from the Netherlands that has no equal. It’s the warmth of embracing a certain fatalism. Fun fact is the reference of the title to previous full lenght ‘Try Not to Destroy Everything You Love’.
The second song is ‘post war’, which has fierce guitar structures that even with their smooth effects sound like typical black metal riffing. The sound is rich and reminds the listener of obvious names like Deafheaven and Liturgy, but with a weird twist of their own. This is a band that has done amazing work this far and is worth recommending to anyone who is into this music, but also those outside of it.
Baptists – Bloodmines
Luckily, there are still good hardcore records coming out now and then and this new one by Vancouver residents Baptists is a true blistering masterpiece of what hardcore should be. A lot of squeeking guitar work and gritty rhythm combinations makes the sound of the Canadians agressive and controlled. Their aesthetic is something with man versus nature, which is displayed in the beautiful cover that expresses a dark perspective on this struggle. That darkness is taken into the sound of songs like ‘Vistas’ and ‘Harm Introduction’.
Grinding guitars and hectic breaks form the base of the raging songs the band keeps chugging out. The furious vocals are spat out at break-neck speed, furious at the world and followed by pounding drums. The sound is coherent and organic though, there is little artfical about this band and I guess that is one of their main charms. Hopefully they cross the ocean soon, so we can admire their live antics as well.
Odota – Fever Marshall
Jarmo Nuutre is a peculiar dude, who does fantastic tattoo’s and used to make mammoth-stomping sludge with Talbot. This is his new project and it is filled with a lot of awesome. Slow creeping sound, filled with strange atmospheric effects accompany the searing guitarwork. Black metal inspired, industrial tinged noise on a slow, doomy pace is what best captures the sound on this first release. The heavy distorted vocals and rest of the sound offer a sound that envelopes the listener. Tracks like ‘Bad Medicine’ stand out due to their dark and frightening atmosphere.
Strangely, a song like ‘Half Eagle’ feels more like a video game soundtrack mixed with an evil EBM song that you have to dance to in the intro. The sound samples Nuutre choses, betray an eclectic sound and a creative mind that is free of boundaries. Closer ‘Rattlesnakes Unfold’ is a tidal wave that keeps pushing you under in a dense rattling, drumming sound, waves of distorted guitar wafting over you, while vocals seem to just scream at the sky. This debut of Odota is an unholy experience of awesome and for those who like a little bit of experiment and doom in their blackened noise metal. Did I capture it there?
The first Sounds of the Underground of 2015 and the section of my blog seems to gather some attention. Thank you for this. For this edition I checked out The Glitch Mob, Cruachan, The Hyle and Chthonic.
The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality
So it would appear I like a lot of metal and truly, it is the main thing I listen to these days. I have a huge weakness however for the Glitch Mob. I like electronic music that is heavy on the bass, layered and telling a story in itself. The debut of this group from 2010 was quite amazing and captivating. It had that same mystery I find in postrock and some black metal. On their 2014 release the band takes a different approach.
The feel of the sound is much more dance-oriëntated, high on energy and with a faster pace. Fleet footed and lightweight would also be terms, but they might feel a bit negative. Songs like ‘Skytoucher’ still captivate the feeling I loved so much on their debut, but in general the album is more directed at selling and being something the kids can dance to. Not sure if that’s a good thing, for me ‘Drink The Sea’ will remain the favorite and I’ll check in with these guys again when a new record comes around. Though their ‘glitch’ may be less attractive to me, the group still makes brilliant music. Don’t take me wrong on that.
Chthonic – Bù-Tik (武德)
Since the album that is released on 29 december is a full acoustic one, I thought it fun to look back at the previous release of Taiwanese melodic death metal giants Chthonic. The band plays with folk elements and structures in a complex sort of work, that relates closely to the atmosphere of black metal in my opinion. The hectic sound is typical in most Asian metal bands I’ve heard, also the clean sound and the polished production. The band manages an accesible sound, while retaining their identity.
The narrative is that of the foundation of what became Taiwan, told in the native tongue. That shouldn’t prevent you from listening to it. The beauty of this record is it’s way of sounding like a metal band in a clear cut manner, but implementing the narrative of Taiwan by using folk elements and mythology to create distinctness. Anyone hearing this will look up in surprise to check what it is they’re listening to, but still feel it relates to them. Though the sound is rooted in the more extreme styles, the grandeur of power metal is definitely present int he riffing and huge arches of vocals and synths. It doesn’t surprise me that Spinefarm signed them. The acoustic album that is coming out is promising to be another revelation and a rare insight for many metalheads in Asian traditional music.
The Hyle – Demo
The Danish band has a wonderful sound that combines doom with a stadium rock-like swagger, without losing any of their credibility. This demo was not without reason so well liked by Cvlt Nation out of what they picked up this year. The slow, foreboding sound of ‘Lucifero’ sounds weary and whispers a certain despair. The clean vocals are warm and caring, but hollow somehow. Slowly the song runs its course, untill twangy bass sounds support samples and harrowing riffs continue the brooding sound onto the ritualistic sounding ‘Serpent King’. I feel a bit reminded of Electric Wizard meeting up with Witchcraft when listening to this record.
The second half of the record opens very slowly with ´Spiritual Sacrifice´. The spun-out track wavers on for a couple of minutes, when silence descends. The final song is ‘Children Of The Divine’, which is also a dark tune with the sense of ritual and pagan magic to it. The band creates a sound that feels like retro, but also distinctly now. The record is captivating and if these Danes call this a demo, I’m eager to hear the debut.
Cruachan – Blood For The Blood God
The Irish folk metal band Cruachan is pretty much one of the first of its kind. This year I saw them play live, finally, at the Eindhoven Metal Meeting and experienced a lot of their new songs. The work seems raw, honest and direct, but also a bit amateuristic sometimes and a little odd. The vocals of Keith Fay are very peculiar and the man is simply not the most talented singer. Still, the blend of folkish traditionals and raging metal works quite well for the group that has released it’s seventh album on Trolzorn records. The song ‘Born For War’ is representative for the epic sound and feeling this band wants to invoke.
Noteworthy is the song about ‘Beren And Luthien’, which departs from the Irish mythology and picks up a little Tolkien along the way. The band seems to have two gears, of which one is a slow, melancholic pace and the other the frantic one-two-one-two primitive death metal roll. Both are implemented in different ways, but it tells the listener a bit about this band. Cruachan feels like a band on form, enjoying what they do once more, but also stuck in thier own sound. Change is a difficult thing and this record doesn’t sound in any of it. One could argue that this is the reason the whole folk metal movement passed the Irish group by. I don’t know, perhaps they are comfortable in their own little niche. Songs like ‘Gae Bolga’ and ‘The Arrival of the Fir Bolg’ are both well constructed and atmospheric and display the strenght of Cruachan. I worry that they will remain an anachronism in a genre that moved far beyond the primitive sound of this group.
I listen to music, so you don’t have to. You can decide if you want to check out what I’ve been checking out by reading what I thought about them. I’m usually pretty honest. I do tend to listen to what I like myself though.
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – S/T
Gritty post-black metal/sludge from the city of Nantes in France by what I’ve perceived to be quite a young band still. The omnious sound takes up the topic of ‘The Fall’. Not in the way that you fall and hurt your knee, no it’s much bigger. The fall of humanity, the biblical image of the fall, atleast that’s what I get from the whole imagery of their sound and artwork which refers to the tower of Babel and such. They make it sounds great. Long, dreary guitar wails, heavy hitting drums that sound like giants dragging their feet, vocals that bark the inevitable despair of loss. A great record for a sunny sunday in it’s twisted way.
Godflesh – Decline And Fall
I’ve developed a love for the raw sound of urban decay of Godflesh. Their iconic imagery and typical sound of Justin K. Broadrick’s crew has maintained it’s relevance throughout their almost 20 year existence. A new EP in that case is always good news. There’s the industrial beats and the rasping riffs. The vocals express either the weary feeling of being in a daily rut, or the frustration that comes with urban life. The constant tension, boredom and restlesness. Four songs that express this current state of affairs. Blending industrial with metal has always been a tricky thing, but no one knows or defines how it works as much as these guys. I’m not sure yet what is the best time to listen to this record though. It’s not comfortable listening music, that’s for sure.
Default decline ruled by dead fires
Don’t wait, think last, act now, destroy
Enslaved – RIITIIR
The album ‘RIITIIR’ is by now two years old but still filled with brimming and biting energy of a whole new level than the first records of the band from Norway. Part of the black metal wave, the band quickly turned it around and became a genre on their own, pushing the boundaries and possibilities. I got to see them live on their ‘Vertebrae’ tour in 2008 or 2009 and their majestic sound was nothing like I anticipated. The rasping vocals of Grutle Kjellson are the last bit that betrays the roots of what can now be called a black/death blend with avant-garde pretense and prog fuelled riffing. The sound is clean and well produced, the artwork is beautiful. Truly captivating sounding music is produced by these guys by now and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out, even when you are scared of extreme metal. Not without reason where they named as a band pushing the genre forwards by Sam Dunn in that final episode of Metal Evolution.
Lantlôs – Melting Sun
Though formerly known as a black metal outfit, the Germans from Lantlôs have exchanged that grim sound for a more shoegaze/postrock feeling on their new EP, which lasts about as long as a regular album. Soft, colourfull soundscapes are produced by the three bandmembers, It’s music for dreamers, slowly floating through the air in unity. The name of the band means ‘without homeland’ and it truly feels like the music takes you away from such earthly things as nationality. Peacefull sunrays fall on your face as you float away, this could be the soundtrack of ‘de Droomvlucht’ in nearby theme park ‘The Efteling’.
I’m well impressed with the sound of these Germans, who give beauty to a style so often described as gloomy and dark, this is music of light.