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.
Another session of delving into the underground, with Bong, Deuil, Wiegedood and Suðri. Great releases and great fun listening to them. I’m always eager to hear more new things ofcourse.
Bong – We Are, We Were And We Will Have Been
A new album from the arch-stoners Bong. Drugged out, stretched out like lukewarm tar and always so hypnotic, this album is not a shift of pace in any way for the Britons. Basically the albums opens with a drone, that seems to go to infinity and beyond. For seven minutes it’s just that with a minor bit of percussion going on. Suddenly a dark voice launches itself, proclaiming dark words, like a high priest of an occult, old ceremony. This ends a couple of minutes later, leaving you to drift of on that same drone for the rest of opening track ‘Time Regained’.
‘Find Your Gods’ starts with a spoken word element, but from there on it slowly rund away in a long, reverberating drone that takes you to far of places. Hypnotic and transcendent, this record is definitely a work of art from the masters of its kind. I have to admit that I’m impressed with this band and I might be willing to check some more of their stuff later on. Later… I ‘m comin back to earth now for a bit.
Suðri – Reise
Ukrainian DSBM that sounds a bit Burzumesque, well I’m going to give that a spin. I know nothing of this band, just that this came out yesterday. Turns out this is a Ukrainian label with a Chilean band, a one man project. That is surprising, because from the whole aura of this release, you expect it to be continental stuff. The opener ‘Die Reise’ is one of those minimal, quasi-acoustic dreamy tracks that prompted me to use the Burzum reference. That slow, atmospheric feel remains throughout the four track record, but its always nice to find that Burzum inspiration again with bands playing this niche sound.
The depressed element becomes clear rather quickly with ‘Ashes and Solitude’, a seven minute lasting drag with barked vocals that convey the despair. The creeping tone is that of a desperate, malformed being clawing at the light. Wafting riffs are like a cold rain. ‘Im Regen’ utilizes the piano for its intro, creating the ambiance suited for this kind of muic. It’s surprising how powerful these elemetns are on a record like this, the acoustic part. ‘An Endless Journey’ wraps it up with tha typical barrage of layered, tremolo guitar and the hoarse vocals. An impressive record, using the interplay between two very different sounds with succes.
Deuil – Shock/Deny…
Only two songs, but for some bands that is more than enough to convey the message. These Belgians from Liegè combine doom, sludge, drone and stoner to a potent brew of fucking sonic magma. Screeched vocals, landslide riffs chugged out and a constant feeling of discomfort is what ‘Shock’ opens with. Blast beats keep slapping you in the face later in the song, while the guitars are crying out in despair. Around the seven minute mark, the sound gets lighter, warmer as if the sun gets a moment to illuminate the blackness, reminding you more of post-rock. Then the door shuts and dark, looming riffs fall like curtains. From there on its a dark way down.
‘Deny’ is the frenzied twin brother of the opening track. Furious riffs and pummeling drums create a more black metal atmosphere on this track with continuous blast beats and atmospheric density. Eerie tones fill the air and the band drudges on in their typical way to construct a big song with some, epic passages. A whispering female voice enters the fray, speaking mysticly over the churning bass lines. The song slowly fades out with only buzzing and then only whispering. A great record for those who love the dirty, dark Roadburn sound.
Wiegedood – De Doden hebben het Goed
Yeah, that name means ‘crib death’, the word for parents finding their child in the crib deceased, after being apparently healthy. It’s a cruel and sad thing, but also a great name for a black metal band. These Belgians from Ghent picked it up and made some intriguing music on their debut ‘The Dead are doing well’ (losely translated). The opener ‘Svanesang’ (Swan Song) is a burst of flurried riffing and tremolo guitarplay, that seems to shift between minor and major at some points, leaving behind a trail of ice and fire.
The 13 minute epic dwindles down for a minute, but then ‘Kwaad Bloed’ (Evil blood) launches again, with those particular sunny passages and the screamed vocals (which are very tight btw). This song sinks away in a swamp of distortion and guitar picking notes, gently ending the suffering. There the slow-paced, gloomy title track starts, with an eerie, meandering riff soaring high above. Super fast tremolo gives it that gloomy feel. Its doom pace makes this a slow descent into hell, depicted by the creeping rhythm section. Final track ‘Onder Gaan’ (going under) picks up the blistering riffing and majestic sound again.
Most people probably figured out what festivals they’re going to visit this summer months ago. Some buy them before the year start. I’ve not been going at it that way this year. It’s all a bit last minute and random.
I did buy Roadburn tickets in October, which I did not regret at all. The festival had been on my list as one of the few I really wanted to visit and behold, I succeeded. I had a great time, experiencing the thing I value most about festivals these days: immersing myself in the scene and vibe that I adore. It’s a matter of a certain feeling and outlook that connects the Roadburn bands, not their genre, style or look. It’s a complete experience.
My first festivals were Parkpop and Pinkpop in the Netherlands. Both massive, multi-genre, highly commercial festivals. Still, this was awesome because I was in my exploring fase. Gobbling music up by the gallon, whatever styles I came across. I loved punkrock, but also stadiumrock, funk and the great pop groups of the nineties (you know, the ones you heard on the radio all the time, also from the eighties). It felt a bit like Roadburn in the sense that I was dipped into a full pool of that musical world I was so attracted to. I guess there was no scene yet I felt part of.
Now, by this time I’ve moved far away from that. I guess I am to a certain extent a music elitist. I only feel that same buzz when I join festivals that are for a narrow niche of fans. I don’t think its necessarily my own fault, it might come with the way I enjoy music. I need to figure out a lot about the scene and what moves it and makes it thriving. Black metal is very interesting, mainstream pop music not so much. That still sounds elitist, but to me explains a thing or two.
Roadburn is in that way an epic festival. It fully embodies a culture, a feeling and a scene in the broadest sense. Not just doom or stoner, it incorporates bands with a certain feel which happens to match my regular modus operandi. I’m not a sunny person, I’ve got a lot of demons in my head and in general I’m on the depressed/pessimistic side of things. Experiencing a festival that embodies art with that vibe to it, to me is excellent. It might not be that way for all visitors but it makes sense to me.
That immersing yourself, it remains the best part about any festival. I’m sure it is the same for the anime people, car lovers and so much more. What you need to have for some is your own niche, your little obsession. I’ve got plenty of those. I guess that’s why I like festivals, because I surround myself with the stuff that I love and people that understand why I’m so obsessed with that stuff. The festival is a microcosmos of that scene you’re part of. The fact that you are there makes you part of it. More and more I’m trying to embrace that as well. The problem of an elitist outlook is that you judge people for not being good enough to be part of it. That’s something Iyou’ll always see. I guess it’s the conservative element that makes any scene remain whole, it is essential for the festival to hold on to its identity. Even a peculiar one like Roadburn.
So what else is on my list? I went to Psych Lab, going to Incubate maybe, Dynamo Metal Fest and Malta Doom Days (yes!). Maybe you’ll be there too. Not for you? Look for your festival and experience that bliss that comes with it. You won’t regret it.
Another series of reads Some good books this time, with authors like Gordie Howe, Kinky Friedman, Dayal Patterson and Henk van Straten.
Gordie Howe – Mr. Hockey: My Story
Gordie Howe has been a source of inspiration to me. The guy played hockey till in his fifties on the top level, still racking up the points. In this book he tells his story, which remarkably enough is actually the story of hockey itself. Mr. Hockey is not just a fancy nickname, it makes sense to call a guy exactly that, because he lived through it. Then he came back one more time in at almost seventy for the Detroit Vipers for just one game. He talks in his book about home, his youth, injuries and his own special frontier justice in hockey.
There’s a sense of humility to his words. Gordie Howe might be the greatest, he is even more so because of his personality and that down to earth mentality. I truly wish he was in better health these days, but at 87 the man is still going as strong as that beaten and battered body can. Amazing to hear his story and the things he’s seen and done. Ofcourse it’s only hockey, but hockey means a lot to me and any mans dedication to one goal is something to learn from. I salute you, Mr. Howe. Truly a hero to me.
Dayal Patterson – Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult
It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of black metal. I love the feel of the music, the music and it’s culture, but nothing I love more than approaching it from an academic point of view, trying to create the bigger picture of a genre that is fundamentelistic in origin, but pushing boundaries for more than 20 years now. The work of Patterson is for that purpose a well written analogy of the scene through the most vital years, analysing and chronicling the bands that people keep forgetting. Sure, Mayhem has three chapters, but that’s not all there is in this book.
Patterson is not trying to say everything, nor trying to create some vision. He is trying to show what is there and where the nucleus of the scene was, but also the far edges. The whole Euronymous thing is in there, but cut short, sticking more to it as an event that shook and shaped the scene. This is vital information in understanding what and how things went down. I love how this book gets you such a much bigger picture. Did you ever read about bands like Fleurety, Sigh and Tormentor in a way that actually gave you new info? I didn’t, but now I’m checking all those out. Black metal is so much more than Varg Vikernes.
Kinky Friedman – Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola
Kinky Friedman is a country making, cigar smoking Jew from Texas. He switched to writing detectives at some point in his career, for reasons that I won’t even try to understand. One of the results is this book, that was put in my hands by a friend, mainly because he might get a visit from Kinky at some point in the future. It all seems a bit surreal, but you know what… I gave it a go. If you are familiar with the work of Irvine Welsh or Belgian writer Herman Brusselmans, there’s a writer to add to your favorites.
The protagonist Kinky finds out the girl he’s been sleeping with has gone missing. He goes on a hunt for answers in a surreal setting that mainly features internal monologues, cigar smoking and whiskey chugging with his mates in New York. Actually the protagonist, being Kinky Friedman, doesn’t do much more apart from talking on the phone, making his friends do stuff and dealing with his cat There’s this film noir atmosphere to the story thaough, which is weird in the sense that everything happens outside of the story. After 200 pages you just feel a bit confused. The story comes to life and gets resolved in the final pages only. That is however after a weird bumpy ride.
Henk van Straten – Superlul
Yeah, that requires some translation. Let me first tell you the story. Superlul is the nickname of the main character. It means super dick/cock/whatever and it refers to his huge schlong. After years of insecurity, hiding in his room with fantasy books and trying to prevent the rise of his enormous member, he finds his talent in the hospital with a horny nurse. From there on Superlul becomes a celebrity, all the while porking whatever he can. He ends up in the Dutch celebrity circuit, which is plastic fantastic.
It all turns into an overblown, surreal story where his girlfriend is Carice van Houten (Game of Thrones, yes the one with the lord of light thingy where a lot of boobies need to be shown). The style in which Van Straten tells the story is high paced, witty and direct. He gets his message across, without having to explain it. Van Straten is not being literary in the way it’s always perceived to be, by using difficult structures, complicated concepts and just shoving in a dictionairy. No, Superlul is literature for anyone who understands the irony of it all. That is definitely something this book has plenty of.
Disclaimer; any link to a webshop is just because I needed the picture, not that they are paying me (but they should)
The two song EP of Vanad Varjud from Estonia is a grim first encounter with the band. The songs last well over the 10 minute border and envelop you in depressive darkness. The slow starting ‘Tumm Rongkäik’ (Silent Procession) features silence and the occasional drum sound in the first ten minutes. Some eerie sounds can be distinguished, but are barely audible.
When the music starts playing, first there’s the cascading guitar riff, played in such speeds to create a static wave pattern. Slow drums are being played, as in a ritual setting. Slowly the sound becomes more menacing, more grim and full of cold hate. Like a torrent, the music drags you in, slowly nodding along, one barely notices the change where a melody is sounding through the layers of guitar, untill it gently comes to a close.
‘Absurdiinimene’ (Absurd Human) is the second track, which starts with the sound of an icy gale blowing. The sounds that seep through are ominious. Clean guitar tones are being played in the same minor setting as Metallica’s ‘One’. A thunderous drum sound reverberates though the air and in a flash the riffing starts. A furious roar and samples start playing in Estonian. `
The Estonian extreme metal scene is very hidden and mostly known through a few bands that have somehow captured the interest of the media, like their folk-metal outfit Metsatöll or the sludge duo Talbot. I talked to Sorts Aposta and Thon from Vanad Varjud about the underground in this far-off corner of Europe, where winters are long and cold and where faith is minimal.
Who are Vanad Varjud and in what other bands did you play?
(Sorts) Vanad Varjud is me, Sorts Apostata is the so called ‘main man’ of the band. The band was born in 2000. I was already far into other things, but this became the main project. Thon played the drums and did vocals, so the ‘main man’ started to become a bit blurrier. So far it’s my thing, but Thon is responsible for all the drumwork. We both have been around in the Estonian ‘scene’ for years, though it’s hard to still call it a scene. It might be just me, there are some new winds blowing.
(Thon) I have been in several metal bands over the years. For a list of all my bands and projects, you can check my bandcamp page (there is a lot to check out. ed). Most of the music can also be listened to there. There is a complete list of bands I was in or connected to.
(Sorts) I’ve been involved with Ignorabimus in the past. Also with the band Nihilistikrypt. The band Mass In Comatose is my brainchild, though we will have to see if it ever rises again. When it comes to the scene in Estonia, the best source to check is estonianmetal.ee, though it has moved more to facebook. What is happening and where the action is can usually be found there.
What does Vanad Varjud mean? What is the idea behind the band?
(Sorts) Vanad Varjud means in English ‘Shadows of the past’ (though there are multiple interpretations, literally Old Shadows, meaning that the night is a calm time). This is, as far as what I did goes, the crown jewel and my most important project. It is mostly mine, where I create atmosphere like I’ve never done before. It feels very natural to me to do this the way I feel like. Being free of dogmas is a theme, as in can we even do that? We move to live grabbing hold of these dogmas to give us meaning and answers. They prevent us from thinking and we obey them quite unquestioning instead of looking at ourselves and others as human beings.
The music needs to be slow. Watch a snowflake fall, watch how it rains and feel the beauty and eerie atmosphere, the timelessness… Think of the smell of old trees, the foggy moon and sunrise (don’t take this as sounding too much like hippie stuff). Whatever you believe is your way and yours alone. It is good to have some travellers with you though, maybe even to the end?
What is the general idea/thought you are trying to convey to your listeners?
(Sorts) I dont try to convey anything really. I give something and you can take from it what you want, like I take things from other artists in the same way. It’s a matter of sharing, growing and learning and always moving forward. This is not as easy as it sounds ofcourse, trying to be original and following your own parth. We all wear certain chains, though we link up and find connections, but that is not always easy. It can even be a painful proces, but through pain we might achieve even greater things and more happiness.
We obey others, we are mastering others, we enslave others and enslave ourselves. Who are these others though, what others are there and why don’t we try to master our own self first? I think that’s the hardest thing, to find meaning in all this. It’s not the most original dilemma, very Nietzschean…Take your pick: Socrates, Gailit, Tammsaare…
Where do you draw inspiration from?
(Thon) Inspiration is everywhere, in books, music, film and nature or wherever you look.
(Sorts) I can’t add much to that. Maybe what is inspirational to me is that feeling of pure loneliness that we humans feel. You are born alone and you die alone and in some way you always are alone. Growing is a solitary process, but we can try to share this maybe.
What is it like to be an Estonian black metal band. Does being Estonian have any influence on your music do you think?
(Sorts) There are bands here and some projects, but no tight knit scene in the way people would imagine. We meet, greeta nd have a drink now and then, but not too often I guess. Metal in Estonia, specially black metal, is quite underground. Everyone is doing their own thing in their little corner and I think that’s fine the way it is.
If you consider where and how Estonians have lived historically and geographically and what th weather is like, then the usic dfefinitely is influenced by being Estonian. Then again, it might be my thing, we are very closed off people.
I’ve listened to your 2 song EP. What can you tell about the writing and recording?
(Thon) The idea of VV has been growing in Sorts for years and it first came to life after we finished recording with a metal band. Me and Sorts had the studio to ourselves and started to record the dripping water from some pipe near the door. We messed around with effects and created this eeriesound that just needed some drums. We recorded those as well in some takes, then sorts did the guitars. We did the vocals in a second session, but the rest of it… It just happened.
(Sorts) In a basement in Põlva we built a studio. There were pipes all over the place, it was underground and you could hear people flush their toilets. For recording we had to predict when people were going to do their business… You never knew what you’d find in that place before you had opened the door. There was also a radiostation operating from there. It was a legendary and strange place with ice cold winters. When it started leaking one day we put a metal tub underneath it and started recording the dripping.
Thon was doing the editing for some other band and I was freezing, reading the book ‘Maagide Kool’ by Vladimir Weidemann (translation: School of Mages: Estonian Occult Underground 1970-1980 ). When ‘Talv’ for the band Sõjaruun was done, the drumkit was still there, so we did this basic stuff. It was spontaneous and pure joy to make and I wish every album could be done this way. The writing was done in my head and we had the basic recording. After that I spend some time to adjust things and do the vocals.
Is there a theme to it, do you chose specific messages for a release you make?
(Sorts) Its not like a story of any kind is integral to our music, there are themes that just follow and we pick up on what happens around us. The future material is planned to involve dark themes. It seriously will be very dark.
What are the samples from that are in the songs? Why did you chose them?
(Sorts) The ambient elements there are mostly recorded and modified by us. We chose those to creat a kind of eerie atmosphere, like a church/monastary atmosphere. These are things we just did, you know? It was very inspiring stuff to use and create. It was a cold november when this came from my mind, before I turned it into flesh.
The EP is out on Hexenreich records. How did you get on this label and why did you chose for tape as a carrier?
(Thon) I have known Volly (boss of Hexenreich) for many years. I talk to him almost every week, so it was quite a natural thing to happen.
(Sorts) Yeah, Thon did the talking on that one. I’ve known the same person for many years, but Thon was more on a business level with this I suppose. Hexenreich has been functioning as a label dealing with this music for a long time now and it’s not like there are that many places for our kind of music. He’s a good person to work with.
Actually we released a sort of split with Hexenreich and Eerie Moonlit Trees, which is a label I started to create an undergroundlabel. I have to see if that’s going to work out. Chosing the casette format is partly because it is simply very cheap. I would like to release material on cd, LP and MCD, but as long as we don’t have that kind of deal, we will work with what we have. Anyone who is interested in helping us forward is most welcome.
Can you tell us a bit about metal in Estonia and mainly extreme metal?
(Sorts) I don’t know that much of the new Estonian metal scene. There is stuff going on and if someone is interested in it, the best news source is estioniametal.com, though it doesn’t offer the most recent news right now. We’re simply outside of it I guess.
Some fresh things that are going on as far as I know, Ingmar Aasoja from Thou Shell Of Death has some interesting things going on. The bands Urt and Aghor are active and interesting, Tharaphita has some nice progress and Süngehel has new stuff going on that are worth checkin gout. Goresoerd you can look up on facebook, is definitely a cool band.
I’ve got a list of records that are, in my opinion worth checking out, which offer a good impression of the Estonian scene. My opinion also varies ofcourse, it depends on what I feel like.
Sõjaruun – Talv (2010) Mortified – Wilderness (1993) Tharaphita – All pool Lund Ja Jääd (1997) Aggressor – Legal Requirement (1993) Nihilistikrypt – I hate everything (2006) Skydancer – The Dawnhunter (1996)
Why do you think Estonia is the most atheistic country in Europe?
(Thon) I think it’s a good thing, it seems a natural fact to me really. Studies have indeed shown it’s the most non-religious country in the world and it feels like a good thing.
(Sorts) There are all sorts of studies, so I dont agree with Thon on this. Right, in reality we may not be on level with the classic religious countries, but we’ve been fucked by religion enough as a small nation. Religion in my opinion is like a slavery in the classic way. We are officially a Lutheran country in so far, but there is no official religion in our country. There are big churches and such, with big budgets, but where does that money come from? We live and believe in a more protestant way I think, more sober. I dont believe a God that promises good things for those that serve is a good thing, its a mental slavery, being fooled by these promises who tell us we are blessed if we obey. What bothers me most is why we behave like believers still, even when we claim not to believe.
Fun fact, the Lutheran church wishes to build a skycraper in Tallinn, which will be the biggest building in the city. What should we think of that?
Anything else you’d like to share?
(Sorts) Bottle of cheap whiskey and two dark beers? Thanks for this oppertunity and everyone, support bands that you enjoy and perhaps we’ll meet some day.
During answering these questions, I was listening to some old material and some weird stuff came to my ears. It feels like a great journey to answer this and get back into listening to old material.
Again, some tunes to bop your head to in Sounds of the Underground! This time A Forest Of Stars, Woods Of Desolation, Shylmagoghnar and Promethean Horde.
A Forest Of Stars – A Shadowplay for Yesterdays
Yes, I know this is not the latest album of these Brittish troubadours. I listened to them before, but due to a friends enthousiasm I did so again yesterday. I was amazed. The band brings together sounds of despair, string sections in minor, gritty black metal and the carnavalesque in a blend that is wonderfully powerful. A track like ‘A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh’ embodies that blend of epic doom, laced with twinkling folk passages and playful prog elements. The wailing ‘The Blight Of God’s Acre’ is another example of organic black metal embracing the play with elements.
Listening to this record brings memories of neofolk groups like Current 03, but also of doomers My Dying Bride. That has a lot to do with the Victorian charm of this league of gentlemen, as they describe themselves on their website. They don’t draw their inspiration from pagan Gods and nature, but from a time where romanticism and beauty was still something of importance. ‘Gatherer of the Pure’ is one of those unrelentingly beautiful tracks that display all elements in a blistering torrent of sound that has a warm, golden gleam to it. ‘Left Behind As Static’ lets you hear polished English and the ghost stories associated with electricity seem to be the inspiration for another magic song with static in the air. The haunting ‘Dead Love’ is the great closer of this magic album.
I can’t wait to check out the new one.
Woods of Desolation – As The Stars
The sound of Woods of Desolation is like the cold autumn sun, that caresses your face while your fingers feel frozen. The pain and beauty intermingle in a warm bath of nostalgia on this fantastic album full of post-blackmetal with static riffs and soaring elements in major, tremolo guitar picking and that unwavering cascade of atmospheric layers… I just want to rant about it, till I run out of breath. The song ‘Unfold’ is one of my favorites on this record.
I guess its the layers of ambient that make this record so alluring and filled with atmosphere that one can relate to. It has a simple beauty that still transcends the regular, the harmonies are just right. ‘An Autumn Light’ is another great track that seems to captivate exactly wht I said before. The vocals blend in with the rest of the music to create a unity. In a way they are the only dissonant sound in the music you can hear. These Australians did a wonderfull job in making this beautiful album, that still captivates the grim and cold of black metal. I could go on and on about it, but I feel that words fail to describe what my gut tells me while listening to this.
Shylmagoghnar – Emergence
I just happened to stumble across these Dutch prog-BM’ers on bandcamp. Clean sounding, technical and catchy are some keywords. Atmosphere does not need to be dense tapestry of tremolo guitar obviously. It can also be the clean, hard walls of riffs that these guys unleash on their 2014 album. The long opener ‘Abyss’ immediately lets you hear some classical influences as well, this is not easy metal. An approach that hits the listener in the gut can also be taken, like on ‘This World Shall Fall’ and ‘Squandered Paradise’.
‘The Cosmic Tide’ is a track that stands out due to its soaring sound, full of aventure and bravery. The music is on that Cosmic level, always maintaining a feeling of tension and intensity. ‘A New Dawn’ delivers another blistering track with classic elements and full of epic grandeur. The band is not afraid of implementing anything in their dense and straight forward sound. The magic is in the exectution this great collection of songs. I’m well impressed with the variation and the openness of their sound. Recommended material!
Promethean Horde – Ashes of the Empyrean
What an awesome find, these blackening death tyrants from the United States. I love the frantic sound of the riffs and dense walls of guitars. The vocals remind me of the cleanish sounding black metal, like that of Keep of Kalessin on this album filled with pagan black metal. I’m not sure how deep that pagan aspect runs, but just bear with me for a bit more, while these boys roll on. The epic riffs are quite impressive, though not too original. This band is definitely energetic and filled with rage, creating an impressive rolling sound.
The vocals are a hoarse bark, a bit like Abbath, but lacking the deep cutting gritty qualities. Many people are fussed about some clean parts on the album, but I find those very easy to ignore and forget. The coiling sound and sheer intensity makes up for whatever flaws it may have, like some out of place tremolo playing on ‘Ördögszereto’. I will admit that during the listening to this album, my enthousiasm startst to go down a bit. It’s not the most original release and might not really have that forwards move in its sound, which is so typical for USBM. Still, I enjoy this record.
“We might be the most sympathetic black metal band from the Netherlands”
It’s a chilly autumn evening and we are sitting down in Café het Rozenknopje in Eindhoven with half of satanic sleaze rockers Heretic. The band has had a busy year behind them and its time to talk to the gents about their new records, shows, Ván Records and what it is like to be the most sympathetic black metal band of the Netherlands.
Slight shocker, Heretic has been around for 18 years already. Sure, there have been some breaks, but Thomas Goat has been playing dirty black metal under this name for 18 years. Fun fact also, is that this band only played their home town only once. That was in a support of the mighty Danzig in 2011 (in the Effenaar). That is one of the future goals for the band, according to drummer Tom Auf Der Axe: play an awesome show in Eindhoven. The drummer is keen to talk about the turbulent year Heretic experienced in 2014.
For Tom, it’s all still very new, even with all the events of last year: “I really was lucky to join Heretic at this time. I got talking to Thomas at a metal record fair. He needed a drummer for Heretic and asked if I was interested. I decided to say yes and three weeks later we did our first show together. Not a show in some bar, it was immediately a show on Roadburn!”. Tom learned enough songs for the show in a couple of weeks, where the band with a full line up had their big test. It turned out to be just the start.
“And then there was Hellfest on the agenda in France, which was another incredible experience. We went into the studio to record or new album and we have an agenda that is filled with cool stuff. As if that was not enough, we signed with Ván Records and booking agency District 19 (known as the organizers of the Eindhoven Metal Meeting). It’s been a great year this far!” tells Tom full of energy and enthusiasm. Its just as if everything the band touches turns to gold this year. Singer Thomas adds to Toms story, that is is definitely not just their drummer that was lucky, but the whole band. He chooses his words carefully, as if he only just started realizing that it all really happened: “Things started rolling for real this year for Heretic. We have a band, where all members want to go in the same direction. Adding Jimmy Blitzer (bass, also known from Urfaust) completed the picture. He thought it was cool to play second bass, which sounds odd, but really creates the sound we want. He also happens to be an excellent showman.”
Before we start looking at the successes from 2014, we should have a look at the past of Heretic. Founder Thomas always had an artistic drive with the band to express himself: “I wanted to satisfy an inner urge to create something, something new. The black metal scene was doing something that I wanted to go against, which is how Heretic started out, playing a different form of black metal.” That is the way the proces goes for Heretic, rebel against the image people create of them, but also against themselves according to Thomas: “Every record is a response to its predecessor for me. Everyone thinks they can label you and say what you are as a band based on your record, so the next one has to be completely different. Apart from that, I’m the biggest fan of Heretic and listen to the records time and time again. I then hear what I would like to have changed, what could be better. It’s a drive to develop. Every record is just a moment from what you do as a band, when one is released I’m already working on the next one. ‘Alive Under Satan’ is almost out now and I know how I want the next record to sound.”
The result of all those years of development yields its very own sound. “The black metal of Venom, sex drive like the Dwarves, punk vibe of Zeke and the sleaze of Mötley Crüe, that is the Heretic sound!” says Tom. “Thomas writes the songs, sings and plays guitar. Tony Hellfire does the bass loops over that, like our very own Steve Harris. Jimmy does another layer of dough on top of that and I can fill the gaps with my drums and make it into a whole. Because of the success and energy this year we’re all facing the same direction. Everyone has ideas, which keep on rolling and make nice things happening. It’s almost going automatically.”
A good example of these amazing things that happened to Heretic is their signing with German Ván Records, a label that also released music by The Devil’s Blood, Urfaust and Dread Soverign. The label is known for beautiful releases and special attention for the fans. “I knew Sven (owner Ván Records red.) from shows and of course Jimmy has been working with him through Urfaust for longer.”, Thomas chips in. “Sven thinks about releasing records, like a fan and an enthusiast, who wants to make it into something special. If we would want to release our record in a leather sleeve, he would basically be open to it. As soon as we would make a record that sounded like we do live, he would be interested. With ‘Alive Under Satan’, we have that record so the deal was soon made. Selim (Lemouchi, THe Devils Blood red.) told me a lot of good things about the label.” Live is of course still where it really happens for Heretic. This is obviously the place where Heretic is at its best, when the fans are right opposite the band.
The big similarity between Ván Records and Heretic is the love and respect for the fans. “We may be the most sympathetic black metal band from the Netherlands. We get so much respons from our fans, so we love giving them something in return.” Specially at the shows the band plays in Germany, the band has amazing experiences according to Thomas: “It’s amazing to play a show and see that the first rows of people sing along with every song, but it does happen to us. On the stage it’s all a big show, but after the show we are at the merch stand as soon as we can for a chat a beer or anything with the fans. I’m still a huge fanboy about the bands I love, so I know how important it is.” Tom agrees fully on that: “I’ve been touring with many bands, where I stood next to the stage, like Peter Pan Speedrock and Reverend Horton Heat. We get those same kind of responses, which is an amazing feeling. Sometimes its almost real!”
“Metal fans are, in my opinion, enormously dedicated. When I was nine years old I heard Iron Maiden for the first time. I still get chills when I hear that music. It sticks with you, that is what makes metal fans different, “ concludes TOm. “We played a show in Montbéliard in France a while ago. The support act was a band named Spermafrost. Before the show they came to see us, shake hands and tell us how cool it was for them to play with us. If you receive such dedication and responses, you have to give that back and we do that with all love.” This is part of the reason for the first uncommon release on Ván Records: a red flexi-disc with the song ‘It’s On!’. “That was one of those things, we made that single as a nice object. Then the Deaf Forever Magazine wanted a couple of thousand copies to send to their subscribers. A month later the release was totally sold out!”
The new album by Heretic, ‘Alive Under Satan’, is now out on Ván Records. The recordings were done in Eindhoven in three days and Thomas is looking forward to the next session: “It was a lot of fun in the studio and it turns out we have a great team with this little gang. I’m looking forward to making a full-length. Our previous record, ‘Angelcunts & Devilcocks’, was recorded at home with a drum computer. That is hard to compare with the raw, energetic sound that can be heard on the new record. You can hear that these are real, organic recordings. “Without changing the songs too much, there is much more dynamic in this new Heretic,’ says Tom. “We find a balance between the elements, which makes this a representation of the Heretic you can hear play live. If you manage to pull that off in the studio, then you’re doing the right thing.”
So the gang looks forward to the next record, for which Thomas has plenty of ideas already. The attention of all band members is with Heretic, playing live and enjoying the chemistry within the band. The new video is also out for you to enjoy.
The year 2015 might be the year of Heretic, including that long awaited show in Eindhoven.
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.