Label: Viridian Records Band: Mistwalker Origin: Canada
Isolation has always been a great source of music. And this definitely captures that. Mistwalker is one of the many projects from Greg Sweetapple. The Canadian region of Newfoundland is one of the main inspiration for this record, which is the second full length by Sweetapple under this moniker, titled ‘Terra Nova’. A reference to the history of his region.
In total, he has released 8 full-length records, most on the regional collective label Viridianrecords. Musically, this project has been greatly inspired by the remote region of origin. That in itself makes this an interesting creative outlet to listen to!
The music of Mistwalker has a versatility with one binding factor, which is the melancholic overtones in the sound. In the introducing Juniper Lament’, I find similarities with the meandering, depressive pop songs of the ’90’s lo-fi scene, where the second track goes to a different place. ‘Terra Nova’ has a blistering guitar sound, metallic and cold, like the northern sea. From this point on, the sound reminds me of Glittertind in their primitive early days. A sense of the grand, captured in the clean vocals, and powerful arches. The guttural vocal part is particularly grim and venomous, leaning to the Bathory sound.
With a song like ‘Bloody Bay Massacre’, Mistwalker demonstrates the uncanny daring to touch upon topics, obscured by history. The doomy song tells of the Beothuk people, native to Newfoundland, who have been extinct for almost two centuries now. A song that is as a witness of a people, no longer able to accuse. It’s just one example of the local influences that fill the album and define its sound.
At times, the music is truly gritty and sounds like the unpleasant climate you might face in the realms like Newfoundland. A grey sound, with a feeling of desolate remoteness. All that is well captured in the sound of Mistwalker.
You either love what they do, or you don’t. Furia is not for everyone, but the Polish band has continuously searching within the realm of black metal and folklore for new expressions. Nekrofolk, they call their sound, which at times definitely combines that necro sound with folky passages. Intriguing is the world that fits here.
It’s been a while since their latest release, which was ‘Księżyc milczy luty’. An album that truly moves away from the black metal stigma and earns the band some interesting artistic comparisons along the way. Even more interesting was their EP ‘Guido’, which I liked for obvious reasons, but it was recorded far underground in one of the mines of their native Silesia. An interesting region historically, if you are interested in that (which I am).
During Roadburn 2018, I met with Nihil and Sars from the band, to have a chat. Upon arrival, it is clear that we deal with intense personalities. Nihil hides behind his sunglasses and smokes one cigarette after another. When he speaks it’s slow and with a mild slur at times. Yet as we progress and touch upon interesting topics, he becomes more pronounced and lively. Makes sense, since most of the times the questions are the same (and so are some of mine). Sars is more quiet but brooding and intense. His gaze bores into you and his words are like daggers, sharp and spoken with an urgency and directness.
Of mines and the moon
How was it to play Roadburn for you?
Nihil: It was almost perfect. I didn’t like the beginning of the show, there were some problems with the sound. I didn’t like that it was daytime, but the show got better as we went and the last song felt like a full 100% for me. I really enjoyed it, people seemed satisfied.
Your last song, was that a very personal experience?
Nihil: The last song is very important. For me personally, as during the live set, this is a kind of ‘wydinia’, a release of what we have inside of us. I don’t know why, but it is perfect for the end. You can’t put it to words. Every song is a personal expression, yet that song is special to us.
As I hear your music, it’s very hard to put you down in a genre box. Do you feel that a festival like Roadburn is the right fit for a band like Furia to play?
Nihil: Yeah, I think every festival is right for a band like Furia, because we’re just playing music. For me it is just music at least, so we play different festivals like OFF festival or Primavera in Barcelona. I think you can say pop festivals?
Sars: One festival we were playing featured a post-black band and a pop artist from Poland and we were in between, and that was ok.
Would you prefer this to an exclusively black metal festival, since you are usually put in that category?
Sars: Actually, I don’t like black metal festivals, because it is so narrow-minded. It doesn’t fit for us.
What is often used for your music, and I’m curious where it comes from, is the term ‘nekrofolk’?
Nihil: Hard to say, what inspires us is not different bands so much. Sure, we pick up their influences, but that’s not the main thing. Most important for us is our lives, where and how we live. That is very special for us because we live in an area that is both industrial and very green. It is very weird to have those two things, I’ve never seen a similar place anywhere. I think that’s why we are strange.
Could you then say that the term is a combination of the two elements, that the nekro represents the industrial barren and folk the green?
Nihil: I think that nekro is us, we are nekros. We are dead.
That requires some explanation, why are you nekro?
Nihil: I don’t know… (turns to Sars) Why are we nekro?
Sars: We are not useful for society. It’s hard to explain, but like Nihil says, we are playing nekrofolk because we are from Silesia. Of course, when we started we wanted to play black metal and we listen and play in many black metal bands. Now, that is not the most important thing. We want to express ‘us’.
I get from that that you have shaped your music into something very much more personal, strongly based on where you are from. I am interested in where you are from, can you describe Silesia as your place?
Nihil: You have to come see it. It’s industrial and the mentality is different.
Sars: Historically, the region belonged to everyone. It has influences from Czech, German, Polish and other owners and that has shaped it in a way. Silesians became their own sort of people because of that. When the Germans invaded Poland and took over Katowice, one of the biggest cities of Upper Silesia, there were people firing at them and others waving and welcoming the soldiers as if they were part of them. It’s complex to this very day because there are still people who might not feel German but have a strong kinship with all these nations. They’re not from anywhere really but from Silesia. These days, when nationality is very important in Poland for the government, saying you are Silesian is a controversial thing.
So to round up, Silesian identity is shaped by its history, gaining a very distinct identity due to not really being a part of any other nation? As I understand, you also derive a lot in your music from that history and folklore. What sort of stories or ideas are those?
Nihil: I think it is not so much about stories, but more our feelings about these.
Sars: We are part of those stories and we want to create new ones. Not just about our area, but also about us. We use parts of that local folklore but in our own way. We tell them through our own perspectives and experiences.
I think that nekro is us, we are nekros. We are dead. – Nihil
As I understand it, you don’t view yourself as part of the black metal scene or any scene at all really. You’ve also stated that as a musical entity you are hermetic. How big or small is that unit, to what does it extend or is there any kinship that fits in your circle with other artists?
Nihil: It’s just us, not some group of people. There are some bands in Poland we are close to in such way, but it’s more on a social level and not coded with rules. We really just play our own stuff without plans of getting bigger.
Does that help to hold on to the identity, that you consciously control what comes into your work?
Nihil: Actually, I think we are starting to control that, but earlier it was much more unconsciously. We were not really in control, just drunk and playing all the time. Now, we are getting older and more mature, more aware of what we want to specifically do.
I would like to talk about your latest record a bit too and I am particularly fascinated by the release ‘Guido’, recorded hundreds of meters underground in a Silesian mine with that same name. How did this idea come about and how did it all got done?
Nihil: For us, this idea came very naturally because the coal mines are for us a regular thing and part of our industrial region. Mining culture is a part of the Silesian environment we come from. When we saw it was possible to record a record down there, we just did it.
Sars: It just makes sense, because when people think about Silesia, they think of Germans and coal mines. It was obvious we had to go underground to record it.
Wasn’t it a challenge to get down there and did you write your songs with a specific feeling to them?
Nihil: It was our first time down there and obviously it was technically hard to get our stuff down there. We only had one day to record, but that went rather well. I didn’t feel very unusual down there, just very focused and I didn’t think about anything else. In one way it was like every recording, but I can’t put to words the uniqueness of the experience.
Sars: We were prepared for that, we knew we had one day and so our mindset was set to do it. There were interesting situations though, like the typical elevator that was used by miners years ago, which had 3 levels and on every one was a part of our equipment.
Nihil: The strange thing is that the second part of the recording is improvised and we are not good technical musicians, but it came out the way we wanted it to be. We are satisfied.
When I listen to this record, it really is essentialist, very stripped down. Perhaps it captures the essence of what you do, do you feel that way?
Nihil: Well, in some way. But every record captures something and is very different, but the feeling you describe might come from the fact that it was recorded in the coal mine, underground, which influences your perception.
Sars: It really is a part of this record. We were 320 meters underground and listening to this music you have to think about these surroundings. It is part of the record, the place where it was made. We could have done it in the studio too and claimed it was done in a mine, but I think this made us perhaps push harder and work more intensely.
I suppose that in a way, recording down there, is in a way the most isolated place you could find to record, yet also be in the center of where you are from, both physically and conceptually.
Nihil: We should do every record in a mine. It won’t be cheap though…
You also released the album ‘Księżyc milczy luty’, and what is mostly written about this great piece of music is noteworthy. Firstly, you are more and more often compared to bands outside of the black metal sphere and secondly, a lunar quality is ascribed to the record. Could you tell me what that is?
Nihil: We need a whole night to talk about this, but the most simple way to describe it for me is that the moon leads us and we want to escape from the earth. The moon is our goal and guiding light, that is what the record is about. By which I mean, that we don’t belong to this world, so the moon is a symbol of different worlds to us. That’s all I can say right now because it’s very hard to talk about the lyrics. I don’t like that sort of questions, because what we try to say, we say in the lyrics. These are poetic and we shouldn’t demystify them by talking too much about them.
I definitely am not going to ask you to explain the lyrics, as you say they contain a lot of meaning to be found by the listener. What I am curious about is the concept behind them, the way you now describe the moon as a guiding light, an otherworldliness, which is very familiar from mythologies.
Nihil: Well, you mention the mythologies and you are right there, but it is not like we try to follow the mythologies, but we fill them. This mythology comes through us, it is our own experience shaped as if we are those ancients. We are not playing to be the ancient people, but like them, we make our own myths, our own folklore.
In a sense, we are simple people, which again is part of being from Silesia. We are common people that experience and feel. It’s not intellectualizing that but just express.
When you write music like this, where do you start? Is it with music or perhaps with an idea?
Nihil: It’s always an idea, which grows for a long time before you start to play. From the idea flows a concept of lyrics and then we begin rehearsals. That’s really the whole process for us, but the idea is central to how we make music.
Sars: The idea shapes the context you need, so it helps to make sense of what you’re doing and where you go. The sound is merely the expression of that idea.
You all play in a ton of projects and you’ve been making a variety of nuanced changes in your music over the years. How do you then know where a piece of music or lyrics fit in best?
Nihil: It’s always hard to put this to words, but it feels really obvious. It comes completely natural, because I don’t play a riff and then try to fit it, but the other way around. When I’m in Furia, that’s where I am and nowhere else. There are no other projects, it’s very simple at that point. It’s not like you make a choice doing it, you just do that which you are doing at the moment.
Sars: As he said, there’s the beginning of an idea for Furia, then there’s music coming from that idea and lyrics. That must be for Furia, it comes from that ground and it works in an organic way.
We are part of those stories and we want to create new ones.
Your sound is definitely moving away from the black metal roots, but where do you see yourself moving in the near future?
Nihil: We are going nowhere. That’s the truth of it because we don’t think that way. The music is a tool for our expression, so it comes when it comes. We are working on a new idea with more blasts, more black metal sounds, but it’s not like we want to move back to black metal. It is just the next idea and the form it takes. We see what it is when it comes, it’s a gut feeling.
Would you see a possibility of Furia becoming even more stripped down, creating a folk sound? Not traditional folk, but Furia folk.
Nihil: I don’t know…
Sars: We’re not planning so that is hard to say and we play what we feel. Unfortunately, we don’t know where that may go.
You mention that you feel an affinity with certain bands, an association if I may. Which are those and why?
Nihil: Most important for us would be Licho, they are a new band with a strong folklore element in their music. Perhaps even more strong than in ours. Members are also active in Koniec Pola. What I like about them is that they look to the inside as well. They don’t imitate other bands but follow their own experiences.
Sars: The folklore aspect is intriguing to me, so I hope they will keep recording and working on more music. We like to help them with live shows and such, so they are important to us.
Nihil: There is a project, titled Túrin Turambar, which is a very old band but quite underground. It’s with them the same as with Licho, they base their work on their own experiences, so I love it. It’s Polish, which is partly why I love it. It’s not nationalism, but it’s an expression of our way of life, the way we think. If you then sing in Polish, it captures that identity, it’s the truth.
Sars: More importantly maybe, are the people in these bands. Like in Licho, when we meet them, they are a lot younger but it doesn’t create a divide. We connect and we understand each other and what we do. There’s a kindred in our way of expressing.
Does it feel as if you go abroad when you leave Silesia?
Nihil: Maybe a little bit, but not so strong. We are different, but we’re also Polish.
If you had to identify Furia as a kind of food, what would it be and why?
Nihil: A rotten apple?
Sars: A big sausage with onions!
Nihil: Sausage with onion and rotten apple it is.
Label: Altare Productions, Psychic Violence, Haeresis Noviomagi Band: Turia & Vilkcacis Origin: Netherlands & United States
Turia is an excellent black metal band, hailing from the east of the Netherlands in the ancient parts of Gelderland surrounding Nijmegen. Ok, that’s slightly mystifying, but being on the HaeresisNoviomagi label, it does tell you a bit about the band and their angle. After two remarkable full-lengths, they return with the impressive collaboration split with Vilkacis.
With a high paced rhythm section, Turia immediately lurches forth on ‘Tuchtroede’. The vocals are inaudible screeches that pierce the flow of the music, which meander gently and are filled with intricate melodies, woven into the tapestry of sound. The tremolo guitar play fades into the second track, titled ‘Spiegel der Eenvoudige Zielen’, unleashing the next torrent of dense black metal, with remarkable melody and beauty entwined with the harshness of tormented vocals. A remarkably haunting piece of music.
Vilkacis is the brainchild of M. Rekevics (YellowEyes, Vanum, FellVoices). An uncompromising black metal project, that captures the essence of Eastern European black metal in a full-on barrage. Having released two albums thus far, the project now appears to pick up speed with a new album ant this split coming out in this year. All excellent pieces of music.
The first track immediately feels like a free fall into the abyss. Titled ‘In The Night’s Grip’, it indeed grips your throat instantly and as the melody sinks away in the endless stream of tumultuous guitars, you are going to be swept away. It’s massive grandeur, the epic scale of the notes and eerie melodies, all converge into one show of force. The fatalism shines through on ‘Final March Into Flame’, a dark dirge that takes us away from the album after a long, lurching march. Heavy and filled with grief. Hoarse howls permeate the music as it slowly crawls forward, on battered and broken knees….
Metal runs deep in the veins of South America and Colombia is no different. Though most people will know the country through its recent troubled history, there’s an ancient past in the Andean country. Guahaihoque tries to catch that in their music, and have been doing so for a good while now.
Having started in 1996, it’s been a good two decades for the band, who merge Andean folk with black metal in a very own way. Having started ahead of the folk metal boom, their sound is unique and hardly unchanged from the raw roots it stems from.
I found them willing to answer questions about Colombia, their history and music and what freedoms they currently have in their country.
Ancestral traditions and black metal
How have you guys been?
Hello, Yes, everything is fine.
How did Guahaihoque get started and what does the name mean?
Guahaihoque started out as an entity with the intention to evoke our ancestry. So, we formed the band with that main goal.
Guahaihoque is an entity, also a god of an ancient mythology from our homeland, it´s the lord of death, the one who protects the threshold of eternity, one of its duties is to wait for the souls of the dead to guide them to the eternity, in its deep dominions in the center of his sacred lagoon.
What bands got you into this kind of music in the first place?
To be honest, we had no specific bands guiding our musical path. We don´t deny that we have been influenced so far, but perhaps most of the music that helped out to find our style is not metal, but traditional ancient music from the Andean mountains. We feel respect for so many bands, especially of the 90s, like old Ulver, Cruachan, Thyrfing, Borknagar, Falkenbach, Panthymonium, Opeth, WitheredBeauty, Master’sHammer, Arcturus, Hypnos, icons like PinkFloyd and BlackSabbath and many more.
In your music, you put a lot of traditional elements. Could you tell what sorts of stories, instruments, and ideas make up the music of Guahaihoque? And of course, the cultural heritage that you try to emulate.
Our music is deeply inspired by the ancient tradition of our continent. Guahaihoque is not focused on one culture, but in many of the 3 Americas (North, Central & South). Our songs speak of myths, legends, battles, epic topics, rituals also we evoke the ancient times before the invaders came. We use woodwind instruments, such as Quena flute, Quenacho flute, Pan flutes, Tarkas, Toyos, Zampoñas, Ocarinas and others. Our intention was/is to blend extreme metal with the ancestral music of our continent, not only for intros, instrumental songs or passages but also in extreme metal parts full of chaos.
We felt the need to pay tribute to our ancestral tradition, as other bands did/do with their folklore in Europe, Asia, etc. There is a big source of inspiration because of great cultural heritage, such as Mayas, Aztecs, Incans, Muiscas, Calimas, Taironas, Moches, etc.
What sorts of instruments do you use into your music and how do you bring all of that together in a fierce metal sound? Do you start with a base of metal or with the folk parts?
As I said on in the previous question, we use several different traditional instruments, those instruments existed prior to the cultural blend when Spaniards came to our continent.
The songwriting process is not planned, each song is created in a particular way, some start with acoustic instruments and woodwinds, but also with the metal formula as most bands do, it depends on the feeling and mood of each song.
How does the creative process for Guahaihoque look and could you describe this?
It starts in a natural way, we always try to do our own thing, we don´t want to be a copy band, if we feel that a riff or melody sounds similar to another band it´s changed or deleted to avoid such thing.
Are you currently working on something new? Your last record appears to be from 2007, how is it that your production is quite minimal and as I understood in the past your band has been kept on hold for a long time?
Yes, we are. Well, we are not the typical band releasing an album every year, we have no the intention to be a massive act, we make music for passion not for business. We have had several years of silence because we live in different countries, but we are still working in silence and when a new material is ready, it will see the light.
You’ve been active for a long time, through some turbulent times. Can you tell me something about the scene in Colombia through the years and how the social changes affected the music/scene and its development?
The scene in Colombia is full of concerts, mainly international ones actually, most support is for those big bands, the local scene is full of bands, few small labels. Our scene is not organized or solid, every band works in an independent way. There have existed a few good acts for years, nowadays most of the bands don´t worry for making or finding it’s own sound or style, most of them are fully influenced by European or North American bands, I mean in sound and style.
Your record came out under Xue Productions. What can you tell about this label?
Xue is our own label, we decided to produce everything by ourselves because most of the offerings from labels sucked off, they only wanted to get a master recording and to release an album without giving us support, we did it because it was not fair for us, most labels only want to make money and they don’t give a fuck for the bands they are supposed to support. it´s a shame. so why not do it by ourselves?
How did metal music come to Colombia and which bands pioneered the genre in your country? What places were important for its incubation?
In past years most music came by tape-trading or some metalheads had relatives living in Europe and those sent the music to Colombia, also there a few ones promoting music through magazines, radio shows and so on, later on, the internet was the media to make it popular and almost commercial. According to my viewpoint, there were no pioneers in Colombia, most of the bands played Thrash, Heavy, Death and Black metal and those bands didn´t do a big thing for the genre.
How well is everything available to you? Rehearsal spaces, recording facilities, instruments, venues to play live? From neighboring countries, I’ve learned that this can be a challenge.
Nowadays there are tons of rehearsing places with good equipment, also a lot of studios, what we don´t have are good producers or engineers, most of them are empirical and their lack of knowledge does affect the final result of so many bands work. For concerts, there are some good venues. instruments are easy to get. With the new technologies it is quite easier to record, so most bands or musicians are learning to make their own recordings and also have made own home studios. This helps a lot because you have the option to work in a free way before entering professional studios (as those are very expensive). We are doing the same in our own homestudio.
Do you face any sort of censorship or social pressure as metal musicians in Colombia? In the documentary Blackhearts, I saw that religion is very present in your country and extreme music often seems to clash with this and I wonder if that causes tension for you?
Well, Metal is very strong in Colombia, most bands do their own thing, the government has no censorship, there are some festivals supported by the government. Religion is everywhere, but our constitution makes actually Colombia a secular country, so the religion has no power to control metal music in a legal way. There is no tension for us, a curious thing. We have received good response from people not into metal because of our topics and musical label ( I mean style and lyrical content). We are not connected with blasphemous acts, we are not the typical “hail satan” outfit.
What current bands from Colombia should people really check out and why?
There are good bands in Colombia, like the necessary folk bands, they are worth checking because their music is good and they work in an honest way. Also such bands as Thundarkma, Apolion´s Genocide,Exgenesis, Chaquen, Endeathed, Nameless, Gutgrinder, IgnisHaereticvm among others.
I have noticed a lot of nature imagery on your Facebook page. What role does nature play in your work?
Nature has been and will always be an important thing for Guahaihoque, everything and all of us do belong to nature, the forests, highlands, sacred lagoons are a big source of inspiration, many of those places were/are sacred for our forefathers and for us too.
We feel respect for our nature, including animals and sacred places. We are against destroying nature.
What future plans does Guahaihoque have?
To release new material, so we are working on it and sooner or later it will be heard for those who have supported us so far, our main goal is to create honest and sincere music instead of releasing music each year as a mainstream act. our music is not for all kind of listeners, it´s for all those who are connected with the ancient traditions and paganism of these Andean mountains and land named nowadays as America.
If you had to compare your band to a dish (type of food), what would it be and why?
G: I see no reason to make such comparison, but to give you a response I might say that our musical recipe isn´t the typical shit you eat at a McDonalds or KFC. We are not stating that we are the most original band, but we have always tried to work in our own way and sound. so every listener should taste it and say if it´s a good or bad dish, it´s not our thing, …our thing is to give and raise the best ingredients for it.
Label: Tour de Garde Band: Verval Origin: Netherlands
The Dutch black metal scene is brimming with life and creativity but lacks the exotic splendor of the Icelandic movement. I wonder if that is why so much of the creativity here is overlooked, by bands like Verval on their debut record ‘Wederkeer’. An explosively colored cover and fresh approach, that stirs the sound in a new way.
Members of Verval have been active in SeaofTrees, Nevel, Wrang, WhiteOak and notable name Laster. Having shared many projects, they’re obviously used to collaborating and adding vocals to this project is singer Galgenvot, known from some of the same bands. That makes the record a cohesive and well-conceived effort.
The intro to ‘Uit As Herezen’ is a folky, gloomy tune, reminiscent of a Game of Thrones tune. It takes some time for black abyss to open up and swallow you whole. Melancholic black metal with grand yearning blasts out, unleashing tremolo guitars, big, lumbering rhythms and wildly frantic passages of eerie black metal in a track that lasts over 13 minutes. There’s a certain pop-sensibility in the music of Verval, which is immediately audible.
The daring guitar in ‘Vervreemding’ particularly stands out with its haunting melody, but also clean sound. The riffs are clear and never muddled away in a haze of riffing as most common in black metal music. During a calm intermezzo, fingerpicking guitar play really steps away from the assault of a more common sound, creating some fragile beauty.
On the final track, titled ‘Diepten Eeuwig Zwart’, we get even more classical, hauntingly beautiful passages. The music spirals onwards endlessly as the poetic, profound lyrics are howled at the heavens.
Label: The Moon on a String Productions Band: Trees, Clouds & Silence Origin: Spain
It’s pretty great if your name can tell it all about your sound and inspiration. I suppose that this is why Trees, Clouds & Silence chose theirs back in 2015. This one man project by Ocram is an ambient/post-black band with a focus on the natural realm (don’t we call this blackgaze now?). This is the second record by the band, titled ‘Let me die on your roots’.
The appraisal of nature has tempered the eerie fire of black metal in many occasions. The sound of bands like Winterfylleth, Grima or many other bands who draw upon that verdant realm, have a sound that is milder and more harmonic than anything inspired by the more human resources. The climate in the south of Spain, around Andalusia, definitely has that effect even stronger. Musically, however, this act may drift more towards the postrock sound.
The sound is mellow and flows like a cool breeze in the warm summer sun. Lyrically, the songs by Trees, Clouds & Silence, are personal, full of craving and hints to the majesty of nature. Clean guitars guide the listener onwards, like one of those appealing forest paths that invite you down further into the woods. Gently meandering keys provide a soothing path through the tremolo guitar sounds as the sound envelops you.
When vocals come in, like they do on ‘Echo’, I would not call them the strength of the record. Not a perfect singer, the voice is more a proclamation or an expressive dirge. The lady who adds chanting here does a bit of a better job. The screams of Ocram do a much better job in their biting and bitter tones on the same tune. The music is a continuous flow, a harmonious whole, but cut into various parts. A joy to listen to, regardless if simmering heat warps your vision or the cold hurts your face. It captures tranquility in sound.
Label: Heidens Hart Band: Uuntar Origin: The Netherlands
The Netherlands is flat, which is its distinguishing fact and trait. It also means that most of our predecessors were farmers, working the flat, endless fields… That’s what the cover of the new Uuntar album shows, which is aptly titled ‘Voorvaderverering’, which translates roughly as “ancestral worship”.
The record was on the shelf for a while, after being recorded in 2010 by Herjann (HeimdallsWacht, Cultus, ex-Countess, ex-Mordaehoth) and Nortfalke (Kjeld, ex-Lugubre, Tarnkappe, Standvast). In this project, they focus on a more pagan black metal approach with vast epic movements and a sense of the grand.
The record opens with meandering synths and tribal drums on ‘Intrede’, which translates as intro, so it makes perfect sense. Nature sounds enrich the pasture on which we tread, as the music slowly swells. There’s a sense of the dramatic in the atmospheric black metal tunes that open up ‘Een Germaansche Grafheuvel’. The flowing melody is not even overpowered by the blast beats and grim vocals, sung in old Dutch, and ever streams onward.
The vocals contain a trace of yearning and despair, as they beckon to the olden days of our ancestors. Praising and hailing them as from beyond the grave, which is what the title ‘Ganggraf’ refers to as well as ‘Lof op ‘t Hunebed’. Though the sound rarely shifts from its initial modus, the topic does on ‘Bloed om Bloed’, which is more battle ready and speaks of taking up arms against the enemy. The rhythm does punch harder and more densely, creating a more fierce and heated sound. An urgency takes over as the guttural barks bellow forth. German deities are appraised as we reach these calm, flowing pieces of utter static guitar play. An aural bath almost, with a heavy distorted sound form the strings.
The slow progression of ‘Uittrede’ (you can guess what that means) takes us back from the past to the here and now. With a sense of regret and forlorn emotions, we come to the end of this fantastic record by Uuntar.
Label: Transcending Obscurity Band: Gaerea Origin: Portugal
Portuguese band Gaerea may be a rather new name on the block, but their album ‘Unsettling Whispers’ doesn’t show any reluctance or unjust humble beginnings. It’s a piece of work, forged like steel. The album has been out for a little while, but there’s no need to let that stop a review of this piece of sonic defiance.
The debut by the band comes rather soon, as they’ve only been at it since 2016. An EP precedes this slab of black metal and little effort is spared to make this something special as a release, including a booklet that gives context and contours to this project, that embraces the arts as much as the heavy and brutal of the music.
Gaerea embraced the big and bombastic sound, aligning themselves musically with the likes of Behemoth and DimmuBorgir, maybe with a little Blut Aus Nord thrown in there for good measure. Abyssal bombardments of drums and bass, with a sense of the infinite behind it At times the sound effects add interesting tones to the palette, but also the vocals switch to something more hardcore-like during ‘Whispers’, which functions very well within the dense repetitions and cataclysmic riffing.
The sound combines into a solid entity, yet allows for plenty of subtle nuances and clear energy flowing through the guitars and vocals. The risk of a sound like that of Gaerea could be that becoming a lumbering, hard to steer behemoth. That clearly has been avoided, creating a brimming sort of vitality in the sound. Massive and unrelenting, this is an album that completely blazes it’s own path, from start to finish. Disregarding genre rules and black metal clichés in order to create an all-devouring, black hole of sound. A sonic baptizing in their own bleak battering sound.
Gaerea claims their spot with this debut release, no doubt about that.
Label: Kuunpalvelus Band: Cosmic Church Origin: Finland
The final chapter in the remarkable career of CosmicChurch is finally there. Erratic, devoid of conventions and solitary, the Finnish project has found its own place in the pantheon of the northern black metal and ‘Tättymys’ is the last and posthumous release.
The band has always been a singular effort by Luxixul Sumering, who also created his art under the banners of Frozen Grave, Asymmetrical, and AuraSaturnal. This project has always projected a different experience, an uncanny cosmic journey and this is an amazing one to embark on.
We enter a strange world of beautifully woven black metal with a variation of folk elements injected into the fabric of the sound. Dense, yet full of space the tunes unfold with an easy grace. That definitely goes for opener ‘Aloitus’, but the almost nine-minute long ‘Armolahja’ is a spectacular display of soundscapes. The cover of the record does its work to, playing on the imagination of the listener. At times that means some faerie-like atmospheres with the eerie singing on ‘Sinetti’.
There’s definitely something otherworldy about Cosmic Church, but also a classic grandeur and sense of decorum on the beautiful ‘Huuto’, which feels like a symphony, played with such gentle movements and warm tones. That doesn’t mean the band can’t put a bit of raw, straight-forward material in there with ‘Vangittu’. Yet, it also holds a piping madness, that you’d sooner connect to OranssiPazuzu and the like.
After a brief intro, we then find ourselves at the final song, wich is a mournful dirge for its opening part. From a low, churning riff we then start the ascent to the climactic ending of Cosmic Church. Densely atmospheric, almost aetherial, the last notes die away after a good while. Ascending, we find a highlight of this remarkable band, that I found out about way too late I believe.
Djinn are creatures of fire, which is why they are invisible, yet destructive. Another creature in Saudi Arabia, that features those characteristics is the elusive AlNamrood. An entity operating under a veil of mystery for very real and tangible reasons. In this country, it can be punishable by death to play dark blasphemous music.
AlNamrood has been steadily delivering music since 2008 and the international attention for the project seems to have given it a boost. The last album Enkar, released in 2017, clearly caught many listeners ear with the raw sounds or protest that could easily be compared to the better bits of Darkthrone. A live show however, that will not happen soon unfortunately.
Through their label Shaytan Productions I managed to ask Mephisto, the master behind this project, some questions. Unfortunately a Skype chat or such is for obvious reasons not possible, but he was kind enough to update us on Alnamrood.
Fear is Slavery, it sickens us
Hello Mephisto, how are things? How is it going with AlNamrood? AlNamrood is going progressively as usual.
Understanding your need for anonymity, could you shed some light on yourself as a person behind the band? What made you want to do this music and how did you arrive at black metal? I play guitar, I’m influenced by the extreme metal of fast picking, open strings, and catchy riffs. The main driver to start AlNamrood was the need to express the rage of daily oppression we deal with. Black metal was a great platform, although we fall toward punk more often, either ways, this music satisfy our needs.
Who are currently in AlNamrood and how did you get in touch? I imagine that reaching out to find members can be challenging and even risky for you. Could you tell me about that? Humbaba and I are the main members, we knew each other for years, but we only came to work together since 2013, we released the album Heen Yadhar Al Gasq Translates to ‘when dusk appears’. I think I’m very lucky to know Humbaba, he is literally the only mate I share my thoughts with, not only music. Finding members indeed is a risky business, not if it is impossible in the first place. This is why the AlNamrood line up is limited.
Your most recent album came out last year. What can you tell me about the writing and recording process of this album? Enkar was fairly experimental, it was a very interesting experience, the roughness, and the low down dark sound was exactly what we cooked for. The guitar recording was aimed to be down tuning, drums were built based on thrash/punk beats, Arabian instruments were pushed back in the background, the bass is clear. We also used the stem mastering done by EndarkerStudio in Sweden, however, the recording and mixing were done by us.
What is the story on the album? And what message are you trying to convey on this record? “Enkar” translates to “denial”, and this album (as each album had a core point and narrative) articulates the phenomena of social denial, in particular, what we experience in a daily basis in our community. We expressed the psychosomatic drivers or psychological tricks used to program thoughts as if those are ideas and believes shoved into people minds, and how people accept repression as a safe ticket than speaking out against it. The issue about the Middle East in general, is people riddled with religion, ignorance, and fear. Fear has created slavery, and authority has succeeded to use religion as a tool to empower this fear and make people kneel to tyranny, in order to get the big prize in afterlife heaven, while this life is mortal and not worth it. This has extended to the point of people started to enslave themselves without anyone asking them to. Nowadays, the religious icons do not need to go into platforms to push for their ideologies like in the past, the people themselves will start to defend religion and raise flags of patriotism even though their rights are crushed, this programming is well done and it sickens us to see people suffer from their own doings.
When I listened to your album, I felt it contained a certain level of punk elements. From the artwork (and of course the anarchist symbol in the band logo) to the raw and direct sound of the record. I felt the music was truly rebellious. How do you feel about this? You described it very well.
In previous interviews, I’ve read some pretty strong convictions when it comes to religion. Can you tell me some more about your name and views?
As the name implies, we are sick from the religion and its affiliation, we are sick from nationalism and its idiocy, we are sick of the system and how it aimed to work for the specific class in society. We renounce ourselves from all of that.
You’ve used a lot of traditional or if I may say folkish elements and instruments. I’m very interested in what these are and where they originate from.
Typically, we used oud, Kanoon, Ney and of course darbuka.
As the situation in the middle-east seems to be changing in many places, what is the status of censorship, dangers, and liberties you are facing as a musician in Saudi Arabia?
No change in term of censorship and liberties. The claim in moving the country into liberalism is a hoax and no merely than a propaganda.
You have had, as far as I am aware, one face to face interview with a Dutch journalist. What was it like to do that for you, coming from a risky situation and meeting in such a manner?
As long as the interview was not done on Saudi soil and it is purely aimed at Dutch readers, we assessed the situation and agreed to it, after all, there won’t be any public prevalence of our identity. The meeting was fine, the interviewer was flexible and understanding, it was a nice meeting.
I understand that everything when it comes to facilities is pretty challenging too, from instruments, rehearsal spaces to recording and having music or merchandise. Can you describe that to me? Also how you work on getting your work to the label etcetera and influencing all the aspects of the creation.
It is very difficult; we do everything in the home-based studio, very discreet. We get our equipment from close by countries and online, usually the problems occur with getting guitars, there could be some questions, but we manage. We communicate with the label online, everything is sent online.
You pay particular attention to the certain symbolism in the words, but also in the videos. I’m very curious to learn how you do get to make videos, merchandise etcetera, even though there’s an obvious limit on what you can do. I understand you travel a lot, is that key for all this?
The merchandise is handled by the label, the music videos are also handled by the label, expect the last video was done by a Dutch friend. Yes, traveling helps a lot, we created good contacts around the world.
In a previous interview it was mentioned that due to a criminal record, the band would not be able to fully leave the country. How is that situation now and could you shed some light on what might constitute a criminal record in your country?
We can’t disclose any details on this question, all that we can say is what many people are thrown in jail for stating their opinion. Which is not considered a crime in any developed world.
Are there any other bands that play metal in your country at the moment and what sort of history does the music style have in Saudi Arabia?
None that we know or heard of. Saudi Arabia has little history of music, unless if you count national music as a musical event?
Are there any bands currently active that you would recommend?
Nothing that we can recommend.
I wanted to ask you if other bands faced similar difficulties as you do?
I don’t think so, as long as they are nationalist and with a side of religion, no problem at all. Maybe they will be misjudged for a satanic group, that’s the worst it can be.
What are your future plans for AlNamrood or any other projects?
To continue what we do, until one day when can leave and start a normal band life somewhere in the world. (AlNamrood is releasing a new record
If you had to compare your band to a dish, what would it be and why?
Spicy course, because spices make your blood pressure goes up and your ear to ring and you will sweat if it not suitable for you.
Is there anything you would like to share?