I’am still lookin for shrines and altars
Mind’s ignoring, what eyes have shown
– ‘Photon Lander’, Spaceslug
If you like surfing on those astral waves, than you need the right soundtrack for being weightlessly floating and slowly wobbling along. Polish stoner titans… wait, that sounded way to solid… Polish massive space slugs Spaceslug (it’s not perfect, but kinda cool sounding) from Wroclaw have exactly the sountrack for you.
The sound of these gentleman is somewhere in between My Sleeping Karma, Radar Men From The Moon en Earth or Sleep (not sure yet). The group has released with Lemanis their very first album and it’s a homerun. The cover is already epic, depicting a snail or slug facing the enormity of the galaxy, depicted in its full awesomeness.
Opener ‘Proton Lander’ is like one of those hypnotic clouds in space you sometimes see depicted, you get lost in a swirling mass of riffs and repetition that feel so loose and relaxed that you just soar away with them. When the cool guitar lines start to build up the vocals kick in, with a repetitive line being chanted: “I know the space, I know the haze”. It says a bit about the imbibed inspiration I suppose.
It also works to connect the band to the more spaced out stoner scene, though apart from the heavy foundations, there’s something way more spacy in the music of these guys. Meandering guitar tones, wavery bass lines and drums that keep it all together to create slowly cascading tones of the infinite. A track like ‘Hypermountain’ illustrates this well.
The vocals offer the aura of mystery and being in a sort of cultish environment. As if the vocalist has secrets to offer that no one knows of. In the mean time the music just warbles on in a manner that displays little care for things like gravity, which is interesting to listen to. I absolutely dig this record full of space stoner. “I know the space, I know the haze, alright!”
Did you hear that awesome album by Possessor yet? You should, because it blends all styles into a potent cocktail of gritty, grimy horrorcore sludge.
You can probably rant on about the Sabbath-esque influences and noisey southern swagger, but these Londoners sound unique and awesome, so I thinought it would be a good thing to get in touch with them and get into it with these gentlemen.
Graham Bywater, Matthew ‘Bean’ Radford and Marc Brereton were keen to answer some questions about their music, horror films and their new album.
How did Possessor get started? Were you guys involved with other bands before?
Marc: I was in quite a few bands before Possessor and I still am, but this is definitely the most fun. I’ve known Graham for years as we met back in college and used to record stuff in his bedroom. We always talked about playing together, but it took until now to come into fruition but when Graham asked me to be a part of Possessor it didn’t take long to commit when I heard what he was pumping out.
Graham: Marc was the only person I met at college who didn’t really have strict guidelines and restrictions to what he was into. He wasn’t ashamed to say he loved Green Jelly. The dude had literally no pretensions. He also immediately reminded me of Sasquatch so that was good.
Bean: I know that Graham and Marc have known each other since they were very young, but my personal involvement with Possessor began shortly after Electric Hell was released. I met Graham by complete coincidence. We were both on our way to a Fu Manchu gig in London and had stopped at the same pub before the show for a few pints. My Iron Monkey T shirt was enough for Graham to start a conversation and we soon started talking about music. Graham mentioned Possessor. I’d actually heard of them and had really liked them; they were also looking for a permanent drummer so I offered my services.
My “audition” consisted of a night together, drinking beer and talking about Guns n’ Roses. By the end of the evening Graham had gone missing and Marc had seen my girlfriend naked. This pretty much set the benchmark we have followed ever since!
So what bands do you guys like and influenced your sound?
Graham: It varies greatly depending on the mood. We drove through a rain storm listening to ‘Canadian Metal’ by Darkthrone on the way to a gig recently. That was a very heavy and inspiring moment and has kinda stuck with me. That album, ‘F.O.A.D’ seeped its way into the sound of Dead by Dawn. Other bands that have been on repeat recently are Midnight, Pentagram, Enslaved, Death Evocation, Misfits and some band called Metallica. The Shrine and Bongzilla have been on my iPod a fair bit and that new Kvelertak album is crazy. I normally aim to discover a band a day if possible. Even if they suck.
Bean : I feel really passionate about music. I listen to blues, classical and jazz but at the center of it all is a love for heavy metal. Black Sabbath are the beginning, middle and end for me and they are a huge influence on my playing. From there my tastes go in a lot of different directions. All the way from LA Glam to Death Metal. Classic stuff really. Obituary, Priest, Black Flag, Iron Maiden, Love/Hate, Entombed; I could go on and on.
In terms of influence on Possessor: For me it’s about those bands who can capture an energy and put that on tape. Motorhead’s Overkill comes to mind as does Charles Mingus’ Blues and Roots. On the Mingus album you can hear the band whooping and howling as they play. It’s such a live, un-tampered, vibrant sound. It’s an odd comparison but it’s exactly how I’d like Possessor records to sound.
I understood that you guys are not originally London folk from an interview with Doomed and Stoned. Where do you guys hail from and is how would you say it impacts your sound?
Bean : I’m originally from a small village in Kent. It’s fair to say that it was a fairly isolated place without easy access to town. As a result my childhood was spent reading and writing stories and playing in the nearby woods, close to churches and graveyards! All of this helped me to develop a good imagination which in turn guided my interest towards fantasy tales and horror stories. Ever since I’ve had a disposition towards the occult as an aesthetic, which is why I find Possessor so appealing. It’s also why I’d love people to experience the band in the same way as they would a ghost story or slasher movie!
Graham: Kent. Staplehurst via Sevenoaks. I’ve always been more inspired by nothing than everything.
Horror flick are as I understood an inspiration too. How do you know you’re catching that vibe when writing a song?
Graham: Possessor are basically a horror film disguised as a band. It’s just a natural part of our sound and is effortless. I guess it has a lot to do with the decade we were born in and to this day I don’t really know anyone who isn’t totally nerdy about cinema. I got into bands like Maiden and Helloween around the same time I discovered films like The Terminator and Re-Animator and I knew from a very young age that music and film go hand in hand. People seem to pick up on that with Possessor which is good.
When we younger me and Marc used to spend our Sunday afternoons watching Hills Have Eyes and Evil Dead and the natural instinct was to follow it up with a beer and a jam.
Maybe we should write a musical. I reckon we could do a gig within a film, like in the woods with the Blair Witch or in the kid’s dreams in Nightmare on Elm Street. Bean : For me, a good example of this would be The Creeps (from Dead by Dawn). It started as a jam on some percussive ideas for another song, but hearing the drum played back in isolation was so evocative of all things voodoo. It put an image in my mind of cannibals dancing under a volcano while their cooking pot boiled. I think the best Possessor songs can make a direct connection to the mind’s eye.
How do you guys pick your artwork? Because it instantly gives off that film vibe. Is it created from scratch or do you use existing images?
Graham: This album took a bit longer as we wanted to outdo our previous concepts without losing the originality. We always go for simple and mysterious imagery but the idea of the faceless character of past releases has become something else with this design as it reveals slightly more.
We often use really old public domain photos that just jump out at us. I normally edit and rework the image until it looks like something new and creepy but always surreptitiously empowering. We don’t talk about the art much as it really should just speak for itself. We like mysterious figures and forms, not blood and gore.
If Possessor was allowed to do a live soundtrack to a film, like bands have been doing on Roadburn Festival for example. Which film(s) would you love to do the score to and why? (and how would it sound)
Marc: Lord of The Rings!! (needs no explanation)
Bean : Something thrilling, visceral and brutal. Texas Chainsaw Massacre would suit us perfectly. That, or a compilation of machete attacks from Friday the 13th.
Graham: The Lost Boys or perhaps Motel Hell? Something trashy and eye catching. Or perhaps it would be even more insane if we played a heavy set to something like Open Water or even a collection of bits from Jurassic Park. Dinosaurs stomping and sharks chomping to the riffs!
A festive gig set to Christmas Evil could be good too.
How would you describe the writing and recording trajectory for your latest album (which is so awesome)?
Graham: Pretty natural. There’s a certain sound, style and spirit to Possessor that writes itself. Having said that this album is definitely edging more towards being filmic and the end result certainly feels more like a group effort this time round. We took a while creating this album because of time restrictions and work but the actual performances themselves were done live and on the spot. One take on most tracks.
Bean : It was recorded really quickly. The drum tracks were done in a single afternoon and in the majority of cases they are first takes. We really wanted to retain the energy and spontaneity of those fresh takes so we deliberately moved through the process quickly without poring over the details or refining them. We wanted this to be a brutally real album with imperfections and accidental highlights. I’m proud to say I think we really achieved that.
If I say that you guys sound like Black Sabbath and Kyuss meeting at a Danzig show, how does that score on the chart of interesting comparisons you’ve heard?
Graham: Well I love Kyuss and Sabbath so that’s fine with me. I’ve noticed we have been compared to Venom and Therapy? a fair bit, and to be honest I don’t get that at all. One review said we sounded like early ElectricWizard crossed with Bathory (?) I think I prefer your description mate but to be honest I don’t really think much about comparisons. We sound like Possessor.
Bean : One of things I really value about Possessor is the wide variety of comparisons that have been applied to us.
People have said we sound like Metallica, L7, Prong, Ministry, Slayer, Pantera and RobZombie too. I love that it is difficult to pin us down. The best bands always have something unique about them which is exactly what I think Possessor are striving for
What is a Possessor live show like and are you guys planning to hit the continent soon?
Bean : The Possessor live experience is a heavy one. Our hope is the audience gets on board in the same way we are; basically to celebrate heavy music and have a good time.
We would LOVE to play future shows on the continent. Our recent show at Sonic Blast in Portugal was a huge success. European metal fans made us feel so welcome and really seemed to “get” what we do. I’d be happy to experience some more of that.
Graham: Yeah, that was great fun. I think our live performance often depends on how well we are rehearsed. We like to keep it raw and exciting and ever so slightly theatrical. Depending on the night and the beer intake we may wear a form of war-paint or corpse paint purely because it amuses us and brings to mind the old school craziness of AliceCooper or Gwar. Other shows can be pretty slick with heads down and feet on the monitors. I think that sometimes a sloppy gig with shit loads of passion and energy is more memorable than being a predictable and routinely structured one. I don’t know why anyone would want to see the same exact performance twice.
We would love to travel and play more outside of the UK, so…
Marc :..Set us up with some dates.
What are the future plans for the band?
Graham: Have some fun and try not to go insane in the meantime. We will be releasing a special something for Halloween this year so keep an ear out for that. One thing we really want to do and have discussed in depth is put out a covers EP. That would be fun, but it could go either way. The songs would have to be weird enough to be worthwhile. We wouldn’t just be covering Ace of Spades and War Pigs.
Bean : In the immediate future? Hopefully more shows. I’d really like to take Dead by Dawn on the road and see people react to these songs. We’re at a stage now where we’re trying to build the profile of the band and that means getting out there and showing people what we’re all about. Beyond that… Write. Record. Do it all again, only bigger and better!
Marc: Burn stuff!
Finally, if you had to describe Possessor as a dish, what would it be (and why)?
Marc: Spicy shepherd’s pie, it’s heavy and hot. Graham: Fajitas. Loads of heavy flavors with some added cheese. Bean : Old fish heads and beer – because our food budget will ALWAYS be weighted towards beer.
Some heavy stuff from the underground this time with Vails, Merlin, Wilt and Plebeian Grandstand. There’s so much stuff coming out of the woodwork that simply sounds amazing, how to keep up?
Well, I particularly liked these four.
Vails – Fuckpuncher When Planets Collide
If you name your album ‘Fuckpuncher’, you probably don’t play music full of gentle and soft elements. You probably do something that feels fucking hard and punching. That pretty much would sum up the sound of Vails. The band hails from London and is a two piece, that produces a punked up, bristling version of sludge without much further decoration. Owen Street batters his bass and provides the singing and Matthew Ham is slaughtering his drum kit to provide a rumbling backdrop for the whole experience. The necessary effects do the rest.
The sound is one full of grit, distorted and with barely contained violence. It’s not the creeping kind of sludge, but the battering, angry sort that propels itself forward on its rhythm based barrage. ‘Fuckpuncher’ is a raw record that reminds me a bit of Crowbar meats Eyehategod with the intensity of Whores. It definitely has some swagger in its bass riffing, for example on opener ‘Klabautermann’. The sound is sleazy and full of biting, heavy distortion, which only adds to the ferocious charm of this duo. This is one to play in your car for sure. On the title track there’s even a feeling of grandeur in the build-up. Great stuff by these Britons.
Merlin – Electric Children PRC Music
No wizardry on this crackling bit of doom, but clear voiced heavy wah wah doom that speaks of death, doom and gloom. The band from Wrinngarth takes doom from the 70’s and merges it with current day heavy psych. Their intent? To melt minds and enslave people… oh well, that last might not be part of it, but they really want to bring back the epic riffing. Their influences therefor range from Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats to Hawkind and Sabbath. Oh and there’s a lot of fuzz going on there as well. Enjoy the ride into the darkness.
Listening ot ‘Electric Children’, you are overwhelmed by the towering vocals that are more akin to the early doom greats than you’d imagine possible. Even the timbre of the recording feels dusty and canned, but also that fuzzy guitar play feels like its Blue Cheer at work underneath it all. The Americans keep the sound light, accesible, but oh so much fun to listen to. The languid vocals, the eerie buzzing guitars, the primitive sound. It all seems a bit much calculated, but the band from Kansas pulls it off with flair. Lots of solo’s, lots of messy sounding bluesy grooves, it’s all good with these electric children.
To say that the Canadian group Wilt makes music that is monolithic in its slow, brimming reverie is an understatement to the art of the band. Their sound is considered to be atmospheric black metal, but traces of the most mind-melting doom (bordering on the funeral kind) is definitely present on their record. It’s the first full lenght for the Manitoba five piece. The record came out in november 2015, but I feel that I have to share its brilliance here.
Slow, drudging music soars around, filling the wide void that the band embraces. The slow is combinated with a blistering drummer, that creates an underlying tension in the shimmering sound of the Canadians. The lurching vocals are cracking, heaving with frustration and grief in a profound and convincing manner. Though that is mainly what describes the title track and opener ‘Illusion of Hope’, on ‘The Elder’ the drums take over and a much faster, pummeling vibe overtakes the whole song. Sure, this record does get a bit monotonous at some point for sure, but let it embrace you and it’s a great experience.
Plebeian Grandstand – False Highs, True Lows Throatruiner Records
There are still those that push the black metal genre forwards and Frenchies Plebeian Grandstand do just that. You might link them to the Deathspell Omega’s of this world, but the band is not related. Thematically the band is taking a totally different approach to the genre, creating something much more tangible and realistic. It’s also interesting to know that the band has been around for 11 years and therefor I’m amazed to not have noticed them before. Alas, it’s the way the world works and now I have and have been blown away by their record.
Ever been hit in the head at a show, when everything suddenly seems to go faster, while you go slower? It’s sort of like that when Plebeian Grandstand launches into their savage, lo-fi bursts of fury. Short assaults are followed by brief, uncouth moments that feel like there’s something wrong or perverse about the music. That unsettling effect is tangible from the first track onwards, but stays with you the whole album. The hooky, mesmerizing sound of these guys remins you that not every band labelling themselves as avantgarde (or being labeled as, potato and all) has seen a modernist novel once, some actually are unfathomably complex and strange. So, don’t take my word for it, but listen to the blistering assault of their record yourself. It’s free, treat yourself.
Well, sometimes you get to do an interview with a really cool band and it really did feel that way when I go to interview none other than the great Ahab from Germany. I got in tocuh with drummer Cornelius Althammer and this interview appeared on the Sleeping Shaman. Enjoy.
We at the Sleeping Shaman like ourselves a nice slice of doom now and then and who better to provide some of the thickest and most salty slices of it than Germany’s Ahab. The nautical doom pioneers have a new album in store for those who love a good story and it sure as hell ain’t a sea shanty.
The Boats Of The Glen Carrig is a heavy album that carries literary references and a poetic approach to their music. Surprisingly gentle at one moment and surging wildly the other, the band has reinvented itself. We got in touch with drummer Cornelius Althammer and asked him about album number four, literary inspirations, water and other wet topics, so enjoy…
Hello, I hope you guys are keeping well as we creep into the grip of winter.
For my taste that old fucker doesn’t have to appear at all. I like sun and warmth… But inside the rehearsal space weather doesn’t play a big role. So everything is going fine for us, we just spent a weekend rehearsing for our upcoming tour.
You recently released another great album The Boats Of The Glen Carrig, which is out now on Napalm Records. What can you tell us about the writing and recording process of the album?And what has the feedback so far been like?
Finally we had that kind of writing process all of us ever wanted. Ideas were brought to the rehearsal space where they were composed into songs by all of us. Every song has undergone this process. On our previous album The Giant we already had started to work this way, but about 40-50% of the songs had been composed by Daniel Droste alone at home. It’s not like these were bad ones, but Ahab feel as much more like a band that does things jointly. Each one of us loves to hang out in the rehearsal room and create music with the other dudes.
The process itself went as probably every single band on the planet. Some songs just ‘happen’, other ones need a very long time. We didn’t stop until all the four of us were happy with every single note on the album. The process of recording was very stressful this time. Especially Daniel, he looked like a zombie in the end. It wasn’t so easy to manage getting enough days off from work; the typical shit you have to deal with if you’re not in a famous mainstream act. In the end I have never been that much happy with any record before. It simply sounds … huge… The production is perfect, that’s all I still can say.
Peoples and press reactions to the album were from very good to amazing, judging from what I heard so far.
You’ve also released a video for the track Like Red Foam (The Great Storm), can you tell a bit about it? It feels like it is touching upon political topics, far removed from the album’s theme. Do you face issues making a video due to the length of the songs?
Well, when we became aware of the fact that there will be a video of one song there obviously was only one choice. Like Red Foam is the shortest song of the album, so it had to be this one. I am happy with this choice, because I really like this song (in fact I totally didn’t care which one it would be, because I love them all).
So then we had to come up with ideas. As an underground band you surely can’t produce a € 100.000 video with ships, huge sea creatures and all that stuff. So it had to be something that works on the metal level. The only one who really was involved in the process of creation was Christian Hector. But the main work was done by a team of creative people. The other three of us were not really sure about what to contribute to a clip. It just was a very new thing for us.
What came out in the end is a really good clip that deals with a political topic. Which is no problem for me, because I am a political person. My problem here is that I just cannot find the connection between the clip and our music. I really don’t see it and therefore I don’t like the clip so much… Which is not a problem for me. In the end I have learned how to contribute to a clip the next time.
What made you chose The Boats Of The Glen Carrig as your literary inspiration for this album? Do you ever think of your music as a soundtrack for reading the literary works you use as inspiration?
Seen from our point of view it works exactly vice versa. Obviously the stories function as the lyrical groundwork for our album. They inspire us in mood and vibe. I don’t think any of us read one of the stories we used so far again, listening to the album that was written about this story. But, yes, I think one could easily turn the tables on this. For I am damn sure that some fans read and listen. Which means they ‘use’ our music as a soundtrack for those books.
It was also fan who called our attention to W. H. Hodgson (author of The Boats Of The Glen Carrig). Our bass player Stephan read some of his stories and especially pointed at this one to read. When all of us had read it, it had become very clear that this tale would make it. Perfect in terms of gloom and horror and with a message that comes across when you read between the lines. “Doesn’t matter who you are, within the elements fierce ire” is a line from Red Foam (The Great Storm) pretty much hits the bull’s eye.
What I definitely enjoyed on your album is how powerful the more clean parts sound and the specific gloom it evokes. Do you feel you are moving to a more subtle sound in that sense?
Well, if it comes to clean vocals Daniel obviously likes to surprise us every time for he never shows any single vocal line before entering the studio. This time he was even better than ever before, in my opinion. Next to the idea itself, clean guitar parts depend very much on the sound. During the last three years the guys bought lots of effect pedals and in my opinion, especially their non-distortion, sounds extremely profited from this.
Generally, I can absolutely not make any predictions for our future direction. I only feel what possibly can become during the very process of composing. And for sure we are not composing at the moment. I just assume that the fascination for sound in general will grow on in this band. And I surely expect Daniel to have great visions for his vocals in the future as well…
What song would you pick out as illustrative for your current musical course, and why?
That would probably be my favourite track To Mourn Job. I love its flow and diversity. From psychedelic to jazzy, from mellow to brutal. Everything Ahab is about is in there, combined in a very natural way.
What is the origin of your passion for the nautical theme and can we ever expect the concept album about The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
Why not? Never say never! For I am a huge Maiden fan I’d love to have an album called The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner, that’s for sure! The nautical theme just fits perfectly. When Daniel and Christian were writing stuff for their new funeral doom project one day they came up with this idea and the name Ahab. What was just a good idea in the beginning, became our trademark. Surely our personal obsession with the sea grew with Ahab. The sea itself is as well fascinating as its symbolism. Depth… Source of life… End of life… Philosophically looking at it, I could go on for hours now…
And to following on from that, what is the sea/ocean to you?
I consider my music as my personal Ocean. I need it to go for a swim, to escape from the main land called ‘daily life’. Without my art I am nothing, my life would barely make any sense. I never consider it just as music, it’s more like a cosmos. In the first place it is full of those people (= close friends) I create, play and therefore share with. And it’s not only the people. In this very moment I see flashes of grooves, tour busses, vocal lines, interviews, broken sticks, ear plugs, beer, time schedules, weed, clubs, cymbals, my dear, dear friends, cover artworks, laughter, more laughter, gaffa tape, writing sessions, listening sessions, recording sessions…
Doom metal has had a recent surge of popularity so with that in mind, what active bands are you currently listing to and why?
There are tons of great bands, so I have to pick some few ones:
The first one on this list has to be the mighty Black Shape Of Nexus (B.SoN) from Mannheim. These guys started about at the same time as Ahab did and we shared the stage at their AND our first live show ever. They play a very heavy and sludgy, sometimes a little psychedelic style of doom. I just got some rough mixes from their next album. As expected this one will be the shit! I highly recommend to check out these guys!
Esoteric probably are the most horrific band in the world. If somebody would ask me how a nightmare sounds I would give him a random Esoteric album. Besides, they are the best tour-buddies I can think of…
Omega Massif unfortunately split up. They played this more modern, postish, sludgish way of instrumental Doom. Karpatia was their last album and it simply was the best album ever written in this particular style. Everybody HAS to check this one out. Fortunately all of the members split up in different bands: Cranial, Blacksmoker and Phantom Winter which I also would recommend.
For Electric Wizard’s way to present themselves in public has become some kind of ridiculous to me (sucking at live shows, wearing SS Uniforms…) I have the perfect alternative to them. Witchsorrow from the UK play this very, very English Style of doom. And they are fucking cool.
Conan, the heaviest band in the world, also consists of a bunch of lovely guys we always love to meet and have some drinks with. My favourite album of these fine Englishmen is their second one calledMonnos.
Monarch from France are very special. Their droning sound is being enriched in a very unorthodox way by singer Emilie. Also a big recommendation here. Besides, the guys are absolutely lovely folks of course…
There is so much more great stuff to discover. Old farts complaining about the scene just can fuck off. I don’t get which scene they are talking about, but it must be on mars or the moon. There has never been more diversity and quality than nowadays. You just have to pick the pearls from the dirt.
Cough, Yob, Samothrace, Monachus, Windhand, Jex Thoth, Obelyskkh, Chelsea Wolfe, Watered, Lumbar, Mammoth Storm, Generation Of Vipers, Grime, Whalerider… And these are just the more doom or post-like bands…. I could give you a huge list…
What does the near future have in store for Ahab?
First of all there will be a tour in the end of October/beginning of November with High Fighter and Mammoth Storm. For some personal reasons we will take a break in the beginning of 2016. And then we’re hopefully back on the road. For UK… France… There are lots of options and we’re about checking out which ones will work for us…
Sludgy doom from India? Yeah, that’s right and it’s as dirty as that fecal pool in Slumdog Millionaire and heavy as fuck. I asked bass player Abhishek Michael and guitar player Namit some questions about their music, India, getting recognition and future plans.
This year the band released their debut album titled ‘Stereolithic Riffalocalypse’, filled with riffs and grooves that would not be misplaced on a Sleep album. This is one of those bands that should be playing Roadburn in the near future. Not recommended for Bollywood fans. This interview was originally published on 3rd-Eye Magazine.
Hey! Can you please kindly introduce yourself and your band? (Have you guys been active in any other bands you’d like to mention or doing any side projects?)
Michael: Ahoy! I’m Abhishek Michael, and I play bass, Deepak’s behind the kit, Namit’s on guitars and we’re all on vocal duties.
I joined Shepherd in 2012, after Muneeb had left, and Dee asked me if I wanted to come jam with them. I still remember Dee asking me if I wanted to play bass, back when they started off in 2011, but back then I didn’t think I could commit to it, as I was playing bass for Inner Sanctum. But, when he asked me again in 2012, I decided to give it a shot. I had always wanted to play this style of music and I felt like I needed to a change from Sanctum as well.
I used to play with a thrash/death band called Inner Sanctum till about a few months back, which was awesome fun too. We released an album earlier this year as well. It’s been a great year for me musically, haha.
Dee also plays with stoner doom heavyweights Bevar Sea, who also released a belter of an album last year. Definitely a shit ton of good music coming out of the subcontinent I must say.
Namit: Sup! This is Namit, and I play guitars and share vocal duties with the rest of the band. Shepherd has pretty much been the only band I’ve seriously been involved in.
How did Shepherd get started?
Michael: Shepherd started out as a bunch of dudes wanting to play some heavy, ballsy, rock n roll. Basically music we enjoyed listening to ourselves. We’re all into different styles of music, but everything slow, heavy and dirty, brings us together. The band started off with Dee and Namit jamming together, and back then the sound was a lot different, it still was Shepherd, and you can hear that from the early demos, but compared to what the album sounds like, it’s really matured over the years.
Namit: Always wanted to be a part of a band that writes the kind of music we do, but there wasn’t that vibe with any drummers in college – in fact there were no drummers at all in the neighborhood. There were quite a few guitar mates with whom I shared the same taste in music – more than anything else that resulted in me filling in on the drums for a quite a stretch.
I had met Deepak a couple of times and had an understanding that if he ever was in Bangalore we should try to do something – the weird acoustic riffy jams that had been recorded and sent over interested him as well. It was really after college, when Deepak moved to Bangalore that we decided it was time to take shit to whole new level. Our initial jams were productive in terms of riff content, on the fly tempo changes indicated good understanding and willingness to adapt – hence we thought that basing the band around an improvisational jam based structure would be a good place to start.
Why are you called Shepherd?
Michael: From what I hear, a fungus had something to do with that. Crooks in hand, we’re just here to lead the sheeple towards the opium mist.
Namit: It was during a trip to Kodaikanal, where we were lazing around amidst nature and discussing band names. In the distance, there was a dude trying to herd a flock of sheep. Out of all the names that we floated around, Shepherd sounded cool and it stuck.
What is it like to be a sludge/doom band from India, what kind of scene is there to step into?
Michael: Not much of a scene here actually, and if you’re talking specifically sludge/doom, then it’s even smaller. That being said, I think we’ve got this whole exotic factor going, since we’re a sludge band from India. So that probably helps with getting out to an international audience. There aren’t that many gigs here either, we probably play once a month if we’re lucky.
When we started out, I guess Bever Sea were the only other band, that I can think of, that were doing something similar. There have been others who’ve popped up and disappeared just as quickly though. It’s growing slowly though, you see newer bands in the genre slowly popping up, which is a good thing. I guess people realize that there is an audience for this style of music here.
Namit: In a way, it’s good to be doing something that not a lot of people are into. There’s no scene so to speak of and gigs are hard to come by. It is tough trying to survive as a musician in India – especially if you it’s against your principles to sell your soul to the devil of Bollywood.
In the past couple of years there have been more bands that worship the riff – Dirge, Witchdoctor, Grim Mage, Primitiv has elements of stoner doom. Existing stalwarts of doom – Bevar Sea, Djinn and Miskatonic keeping gigging and releasing new stuff consistently.
If you’re a new band, there would always be a show or two to get you started and it would mostly depend and how you would take it from there.
Since most people’s frame of reference of India includes little more than ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, can you tell a bit about your personal background and how you got into heavy music?
Michael: Apart from enjoying the occasional dip in the fecal pool around the corner, we all love the heavier forms of music, and that’s probably what draws us together. All of us are pretty much from what we call middle class India, we’ve grown up in an urban environment, and have had access to tapes and cd’s and we were lucky enough to be part of the generation that witnessed the internet boom. I think without the internet I wouldn’t have really got into heavier forms of music. My brother did play with a progressive rock band while I was growing up, so I had access to a lot of his music collection. I had an uncle who had a nice collection of classic rock tapes, which also played a part in me getting into the music I’m currently into. For me it’s been a musical evolution ever since I was a kid. I’ve always enjoyed music, and it’s a big part of my life.
Namit: I think it was the sight of bands in music videos doing cool stuff with instruments, and just the raw energy that made you want to jump and destroy shit, that attracted me to the music in the first place. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the power of generating music through your own fingers, and hence in a way expressing that fucking rage, is way more authentic and skillful than that artificial pop, Bollywood shit that was being aired when I was growing up – it made me stare in awe at the rack of guitars and drums in any musical store and that was pretty what I wanted to do. Black Album, Number of the Beast were the first few albums that blew my head out of water and really just wanted to play and try to reach the levels at which my idols could. Couple of years in a local music school back home was just an insane learning and mind opening experience – listening to stories from my school teachers – Miles, Giles and Axel about bands like G’nR, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Slayer, Van Halen, Metallica, Jaco Pastorius, etc. was the kind of fodder I’m glad I fed on.
What is happening music wise in India?
Michael: Well, there’s a lot happening. There’s obviously a ton of crap floating around, but we do have some interesting music coming out of here. I guess there are small pockets of good music, similar to everywhere else in the world.
We’ve caught onto the whole EDM boom as well. You can always see what the masses in India are listening to based on what Bollywood goes with, which is our mainstream. Right now it’s a ton of EDM, everything sounds like they just took a turd of a sample from some shitty DJ/producer. But then again, to most people who really listen to and enjoy music, we always are looking for something that you can really connect with and not just LCD radio friendly tunes.
If you look close enough you always find something interesting. I don’t think there are that many artists who are reinventing the wheel or anything, but they are still making good enjoyable music. We’ve got our fair share of good metal, rock, pop, electro and even hipster tunes, haha
Namit: Apart from Bollywood getting mutated and brainwashed by the likes of Yo Yo Honey Singh and the whole disco swag party DJJJ club mentality jing bang, (the stuff of ‘60s and ‘70s is pretty decent), you can find good bands from all genres if you tried to look for it. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a guy who is itching to check out new bands in India, but by the looks of it there are people trying to keep it real and do what they love doing. You could try to say that the blame lies with the apathetic attitude about people – who want new bands and killer gigs but don’t buy your shirts, cd’s, shit and don’t go to gigs. I’d like to blame, if I may, the naysayers that ceaselessly try to put their opinions in a relevant light, crib on social media for pointing out these maybe distorted facts about the scene. Everyone should know what they sign up for, because complaining is not good for your health.
Where do you get your inspiration from, both music wise as well as for lyrics and themes?
Michael: Well, it’s hard to pinpoint specific influences, but I guess everything influences us, from living in India to what’s going on in the rest of the world and the different music we all listen to. With the music, we don’t have any fixed way of writing. We just jam, and see where it takes us. Someone might bring in a riff and we take it from there, or we just jam. That’s what’s worked for us so far.
With the lyrical themes, it’s basically whoever is handling the vocals, would decide the theme and write the lyrics. Dee and Namit have handled pretty much all the vocals on the album, and have written the lyrics for all their parts. We all are really happy with the way the vocals turned out, and with 3 of us singing, we got to experiment a bit.
Namit: Some of it is personal experience, and the way you convey that could be down to how you’ve been influenced by and relate to the material of your choice. It’s tough to know when you’d feel inspired. When you do, it’s kind of rare, but you’re able to get a decent amount of work done. Sometimes it’s just a matter of keeping at it, and over time one fine day everything might just fall into place from your perspective- in terms of the words, the idea or the visuals you want to convey, the brevity of the structure and rhyme. Looking back, most of the lyrics I’ve written are shit and could be better – maybe it was the pressure of just finishing it as soon as we could, but writing lyrics is not something I look forward to. Working on vocal melodies is way more interesting!
How has the reception of Shepherd been this far? Are there things you’ve found particularly interesting?
Michael: The reception has been great! We didn’t expect it to do as well as it did. For a band from India to get the amount of international press we did, was pretty impressive. We’ve managed to make a lot of year end lists, which is really good publicity for us. The rest of the world usually never knows bands coming out of India, so it’s a good feeling having your music get out to a lot more people. Hopefully we can get the music out to more people outside India with a tour in the near future.
One thing I’ve really enjoyed about the whole stoner/sludge community is how supportive everyone is of each other. Bands are always helping out other bands, and the zines and blogs are all very supportive of new bands.
Namit: Getting signed onto Helmet Lady records was sick! Didn’t expect the kind of reception we’ve had so far, but it’s motivating to hear the stuff being said – that helps in us wanting to put in the effort to make a really good next record.
The passion with which people work and care for about the underground has really caught me by surprise.
Let’s talk about Stereolithic Riffalocalypse, what was the writing and recording process like?
Michael: Well the album was written quite a while back, and we’ve been playing most of these songs live for a couple of years now. Most of the music evolved from jams, which later turned into completed tracks.
When we decided to record back in 2013, we pretty much had everything ready before we went into the studio. We started tracking around October, in 2013, and we got done with the drums, bass and guitars pretty quick, and tweaked the songs a bit here and there. But then, we had to part ways with the vocalist. So basically, we had a bunch of instrumentals with us, with no vocalist.
I still remember we were trying to figure out what to do, and whether we should try and find a vocalist. We ended up doing all the vocals ourselves, and over the course of the year we sat down and figured out lyrics and vocals for the whole album. It’s funny, but I remember Dee saying something like “Fuck it, let’s just do the vocals ourselves” which I thought was a joke at the time, since none of us had any real singing experience. But I have to say, that we were all really impressed with the way the vocals turned out on the album, and it seems like a lot of people enjoyed them too.
Namit: The first time I heard Dee belt out the vocals, I was taken aback by how well he could sing and how much better the songs were starting to sound. Yeah, writing the vocals, and then learning to play the riffs and sing at the same time, was insane amounts of fun.
How did you get in touch with Brad Boatright to work on your album? And what was it like?
Michael: We decided to work with Rahul Ranganath, a live/studio engineer from Bangalore for the mix, but we were looking around to find someone who we could work with for the master. Brad was definitely one of the choices all of us thought would really work well for us, not to mention he’s practically worked with every band from the scene and put out some brilliant records. So we got in touch with him and he was quite excited to work with us as well. It was really easy to work with him, and the guy knows what he’s doing. We talked a bit about what we were looking for and the bands we liked, and basically the albums he had worked on that we liked the production on. When we heard the first master, we knew we had gone with the right guy, and we really happy with how it turned out. So everything was done pretty quickly, we did a few runs and we were set.
Namit: Brad is just super quick and super professional with his stuff. Not to mention the initial runs that came out couldn’t have sounded better.
Apparently, I understood from some other reviews, some people feel offended by the song titles ‘ Black Cock Of Armageddon’ and ‘Turdspeaker’. Did this surprise you and do you wish to say something more about these songs?
Michael: Haha! Yeah, honestly we didn’t think about that, but then again, if people want to get offended, they will. Someone is always going to be offended, even if you write a song about magical ponies. So no, we don’t really have anything to say about them, if people were offended by it, fuck that, they can move along. We’re not going to go about tip toeing around everything, just because someone is going to be offended.
Namit: HAHAHAHA! Good for them! 😀
What future plans does Shepherd have?
Michael: As of now, get back to writing some new material, which we’ve already started with. It’s a bit nerve racking since there’s a lot of pressure now to put out a really good album. Haha!
Apart from that, we’re looking to tour Europe at some point and play a few festivals. Also the vinyl of the album will be out soon, there has been a delay because it’s quite hard getting vinyl’s out now with all the delays in production. So look out for that!
Namit: Can’t wait to jam and write some stuff with the guys, because basically there’s a ton of riffs and semi-structured songs / ideas that are in there. Need to take a massive dump, and let it all out.
If you had to describe Shepherd as a dish, what would it be and why?
Michael: Haha, this is a hard one. I’m not quite sure actually. But maybe a spicy taco/burrito? It’s got a lot of different textures, it’s meaty and spicy, and it could give you the shits too.
Namit: Shepherd’s Pie? It’s a good thing to have when you wake and bake, but just like the dish it could get boring after a week or so…
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This installment of Sounds of the Underground features Dragged Into Sunlight/Gnaw Their Tongues, Revolted Masses, Dopethrone and Deathmøle. Enjoy these awesome tunes!
Dragged Into Sunlight / Gnaw Their Tongues – N.V. Prosthetic Records
Ok, this is a collaboration that should shake you up from any lethargic status, you may have gotten yourself into when it comes to exciting music. These are two of the most amazing acts in the black metal/drone/experimental niche/corner of the musical spectrum and they do something together? Awesome! The Dutch Gnaw Their Tongues is known for atmospheric pieces, horrific soundscapes and subtlety, where their Brittish partners in crime excel in harrowing, overwhelming black metal. The product is rather staggering in ferocity. Intense and filled with industrial black metal and atmospheric elements to keep things exciting.
The record opens with a sample, which is something that keeps returning. Building site sounds work their way into the music rather quickly. The sound is harsh, the vocals tortured and no rest is given to the listener in the onslaught of sound the band produces. Demonic screams are uttered, above highly distorted guitars and pummeling drums. The songs deal with madness and murder, with the thing just beyond that lurks. It’s beautifully horrible, this record with five songs of the utmost urgency. The songs hit home like a baseball bat to the gut, with swirling patterns and a grizzled feel. This is one hell of an album.
Revolted Masses – Age Of Descent Inverse Records
Having formed in 2008, the band Revolted Masses blends thrash and death into a potent mix, enlightened by oriental elements. The band actually hails from Greece, which explains the guest appearances on the album (Fotiss Benardo, Septic Flesh). The band has a sound that is blistering, full of fury and well polished. This is the first effort of the Athenians since their last record in 2013. The overal theme of the band is political, as can be seen by their red star bandlogo already.
The music is specially good if you are looking for your clean sounding, high energetic melodeath. It’s not as smooth all the time. Though sounding very produced and technical, there are still passages of mere battering, furious assaults of barked vocals, ripping drums and guitars. Unrelenting, the band plays forth, setting up the vibe of standing in the middle of a revolutionairy battle field. Now, for me personally this is not something I’d readily listen to normally… But, this band sounds tight and catchy, it’s the right mixture of groove and brutal to latch on and enjoy the ride. Good work!
Deathmøle – Present Peregrine Self released
Yes, I’ve been surfing the bandcamps and found this gem of weird post-metal with the most odd drum drone stuck to the inside of my head now. The bio reads: ‘Deathmøle is a fictional band that makes actual music. It is all done by Jeph Jacques.’. Jeph Jacques mostly occupies himself with a the most long running webcomic I have yet to find, which is quite fun if you’re a mixture of music geek and nerd with a lot of life questions, like myself I suppose. Then he also makes some music now and then, which is fairly pleasant.
There’s a tranquility to the clean sound of the post-metal produced by Deathmøle. The thunderous bass sounds like it’s not entirely natural, but in a genre where attaining organic vibes is the cool thing, it’s kind of refreshing to hear a sound that really does have a techy vibe to it. Five tracks, no bullshit, just energetic and fun music that makes you want to pound your fist. I like it!
Dopethrone – Hochelaga Totem Cat Records
Do you like your slugdy, dope addled doom with a particular mix of dirty and fat? Because that’s what you get with the blokes from Dopethrone. These Canadians have sound that is like mudslides, massively, gradually moving forwards and making all sorts of dirty, soppy sounds. The band proclaims to be from the meanest ghetto of Montréal, and definitely aims to sound that way. Heavy, oppressive and dark, which are some words one would definitely use to describe the sound of these guys.
The riff is master of every song. Lingering, dark and slow but mostly superheavy. The vocals are more like screams, barks of rabid dogs in dirty alleys, but I guess that is what the band intends to sound like. Add some elements of black, stoner and crust to the mix and you get this dirty cocktail that is too awesome to miss out on with tracks like ‘Scum Fuck Blues’. A dirty, dragging tune that actually has a bluesy streak to it. I personally dig opener ‘Sludgekicker’, but that may be too much Sleep for you. If you want it real slow and dirty, pick ‘Bullets’. A man, just take the whole damn album, because it’s awesome.
And we’re up to number 26 of Sounds of the Underground with Regarde Les Hommes Tomber, Draugurinn, Misþyrming and Gurthang. Check them out!
Regarde Les Hommes Tomber – EXILE Les Acteurs de l’ombre Productions
You only need to start listening to opener ‘L’Exil’ to get captivated by the soaring tremolo guitars and thundering rhythms, that crash like waves unto your eardrums. The Frenchies are back with a fenomenal record, casting a shadow over their self-titled debut, which I discussed in my very first review block. From the sludge/post-hardcore front the band was residing in before, there’s a definite movement here towards the black metal sound. Well, post-blackmetal is what we need to say I suppose.
The clanging cymbals in dischord with the blastbeat and crackling feedback offers a wealthy wall of sound. Connect that to the imposing vocals and sound and the record becomes an intense and bombastic experience. ‘Embrace the Flames’ is for example a full on black assault, with a harrowing guitar riff spiralling through it. There’s so much power to the music of this Nantes band, it’s a shame everyone keeps talking about the new deafheaven.
Misþyrming – Söngvar elds og óreiðu Fallen Empire Records & Terratur Possessions
Icelandic black metal, that surely has something special about it they must feel at the Roadburn office. So these guys are an integral part of the next edition of the festival. This album came out earlier in 2015 and only now I’ve discovered the intense, excruciating sound of a band whose name means something like maltreatment. Neck breaking ferocious guitar riffs are unrelenting in their sonic assault from the first moments of the album onwards.
It’s a tortured affair of eerie feedback, blustering music and howled vocals. There are no breaks on the wheels of Misþyrming when the y star turning. There’s a certain unique sound to the band that is intriguing. An industrial, desolate atmosphere maybe, but also a Darkthrone like punk vibe that brings a rawness to the band. The sound is explosive, erupting from the deeps and therefor truly overwhelming at times. This is always accompanied by a clear link to the oldschool sound.
Draugurinn – Ísavetur Nordvis
‘The Ghost’ in Icelandic, this project is the solo effort of Swedish artist Dísa, previously active in black metal bands Murmurs and Korpblod and currently also working on Turdus Merula. This lady has been making some really amazing stuff and Draugurinn takes it a bit more into the mystical region of aetherial ambient with a shamanistic feeling to it. The story is that of a world covered and obscured by volcanic ash and a drumming that melds together with your heartbeat, captivating the listener completely.
There is something intensely pagan and foreign to the music, it draws you into a natural and soothing environment of ritual and dreams. Soundscapes or eerie howls clash with the rhythmic drums that bring a trance with them. The cover appears like a drawing of Theodor Kittelsen, as popularized by early black metal acts like Burzum, but somehow fits better here. For me, this album awakens a thirst for that spiritual connection to nature, for the harmony I find in the work of Dísa, whose other bands I’ll definitely keep my eye on. PS, for Skyrim fans, now you now where the word Draugr comes from.
Gurthang – I will notserve Immortal Frost Productions
The Polish band has derived their name from Tolkien novels, where the sword Gurthang is wielded by hero Túrin Túrumbar. It’s name means ‘Steel of death’. The band has been around forever and their sound fits in with the Polish style of blackened death you can hear with Behemoth. Cold, stiff tones, majestic sounding and sharp thudding rhythms. The band has been around for a couple of years, but has a prolific catalogue of music already. This may be their best addition as yet.
There’s a cold fury to the sound of Gurthang, a controlled distribution of rage with a sound that in general leans more towards the melodic death metal, but with a much grimmer atmosphere. The Frosty guitar riffs soar over the rumbling drums, which demonstrates how the studio can really affect the sound of an album in this corner of the extreme metal genre. There is a certain lack of dynamics to the record, but it’s in a way like a piece of old fashioned armor: it is sturdy, frightning and cold. Good record, that is exciting enough to give a spin.
New music for the people! A batch from the underground with Khemmis, For Giants, Les Attitudes Spectrales and Benoît Pioulard. Good music for your ears, this is.
Khemmis – Absolution
Though the name is not ringing any bells yet, the cover of the new record by these doom lovers reminds me of 70’s fantasy and immediatly attracted my attention. A big sounding band with a classic influence. Towering riffs and majestic solo work. The Colorado band has only been around for a short while, releasing their debut on 20 Buck Spin. Production was in hands of Dave Otero (Cobalt, Nightbringer). This promises much for the future of these young men, since their sound is that kind which has a quality that doesn’t tie itself to certain decades.
Six monumental tracks of clean vocal doom, sounding mournful but still keeping an energetic pace that works pretty well from your lazy chair. It has pretty much everything going for it. A fancy cover, good production and the sound of earthy catacombs. Lyrically the band is in love with grandeur and dark themes. How else would you like to have it? There’s a certain pop sensibility to the sound of this band, that makes the music very accesible. I would argue that this is a good thing for what they are aiming to do. Doom traditionally has that element and these guys put it to their best use.
For Giants – You Are The Universe
Nothing beats a good bit of atmospheric, instrumental rock music. Specially if it masterfully sets down a mood and tells a story on its own without using words. This continent spanning American project has produced a couple of releases over the last few years and this is the most recent album, number two if we were counting. The sound is a clean, sharp and spacious. It feels a bit like an outer space adventure sonically.
The feeling this music gives can be described as a bit of Ayreons grandeur (call me crazy if you will) and The Mars Volta’s experimental zoning out. Add a bit of that good old Devin Townsend weirdness and I guess you got a bit of the vibe these guys offer. The clean, soaring guitar parts take over where you’d expect vocals and do so rather succesfully. The band themselves put their sound between progressive, djent and metalcore and that seems pretty much fine as well. It’s a good listen, thats for sure though.
Les Attitudes Spectrales – Floral Wreck
Maybe its a personal thing, but a noisy/experimental French/Latvian duo that is being compared to the White Stripes is for me reason enough to check some music out. The result is a psyched out, primitive, jangling series of pop tunes featuring drums and guitars from the duo. There’s a certain weary drag to the sound that is slightly remniscent of the more dreamy and hypnotic psych bands of these days.
The unpolished, raw sound of the band is in fact the greatest charm of their sound, which is natural and free in shaping itself. Labelling it as compost rock or ghost punk seems rather fitting. The lo-fi sound only adds to the charm of the band, which has been performing in the Baltics mainly. Truth be told, I feel this is a worthy candidate for next years Eindhoven Psych Lab. The sound is much more adventurous, daring and yet minimal to the almost primitive with a good dose of weird.
Benoît Pioulard – Stanza
Thomas Meluch decided to take up an artist name with Benoît Pioulard for his organic work. It’s music and photography, and the two seem to have become intertwined somehow. The soothing, fuzzy sounds are like the nature pictures accompanying them. Free of human intervention, clean and pure. Meluch is extremely productive and every other month another record appears to be released on his bandcamp. A good thing, if you ask me.
The seven songs of this record are not action packed tracks. They embrace a sense of tranquility, calm and atmosphere like the sunrays through a forest on a summer morning. Life is slowly awakening and things are still quiet. Slow droning sounds quiver in the air, sounding a bit distant as if its a concious lo-fi recording to create more ambience. The record is intended as a companion piece for the LP ‘Sonnet’, but I’m fairly sure it stands strong enough on its own as a soothing piece of ambient.
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.
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.