You’d think the mood would be sunnier on the Côte d’Azur in France, but Woest is a band which sounds particularly dark. Hailing from Marseille, the trio, takes their honey from the likes of Mysticum, Blacklodge and Aborym. Yet they sound like their very own type of beast on latest release ‘Le Grouffe’. That translates as ‘The Abyss’ by the way.
Woest has been around since 2016 and has been quite prolific with two released this far. Both sound dense and oppressive, but definitely strong. Their main pitfall might be that they sing in French, yet by supplying English lyrics they kind of tackle that issue and judging by this release, that should be no issue. It’s an absolute killer record, unique sounding and particularly distinctive in this day and age.
The intro ‘Éveil’ is a peculiar reminder of the Mayhem classic as this martial ambient track. It shows a little of what direction Woest has turned to on their new album. And that is a direction that is more industrial, more direct and punishing as is instantly clear on title track ‘Le Gouffre’. The drumming is crushing, pneumatic and reminds me a bit of the Mysticum live shows. Absolutely terrific, as are the joint chants.
Yet, songs like ‘Ô vide éternel’ also have that hatchet, militant sound of the later Satyricon. Threatening, but not in a figurative sense. It’s close, in your face in all intensity. At the same time, there’s so much happening. It’s an exciting narrative on ‘À la gloire de l’immonde’ with interactive vocals, intensifying rhythms and an overall sense of grandeur. The computerized drums have to be something you can get behind though, it has to be said. If you’re a sucker for the traditional bashing, you’ll likely enjoy ‘Spasme de haine’ slightly less. We move onwards to the ‘Tous restera carbone’ and ‘Vagues de Styx’, which carry a steady pace and even mellow sound due to the synths. The vocals are ghoulish, but very in opposition to the haggard emulation of a string section. his is hardly extreme, yet it’s a singular point of rest in an otherwise intense album.
Woest does something remarkable in a stale scene with ‘Le Grouffe’. You should probably listen to it.
Label: Antiq Records Band: Régiment Origin: France
Many bands have a fascination for World War II. It’s atrocities are those of a modern war but on an exceptionally large scale. We often seem to forget that it was the second for a reason. Régiment takes as a topic the first world war and makes an album on just that with the very enjoyable ‘On Les Aura!’.
Featuring members of Astaroth, AnusMundi, Lugnasad, Braquemaard, Hanternoz and many, many more (even Peste Noire), this is a talented group. Interestingly, they share their topic with only a few other artists, amongst them 1914, who I spoke with before. This is, to this point, the only release by the band and even though it’s a couple of years old it can hardly be ignored.
Starting with the hopeful, proud banner song that drives the soldiers into battle, this record instantly sets the vibe for the Great War. Call it black metal, or maybe war metal if you’re into that sort of thing, but ‘Sauvagerie Prussienne’ is a rude awakening to the horror of the trenches. Referring to the anti-German sentiments, it also evokes the powerful warmachine of the Reich with big, lumbering movements and heavy rhythms. There’s a venomous intensity to the sound of Régiment though, one that makes you want to storm those enemies. The whole concept is full of paradoxes though, with the cover showing a glorifying portrait of Philippe Pétain (also the title refers to him), known as the French commander, but also remembered for his way of dealing with mutineers. It’s not a glorification of war, but a very particular experiencing of the events through singular, personal eyes.
We slow down a bit on ‘La Mort du Negre’, which conveys the story of a black soldier, dying next to his enemy. Also it refers to a Joseph Conrad novel, It combines heavy metal riffing with black metal barbarity in a very effective manner, which offers moments of relief and strong melodic passages for the listener. The sound is exceptionally gritty as we move on and hit ‘En Avant!’. It’s the sonic equivalent of crawling through the mud flat on your belly. It’s such an exceptionally enjoyable record. Full of power and energy, enriched with samples to set the right mood. You can’t go wrong with this. When is the next release due, guys?
Label: Les Acteurs de L’Ombre Productions Band: Aorlhac Origin: France
Occitania is probably not a place you will easily find on maps, as it borders are not clearly defined and the language is not written down. Yet a vast amount of people in the south of France speak it. This is the place where Aorlhac hails from and their ‘L’esprit des Vents’ is a telling from their origins.
The band derives their name from Aurillac, home to the group. Members are also active in AnNorvys, and three of them played together in Towersound before. Drummer Ardraos is more well-known thanks to his participation in PesteNoir. This record counts as number three for the band in a trilogy dealing with their ancient homeland.
Soundwise, the group compares to the like of Windir and Taake, thanks to that epic, yet aggressive sound they embody. The opening riff of ‘Alderica’ immediately grabs you, with howling vocals and blistering beats and rhythms. The music surges, like the Mistral wind, filled with atmosphere and riffs that evoke medieval images. At times we even hear the effects of hurdy-gurdy like music, for example on ‘Infâme Saurimonde’, which has some noteworthy breaks in the sound.
I have to say, listening to the urgency and grand passages in their sound, Aorlhac strikes me as a band that could be so much bigger. Musically, they grab attention with catchy, driven songs. The vocals are rough but very audible and open for singing along, much akin to the Ensiferium’s of this world. Melodic, yet never cheesy, this historically themed record with hellishly good tunes, like ‘Ode à la Croix Cléchée’ and ‘Une Vie de Reclus’, stands strong from start to finish.
The songs form raised fists to the temporal forces, that have made the world so much smaller. They are raised in defiance of nature, history and the melting pot of cultures, harking back to an age before, to an age of heroes and pride. That makes for one hell of a record.
Label: Black Lion Records Band: Vindland Origin: France
Though it came out in 2016, ‘Hanter Savet’ is seeing a re-release which brought it to my attention and I felt it would be fine to cover it then. It’s the first full length for the band Vindland, who hails from Brittany, the coastal region in France with a dense history and distinct culture. Vindland embodies that.
The sound of the band must make some people think of another group from Sogndal, Norway and smile with a certain melancholy. A noteworthy fact is that all lyrics are in the native Celtic dialect of the region, which is carefully preserved and expresses the Breton identity. Members of the band are or have been active in the grand-sounding Belenostoo, so they know how to spin a tale.
It’s a bit odd to hear a band sound so much like Windir did back in the day, but that’s exactly what the epic sound of Vindland promises with the big, majestic riffing. It’s soaring, heroism is catchy and warms the heart of a passionate fantasy-reader like myself. The keys and crisp production really help to emphasize that side of the band. Particularly on songs like ‘Serr-Nozz’ and ‘Treuzwelus’. The tight, battle-ready rhythms of songs like ‘Skleur Dallus’ do their part in turn.
It’s the melodies that really work their magic in the sound of Vindland. Those are the story tellers, that illuminate castle ruins and forgotten wisdom of the ancient Breton lands. Sometimes the downside of the keys and production is the lack of certain organic aspects to the music. Never is Vindland dull or insincere, but the fade in sometimes lacks the natural feel (like on ‘Skorneg Du’). On the other hand, the Breton language offers a whole different dimension and the rock’n’rolling sound definitely catches on easily.
As we move towards the end with ‘Kreud Ar Gwez’, we hear meandering, acoustic tones and the Atlantic winds. The beautiful shores, from where brave ships have sailed and where so much vital history took place. It tells its own story, while we still remember.
Label: Murder on Ponce (though this appears self-released) Band: ElixiR Origin: France
I’m not certain about the release date of this album. It’s good though, so check it out.
To the forests and hills with ElixiR
Dungeon Synth becomes really special if you listen to some true story tellers like ElixiR. ‘Les Tours du Temps’ is a re-recording of the music on the earlier ‘Moonlight on Black Castle’ and ‘The Mage of the Bright Forest’ EPs. It’s really slow, melancholic dungeon synth but with a natural feel to the sound compared to the original releases.
ElixiR formed in 2015 in the French Dordogne Valley. Thomas Elixir creates the music and is the one behind the project. He holds a fascination by medieval legends and fantasy universes. He takes a lot of inspiration from the ancient ruins and landscape of Aquitaine. The cover already tells you as much. Other inspirations are acts like Burzum and Erang for the French musician.
The music of ElixiR is clearly meant to be enjoyed at peace since it passes with barely any strain or force. It just trickles by in the way you let the pages of a good fantasy book flow by, entranced by what you’re experiencing. The sounds are gentle and paint images of simple, clean lands. Of nature and all its detailed splendor. The motto of ElixiR is not without reason ‘Nothing is Sacred, Only Nature’ (the next release ElixiR is planning).
Thomas paints in different colours and lets the tones really fade out to create a full, warm sound. A tune like ‘La Lisière’ is a good demonstration of that art, of the flowing notes that come close to a pan flute. It often has a bit of that Peruvian flute feeling, the tranquility and calm of a world free of human beings. Even more so on ‘A Quiet House in the Wood’ it seems that this is a very personal Walden. Though the music sounds as in minor tones, sadness doesn’t describe the sound. When the notes hit a feeling of peace wafts over you. This is a very enjoyable dungeon synth release and though I still find it hard to describe this sort of music, it is much like reading long, descriptive pieces of fantastic lands and the beautiful landscapes you’ve never seen. ElixiR gives a glow to the story telling.
A bit on the late side, but another installment of underground tunes that I checked out with Panopticon, Venom, Deathspell Omega and Joanna Newsom (shut up).
Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
As usual, I take records that I feel should be getting the attention. This one-man band from Kentucky is part of the movement described as ‘Cascadian black metal’. That requires some background, because Cascadia is a perceived bioregion in the west of the USA. Metal involved with this usually has some atavistic or ecological tendencies in their sound and ideology, making Cascadia more or less a concept in the way I perceive it. A band doesn’t need to be from this region to adhere to its views. The naturalistic elements in the sound of Panopticon definitely allow for this band to be included. The record follows up on the majestic ‘Roads To The North’ from 2014.
The result is a melancholic album, depicting the beauty and also the sorrow that is enveloped in the time of the year. Beautifull sunrays dancing on colourful leaves, but also blistering wind and rain, it’s all audible in the organic sound of Panopticon. The warm blanket sound of ‘Pale Ghosts’ in all its soothing and eerie beauty, but also the barrage of ‘Oaks Ablaze’, full of vitality and turmoil are part of that expression. The album is one that deserves the word beautifull, it’s a journey through a sonic landscape that is clean, stretched out and full of natural wonder. It’s an album that is surprisingly calming and pleasant to listen to. Check it out, you wont be sorry.
Venom – From The Very Depths
It’s f*cking Venom and they are back with a new album. Ok, let me just briefly touch upon the topic of ‘the real Venom’. Venom Inc includes two original members and a long running vocalist, Venom has Cronos and two other dudes… For me Venom Inc has a bit more credibility, but Cronos is producing songs that sound like Venom so I have no winner. Cronos and his croonies did this album in 2015 and it is absolutely awesome. Is it a progress from the original sound of Venom? No way, it’s really just as much Venom as their debut.
The whole album is really just balls to the wall rock’n’roll with a dark, angry overtone. Add to that a bit of gothic grim and the harsh bark of Cronos and you’ve already got enough elements to be the basic sound of black metal. Stand-out tracks are the self-deflating ‘The Death Of Rock N Roll’ and ‘Long Haired Punks’. Still, the band manages to impress with an unparalleled fuck you attitude and riffs that are solid like rock. The filth and fury was a term used for the wrong band back in the day, because nothing is as dirty and gritty as a Venom album and these guys have proven on their latest effort to be still as relevant as ever. PS. I do hear they suck live, still.
Deathspell Omega – Paracletus
So I totally forgot to pick up the latest album by Deathspell Omega. The French black metal giants, fronted by Finnish fetish porn prince and Clandestine Blaze musician Mikko Aspa, have been known to push the frontier on the genre ever outward and forward and they do so again on this frantic endeavour of progressive black metal. Ok, I know it has been out for a few years but I felt it was worthy to pick up the release on bandcamp, because it’s Deathspell Omega. Right?
Even now, five years further, the band is still pushing the envelope on this record, which reminds the listener of the likes of Nihill on their utter chaotic, gritty and mesmerizing last release. There’s a certain grandeur to the sound fo the band, but also a continuous barrage of intensity that will not go down easily. There is also a lot of beauty, of soundscapes that remind you of postrock bands with a heavy touch, samples an slow passages. A captivating album with a classical tone to it, a certain high class within the metal world I guess. Its a tangible thing throughout this continuous transforming record.
Venom – From the very depths
Joanna Newsome – Have One On Me
I’m a huge Joanna Newsom fan, so I think it was high time for me to throw it in here. Though this is also a slightly older album, I never really took the time for it. It opens with the angelic and overly sweet ‘Easy’. From there on you have not one, but basically three records in one to enjoy, because Joanna just does what she feels like it seems. The vocals have become much more polished over the years, moving away from the freakfolk roots to a more orchestrated, full sound. Where predecessor ‘Ys’, was very minimal and cozy, this does feel wider and more open.
The music of Joanna Newsom on this album is a bit too polished to sound like the appalachian folk tunes, it was once compared to. Still that is somewhere in it, in the telling of stories and conveying of clear feelings. There’s a simplicitiy to it, without trying to dumb things down. ‘Soft As Chalk’ has some of that typical singing and a feel of americana. The voice of Newsom is still something you might just not be into. It might sound more polished nowadays, compared to the pre-Ys recordings, but its hooks, jumps and hoots are never tamed. That and the unique playing style on the harp, an angelical instrument of bygone days, is still something that touches my heart for sure. With a new album coming soon, I still cherish the progress I enjoyed hearing from the debut and demo’s on. I’m not sure if I like ‘Walnut Whales’ the best as yet.
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.
Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.
– Jonathan Swift
Another day that shocks the world. The assault in France on the Charlie Hebdo office was all over the news today and understandably. Another attack in the heart of Europe. The comparisons with Utoya where soon made ofcourse. After having just read the book of Asne Seierstad on Breivik, the events hit me hard.
In fact, I just received an e-mail from Asne Seierstad, who I wrote to thank her for the book, when I picked up the news on TV. Men shooting and shouting things in what seems Arabic? Hard to say, I don’t know these languages very well. The acts are like a shard of ice in the heart though.
A police officer is gunned down with what seem to be assault rifles. He is on the ground, writhing in pain. When one of the shooters approaches him in a rapid stride, he shouts something to the man and holds up his hand in a gesture of futile defence. Without even slowing down the gun is raised on the run and the officer is shot in his head. Another dead to avange the prophet Muhammed, who was mocked in a cartoon by the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The magazine had actually been assaulted before, which only made the resolve stronger of the editors to say what they felt they should say in the voice of satire. Excersising one of the basic rights that we value so dearly in the western world. Sure, they went pretty far and we know that the muslim community (pardon the generalization) is not too understanding of what satire actually is. Still, you don’t see this coming. Or did we? It clearly hurts, regarding the massive respons to the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie.
The officer was shot in the head for a drawing, for a funny drawing of the prophet of Islam. So where 11 other people, amont them editor Charb and other well known writers for the magazine. Why? To avenge their God, apparently. “We have avenged our prophet!”. Now, I’m familiar with the bible and I’m told the Quoran has similarities. If there is a God, which I’ll gladly leave to everyone to decide for themselves (this is also a right), then God is in the view of these religions an omnipotent God.
If God is omnipotent, then I think he can avenge himself pretty easily on this puny human cartoonist. If God is omnipotent and vengeful, he knows what to do about it. This is after all the God that drowned everyone, so he knows how to do some ‘avenging’. God does not need anyone to do his avenging for him, which is the actual core message to take from all those holy books. You know what God can’t do? Make you love another, feel pity for another and make you forgive. That is the only thing he (again, hypothetically) can’t do for you.
I find myself thinking that the sword needs to be fought with the sword sometimes. It’s hard to see any good in this world as it is. I feel so sorry for the people left behind after these murders, so sorry for the families and children, friends and all around them who now face these holes. I also pity the gunmen, whose hearts are filled with hate. A hate I doubt they understand.
I hope in time they’ll find forgivenes, that we find forgivenes, because hate only feeds hate. That we find enough compassion to grant everyone the freedom to speak, believe and do what they will.
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. – Voltaire (attributed)
It’s been holiday times, so I had time to read some more than normally. I always love to see the pile I’ve gotten through afterwards. Currently enough other things to read and listen fill my shelves, so time to get on it.
Charlotte Brönte – The Professor
There is something specifically cozy about reading books by the likes of Charlotte Brönte. It feels like this book requires you to have a cup of tea or coffee with it and really get cozy with a blanket and some nice singer-songwriter (preferably British) playing on the radio. The story is the inner thoughts and experiences of a man, devout of real heritage, who flaunts his unwanted families offers to make his own fortune in the world. It’s a story that takes us from the grimy industrial towns of 18th century Britain to the warm city of Brussels where he finds occupation as a teacher.
It is a story of character building and growth, of love and loneliness and in the end of a righteous set of affairs happening. While I wouldn’t recommend this as a very complex work that completely blows you away, it is nice to just feel cozy and homely once in a while.
Ryszard Kapuscinski – The emperor
Many people might know Haile Selassie as a figure that is much revered in reggae music by the rastafarians. He was also the last emperor of a 1000 year dynasty in Ethiopia. A reformer and totalitarian in one, the man could not read or write, but ran a country as effective as possible in the limited time that was given to him as a ruler.
I bought this book in Poland, due to it having a Polish author and also a topic of interest to me. It gathers up stories of the courtiers from Haile Selassie after the revolution. It was quite a dangerous undertaking to gather these stories in a country ravaged by internal strife, corruption and crime. Still it paints a clear image of an impossible empire that lasted much longer than it would have, it not for the smart rule of an emperor who wanted to bring together tradition and progress in an impossible marriage.
We speak of a man who dreamed of a united Africa, while maintaining an underfed population and an ever expanding nobility. A man who built palaces in the desert, while drinking water was not obtainable. He built highways and universities, but ruled without pen and paper. An amazing journey to the past.
Hannah Arendt – Eichmann and the Holocaust: It was sheer thoughtlessness that predisposed him to become one of the greatest criminals of the period.
It is hard to say something about this book. Let’s start by saying I purchased it at the Jewish History Museum in Warsaw. Tight security and still not fully open for the public, it is a book about the aftermath, about Eichmann who was considered responsible for what we now know as the Holocaust. Arendt describes a man who is a true bureaucrat, a man who loves procedures and papers and has little to no actual intellect to guide him. Stuttering and muttering his way through life, only being understandable when uttering movie one-liners, all the way to the gallows in Jerusalem.
Arendt analyses the stupid and sometimes unconscious and silly kind of evil, committed by people who just don’t think. She also discusses if it was right what happened to Eichmann. Did Israel have the right to just execute the man on their own ground? No, they did not and they knew it. If he should be executed in the end? Maybe he was the neck that had to carry the weight for all those thousands of bureaucrats who ‘just did their job’. I find it hard to judge, but so does Arendt, who leaves the reader to form an own verdict. Was this right? Was Eichmann guilty or was he just a victim of the zeitgeist? Did he ever fully understand why he was walking to the gallows? We can ask ourselves this and maybe become slightly better people ourselves in the process.
Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
I guess this might be the most important work of Dickens apart from the fairy tales. Maybe it is not, I found that it was very poignant. Dickens shows the other side of the Revolution in France as an event that created an upheaval in society even though it might have rational and righteous causes. Dickens makes the common people picturesque and the nobility sensitive and full of class, but also gives a distinct charm to both. He doesn’t judge I feel, in his book, about the situations in France and England and whatever he may think of it.
The tale of Two cities juxtaposes the city of Paris and London with one another to the effect of showing the differences and also the effect. In truth, the English royalty reformed and reshaped with the social changes. France missed the ball on that and got itself into a nasty revolution that ended it’s royal family. Not that much changed. After the terror new tyrants arose and spend fortunes on war.
Still, the book deals with the small people. It has the romance and sacrifice of the times, but also stupidity, rigid rebellion and vengeance. Everything is in there, except lazers. I think this is a book that everyone should read and try to learn something about opposing views. Mostly that making enemies only brings grief.