Stephen Lockhart is a man of dedication and after leaving his native Ireland, he has hooked up with the Icelandic scene ever since. The man played in Sinmara but has also returned to his own project RebirthofNefast after almost 10 years. The album ‘Tabernaculum’ is an extraordinary work of art and one that has been in the making for years due to the desire of Lockhart to make something monumental.
Rebirth of Nefast has not released a full length before ‘Tabernaculum’, but a demo and a split. Lockhart has in the meantime also played in Myrkr, the epic Wormlust and Haud Mundus. There’s a reverie with which to approach a record, that took so much honing of the craftwork to make. I feel awed by it’s magnitude and force, but what a great listen it is!
Great, but not easy, because ‘The lifting of the Veil’ opens with an 11-minute bombardment, introduced with eerie tones, which surges over you like a tidal wave. As the abyss itself slowly unfolds, the warped, guttural words creep out. Whispers and soft picked notes create an even more dense atmosphere as if fumes rise up and envelop the listener. And then… you go off into the deep end with Rebirth of Nefast.
The trick is not to rely on sheer ferocity, but the suggestion of that. When this band has swallowed you whole, everything starts to sound huge and foreboding. Sure, when ‘The First Born of the Dead’ kicks of, the blast beats are heavy and hitting where it hurts, but they’re balanced, controlled and carry the atmosphere with them. The sound simply flows, like a dark horde in the night. Full of strength, but never needing to fully put it on display, the record is one of the best things I’ve heard in a while.
Closer ‘Dead the Age of Hollow Vessels’ feels ashen grey, full of vitriol and with a mild hint of melancholy. It’s all there on this album, ready to be absorbed into your bloodstream and cool your heart.
Label: Celtic Wraith
Band: Scriptor Hiberniae
In a magical story, the record ‘The Manuscript’ sprang from a magical manuscript, found by Scriptor Hiberniae. It’s marvelous layout and caligraphy fascinates him, but when it is taken home it starts to glow, transforms into a humanoid creature and leaves to cause mischief. After an investigation, it turns out that a pagan chieftain had himself resurrected into an ecclesiastical script of gold. Maybe Satanic interference is at work? The scholar never manages to work further on his research, as he is apprehended and burned at the stake under suspicion of sorcery.
This is the wild story for this record of gloomy dungeon synth from the Irish island, but it can hardly be left out. The label Celtic Wraith, that released this happens to be from the same artist (whose name I have not been able to deduce). Regardless, this is some fine dungeon synth for you to admire.
There are light-hearted tones, giving the pixie-like light step to the sound (like the intro of ‘Magical Manuscript’), but it’s only for brief moments that it is the more illuminating factor for the Scriptor Hiberniae’s overgrowth and dark, dusty libraries of ‘Scriptorium’. Relying heavily on bass tones, the sound has a dark and foreboding atmosphere, which is befitting of the traditional dungeon synth sound. What really sets SH apart, is the attempt at storytelling through the minimal means of the genres instrumentarium.
At times the record embraces dark and gloomy sounds, almost pounding heavily when the somber and dark parts of the story come by. On ‘Kept Records of Activity in this Area’, the lighter tones take on a more frantic pace. Effects enrich the sounds to create an atmosphere of upheaval and nervousness. The record ends with the grim ‘Infernal Burning’. Finality to the story is given with the crackling sound of fire when the scriptor ends up on the pire.
Ah, some proper Irish black/death fromt he crew of Beithíoch. The band hails from the north-west of the green Island and has been consistently pushing out records over the last few years. The band name translates as ‘beast’ or ‘animal’, which sort of matches their intense sound.
It appears as if the group has been trying to find a particular sound for their Irish roots, moving through different styles over the albums. This EP appears to be the next experiment in this long line of explorations, titled ‘ Storms of War’. It’s a short but powerful endeavor worth listening to.
What remains is a cavernous, lumbering monstrosity, that shows little to know subtle movement in this dense, atmospheric record. Opening track ‘Morrígan’ has slow waves of distorted guitar crashing into the listener as a crow caws. It’s more a dungeon synthy intro, before ‘The Jaws of Death’ launches in big, wavy fashion. The sound feels very dark, with a shadowy melody line emphasizing the way the sound seems to work within confined space. The song just barrels onward, showing little subtlety or nuance.
Once more, the track ‘Funeral Pyre’ introduces the final song.
‘Dornán Talaimh’ comes on like atmospheric black metal, with lingering and languid riffs. The vocals are almost a whisper from the abyss. The deep guttural barks that roared through the first half of the record have made room for calm and measured murmuring. It shows another side of the band in this way too short release.
Beithíoch spawns forth some creeping chaos on this EP, that will take you to some dark places.
Label: Self released / Metal Defiance Productions Band: Scáth Na Déithe Origin: Ireland
The name Scáth Na Déithe translates, if I’m correct, as ‘Shadow of the Gods’. The band consists of Cathal Hughes (Dúnmharú, Nautilus) and Stephen Todd (Astralnaut). The Irish band has found a spectacular distinct sound on their second endeavour. The duo previously planted their flag with the EP ‘The Horrors of Old’, but now unleash their full length ‘Pledge Nothing But Flesh’.
The record was recorded at the start of the harvest season, or as the band puts it ‘Meitheamh agus Lúnasa’. Though dubbed black metal, the sound of these gentleman is distinctly Irish to me. A country that seems to have an ever growing black metal scene, as goes for Scotland. In the music you find elements of its origin, In this case, the unnerving cover art may speak of darker parts of Irish history. The only other clue is the reference to the time of recording and two songtitles in Gaelic.
From the start it is clear that the two members have affinity with the slow and steady, since doom and stoner are clearly in their arsenal due to other bands they’ve been a part of. The heavy rhythm parts are accompanied by abbyssal vocals, which work well with the burbling, grimy bass. The murky, dark forest on the cover is fairly well depicted in the heavy, oppressive atmosphere this creates after intro ‘Sí Gaoithe’ on ‘Bloodless’. The pummeling drum feeds vitality into the song. A fearlessness and strength that allows the brittle tremolo guitar to soar and set apart a new atmospheric trail in the songs path.
Lyrically it appears that the band connects somehow to Primordial in the take on the self and the one sided-dialogue setting of the words. In defiance screaming at an uncaring deity. The record is filled with atmospheric parts, particularly the guitar play. A little intermission in the form of ‘Fáilte Na Marbh’ therefor fits in and offers a moment of respite for the listener. The continuous string of tremolo riffs really does its part in contrast to the sometimes almost foggy sound. At times that part just overtakes the whole sound, like on ‘the Shackled Mind’. When the torrent really unleashes, nothing can stand in the way of the thick haze of sound. The song also contains a meandering, calm guitar passage towards it’s end. Offering once more the atmospheric antics of Scáth Na Déithe in glorious beauty.
The mastering of the record took place in the Swedish Necromorbus Studio by Tore Stjerna. No surprise that the sound becomes so heavy then. With bands as Watain and Funeral Mist in his portfolio, the Swede knows the impact of extreme heaviness on music. ‘Pledge Nothing But Flesh’ is a daring entry in the current black metal world. Hopelessly atmospheric and bluntly heavy, the record is not aiming for any middle grounds. Scáth Na Déithe produced another vital stepping stone for the expanding Celtic black metal realm.
From the Green Island comes Raum Kingdom. They make bleak blackened doom that has little to do with any of the further stereo types that might pop up when you hear Ireland. The band released a refreshing album of material, that feels like a new wind breathing through what we know in this style. Inspired by the likes of Amenra and Neurosis, the band promises to be an interesting new act on the horizon. Time to check in with the guys from Dublin. Guitar player Andrew Colohan is keen to tell us more about Raum Kingdom.
Hello, yes we are all in good spirits, form and health and delighted to be doing this for the Sleeping Shaman.
Who are in the band and how did you get together, did you guys play in other bands before?
There are four of us in the band, Me (Andrew) -Demons Bow, Dave – Chant, Mark – Rattle and Ronan – Devils Bow. We have been close friends for a long time and big lovers of music and over the years have been in different projects with each other. The time came when we could eventually play together and this happened. We hope that real life can be kept at bay so we can continue with this for as long as we can.
As far as I can gather your bandname might be derived from the petty kingdoms of Norway, of which one was called Raumerike. Is that correct?
We have never heard of that place before, So sorry to say, but no. Sounds nice tho. Norway seems like a nice place. We were settled on just Raum but the name was taken so we added kingdom. It doesn’t really come from anywhere as such it was just trial and error.
What inspired you to that name?
We had ideas and a concept from the get go and even as we where progressing through creating the songs we didnt have a name. But the more we tried to find something the more it eluded us. The name eventually was found through trial and error and as everything else was taken. Raum Kingdom is supposed to stimulate the imagination of a place or earth with different values , principles and laws.
What can you tell us about your record, how did the recording and writing process go?
We had a blast writing this music and still are enjoying writing. The process is we basically say ” That’s to many notes.” Strip what we can back to the core, do a little shuffling and testers. When it fits the theme of what we want and are about, we take it from there. Recording is when we polish off everything, as we don’t know what it will truly sound like until then.
What is the general theme of the record?
We didn’t intentionality set out to have a theme for the EP but if we had to say there was one it would be Pain with a pinch of hope.
When I listen to it and also follow the lyrics, it feels like a story or like a stream of consciousnous from one person. Do you feel that would be in there?
Yeah for sure each song has it’s own story to tell.
What is in your opinion the best song on the record and why?
We all have different opinions about that and it changes with each of us as time passes. But it might be good to say that ” This Sullen Hope ” Could be generally considered one that we all go Yea thats what we want and are about as it has everyting in it.
The record seems to be generally well received, what makes Raum Kingdom stand out in your opinion?
We’re still a bit blown away at how good the response has been none of us really expected it. I don’t think there’s a lot of bands out there trying to do what we are doing.
What is the sludge/doom scene in Ireland like? What hidden gems does Ireland have to offer?
Being such a small nation and an Island. The scene is rather small, That’s not too say the ideals are small. It can get reptitive very quickly here. There are few gems we know of. Fuckhammer, Okus and Weedpriest. Just to name three. Some vile stuff happening there.
Are you going to tour for this release?
We would love too gig and tour and we will as much as humanly possible with the hopes that the numbers and tempo will increase in time. We are having our EP launch on the 05th Sep 14, Fibber McGee’s in Dublin Ireland, With a few other shows and surprises happening.
What future plans do you guys have?
As a unit we have many hopes and aspirations. But we gotta keep all that in check and be real. We are loving what we have at the moment and we are enjoying every moment of it. We are currently writing, gigging and hopefully playing in other countries soon. But we just gotta wait and see. There’ll be an album within a year called Raum Kingdom II.
Anything you would like to share?
In the absence of will power the most complete collection of virtues and talents is wholly worthless.
Raum Kingdom’s self titled debut is available through their Bandcamp profile http://raumkingdom.bandcamp.com/releases
The first Sounds of the Underground of 2015 and the section of my blog seems to gather some attention. Thank you for this. For this edition I checked out The Glitch Mob, Cruachan, The Hyle and Chthonic.
The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality
So it would appear I like a lot of metal and truly, it is the main thing I listen to these days. I have a huge weakness however for the Glitch Mob. I like electronic music that is heavy on the bass, layered and telling a story in itself. The debut of this group from 2010 was quite amazing and captivating. It had that same mystery I find in postrock and some black metal. On their 2014 release the band takes a different approach.
The feel of the sound is much more dance-oriëntated, high on energy and with a faster pace. Fleet footed and lightweight would also be terms, but they might feel a bit negative. Songs like ‘Skytoucher’ still captivate the feeling I loved so much on their debut, but in general the album is more directed at selling and being something the kids can dance to. Not sure if that’s a good thing, for me ‘Drink The Sea’ will remain the favorite and I’ll check in with these guys again when a new record comes around. Though their ‘glitch’ may be less attractive to me, the group still makes brilliant music. Don’t take me wrong on that.
Chthonic – Bù-Tik (武德)
Since the album that is released on 29 december is a full acoustic one, I thought it fun to look back at the previous release of Taiwanese melodic death metal giants Chthonic. The band plays with folk elements and structures in a complex sort of work, that relates closely to the atmosphere of black metal in my opinion. The hectic sound is typical in most Asian metal bands I’ve heard, also the clean sound and the polished production. The band manages an accesible sound, while retaining their identity.
The narrative is that of the foundation of what became Taiwan, told in the native tongue. That shouldn’t prevent you from listening to it. The beauty of this record is it’s way of sounding like a metal band in a clear cut manner, but implementing the narrative of Taiwan by using folk elements and mythology to create distinctness. Anyone hearing this will look up in surprise to check what it is they’re listening to, but still feel it relates to them. Though the sound is rooted in the more extreme styles, the grandeur of power metal is definitely present int he riffing and huge arches of vocals and synths. It doesn’t surprise me that Spinefarm signed them. The acoustic album that is coming out is promising to be another revelation and a rare insight for many metalheads in Asian traditional music.
The Hyle – Demo
The Danish band has a wonderful sound that combines doom with a stadium rock-like swagger, without losing any of their credibility. This demo was not without reason so well liked by Cvlt Nation out of what they picked up this year. The slow, foreboding sound of ‘Lucifero’ sounds weary and whispers a certain despair. The clean vocals are warm and caring, but hollow somehow. Slowly the song runs its course, untill twangy bass sounds support samples and harrowing riffs continue the brooding sound onto the ritualistic sounding ‘Serpent King’. I feel a bit reminded of Electric Wizard meeting up with Witchcraft when listening to this record.
The second half of the record opens very slowly with ´Spiritual Sacrifice´. The spun-out track wavers on for a couple of minutes, when silence descends. The final song is ‘Children Of The Divine’, which is also a dark tune with the sense of ritual and pagan magic to it. The band creates a sound that feels like retro, but also distinctly now. The record is captivating and if these Danes call this a demo, I’m eager to hear the debut.
Cruachan – Blood For The Blood God
The Irish folk metal band Cruachan is pretty much one of the first of its kind. This year I saw them play live, finally, at the Eindhoven Metal Meeting and experienced a lot of their new songs. The work seems raw, honest and direct, but also a bit amateuristic sometimes and a little odd. The vocals of Keith Fay are very peculiar and the man is simply not the most talented singer. Still, the blend of folkish traditionals and raging metal works quite well for the group that has released it’s seventh album on Trolzorn records. The song ‘Born For War’ is representative for the epic sound and feeling this band wants to invoke.
Noteworthy is the song about ‘Beren And Luthien’, which departs from the Irish mythology and picks up a little Tolkien along the way. The band seems to have two gears, of which one is a slow, melancholic pace and the other the frantic one-two-one-two primitive death metal roll. Both are implemented in different ways, but it tells the listener a bit about this band. Cruachan feels like a band on form, enjoying what they do once more, but also stuck in thier own sound. Change is a difficult thing and this record doesn’t sound in any of it. One could argue that this is the reason the whole folk metal movement passed the Irish group by. I don’t know, perhaps they are comfortable in their own little niche. Songs like ‘Gae Bolga’ and ‘The Arrival of the Fir Bolg’ are both well constructed and atmospheric and display the strenght of Cruachan. I worry that they will remain an anachronism in a genre that moved far beyond the primitive sound of this group.
Alright! I’ll take another look at what comes up from the underground with some of the best black metal releases I’ve listened to this year. Voices, Primordial, Darkspace and NeObliviscaris, some of the best, really!
Voices – London
To present the world with an album in the extreme metal genre ont he topic of the city of London is daring and at the same time peculiar. Where bands that linger in the sphere of black metal, usually go for occultish and otherworldly themes, the men from Voices pay homage to their great city. Featuring ex-members of My Dying Bride, Akercocke and Dark Veil, that is clearly a step away from what the gang used to make. The result is breath taking though.
The music is sometimes quiet, calm and melancholic piano parts and then again furious and rugged black metal that has the urban rage of Godflesh tucked inside it. Then again the riffs are hectic and frantic like Devin Townsend Project in a way. Nor does the band eschew some funky lines here and there. All in all, this album has so much to say and so much diversity to offer that I’m literally astonished by it. This is not the London of the postcards, but the metropole with all its gritty underground and hidden charm. What an amazing display of musical prowess.
Primordial – Where Greater Men Have Fallen
It’s hard not to love Primordial. The Irish giants of black metal have never reached beyond their grasp, nor taken inspiration from the trodden paths and their new epic album is the latest proof of that. Biblical themes, heavy anthemic riffs and grandeur is a small bit of words to describe what the listner can expec to be bombarded with on this new album by the band around A.A. Nemtheanga. The soaring vocals of the frontman are what carries the true epic quality of this band.
Biblical themes are no strange phenomenon in the work of Primordial. Songs like ‘Babel’s Tower’ depict that in a iconclastic grandeur, where hopes crumble down in major melodic torrents of hefty guitar play. The apocalyptic foreboding and eventual fall that ‘Come The Flood’ predicts is even more powerful to behold. There’s the cold furious black metal, combined with haunting storytelling on ‘The Alchemists Head’ and creeping doom on ‘Ghosts of The Charnel House’. Still, this album might have too much of an accesibility for everyone to admire. Lovers of the sheer brutality some black metal has been displaying of late (check out that new Nihill album), will not be able to admire this new masterpiece.
One may also argue that the work of Alan Averill (aforementioned under his moniker) is letting a bit of Dread Sovereign and Twilight Of The Gods seep into this. I have no problems with that at all however, since it will only help the sound of Primordial to reach new depths and find new domains in which to shine.
Darkspace – Darkspace III I
Darkness… a concept so vast and impossible to grasp, that we give shape to it. To create creatures and elements of darkness makes it less frightning, tangible and less subliminal. So for a band to take the concept of the endless void as their topic, it makes their music something spectacular, specially when it comes to Darkspace. The band name came up in casual conversation and I was not familiar with the Swiss group. Switzerland does produce an amazing amount of spectacular bands and this one is definitely part of that. The latest record is one in roman numerals, like all their work.
What you get is a swirling mayhem of sonic space. Roaring vocals, arising from the depths of the void and industrial segments depicting the confusing last signals of life in space. The atmosphere is dark and cold, full of mystery and the listener gets sucked into the endless void immediately. Only three songs with a total time of over 70 minutes. This is quite the trip.
Ne Obliviscaris – Citadel
Holy shit! What the hell just hit my eardrums? It’s Australian bringers of mayhem Ne Obliviscaris. A mixture of jazz, avantgarde, thrash, death, black and all things extreme in one unholy package to bring you musical joy. This is one of the most impressive records you’ll hear this year and well worth your time.
Hectic, spiralling riffs emerge from the debts, where minimal drums overtake again. Violins wail and folkish melodies play before a new onslaught of brutallity arises. Classical passages and emotional cascading riffs clash in what can only be the sonic expression of the deepest despair. Then again you are surprised by what seems like acoustic gypsy melodies, weeping violins and calm singing. The combination is beautiful.
The band reminds the listener of the likes of Therion at times with a bit of Celtic Frost and the orchestral sensitivities of Opeth. Still that doesn’t do justice to the band from Oz, maybe the previous record would count as a good addition to the mixture. Soaring clean vocals bring a calm over the frantic rhythms and wild cacophony that starts to emerge, but the swirling melody holds on to all its elements in the vast sound of this group.
This is the record everyone should hear for sure, just as the other three. What a set of brilliant releases. The Underground has plenty to offer once again.