Tag Archives: Metal

Iluntze: Basque mythology, identity and black metal

Europe has a wealth of nations with separate identities and traditions, but in some occasions even between those countries, you find identities. The Basque country, partly in Spain and partly in France, is an ancient culture with a language that differs from anything else on the continent. Iluntze is a product and an expression of that identity.

Synder is the sole member behind the band and is currently (at the time of our contact) residing in the far another side of Europe, studying in Lithuania. He was kind enough to tell something more about his project, origin and the meaning behind Iluntze.

Iluntze from Basque Country

Tell me about Iluntze, how did this project get started?

Hello there! Well, Iluntze is a music project that helps me to elaborate my music ideas. I had some other music bands in the past, from high school rock covers bands to different failed projects, from Folk to Death metal. Mostly, the main problem was the coordination with band members and the different music perspective we had. When I moved to Bilbao in 2015 to start my university studies, my interested in black metal started increasing. This events mixed with my interest around Medieval-Ancient period and my craving to record my own creations gave birth to Iluntze. Going back to 2016, when I recorded my first demo, I realize that maybe I should have waited more and work more in the songs and process of recording. I didn’t have any proper equipment to record and my skills in this field were really low. This made me simplify my songs and to don’t allow me to record the lyrics of Ama Ilargia Ama Eguzkia (Mother moon, Mother sun) and Iluntze.

What does the name mean and what is its origin?

Iluntze means dusk. The root -IL is old, even found in inscriptions from Roman times, and it can be understood as ¨Night or Death¨. This word root is really interesting for me since many words have it, such as Ilargi (Moon), -IL (Night, death)+argi (light) or Hilerri (Graveyard), -IL (Death)+ Herri (Village). This interpretation of Night and death is really related to the Basque mythology, where the Day was the daytime of the living beings and the Night was one of the death spirits. So, Iluntze basically means ¨The process of turning night¨. I just liked the name and its sonority and I think I was right choosing it.

You identify as Basque musician with lyrics in this language as well, and themes derived from it. Can you tell me something more about this and what it is your music really is telling?

I really like this theory that explains how your main language influences your way of think thanks to how the language rules interact with your brain (Probably this is quite poorly explained haha). Well, besides I speak some few languages besides Basque, when I think about Iluntze and when I play music, my mind thinks in Basque. Since I was a child, I have been into European history (and Prehistory, Paleolithic times and so on), especially, into medieval years. The city where I come from (Pamplona-Iruña) and the landscapes surrounding it probably had some influence in my music but when I focus in the storytelling, my main inspiration is my own interpretations of Basque mythology and history. You can perceive some kind of nostalgia about old times attached to some rejection of the modern world. We also have auto-parody style lyrics like in Itziarren Semea (The son of Itziar- the name of my mother), where we see some kind of medieval parody of my character.

The artwork and whole style is very typical, what bands inspired you for your sound and the mood of Iluntze? I am mostly reminded of some of the French bands like Peste Noire on their La Chaisse-Dyable.

I am very happy with the overall result of the artistic part of the last demo. The Digifile edition released by Dawn of the Murk (Darkwoods) is really beautiful and the Illustrator, Alvaro M. Buendia did a splendid job. Peste Noire, musically, is one of my biggest influences and I kinda think that this influence can be perceived in my music. But mostly, depends in what I want to share when I think about making a new song. Sometimes, Dissection, Burzum or Isengard makes a big impact at the time of creating the song but when I’m in a rancid and musty mood, Peste Noire style arises. Their first works are masterpieces and I especially love ‘Ballade cuntre lo Anemi francor’, really nice artistic style and very melodic sounds.

You are currently located in Lithuania, has that made the desire to make music about your land of origin more strong? And how did you end up there?

Currently, I have been living in this country for almost a year, although I’m coming back to Basque Country in a few weeks, to finish my studies and continue working on Iluntze. Well, firstly I came here to continue my studies but it seems I have found a deeper feeling towards this country, its forests, and people. Lithuania is a big musical inspiration, by its landscapes, history, and culture. For future Iluntze’s work, I will try to reflect this influence, maybe with Lithuanian Folkish influences or even singing in the language.

Iluntze was born in Basque Country and developed in those lands full of mountains. But this time expended in Lithuania is understood as meditation and inspirational. In this time, even though I haven’t created any music for Iluntze besides a few lyrics, I’m trying to improve my clean voice and focus Iluntze’s future.

You’ve recorded 2 demo’s this far, Antzinako Oihartzunak being the latest. What can you tell me about this release and the effort behind finding your sound with Iluntze?

The effort given and done behind this last release has been much bigger than in the first demo. I think that I have evolved the quality of the composition and started defining a sound direction. I was lucky to made contact with the label Darkwoods who has supported me a lot. I wanted to work in a proper way the artistic part of Iluntze so I contacted with Alvaro for that. Finally, I tried to improve my skills with music production, so overall, I think that this last demo has been a big step for Iluntze. To summarize, better songs, better production, beautiful physical edition, and nice collaborations have been archived this year. I hope that my next demo will at least as big improvement compared with the previous one.

How do you go about the recording and writing process for these records? Do you do everything by yourself and is it in one session or over multiple? And how do you craft the songs?

Till this last demo, I have done everything, from playing to recording, besides the mastering of Antzinako Oihartzunak. First of all, I create the melodies and riff with the guitar and later I start with the drums (by computer), that helps me to give a structure to the songs. When the drums are done, I start making the bass line and recording it. Later, I record the final version of the guitars with a shitty microphone and my amp. In the meanwhile, I think and write the lyrics so when all the instrumental parts are recorded, I record the voice. Quite a lot of work, so for futures demos, EP or LP I will try to search for collaborations.

Can you tell me more about the Ignis Fatuus collective?

We are a powerful lobby with the only objective of world domination through money control. In our free time and good days, we just name our self as Ignis Fallus.

Regional identity in Spain is very important. As you identify as Basque can you tell me how you view this and how it works through in Iluntze?

Well, since my mother language is Basque, my culture and traditions are Basque and my ancestors were Basque I obviously identify myself as Basque. This does not mean I do not like Spain or France. Both are beautiful countries with many positive (and negative) things to say about them. Being part of the Spanish state, I should not be fool rejecting this fact and reality. Iluntze has received a lot of support from Spain and I really appreciate that. But, on the other hand, Iluntze’s reality is Basque, from the atmosphere I try to create to the message of the lyrics, and probably that’s one of the most important characteristics of the band.

Can you tell me a bit more about Basque metal? Particularly that which employs the Basque language. When did this get started and which bands were the first to do it?

I would say that the metal is still popular in Basque Country, probably by its side relation with the Punk. Personally, I don’t know much about the Metal status in the French Basque Country. I know that Gojira is from there but they may not identify themselves as Basques. Besides that, I know plenty of basque metal bands that sing in Basque. I’m not an expert on this topic but probably one of the most influential bands has been SU TA GAR, classic speed heavy metal. Taking it to my terrain -black metal- Triarchy of Vasconia split is really important. It was a nice collaboration in 2001 between 3 Basque Black-Folk bands –Ilbeltz, Adur and Aiumeen Basoa.

Which bands from your region should people really check out?

Since the beginning of the century, we still have other good black metal bands, as Nakkiga or Numen. From Iginis Fatuus we have Aehrebelsethe, who recently released its first work. And finally, last week I discovered a new death metal band that sounds really brutal, Bullets of Misery.

Going out from metal, I would recommend folk artist as Benito Lertxundi or Mikel Laboa. I cannot forget about other bands as Hertzainak or Kortatu. Well, thinking about this in a deeper way, there is a strong local music environment in the Basque Country so I recommend everyone to check it out.

What future plans do you have for Iluntze?

Exiting question! There are many plans going on. First of all, I will start recruiting members so we will be able to play live. Second of all, I’m coming back home in the following weeks so I will start creating Iluntze’s next demo. This demo is gonna be something big, some kind of double demo where we will find my own songs in one side and black metal covers of traditional Basque songs in the other one. In the meanwhile, I will probably record a couple of songs for a split between the bands of Ignis Fatuus. I will reprint the design of the first t-shirt due to its success and at the same time, work in a new one with the singer of No Sanctuary. Many more things are in my mind but probably it’s too soon to reveal them

If you had to describe Iluntze as a dish, what would it be and why?

Roasted chestnuts (and if there are worms inside, more protein for the body haha). Well, you need to fight to open them but once it’s done you find something really tasty and hot ;).

 

 

 

Underground Sounds: Iron Void – Excalibur

Label: Shadow King Records
Band: Iron Void
Origin: United Kingdom

I’ve actually seen Iron Void play and I think they are absolutely awesome with that slow, classic doom sound they produce. The group sort of revolves around John ‘Sealey’ Seale and Steve Wilson, who continued playing together in Iron Void after So Mortal Be fell apart. The group has been around and is woven into the classic doom network of bands that is still very active and playing live frequently.

I’m a bit astonished to find the group has been in existence since 1998, but only since 2998 is there a steady flow of output with this record ‘Excalibur’ being the third full length available to the listeners. I saw then knock it out of the park (or of the island) during the Malta Doom Days in 2015, which was brilliant. And so is this record, I can tell you that with some confidence.

Indeed, that’s the famous Anaal Natrakh introduction from the ‘Excalibur’ film, this time spoken by Simon Strange from Arkham Witch, before we launch into some absolute classic doom metal on ‘Dragon’s Breath’. Epic vocals with a bit of that folky drama to it, following a repetitive riff that feels sort of easy-going. Not the most fierce track, this opening, which has a bit of the classic fantasy metal vibe to it. Same goes for ‘The Coming of a King’, where I have to restrain myself and not pump my fist in the air as the epic riffage bursts loose and that voice swells in pride and splendor. There’s even a certain tranquility to ‘Lancelot of the Lake’, which fits the narrative well. Similarly, ‘Forbidden Love’ has a gloomy foreboding tone, which is delivered with music that goes very quiet and very loud, taking the listener on an emotional journey.

But this is mostly a storytellers album, yet with a lot of riffs. I really catch up again with songs like ‘The Grail Quest’ and ‘Enemy Within’. Both offer thick slabby riffs, with a crushing weight. The soaring vocals really do their work, even though they’re not that marvelous in reach, they work well within the parameters of the band. But here we come to the climax of the album, with ‘A Dream to Some, a Nightmare to Others’ as the peak. It brings us to ‘The Death of Arthur’, which is a slow-paced track with a sense of finality to it, as it describes the end of the story. The weary, yearning vocals, the big cascading riffs, it’s beautiful. Think of all your doom classics, that’s it.

‘Avalon’ is an outro, our final farewell and it has a tinge of folk to it, like most tunes. A sadness and a traditional side that is well appreciated after this magnificent piece of music. All hail Iron Void!

Kashgar: Nature, History and Tradition from Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan, the name alone beckons with mystery and a peculiar allure. Most people only know it as one of those odd country names, but Khashgar has the potential to change that with their crushing death metal. Time to catch up with them.

The country has a millennia long history and turbulent recent years with clashes within its borders. It is all part of a complex country with many ancient identities and cultural elements. Metal has found its root there too, with the most well-known band being Darkestrah. Kashgar is setting out to play some destructive tunes now.

Guitar player Ars found some time to answer some questions about the band.

From the Ancient Realms

Hello Kashgar, how are things going for you?
Hail, Guido! Many thanks for your interest. Things are well and busy enough – we’re writing songs for the second album, playing shows and organizing our own metal fest.

Can you tell me how the band started and about the history of the group?
Warg, Blauth and I decided to join forces and try to revive the stagnant local extreme scene. There were no active metal bands at the moment and just a couple of metalcore bands. We simply wanted to have some good old heavy live music in town, music that we ourselves would enjoy listening to. It took us a while to find a stable line-up and to write and record the first album. We’ve played quite a few shows over these 4 years and toured the neighboring Kazakhstan several times as well as Moscow and Siberia. Blauth left the country in 2017 and our paths parted. However, we continue to infect the souls around with our mixture of various metal genres and dark sonic rituals.

How did you guys get into metal music and what bands inspired the sound of Kashgar?
We all come from different backgrounds, and maybe that’s why our music is so eclectic at times. I’ll speak about the current line-up further on because things have changed dramatically since the first album. I grew up listening to classic rock’n’roll and hard rock bands, and later I discovered great albums by Death, Samael, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Sepultura, Mayhem, and early Metallica. I think a couple of great Oriental bands like Orphaned Land and Salem influenced me as well. But my inspiration comes mostly from prog pearls like King Crimson, Jethro Tull, Al Di Meola, as well as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Tool.

Warg was always a strict metalhead; he usually searches for something melodic but wild: bands like Sargeist, Satanic War Master, Obed Marsh, and Gaerea truly please his ears. He and Alfer are also big fans of old-school black metal like Bathory, Gorgoroth, Emperor, and Immortal, and it’s impacted our sound a lot. Const adores classic music and such bands as Death, Marduk, and Obituary. Warg and I have played in dozen of different bands before, but Kashgar turned out to be the first serious and long-term metal project for both of us. Alfer and Const are rather young fellas; they played together before, but Kashgar is their first real band.

Your themes are listed as folklore and the occult on metal archives. Can you tell me what stories of folklore and occult themes you tell and where they come from? An example would be great for people who are unfamiliar with your folklore.
For the debut album, Blauth used dark themes from Tengrizm and the history of the region, as well as local superstitions. Erlik is Tengri’s evil creation who is responsible for all the horrors of the world. Albarsty is a female demon that steals your breath when you are sleeping and has a yellow twin that steals your life if you marry her. “Scent of Your Blood” is about Konurbai, an antagonist of epic Kyrgyz hero Manas.

In the new songs, I also explore local nature, literature, traditions, and myths. One song is dedicated to our mountains: it’s about Kumtor, a gold mine located in a distant area at an altitude of 3700m. The lyrics are like a painful scream of the land whose insides are being scrapped out. They have destroyed a huge glacier almost completely and are planning to start with a neighboring one. I worked there with a group of glaciologists, studying the mine’s impact on the neighboring glaciers and the horrendous views inspired the text.

Another song is about an ancient Asian way of making human zombies. This terrifying process is described in a legend told by famous Kyrgyz writer Chyngyz Aitmatov. The zombies, called Mankurt, became mere slaves, silent and obedient to the extent that they would kill even their own mothers if ordered to do so.
We wrote a song about a terrible local “tradition” of bride kidnapping, called Ala-Kachuu, and another song depicts a nasty two-faced creature whose real appearance is only revealed at night. The Central Asian culture and history is an endless well to draw from.

What is, in the end, the big idea or message in your work?
We simply try to create music with a soul and energy in it and mix in a lot of anger that we accumulate thanks to all the craziness and dumbness of today’s world. That’s why we play grim oldschool metal as opposed to all the happy-jumpy modern stuff. We don’t have a message for you: you’ve got enough messages from everywhere every second of your life to make you feel overwhelmed by useless info and products. Just listen to the music and if it helps you feel a primal fear or even make a step or two back to your roots, we are doing the right thing.

What does your home land mean to you both in and out of the musical part. What makes it important?
It’s a bit complicated since all of us are not ethnically Kyrgyz. We’re usually not considered real Kyrgyzstani by Kyrgyz people. But we were born and raised here. We believe that this land is our motherland and we all love and deeply respect the nature and the spirit of the place. It’s enough to spend a day in Kyrgyzstan’s mountains to understand that it is a place of endless power and glory. Kyrgyz ethnic music is something very original and special too. I will never stop gaining huge inspiration from our nature and rich culture! But it’s very sad to see what many people do to their own land. Tons of garbage, cut woods and hunted down rare animals, corruption, police and officials trying to rip you off, lousy infrastructure… This is what Kyrgyzstan looks like for many people today.

How so you go about creating music. Is it a collaborative effort or do band members have their own separate roles? Do you start with lyrics or music?
We always start with music. Sometimes we invent something together and sometimes we arrange a riff or a song written by one of us. Lately ,Alfer has been bringing a lot of material, and we re-arrange some parts and polish it together, working out the rest of the instruments. In the end ,I write the lyrics and arrange vocals.

It’s been 2 years since your last album. Are you currently working on anything new? What direction are you taking Khasgar in?
It’s been 3 years since we recorded it, to tell the truth. Yeah, we’re very slow as all of us have day jobs and up until 2018 we experienced constant line-up changes. But now almost all of the songs for the new release are arranged and we’re finally planning on recording them in February. So let’s hope the album is out by June. As for the direction, Warg keeps trying to drive us into true black metal, me and Alfer keep implementing weird proggy riffs and time measures, and Const keeps gluing all that with mid-tempo blast-bits and straight patterns. I’m also thinking about collaborating with several interesting folk musicians on a couple of songs. After all, we never cared about sticking to strict genres; we just try to make proper metal.

What can you tell me about the debut record? To me, it has a very distinct feel and it’s hard to really categorize it. How did you shape its sound, what story does it have?
The recording itself was a painful experiment involving lots of months of hard work, different drummers, guitarists and booze to ease the stress. After I finally finished recording everybody in my studio, I decided to mix it on my own, and it took quite some time, which was really pissing Blauth off. He wanted to do it the punk-rock style and to release a lo-fi raw material; he simply couldn’t dig what all this “mix wankering” is about. I insisted on better production. In the end, the record came out something in-between, I suppose. And our friend Achilleas C. did a great job mastering it in his Suncord Audiolab in Greece. The sound might still be a bit strange, but at least we did everything by ourselves, using great equipment like Yamaha Tour Custom drums, Peavey heads and Marshal 4×12 cabs. Today most starting bands record the direct signal with plugins and program or trigger the drums, but we wanted it all to feel and sound real.

You had various guests on the album, can you tell me why you chose them and how it materialized?
As I mentioned before, we had lots of line-up changes, so some of the guys were already not in the band when we released the album. We decided to name them as guest musicians.

How did metal music originally come to your country Kyrgyzstan? What bands pioneered the genre in the country?
It started in the 90’s. Up until early ’00s, we had three rock-clubs and many metal bands like Necronomicon, Neocrima, Odyn’s Nocturnal North, Extremistic Negative Clan, Infernus, and Ellodia. Warg was one of the pioneers and played in several of those bands. You could attend a good metal show almost every week. Much has changed since then, but we’re working hard to improve the situation and revive the extreme scene. In 2017 we founded the first international metal festival in Kyrgyzstan – Kuturgan Fest (kyrgyz: “savage”) and we keep developing it by booking world-famous headliners. For our audience, it is a chance to see the metal legends live, and for our bands, it is a chance to perform at bigger venues and for larger crowds. In 2018 I brought in Hungarian groovers Ektomorf and in 2019 the one and the only Sepultura is going to head-line the show! And one day I hope to move the fest to a beautiful open-air location and hold it for a few days like Brutal Assault, which really captured my soul in 2015.

I read that the most well-known metal band from your country, namely Darkestrah, moved away because of the lack of means to make the music. How is it now in Kyrgyzstan with facilities like recording studios, rehearsal space, and availability of instruments etcetera…?
What “means” does one need to make music? You just do it because you can’t be NOT doing it. I know Asbath; they are good friends with Warg. I believe he and Kriegtalith simply took the chance to move to Europe because they could and wanted to. If they had stayed, I’m sure they would have continued to play black metal here. Of course, it was much harder to make a record in the late 90’s, and you still don’t have real options to tour locally. As for the facilities… there are still no labels, booking agencies, promotion companies – nothing for rock and metal. We don’t have even a single rock radio in the whole country. There are some recording studios, but local sound engineers have no idea how to record and produce metal. I have a project studio/rehearsal base and I support underground bands (most of them play rock) by inviting them to practice on high class equipment and sometimes recording them for a low price. There are a couple of other rehearsal spaces around town. Instruments are available to purchase from China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Europe and US, but we have a very limited choice in local shops and the prices are very high.

Do you face any form of censorship, either institutional or social?
Institutional – no as our government tends to preserve the democratic image of the state. However, most people still consider any music with distorted guitars and vocals an “evil” and “unholy” “shaitan” music while others think we’re all alcoholics and drug addicts. They refuse to believe the fact that there is much more trouble at a regular disco club party than at a metal show. Even though we do not experience any direct censorship, it is basically impossible to make it to a local radio or TV show or organize a metal concert in most local venues.

What are the most metal places in your home country?
Outside Bishkek, there are even almost no rock bands, and I’ve never heard of a metal band from other cities. However, people come to Kuturgan Fest from the surrounding towns and even distant cities like Osh.

Which bands from Kyrgyzstan should people really check out and why?
Check out Ordo Sakhna to feel the spirit of Kyrgyzstan – they play great ethnic music. If you like modern nu-metal and death-core, My Own Shiva and TLDOS bands do it fine. Check out Shahid if you feel like listening to some modern hardcore.

What future plans do you currently have with the band?
Besides recording this winter and opening up for Sepultura in April, we’re planning a joint European tour with our brothers Zarraza from Kazakhstan. Hope we can do it autumn 2019. Promoting the album, as well as arranging such a tour, is going to take a lot of time and energy. We’re also looking for a label to release the record and for a manager to promote it.

If you had to describe Khasgar as a dish, what would it be and why?
It would be fried eggs with a wild mixture of everything you find in the fridge. You can literary fry anything not sweet with eggs, add some tomatoes and spices, and get a perfect Shakshuka. That’s my favorite way of arranging breakfast and that’s also our favorite recipe for arranging songs.

Is there anything you’d like to say that I forgot to ask?
Just a word for the readers. We still have a few CDs, LPs and t-shirts left. If you want to support our work, please order it at our kashgar1.bandcamp.com page.

Tons of thanks for the exposure!

Underground Sounds: Akitsa – Credo

Band: Akitsa
Label: Tour de Garde
Origin: Canada

Akitsa is considered a controversial band by some. Now, I’m really not going into that whole debate nor do I want to separate art and artist, but ‘Credo’ is simply a record that can not be denied. It’s a tour of force that rekindles the flames of what it means to create black metal, what it means to stand in defiance.

The band is part of the Quebec metal scene, hailing from Montréal, which has been rapidly gaining attention thanks to its barren, cold sound and primitive aesthetics. Band leader O.T. is also known as owner and founder of the Tour de Garde label. Het notably also sang on a Kickback album, which is pretty badass in itself. But those punk aesthetics carry deeper than that.

‘Siècle Pastoral’ has that nerve-rending buzzsaw guitar, which keeps grinding down with chilling effect. Choral singing finds harmony with that noisy sound and we’ve launched fully into the almost 10-min opening track of ‘Credo’. Slow, creepy and eerie, this is the Darkthrone-ish sound you got to love as a black metal fan. My favorite track though is ‘Voies Cataclismiques’. The bleak buzzsaw, choppy rhythm and primitive force of the song are just pure excitement and raw energy. This is pure black metal warfare, but at times it feels almost joyous in its bouncy rhythm. I don’t want to say it, but it does make you move.

The gritty, distorted sound is one of the key features of this record. Dissonant, gnashing riffs are all over the album, like on ‘Le Monde Et Ma Bile’ and ‘Espoir Vassal’. Here we really pick up the pace with some shuddering blast-beat rhythms and a surging, blurry sound. The commanding, barked vocals seem to almost disconnect from the dense structure, but the train ride remains intact and keeps barreling on in its unrelenting fury on ‘Vestiges Fortifiés’.

We say goodbye to this record of destructive, cornerstone black metal with the title track. Akitsa definitely puts their own flavor in the mix here, but it all returns to the roots of the genre. Furious, distorted music, grim sounding and icy cold, but with an atmosphere and vibe that is undeniable. It’s music for the opposition, for otherness and anger. That’s ‘Credo’, start to finish.

 

Underground Sounds: Krummholz – Rooted in Despair

Label: Naturmacht Productions
Band: Krummholz
Origin: Uganda, Kenya, USA

Krummholz is an unlikely alliance of musicians from different countries in Africa. Victor Rosewrath from Vale of Amonition (Uganda), Seeker from Nelecc (Kenya) and Noktal who is a USA-born musician of Ethiopian/Djibouti descent. Together they’ve formed this project, which rapidly garnered attention from the Naturmacht Productions with their EP ‘Rooted in Despair’.

Krummholz, in fact, refers to the gnarly, bent trees found in high places and the cover art of the record depicts that. It’s a nod to the origin, the tundras and wild of East Africa. But also the deep connection to the land.

This means you instantly submerge into the forest, with animal sounds and the babbling of a brook. Mellow synth tones that help you sink down into the atmospheric black metal of the band. And then, ‘A Morning in the Autumn Forest’ launches into an epic flow of warm, sunny black metal. Think of Panopticon or Saor, but rather different. The howling vocals and surging riffs, the steady drumming, it all feels like that natural flow.
On the second track, titled ‘To Father Worlds in the Bones of Ancient Solitude’, we hear a meandering piano, as again the music slowly unfolds, like flowers on a cold morning. In this song, we can clearly here, much like the first, the ambient black metal of Nelecc, but it comes to fruition thanks to the doomy, strong strides that make me think the hand of Rosewrath is larger in this song. The sonorous singing, reminiscent of the gothic atmospheres of My Dying Bride or Moonspell adds a layer of gloom to the whole experience. It completes a remarkably good debut EP, so let’s see what the future brings.

Underground Sounds: Ragana/Thou – Let Our Names Be Forgotten

Label: An Out Recordings
Band: Thou/Ragana
Origin: United States

I would much rather debate music than politics, but when it comes to the progressive message this may be the most punch-packing-package deal you can get. Ragana and Thou combine their strength for an exceptional split, titled ‘Let Our Names Be Forgotten’.

Thou from Baton Rouge has been prolific since 2005 with a long string of top-notch releases and a clearly voiced message. Their latest full-length ‘Magus’ has landed them a show at Roadburn even as a next highlight. Ragana is a genre-crushing duo from Oakland, who have dubbed their music witch doom. Combining the best of ethereal vocals and mystery with crushing core elements, they’re a force.

The opener ‘Inviolate’ opens with sensitivity and slow passages. It’s almost hauntingly beautiful, which makes the launch into screams even more powerful and hard-hitting on this short exertion by Ragana. The band has a penchant for a sort of witchcore or witch doom, full of seductively beautiful music and harrowing bursts to contrast. I’m making up that term as I go, but it also refers to the Baltic origin of the name. That aspect returns on ‘The Void’, with vocals that have that desperate tone you hear in the work of Chelsea Wolfe and the like. The doomy riffing, the totured screams, it goes to the marrow of your bones with Ragana, as if clawing towards ‘The Sun’. A particular spin on the classic, most slowly progressing doom legends. It’s magnificent.

But Thou is no lesser force obviously, and ‘The Fool Who Thought He was King’ is an instant demonstration of that. Vitriolic screamed vocals over crunchy doom, with that right level of distortion and melodic mournfulness. A dirge-like texture, that weaves onwards as the voice snaps at the listener. The song than starts unwinding into a wavery, post-rock track, that drags the listener along as everything seems to slow down into a sticky, pulling motion. ‘Death to the King and all His Loyal subjects’ closes the record, with a threatening, ominous note. It’s a gritty, drudging tune that drags you down and down with it. We definitely end on a great not here with Thou. Excellent.

Underground Sounds: The Antichrist Imperium – Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan

Label: Apocalyptic Witchcraft
Band: The Antichrist Imperium
Origin: United Kingdom

Here they are again, the all-star prog black metallers from The Antichrist Imperium, who made waves with their saucy album cover on the self-titled 2015 debut. With ‘Volume II: Every Tongue Shall Praise Satan’, they return to strength and deliver a brimming ball of dark, extreme metal to the forefront that will probably rock many socks of and so forth, because yes… it’s as good as you’d hope.

Featuring members who play or have played in entities like Akercocke, My Dying Bride, The Berzerker, Voices and much, much more, you know that there’s some talent in there. It would appear this is also the whole pile of influences that shape the sound of this project, which really feels hard to pin down with anything but the word extreme. So, let’s get into it then.

Opening with thick, punching drums that reek of death metal, the band also picks up a melodic grandeur you’ll find in the more epic melo-death and black metal bands. Ominous intermezzo’s fall in the gaps, before guttural barks unleash again on the listener. From ‘The Dreadfull Hosanna’ onwards, the band never shies away from pure, unadulterated force and complexity with guitars that cut like knives and flutter like butterflies… with wings made out of … knives? I mean, it’s proggy, yet brutal.

On ‘Liturgy of the Iconoclast / Blood Sacrifice’ we actually go in all directions. From dramatic prog passages to bludgeoning death metal destruction, with vigorous riffing. The cool, smooth complex parts show an aptitude for the bigger narrative, to really paint images with the music, which the band does very well. The playful use of the vocals is definitely also an added quality of Sam Bean and Sam Loyens, who bounce of each other like two voice actors at times.

 

Underground Sounds: Kriegsmaschine – Apocalypticists

Label: No Solace
Band: Kriegsmaschine
Origin: Poland

Kriegsmaschine is the other side of the coin that we know as Mgła. Also known as KSM, the project has originally been the focus of this group of musicians from Poland. Yet, in recent years slowly this has started to shift towards the other band with big shows and a lot of attention from metal fans in the wake of the black metal resurgence.

So Kriegsmaschine had been silent since 2014 and it was with a blast they’ve returned with a new record.  ‘Apocalypticists’ is an excellent slab of hypnotic black metal of their unique blend. Highly tribal and surprising, it contains an unsurpassed willingness to evolve, to mutate and transcend boundary terms. That’s what makes this record such fun.

We jump right into it with ‘Residual Blight’, which is a surprisingly rich groovy track from the get-go. The music is highly engaging in its tribal dynamics. When the vocals come in it becomes an exertion of sweltering fury. This is a persistent element in the music, also on ‘The Pallid Scourge’, which is still seething with a harrowing threat. The rolling drums and agonized guitars, it’s like a machine that grinds and squeaks as it spits outs vitriol. In other words, it’s brilliant.

All the tunes from Kriegsmaschine have that same, churning heaviness. A solid slab of rhythm with those rolling drums and a dense network of guitars is ever present on tracks like ‘Lost in Liminal’ and even on the title track. I love how each song just rolls on like that, full of tension, complexities, but also yielding itself directly tot he listener with all its slithering darkness. The vocals are barked in a commanding tone, as the instruments coil around it in a vast, complex carpet of sound.

The record finishes with ‘On the essence of transformation’, another dark and foreboding track with vocals akin to a spoken word delivery. It’s not really a tune to bang your head to, but to just wait. Wait like a rabbit gazing into the approaching headlights…. And let the darkness embrace you.

Ennui: From the tombs of Georgia

Georgia is one of those countries, you may not even be aware of. A state with a vast history and rich cultural traditions in the borderland of the former Soviet-Union, it is the home of Ennui, who play monolithic funeral doom in the most dark and melancholic traditions.

Partly untouched by time, the country has one of the lowest crime rates and visitors speak of the friendly reception they’ve had. Yet it also has the scars of the past, proven by the conflicts with Russia . The same goes for most countries in the Caucasus.

It’s not known for its metal scene, but it is there and shaping itself in a distincly own way. Ennui has been around since 2012, as it was founded by David Unsaved and Sergei Shengalia. Their latest work is ‘End of the Circle’, out on Non Serviam Records. Thanks to Qabar PR, I got to ask them some questions about this project and the monumental record.

Ennui: End of the Circle

First, can you introduce yourselves and how you got together? I understand the name Ennui is an old French word. Can you maybe explain why you chose it and how it has evolved with you through the years?

Yes, we are a funeral doom band from Tbilisi, Georgian Republic. Ennui is the band with only two permanent members: me, David Unsaved and Sergei Shengelia. Both of us write music for the band, we always work together on concepts for the songs, etc. We’ve founded Ennui together in 2012. So it happened that we both had ideas for this genre, we both were able to play on all instruments, and we decided to work together. The name of the band came to our mind almost immediately. I had a few propositions on the name, but we settled on Ennui. We liked the meaning of this word, because it perfectly described our spiritual state at the moment. Over time, we put more extensive sense into this word – Ennui is a state of melancholy, spiritual boredom and loss of any kind of vitality.

Do you guys play in any other bands or projects? And what bands inspired you to pursue the type of music you make?

Yes. Sergei is a veteran of Georgian metal scene. He is a front man of first Georgian technical death metal band Angel of Disease, also he’s guitarist/vocalist of his symphonic black metal band SIGNS. My biography is more modest, but I also have several side-projects in different genres. But none of them are released yet, actually it will happen in nearest future. Bands like Esoteric, Skepticism inspired us to make this music. These two bands were what introduced us to this genre very long time ago.

Where you inspired by bands from Georgia to make metal music or did it come from foreign bands? Are there aspects of your home country that shape the way you make the music you do?

No. We were never inspired by bands from Georgia. All influences and inspirations came from foreign bands of course. Also, you shall know that there are no other funeral doom metal bands from Georgia. It’s a little bit hard to name any particular aspect of Georgian culture which helped us in making this kind of music. You know, first of all, Georgia is not mentally a ”metal country”, and also Georgian culture has mostly a ”happy” mood in almost all of its forms. But working on our first album ”Mze Ukunisa” what means ”The Sun of Darkness” in Georgian, we indeed used some elements of Georgian culture, which perfectly suited atmosphere of funeral doom metal.

I want to ask you about the album ‘End of the Circle’. What was the creative process like for this record, did you do anything new or different this time and what roles do you both have in the process?

The songwriting principle was the same as always – we made individual songs independently from each other. But we’ve certainly changed the recording process as well as whole creative process in this album. Here I mean the whole approach to recording in the studio, getting the highest quality, real and ”warm” tube sound, all analogue equipment. This was first experience like this for Ennui. We’re very satisfied with the final result. I hope listeners will be happy with our new album as well!

As I understand it, in the past you’ve often used poetry for the lyrics and inspiration. Can you tell a bit about that and in what way you drew inspiration for ‘End of the Circle’?

The poetry of Terenti Graneli (Georgian dramatist and late decadence movement poet) was used as lyrics only for our debut album. After that, all lyrics are written by us. “End of the Circle” is conceptual work, inspired by some philosophical ideas about life and death, about principles of being and unbeing. We just imagined about what if there is some final point of everything? Final point of the endless. The End of the endless circle of life and death. Mostly these ideas inspired us.

Your record is in a sense such a huge slab of music, that it could easily be split into multiple releases. In fact, each of the 3 mammoth tracks feels like a separate journey. Was this your initial plan when you set out recording it or did it evolve to this enormous shape?

Oh, yes. The whole idea of this album was to write three huge songs with dynamic ups and downs in tempo and unorthodox melodies. First we had a plan to make an album with only two long songs, but later the idea evolved and we decided to split ”The Withering” in two parts to have two song conceptions reflecting each other. For example, the first part of ”The Withering” is about humanity which is lost under the vastness of starlit sky, and ”The Withering Part II” is about the lost and dead stars shining their ghost light upon us. But the title song is about death of whole Universe as it exists in our understanding and imagination.

Can you tell a bit about the start of metal in Georgia? How did metal music come to your country in the first place?

I guess first heavy metal bands in Georgia were formed in early 80-is. Heavy metal bands like Mtsiri (მწირი), Mekhis Kandakeba (მეხის ქანდაკება), also Heavy Cross (მძიმე ჯვარი). Their music was influenced by heavy metal and hard rock bands from all over the world, some records were rare, but still available to listeners in Soviet Union. Extreme metal was formed in Georgia much later, in 1990-is. It was influenced mostly by popular metal bands, because Georgia never had access to high-grade information sources about underground metal music. I mean no labels, no metal stores. Usually, records of new foreign bands were passing from hand to hand between metalheads. It was almost impossible to get tapes of rare bands. That’s why metal in Georgia was mostly influenced by mainstream bands from Europe. Nowadays, with development of social networks, metal is more available in Georgia then it was before. Here are some local metal bands, scene is has developed into different genres. Famous metal bands like Sepultura, Napalm Death, Sodom, Vader and many others played shows here. I hope that metal in George will keep progressing and in future will take its own place in Metal World.

What is the scene like these days and what bands would you recommend people check out?

Please, check out the band Comatose Vigil from Russia, I guarantee you the total desperation.

While your music and founding were rooted in sad emotions, you as a band appear to have embraced a positive life attitude in previous interviews I read. How do those two combine?

I think that such music does not oblige us to be constantly in a negative mood. And to be more precise, such music helps to get rid of the negative state of mind. It seems to me that you need to be able to treat everything with humor, even if it’s a black humor… Besides, I would not say that we are one of those people who are very open about showing everyone their inner state. Usually, we do not share everything with everyone around, but we channel everything into our music.

What future plans do you have for Ennui?

I think now it’s time to prepare for future live shows. We need to work more with session musicians and pay more attention to listeners from Europe.

If you had to compare the band to a dish, a type of food, what would it be and why?
I don’t know, maybe ”Shila Plavi” – this is a kind of Georgian dish made from rice and meat. Usually, here in Georgia this dish is served at a funeral feast in someone’s wake.

Anything I forgot that you’d like to add?

Well, I guess no! Thank you very much for conversation!

Underground Sounds: Norilsk- Weepers of the Land

Band: Norilsk
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Origin: Canada

‘Weepers of the Land’ is a weird album, in the sense that the band considers it a companion record to the 2017 ‘Le Passage des Glaciers’. It is the third full-length record for the Canadian band but could be called an EP perhaps due to its connective nature. But hey, we love the EP format anyways and all is well on this five track release.

Norilsk is named after a Siberian city, which might explain the fact that some songs on this record have only been released in Russia before. The duo definitely catches a theme of the grim cold in the north, which is expressed through gritty death doom full of forlorn hopelessness and cold riffing. So let’s check this release out.

The cold hits you on the relentless ‘No Sacred Ground’, with the gritty roar from guest singer Damian Smith (Altars of Grief) barking defiance to the winds. Drummer Nick Richer keeps the natural and calm pace that nature takes. It is what it is, right? In that sense, they evoke the imagery on the album cover of man against the uncaring elements. This is pretty much what Nick Miquelon picks up on during ‘The Way’, which is the little hit song on this release, clocking under four minutes.

The lyrics of “Toute la noirceur du monde” are done by Ben Forte from North East Bistro, and Mort Marion from Blood Moon Knights plays guitar solo’s on all following tracks, which is part of the wider cooperative creation of this record. The vocals are in French, which adds a certain snarl to the whole vibe of the track. A notable track is ‘Tomber 7 Fois’, which is, in fact, a Mylene Farmer cover.  Wonderfull! It lets us hear the band in a completely different form, with layered vocals, conflicting sounds and a more gloomy approach compared to the cold honesty of their normal approach. It is fascinating to listen to, but maybe at times a bit overly messy.

The vocals on ‘Weepers of the Land’ come from Joshua Cayer (Longhouse). It’s a tormented scream as icy winds again blas you with repetitive fury and a congested, thudding bass line. This is, again, Norilsk at their finest with their arctic doom, blackened by cold, rigid by ice.