In the mist dark figures move and twist
Was this all for real or some kind of hell
666 the number of the beast
Hell and fire was spawned to be released
– Iron Maiden, ‘The Number of the Beast’
I have started reading this book titled ‘The Happiness of Persuit’ by Chris Guillebeau. I have come up with a goal that made me get out of bed and excitedly start writing these words to you, my meagre set of readers. I plan to interview 195 bands from all countries in the world, that play metal. I’m not a pure blooded metal head, but this is what I’ve decided to do.
I’ve got one interview soon from Israel, one from Lebanon and I probably have one from the Netherlans. I’m starting work on one from Estonia and now I need more.
Think ‘World Metal’, like Sam Dunn presented it in the documentary, think global and world wide.
From the day Geezer Butler saw a looming dark figure at the end of his bed to the day we live in now, metal has been a genuine counter culture that is also a global tribe. We could shake hands anywhere in the world, when we share this music.
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.
A long time ago I did an interview with the band Melechesh. The group was originally from Israel, moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands later for its political freedom, a bit like the golden age of philosophy. The band deals thematically with Assyrian and Armenian mythology. Add to that some Mizrahi rock and there you go: unique metal. This is the interview I did with Ashmedi, main man of the band, in 2010.
Could you kindly tell us who you are and where you come from (musicwise as well as lifewise)?
I come from Jerusalem my family are Armenian/Assyrian. Musically I come from the rock and metal background but I listen to any and every type of music as long as it is well done . Life wise I am a cosmopolitan who lived around the world and now settled in this nice , tidy and quiet corner.
You’ve moved the band from Israel to Amsterdam/France, how was that decision made and what were the reasons you had to move?
Well the reasons were several, many demographical and socio political reaons. Also we wanted to progress our music. The member who was in France is now doing his PHD in USA so he flies often here to writing sessions and rehearsals. Coming to Amsterdam was a coincidence actually , I was on my way to USA when my x bassplayer who was living here said Amsterdam got English language Universities, I thought ok its closer to Jerusalem .
Theres a mix of nationalities in the band, how does this influence your writing and creating process?
Well and it does not change our writing process. Though we got to learn that you should not make music at any cost like we used to believe in and was the way we work, but rather pay attention to personal convenience which comes first here. In Jerusalem there are many different people from all over the word , same as with Los Angeles where I lived as well so always managed well in cosmopolitan places.
Is there a political element to your music, and if so what is it? What were the comments when you released the ‘As Jerusalem Burns… Al’Intisar’?
NO , the middle east is much more than politics, it is a place were civilizations were born. We focus on this beyond the mundane but tragic drama . Politics are merely the art of lying and rationalizing human deaths. We don’t play that game, and we say our politics are simple we count the dead and we think everyone deserves to live in dignity. Can you imagine an entire region with many countries billions of people thousands of years of continuous civilizations is categorized by one cliché. We are critical and know what is going on there but we do not drag the mystical and spiritual artistic creation known as Melechesh in this.
When As Jerusalem Burns …Al Intisiar (by the way the title is meant metaphorically, as we love our home town ) was released well hell broke loose J we survived it. There many critical of us but in the end we make music with spiritual and mystical context so we did not hurt anyone. ( maybe the righteous can learn for this ). But such things made us appreciate making music and we are grateful to where we have reached today
Could you tell us what Mesopotamian Metal is, what it envelops and what it is you tell about? Obviously for us it’s a very strange and unknown world.
The style of music is already popular in the metal underground and there are several young bands adapting to it which is really cool. But for the readers Roarezine of let me elaborate more on this. When I started Melechesh the philosophy behind the music was to create not re-create. So we tried inventing the Middle eastern sound of Black/thrash metal. Which encompass hard rock and heavy metal as well but with an ethnic twist when it comes to guitar riffs and picking as well as at time, Middle eastern drum patterns. Lyrically we deal with Mesopotamian mythology near eastern mysticism .
Musically who are your influences, metalwise as well as traditional music wise?
I grew up on rock music at home with time I was drown into heavy metal and punk and got into various types of bands. As a musicians we are shaped by diverse music intentionally or unintentionally. From Metal music , I like the classics black sabbath, led zeppelin, rainbow also Mercyful fate some Metallica , Slayer , Bathory it is hard you know ! traditional musicians I am very much into Persian Indian cross over like Ghazal, Indian ragas , sufi music .
Your new album, The Epigenesis, is almost out. Can you tell us about the process and the record?
The album took a long time to write , almost three times to record. Its is a long album with diverse moods , from a 3 minute song to a 12 minute song. We decided to break the mold and we flew to Istanbul to record the album. Many here were surprised but the outcome spoke for itself . Istanbul was a unique experience and very inspiring one. The city is very inspiring for musicians, it is great for night life and culture, and very Metal. So many metal bars out there its crazy.
Everything worked out perfectly it was almost uncanny like how come every step every decision was fitting in like a piece of puzzle , it was quite mystical . It was also very practical to be there, as people were helpful no 9-5 mentality we did put in 16 hrs a day . Also the little things you know you want to order a meal at 3 AM while still recording , its possible. You can even order you wine and whisky at those hours. The little things helped keep the vibe positive. The weather was good too.
How has your work been received in Europe this far?
Well previous works always well received, we got fans across the globe, positive record sales and the fact most labels offered us a record deal was very humbling and a good sign. As for the new album the general press media is good. Topped various critics lists, several cover stories I cant ask for more and we are grateful for this.
Did starting a black metal band in Israel spawn a lot of followers? Are there other metal bands from the Middle-East that you would recommend?
You need to be able to differentiate the various parts of Israel. The fact that it was in Jerusalem was the issue. AT first people wanted black metal bands from Scandinavia , if the band was from there the fans show the horse teeth with unconditional smiles and frown on bands that had to fight to make music. But this changed. A lot of hard work development of a type of music eventually paid off. We had followers there, but our larger fan base is in USA and Europe. There are several talented bands in the middle east they work hard some even were jailed for doing the music they are passionate about. For sheer brutality check out Keaton, for Melodic doom check out Bilocate. There is a cool rock band called Khalas and so on.
Are there any bands that you would compare yourself to?
Blof (a rather cliché Dutch rockband, GS)
What influence does living in Israel have on your music and on your life and views?
Some people fight to have a decent life and when they get it they appreciate every second. Some have it all served on a silver platter and deep inside they are very unhappy. This is one thing I learned. I also learned how racist humans are. I personally believe in one race. Human race. And thankfully I am very color blind.
Where do you see Melechesh going in the future?
I don’t know really, just challenge ourselves and make credible music.
Are there anything you’d like to tell our readers, that they should know about your band?
Doe het normal is a bad thing for music and art but a good thing for accounting.
What Album should we start with?
The Epigenisis for sure not because it is the new one but because it represent us now and it has several moods.
If Melechesh would be some kind of food, what food would it be?
A healthy salad which has flavor ! and considered as soul and brain food.
Blaakyum has been around for a long time and has been instrumental in keeping the metal scene in Lebanon alive. Lebanon you say? Yes, Blaakyum plays a mixture of thrash metal and various elements from other styles and hails from the country near Syria, Israel and all those places where you think no one has even heard of metal. They proved me wrong.
Now for me the country was as unknown as this band, so logically I checked their music and wrote them a message. It turns out that Lebanon is, considering our general view in the west, a pretty liberal country on some fronts. Still, Blaakyum is not a band that enjoys the same liberties and possibilities as bands from over here and they have to face very different hurdles on their path.
They have been around longer than most bands, and it took a lot of effort from guys like Bassem Deaibess to keep this band and also the whole scene together. Anyways, enough introduction, best to hear the story from the horse’s mouth.
You guys are, as it stands, the oldest, active metal band from Lebanon. How did you guys get started on playing metal music and how did you get in touch with the style? Also, was it hard to find like-minded souls to form a band?
Bassem Deaibess: Well, If I wanted to answer that, it would take me probably around 20 pages. To make it as short as possible, I started learning guitar when I was around 15, and that lead me to look for guitar oriented music which lead me to Rock, Hard Rock and Metal music. Back in the 90s it was not hard at all to find that music since it used to be played on our Radios and we had Rock Shows on TVs, the major Metal bands were all over our radios and TVs such as Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Sepultura, Morbid Angel, you name it.
When I got introduced to this music mainly thanks to my cousins, it was love at first hearing. As a typical dream of a beginner guitarist I wanted to form a band, so I started looking for members, and surprisingly it took less effort than I expected. Although Metal was available and accepted it was never mainstream, so I won’t say it was hard to find like-minded people or more precisely like-music-tasted people, but when we would discover someone who listened to metal it was as if you have just discovered a gold mine… We would in most cases become instantly friends… From the time I set my mind of forming a band towards the end of 1994 untill Blaakyum was formed in summer 1995 it was a relatively short period of time. Sadly since 1995 untill today the line-up changes have been endless, so I cannot answer the question on behalf of the past members.
Rany Battikh: Back in the 1980s/early 90s, Metal was pretty big in Lebanon spawning a couple of popular dedicated radio shows. My older brothers recorded selected songs on cassette tapes off the radio for bands like Metallica, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio, Slayer, Iron Maiden etc. I would put those tapes on and listen to them all day long. I remember once my brother brought a video tape of a Judas Priest concert home and he made multiple copies of it so we won’t damage it by over watching it.
When I picked up the bass, Metal was an obvious first choice for me, before I got into funk, jazz and classical music later on (through my college studies).
Jad Feitrouni: My father was a hard rock fan, so he always put on Deep Purple, Rainbow … while driving us to school. He always insisted that we (my sister and I) play an instrument, so we had piano lessons at an early age. I kept listening to hard rock and rock bands till I met Rany (Blaakyum’s Bassist) at university. Rany was a huge Power Metal fan at that time and started giving me CDs for Rhapsody, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray, Manowar, Helloween (to name a few)… he tried to give me thrash CDs but I didn’t like the style at that time. Few years later (when my ears matured) I gave thrash a try and I have been a huge fan ever since.
Rabih Deaibess: My brother (lead vocals) was sick enough to put some Sepultura on my headphones when I was 6… When I grew up I started listening to Symphony X (Divine wings of tragedy). I was 9 years old, the only reason why I did was because I heard my brother saying to my other brother (Blaakyum’s ex-bassist) that this is too complicated, that he will not understand anything of it. Somehow it angered me and I wanted to understand that music. So I started to become fond of that style and love the sound of the guitar and drums. When I was 11 I started playing the guitar, but the song I learned to play to was ‘Hey God’, by Bon Jovi.
I have to ask, how was it to play the first Lebanese rock festival? What was that like for the crowd, the bands, the atmosphere…?
Bassem Deaibess: The first concert Blaakyum performed at was in 1996 at the Lebanese University, which was the first Metal concert to be organised after the civil war. It was interesting to see so many metalheads, and back then we had even media coverage. The first Major Rock festival was organised in 1997 in place in Beirut called “Beirut Hall” the festival held around 13 bands and it was dubbed simply Rock Concert!! It was thrilling to go on stage and see around 2500 people waiting to hear you, we were so young and amateuristic back then, and although I felt we did a horrible job as a band, the crowd was so supportive. We probably were among the least experienced bands, the other bands were seriously amazing. I never realised how high the standards of the Metal Scene were back then and the atmosphere was really extremely friendly, like a brotherhood. The next year Rock Concert II happened, but Blaakyum did not participate. We kept playing in one of the most famous 90s (up till 2005) Rock and Metal venues that hosted regular concerts on a weekly basis, it was called Peak Concert Hall. It had a capacity of 700 people and it was almost always full, up till 2001 where Blaakyum performed in the first edition of Rock Nation, a yearly Rock/Metal festival (though mainly Metal) that kept going till 2008. The scene during all these years had its ups and downs, but considering a country of 4 million inhabitants, the scene is extremely impressive here even in its down phase.
What bands were the ones that got you guys into metal?
Bassem Deaibess: For me personally it was Guns’N’Roses at first who got me into the whole Rock/Metal genre, followed by AC/DC. Then came Metallica’s ‘Black Album’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Fear of the Dark’, from there on the snowball rolled.
Rany Battikh: Prior to Metallica’s self-titled album’s release (in Lebanon), ‘Master of Puppets’ was a game changer for me, definitely my Metal bible for a very long time alongside Black Sabbath’s Live Evil.
Jad Feitrouni: The bands that got me into metal where Manowar, Rhapsody (Now named Rhapsody of Fire), Gamma Ray, Hammerfall, Helloween, and many others…
Rabih Deaibess: bands that got me into metal: Symphony X, Dream Theatre, Rhapsody (now named Rhapsody of Fire), Evergey, Pantera, Testemant, Nightwish, Alter Bridge (those are part my inspiration as well)
Where do you get your inspiration from for your lyrics and music?
Bassem Deaibess: I must admit that the main source of my inspiration lately whether for writing lyrics or music, is my anger. Especially with what is going on lately in the region and the threat of Islamic fanaticism that is threatening my country, the incredible political and social corruption, and the intellectual struggle and the cultural terrorism we face on a daily basis because of religious and political dominance. There is always a social, political or socio-political message behind each song even those who seem to be more related to literature and arts (I am a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien and fantasy novels as well as Edgar Alan Poe and thriller/detective novels e.g. Dan Brown) Musically I must say that the main influence from the Metal side is Thrash Metal, mainly Testament, Overkill, Sodom, Kreator, Onslaught, Metallica and Pantera. But I am also very fond of Classical music especially Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky and RimskyKorsakov. And traditional Lebanese folk like Lady Fairuz, Lady Sabah, Wadih El Safi, Marcel Khalife and TonyHanna, and Oriental Arabic folk such as MuwashahatAndalusia and RoudoudHalabia. I am so much in love with Celitc music.
As for Jad and Rany other than the bands they named that are a major part of their influences, I must say the Blaakyum Rhythm section is heavily influenced by Funk and funk fusion.
Rabih Deaibess: I was a Progressive and Power Metal fan for a long time, then I got a bit off track to bands like Creed and Nickelback, but then I heard 3 tracks that changed my life: Black Sabbath’s ‘Cross of Thorns’, Dio’s ‘Hide In The Rainbow’ and Pantera’s ‘I’m Broken’ and I went more into thrash stuff like Metallica, Megadeath, Testeman, Kreator and Exodus.
Recently you played two major festivals (as if you need reminding, right?). What was it like for you as a band to get to this international stage?
Bassem Deaibess: Well, it is a proof that even in the most unlikely circumstances and against all odds, if you work hard, you are good enough and you want something so bad, you can get it. Let us be honest, to have a tour on your own, without any label or management backing you up, would seem a normal thing from someone in Europe, it is not really that hard. But for us in the Middle East, it is equivalent to an eternity of hard labour!
First the dehumanizing factor of getting Visas (So many times we were about to cancel some dates because we weren’t sure we will get the Visas), the way we are treated in some embassies is almost inhuman, you feel you are an inferior race begging the White West supremacy for a chance to go to their countries. Applying for a Visa is such a stressful and anxious experience and you are totally helpless. Then comes the transportation, I mean again in Europe, you can simply rent a small van, get in there and drive to whatever country or town you want. Here we have to travel on our own; the economical difference is huge even with the crisis in Europe, what is considered affordable there cost us a fortune here, then the hassle to run from an airport to a bus station with all our equipment and luggage on our back, then from one train terminal to the other and try to do it without missing the train and without breaking any of the equipment… So by the time you reach the venue you are almost dead *laughs*. But then the moment you go on stage, and see the people actually digging our music and headbanging, it always pays off.
Rabih Deaibess: First time we played will be a memory I’ll never forget and tell my kids about if I ever have any. It made Rany, Jad and me become like brothers as we laughed and played together. That bond made our sound tighter as well.
Jad Feitrouni: Playing on the same stage as Testament, Overkill, Onslaught, Iced earth, Annihilator… was a dream comes true especially with Bassem, Rabih and Rany by my side. I listen to these bands every day and to be with them in the same room was simply amazing.
Rany Battikh: It feels great to reach that “international stage” as this was our goal since day one. We went through a lot of hassle to get there for sure, but hard work does pay off at some point and sacrifices trans-morphed into achievements.
What is the most common response that you get when people figure out Blaakyum is from Lebanon?
Bassem Deaibess: OWE DEATH AND DISPARE *laughs hard* actually we got mixed reaction, some do not even know where Lebanon is, some gets really intrigued, many ask us if Metal is accepted in Islam, which use to puzzle us since we are not an Islamic country, nor any of the current members come from an Islamic background. There is a lot of stereotyping that we face, which we actually understand. We would be surprised when we meet some people who actually have a very good idea about our country, but still they would be amazed that there is Metal there.
Jad Feitrouni: The most common response that we get when figuring out that Blaakyum is from Lebanon is a long silence. This is where we explain where Lebanon actually is on the map *laughs* But when people actually know where Lebanon is they get surprised to know that metal reached that little country in the Middle East.
Rani Battikh: People get pleasantly surprised when we reveal our country of origin. Some ask about the desert (we don’t have any!), some ask about religion (I was never tempted to discuss my Christianity in that case) and some just show how enthusiastic they are about eastern women!
Rabih Deaibess: We get the funniest reactions sometimes, people get more exited and curious about us once they know we are from Lebanon, some asks us about desert or camels, personally I have never seen one! Some get shocked that we even know what metal music is or that we drink beer!
I read in an interview that metal has been around in Lebanon since the seventies, but it struggled for acceptance. Most people, as you probably know, would not even think there’s heavy metal being played in Lebanon right now. Can you tell a bit about how metal arrived in Lebanon and how it developed further?
Bassem Deaibess: Ever since Lebanon was created in 1920 in it was open towards the west. Even in many cases half the Lebanese refused to identify to the Arabic world they are in. Western Culture was rarely viewed as an alien culture, but as part of the Lebanese culture, thus we always were a true mix of both oriental and western cultures. Whatever was mainstream in USA and Europe, was mainstream in Lebanon. So the underground scene in the west was established in Lebanon almost at the same time, even the counter-culture and youth movements such as the beat movement, and the hippies were here as well, so Metal came naturally. When Black Sabbath released their first album at the beginning of the 70s it was all over the place in Lebanon, Lebanese clubs and pubs were full of bands playing Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin,Yes and Deep Purple… even the quarrels between the Disco fans and the Hard Rock fans were as common here as in the west. When the punk movements in the mid-70s took over the streets of London it did so in the streets of Beirut… of course there were some cultural clashes but they were really kept at minimal. So during the 80s and 90s Metal was all over the radios and the TV rock shows… Till this day Metal has a strong presence in Lebanon, although at times it was under attack from either religious or governmental institutions. Although a big part of society is ignorant about what Metal is and not always accept it, it is fair to say that metal is as alive in Lebanon as in any other western country.
In Sam Dunn’s documentary ‘World Metal’ (if you haven’t seen it, I really recommend it) he shows that metal bands in the middle-east face a lot of adversity from their respective societies. In some countries it’s virtually impossible to be a metal fan on your own terms. How is the situation in Lebanon and how is it compared to surrounding countries?
In Lebanon Metal was very well established on the contrary of most other Middle Eastern countries, It wasn’t till the mid-90s, precisely 1996 that some Christian religious institutions started the “Hard Rock/Metal panic” after a tragic incident of a teenage suicide. This is also very similar to what happened in the west few years earlier, especially in USA. Because religious institutions in Lebanon had so much power, they were able to spread a kind of mass panic. Then the government took part and created a black list of bands and albums and banned some shows, so we had some trouble with the authorities.
All this calmed down by 1999. We even played in few mainstream festivals, but in 2002 a fiercer “witch hunt” was organized both by the church and the government and later the Islamic religious institutions joined forces. This kept going on until 2005, with the assassination of the business man Rafik al Harriri, a prominent political figure and former prime minister, the country went into an open revolution against the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and the Syrian presence was driven off, in the aftermath of this political uprising the country plunged into a long political crisis that is still present, and during all this they forgot about Metal. Every now and then few voices in the media or the Church are expressing some concerns of Satanism and drug abuse in Metal, but after the information age kicked in, these voices are quickly silenced.
The Lebanese Metal scene still has its ups and downs, mainly related to the economic and political situation, but I guess this is what gives the Lebanese bands who write original music the edge that puts them apart from the main western Metal scenes. Needless to say with all this, Lebanon is one of the very few Arab countries that has a freedom margin and were Metal is not utterly threatened, this mix of minimal oppression and margin of freedom makes Lebanese Metal able to develop and creates its own unique identity.
In an interview you describe the Lebanese metal scene and also discuss its better days in the past. Can you describe to an outsider how the Lebanese scene looks like? What kind of venues do you play shows at and is it easy to buy new records and such?
Bassem Deaibess: As I said, during the 70s, 80s and during the heat of the civil war, the clubs were full of bands playing and performing Rock, Hard Rock and Metal music. After the Civil war things were going well, many local town festivals like “Al Hamra festival” and “Féte de la Music” and others always had local rock or metal bands on the bill. Up till 1999 there were few “illegal” radio stations that were exclusively Rock and Metal, to name few we had Blue FM, Generation X FM, UFO, and Rock FM. We would look for big venues to organize our multiple band concerts and Rock fests, and we had a regular underground venue called Peak Concert Hall. Around the end of the old century we had few clubs that hosted Rock bands regularly such as “Mon General”, “The Irish Pub” and “Rio Grande” bar.
At the beginning of the new millennium, a new venue was available in a town called Kaslik part of the city of Jounieh, it was called Mad Wheels, where many underground and mostly low budget and poor produced concerts would take place. This was alongside Peak Concert Hall, which remained active till 2005. Also many summer festivals would take place, including the famous Rock Nation (from 2001 till 2008), featuring big stages and good production. At the start of the new millennium, Hard Rock Café Beirut opened and we also had many metal-friendly pubs. One was called “Purple Haze”, which was established by Rockers For Rockers. Sadly, it was short lived but started a tendency other bars and clubs followed. Next was “Kalinka Pub”, which hosted rock and metal bands from 2002 up to its closing date in 2005. Until 2010, the “Nova Club” was the hub of the scene, together with “Cherry’s Pub”, which was active from 2006 until 2009. It was a phenomenon in the scene and the beating heart in its short existence. A pub was started in the Hamra Street, named “Pavillion”, which was a new centre for the underground. For a while we had a big venue where bands could play, named Tantra (capacity: 1.500 people). It took over from Peak Concert Hall, when it closed down in 2004. That was the time we had the Rock and Metal organization to be established called Rock Ring.
Rock Ring took the Metal concerts and festivals to a new level, and organised a high profile events during the first decade of the new millennium, including the participation of Lebanon in the GBOB (Global Battle Of the Bands) twice as well as bringing the all-stars band called Hail to Lebanon twice. During those years few mainstream figures helped the scene by bringing some international acts to Lebanon, like Mr. Jyad El Murr (a rocker himself) who is the co-owner of a TV station and the owner of a Radio station in Lebanon. He was the one to organize the biggest Rock and Metal Festival in Lebanon known as Beirut Rock Festival, and brought bands to Lebanon such as: Anathema, To Die For, Catatonia, Moonspell and others. In 2009 individual efforts were made to bring Lake Of Tears, and the concert was a success. Blaakyum opened for them as well.
But things started deteriorating after 2010, Tantra the main Metal venue at the time, was demolished, Cherry’s Pub has closed down, many pubs such as Nova cut down on accepting Metal bands, but we still have few Metal friendly venues were we throw a gig every now and then such as Yukunkun Music Club, and Quadrangle Pub.
As for the stores, before 1996 Metal was available almost all around the country, but the place where we could find ANY metal new release and old albums was in Disco Rama in the suburbs of Beirut… That changed dramatically as Disco Rama was raided by the security forces and no longer offers Metal music. It has become extremely hard to get Metal albums except for the few very well- known Metal bands, and basically the only place I can think of is Virgin MegaStore, ironically it is not allowed to have the Label Metal, so the Metal albums are all there under the Label, Alternative/Pop-Rock. Mostly we get our music online these days.
We have a few instrument stores that sell good quality instruments, especially when it comes to Guitars and Drums and Amps and everything related to Metal. Those places are named Instruments Garage, and Mozart Chahin. We have few rehearsal studios, but there are no facilities for Metal Musicians in Lebanon, being one is simply choosing to live a hard and unrewarding life. Lately only one such facility exist and it is called LYC (Lebanese Youth Centre), but it is only accessible through subscription and is not open to the public.
I understand Lebanon has a great deal of religions that are officially recognized. I was wondering about the following: the devil is a common theme in traditional metal and the church as something to oppose, how do you guys deal with these themes?
Bassem Deaibess: Blaakyum actually do have Christian members, we all come from Christian backgrounds, although most of us are Atheists but we do have one member who is actually a Christian Believer. Some Lebanese bands tackled the traditional themes of devilry and very, very few were openly oppose the church. In our culture we learned to respect all forms of religions even if we oppose them. Blaakyum music can be described as anti-conformism; many of our song messages invite the listener to be free from dogmatic brainwashing. Personally I am against insulting religion, I find it really a cowardly act. I am anti-religious myself, but there is a difference between criticizing and pointing out the dangers of religion and being outright disrespectful. It is in our view everyone’s right to be religious as much as it is our right to criticize and expose religious bigotry.
What can you tell us about the Massacore incident? Is it exemplary for things you face as a band?
The Massacore incident was this: A live show took place in Lebanon and reporters made it out to be a satanic mass. This was mocked by the metal scene for all the obvious reasons. Then another reporter made things look even worse, claiming it was rituals in an old monastery, drug taking and the presence of kids of public figures etcetera. When Bassem Deaibess called in to the tv-program, it became more evident that it was an attempt to smear the metal scene with all sorts of accusations, which left a taint on the scene for times to come.
Bassem Deaibess: The Massacore incident came as a shock as we thought that the Lebanese society has moved forward and away from such claims. We have been relatively able to organise and play concerts without any such incident since 2009 when the General Secretary of the Catholic Schools issued a paper to the student’s parents warning them of the dangers of Metal and how it is a place for drug abuse and Satanism… That incident did not spread out of control as the organizer of the event is a very powerful public figure and has huge political support. But then in 2012 when the Massacore incident happened, we knew that things have not changed much, we did not face a similar situation as in 2009 after that incident though, but we know for a fact that whenever the Church or the uneducated population have a chance they will bring this subject up. They do it simply because they ignore what the hell is actually going on and they get shocked when they see us moshing, or when they hear someone growl. To be honest, this is nothing like the our “Dark Ages” between 1996 and 2005, that period was by far much more threatening to us as Metal fans, and I am sure that period is over… Or at least I hope so.
You live in the middle of a turbulent region of the world. Do you feel this has become part of your inspiration and your lyrical material?
Bassem Deaibess: Definitely, the situation that we are living in always is an inspiration, what better place to create Metal music than living in such a shit-hole, with political corruption, religious ignorance and war threats all around us. In fact, many of our songs are about such things, like the song ‘Cease Fire’ that talks about the 1996 and 2006 Israeli aggression against Lebanon. The same goes for the newly emerged threat of the so called Islamic State, which is today the biggest threat we face especially as non-Muslims. Thish as brought so much anger to our hearts, and that anger will always translate into Metal Music. The album we are currently trying to record has most of its tracks inspired by the events that followed Massacore concert, it is filled with anger but as well state how the Lebanese Metal Scene revolted against the faulty accusations… We already have some material prepared as well for the third album which in most part is inspired by the anger, fear and resentment we feel because of the threat of the so called “Islamic State” which is more known as IS.
So, what would you really like to tell about Blaakyum, that I didnt ask yet?
Bassem Deaibess: Blaakyum is but one example of the Lebanese Metal Scene perseverance an struggle against discrimination and cultural terrorism, be it religious or political. There are also many bands such as Kimaera, Inner Guilt, Kaoteon, Nocturna, and many more that are also here, and we will remain here. The Lebanese metal bands and fans are authentic, Metal was born in Birmingham from the voices of a neglected youth, that were under the stress of nuclear threat and industrial dehumanization, and Metal in Lebanon just like the majority of the Middle Eastern Metal scene. It is the product of the suffering of youth and generations who have been living for so long under horrible circumstances. In truth we do represent the authentic feelings of the Middle Eastern and Lebanese youth in all its forms and different points of view and when I say ‘we’ I mean the Lebanese Metal Scene and not the band.
As for Blaakyum, we have been around for a long time, and we are not going anywhere. We will remain a thorn in the side of bigotry and ignorance.
Where can people check out your music?
Well we are all over social media, on Facebook, twitter, myspace, Instagram… from there people can check out what is going on with the band, sometimes we release some footage or some music, as well our album is sold at various selling points in Lebanon and few points in Europe, but for anyone who wants to buy our album they can do it online through iTunes, Amazon MP3, 7Digital, Spotify and many online outlets.
So much good music, so little time. Let’s focus on some great underground metal that has been coming out lately. This time I listened to Winterfylleth, Alkerdeel/Nihill, Fogg and Goatwhore.
Winterfylleth – The Divination Of Antiquity
I first came across Winterfylleth in the most unusual way, through a scholarly article on black metal by Caroline Lucas. I have to admit, that I have since also read some work of Miss Lucas, who writes catching and academic pieces. At first I felt reluctant to listen to this band, due to the white supremacist link in the article, which is ofcourse mainly refuting it. After reading the lyrical words about the band in Metal Hammer, I checked out Winterfylleth. They paint the English country in sonic patterns, describing its inherent complexity and beauty.
There’s a touch of grey skies and misty forests in the dense sound of Winterfylleth, which feels a bit like Wolves In The Throne Room. Granted, they sound very little like them, but the same love for their surroundings and the earth they live on is totally there. Listen to a song like ‘Whisper Of The Elements’ or the warm tones of ‘A Careworn Heart’. This is not your ordinary grimdark black metal band. Recently they also released a split with Drudkh, which might tell a bit more about where this band comes from. It’s a love that drives these guys, not hatred and not death, to make beauty. Beauty that unfortunately very little people will ever fully understand.
Alkerdeel/Nihill – Split
The label Hypertension Records is releasing some excellent splits. They are named ‘The Abyss Stares Back series’ and this is prat IV. Combining the nihilistic onslaught of these two bands brings a record that is hard to listen to, but so rewarding in its ferocious katharsis. I mean, listening to this record feels like a journey through the dark pits of your own existence in some way. Facing the grim and dark reality of oneself through intensity and continuous sonic violence.
Alright, more detail to the two sides of this record. Dissonant tones anounce the start of Alkerdeel’s side. Threatening and dense atmospheric guitar sounds create a constant tension. The mad torrent of chaos that slowly envelops you is like the swirling chaos in which Azathoth dances according to Lovecraft. The wicked screams haunting you from all sides, while perpetual riffs seem to accelerate the speed in which you are flying about. Alkerdeel manages to sound both subtle and Celtic Frost-like blunt. The Nihill part contains swirling and intense black metal, so thick that it merges into a continuous swirling stream of sound. The songs surge ever onwards, creating atmospheric patterns woven through the pattern the rhythm spills out. The songs sound static in one moment and spiralling out of control in a wild crescendo on another. I can tell you its worth waiting for that new Nihill album in a few weeks.
With a title that leaves no questions, you’d expect something more intense, but the foggy, fuzzy psych-doom of Fogg is just fine the way it is. The Texans play a dirty bit of music on this new record, with a lot of eerie reverb and wooly sound patterns. They sound a bit like the general generation of hipster garage/psych bands that has been enveloping the world in recent years. The difference is that these guys sound creepy and slightly evil in thier songs.
The sound is a bit oldschool and reminds me as listener a bit of bands like Blue Cheer with the full on aural attack. Think of the primitive punk and metal sounds and that is somewhere in between where Fogg has its sound. Lazy, drugged out riffs swirl around in an attempt to grasp the spirit of the past. This is a perfect record for your friday afternoon, just to chill out and lean back a bit before the weekend finally hits.
Goatwhore – Constricting Rage of the Merciless
The raging sound of Goatwhore is one that combines black metal raw with rock’n’roll power. Think of Venom and pretty much that is the closest you get to what this strange NOLA band sounds like. Yes, the band from New Orleans was part of the recent documentary on Noisey that was aired online. The music is played in a high pace with understandable, but barked vocals. Blistering and grim guitars rage throughout the song.
There’s a particular swag to the sound of Goatwhore, that distinguishes them from others. They might have made the album here that even Darkthrone didn’t feel comfortable releasing. Atmospheric in darkness but always full of speed and energy, full of vile words and satanic praise. Oh, they were also pretty incredible live and such nice guys in person. That is the thing with this band, they are not being some strange act, just some guys playing some nasty metal.
For this edition of my look at new music I will go underground into the World of Warcraft and link to you the five records that made playing WoW most enjoyable. Therefor this post is dedicated to Kostas K.
Marduk – World Funeral
Some albums are good for grinding. The blundering force of the Swedish death metal band has some added razorsharp guitar work that goes well with slaughtering a lot of enemies in WoW. Specially fitting for those who play a melee class I always felt, or a fireballin’ M.A.G.E. The sheer fury might not matche the questing though.
The songs pound ever onwards, unrelenting and full of rage. The harsh, barked vocals add that warlike feeling to the songs. Marduk is one of a kind I always think. They mix the atmospheric elements of black metal with the devastation of death metal in a unique way. Live it was less impressive I have to admit, but this band is definitely one of my WoW soundtrack ones.
Keep Of Kalessin – Kolossus
With ‘Kolossus’, the band from Norway has unleashed a melodic and epic masterpiece on the world. The record came out in 2008 and struck me immediately. Perhaps in some ways it was the gateway record for me to get into black metal in the first place. Particularly the song ‘Ascendant’ is a perennial favorite for me. One of the characteristics of the album is the tight sound. The record sounds well produced and clean, which makes it rather accesible.
The second thing is the enormous amount of catchy riffs that keeps pouring out of the speakers. Layered songstructures give space for a lot of those, creating a semblance of the distorted sound commonly used in black metal. It helps that this band looks like a bunch of Elven warriors. I played this music while questing/levelling a lot. Epic black metal is best metal!
Therion – Gothic Kaballah
Hearing ‘T.O.F. – The Trinity’ the first time opened my mind to a whole unknown side of heavy metal music and to Therion itself. Soon after I downloaded this album and later purchased it. I have listened to this music so endlesly that I pretty much knew every song by heart. I’ve seen Therion live since then 3 times, unfortunately two of those were after the release of ‘Sithra Ahra’ and one after ‘Les Fleurs Du Mal’ (a record I can not love…sorry).
If this band had not been recommended to me, I would never have found them. I’m pretty sure I would not have gotten heavily into Celtic Frost either then and maybe a lot of stuff would not have happened then. The songs are full of occult references, mysterious topics and confusing wordings. My favorite, I guess, has become ‘The Perennial Sofia’. No band really sounds like Therion and Gothic Kabballah is the most unique work they produced.
This record is one of the few that really are essential to my record collection. Without Therion, I would have missed out on so much beauty. I know some people find it easy to hate on them now, but to me they’ll always be a bright light in the scene.
Bolt Thrower – Those Once Loyal
I guess the whole idea of recommending this record had a lot to do with our guild name. Titled ‘The Angels Of Death’, there was an obvious link to the universe of Warhammer 40k and thus to Bolt Thrower. Their specific brand of death metal has never ceased to amaze me up to a few weeks ago when I saw them live. They’ve only affirmed their greatness to me. Though my favorite song is ‘World Eater’ from one of their first albums, the record I started listening to was ‘Those Once Loyal’. For some reason the order of songs was messed up in my mp3 list, so first was always ‘Anti-Tank (Dead Armor).
The sound is rather clean, compared to their original work, and embraces a continuous, pounding sound that gives you the feeling that a tank is about to over run you. Powerful rhythms and churning bass sounds pave the way for the onslaught that is Bolt Thrower. Particularly suited for the heavy grinding work (with a higher level char).
Ensiferum – Victory Songs
Maybe the most WoW band out there, since their folk elements really have nothing to do with any folk music. A bunch of guys in kilts playing a blend of melodic death and power metal about wielding swords, drinking magic potions and sailing out to fight. We even had a tank called Ensiferum in the guild so that adds to the whole things. The epic songs with a big fun factor and not too much complicated elelements were great for a night of questing on your own and enjoying guild chat.
We also had a tank named Fluff, but that’s a whole different story… With this fun band I’ve come to the end of my WoW album list. When I started playing, I listened to a lot of shitty stuff during the levelling. I’m still levelling characters in WoW. Currently a Dwarf Shaman and a Night Elf Death Knight. Soon Warlords of Draenor will be out and I’ll level onwards alone.
But with these great tunes, perhaps more will join the cause.
In this little segment I review sounds of the underground, music you might not find unless you really go dig for it. From Nerdcore hiphop to depressive black metal, I love music. So check it out and maybe check the albums I checked out for you.
The Wolves of Avalon – Carrion Crows Over Camlan
So why pick their 2011 album over the 2014 release ‘Boudica’s Last Stand’? Well, I simply couldn’t get my hands on it. I’m sure this band of Britons had worries about becoming a laughing stock in the whole pagan genre. There’s a lot of things ‘off’ on this record, things that just don’t fit in with the regular sound of pagan black metal bands (under what banner they are apparently labelled). Firstly, the band is making more folk and epic orchestrated music than black metal. Secondly, vocalist Metatron (what???) has a bark that is more a raspy death grunt, like Skyforgers’ Peteris Kvetkovskis. It’s a bit not there.
Still the total package makes the band sound epic and daring. The vocals fit in with the different, folky sound. True, the bombastic sound is inevetably cheesy. The roaring orchestral sound reminds me of the records where Finntroll liked to use that as an intro (not as something to liven up their music). Metal is the one genre however, where cheesy is not a problem. These guys seem genuine, not a bunch of Paganfest wannabees. That makes their cheesy alright and interesting.
PS: There’s a hint of national prideand historical inaccuracy, so steer clear if these things make you edgy.
Ides of Gemini – Old World New Wave
I don’t know how to call the style of music that this the product of this LA trio. What tripped my sensors is participation of music journalist Jason Bennett in this and. It always is intriguing when elements meet and as a music journalist myself (I AM OPEN FOR YOUR PAYED JOBS! CALL ME!) I know how different my look at music is, compared to the one musicians themselves have. The sound is clearly occult, metal infused but also gently rubbing itself agains the cold wave bands of the 80’s, think Siouxi & The Banshees, Dead Can Dance and The Cure?
The slow pace and captivating vocals by Sera Timms are the red line throughout the hazy sounds of Ides of Gemini. Long flowing riffs and dreamy sounds. This is an intriguing record, but it might bore the metal fan who likes some sharper edges to his music a bit. The dreamy sounds for me do start being a bit difficult to stay focussed on after five or six songs. It has a certain static feeling to it, without much energetic moments. There is plenty of stuff happening in their music though, like the steady riffing with the wild drums on ‘May 22, 1453’ or the majestic opening of ‘The Adversary’. Oh, the song is not from the album but represents them well.
T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society – A New History
Seldom I have been so touched by music I picked up on Bandcamp, just because it has one of my favorite writers/thinkers in its name. The T.S. Eliot Appreciation Society is a one man singer-songwriter formation as it’s called. Organic, not entirely in tune, a bit too loud and a rough mix, together these elements make up for what is a warm and pleasant record with a melancholic feeling. It feels like the road, the traveller weary of walking and the heart tired of hurt.
Songs like ‘The Wicked Messenger’ and ‘Heydrich’ are my absolute favorites. I’ve been listening to the preceding EP’s ever since I first heard the music of Tom Gerritsen. Live they were delivered with the same passion that is tangible on the record. There’s a love and sincerity to the music that you can not fake or buy. I would really recommend this record to anyone who loves the guitar playing wanderer and authentic sounds.
Solstafir – Ótta
Sometimes it just takes a little more time for me to grasp the beauty of music that I hear. Solstafir is definitely one of those cases. I saw the band live a couple of years ago at Fortarock, which was a dreadful show. Every subtle element was blown away by the wind, the atmosphere was missing and the band never really connected with the audience. Their music on Ótta is made for autumn, to be listened to in a dark room, with the right lights and intimate atmosphere. Solstafir is a club band, not a outdoor fest group.
The music is not even that fierce and metal-like. There’s a subtlety ot it, a bit of mystery even. It’s as if the band sings about their land and has translated its unique qualities into song. Dreamy, organic and somtimes a little folky even, it’s as if the band has blended pagan metal with shoegaze or postrock, replaced the vocals and created a whole different beast. The more I listen to Ótta, the more lovely I find it. The Icelandic vocals I do not understand, but it is as if you feel them. The piano, the eerie sounds and misty clouds of sound, with Solstafir you enter a different world entirely and it is brilliant.
In this little segment I review sounds of the underground, music you might not find unless you really go dig for it. From Nerdcore hiphop to depressive black metal, I love music. So check it out and maybe check the albums I checked out for you.
HOD – Book of the Worm
Violent, intense riffs open up the new album by black death band HOD on ‘When The Ghouls Feed’. The daring sound of the Texas is definitely not for the feeble listeners and gnaws away at your eardrums. Unrelenting the band slashes and burns through their songs like ‘I Am Destroyer’ and ‘Death Whores’. Musically this is the black coffee I need around 11.30 in the morning when the lunch break begins to sound very attractive and motivation is low.
There’s a specific raucous and energetic feeling to the combination of Death and black metal that comes close to a clean sounding grindcore record, without the attempt to mask bad instrumental prowess by layers and layers of distortion. Not that these guys need that, they sound tight as a chokehold on ‘Beneath the Mountains Of The Scorpion’. What their whole message is eludes me, the titles seem to be pissed off and angry, but also a bit weird. No matter, the record is awesome.
Home is Gone – Triptych
Nothing like some bleak, minimalist black metal to shake up your day. I’ve enjoyed my listening experiment around 11.30, so I continue by checking out Home Is Gone from New York. The cover alone is amazingly minimalist. Like the three panel painting the title refers to, it has 3 songs of uncompromising metal. Windy distortion and almost blown away screams make up an almost comforting melody. That is however hidden in the mist.
The end result feels very minimal, very little is actually happening apart from the careful weaving of a tapestry of sonic force, that makes up something totally different. I feel it’s as those huge parades where everyone holds up a coloured square to form an image. That’s how the seperate sonic endeavours compile the warm sound that is the end result of this beautiful, but brief record.
MC Frontalot – Question Bedtime
What? No Metal? Yes, it’s time for some nerdcore hiphop with the new release from my favorite MC. Rocking some highly intelligent lyrics, complex rhymes and corky homebrew beats, MC Frontalot has invented the genre and put himself at the forefront of it for years. So we have a quirky list of songs that critisize a lot of things, like disagreeing with your bedtime as an expression of the democratic concept of disagreeing with authority and justice. It’s funny, but there’s always a validity, relating to the real world.
There’s a bit more soul to this record, compared to previous straight up flows it seems. Frontalot always focusses on great rhymes and very, very catchy chorusses. I mean, they are sometimes so wrong that they’re awesome. Some skits are in between, to raise the fun level even further. MC Frontalot makes a lot of fun about himself too. So why would you check out this CD? Well, I love hiphop, I’ve said so before and written about it. I do however, not have a gun or deal drugs, nor do I have a lot of bitches hanging around. I do play WoW, love Star Trek, enjoy watching hockey, reading books and feeling Irish in the Irish pub. Most importantly, I’m a full on geek who reads science for fun. So I love hiphop that speaks to that. This is just the latest album, where the Front reaches a whole new level of weird.
The Scintilla Project – The Hybrid I’ve always had a weakness for Saxon and their vocalist Biff Byford. His epic style was always quite an attraction to me. The band he started on the side, inspired by a sci-fi flick titled Scintilla, was interesting to me for that reason. However, it is not really something I’ll advise you to check out. It really was not a good idea.
The old voice of Biff gives everything an epic edge, but the cheesy piano’s and extra singers just make this a drowsy Disney soundtrack with very little balls and power. Let me put it to understandable words. Why did no one like the albums Maiden did with Blaze? Well, this is it. The overproduced sound makes the riffs into ready made candy bars of artificially flavoured goods. Nothing good comes of this record, trust me.
If you don’t like metal, then probably this is your album though. I’m sorry, perhaps for those who really dig the most mellow songs of Therion?
I listen to music, so you don’t have to. You can decide if you want to check out what I’ve been checking out by reading what I thought about these sounds. All taken from the underground, these are the sounds for this edition. I will write a new intro text next time.
Saor – Aura
Scotland offers us some great music now and then. It normally does require you to accept the peculiar accent and rugged elements in it. On the front of black metal, I didn’t hear much about the North. If the first connection you make to their black metal sound is Saor, you’re in for a good one, like your first fried candybar. The music feels like the landscape of Scotland, with the subtle folk melodische woven into the fabric of the land as well. Powerful and subtle at the same time, the music offers a timeless journey.
The band describes their music as Celtic metal, which I think does justice to its organic, natural sound. The songs feel like a storybook, the album is like a unity. Focus seems to be a ful immersing in the atmosphere Saor has in mind for their listeners, which works out great in my humble opinion. The departure from the sound they embraced under their previous moniker Àrsaidh seems to have been left behind partly, continuing the whole postrock vibe, but making things more intense and rougher. I’m totally impressed by this, by the way One Man, project. It will blow you away. Andy Marshall, also known from Falloch, did a great job.
Jungle Rot – Terror Regime
So today I learned that the band who’s name I’ve seen around a lot of times is a death metal band. I also learned that Jungle Rot is a nasty disease that yields a lot of gruesome imagery, which I’ve never been too crazy about. Sorry, I’m not into gore and I really can’t help it. This band is frigging brilliant though.
Though called a death metal band, there’s something different going on here. It’s been called death rock in some spots and I guess some comparisons to that rock’n’rolling style of Entombed cannot be discarded. There’s a fun factor to their sound, the band also happens to have been around forever (well since 1994). The clean producation makes this a perfect album to drum along to, slap your air-guitar like it’s ‘yo bitch’ and just bang your head to. It just sounds tight and in my opinion very accesible. I wrote before that I’m reluctant to listen to death metal and I haven’t really found my hook on the style yet. This band is not on Victory Records without reason. Their sound is almost poppy to me, like many of the hip metalcore/deathcore stuff, but simply more real and pure. Enjoyable record taht I would recommend to most metal fans who also need to find a gateway record for DM.
Tryptikon – Melana Chasmata
I love Celtic Frost. I don’t know if it was the amazing titles of their albums (not the stage names, Tom G. Warrior still sounds like it was made for gay porn), or their distinctly oldschool sound with touches of genius distinctive experiment or perhaps just their aura of grandeur. I didn’t like Tryptikon much at first though, but it grows on you and so does Melana Chasmata. I’d love to somehow bash the establishment a little, which is perfectly possible with this record since it somehow doesn’t pack the punch it was intended to have. That doesn’t make it less awesome.
Let’s call it a doom record, translating sludge to the Swiss bands flavour with the old gothic demeanor. Tryptikon never sounds dirty like a damp, grim black metal band. Nor does it feel like the abandoned graveyard where doom bands lurk. It dwells in castles and cathedrals, in grandeur and might with a touch of despair and decay. There is a nobility to the sound of this band that has a lot to to with its frontman. I think that Fischer doesn’t want to shock, but just show the stories he wishes to tell to the fulles. Leaving nothing out, holding nothing back. That is the raw core of the record that delivers its powerful message. So yeah, everything stays a bit mid-pace. Heavy metal is not reshaped, but there’s refinement here.
Summoning – Old Mornings Dawn
I’ve enjoyed listening to Summoning for years, but it has always been on and off. I was amazed to discover bands playing music inspired by Tolkien and making it seem dangerous, exciting and totally new. I reckon I wasn’t ready for the atmospheric black metal at first from these Austrians. Now perhaps I am, but maybe their 2013 album just leaves behind a lot of the danger. It almost seems like a soundtrack when listening to it. Less raw, more atmosphere and synthesizers.
The songs are filled up with the mysterie from Tolkiens ‘Silmarillion’, inspired by the daring of the Mariner Earendil who sailed into the unknown. Some moments its foreboding, others gnashing and grim but always captivating and beautiful. I guess it might sound pretentious to those who are a bit purist about their black metal, but as far as I’m concerned, this album is a masterpiece that combines the best of ambient, atmosphere and black into one mesmerizing whole.
That was all for this time, lets see what else we can pick from the underground next time.
I listen to music, so you don’t have to. You can decide if you want to check out what I’ve been checking out by reading what I thought about these sounds. I’m usually pretty honest. I do tend to listen to what I like though.
Mondvolland – D’Olde Roop
When metal becomes too folky, it becomes Paganfest material and that is something to avoid. I never felt a band like Heidevolk should fit in at Paganfest, though their sound was accesible. There’s something authentic and sincere about bands like that, which distinguishes them from the Alestorms and Ensiferums of this world (even Finntroll lost the plot with their weird steampunk gimmick). Mondvolland does everything right, occultish, melodic folk elements combined with atmospheric and dark black metal. It’s truly an experience.
So yes, this is not their latest album, but its the one I got to listen to so deal with it. Mondvolland hails from the Arnhem region and apparently started out as a folk band. Their sound is a bit out there, blending black, avantgarde and some post elements in what seems to be a potent cocktail. Ofcourse, you can hear something silly if you want to with the clean vocals that sing of a legendary past. It would be a shame, because you mock the brilliance of music that feels both new as well as authentic and rooted in the culture its born in.
Master’s Hammer – Vagus Vetus
Czech black metallers Master’s Hammer have been around forever, they were already mocking up demo’s back when Euronymous was alive and that means a lot in BM-history. Their album ‘Jilemnický Okultista’ was a fundamental album for the development of the genre, as well as their record ‘Ritual’ being dubbed the first Norwegian Black Metal album by Fenriz (though made in Czechoslovakia).
This is what Master’s Hammer has to say about the record: “An imaginary old wanderer (vagus vetus) journeys through an unfamiliar labyrinth and there’s nothing good waiting for him. Disgusted with progress and modernity of all kinds, he enjoys listening to aeolian harps and sounds of postmortal flatulence. He finds his consolation in hedonic experiences of natural origin. ” I just leave out the bit where they say extreme metal is hopeless, because if that was their opinion really, they should go play aeolian harps instead.
I have a love for brooding black metal full of atmosphere and folk references. I also have a love for bands from Eastern Europe, like Skyforger, Arkona or Metsatöll for putting something unique in their music. Something undefinable that is rooted in the land the music is made in, it’s that one factor that makes the music this little bit different and more amazing. This goes for Master’s Hammer, who have formed their sound in an age of hiding and secrecy and now never sounded quite like anyone else. Great record.
Forgotten Tomb – …And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil
I literally just decided to look for a random BM band and stumbled upon Forgotten Tomb. Their sound is utterly depressing, bleak and devoid of hope. What is interesting is that this band seems to have taken an approach to their music, which heavily relies on rock music and not just the black metal roots. There’s something accesible to the sound of these Italians, that can be rarely found in BM these days. The first song ‘Deprived’ already displays that under layers of icy guitar waves.
Apart from that the music is depressing, dealing with things the light does not bear to be witness to. Not everyone may enjoy the clean feeling of this band and comparisons with The Shining are way to easy to make. I think it is beautifull in it’s ‘everything dies’ way and would definitely recommend this record.
The Hell – Groovehammer
I have not been as excited about a hardcore record for a long time. I guess since Ignite released ‘Darkest Days’. Oh, wait there was H2O with ‘Nothing To Prove’. The point is that it has taken quite some time for an awesome record to come out. The twelve headed English group is in their own way absurdist, violent and out there. They might go over the top on virtually every song this record offers, but that ballzy brawn gives them a lot of charm.
“You have to bring a swarm of killer bees, a sea of white sharks!” roars one of their vocalists on opening track ‘Take Me Out’. The lyrics are just awesome, add to that the full groove of heavy, hard hitting hardcore music. The band likes to keep up an air of mystery on their identity, which is a bit over the top again. It’s cool though, I i’m fairly sure the purists won’t like this band, because they might not be that real to you. That’s bullshit ofcourse, unless you say the same about Madball, Hoods, One Life Crew or Pitboss 2000. Dig in and enjoy The Hell!