ISSUE #2 - november 2012
Dysrhythmia|Downfall Of Gaia|Indesinence|Weapon | PORTA NIGRA
neurosis The Elder Statesmen Of Post Metal
+ isis yakuza war from the harlots mouth eryn non dae planks Kuolemanlaakso monolithe lento
shining Redefining Darkness
Editorial... ISSUE #2 november 2012
12 shining F E AT U R E S : 04. isis 06. yakuza 08. war from the harlots mouth 10. downfall of gaia 12. shining 14. eryn non dae 16. planks 18. Kuolemanlaakso 20. weapon 22. Dysrhythmia 24. neurosis 26. porta nigra 28. lento 30. Indesinence 32. monolithe 34. REVIEWS 52. guest column: JENS F. RYLAND 53. GUEST COLUMN: CRAIG HAYES CREW... Editor: raymond westland [email@example.com] senior editors: chris wright, pete ringmaster, david alexandre copy editors: pete ringmaster, noel oxford, John lasala Contributors: Chris Tippell, Chris Ward, Ian Girle, Dewie, MetalMatt Longo, Matthew Tilt, John Toolan, Tom Saunders, Brayden Bagnall, Dane Prokofiev, Chantelle Marie, Sean Palfrey, Jonathan Keane, Matt Hinch, Matt Spall, Curtis Dewar, Christine Hager, Jodi Mullen, Gilbert Potts, James Conway, Cheryl Carter design: david alexandre INFO... (W) www.ghostcultmag.com General Enquiries: (@) firstname.lastname@example.org Submissions: (@) email@example.com
Wow, what can I say? The first Ghost Cult edition struck quite a nerve with over 17k worth of views. I knew we had something special on our hands, but I didn’t expect it to go over so well. Therefore on behalf of the GC crew I would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported us in any shape or form. This means a lot to us and it strengthens our resolve to stay on top of our game. This brings me to the GC November issue. There some new members on the team, so I would officially like to welcome Jonathan Keane, Matthew Tilt, Sean Palfrey, MetalMatt Longo, Megan Halpin, Kyle Harcott and Dane Prokofiev. A couple of their writings already made it into this issue and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot from them in the near future. This month’s edition is stuck to the brim with reviews and interviews, including revealing stories on Shining, Neurosis, Isis, Porta Nigra, Kuolemanlaakso, Monolithe, Eryn Non Dae, Weapon, Indesinence and Dysrhythmia. Borknagar’s Jens F. Ryland shares his vision on the business side of metal and Craig Hayes sharpens the blades on conceited metal fans. This concludes my little speech here, so enjoy reading Ghost Cult and spread the word! Raymond Westland Chief editor
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the records that changed my life
nov ember to p 5 Raymond Westland 1. Kuolemanlaakso - Uljas Uusi Maailma 2. Yakuza - Beyul 3. Car Bomb - WWWW 4. Deftones - Koi No Yokan 5. Isis - Temporal Tom Saunders 1. Between The Buried And Me - The Parallax II 2. Pig Destroyer - Book Burner 3. Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas 4. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind 5. Enslaved - Riitiir Jonathan Keane 1. Neurosis - Honour Found In Decay 2. Dragged Into Sun Light - Widowmaker 3. Indesinence - Vessels Of Light And Decay 4. Devil Sold His Soul - Empire Of Light 5. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind
Kuolemanlaakso | Laakso (Guitars & Keys) 1. KISS: Dressed to Kill (1975) This is one of the earliest albums I remember buying. KISS was larger than life to me when I was about 6-10. The looks, the music, the over-the-top poses and videos. It was all good.
2. Iron Maiden: Live After Death (1985) The best live album ever - same goes for the video. When I heard it, I became obsessed with the band. I bought all their records, and studied the lyrics. Man, oh, man. I owe a lot to these guys in a number of levels. Theatricality being perhaps one of them.
3. The Misfits: Earth A.D./Wolfsblood (1983). Sean Palfrey 1. Hexvessel - No Holier Temple 2. My Dying Bride - A Map Of All Our Failures 3. Cold In Berlin - As Yet 4. Down IV: The Purple EP 5. Swallow The Sun - The Emerald Forest And The ... Brayden Bagnall 1. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind 2. Between The Buried - The Parallax II 3. Gaza - No Absolutes In Human Suffering 4. Trash Talk - 119 5. Column Of Heaven - Mission From God
Glenn Danzig. There are non higher. The Misfits took the "horror business" to another level, and most definitely scarred me for life. I was very much into punk as a teenager, and loved bands like The Ramones, Bad Religion (Against Â the Grain is masterpiece!) and Sex Pistols, but you've gotta go with Glenn. Danzig's Lucifuge (1990) is also one of the best albums of all times.
4. Slayer: Seasons in the Abyss (1990) This album got me into extreme metal. After that came Sepultura, Amorphis, Carcass and a shitload of others. It is still my favorite Slayer album.
Matt Hinch 1. Bison b.c. - Lovelessness 2. D.I.S. - Becoming Wrath 3. Hooded Menace - Effigies of Evil 4. Pig Destroyer - Book Burner 5. Weapon - Embers and Revelations 5. Triptykon: Eparistera Daimones (2010) Matthew Tilt 1. Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind 2. Titel Fight - Floral Green 3. Sauna Youth - Dreamlands 4. Germ - Loss 5. Death Grips - No Love Deep Web
I couldn't leave this one out, because if there weren't for this album, Kuolemanlaakso would not exist. Period.
But, for the record, my top two bands are The Doors and (Ozzy era) Black Sabbath.
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Almost four years ago, influential postcore/metal outfit Isis broke up. Jodi Mullen caught up with drummer Aaron Harris to discuss everything surrounding Temporal, the upcoming Isis rarities album. They also discussed the band’s musical legacy, post-Isis activities, and the upcoming project with Deftones singer Chino Moreno.
Re fle cti ng On Da ys Go ne By WORDS: Jodi Mullen
How did the release of Temporal come about? Is it something that you already had in mind when you decided that Isis was finished? Yes. We had discussed releasing a collection of b-sides, demos, and unreleased material before Isis had disbanded. We have so much stuff from over the years that we felt would be interesting for fans to hear. We also have a video for a song from Wavering Radiant called 'Pliable Foe' that we wanted to release. We came up with a pretty great collection of material for Temporal.
How did you go about selecting the material that's included on Temporal? We made a Dropbox folder and everyone shared the material that they thought would be appropriate. We picked through it all and made some decisions about what was worth including and what was not. It took some time to do, but we eventually got it done. Is there much more unreleased Isis material still in the archives? Are we likely to hear more of it in the future?
There's lots of stuff, but it's a matter of figuring out what's worth releasing and what is not. We have some great multi-camera live shows accompanied by multitrack recordings that we may eventually release, but one thing at a time. It's interesting listening to the demo versions of songs that were released on full albums. What's the motivation for you guys to put your ideas—your unfinished songs—out there for everyone to hear? There's something special about hearing the early versions of songs. You can hear how the evolution from the demo to the final result came about.
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In the demos we included on Temporal, there's alternate sections of the songs that are completely different from the album versions. We thought fans might enjoy hearing that stuff. Some of the tracks on Temporal are really quite special; 'Grey Divide' for one. Why were these not released on studio albums or splits when the band was active? 'Grey Divide' kinda got lost in the shuffle. That was a track we were working on at the same time that a friend needed to do some recording for his school. He was studying to be a recording engineer and offered to record us for free. In return, he would fulfil some recording time he owed the school as part of his program. Technically, 'Grey Divide' was never finished, as we had meant to add some vocals. It just sat unfinished for years until I came across a demo version I had on a disk from one of our rehearsals and was reminded of the song. I tracked down the session, and I mixed what was there. What you hear is what we had recorded that day back at that time. It was fun to hear that song again. I think we all had somehow forgotten about it completely.
It has now been three and a half years since Isis released their final studio . album, Wavering Radiant. Do you feel any differently now about the band than you did back then? I can listen to the songs differently now and appreciate them more, now that we're not playing them on a weekly basis. It's hard to describe, but the songs feel fresh to my ears now versus before when they were more routine. Do you think of Isis as having left a musical legacy? Is so, what do you think it is? I like to think so. We seem to have influenced people, and that's more than we could have ever hoped for, so that, to me, is something to be proud of. I live in Scotland, where the sadly defunctâ€”but definitely not forgottenâ€” Aereogramme, who you did a split album EP with about 6 years ago, originate from. What effect do you feel these kind of collaborations had on the development of Isis over the years?
We loved Aereogramme. The In The Fish Tank session we did together was one of our favourite times. Collaborating together for those couple of days in the studio was really great. The result was more than we had hoped for, having almost zero in preparation when we entered the studio. How have you been keeping busy in the years since Isis parted ways? I have been focusing on my career as recording engineer/mixer. I've been lucky to have worked with some great bands post Isis. Also some live sound mixing and drum-teching for Deftones and Tool. What's next for the former members of Isis? I have a new band called Palms with Jeff and Cliff from Isis, and Chino Moreno on vocals. Our debut record will be out early 2013 on Ipecac records. Aaron Turner has a band with his wife called Mamiffer that he's focusing on, and Mike Gallagher has been writing for his solo project, MGR, and is also a carpenter. www.isistheband.blogspot.com
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ya k u z a
B l u e s F r o m T h e W in d y Some time ago Christine Hager caught up with Yakuza main man Bruce Lamont. They talked about the latest Yakuza album, entitled Beyul, working with producer Sandford Parker, the Chicago music scene and Bruce’s non-music activities. As a songwriter, do you draw from separate influences for each individual project of yours? No. The reason I involve myself in as many projects as I am in, is to draw inspiration from the experiences with others I work with, and then use what I gained from those experiences when working on something else. What goes around comes around creatively so to speak. ‘Oil And Water,’ off your new album Beyul reads as a bit occult inspired which leaves me to wonder, what is your take on our current dependence on oil and how it’s come to be such a crutch and control mechanism across nations?
C it y
Well our dependence on oil is not anything new it’s been the case for at least a half a century. How do I feel about it? I envision a world with out being dependent on exhaustible fuels for an energy source. Maybe not in my lifetime but I think that day will come. The technology does exist to make such a thing happen. ‘The Last Day’ starts out almost like a Thrash track although it morphs into something way more complex and brilliant. Are there any Thrash bands you would cite as influential to you or was this just a fluke of exploring different sounds? I was into thrash back when thrash and speed metal were happening; Exodus has always one of my favorites. But I don't hear the thrash in that part of the song.
performance a unique experience? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Certain songs we are able to branch out a bit. For example sometimes we will play an improvised piece in the set. And then sometimes we do an entire set of improvised music which then led to a new project we call Kabuki Mono, which is the Yakuza alter ego project. We just opened for St Vitus a few weeks back and it was a great experience. Having been together since 1999 with 6 albums under your belt, why do you always opt for Sanford Parker as producer?
Who does harmonizing vocals on that track ("The Last Day") with you?
Working with Sanford for Yakuza is a no brainier. He knows what we are trying to get at and he has our intentions first and for most. Beyond that for me, working together it’s like we are of the same mind creatively, and we know each other personally so well since he one of my closet friends.
Tim Remis from Sweet Cobra and Angela Mullenhour from the Chicago band Sybris.
Have you had bad experiences with other producers?
During your live sets, as an experimental act, do you generally stick to the structure of your songs as they were constructed for on the album or are each
No, not really. Matt Bayles did Yakuza's “Samsara” in 2005 and it was a great experience, no matter what other things you might have heard others say working with Matt Bayles.
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“I envision a world with out being dependent on exhaustible fuels for an energy source. Maybe not in my lifetime but I think that day will come.”
want to work but need it. I love Chicago and I love the community here. It’s a high priority for me.
I have done a number of sessions with different engineers and I can't think of one that sticks out that was hard to work and deal with. Being partnered with Profound Lore Records, are there any bands on the label that you feel a connection to as musicians? If so, in which way? Yeah of course I have worked with half of them in some way or another. I just cut some saxophone for the new Man’s Gin record, I have worked with Colin and Kevin from Dysrhyhmia and Krallice, and I'm part of this project called Wrekmiester Harmonies with Jef Whitehead from Leviathan coming out next year. I’ve love the Dark Castle folks, played with The Atlas Moth live a few times and love the Yob, Wolvehammer, Agalloch, Dawnbringer guys as well. What are you like when you’re not playing music, or is there even time for an alternate extension of yourself with all the projects you have on the go?
For a music lover in Chicago, what gems have you discovered that people should totally check out? Whats always on my mind is how I can contribute and play a roll in the community around me. For instance I am a bar manager at The Empty Bottle in Chicago. But The Bottle is no mere bar or nightclub; we like to think of it as a community center with booze. The Bottle is a place not only where you can see kick ass shows from genres all across the map but we have food truck events, farmers markets, gear swaps, etc. This is the perfect way to bring folks together get things done for each other. iIam also very involved with staffing a number of the festivals we have in Chicago and I am investing more time and effort into doing more of that because I know a good amount of hard working good people who not only
I have always had a love affair with the Chicago jazz and improvisational community. You can see some of the greatest minds come together and play not only from the heart but just beautiful stuff. Here is the top secret gem: Percussionist Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake play sunrise performances during the three days of the winter solstice. I think this year will be the 22nd in a row. They start around 6am in a room lit with candles and there is a window that faces the east as the sun rises it fills the room with light. They start by playing mostly hand percussion instruments finally moving onto kits and building in intensity the whole time. I'm telling you, you will never in your life experience something like this. www.yakuzadojo.com
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War From A Harlots Mouth
German mathcore outfit War From A Harlots Mouth really managed to blow me away with their latest album, entitled Voyeur. Guitarist Simon Hawemann was more than happy to share his insights on the new WFAHM album, the writing and recording process, musical influence and the greater Berlin music scene. Words: Raymond Westland
Through The Eyes Of A VoyeUr Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. Your latest album, “Voyeur”, is quite a stunning effort. Are you happy the way it turned out? We're very happy with how it came out. We tried to put the approach of our last album MMX to the next level, as in writing actual and less chaotic songs for VOYEUR. I feel like we were able to do that. Another thing that is most important to us is the vibe of our music. Technical music can be so boring when it's done in a sterile way. A lot of Tech Death Metal suffers from that, for example. It's stunning musically, but it has no soul. We're trying to avoid that and our songwriting has changed from a more hectic and fiddling guitar work to a more layered, discordant approach. WFAHM comes across as a band with a message. What would be the message behind “Voyeur”? Well, it's a message of discomfort and anxiety - the fear of being stalked or spied on, to be precise. The thing about the title of the record is, that it gives you a very vague idea of a person that is hiding in the shades, but he or she is there, watching every move you
make. You never know for sure, but it's that constant paranoid feeling that just won't go away. VOYEUR takes a look at all this from the victim's and offender's side, because both sides are really interesting. I'm generally fascinated by the darker sides of human psychology, so that is where I drive my inspiration from when writing lyrics and music. In my review I called “Voyeur” the missing link between Meshuggah, Converge, The Red Chord and The Dillinger Escape Plan. What do you think of this? I can dig it! Really, I appreciate and respect all these bands, so I'm down with those comparisons. Some other bands we're influenced by would be Gojira, Deathspell Omega, Celtic Frost or Ion Dissonance on the Metal side of things. You will find a few footprints of all of those influences on VOYEUR. Contemporary Classic would be another thing that has influenced me a lot lately. You can learn a lot about layering and especially atonality in Contemporary Classic, which I'm a sucker for. Even better we even got to work with an actual composer for some pieces this time around. John Strieder did an outstanding job with his work on our record, so it's great to bring those two worlds together in such a cohesive way.
Can you describe the writing and recording process for “Voyeur”? What were you guys aiming for? The writing and recording process was quite different to our last albums this time around. I have written and produced the majority in my Moulder Masters home studio, which was a new, exciting and exhausting experience, haha. Our drummer Paul was stopping by to chime in quite often and he always took the rough drum outlines of my pre-productions to the next – well, his – level, but we haven't spent a single moment in the rehearsal room for the writing process of VOYEUR. Finally, we recorded the drums and vocals at Dailyhero Recordings, where we recorded all of our previous albums. We used the guitar and bass tracks I recorded at my studio, but re-amped the bass tracks at Dailyhero Recordings. They did the mixing, and I did the mastering myself. So there really was a lot of good old DIY-work involved in VOYEUR and that makes me proud. The jazzy lounge parts from the previous two albums seem to be a thing of the past. How come?
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Well, during the writing process I felt like those wouldn't really work with our newer material anymore. I kinda felt that way with MMX already, but the Jazzy part in 'To Age and Obsolete' was a great fit, for example. It's fun to be experimental as a musician and I think that this was the main reason behind those loungy elements on our previous records, but I feel like it took away from the vibe of our music, rather than adding to it in a lot of cases. Sometimes it even sounded ironic, although that wasn't the idea behind it at all. I guess you could say that VOYEUR is much more focused and part of that focus has been achieved through reduction of some elements and addition of others. Berlin seems to be a hotbed for all sorts of experimental rock and metal bands. How would you like to describe the local scene there? I guess you're talking about The Ocean, because they are definitely an institution when it comes to heavy and experimental music. I could hardly think of anything else, though. We used to have a very vivid Hardcore scene for a few years, with bands like Final Prayer, who are the last Berlin Hardcore stronghold in my opinion. There also is a big Metal scene, but it seems less organized to me and it's rare that Berlin is coming up with Metal that is actually outstanding. One exception that would have to be mentioned here would be Golem.
Their last album Dreamweaver came out in 2004 and they are so criminally overlooked and underrated. I really hope they will come up with something new soon. On the band’s Facebook page there is a passage which states “this is a band, not a bunch of rock stars”. Care to explain? Ah, that one is super old. It used to be our info on Myspace, back in 2005 or 2006. I have no clue why it's still up, hahaha. I guess I'll change it asap. ;) Your previous albums were released on Lifeforce Records, but “Voyeur” is released on Season Of Mist. What caused this transfer and how does it benefits the band? Well, the contract with Lifeforce Record was running out and we felt like it was time for a change. We have changed as a band and the scene we used to be a part of has changed into a very different direction. Season Of Mist is a label for all sorts of extreme Metal and they are putting out high quality stuff. Their roster has a lot of bands we're fans of, like Deathspell Omega, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Cynic or Sólstafir. We couldn't ask for more than a label roster that fits our music and with bands, we're fans of.
In large parts of Europe metal and other forms of heavy music is usually just seen as “noise” and not as a legitimate art form. How does this work in Germany? I always felt like Europe and Germany was known and well respected for a huge Metal scene all across the globe. Of course, the average mainstream Joe would think of it as noise, but really... popular and radio music is hardly bearable to me, and I'd consider myself very open minded when it comes to all sorts of different genres. I mean, there is good Pop – or at least – good, accessible music out there, but if it's really good, it rarely gets big, because the mainstream likes its media to be easy to digest, or stupid, if you like. People seem to like dumb shit. They don't want to think when they consume. The outcome is noise to my ears and eyes. ;) Time for the final question. What is next in terms of touring and other projects? We are gonna play the Euroblast Festival in Cologne as a headliner on Friday as an official record release show for VOYEUR on Oct 19th. We are gonna play a couple more release shows with Bitterness Exhumed and Uneven Structure in Nov/Dec and tour more extensively in early 2013. Keep an eye on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/wfahm to stay in the loop and see you on the road! wfahm.com
“there is good Pop – or at least – good, accessible music out there, but if it's really good, it rarely gets big, because the mainstream likes its media to be easy to digest, or stupid, if you like.” GHOST CULT MAGAZINE | 9
downfall of gaia
Caught In A Swarm German post metal outfit Downfall Of Gaia caught my attention with their most recent album, entitled Suffocating In The Swarms Of Cranes. Guitarist/vocalist Dominik was more than happy to answer my questions about the band’s origins, the concept behind the new album, the recording process and the German post metal scene… Words: Raymond Westland
Thank you for doing this interview. Suffocating In The Swarms Of Cranes is a very solid post metal/doom/black metal album. Are you happy the way it came out? Thanks for this interview! I would say all of us are really satisfied with how things came out! Nothing to complain about. Can you shed some light on the band’s origins? Anton (bass) and me started making music together in 2006. Our sound was way more crusty as it is today. In 2008 we were look-
ing for a second guitar player. So Peter (guitar) joined the band. From that day on we also changed our name into Downfall of Gaia and we released our first demo under that name. It was something like a new beginning for us. Downfall of Gaia grew out of the ashes of our old band.
This story is representative of the present day in which more and more people lose their footing and break down under the pressure from the outside. How would you like to describe the writing and recording process for the new album? Because of the fact that it's a concept album and every song is telling its own part of the story, each song had to fit musically to the lyrics and they have to spread and deliver the same atmosphere. So we added the music to the lyrics which made the songwriting more interesting. Usually we are doing it the other way round. first music, than lyrics. Besides that we gave those songs way more time to grow as we did on earlier releases and tried to combine more elements as we did before. The recording process was pretty stressful. Each day we spent 12 hours in the studio to get all of that done in our booked studio time.
Suffocating... seems to be a concept album of sorts. Can you tell something more about this?
What are your own sources of inspiration?
Suffocating In The Swarm Of Cranes tells the story of a person who goes down and loses himself because of a rapidly rotating society, the ever-increasing pressure to perform (interpersonal as capitalist nature), insomnia, and other factors associated with it.
I would say the surrounding world in general affects you in a massive way when it comes to writing some music. If it's an urban jungle or silent nature, if it's a friend or a stranger, all of this is creating an atmosphere/emotion which has an influence in some way.
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Are you guys involved in any side projects, besides Downfall Of Gaia?
guess that's the main benefit at the moment, but it’s just started so I think I can tell more about that in a few months.
Not really. Our drummer Hannes got a little side project, but it's still in the beginning, so not much to say about it. For the rest of us Downfall of Gaia is the only stuff that is going on. Unfortunately there is not enough time for something else.
There seems to be a very healthy post metal scene in Germany. What are your thoughts on this and what are the bands to look out for?
You guys recently signed with Metal Blade. How did it benefit the band so far and do you see it as a form of recognition? We worked hard the last years and toured a lot. It was never our goal to get signed by such a big label. We just wanted to record our music and hit the road. That's what we did. I guess lots of touring plus releasing music continuously helped a lot to grab their attention. At the moment we can't complain and we are really happy with how things turned out for us. With the support from Metal Blade way more people get to know our music. There is way more promotion. I
We are really spoiled with tons of great bands and concerts in Germany. We can't complain about that! Bands that are definitively worth to check out are bands like De Zafa Ridge, Alpinist, Throwers, Planks... just to name a few. These are hard times for any musician. How do you guys get by? We sure have a “real” job besides the band. Peter and me are working with disabled people in the meaning of care taking. Hannes is working with kids in a kindergarten and Anton is an intensive care unit nurse.
Time for the final question. What is next in terms of touring and other musical projects? In the beginning of November we will hit Russia for a few shows. We are really looking forward to that! We just started to talk about our next tours but there is nothing confirmed so far, but there will be definitely a bigger tour in early 2013. Bonus question: What are the five records that changed your life? Damn! That’s a tough one! I don't know if I'm able to tell you five records. There are so many great ones. But a few of the most important records for me are Ekkaia - Demasiado Tarde Para Pedir Perdon, Remains Of The Day – Hanging On Rebellion and From Ashes Rise – Nightmares. Those records had a huge impact on my life! www.downfallofgaia.com
Shining is one of those bands you either love or hate. Much of that has to do with the erratic behaviour of frontman Niklas Kvarforth. Ghost Cult caught up with guitarist Peter Huss and he turned out to be a very down to earth guy and he didn’t shy away from giving honest answers either. We talked about the new Shining album, working with producer Andy LaRoque, various lineup changes and Elvis Presley. Words: RAYMOND WESTLAND
Hi Peter, thank you for doing this interview. I’ve got to admit I’m absolutely blown away by the sinister beauty of “Redefining Darkness”. Are you happy the way the album turned out? Hi! Yes, I´m very happy! And I really look forward to playing it live. Well, some of the songs anyway... What’s the story behind the album title and what does it mean to you personally? To be honest I can't really remember when the title was decided. We went through many different ideas and suddenly it was done. It was during the recordings that we talked about it anyway... But regarding the story, well, I'm probably not the right person to describe this due to the fact that Niklas writes the lyrics, IF one need to connect the title and the lyrics. However, lots of people out there defines dark music with speed riffs and as many minor chords on top of each other as possible. We disagree. True darkness goes way deeper than that and hides behind the music regardless of what kind of music it is. In my opinion there are many pop bands that are much deeper and darker
than many black metal bands. Strong words, maybe. But I think that bands that try TOO hard to become dark many times just loses it. This goes for all styles of course. But it becomes very clear in the black metal genre because bands there more often wants to be dark. Well... perhaps I sidetracked a bit here... Though steeply rooted in doom and black metal there are also lots of elements from progressive rock/metal and even some jazz to be found on the album. I really love this type of out of the box thinking. How important is it for you to try new things and expand the Shining sound? You know, we would never sit down and think what to do next. We do what we do. And I know what you mean with jazz, but I disagree. In my opinion there´s nothing even close to that. We do have a soprano saxophone, played by my brother, but that´s it. Just another instrument basically. A Shining song with a saxophone solo, that´s it. It is what it is. In what way was the writing and recording sessions for Redefining Darkness different from previous albums?
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First of all the whole situation was new. New studio, new producer, new line up, sort of... And together with Andy LaRoque we decided to do it in a little more direct way than the previous albums. Which I prefer to be honest. Less producing and more playing I guess... For the guitars we just picked the sound we liked and recorded it straight up. No re-amping and stuff. So I guess the end result became a bit more raw and unpolished than before. The recording sessions with Andy was just very relaxed and we had no problem at all to finish it in time. We were actually ahead of schedule a couple of times. Now that doesn't sound like a big thing, but it was probably the first of my recordings with this band that we actually finished in time. So for us that was totally new and unique. It probably helped that Andy himself is a recording musician with tons of experience, a super awesome guy, and he gave the it a very relaxed feeling. Shining has it seen its fair share of lineup changes. Do you see that as a nuisance or perhaps as as chance to bring some fresh blood and ideas in? That differs from individual cases, some guys brought more to this band than others. And because of this it became harder to replace some, and easier with others...What affected me without a doubt the most was when Fredric left. After that I realized how tight me and him played together. But after that we decided to not have any more full members but session guys instead. At least for a longer period. A "cool" thing after Fredric left was that we had to do a few shows with only one guitar. I know that Niklas hated that. Mostly because of the fact that it was supposed to be two guitars, and now there were only one. But for me and Christian that was really a challenge. How can we arrange the parts so that the sound stays pretty much the same? We had to be very creative and I think we did it in a good way. So as a musician that was cool. But don´t get me wrong! I would prefer I he would be there. Now we have two Finnish guys, Euge - guitar, and Rainer - drums, that are playing with us live.First of all they are awesome musicians, and also awesome guys to hang around with.Sometimes live we do totally improvised jams, we just play, and I really love that! Why do we do that? Because we can, and that´s cool!
Redefining Darkness Niklas Kvarforth isn’t afraid to stir up some controversy from time to time. What do you think of his antics? I wouldn't expect anything less from a maniac... Here in the Netherlands metal is usually frowned upon as a bunch of “noise”, but in countries like Finland and Norway it’s accepted as a genuine form of art. How does this work in Sweden? I guess we are talking about what the general population thinks? And in that case it is not as accepted as in Finland and Norway. And yes, I have heard the word "noise" many times. But who cares of what they think anyway. What is next in terms of touring and possible other musical ventures? For me personally I have many projects right now. A bit too early to go into details yet, but I guess that those that are interested about it will know sooner or later. For shining there´s touring planned, but I don't have any exact dates right now so I really don't want to promise anything quite yet. But same thing there. It will be official as soon as it can be.
first time. Holy shit! That was a huge impact on me, and I'm still a big Pantera fan. And probably all of the Pantera albums are on my list as well, but with "far beyond" all I need to do is to look at the CD and that alone brings me back... Machine Head - Burn my eyes: What can I say? A masterpiece, not a bad thing on this one. Yngwie Malmsteen - Marching out: Not the first thing I heard with him, but as soon as I did this one became my favorite. The guitar playing here is as good as it gets. A must if you want to play good guitar. Rage Against The Machine - Evil empire: Not easy to make a follow up to a groundbreaking first album. But I think this is an awesome album, and in many ways better than the first. I think I still have the "E" tour shirt somewhere... Elvis Presley: As a small kid I was a huge Elvis fan. In many ways I guess I'm still a small kid... www.facebook.com/shiningofficial
Finally, what are the five albums that really changed your life? First of all It´s way more than five albums. But I'll give you the first five that comes to my mind: Pantera- Far beyond driven: I remember listening to "becoming" for the
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e ry n n on dae
Are voc als stil l rel eva nt in tod ay’s met al sce ne? Words: tom Saunders
Tom Saunders was pretty overwhelmed with the latest album by French experimental metal outfit Eryn Non Dae, called Meliora. Bassist Mickael André and singer Mathieu Nogue were more than happy to share some insights on the band’s origins, the new album and the relevance of vocals in today’s metal scene..
Mickael André : The band was called End. At the beginning but when we signed with MetalBlade records they asked us to change the name because too many bands and other things related to metal were using the word. We chose the name Eryn Non Dae. mainly for the sound of it but we found out afterwards that it could mean something in elfic, if somebody wants to search about that go ahead!
Mickael André : I don't know if it's intentional but we know that our music needs to be listened to in a particular way and it's something that I'm quite at peace with, I’m totally into records that you can put on for the first time and think 'I don't know what's happening but I need to think about it,” some albums are just like that and I really think it's the case with Eryn Non dae., even more with Meliora so maybe you're right, we're trying to grab the listener and kind of ask him to do something more than just put on a record that's going to hit his ears, we like to think that it could be much more than that. I need to tell you that I sometimes put a record aside for several months or even years just to save it for the moment I think I will be the most receptive to it and get the most intense feeling ! It sounds a bit crazy but that's the way I listen to music very often !
Meliora is very dense, atmospheric and heavy. All round it seems to be a challenging release, is it important to you to challenge your listeners?
I see that you've had the opportunity to tour with some fairly big and exciting names, such as Gojira, Pelican and High
Hi, would you mind telling us a bit about how Eryn Non Dae formed? Mickael André (Bass): Eryn non dae was formed in 2001 by Franck and Yann, we released an EP called The neverending whirl of confusion in 2005, Hydra Lernaïa in 2009 and now Meliora ! What does "Eryn Non Dae" mean?
on Fire. Do you have any particularly fond memories of life on the road? Have you got any exciting tour plans for the future? Mathieu: No particular moment springs to mind as each show is unique, playing concerts isn’t a routine for us, we don’t tour enough for that. So every moment spent on the road is a wonderful memory in itself. Like all bands we’ve played for very varied audiences, had hard times being stuck in the van for ages, we’ve had arguments, encounters with the police, fines, we’ve met some interesting people, seen great bands… That’s what makes life on the road so exciting, the good times and the bad! For the time being we don’t have anything planned, but we really hope to go on tour for Meliora!! Does Meliora have any particularly significant concepts or lyrical ideas at play? Mathieu: The lyrics describe the process of personal evolution in the search for inner truth. Meliora is the story of a mental and physical shape-shifter whose aim is to reach inner peace. I wrote the lyrics in accordance with my moods and feelings, my life at the time, using various cinematographic, mythological and personal references. Meliora is a concept album in that it covers my personal evolution during the two years we spent writing it.
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It was important to me that the lyrics should be in accordance with the mood of each track, which was hard as the process and the concept had to be spontaneous whilst remaining coherent. There’s a whole mixture of influences and references in there; apart from my obvious interest in the myth of the phoenix, I also studied the metamorphosis of insects, alchemy and fire. I was also inspired by the “I-Ching”.Meliora is rebirth with a new vision of life, having healed from the scars of the past and transformed one’s suffering into knowledge. Following on from that, how did you approach the writing of the album, or writing in general? Mickael André: Musically we spent two years writing Meliora. This may seem a very long time compared to some bands who release an album every year but that's the way it is for Eryn Non dae..The band isn't our job so we have no other reason to make a record than work on it until we're completely satisfied with every second of the music, and it takes a long time, we didn't want Meliora to sound like Hydra Lernaïa so we were really focused on bringing all our elements somewhere else. There's a lot of exciting music coming out of France lately, Gojira, Deathspell Omega and Celeste just to name a few. Have you come across any others recently that you think might have a bright future ahead of them? Mickael André : Funny you named Deathspell Omega, I'm completely in love with this band, their latest album Paracletus is one of the most exciting things I've heard for a long time, and coming back to your question about challenging records Paracletus is a good example, you clearly can't appreciate it the first time you hear it unless you're used to the band, it's quite a demanding record.... To speak about french bands I could mention Blut Aus Nord, a split up band called Doppler, our friends I Pilot Daemon and Zubrowska, but to speak about the ones with a bright future ahead I think that Hacride and Klone will do something, it's the next logical step for them I think...we'll see !
MetalSucks recently published an editorial claiming that vocalists are essentially irrelevant in metal now. I found the vocal delivery on Meliora very powerful personally, do you have any thoughts on the argument that truly progressive metal should ditch vocals all together? Mickael André: thanks ! I've read that article yes, it's quite a vast matter. I completely agree that most of the vocalists in metal are completely useless and exchangeable but anybody who knows a thing or two about metal musicians knows that most singers haven't spent a single hour working on their voice, so it makes sense. If we focus more on progressive stuff I think that the vocals are quite important so I don't see why progressive bands should become instrumental. Good vocals can give the music so much more emotion than any another instrument, and music is all about emotion. Bands like Nevermore, Katatonia or Pain of salvation come to mind when I think about great vocals that really take the band to another level. Mathieu: Thanks! Concerning the editorial, though quite relevant I find it rather sterile and incomplete. Let me explain: I don’t think a vocalist’s job is just to scream into a mic. I think one must take into account that a vocalist spends time on his lyrics and is, so to speak, the soul of the band, just as the drummer is the heart of it. In this sense he becomes the spokesman of a certain philosophy or mentality. When I listen to Converge I don’t think about whether or not Jacob Bannon is relevant as a singer; when you read his lyrics you understand that his artistic process is much more complex than just shouting along to the music! That’s how I see my role in Eryn Non Dae. Seen in this way how can a vocalist be irrelevant? I’m not saying that singer’s don’t need to work on their voices but I think it’s important to analyze their place in a band in its entirety and not to generalize. Taking all this into account I think that metal bands still have a need for vocalists! I’ve had this conversation many times with Mika, who tends to take a more technical view on the matter, in which case I think we can widen the debate and take all styles of today’s music into account… I might have missed out on some new bands as I haven’t been listening to much metal recently, but as a vocalist I was bound to be the devil’s advocate!!
Personally, I could hear a strong ISIS influence in Meliora, are you fans of the band? Have you got any thoughts on the recent closure of Hydra Head? Mickael André : You're not the first one to mention Isis concerning Meliora and the funny things is, believe it or not, none of us knows their music very well and the first explanation I have is that I discovered Cult of luna before Isis so when I came to Isis I just thought “oh, nothing more than cult of luna...” so I never tried again, and it's the same for all of us I think, some of the readers will think that's an heresy but I'm ok with that, maybe I should try again some day... Concerning Hydrahead, I was very surprised yes, even if I knew they were not selling thousands of their artist’s records I thought that they managed to keep an equilibrium between their amazingly risky packaging costs and the amount of sales but it turns out they weren't. It's sad because they had a strong image, despite the apparent low budget but Aaron Turner knows that kind of music very well and was good at finding great bands and making a cool ‘must have’ packaging but we know that every label owner is now forced to think about money more than the arty side of things... it's so sad and so far from the way we think about an album....it's typically the kind of label I would love to work with... I don't know if Southern Lords or even smaller Denovali works the same way but I hope they're not next on the list... Metal Blade are quite a large label in the metal scene; given the challenging nature of your music, I was surprised to find you were signed to them. How did that deal come about? Mickael André : We're not working with Metalblade anymore for Meliora so your question makes sense ! We were very happy when we got the proposal after someone from the german office listened to a few songs on our myspace (surprising but it's true) and they helped us to spread Eryn Non Dae.’s music but as a big label they must recoup the money they put on a band and that's not what happened with us. The “challenging nature” of our music isn't something you can rely on to get the money back I guess, but it was an interesting moment in the band's life ! Thanks Andreas !!! www.erynnondae.com
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p l an ks
“It's a terrible trend in metal and hardcore that so many bands use mediocre lyrics or cliché-filled nonsense.” Words: Matt Hinch
In anticipation of the release of their new album, Funeral Mouth, Ghost Cult writer Matt Hinch spoke with Planks vocalist/guitarist Ralph Schmidt. Their discussion encompasses a number of topics; from the history of Planks, to the new album and the metal community’s genrefication and 'troo'-ness. Enjoy the insight as we dig deeper into Planks and Funeral Mouth. Planks just recently showed up on my radar. Can we have a little introduction/history to get the readers up to speed if they aren't 'in the know'? Sure thing. Planks comes from a city called Mannheim in the German south and consists of three members. Benny plays the drums, I sing and play guitar, and for the last 5 years Frank played bass. He decided to part ways with us due to his work and private life situation. Now we have Marius on bass. Planks started in early 2007 after the hiatus of Frank and my older band. We got to know Benny through a mutual friend. We set out to play music in the vein of Mastodon, Baroness, Old Man Gloom, and Breach. At first, due to lack of abilities in songwriting and playing our instruments, the music was more of doom/sludge stuff. We did a demo; after that a full-length, a 7", and the split with Tombs.
In 2010 we released our second album The Darkest of Grays, and in 2011 the Solicit To Fall EP. Both of these were rereleased on one CD by Southern Lord. In late 2011 we started recording our third record, Funeral Mouth, alongside the tracks for a split with Lentic Waters. The new full-length was just released by Golden Antenna Records from Germany. In between the records we played a total of over 170 shows all over Europe, including all major DIY festivals, and the US East Coast, where we toured with our friends in Tombs. You seem to have a bit of a history with Mike Hill and Tombs. How do you feel that has benefited your career, if at all? Today we get that question quite often, but by the time that split came out, Tombs had just signed with Relapse and were on the
brink of getting better known. And when they got bigger, our split was long past. Also, our songs on there weren't close to what we sound like today. I've been friends with Mike for close to ten years now. We met on the Anodyne tour of Europe and stayed in touch ever since then. The biggest benefit we have from knowing them was getting to know some awesome bands and play some great shows with them. Of course people saw our name in the Tombs history and because we are always in their thanks list. So that came in handy once our releases got more popular and blogs kept reposting them. 'Oh, isn't that the band that did a split with Tombs once?' Let's talk about Funeral Mouth, your new album on Golden Antenna Records. It comes from a pretty dark place, doesn't it? If you refer to the mood and attitude of the record, yes. All our records were always a reflection of the darkest states of my mind. The album cover, with that hooded figure amidst the fog, is kind of simplistic but alludes to something much deeper. Is there a story behind that? That is a typical Planks thing to happen. We asked Alison Scrapulla to provide pictures
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for the artwork. I am a huge fan of her work. She said yes, and I was blown away that she did. Unfortunately, all of a sudden after the Wolves In The Throne Room art, everybody wanted her work. And she kind of forgot to get back at us. By that time, we were already in contact with our friend Oli Hummel who also designed our first record (please check hummelgrafik.de for his amazing work.) He was scheduled to design the artwork anyhow. Then he said he had some pictures he took that we might like. The set he showed me was incredible. I always have a clear picture in mind how the music should 'look', but I am unable to design it myself. The pictures captured the feeling I had about the music, lyrics, and concept behind the record. I introduced Oli to that concept, my ideas, and my wishes, and we started working. We were satisfied after quite some back and forth. I sat down to look at everything and then all the song titles, lyrics, and sounds reflected this gloomy atmosphere Oli created. It was a perfect match—looking black metal without being black metal. Looking doom without being cliché. Funeral Mouth is a very emotional album. Did that make it a difficult process to make? The process of recording, to me, is always dreadful and my least favorite part of being in a band. Your question goes in another direction though. In this case: no. I felt rather stable, emotionally, recording this record. It was different when we recorded the last record, The Darkest Of Grays, where I was in a really bad stage of my life. Still, the process of writing the lyrics and the things that led to the lyrics were again a heavy burden for Funeral Mouth. I understand you worked with Joseph E. Martinez from Junius on 'Scythe Imposter'. How did that come about? I've been friends with these guys a long time. Mike Repasch lived in Cologne for a while, and we hung out there now and then. When they prepared a short tour over here, they hadn't rehearsed for a long time. I threw in the idea that they'd come a week earlier and use our practise space plus gear to prepare for the tour, which they ended up doing. Also, they did pre-recordings for their current full-length there. The same happened again for their last tour with Wolves Like Us. When we recorded Funeral Mouth, we had the idea to add guest vocals to 'Scythe Imposter'. We thought about Joseph, asked him, he did it and it worked excellent.
The lyrics are quite cryptic and poetic and don't really follow traditional song structure. What do you hope the listener takes away them? I wish that more people would actually read them and try to interpret. It seems that happens rather rarely. A sad thing, in my eyes. I grew up studying lyrics of bands and getting in touch with the author to speak about them. Anyhow, I actually only hope that people appreciate the time and ideas I put into writing them. It's a terrible trend in metal and hardcore that so many bands use mediocre lyrics or cliché-filled nonsense. I feel a certain way about myself and my life—it was always great that there were people in bands I liked that wrote lyrics that 'understood me'. In a way, I hope there is someone that can relate or at least to see how important the lyrics and song titles are for the whole thing that is an album by Planks. You obviously put a lot of thought into the lyrics, so it was surprising to see a few instrumental tracks on the album. How do you feel those songs speak for themselves? That's the thing... they need to speak through their title and their feeling. You can only interpret the sound and the title. With 'Inconsolable' and 'Desolate, Once...' it speaks for itself. 'The Spectre (Black Knives To White Witches)' has this additional title for several reasons. The whole song is kind of ghostlike—haunting, if you will. It approaches, appears, fades, reappears, glooms, shrieks, sings, dances, twists, and scares. The additional title comes from an occurrence that kept wandering through my mind while I played that song at home when finishing it. The last part is very hypnotic, and I lost my mind about that thought while continuously playing this riff. This may just be North American ignorance, but Funeral Mouth doesn't sound very 'German' (Scorpions, Kreator, Rammstein) or even European, for that matter. Do you draw from more 'Western' influences? Hahaha, that is a good thing! I would hate to sound like any of the bands you mentioned. Well, okay, Kreator is solid. Oddly enough, our friend Andrew from Tombs always claims we sound very European in the way the old chaotic Bremen hardcore bands (Acme, Carol, Chispa, etc.) sound. Maybe it's because we draw the biggest influence from American bands and only a few Scandinavian. But honestly, I have no clue how to put us into a national category. We try to achieve something as unique as we can
with our abilities. If that sounds 'international', great. The important thing is not the origin of a band but the impact it has on your life. It's not easy to pigeonhole your work into a definite genre. What are your thoughts on the metal community's need to label everything? That's not only in the metal community. It's the same in hardcore, punk rock, techno and rap. It's mostly the fight over trueness or being open-minded. The metal scene used to be very narrow-minded when it comes to that. But that is, fortunately, changing for the better. I have no problem if people are purists for the genre they care about. For me, a stale, classic record of whatever brand mostly tends to bore me. We would also be pretty bored to play threeminute hXc/metal songs that sound like Entombed, so we just don't. We have too many preferences in music to just blend out the interesting methods these genres use. I'm not calling us crossover, but we share this attitude of 'why not mix it?' Take 'I Only See Death In You' on the new record: Gorgoroth beginning, WITTR middle part, Interpol ending. People like it; we like it. Here's to openmindedness. We get branded with all kinds of labels. It's interesting to see what people hear in our sound. I just feel awkward when people call us crust or sludge. The bands and stylistics I associate with these genres I don't really see with us anymore. Do you have any big touring plans to support the new album? Maybe even on this side of the pond? A full tour is hard to do at the moment. I just started at a new school as a teacher and have to plan my vacation time carefully. We were talking about doing a US tour in late March/early April with Tombs and Junius. But nothing is really safe there. Also, within the band there might be other things outside the band that might bounce that idea. If not, we might do one week in Europe. But we are playing a lot of weekends in the close future. You can always check our Facebook or our website walkingonplanks.com for details. Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Good luck and safe travels! www.walkingonplanks.com
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Kuolemanlaakso Every now and then you receive a release and it grips you from the first second you put it on. One of these albums is Uljas Uusi Maailma from Finnish doom metal ensemble Kuolemanlaakso. Guitarist and creative mastermind Laakso was more than thrilled to give his views on the band’s stunning debut album, the origins of Kuolemanlaakso, and his fondness of Triptykon... Words: Raymond Westland
Congrats on releasing such a killer album as Uljas uusi maailma. Are you happy the way it came out? Thank you, glad you liked it! From the songwriter's point of view, the outcome was excellent. Before the recording of it, I knew that especially the guitar sounds would have to slay like fuck in order to get to best out of every riff, so I'm very, very happy that we got a chance to work with V. Santura (Triptykon, Dark Fortress, ex-Celtic Frost), whose work I'd been admiring on Triptykon's "Eparistera Daimones" (2010), amongst others. One of the coolest things about "Uljas uusi maailma" is that it's so raw and livelike. I'm used to "polishing the products", so to speak in the studio, but this time it was
back to basics type of an approach. A real band playing real music with a kick-ass coproducer: no autotune, no triggers (except on "Ikiuni"), no gimmicks. Just heavy, crushing, dark and doomy metal. Can you shed some light on the origins of Kuolemanlaakso? When we were making Chaosweaver's second album "Enter the Realm of the Doppelgänger" (2012), I fell head over heels in love with Triptykon's "Eparistera Daimones". I thought it was Mr. Fischer's magnum opus even better than Celtic Frost's "Monotheist" (2006). I still do. The creation of the Chaosweaver album took three years altogether, so it was one helluva grand ride. At
some point I got bored at the studio, because the other guys were sleeping, playing PS3 or doing something else besides recording, I decided to compose and record some Triptykon influenced demos just for fun. I didn't even play them to the guys. A few months after that the owner of the studio, Jack Tyger (Chaosweaver's drummer), was hosting a party over. There were a lot of musicians present, and all the guests were playing each other's new projects, demos, albums and what have you. Jack put one of my songs on. It was "Minä elän". Everyone went nuts for it, and were asking, what the fuck it was. One of the most enthusiastic listeners was Kouta, Chaosweaver's guitarist, who goes by the name of Albert in that band. He phoned me up, and insisted that I'd make Kuolemanlaakso a real band instead of my solo thing I promised to think about it. After a few weeks I decided to recruit some of my favorite musicians and good friends, and just go for it. So, I ended up calling Kouta (guitar), Tiera (drums, Cult of Endtime, ex-Discard) and Usva (bass,The Nibiruan, ex-Elenium). We basically had only one choice for a singer. We knew he had to handle black metal screams, death metal grunts, spoken words and clean vocals. The name which popped into our heads was of course Mikko Kotamäki of Swallow the Sun and Barren Earth fame. Gladly, he excepted our proposal, and joined this gang of misfits.
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What I really like about the album is that is heavily rooted Triptykon-styled doom/death metal, but it also has lots of the theatrical frolics of Chaosweaver. This makes the song material sound fresh and exciting. How do you see things? The way I see it is that the album combines the heaviness and string-bending guitar playing style of Triptykon and Finnish melancholy with catchy hooks, cool melodies and poetic lyrics. It has only a fraction of Chaosweaver's full-blown theatrical style, but just enough to make the recipe interesting. The songs on this album are almost 100 % from my pen, but all the other guys added their flavor and influences to the soup, V. Santura stirred it up with his magic ladle and voilá, you've got "Uljas uusi maailma"! V. Santura produced the album, but he also added guitar parts to five songs. How was it like to work with him and do you consider him to be member of this project/band on future releases? It was absolutely a great honor and pleasure to work with V.Santura. He engineered, mixed, mastered and co-produced the album, and played guitar on five tracks on it. Upon his own request, I might add. I believe he really enjoyed working with us too. We've kept in contact ever since, and I'm very sure we'll be working together in the future as well. I guess you could say that we "crowned him as an honorary member" of this outfit, because he had an integral part of how we sound on the album. In addition to being an awesome guitarist and a sound God, he has a great sense of studio psychology. If one of us was feeling shitty about something, say some part seemed not to come out right, he'd talk it out with the one with the issue. He made us feel comfortable, self-confident and happy. He's like Dr. Phil for musicians, but only with a genuinely warm heart! He's truly a talented, nice and down to earth type of a guy, which is a rare breed. I really do mean it. The artwork of the album is simply stunning. Who created it and how does it fit into the framework of the album? The title "Uljas uusi maailma" means "Brave New World". That's what I had in mind when I ordered a commissioned work from the young Maldivian artist named Maahy Abdul Muhsin. You can check out some of his mind-blowing stuff at www.facebook.com/Maahy.art. The painting actually continues on the back cover of the album. You should see the gatefold now that's fuckin' cool. I saw a picture of an owl he had drawn, and got blown away. I wrote to him instantly, and told him that we'd like him to paint our album cover, and ex-
plained a little bit about the concept, that I had in mind. He wrote me back in a few minutes, and was very excited to do this project. And so he did. I couldn't be happier.
get a glimpse of what I'm talking about. Be as it may, I like the dark, even though it depresses me. Having said that, I'm not a fan of snow, coldness and wetness.
Members from Kuolemanlaakso are also involved with bands like Chaosweaver, Barren Earth and Swallow The Sun. Is it fair to say that Kuolemanlaakso is a sort of metal supergroup?
2012 is very good year for metal. What are the releases that really resonate with you and why?
Don't know about that, but it's fair to say that Kuolemanlaakso is a superb group, hahah... All the lyrics are written in your native tongue. How come and what are the themes and subjects you touch on the album? I'm used to writing fictional or science-based lyrics, but this time I wanted to explore the microcosmos with a far more personal approach. A lot of the lyrics are very much influenced by Eino Leino's (1878-1926) "Helkavirsiä" poem collection. Eino Leino is one of the greatest Finnish poets of all times, and certainly one of my personal favorites. The guy's poems are so dark and grim, that his style of writing works perfectly with our kind of music. So, I adapted some rhythmic and linguistic tricks from him. The lyrics are pretty much based on the mystique of the Finnish forests, and my personal demons. There is a huge ancient forest literally in our backyard, which is a great source of inspiration for me. As is the captivating world of Twin Peaks, which has left a huge mark on me. And several on Mikko's skin, hahah... I translated all the lyrics to English, and they can be found on the booklet of the CD and both versions of the vinyl. "Minä elän" ("I Live") is a hate and revenge song, "Kuun lapset" ("The Children of the Moon") is an adaptation of Leino's poem by the same name, "Nostos & Algos" delves deep into the sweet bitterness and pain of nostalgia, "Roihusydän" ("Flare Heart") is almost like Lappish voodoo and so on. As I said, the lyrics are quite poetic. It was a bitch to write in Finnish, as I'm used to writing the lyrics in English. Finnish is a quite rough language phonetically; in other words, it is hard to make it sound good with the music. When I listen to Finnish metal bands there's always a sense of darkness and melancholy shining through the music. Has this something to do with long Finnish winters and how it affects the human mind? I suppose so. The darkness most definitely affects me personally. In the wintertime it's pitch-black dark outside when you wake up, and when you return from work or where ever, it's pitch-black again. So, it's pretty much darkness for almost half of the year, every year. Listen to our album, and you'll
Well, let's see... From the top of my head: Jess and the Ancient Ones - s/t, Katatonia Dead End Kings, Hexvessel - No Holier Temple, and I'm looking forward to "The Scarred People" by Tiamat. Jess & the guys are friends of mine from my hometown of Kuopio. Their debut is absolutely fantastic! It's melodic and beautiful, but in a way spooky. It's by far one of the best female-fronted occult rock bands in the world right now. They just finished recording a new EP, which should be out early next year (and borrowed my Orange amp, haha). I'm not a huge Katatonia fan, but their latest one was surprisingly good. It's very poppish and not so metal, but who cares - good music is always good music. If I were to recommend one underground album everyone should pick up, it would definitely be "No Holier Temple" by Hexvessel. I'm not even going to go to details on that one, don't want to ruin the surprise. I'd recommend listening to the whole thing from start to finish with no distractions. I connect strongly with their message and music. The album speaks to me on many levels. What is next for you guys in terms of touring and other musical ventures? We've got some shows lined up in our native country, Finland. We just inked a deal with RedBerg Agency, who are also in charge of booking for bands like HIM, Moonsorrow and Mayhem, so that's a big step for us. I've already started working on new songs, as I seem to be artistically driven - the songs just flow from me very naturally and easy at the moment. Some wicked stuff coming up... I'm pretty sure that our second album will also include songs by other band members as well. They've got some killer shit in the works too. As for Chaosweaver, we're on creative hiatus, but will most likely start composing material for the third album next year. My third band, a yet-to-be-titled traditional doom metal outfit, has a full-length's worth of material ready, but we're in the process of choosing a singer. Kuolemanlaakso is my number one thing right now. I love playing and writing this sort of stuff. Chaosweaver is a lot of fun too, of course, but it's so detailed and grand, that composing a song from start to finish can be really exhausting - but at the same time artistically very fulfilling. With Kuolemanlaakso, the whole process has been very satisfying. Well, writing lyrics in Finnish is super hard, but hey, someone's gotta do it..! www.kuolemanlaakso.net
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Canadian blackened death metal troupe Weapons just released a truly formidable album, entitled Embers And Revelations." James Conway caught up with singer/guitarist Vetis Monarch. They discussed the creative process of the album, its themes, signing to Relapse Records and the state of metal in Vetis’ native country of Bangladesh... Words: James Conway
Congratulations on the release of “Embers and Revelations!” Can you tell me about the writing and recording process for the new album? Between 2010 and early 2012 I had a lot of instability in my personal life, from getting arrested to being homeless – it was just one chaotic event after another, some of which I can't get into due to legal reasons. Kha Tumos (bass guitar) had personal issues going on as well. Then about a year ago we changed lead guitar players, which was just weeks before we had to go and perform at Rites Of Darkness in Texas - all very stressful, I’m sure you can imagine. We were questioning the band's existence at certain points. Any sense of luxury or complacency that had manifested was quickly erased by fire and fury. The hunger came back and it really helped with the songwriting process.
How has the addition of new guitarist Rom Surtr aided the creative process? He’s a classically trained, methodical guitar player with a keen sense of structure, which is a total contrast to my chaotic and selftaught style of playing. But it’s also very complimentary, in that we have found our chemistry. Rom Surtr interprets the Weapon the sound very well and adds a whole new dimension to the paradigm. Unlike the person he replaced, Rom Surtr has already written riffs for the band. Are you still exploring the Satanic themes previously featured on “Drakonian Paradigm” and “From the Devil’s Tomb?” If so, what new concepts can be found on “Embers and Revelations?” Weapon will always follow the tenets of Satanism and the Left Hand Path. That has not
changed from our Demo days. One new aspect on the new album is the exploration of the destructive mind of sociopaths, which I will explore even further on future records. This is your first release on Relapse Records, a pretty major label in extreme metal. Are you happy in your new home? What brought about the switch from The Anja Offensive? Thus far it’s been good. They don’t tell us to run our band and we don’t tell them how to run a record company. We understand each other, it’s a good working relationship. The switch was essentially due to growth. The Ajna Offensive is a great indie label, but there are certain avenues we just would not be able to explore if we had stayed there. As a band we want to be involved in tours of our liking and this is where a label like Relapse Records comes in very handy. The album artwork for “Embers and Revelations” is intriguing. Who designed the cover and what is the significance, if at all, of the various animals and their positioning? The artist is Benjamin Vierling, an American painter. He has been with us since ‘Drakonian Paradigm’ and he really understands
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how we work; he is a modern-day genius, in my humble opinion. We provide him with rough ideas about the art we have in mind, and the lyrics, and he comes up with these stunning masterpieces. The Wheel of Fate is something that has been used throughout all the Weapon artworks. It appears on the 'Drakonian Paradigm' cover image, under Lucifer's feet. It appears again on the 'From the Devil's Tomb' image, between the inverted hanged man and the demon. Now it appears as the foundation of this image for 'Embers & Revelations'. The Wheel is ever revolving, ever turning, and in the process, it crumbles. The Tiger and the Wolf pertain to my dreams. Benjamin Vierling, the master and the genius, saw them flanking the Wheel in this manner: guardians, adversaries, and heraldic totems all at once. The daemonic skull has layers of meaning, being simultaneously an invocation, a conquering and a memorial. The red eye on the brow demonstrates profound vision; seeing beyond seeing! The crown is an allusion to the 'Shahenshah' - the King of all Kings. The star emblazoned on the crown of disillusion also has special significance; the serpents are also classic motifs, insinuating divine gnosis through venomous initiation. You hail from Bangladesh, a huge country with a small, yet growing metal
scene, ironically the same could be said of Canada, your current location. How do the two nations compare in terms of appreciation for your music? Most 3rd world countries have vibrant metal scenes with rabid fans, and Bangladesh is no different. Their reaction to live metal is nothing short of fanatic and savage! Metal fans in North America are spoiled. They tend to take things for granted. Yes, there are some total diehards in North America and we got to witness many of them firsthand when we have performed live, but the numbers need to grow. You are one of the few bands to criticise Islam in your lyrics. Are you surprised that there aren’t more metal bands willing to tackle this thorny subject? It’s not surprising at all. The average person knows very little about Islam aside from what they see on CNN or Fox News. To criticise something one needs to know what they are talking about. Also, people are also afraid to be called racist, even though I don’t see how attacking a religion through music
can make anyone a racist. That’s why most shy away from critiquing Judaism and Islam. Do you have any plans to tour in support of your new album? Are there any bands you would most like to share a stage with? There are plans, yes. We just have to sort out which route we want to pursue. I personally would like to tour with bands like Loss, Mithochondrion, Rudra, Ares Kingdom, Nightbringer, Azarath, Prosanctus Inferi, Hour Of Penance, Inquisition, Adorior, Wodensthrone, Svart Crown etc. Given your name, what is your weapon of choice? (Gun, blade etc) Brass knuckles. Any final words for the readers of Ghost Cult? Why should “Embers and Revelations” be on Christmas lists this year? What better way to mock such a “sacred” time of the year than with a piece of satanic art? www.weaponchakra.com
“The average person knows very little about Islam aside from what they see on CNN or Fox News. To criticise something one needs to know what they are talking about.” ghost cult magazine | 21
Words: Raymond Westland
DANGEROUS LIAISONS Some bands are criminally underrated. US-based instrumental tech meisters Dysrhythmia is sadly one of those formations. Some time ago they released a brilliant album under the guise of Test Of Submission. Guitarist Kevin Hufnagel was more than happy to shed his views on the new Dysrhythmia album, his liaison with Gorguts and his favourite records of this year... Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. Your latest album, Test Of Submission, has been out for some time now. Are you still happy with the album as such? Certainly. We put a lot of effort into crafting these songs, and put more thought than ever before into how we were going to record it. Of course, there are always little details that you could obsess over forever, but those little imperfections give you the inspiration to do better next time. That has always been the goal with each record, to top what we have done previously. What do you recall most vividly from the writing and recording sessions for Test Of Submission? While writing this album, I would tab out my guitar parts, so I wouldn't forget them. Not sure why I had never done that before. I used to think that if I forgot a riff later, than it was never good enough in the first place. In reality, that was just me being lazy. I also found that just seeing the riffs on paper
would sometimes help me get a better picture of how the song was coming along and where it should go next. For the recording session, I remember certain parts being harder than I thought they were. You can get away with a little sloppiness live, but not on a recording, at least not when it's supposed to be tight. Despite putting out several high quality albums Dysrhythmia still seems a band that only seems to appeal to musicians. How do you see things? I wouldn't say "only", but "mostly", yes. Part of this could be because of various preconceived notions about our band, like that it "only appeals to musicians", thus alienating people before they even give the music a chance. One thing we in the band have always agreed upon since its inception was that intricate music could still have heart, and technique could be used in a way that still conveys emotion. I think there is a rawness and aggressiveness to what we do, that non-musicians can sense and appreciate.
Thereâ€™s a growing appreciation for more technical accomplished music. Is this something you notice as well and how did this affect Dysrhythmia? Yeah, people have been saying that recently, and I've noticed it as well. I guess bands like The Mars Volta, Mastodon, and whatnot have made it less taboo to have progressive influences, and tendencies. Not sure if this has affected Dysrhythmia in any sort of major way. We still struggle to bring out crowds in the majority of places we play on tour. I will say there seems to be a new respect for the band as of late, since we've been plowing along for awhile now doing our sort of music, without any thought as to what's "cool" or trendy. Several Dysrhythmia releases were handled by Relapse. Nowadays youâ€™re signed to Profound Lore, a much smaller label. What are the main differences between the two and which is the better home for the band?
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Relapse was great in the beginning when we first signed with them. However, I think as the label continued to grow and they signed more and more artists, some of the other bands got lost in the shuffle. It happens. We prefer the more one-onone situation with Profound Lore. The less people involved the better. You guys are also involved with Gorguts. What’s the latest on that front and how do you manage to keep both bands going? Luc is the main man to talk to regarding news for that band, but after years of waiting and music business nightmares, I believe we are finally gonna have a new record available for the people in 2013. It's not too hard to keep both bands running at once. We compose material long distance, through mp3 sharing and home recording. Once we have a batch of songs together, we schedule off a block of days for meeting in person and rehearsing. It's quite nice working that way. Gorguts was also a part of the Death To All Tour, an event to celebrate the life and music of Chuck Schuldiner and Death. What are your fondest memories of that tour and how did the music of Chuck Schuldiner affect your life? That whole tour was pretty surreal to me. I first heard Death in 1989 or 1990 when I was in middle school, and became totally hooked on the band when 'Human' came out. Getting to travel with and watch all these legendary musicians I had grown up listening to over the years, was quite a trip. Unfortunately, I only had the opportunity to see Death, with Chuck, once. That was in 1998 on the 'Sound of Perseverance' tour. The man has a continual influence on my riffing. My fondest memory of the tour is definitely the night a large group of us all crashed a random karaoke bar in some middle-of-nowhere town in Ohio, and belted out everything from Phil Collins, to Frank Sinatra, to Ratt. The two middle-aged women hosting it loved us.
2012 shapes up to be a very good year when it comes down to quality metal releases. Which ones draw your attention and why? This year so far, I've enjoyed Blut Aus Nord -'777 - Cosmosophy', Deathspell Omega- 'Drought', Krallice- 'Years Past Matter', Inverloch 'Dusk/Subside', Behold the Arctopus -'Horrorscension', Kayo Dot 'Gamma Knife'. I enjoy these because they stimulate me and bring something fresh to the table for metal (and in some cases just barely "metal", but aggressive nonetheless.) I'm really looking forward to the new Voivod, Portal, and Anacrusis records. Most of my time this year was spent listening to old ‘70s and ‘80s metal though, or other music entirely. Time for the final question. What is next in terms of touring and other musical projects? We are about to leave on our first headlining tour since 2010. It will run from October 17th to November 17th and take us coast to coast across the US and into Canada for one show. Things on the horizon in 2013 for our various other musical projects? Those would be; new Gorguts, Zevious, and Vaura full lengths. I'll be releasing a solo album of instrumental pieces I wrote for baritone ukulele. I think Colin's got another Indricothere album up his sleeve, and I wouldn't be surprised if Krallice releases another one. Next recording for Dysrhythmia will be a split EP with the instrumental band Loincloth, where we will switch drummers, thus sort of creating two new bands entirely. This will be a one-time-only thing. We've talking with them about doing it for years now. Bonus question: Which five records really changed your life? Five? Man that is hard. Going all the way back to when I was a kid to current times, I would say: Yngwie Malmsteen - 'Rising Force' Voivod - 'Nothingface' Michael Hedges - 'Ariel Boundaries' My Bloody Valentine - 'Loveless' Deathspell Omega - 'Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum'
Dysrhythmia - Test Of Submission (Profound Lore) There are any number of contemporary releases which can be described as combining the essentials of metal and jazz forming a mathematically taut series of compositions which showcase the participant’s musical skill whilst failing to infuse the music with a soul. Test Of Submission is the sixth full length release from Brooklyn’s Kevin Hufnagel, Colin Marston and Jeff Eber, and despite being packed tight with instrumentally complex and challenging pieces, is not without spirit and confidence at its core. Opening with the frenzied ‘In Secrecy’ Dysrhythmia lay all their cards resolutely on the table from the outset, this will be the beginning of an exuberant journey. Each individual instrument is contorted into any number of geometric shapes, but the whole is somehow held together. A piece such as ‘Running Towards the End’ is not only exhilarating to listen to with its buoyant riff, crooked time signatures and playful interjections, but it has the essential personality. ‘In the Spirit of Catastrophe’ contains all these elements and yet somehow pushes the boundaries that bit further. ‘Like Chameleons’ combines technicality with drilling percussion that possibly produces one of the most electrifying essentials to “Test of Submission”. ‘The Line Always Snaps’ soars majestically with regal chord progressions and towering lead lines. The shortage of a voice within these compositions is somehow forgotten amongst the bewildering array of tempo changes and tangential lines. The title track ‘Test of Submission’ is hammered down with invigorating guitar and bass parts riding regally over the crest of the percussion. The closing, and lengthiest track, ‘In Consequence’ builds slowly in the distance before abruptly pushing any sentimental thoughts aside with a series of crushingly technical progressions interspersed with flashes of its melancholic beginnings. All in all the eight tracks intertwine dreamily and showcase a band that is not only highly skilled at their art, giving the illusion that these parts are played with ease, but are enjoying the experience of creation. This devotion is passed on to the listener who may then allow the experience to wash over them with assurance. There is also a sense that each piece is a narrative, without words, played out on guitar and drums, occasionally brutal and hostile, occasionally contemplative. Aesthetically speaking the album cover itself may be argued to be inappropriately sombre for the nature of the music within, but the band logo helps convey the message of technicality and density. No longer signed to Relapse Records but released on Profound Lore, and their first release since Psychic Maps in 2009, Test of Submission cannot be accused of breaking new ground in the field of metal and jazz hybrids, but what they have achieved here is a sharpening of the jagged edges, and an injection of humanity to what can often be a soulless arena to labour in. John Toolan
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wORDS: Myron Schmidt
When you have the chance to talk to someone of Scott Kelly’s status it can be a little nerve racking to say the least. As I nervously dialed into the appointed number I really had hoped that I would sound mature and not come off as a crazy immature fanboy. As we went on, I found Scott to be soft spoken but passionate about what he and Neurosis do and about music in general. We got the chance to reminisce about records stores and choosing music in our youth and his graciousness and honesty really put me at ease very quickly. So how do you feel about the album now that its done and out the door? I really feel great about it, its one of our best records I think. I am totally satisfied with all aspects of the release, and the overall sound is really strong. The previous Neurosis releases were really built around massive walls of guitars, but “Honor Found in Decay” its all about atmospheric effects, how did this come into existence.
personalities. We are all control freaks, and so much so when it comes to our music that when the time was right and we could make this move, we just did it. This style really fits our personalities and our lifestyles. Neurot Recordings also features other bands including Ides of Gemini, Ufomammut, Amenra, and A Storm of Light, how do you pick those bands?
I dont think its so much about guitars as Noah really stepped in and gave huge contributions to this release. His contributions were so much more than in the past that it really pushed our sound. His hard work really added another level of texture and emotion on this release.
First and foremost we look for kindred spirits in music but that really isn't the only thing. We really look for bands who are motivated and can take care of their own shit so to speak. We don't really have a lot to offer bands in terms of money, we are a small label, but what we do offer is a safe place for them to get their music heard. We hear bands, we get bands passed on to us, and we really just go from there.
Neurosis has really been a D.I.Y. operation for quite some time now, how did this come about those many moons ago?
Do bands on your label come to you with a finished album that may need some mixing and mastering or how does it work?
For us it was a natural progression. It seemed to fit the way we do things and our
Its really on a case by case basis. Some bands come with things more on the
finished side, some need to be helped through the process. Everyone is different and everyone needs different levels of help and support. Speaking of recording, you wound up again with Steve Albini out of Chicago, what keeps you going back? In my opinion he is the best at what he does, but more than that its the kind of atmosphere that he built his studio, apartments the bands stay in around that keeps us going back. He has his operation in a warehouse, not unlike where we formed Neurosis, but much nicer, and his whole setup is really a great fit for us. We go there, go the grocery store and get our food for the apartment and start to work. We work long hours every day until we have a finished product. Did I hear you say that he has apartments in his studio, so you literally eat, sleep, and work right there in his studio? Yes that is exactly right. It really lets us focus on doing the record, and we can really get down to work in that kind of atmosphere.
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We have always been conscious of money, and this arrangement really lets get the record the way we want it in the shortest amount of time. So it really helps on the money aspect as well. I really hate to use this cliche, but you are really an elder statesman in the metal and music world, do you feel outside pressure to create a template type of sound? We have alway been very selfish about our music. Even in the infant stages of the band we create what we want and how we want, if people like it so much the better. This is really for us so we don't feel any pressure whatsoever to create or cater to a specific sound. Still in that elder statesman role, how do you feel about downloading? I really see multiple sides to this issue. For a band like us that to use your words is a D.I.Y. band, downloading literally takes money from our pockets and we all have families to feed. On the other hand in some countries there is no practical way to get music there and in this situation downloading is the only way to get music heard. We can not really sugar coat this too much because in the end when you take something that you are supposed to pay for its stealing, it's just complicated.
I understand exactly what you are saying, in some ways I view a generational difference as well. I come from the era, where I went down to the record store and picked music by word of mouth, from looking through cover art of all the vinyls in the rock section, or from that magic word import, boy did that create a buzz in the store. Whereas my kids grew up with downloading stuff. Yeah I agree there is a generational component as well. I remember picking out music the exact way you did, and my kids as well grew up in that download era. I never really talked to my oldest about downloading but I think he saw from me and how I am that its not the right thing to do.
So who are some of the bands that you are listening to now? These are always difficult questions for me, Black Sabbath is always a part of my playlist and always has been and always will be Judas Priest, Waylon Jennings, Dax Riggs Do you care what era of Black Sabbath? No it really depends on my mood. It can be Ozzy, Gillian, Dio and even Halford. I can find any song and era depending on my mood. Did you say Halford?
Yeah, there was a one off two night reunion show in California in maybe 92, where Priest was supporting Black Sabbath. The story Does Neurosis have any tour plans, or is it goes, I wasn't at the show so I am going on word of mouth here, that Ozzy blew his voice difficult for you to do extended tours with out on the first night and Halford stepped in on families and day jobs? night two and sang with Sabbath. There is a We are doing a show in Oakland on November live recording out there of this and man it is a killer recording, it is damn good. 17, with Voivod and YOB and then we have a couple of European dates set. It is very difficult for us to pack up and take extended road tours Thanks Scott, we are out of time. It was reso we have to do a lot of extended weekends ally great of you to take time to talk with us. and pick and choose where we go. In the summer we can usually work a couple of weeks off Thanks for the interview. and it makes sense that we may spend those in Europe as we can do a bunch of shows in www.neurosis.com that short of time over there.
â€œWe have alway been very selfish about our music. Even in the infant stages of the band we create what we want and how we want, if people like it so much the better.â€? ghost cult magazine | 25
An Ode To Bleak Decadence words: Noel Oxford
Ghost Cult’s Noel Oxford had the chance to sit down with Gilles De Rais, one of two masterminds behind German post black metal outfit Porta Nigra. They discussed the origins of the band, the new album, De Rais’ preference for working on new material over playing old material on stage and the philosophy behind Porta Nigra. You seem to have popped up out of nowhere. Tell us about yourselves. O. and myself worshipped chaotic Black Metal for nearly 13 years together. Two years ago I developed the idea behind PORTA NIGRA with a new concept and new, less chaotic music and I was lucky that my soulmate joined me. So we did not really popped out of nowhere. Your album is very highly polished for a debut. How long have you been hiding away, working on it? All in all it was maybe two years in which we were shaping "Fin de Siècle". Am I right in thinking you’re a two-piece? How did you come to that orchestration, and how do you balance it with trying to create a thick and decadent sound?
Yes, the core of the band are O. and me, Gilles de Rais. We have a lot of talented people around us that help us out, such as a solo-guitarist and a female singer. In the future we will work with a lot more people and use some strange, unusual instrumentation to develop our sound further. Can your sound be replicated on-stage? How well do the songs work in a live setting? I am no entertainer and do not enjoy playing live that much. I prefer working on new music instead of playing the old songs. But anyway, a really good offer to play at a prestigious festival in Germany was made. We cannot refuse that, the slot is perfect. So we are setting up right now a live lineup. We never played live before. This will be our first time. Still, all members have extensive stage-experiences with other bands.
You’ve talked about living in an empty and godless time, and your music as a reaction to that. What sort of themes are you exploring? The gentlemen of PORTA NIGRA believe in the idea that freedom and decay are mutually dependent, or to put it more simple: That man is not capable of “total freedom”. The only reason why PORTA NIGRA exists is to explore this correlation. This is one of the few things we believe in and this is what drives us to express ourselves. It is an approach not religious nor political, nor idealistic nor ethical. We are pretty much inspired by those artists of the so called “Fin de Siècle”, as we feel those spirits experienced similar emotions/thoughts like we do. For them with the rising mechanisation and industrialisation an era came to an end and they responded their way just like we respond to the decay of our time and generation. The old works of decadence literature and art are necessary keys to decrypt the world we gave birth to. Does this musical philosophy carry over into the lives of the band, or is it more a fantasy? Would you consider marketing likenesses of your penis, as Rammstein have, for example?
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We have lived the concept behind this album more than most people could imagine. I have risked my health and the health of other people. And I am not proud of that. But I am proud that this album is 100 % authentic and no fake. The next album will be a bit brighter maybe. Or let me say: Hopefully. Because I realized that I am not ready to die. I want to find a way out of the way I have lived. Rammstein is good entertainment, but we are no entertainers. We mean it.
Porta Nigra - Fin De Siècle (Debemur Morti Productions)
Phew. When Ghost Cult’s editor told me “Porta Nigra” sounded like sludgy doom crossed with black metal, a thrill of ice-cold panic went through me. Not really, of course; that would be grotesque. But on that description, I assumed it was going to be, at best, half-good and half-laughable. Now, I’m no black metal expert, so it’s probably my own idiotic bias that conjures up corpsepainted feline screeching at the mere mention of the letters ‘B’ and ‘M’ in proximity to each other, Are things really that bleak for us? Could but if that’s wrong, I’ll just take it on my rugged society hope for salvation, do you think? chin. I can now report that what little feline screeching Not this generation which has declared ‘Fin De Siècle’ does contain, corpsepainted or otherwise, is handily counterbalanced by Apple, Facebook and Youtube to it's new everything else that’s going on here. In this way, rather than quickly becoming a grating gods. This generation must fall and a new nuisance, the shrieking screams mark points of progression in the record’s sound. era has to come. But I won't be a leader or In fairness to “Porta Nigra”, they are described by their label as ‘Decadent Dark Metal’ idealist. I just watch how the world sets itself (caps theirs), so it was wrong for me to judge them on the BM moniker. Judging things is on fire and get lost in these cathartic flames. my favourite hobby, but we all have to rein in our enthusiasm sometimes. You can see where the label might apply, though, as silly as it sounds (though no sillier Which bands were inspiring you as you than ‘doomed blackened sludgecore’ or whatever). You can hear the uncaring industrial wrote this record? post-black metal bulk of “Samael”; the gunged-up, filthy riffs of “Capricorns”; the weirdly apt drunken gang-vocals of more-recent “Baroness” outings; and thanks to the snarled Killing Joke and muttered German epithets - as well as the thematic bent of the record - I often find myself thinking of “Rammstein” who embody a similar attitude of complete moral abandon. Are you touring with the record? When Bands all united in debauched and deviant cruelty. and where can we see you? There’s certainly a sinister atmosphere around this album. It’s densely orchestrated, and thick with ideas, skipping nimbly between them like a figure skater on her toes. All the There are no such plans, but who knows? more impressive that this is Porta Nigra’s debut, then; and doubly so, considering they’re Maybe one day in Europe. I guess that toura two-piece. One assumes they had a bit of help, especially when the choristers come in, ing in the US is unlikely for us. but still, it’s a fair achievement. Opener ‘Dekadente Nächte’ embodies the principle as it marches relentlessly through Give us a quick picture of 2013 for Porta gloomy slow-motion riffs and doubletime chugs. Sampled voices fade in and out, a wailing Nigra. What’s the next big thing on baby is heard and ignored. The song builds to an agressively-bellowed crescendo, then the horizon? rides its own momentum back down to a more stately pace for some outrageously baroque shredding. ‘Megalomaniac’ tacks a different We are working heavily on the new songs way, stacking the aforementioned anthemic gang and our second album which will be an outvocals against harrowing shrieks, all over a put with impact, I can assure you. Beside lilting sea shanty swing. A spasmodic midthat we will prepare for our first live-show. dle section that sounds like a full-fat mental Also there is a second video at the horizon. breakdown in action delivers us gently back into the chorus theme, this time janwww.facebook.com/PortaNigraBand gled out by acoustic guitars. That’s when they fire up the choir. Completely absurd, and yet somehow engrossing. Further down the playlist, ‘Absinthfee’ sticks in the mind for its creepy minimalism, a percussive bass note underlines a supremely catchy, yet pissed-up guitar line played with a tinge of fuzz. It’s really weird and hypnotic and yet there’s a tension; you’re waiting for the moment it creeps up on you and does something utterly unexpected. The unexpected thing is that I really like this. It doesn’t blow my mind, but it’s unusual and “This generation must fall enough to score a solid hit on my radar, and a new era has to come. But I it’s deep enough that I’d expect it to stay there for a while. I st. ideali or leader a be won't But that doesn’t make me a black metal just watch how the world sets fan, please remember that. Noel Oxford itself on fire and get lost in
these cathartic flames.”
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L E N T O
James Conway was very pleased with Anxiety, Despair Languish, the latest album by Italian instrumental maestros from Lento. He had the chance to sit down with the band and they discussed the history of the band, all the ins and outs of their latest musical baby and signing to Denovali Records.
Instrumental music at its very best Words: James Conway
For those who are unfamiliar, can you let us know the history of Lento; how you formed and what made you want to play the music you do? We have been playing together since 2004 and most of us grew up in Ostia, a small town close to Rome. In the mid-late nineties you had a lot interesting bands coming from there like ZU and Novembre. Music has always been our big passion and because of this mutual interest we met and started playing together. We began as a five piece act, three guitars, bass and drums, but after our second release “Icon”, we carried on as a quartet. We have always been playing instrumental music and after a brief period spent writing post-rock, in 2005 we shifted to heavier sounds. At the very beginning, part of the band was really into Isis’ first records and Mare (a Canadian band who released a self titled Ep in 2004), then, as time passed by, our influences broadened and so did our music.
You have always been an instrumental band. Was this a conscious decision? Is life made easier or harder by not having a vocalist? Being an instrumental band is definitely a conscious decision. We have always loved bands that, despite the presence of vocal parts, still gave a strong importance to the music. I can think of The Cure, a crucial band for the development of our musical tastes, or of King Crimson. We believe that instrumental music gives us a certain sense of creative freedom. When writing, for example, we don’t have to come up with certain recurring riffs and structures to support a singer. If this represents the pro, the con is that listeners can find instrumental music a bit hard to follow. A lot of musical information conveyed without the “fil rouge” of the vocals. Your new album “Anxiety Despair Languish” is set for release soon. What was the recording process like and what
themes are you exploring with the new record? Yes, “Anxiety Despair Languish” will be released on October 26th by the German Denovali Records. The album was recorded in spring 2012 in our rehearsal space, which is nothing more than a garage. Differently from our previous records, we preferred to not have any rush in the recording process, taking our time to conceive, write and capture. We mostly recorded live with the mobile studio of our guitarist Lorenzo. This has represented a new approach to us. After the main sessions we spent some time doing overdubs and adding some keyboards and sample parts. As for the themes, I don’t think there is a concept behind Lento’s music. We have tried to make a good record that could eschew the clichés of the genre and seek out a personal, sincere and highly professional identity. We also want to have fun in doing what we do. Actually, the words “Anxiety, Despair, Languish” relate more to the vehemence of our music than to the status of our feelings. When we write and play music we feel free of any despair. How does the new album follow on from “Earthen” and “Icon?” Has there been anything you have consciously changed sound wise or in your general outlook? We have always considered “Icon” as a very cold, dark and emotionless record. This is the sound we wanted to achieve on that record. “Anxiety Despair Languish” is just the opposite, it still has the same aggressiveness of “Icon”, but with the spontaneity that was featured in “Earthen”. I could add that “ADL” sounds more “pop” if compared with “Icon”. There are several reasons behind this change, however, the main one has to do with the departure from the band of our guitarist Giuseppe. Writing music with two guitars has allowed us to create a more
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“When we write and play music we feel free of any despair.” defined and technical music. I believe that with three guitars this type of sound would have been really hard to achieve.
more developments. In addition to that, we have tried to be more direct and straightforward than in the past.
You recently switched labels from Supernatural Cat to Denovali. What was the reason for the move and how is your new home working out for you?
Lento have toured extensively over the past few years. How has touring shaped you as a band and which country has the best fans?
Supernatural Cat has always showed love for the band but they were not fully satisfied with the promo of “Icon”. They were expecting something closer to “Earthen” but we were determined in wanting to change our style and move forward with our music. We eventually decided to look for another label and that’s when we received an offer by Denovali. We have always loved their catalogue and being part of such wide roster can only make us glad. The record itself sounds very loud and in your face. Was this a specific instruction to the producer to recreate the sound you produce when playing live? Yes, indeed it was. Matteo Spinazzè played a very crucial part in the realisation of the record. He has previously worked with artists like ZU, Thurston Moore and Jim O’Rourke Original Silence, Bobby Previte, Mats Gustafsson and he knows his job very well. His experience and his taste helped us achieving a very heavy and punchy sound that so far had not been fully expressed in our records. He made this record sound the way we are live. We are very satisfied with his work and very honoured to have him as sound engineer for the European tour of “ADL” The songs on “ADL” are quite short compared to other post metal bands. Is there a reason for this? Yes, there is a reason. We think that the attitude of writing music based on just one riff or theme repeated several times is something that can easily sound dull and impersonal. Nowadays it’s very hard to come up with something interesting and yet so simple. We felt the urge to try to make things in a bit more elaborated way. Like in our previous works, the pieces are based on riffs, but this time you have fewer repetitions and
Live activity has always meant a lot to us and Lento is definitely a touring band. Playing live has helped us improving our musicianship both as individuals and as a group. We spend a lot of time preparing our shows and in the weeks before going on tour we are very busy practising in our rehearsal space and get everything ready to do our best on the road. Once on tour, we are very excited and we feel that our efforts are paid off. As for the best fans, I must say that although we enjoy meeting people everywhere, we are generally particularly happy when we tour Germany and Eastern Europe. People there are extremely social and lively. What future plans do you have for Lento? Is there any particular place you would love to play or artist you would like to collaborate with? Near future plans are to play live as much as possible. We started planning another tour for the next spring and we would like to play in areas we have never been before like in Scandinavia and Balkan countries. Moreover, we are already thinking about writing new music or at least to figure out what direction to take. A strong desire we always feel after touring is to begin to write new material. About collaboration, we are planning to release a promotional video, and in these days we are in touch with an Italian filmmaker. Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! Any message to the readers of Ghost Cult? Thanks for your support and we hope to see the readers of Ghost Cult on tour. Take care.
Lento - Anxiety Despair Languish (Denovali Records)
Systematically forging their own path through the sparse Italian music scene, instrumental outfit Lento have largely gone unnoticed until recently, with their own brand of post/sludge metal largely being overlooked in favour of the big-hitters such as Isis and Cult Of Luna. But with the former split up and the latter seemingly in creative decline, this could be the prime opportunity for Lento to stand up and make themselves heard. ‘Death Must Be The Place’ arrives with a tortured, discordant riff that sounds lost in the darkness before coalescing into a streamlined Kylesa-style assault that can’t resist escaping its tethers to frolic in chaotic distortion. The jarring ‘Questions And Answers’ is imbued with a restless nervous energy that quite simply can’t sit still until its widescreen outro leads into the moody acoustics of ‘Blackness’, allowing you to attempt to work out what indeed is going on. The title track switches between passages of sprawling sludge and achingly sad melodies with the corrosive bass guitar the only constant, clanking like a chain under the chaos above. Riffs emerge in varying states of creation from the primordial soup of ‘The Roof’, seemingly in constant battle for supremacy like some newborn life force while the concussive battery of ‘A Necessary Leap’ goes for the jugular with its twisting Russian Circles-esque delivery. The three guitar assault really becomes apparent on the stabbing dexterity of ‘Underbelly’ which despite its name is one of the strongest tracks on the album. H.P. Lovecraft himself would surely be proud of the rabid Today Is The Day-indebted frenzy of ‘Blind Idiot God’ which sounds as threatening and sinister as anything in the pantheon of Elder Gods. ‘Inwards Disclosure’ cloaks the listener in a cloud of unsettling feedback and droning menace before the shifting tempos of ‘My Utmost For Is Highest’ closes things in fine style with its billowing choral tones and rapid drumming merging to form something freakishly beautiful. Eschewing the standard lengthy songs that so many of their contemporaries favour, Lento opt for three/four minute bursts of mayhem that are hard to pin down, but easy to get lost in. It’s a formula that pays off, with enough variation in the three guitars to make the forty minute run time seem like mere seconds. A truly innovative and unworldly experience. James Conway
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become rock stars, and we’d rather take however long it needs to produce something that will mean something of value to us and, hopefully, the listener.
Indesinence’s second album Vessels of Light and Decay has been in gestation since 2006. The London death/doom band has experience line-up shifts in that time and the unerring desire to truly create something special and worthwhile took precedence above all else. Guitarist and vocalist Ilia Rodriguez discusses how this all came to be. Words: Jonathan Keane
Vessels of Light and Decay has been six years in the making. Why has it been so long? There are a number of reasons, and the main one is also probably the most obvious: we wanted to make it good. Music seems to happen so regularly these days and it feels like bands are expected to simply churn records out… but I wonder how much life experience
most musicians can have amassed in less than one year for them to honestly think they are ready to make yet another musical statement in the form of an album. Start writing on auto-pilot and the lack of quality control starts to become evident, yet most bands are content to do precisely that, presumably in the pursuit of greater popularity or some absurd projection of prolificacy. Indesinence goes the opposite way and we always have done; we didn’t start doing this to
What happened in the interim? The main event is probably the fact we lost a pivotal founding member in the form of Chris James, whom we firmly remain friends with, but who increasingly felt being in the band was no longer in tune with the lifestyle he sought. He is still a fan of music, and now lives happily in the countryside with his long-time wife and soon-to-be first child. To be honest, the future of the band was critical for a couple of months, but we soon found a suitable replacement in our friend Andy McIvor, whom we knew personally and through his activities in Code and Blutvial. He was already a fan and, in retrospect, it was a true stroke of luck he wanted to be involved, as we honestly could not think of a single other person who could have filled Chris’ shoes, both in terms of ability and of outlook. He was a truly unique personality and musician, and so is Andy. So we were lucky there.
“Start writing on auto-pilot and the lack of quality control starts to become evident, yet most bands are content to do precisely that, presumably in the pursuit of greater popularity or some absurd projection of prolificacy.” ghost cult magazine | 30
There have also been other things getting in the way, such as two of the members getting married, the usual issues that generally come with being alive, and the various other musical activities each of us are or have been involved in. But work on this album has remained constant – just with some pauses here and there, which in turn helped the material breathe during its development. Writing an Indesinence release is usually a slow but also quite organic process; it just happens to need its time. The album is being released by Profound Lore. When did you first come in contact with them? We’d been in touch with Chris Bruni [Head of Profound Lore] before his label even existed. He reviewed the Ecstatic Lethargy demo back in 2003. All our previous contracts were for one release, and the timing was just right to work with him for this album. In fact, our collaboration was already agreed on over two years ago. Were you surprised by their interest? In light of what I mentioned above, we were not surprised, but we were definitely very pleased. We feel this is a perfect match and are of course thrilled to be working with Profound Lore. Their reputation is based on hard work, trust, walking the talk, and honest, strong-minded criteria of what constitutes quality music with the right presentation. Also, Bruni is a massive fan of Rush (especially 80s Rush), as was Jason from Goat of Mendes, who released Noctambulism. This is an essential condition for us to work with anybody. Vessels of Light and Decay is a very apt album and title, as you move frequently between the brutal and serene. Is this approach to song writing a conscious one on your part? Absolutely. Each of those opposites not only complements, but actually reinforces the other. They both have always been equallyweighted inspirations and an intrinsic part of what Indesinence does, and more than ever on this album. Light and decay are tantamount to life, and we all are their vessels. What are some of the key influences for this album, and Indesinence as a whole? Life, the occult and horror as a concept were driving forces in the beginning. I guess it is natural for much metal to preoccupy itself with the darker aspects of existence, and we were no different in that sense. This probably still holds true today, though of course we all change as the years pass,
and these evolving interests and mindframes always sneak their way into one’s music, even subconsciously. Ultimately, I guess each recording captures a current of energy that is borne of elements common to all people involved, and this is also what our album is: a piece of the past few years in the lives of five people. Also, we are of course, to some extent, influenced by the bands and artists we listen to, which are many and varied. Our formative years were shaped by the doom metal of Trouble, Sabbath, Pentagram, Cathedral and Solitude Aeturnus, the death metal and doom-death of Autopsy, Demigod, Disembowelment, Thergothon or Grave, also names such as Diamanda Galas, Swans, Killing Joke, Cocteau Twins, Levitation, Controlled Bleeding, early Current 93 and a very long etcetera… as well as progressive and psychedelic bands ranging from Floyd and Moody Blues to the Electric Prunes. This could turn into a long and boring list. We just love good music, and we love good metal. For you, how does Vessels of Light and Decay compare against Noctambulism? Musically, I believe this album is a natural continuation – or at least as natural as could have been expected to turn out five years down the line. We are still three out of the four people who recorded Noctambulism on board, and Andy had a very good understanding of Indesinence and what the band is about before joining anyway; not to mention the fact that much of this material has been progressively worked on over this period, so they are not, strictly speaking, new compositions. Some people have called these songs ‘more progressive’, which I suppose is a fair assessment in terms of the larger scope overall and the attention paid to dynamics. But we are every bit as proud of Noctambulism as we were the day it was released. It is still part of us, flaws and all. Thematically, this is a rawer and more poignant album. I guess it would sound stereotypical to say that the years (and especially crossing the threshold into the 30s – where we have all been a fair while now) often give you an insight into the meaning of life and the passing of time that is graver and more dramatic, for lack of more succinct words. This is very much reflected on the album. Also we’ve had our fair share of personal turmoil this year with matters related to health and family, and undergone states of mind that were conducive to the
album turning out in this way. There is also an element of a want for transcendence, for finding ways of coping with that turmoil, via exploration outer and inner (call it soulsearching, or even occult-driven, if you will) that manifests itself more as the album progresses. Life is immense and thrilling, but also very fragile and bound to some dark nights of the soul, and it is up to each of us to find our own way towards hope, fulfilment and redemption. This is Vessels of Light and Decay in a nutshell. How do you feel you have evolved since then? I have gained a fair few wrinkles; probably a couple of extra kilos and my hair has got a bit thinner on top. My back has also got a lot hairier; fucking annoying, this getting-old malarkey. The other guys still look like babies. Well, expect for John; he’s got a full beard now – he has actually de-volved, ha! As for the music, it has probably just absorbed our experiences as we went along, and so there is probably an added layer of intricacy and refinement to the compositions, as well as an improvement on the expressiveness of the themes and overall honesty of the material – or at least we hope so. The listener does, of course, ultimately have the last word. I guess this is essentially a new chapter of the same book, and no new chapters ‘improve’ or invalidate the previous ones; just like the past can be forgotten but never negated, all parts are necessary to the whole. What are Indesinence’s plans for playing live? To obliterate every man present with our elephantine riffs, to dress the walls with their corpses and to hear the lamentations of their women. Do you have any particular touring ambitions? Only to take things as they come. We are prepared to consider any good offers, but are in no hurry to go out begging for them – we are too old for that! If people want to see us play anywhere and are prepared to help make it happen, then we will do our part. www.myspace.com/indesinence
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Ghost Cult’s Matt Hinch caught up recently with Richard Loudin of French doom metal ensemble Monolithe. They talked about the remarkable concept behind their albums, the band’s unorthodox approach to songwriting, the increasing international praise of French metal and future plans Words: Matt Hinch
A Space Oddity You name your albums and EPs following a numeric sequence. (I, II, III. Premier, Second.) Is there a specific reason for this? MONOLITHE is a concept-band which is basically telling a story divided into chapters, every one of the later being an album. That’s why the records are baptized in a sort of chronological order. Whereas the fulllength albums are following a straight narrating line, the EPs can be considered as some sort of spin-offs from the main storyline. Another reason is that, as fans of the 1970’s rock scene, we wanted to have a connection with this great period for the electrified music scene. For example, Led Zeppelin had their first four albums named like ours, and very long songs were not that unusual back in those times. We don’t sound at all like a 70’s band, but it’s an implied reference to a period we feel connected to, because music was not that much formatted back then.
What was the original impetus to be a band that only releases one (epic) song albums? Yes, that was our plan from the beginning. This is part of the whole concept. One songalbums, each following a storyline, so we get, when it’s done, one full story divided into several chapters. The name of the band itself is a reminder of what the band is actually about. How difficult is it to set out with the intention of writing one long song versus many shorter ones? The main concern is to remain interesting all along. I mean, it’s so obvious that you have to captivate the listener so he doesn’t lose himself along the way. Another thing is that you have to keep a focus on the entire song to keep it well balanced, especially in terms of structure. It’s a long song, but still, it’s a song. There are parts coming back sometimes, so they has to be at the right place at the right time, with enough variations
so it never gets boring. And last but not least, shorter songs allow you to jump from one mood or atmosphere to another without worrying much about transitions. With a long composition, you have to create smooth transitions to let the music flow with ease, even though harsh changes of moods can be part of an artistic choice. How do you feel about all the attention French metal bands have received over the last few years? (Alcest, Gojira, Deathspell Omega, etc) Oh well, I’m pretty glad about it. Those bands are good and they deserve recognition. There are many other French bands who have something special to bring to the metal scene, I guess it’s a just a matter of time before some of them begin to receive more attention abroad. I think there are many bands here in France who do something of their own without caring much about what is popular at the moment. It’s a cultural thing. That’s why a lot of them sound fresh and new. The North American release date for Monolithe III isn't until next year while the rest of the world gets it this November. Are you worried about piracy in such a big market?
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No, not really. The album will inevitably end up being available somewhere online, so what can we do? I’m not worried about money we would not get or anything like that. We want to be listened… So let’s be listened by as many people as possible, it doesn’t really matter how. What does worries me, though, is that our label, which makes a fantastic job, wouldn’t get something back from what it has invested in us. So I hope that people who download the album and like it will consider buying it to support both the band and label. You know, like a sponsor or something, so we can go on doing what we do.
We have tried to do something of our own from the beginning. I can say there is a Monolithe-sound, which is quickly identifiable. You know, Doom Metal is a very codified genre. It’s difficult to ignore its rules because you are not Doom anymore if you do so. And if you strictly follow the rules, then you sound like a typical cliché, without much to bring that hasn’t been done by older, and possibly better, bands before. Monolithe tries to stand just in between those limits. We can be identified as a Doom Metal band, but we’re not your average one. Each of our records is an achievement in that way, may it be some sort of classic Funeral Doom like the our debut album “Monolithe I” or some Doom has never been and will likely never kind of experimental, totally original SpaceRock-y-Doom like “Interlude Second EP”. All be a genre which leads to fame and fortune (even in relative terms). So, what are of them have got an edge, a trademark, and your motivations or what do you hope to a Monolithe quality-proof if I may say so. achieve in pursuing Monolithe as a doom Our pure Doom Metal roots lay in the early 90’s British (mainly) and Finnish scene. project? Maybe some Death Metal too. Early AnathWell, as artists, our first motivation is to bring ema, My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Bolt Thrower (for the slow and heavy pace)… out good music. Music that comes from our guts and that, possibly, people may like. We Unholy, Thergothon…. But we are aware of what’s going on in the whole musical scene don’t do it for fame or fortune (though I wouldn’t say no to the fortune part J). Mono- too so we may grab some influences here and here. And of course, our mindset lithe plays Doom Metal because the band is close to the one who drove a has something to say in this particular field, it’s as simple as that. The emotion, the heavi- lot of rock, hard rock and progressive bands in the ness, the long songs, the progressive structures, everything is in there, in that subgenre, 1970’s, which means: no limits to creativity as far to tell our story. as it’s good and as we’re Lyrics are relatively sparse on the album. pleased with the result! Is there a story to III? Are you big fans of the Lyrics are sparse on all of our records J They Space Odyssey novtell what has to be told, nothing less, nothing els, or is it more about more. “Monolithe III” is the third chapter of what the Monolith our story. It brings you in a distant future, represents? where mankind has acquired such an impressive knowledge, that men even discover We’re fans of the first how and why they were brought to existence novel by Clarke, and in the first place. Unfortunately, they also Kubrick’s movie, inlearn that their use has come to an end and deed. The monoliths in that they are set to extinction. the book and movies are the basis of our I feel like your approach to doom is atypiown story. The monocal as far as tuning and pacing is conlith is a sentinel and a cerned. Where do you draw some of your kick-starter for an uninfluences? developed sentient
being. The question is how and why did it come here on Earth in the first place. From that shared setting, Monolithe’s story takes a different road. We describe the rise of mankind into one of the most daring and conquering species and then it’s ultimate fall. Where do you see Monolithe going in the future? Well, according to our plans, we should release another album in a year or two, which is supposed to be the last chapter of the Monolithe saga. We will probably disband after that last one. Musically, that will be a new adventure, something both daring and totally rooted in the genre we play, like it has always been the case before. But who knows, maybe we’ll have other ambitions when the story is complete. Thanks for your time and good luck with everything! That was a pleasure, thanks to you too! Good luck and take care! http://monolithedoom.tumblr.com
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ALBUM OF THE MONTH
REVI EW S Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind (Epitaph Records
“All We Love We Leave Behind” is album number eight for Converge, and one of this year’s most anticipated albums. With “All We Love We Leave Behind”, the band unleashes their particular brand of aural terrorism, while infusing it with emotion, conviction and melody. ‘Aimless Arrow’ kick-starts the album with impressive guitar noodling, frantic drumming and an emotional edge that injects the listener with adrenaline, before succumbing to Jacob
Abiotic – Symbiosis (Metal Blade )
Abiotic is an aptly named deathcore band. Their name means “devoid of life” or something that is “not derived from living organisms”, and fittingly, their brand of deathcore is bland and lifeless. The music is brutal and technical, and that is all there is to it. There is nothing else significant to take away from this record beyond such banal traits of bad quality
Bannon’s ferocious, screamed vocals and pummelling metalcore riffing. ‘Trespasses’ and ‘Tender Abuse’ continue the assault with an obvious thrash metal influence and intense double bass pedal drumming. In ‘Sadness Comes Home’ Kurt Ballou showcases his impressive guitar work combining frantic double tapping with bluesy licks.‘A Glacial Pace’ is almost an ambient track, with a spacey atmosphere and washed out vocals that weave their way around chaotic instrumentation and Bannon’s screams. ‘Vicious Muse’ begins with a catchy, punk rock inspired drum solo, while ‘Veins and Veils’ has a slinky, and slightly menacing bass intro. ‘Coral Blue’ is perhaps the most unexpected track on the album, with raspy, almost whispered vocals, and a, dare I say it, radio friendly chorus, ‘Coral Blue’ is clear demonstration of the band’s ability to craft powerful, melodic tracks that leave you with chills down your spine. ‘Precipice’ is a haunting instrumental complete with subdued guitars and a piano. ‘All We Love We Leave Behind’ is four minutes of emotional hardcore that encompasses the mood and broad spectrums of sound and emotions explored within the album. ‘Predatory Glow’ closes the album with chugging guitar riffs and plenty of opportunities to bedroom mosh, and
deathcore music. No melodies that stick in the mind and no atmosphere of any kind conjured. It just reeks of mindless savagery. Deathcore can be capable of having melodies that stick. Deathcore can also be capable of conjuring some kind of atmosphere. And guess what? Both aspects can be done with the inclusion of musical savagery! Carnifex’s Hell Chose Me has catchy melodies and a musically dark atmosphere, and Suicide Silence always has catchy melodies (too catchy in fact… their hit singles can practically be called deathcore anthems) and a musically morbid atmosphere; and both bands are as savage as starved zombies. Abiotic fail to reach this standard, and as every track goes by, you will be increasingly convinced that you are listening to audio clips of tortured animal squeals playing to a typically bad deathcore band demo’s instrumental tracks instead. The typical structure of any song goes something like this: technical riff, breakdown, technical riff, guitar solo that appears out of nowhere with no logical sense of continuity from the preceding breakdown/technical riff,
while it’s an odd way to end an album, it’s an end that will have you teeming with excitement and awaiting more. In 2001 Converge released “Jane Doe”, one of the most well regarded albums in metal/hardcore, and have since had the task of trying to outdo what many would consider their magnum opus. Expecting a new “Jane Doe” with every new Converge release is certainly an unfair viewpoint taken by many of the band’ s fans, but it is this viewpoint that has allowed Converge to expand and evolve their sound, while releasing consistently brilliant albums. With “All We Love We Leave Behind”, Converge has introduced a more post hardcore influenced sound, while building on other influences such as blues and post rock. It’s songs like ‘Coral Blue’ or ‘Sadness Comes Home’ where the band meld influences or tries something new that really make an impact on the listener. Conventionally heavy songs, such ‘Tender Abuse’ and ‘Shame in the Way’ however seem much less sincere and intense as some of the band’s previous output, and are less memorable as a result. Ultimately, the band’s experimentation with unconventional genre influences has payed off on “All We Love We Leave Behind”, creating an album that is part unique, beautiful, and abrasive. Brayden Bagnal
breakdown, technical riff, breakdown/technical riff. Now, marvel at this immense sense of musicality! The most fascinating tracks would have to be ‘Metamorphilia’ and ‘Exitus’, which are the first and eighth tracks respectively. ‘Metamorphilia’ is the instrumental introduction that starts off this album on its breakdown-spamming spree, and ‘Exitus’ is a minute-and-ahalf instrumental intermission between track number 7 and 9… I mean 2… I mean 5… I mean 6… oh damn, they all sound the same. While both tracks merely consist of series of breakdowns that lead to more series of breakdowns masquerading as “songs”, comparatively, they are the most tolerable tracks because of their lack of vocals. Abiotic’s current musical style sounds suitable for composing such filler tracks, but it is horribly unsuitable for composing the rest of the more relevant material on the album. They need to learn a thing or two from bands like Carnifex and Suicide Silence, and learn to write songs rather than technical exercises on future albums. Dane Prokofiev
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American Heritage- Sedentary (Solar Flare) A quick look at American Heritage’s rather...confusing Facebook bio doesn’t really give much away about the band or their history, other than they play metal, they have an odd but clear sense of humour, and that they would probably like a beer or 3. Oh and their manager is Jesus (possibly a lie). Unsurprisingly, Sedentary doesn’t show many signs of taking itself too seriously, both with very silly song titles, and a feeling of looseness which suggests that these guys just want to have fun. The obvious influences on Sedentary are those of punk and sludge bands. Probably the most obvious comparison is that of early Mastodon, especially in the guitar tone and the rawness in production. It does have a great deal of punk influence as well, such as in the short and snappiness of most of the songs and definitely in pace. At times (such as on ‘Sickening Rebellion’) it even begins to veer towards a Trap Them style visceral assault. With such comparisons it does come across as a very aggressive sounding mix and in part it does, but it is also a very tongue in cheek album; with song titles like ‘Fetal Attraction’ and ‘Kiddie Pool Of Baby Blood’, it would be stupid to take them too seriously and evidently American Heritage don’t expect you to. This is an album that just demands to have fun and a few beers to, and even though it is not groundbreaking to say the least, with some really fat grooves in places, you will do just that. claim it gets and Anuryzm a band destined for great heights. Chris Tippell
Ambassador Gun - Golden Eagle (Pangea Recordings)
There’s nothing worse than an album that only grabs you on the last track. 'No Suffering' brings things to a close in a way that Ambassador Gun only dream of in the ten previous; a blast of fury that incorporates modern death metal and grind, before exploding a guitar freak out backed by a chugging rhythm section and guttural vocals. The time signatures change and adapt and it all ends too quickly, leaving you wondering why this wasn’t possible throughout.
Don’t get me wrong Golden Eagle isn’t bad; it chugs in all the right places, there’s a nice contrast between Luke and Tim but the whole thing is carried by a weak production. Nothing stands out, it just gallops forward in a fairly non-descript, impotently aggressive way. There are impressive moments such as when it all seems to fall apart before building up again in a whirlwind of guitar feedback and kick drumming towards the end of 'Warpainted' and the crushing end to 'Chris Brown' but brief moments don’t make an album. A lot of this seems wasted, like the band didn’t really know what they wanted to do. Simple crust beats feel out of place between the faster and more complex death metal sections. The tricky time signatures all too quickly slip away into lines that only serve to move forward, leaving the complex sections sounding awkward and out of place. These guys know how to play but all the seams are still showing; moments sticking out garishly like a Burzum patch on a Nicki Minaj hoodie. By the time they hit all the right notes with 'No Suffering' it’s too late. The moment has passed and judgement has been reached. It shows hope for the future; four minutes of the band proving that these combinations can work. If their next effort can continue the momentum, iron out the creases and move forward, then we’ll have a contender, a band who can crack skulls and break bones. Matthew Tilt
Anaal Nathrakh- Vanitas (Candlelight Records)
Vanitas follows hot on the heels of Passion, which saw release only last May. Whilst Passion showcased Anaal Nathrakh at their most depraved and filthy, Vanitas is closer in sound to In The Constellation of the Black Widow or Eschaton, whilst still carving its own path. This isn't pleasant music by any means, but there is a strong sense of melody beneath the dirge of hatred and distortion. ‘The Blood Dimmed Tide’ opens the album with an unsettling chant of sorts, before the band come charging out the gates, accompanied by a unintelligible shriek from Dave Hunt which would unnerve even the most hardened extreme metal fan. One of Anaal Nathrakh's strongest qualities has always been the fact that they blend so many qualities of extreme metal that it is difficult to pigeon hole them into a subgenre: This undoubtedly remains the case on Vanitas. Riffs inspired by the likes of Mayhem and Emperor are given more weight by an ever present rumbling bass. Sludge influences rear their ugly head as well, particularly after the intro of ‘Todos Somos Humanos’. The industrial element of Anaal Nathrakh's music has been pushed even further on Vanitas. This first becomes noticeable towards the end of ‘To Spite the Face’, where everything fades out besides a synthetic, pulsing drum beat, and Dave Hunt's vocals. Although this may not sound great on paper, it totally works in the context of the album. The precision of these electronic flourishes only enhances the claustrophobic wall of noise. Although it is a clichéd thing to say, Vanitas might also be Anaal Nathrakh's most melodic album to date. On ‘In Coelho Quies, Tout Finis Ici Bas’, a soaring guitar melody acts as the outro, before one of the catchiest and most brutal track on the album: ‘You Can't Save Me, So Stop Fucking Trying’. Anaal Nathrakh famously don't publish their lyrics, but this track has the immediately memorable refrain of, “you can't save me, you can barely even save yourself, so stop fucking trying”. Hopefully this will become a staple of the live set. ‘Feeding The Beast’ takes a slightly slower pace than the other songs on the album, wallowing in its thick, filthy distortion, before things pick up again with ‘Of Fire and Fucking Pigs’. Mick Kenney's lead guitar melody sounds like the aural equivalent of a descent into madness. This is accompanied by Dave Hunt's vocals, which cover shrieks, barks and everything in between. The album ends on the almost mournful ‘A Metaphor for the Dead’, which sonically embodies feelings of hopelessness as opposed to those of hatred or anger. Vanitas is another strong album from Anaal Nathrakh, which should please existing fans of the band as well as newcomers. It is highly commendable that even on their 9th release, they are finding new ways to create such filthy music, as opposed to relying on the same old tricks. Tom Saunders
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Between The Buried And Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence (Metal Blade)
Between The Buried And Me are not a normal band. It’s arguable that they never were, but with the release of “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” they have taken a leap into a whole new musical space of which they are the sole occupants. With this album they have re-written the rule book and added whole new chapters of their own. To attempt to categorise them would be an exercise in futility, but those familiar with their previous work will recognise elements of technical death metal, prog, metal core and math metal; add to that surf, fairground music, throw in curved balls like xylophones and tubas, contrasting clean and death vocals and the result is giddying in its complexity, breathtaking in its scope. Theme after theme is played out as layer upon layer, the band explores more musical territory than many bands could hope for in an entire career. “The Parallax II: Future Sequence” follows last year’s “The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues” EP and tells the story of two characters separated by millions of light years and yet somehow linked to each other. Their actions and subsequent consequences provide the concept upon which the album is built. To create an EP’s worth of music this complex and technical would be a challenging venture; to create a whole album is nothing short of a triumph. Two questions spring immediately to mind: first, how do they manage to compose on this scale; and, second, how on earth will they replicate it live? They’re touring Europe this month so now is the time to go and find out... To conduct an in-depth analysis of each song would take more words than I’m allowed here (I usually make notes before writing the review proper, and for this album I ended up with six pages of the damn things) so I’ll just pick out a few highlights. Suffice it to say that each and every song stands strongly on its own merits and that what I write gives only a flavour of the actual experience.
Arktau Eos - Ioh-Maera (Svart Records)
In an ideal world, every album you played would drag you into the band or artist’s world; you don’t have to agree with the message but it should sure as hell grab you. Arktau Eos may not do this in the traditional sense of catchy rhythms and relatable lyrics but you can’t deny the trance-like state IohMaera leaves you in.
‘Astral Body’ (for which there is a suitably mind-blowing video, go check it out at the band’s website) begins in a prog metal style that might be Dream Theater, before the extreme metal vocals kick in over a technical death metal passage that reminds me a little of Sikth before changing again into a syncopated, slightly jazzy guitar passage. The whole thing is so complex and accomplished it leaves your head spinning and this is only song number two on the album... ‘Lay Your Ghosts To Rest’ combines uber heavy extreme metal with vocal harmonies, twin guitar parts that explore big euphoric runs and a section that calls to mind the rhythm of a fairground pipe organ, the kind of thing that Supergrass used to specialise in (or maybe that section in King Crimson’s ‘In The Court Of The Crimson King’). To top it off there’s even a waltz included for good measure. ‘Extremophile Elite’ ranges from death to prog metal, varying vocal styles and time signatures. It’s a song that features xylophone and tuba, their inclusion verging on the cartoon-like, ensuring that any preconceptions you might still have are utterly subverted, forcing the listener to embrace the strange and accept the fact that nothing will ever be quite as you expect. The multi-part, multi-layered nature of the song is a microcosm of the album as a whole and there’s no doubt that this is something very special indeed. ‘Bloom’ uses a piano intro overlaid with a heavy, complex theme which segues into a ticking clock of a rhythm – a bit Jane’s Addiction – and then a surf section that calls to mind either ‘Peter Gunn’, or maybe even the original ‘Batman’ theme. ‘Silent Flight Parliament’ utilises much light and shade, contrasting quiet and loud passages as yet more unusual vocals meet proggy keyboards and heavy prog metal sections. The complexity never lets up, the band allowing themselves no quarter as they demand and deliver a continued, virtuoso performance. That’s just five of the twelve songs that make up “The Parallax II: Future Sequence”; for the rest, you really need to explore the album for yourself. This is essential listening, easily one of the key releases of 2012 and a genuine landmark in progressive music. If you don’t buy another album this year make sure you get this one. Musical experiences like this don’t happen very often, and you owe it to yourself to share it with one of the world’s most gifted, creative and original bands. Ian Girle
Part of a two album combo, along with the vinyl only Unworeldes, this is a masterwork for these Finnish cultists; a droning hypnotism of thunderous drums and deafening feedback that builds and drops over harmonious chants and dark, otherworldly ambience. There are no singles on offer, no tracks that ease you into this band. There’s a discernible order to the album that feels rigid and purposeful despite the apparent monotonous drone that cloaks each track. Like a sermon, this moves to the flow of the preacher and relies fully on the how the preacher delivers it. In the hands of a lesser band this could have quickly fallen apart but the sombre nature of the delivery carries us through each clash. At 46 minutes this should be a test to the listener, but it becomes so easy to listen to. It never becomes background noise, instead holding your full attention as if the next song was about to grant you access to some great epiphany.
It should go without saying that this album will not be for everyone. Those with a taste for solid structures and that verse – chorus – verse set up that everyone is so keen on should probably go elsewhere. This isn’t an album that will answer your questions, or give you a happy ending; in fact ‘Otherstone Refraction’ will go down as one of the most unsettling final tracks I’ve ever heard, filled with howling winds and dealt with in such a minimalist way that every added sound grabs your full attention as if you were walking in the woods alone. However, if your tastes veer towards the darker, more occult side of extreme music than this is a masterpiece. A haunting and complete album that does its best to defy explanation whilst bringing you as close to a cold, damp, semi-religious experience you’d ever want to have with this band. Matthew Tilt
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Bison B.C- Lovelessness (Metal Blade) It may just be myself not paying a great deal of attention (very likely actually), but it does seem that sludge bands are becoming a much more common sight. Of course many newer bands are more than happy to ape the heavyweights of the genre (much like in any genre), so it is always nice to hear a band trying to do something a little different. Now Bison B.C are not exactly a new band (the Canadian sludgers are on their 3rd full length), but are certainly a name to put forward when looking for sludge bands shaping their own identity.
Bastard Of The Skies - Tarnation (Future Noise) British doom has been pretty stellar of late. Whether it’s the death metal infused style of Indesinence, or the female fronted Undersmile and their marine themed Narwhal of this year or the raspy sludge of Lancashire based Bastard Of The Skies. Tarnation is darn heavy and the rolling rumbles of bass underpinning the harsh vocal lines of Matt Richardson cut through the murk like an axe through wood. Bastard Of The Skies tread a steady line of melody whilst imbuing their music with ever increasing waves of shuddering weight and 'A Punch In The Fucking Lungs' is a decidedly fitting title for the second track on their third album. '(Roasted In The Depths Of The) Sloar' trembles with a fearsome tangibility and Bastard Of The Skies chug along with naught a care for the destruction left in their path. This quartet is here to pulverise with powerful and bellowing vocals and instrumentation heavy enough to move the earth itself during their deliciously extended riff-laden songs. It’s not all masses of noise though, and the instrumental 'Tarnation' is a step into more ambient territory and the washes of electronic feedback pulse and breathe with a deeply unsettling tone. It’s certainly an interesting addition to the album and ensures that Bastard Of The Skies aren’t seen just as super heavy noise-makers but as composers and willing to take that risk. Tarnation is a massively worthy entry into the sludge arena and Bastard Of The Skies will hopefully be mentioned in the same breath as bands such as Old Man Gloom and perhaps even Neurosis in the future. This record is really bloody good and deserves your attention. Cheryl Carter
What is strikingly different about Lovelessness from much of the rest of the genre is purely the atmosphere. A lot of sludge metal conjures up images of Southern USA, whisky drinking and good times (think Down for example). Lovelessness on the other hand (unsurprisingly given the title) is a much bleaker and even melancholic affair. There is a real air of desperation rising from the vocals, complimented by the downbeat, slow and brooding pace of the music throughout, rather akin to doom metal but with a very sludge like tone. Interestingly, Bison BC aren’t afraid to throw in a few psychedelic elements here and there. They are very subtle it has to be said but there are noticeable and at times unexpected uses, such as on ‘Clozapine Dream’, where it suddenly begins to drift, not to mention unconventional song lengths which even see an over 10 minute epic in ‘Blood Music’. Whilst perhaps not being radically different to many of their peers, Bison B.C is definitely making a real effort to stand out with their third full length effort. Definitely worth a listen. Chris Tippell
Blueneck - Epilogue (Denovali Records) When you find something on the Denovali label you can be pretty certain it's going to be music full of depth and texture. And good. So it is with the fourth release from UK band Blueneck, who have forgone vocals in this half hour record that marks the end of the old and clears the way for a new sound in their upcoming release, slated for next year. The album cover shows a detail from the layout of the Apollo command module main control panel. This is hardly surprising given the preoccupation so many players of post-rock seem to have with science, space and science fiction. Then there's also so often that feeling “gee this would sound good as a soundtrack for a film” when it comes to instrumental rock. If the music is really good you can make it the soundtrack to the best film in the world – the one in your head. The one where the music sets the emotions and you construct the plot, the characters and the setting. Welcome to Epilogue, a soundtrack to a space film not yet made, with the song titles 'Apogee', 'Carina', 'Eta Carinae' and 'Colonization- incident' telling you a bit about where the band's heads are at. There's undeniably some Mogwai to be heard in these eight post-rock morsels and it favours the first-generation feel over post-metal, mathrock and indie-rock elements, but that doesn't stop them being some of the very best of the genre you will hear this year. You probably know the score – if you think that all post-rock sounds the same then this won't change your mind. On the other hand, if you like your instrumental rock full of melancholy and sadness, then this is for you. In fact forget sadness, this has songs full of utter despair.
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The glimmer of hope that builds through the record is soon snatched away as you travel the cinematic journey of emotions, a journey I've not experienced to this degree since last year's “Twelve Hundred Times” by Laura, and to a lesser degree the song The Narrow State' by Rumour Cubes. Of course this is my emotional response – yours is likely to be completely different. Great isn't it? Like so much good music of its type, Epilogue builds its power and beauty through a combination of rich, deep textured layers while maintaining an economy of actual sounds. If a note doesn't need to be there, it isn't. I suppose you can throw in the impact of piano as the backbone, which always helps guide the emotions. The short length is this record's only shortcoming – it needed to be much longer. You just don't get enough time to lose yourself completely. Apart from that Epilogue is as good as this spiral arm of the post-rock galaxy gets. It's a great last fling before Blueneck break free of their post-rock orbit and shoot off to worlds unknown. Suit up and climb aboard. Gilbert Potts
even slightly psychedelic territory evoking the likes of Medicine, Chelsea Wolfe and GHXST. Although the band's faster and heavier offerings are not dissimilar to the output of their previous incarnation, there is a subtle shift into more experimental areas that yield some excellent results. But this album does have the overwhelming feel of dipping its toe in the water, rather than diving in head-first. It would be interesting therefore, to see what they could do to push the envelope and really redefine what the band is all about. There will, of course, forever rage a debate regarding the band's change in direction and even comparisons between the former and current vocalists. But this completely misses the point. Bands break up and musicians start over again. And in the case of Bad Powers it has given them a hunger and drive to create some, quite simply, stunning music. Sean M. Palfrey
Cocks Arquette - Cocks Arquette (Self-Released)
Bad Powers - Bad Powers (Self-Released)
There is still the underlying grunge of The Jesus Lizard and the Isis style beard-stroking metal tinges, but what is immediately noticeable about the band's self-titled début album is the strong post-punk flourishes that recall the likes of Joy Division and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds amongst others. Tweed's incredibly versatile voice moves from hushed tones to guttural screams as it combines with warm synthesizers, down-tempo guitar riffs and grooving bass lines resulting a rich and compelling mix. Songs like 'New Bruises', 'Hit Sniffing Dog', 'Blueberry', and 'Bigger Than We Are' provide the album with its catchy, driving rock back bone complete with sing-a-long choruses. While 'Eves And Eyes', 'Chineseish' and 'Bread And Butter' delve into artier and
I think perhaps the band’s name should have been a bit of a giveaway. Call me slow but it took me a while to register the sly pop-cultural reference. Clearly Cocks Arquette are going to be out to push a few buttons, or at the very least deliver the unexpected, if not the downright subversive. Cocks Arquette make a virtue of noise and its construction into great waves of attack. Some bands will give you very tight, disciplined performances with everything just so and not a note out of place. This band, conversely, have chosen to allow things to work more freely as they teeter on the ragged edge between music and plain noise. It’s touch and go which side they end up on and it really varies during each piece (I will use that term because I don’t think that ‘song’ quite covers it). To some ears this will be an exercise in wilful chaos, a noise for the sake of noise deal where traditional musical structures have been subsumed by the need for primal explosions, paeans of the most basic kind.
Others, however, will recognise that within the melee the band has arranged each piece into definite sections, however challenging. It’s undoubtedly more sonic exploration than musical exercise; there are periods of pounding, battering rhythms (‘Pointlessly Vindictive’, for example) which are broken up by cosmic soundscapes: not quite human, almost other worldly. When the band lets loose there is aggression and fierce activity. In many ways it can be listened to as a reflection of moods we all have – confusion, anger, a search for something not quite remembered, a hope for form within the chaos – played out in a cacophonous procession of sound bursts, electronica mixed with amplified instruments and a shouting human voice. The less intense passages give some respite from the grand assault on the senses that the songs deliver, brief moments of reflection like snatched breaths in a raging torrent, one that will inevitably pull the listener under once more. For all its apparent noise and simplicity there is complexity and thought behind the performance. It’s also a difficult listen. Don’t expect anything but the most brutal assault with little heed taken of politeness or the expectations of the wider audience. ‘This Changes Nothing’ delivers a stark, brutish industrial barrage of noise that might be a nod to Throbbing Gristle, before segueing into an urgent chase of a rhythm, like an out of control train of sonic terror, full flight and with little or no braking mechanism. Eventually it subsides into a simple repeated guitar theme that brings the piece to a close. Closer ‘Then Leave’ (there are only four pieces on this release) uses rhythm to drive the point home, like the ticking of a mechanical heart or the stamping of a machine. The mid section is much heavier, part punk, part doom accompanying the desperate vocal cries. Be in no doubt this is a difficult listen, far removed from the more traditional forms of music. But despite the assault, the lack of boundaries and an undeniably uncompromising attitude, I found myself starting to come round to the Cocks Arquette way of thinking. Odd, decidedly obtuse but strangely compelling. Ian Girle
Crowned – Vacuous Spectral Silence (Seance Records)
Crowned's hotly anticipated début album, Vacuous Spectral Silence, on Séance Records attempts to put the antipodean black metal scene on the map. No small feat in a scene so inexorably linked to northern Europe, but with the advent of the internet,
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geographical conventions have completely gone out of the window and rather than evolve in isolation a band can absorb influences from across the globe with the click of a button. Indeed the band channel the frosty atmospheres of the Norwegian pantheon through the six gargantuan tracks here, but do they forge their own path or simply walk that of those who came before them? With a time honoured combination of fuzzy overdriven riffs, high-picking, rasping cavernous vocals and a distinct chill in the air the band are not setting out to re-invent the genre. However, nor are they attempting to simply tread water with some misguided notion that everything they produce has to sound like pre-prison Burzum. What the band do produce is very big sounding and very atmospheric black metal that recalls this likes of Wolves In The Throne Room, Drudkh and Midnight Odyssey. The band start off well with ‘Menelvagor’ which perfectly balances, pure driving black metal with sublime atmosphere. 'Journey To The Crossroads' and 'Firmament' try to continue this formula as best they can but they sound a little generic coming in quick succession from the opening track. 'Apocryphal Catacombs' and 'Diamonds' play with the bands musical blueprint a little more, and sound all the better for it with the former being a compelling listen despite it's ten minute length. The album's title track closes the album with another colossal riff-powered offering which, although technically sound just feels too repetitive to warrant its thirteen minute length. In terms of production, Crowned have thankfully managed to find the balance between the eerie and aggressive without resorting to drowning everything in distortion and reverb. This means it isn't necessary to strain to hear, for example, the sporadically used synthesizers blend with and distort the guitars and vocals to give the songs an extra kick when needed. Crowned have created a technically sound album that effectively evokes what is great about atmospheric black metal. However there is always a sense of the band playing things safe and not veering to far from their formula. It will therefore be interesting to see how they attempt to elevate themselves on their next album. Sean M. Palfrey
Daylight Dies – A Frail Becoming (Candlelight Records)
Devilman - Devilman (Hard Recordings)
Often labelled as a doom band but really being a whole lot more than that, Daylight Dies have been together as a band since 1996 and been releasing albums since 2002. A Frail Becoming is their fourth album and despite not being radically different from where they’ve been before, it does feel a little more rounded and refined than anything they’ve done before. Opening with ‘Infidel’ the band immediately lock into a tight groove, with the guitar work of Barre Gambling and Charley Shackelford leading the track whilst vocalist Nathan Ellis growls over the top. It isn’t the most mindblowing song on the album but it does set the mood and provide a little headbanging action to get you going. The melodic jangle of chords that kick off ‘The Pale Approach’ give way to another ballsy rocker full of power chords, kick drums and death growls before the Anathema-esque ‘Sunset’ provides a more gothic-tinged approach. Bassist Egan O'Rourke gives a strong clean vocal for Ellis to contrast his rasp with and the overall mood is one of ambience and mood, the mid-paced rhythms allowing the guitars to chug away under the swirling atmospherics. It’s when the band apply this more laid-back attitude that they really excel, like on ‘Ghosting’ where O’Rourke is given another chance to croon over a gently-picked verse before the rest of the band crash in. With a guitarline that sounds eerily like Greg Mackintosh during Icon-era Paradise Lost, the track swells into a guitar work out that whilst not fast-paced does have a lot going on, giving the song an epic feel. In fact, the relatively light and snappy production gives most of the songs that big, sprawling feel and as long as the band can pull off the right mix of atmospherics and power in the live setting then ‘A Frail Becoming’ will no doubt sound even better from the stage. As an album, though, it’s very well constructed and although a couple of the tracks don’t go quite as high as some of the others, when it’s good it’s very good. Chris Ward
There’s a lot to be said for broadening one’s horizons. We metal fans tend to perhaps forget that our own beloved genre isn’t a solitary bastion of extremity and experimentation. Away from the world of blast-beats, hyper-distortion and cookie monster vocals, are remote outposts pushing entirely different boundaries towards similar directions. Devilman is a London-based trio of dub terrorists who create electronic music as visceral as any guitar, bass and drum combo. Even to ears uninitiated to dub, Devilman’s sonic onslaught packs a considerable punch. Tracks like opener 'Bakan Q' and '21Seiki Dub' gleefully abuse pounding stop-start rhythms and sporadic bursts of earthshakingly low bass to create an effect of almost full body uneasy, that sense of almost physical impact that the heaviest death metal and grindcore can impart. Machine-gun percussion, sheets of abrasive noise and perfectly distorted synths create constantly shifting dystopian soundscapes. 'Noise Step', meanwhile, takes tonality to another extreme in a hellish but tightly choreographed nearly four minute cacophony of processed, well, noise. '93’s' dirty bass swagger aptly demonstrates how to lay down a deeply sinister groove while 'Nirvana Dub' pushes the Seattle grunge band’s legacy in previously unimagined directions. The closer, 'Last Black Emperor', is simply an exercise in sonic masochism. I can’t say that Devilman’s extreme dub is something I’d consider myself a fan of but as a devotee of progressive and challenging music in general, it’s certainly an interesting diversion. An acquired taste maybe, but then what truly worthwhile music isn’t, to one extent or another? Jodi Mullen
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Dunderbeist – Songs Of The Buried (Indie Recordings)
Eis - Wetterkreuz (Prophecy Productions)
Dunderbeist’s “Black Arts & Crooked Tails” was one of my favourite releases of last year. In fact, it’s still a staple when I refresh the collection on my mp3 player. I really love the energetic anything goes spirit which characterises that album. The good news is that these Norwegians are back with another record, entitled “Songs Of The Buried”. Let’s see what it has to offer. The new Dunderbeist album pretty much continues where “Black Arts & Crooked Tails” left off. The band still picks their cues from heavy, doom, black, thrash, and death metal turning it into a wonderfully mental cocktail of their own. There are some changes too though. Where the previous album is a little much all over the place, “Songs Of The Buried” is slightly darker and heavier, but most of all more focused and compact. It feels more like a coherent unit, rather than a compilation of standalone songs. What has remained is Dunderbeist’s sinister sense of humor and the band’s ability to write some very memorable songs with ditto hooks. Tracks like “Mongrel”, “Father Serpent”, “Enter Exile” and “Four Of The Seven” are heavy, but they’re just as insidiously catchy as that wretched “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen. Before you know it, you’ll be tapping and singing along. “The Hidden One” and “Acheron” are two other brilliant examples of what these Norwegians are capable off. Production-wise there’s nothing to complain about “Songs Of The Buried”. Dunderbeist’s own Fredrik Ryberg took care of the production chores. Alan Douches (Mastodon, Converge) provided the mastering. Dunderbeist doesn’t reinvent the proverbial wheel on “Songs Of The Buried”, but the band does play to their strengths. If you’re into well-written and perfectly executed metal adorned with a wicked sense of humor, then “Songs Of The Buried” is the album for you. Recommended! Raymond Westland
One and two-man operations have become something of a frequent occurrence in certain circles of the black metal community but it’s not often that a relatively established band sheds most of its members, loses its name and comes back stronger than ever before as a duo. Such, however, is the story of Germany’s Eis, who were forced to change their name Geist after the release of third album Galeere in 2010 and subsequently affected radical line-up changes that saw the departure of their vocalist and both guitarists. Remaining was drummer Marlek and bassist turned multi-instrumentalist Alboin. Wetterkreuz is the first release from this newly-monikered and slimmed down Eis, a five track blizzard of melodic black metal straight from the frozen heart of the 1990s. Profoundly atmospheric, its 48 minute running time conjures up classical black metal imagery of desolate mountainsides and windswept snowscapes, all held together by a twisted sort of majesty wrought by sweeping keyboards and tremolo-picked single note guitar riffs. The intro to opening track ‘Mann Aus Stein’ Eis lays eases the listener into the oncoming maelstrom, samples of howling wind and a slow, fragile voiceover floating in and out of ethereal strings before the first towering riff comes crashing in. Stylistically, it’s from the same stock as Enslaved’s sublime 1997 album Eld, retaining a certain raw savagery while blending in more subtle atmospheric and even folky elements that would later go on to influence the likes of Agalloch and Wodensthrone. ‘Auf Kargen Klippen’ and the title track ‘Wetterkreuz’, meanwhile, owe more to In The Nightside Eclipse-era Emperor. But while Eis borrow liberally from arguably the two finest progressive black metal records of the genre’s early years, Wetterkreuz still feels like a thoroughly original piece of work. For every riff that feels transplanted from Ihsahn and Samoth’s bag of tricks, there’s a fresh twist added to the mix, whether it’s abrupt
tempo changes, blistering speed and precision, or simply the visceral impact that greatly enhanced fidelity brings to the record compared to the 1990s masterpieces. The experimentation reaches its peak on ‘Am Abgrund’, where a trippy, spaced out percussion and synth interlude stands almost as a moment of clarity before the riffing continues unabated. Closer ‘Bei den Sterne’, perhaps more similar to Emperor circa Anthems At The Welkin At Dusk, is probably the weakest track on Wetterkreuz but by then Eis have already long made their mark. Wetterkreuz is a rare example of a melodic black metal album that manages to build on the foundations left by the giants of the genre rather than simply serving up a pale imitation of their achievements. Eis have lost none of their poise with the transition from five to three members and the creative output showcased here promises much from the future of the band. Jodi Mullen
Empty Flowers - Six (Translation Loss)
I don't have a problem with bands doing their ‘90s revival sound. After all, in the 80s I was listening to the likes of Plasticland, The Sickidz and United States Of Existence as they took 60s garage and turned up the punk and psych. Today many indie rock acts find inspiration from Sonic Youth, Ride and many more. That's all fine, until your songs start to sound a bit too much like other specific tunes rather than a general inspiration. Unfortunately, in the case of Six by Empty Flowers, the similarities with other songs, not just from the 90s, tend to make me think of those other songs while I'm listening. What doesn't help is that the seven songs on this record by and large sound nothing like each other, to the extent I can't work out for the life of me what Empty Flowers actually sound like. Take the first track, 'Resonante', which really does sound great. A light sliver of noise is joined by loud lo-fi drums before the guitar
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Dragged Into Sunlight - Widowmaker (Prosthetic Records) Not content with annihilating our eardrums (and our will to live) with 2009’s Hatred for Mankind, mysterious Liverpudlians Dragged Into Sunlight have unleashed another monstrous slab of blackened doom metal with Widowmaker. As with the Melvins’ Lysol or Sleep’s Dopesmoker, ‘Widowmaker’ is an LP that is both an album, and a song. Containing just three parts within its 41 minute long run time, Widowmaker is certainly an unconventional release, but one that packs the same (if not more) of a punch than your regular 10 song album. Widowmaker begins with a 15 minute instrumental, which was something of a bold move in my opinion. If you’re not a patient listener, the subdued guitar and orchestral instruments will probably push you away after the five minute mark, though approaching it with an open mind however, the first fifteen minutes serve as a perfect build up to the ensuing chaos. Lulling the listener into a false of security, Widowmaker’s first part paints an uneasy, slightly disconcerting soundscape that is both melancholic and menacing. An eerie sample and minimalistic guitar is all that protects the listener from the album’s second part, which sees Dragged Into Sunlight return to their old tricks, dispensing doomy monolithic guitar riffs reckless abandon. and effects become louder, creating a slowly pulsating drone. Voices scream and shout way away in the distance, and every freaking time I listened to this on the train with headphones on, I thought it was other passengers going off their nut. So far so good. The voices in your head build, the pulse of the drone beats a steady beat, then a tormented soul cries out the one solitary word for the song: “Fuuuuuuuck!” Fade out, and you have one brilliant start to a record. Except for one thing – the drone sounds just like the drone in 'Venus In Furs' by The Velvet Underground, so when I hear it I'm thinking of two songs at once. This picture is repeated in 'Call A Priest' which recalls the melody and atmosphere of the vocal line in the quiet section of 'Silverfuck' by Smashing Pumpkins, over the slow down-strum minimalist reverb guitar of the likes of Bush in 'Glycerine'. Again, a great song, but all too familiar sounding. Then there's a couple more songs which, if you were not paying attention, you would identify as being by Cage The Elephant, particularly 'Police'. Even the awesome vocals of Christian McKenna lose their great warbling sound during the course of the record for no logical reason. So there you have it – a collection of seven songs, five of which are awesome, all of which sound like they are by different bands
While there’s no awe inspiring fretwork, the distorted guitars chugging away work just as well, adequately conveying the sense of dread and evil Dragged Into Sunlight are known for. The vocals (which alternate between a high pitched black metal shriek and guttural death growl) blend with the instruments to create a sound so unearthly and demonic you’ll think you’ve been transported to Hell. Occasional subdued guitar refrains and samples weave their way amongst the chaos and brutality, as Widowmaker ticks into its third part. A slower, sludgier affair, it concludes the album with just the slightest hint of melody, while still maintaining the soul crushing heaviness and doom laden atmosphere of the previous part. While Widowaker’s unique track format serves as an interesting device, it also presents some drawbacks. Of course with a gapless album, every listen is a commitment, and the fifteen minute long parts contained with Widowmaker do not lend themselves to easy listening. It’s this aspect that may make the listener reluctant to relisten to the album (at least on a regular basis), and prevents them from dissecting the tracks and establishing a connection to the music. For an album that started with an uncharacteristically melodic instrumental, Widowmaker soon proved to be one hell of a heavy hitting album. Few bands can adequately purvey the sense of dread, despair and doom that Dragged Into Sunlight do, and after sitting through the album you’ll most likely wonder how the band members can create music that evil. Widowmaker is certainly an experience, as well as an album, and it’s one that drags you through the deepest, darkest recesses of humanity, and keep you there well and truly after it’s over. Brayden Bagnall
and each sounds a lot like other songs. Good? Yes. Cutting edge? No. Little wonder Empty Flowers are tipped to be huge. Gilbert Potts
Fight Amp - Birth Control (Translation Loss)
New Jersey trio Fight Amp have built up something of a reputation in the States due to relentless touring and self-releasing their early records, but they have never dented the mainstream or garnered a wider audience outside the USA which seems a shame considering the quality of their output.
Latest release Birth Control sees them step up a gear and features talented new drummer Dan Smith (who also created the rather splendid cover art) along with mainstays Mike McGinnis and Jon DeHart. Still peddling their trademark punked-up grunge sound they tear through eight tracks with conviction and gusto, and the whole affair benefits from a sharp and fresh production. Calling to mind Mudhoney and Jesus Lizard at times, this is an album wallowing in glorious melancholy from start to finish but with angst ridden vocal screams that jar nicely from time to time whenever you get lulled into a false sense of security. 'Goner' deviates slightly from the plotted course of the rest of the album, providing a brief breather in the form of a tight instrumental with a mighty groove worthy of Brit legends Orange Goblin. 'Creepy Kicks', 'I’m Out' and 'I Am The Corpse' are the standout tracks here, blending charging punk riffs with sludge rock aesthetics and a mournful vocal wail that creates a gloriously angry and emotive noise. Going from strength to strength Fight Amp are a force to be reckoned with and I for one hope they hit Europe for a tour soon. Dewie
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Forgotten Tomb -...And Don't Deliver Us From Evil (Agonia )
beauty. If you are tired of the musical meandering of atmospheric/post-black metal, and crave for some groove to go along with it, immerse yourself in the dispirited world of Forgotten Tomb. To enhance the experience, commit suicide while the album is still playing, and make sure you do it in a place faraway from home. That way, you will end up in a forgotten tomb yourself. What a way to live out the experience! Dane Prokofiev
Gatherer - So Be It (Red Tape Records) In Asia, a forgotten tomb is an inauspicious phenomenon. Being close-knit and too blatantly curious about everybody’s affairs, Asian folks succeed in maintaining strong ties between families and extended families (e.g. remember that second uncle’s sister-inlaw’s husband’s brother’s daughter’s niece? She won a piano competition recently!). Hence, the act of forgetting about an ancestor’s tomb is highly frowned upon and regarded as shameful (the audacity!!!). As a bonus, it is believed that the ghost of the dead person buried beneath the tomb will haunt innocent passers-by who dare disturb its resting place. On the other hand, the Italian gothic black metal quartet Forgotten Tomb is quite the opposite. They are an auspicious phenomenon in the gloomy and depressive camp of extreme metal. Heartfelt, suicidal tunes will emanate from your moldy speakers as you play this album, and you will find your fingers compelled by a mysterious urge to turn that magic rope you received as a birthday gift into a noose, and then proceed to hang yourself from the branch of a bald tree in the middle of a graveyard. And the best part is that you will probably take your last breath thinking that it was a grimly gorgeous idea! Ah, the beauty of well-done depressive gothic black metal. There is a lot to like about this record. Rebellious swagger and melancholy are combined in a musically cohesive manner (‘Deprived’, ‘Let’s Torture Each Other’); there is a doomtinged black metal number that emanates despair and angst (‘Cold Summer’); familiar black metal tremolo picking madness is there to provide some grim fury (‘…And Don’t Deliver Us From Evil’); sorrowful acoustic guitar passages and solos that cooperate really well to bring about a pensive state of mind (‘Love Me Like You’d Love The Death’, ‘Adrift’, ‘Nullifying Tomorrow’); and even a brief bout of doleful clean singing that contrasts nicely with the high-pitched, raspy growls to create a much needed sense of resignation after all that grimness (‘Adrift’). This is yet another one of those albums that is hardly genre-defying, but nonetheless, a very good representation of its genre’s
perbly effective drumming that is brash when it needs to be and subtly jazz-tinged at times too.The band spent two years working on this album and it really shows. This is refined, crafted and intelligent. It is never overbearing or cluttered, but has so much going on it begs repeated listens to fully appreciate its depth. If these guys are this good now, one can only imagine the masterpieces they’re going to produce in years to come. A fine debut and one that will hopefully bring them to a wide audience soon. Dewie
Germ - Loss (Eisenwald)
Having toured with the likes of And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and The Getaway Plan, Aussie-based New Zealanders Gatherer released their debut So Be It earlier this year and what an eclectic and exciting concoction it is. There are an abundance of alternative/rock/metal bands at the moment trying too hard to be too many things and throwing in so many influences you’re left with a chaotic hotchpotch of ideas that has now flow or cohesion, and on first listen I was worried this is where Gatherer were headed. It is rare for bands to be this ambitious on their first release and actually make it work. The likes of Between The Buried And Me evolved from humbler origins into the pantheon of wonders they currently offer, but Gatherer seem to have been enormously ambitious and…well blow me I think they’ve pulled it off. Starting with cold, jarring electronica and eerie harmonies, 'International Getaway' leads into the stark electro-pop of 'Mr.' and then 'Elvis Horizon' pukes E.L.O. harmonies at you whilst Converge and Fair To Midland duel in the background. 'Thrive' saunters in with a stilted indie-rock attack and then caves in on itself so beautifully in a roar of noise and aggression that you wonder where the rollercoaster will take you next. Elsewhere we’re treated to a beautiful mix of Deftones, Nine Inch Nails and Eels with a constant barrage of alt-rock riffs and su-
Love your black metal but wish it had more pop sensibilities? Wish your pop came with a side order of corpse paint and cold, cold darkness? Germ might just be the band for you. From the opening of ‘My Only Hope’, consisting of a beautiful piano melody, and Tim’s emotive singing voice to the bleak, harsh moments that assault sections of ‘So Lonely, Dead Lonely’ and the first part of ‘Only When Every Timepiece In The World Is Smashed’, this is a disorientating and eclectic mix of light and dark. The most impressive part of Loss is the way the multiple influences on show seamlessly come together. ‘So Lonely, Dead Lonely’ offers up some of the harshest moments of the album; battering the listener with over five minutes of thunderous drumming and pained screams. A melody is there but the stark contrast only emphasises the extremity and then suddenly it breaks away. An ‘80s electro pop sound starts to dominate, like the Pet Shop Boys interrupting Burzum, and the thing becomes almost uplifting. It’s a juxtaposition that works beautifully and from here on, the album mixes both together beautifully. Orchestral melodies offer a backing to each track, straight up rock riffs and synths echo throughout, creating a quietly haunting atmosphere - one that keeps a feeling of unease even when Tim shows his melodic side.
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These pop sensibilities I’ve mentioned don’t come from today’s bubblegum chewing, image-obsessed teens but from that era of love lost, surrealism and realism that was the ‘70s and ‘80s. Bowie’s hands are all over ‘Only When Every Timepiece In The World Is Smashed Part Two’. One man and his guitar; a feeling of spaced out distance between the performer and the listener. It’s a million miles away from the rest of the album sonically, but thematically it fits right in. Remaining melancholic without the black harshness it’s a beautiful testament to the talent on show here and when it kicks back in with ‘Cold Grey Dawn (A New Beginning)’ the feeling has changed. The melodies are more prevalent, the drums deter away from the endless battering and as it fades into the ending, gorgeous piano ballad of the title track you can’t help but feel strangely uplifted. This is an album about grief. Without lyrics it would still clearly be an album about grief. Musically it gradually grows darker from the outset and around the midway point changes course, becomes more melodic, brighter, it never loses that feeling of sadness but does seem to offer a bright light at the end. This is a brave and essential purchase for people who like their music to contain a duality of emotion, not some 2-D representation of complex events. Matthew Tilt
Gorement – Within The Shadows Of Darkness – The Complete Recordings (Century Media)
outfit Piper's Dawn, Gorement never really got the attention they felt they deserved. Someone at Century Media obviously agreed with them. What is immediately evident is just how much potential this band had. The bludgeoning, gory and yet groove-laden sound is evocative of so many bands of the early Swedish death metal scene that have gone on to become major international names. Yet even in this embryonic example of the band's work, songs such as 'The Lost Breed', 'Sea Of Silence' and 'Into Shadows' provide some genuinely inspired moments in an altogether solid first step. Yet it isn't an extraordinary and genre redefining one. The the band have some genuinely great moments, but this is still a début that was overshadowed at the time of its release and there are a few songs that tend to chug along generically. Production-wise, although there has been some remastering work, thankfully the album still sounds hard, raw and typical of its time. With more studio time and a bigger budget, who knows where this could have lead? The second disc is packed full of demos that chart the development of the band, and even these, despite their very rough construction, have their genuinely interesting moments. However the live songs are not the greatest quality and even for a bonus disc full of rarities they feel tacked on for the sake of it. This definitely has the feel of a labour of love about it. The new (and outstanding) artwork, the vinyl pressing and just the clout of being re-issued by Century Media lead you to think that somebody thinks this is going to sell. And if it does then maybe Gorement might get that second chance after all. Sean M. Palfrey
Illdisposed – Sense The Darkness (Massacre Records)
Within The Shadows Of Darkness... marks Gorement's second compiled retrospective release, albeit this time on Century Media Records. This time round the album gets some swanky new artwork and some decent promotion behind it. But is this all just an exercise in nostalgia for nostalgia's sake? Well no, not really. Due to past label disputes and line-up changes that saw the band eventually morph into the equally obscure gothic-doom
There’s been something rotten in the state of Denmark for nearly two decades now, and it’s not just the bacon that’s so good the natives hate to see leave. The Danish music scene has been stagnant for a long while
now, with the legacy of Mercyful Fate and shock shrieker extraordinaire King Diamond fading fast in the glare of the new wave of guitar gods from the rest of Scandinavia. That said, there are still some small pockets of resistance to be found, with scene veterans Illdisposed emerging from the trenches for another familiar salvo of no-frills death metal on their 11th studio album Sense The Darkness. The title track commences proceedings with a powerful Kataklysm-esque riff that propels things along atop a flurry of double-kick drums and the familiar deeper-than-thou growl of frontman Bo Summers. A song tailor made for European festival circle pits that kicks you square in the guts and emphatically asks “Did you expect anything different?” The theme of business as usual isn’t so much continued as rammed down your throat with the frantic riffing of ‘Eyes Popping Out’ and ‘Never Compromise’ and the groovy mid 90’s death metal vibes of ‘Time To Dominate’ and ‘Another Kingdom Dead’ treading familiar ground, but it’s a place that Illdisposed have made their own, and they have a distinct home advantage. The de-tuned neo-thrash attack of ‘Stop Running’ recalls Hypocrisy in their heyday with its compact, menacing feel while the claustrophobic fury of ‘I Am Possessed’ raises the bar with its sheer sonic heaviness and command of differing tempos proving that it’s not all route one. The aggressive feel is maintained on the caustic Amon Amarthisms of ‘Too Blind To See’ with melodic flourishes used sparingly to good effect while ‘The Poison’ shows the new kids on the block what it means to be brutal with its nononsense lesson in shit-kicking, pile-driving riffs. At thirteen tracks, Sense the Darkness perhaps overstays its welcome slightly but the quality remains constant throughout, as demonstrated by the gnarly Bolt Thrower style demolition of ‘She’s Undressed’ and ‘War’ that feature towards the end of the running order. You won’t find any keyboards or clean vocals hiding away, just prime cuts of juicy Euro death metal done the way it should be, and given their prolific nature, we can surely expect another new record in the near future, provided there’s still enough meat left on the bones Illdisposed have so viciously gnawed upon. James Conway
Indesinence - Vessels Of Light And Decay (Profound Lore) For many years, the UK has been fertile ground for death doom but in the last few years, the scene of gloom and misery has
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overtones, Anomalia contains very complicated and often unpredictable song structures; riffing becomes very precise and technical; there is even use of clean, near folk like guitars on album closer VA Shia (Into The Spectral Sphere). The use of keyboards at the forefront of the sound makes this very synth reliant, giving it an otherworld and futuristic feel. Vocally it also shows great diversity, changing between chant like passages, clean sung parts and of course growled vocals, all of which are not only done well but also never feel out of place. Expectedly; with such a palette of styles in play, Anomalia proves to be a very complex and unpredictable piece of work. Changes in dynamic and pace occur frequently, a Finding a unique sound and identity in mod- prime example being on album opener In ern metal can prove to be a real challenge, Otherness, which begins with misleading but it is a challenge that Khonsu have ambience before the pace just explodes. achieved on their debut album, Anomalia. One minor gripe with this would be the alNamed after the Egyptian moon God of the most excessive use of effects such as sposame name, Khonsu is the brainchild and ken word passages, which do at times feel solo project of S.Gronbech (brother of Keep rather unnecessary. With the shortest song Of Kalessin’s Obsidian C who also features on the album clocking at just over 6 minutes as a live guitarist), and contains a pretty as well, this is not an album for the newstaggeringly wide range of influences and styles: drawing upon elements of black metal comer by any stretch. Otherwise Anomalia and symphonic parts, some parts Gojira like is a stunning debut; one that ran the risk of death metal complexity, industrial, electronbecoming an incohesive mess with the ica and even parts bordering on shoegaze sheer variety in store. Instead this proves to territory. be a great work and an unexpected delight. A very eclectic range of styles but one that Chris Tippell works very well on Anomalia. Predominantly a black metal album with huge industrial
Khonsu- Anomalia (Season of Mist)
truly emerged once again, particularly with stunning records from Esoteric, and while not of the same vintage, London’s Indesinence can still lay claim to being an important part of this ground. It’s been over five years since the band’s debut album, Noctambulism, which built on many expectations garnered by their demo, but despite the prolonged time they’ve still been eyed up by Profound Lore for this, their second full-length album, Vessels of Light and Decay. At 62 minutes, Indesinence have crafted an ambitious effort here, and Vessels of Light and Decay is a lesson in rotting, melancholic brilliance. After the intro of ‘Flux’, opener proper ‘Paradigms’ unfurls a smouldering gospel across its expansive 14 minutes that makes Indesinence’s purposes clear. If this album is anything, it’s expansive, and sprawling. Typically clocking in at lengthy times, each song is a lingering, but deftly crafted dirge ridden with very early Anathema-isms and imposing guttural vocals that are often complemented by searing shrieks, like on the raw slab of rot in ‘Vanished is the Haze’. While still a doom record for the most part, the melodic lead guitar work is sleek, with an eerily glistening quality, and conversely Indesinence’s death metal tendencies rear their heads sporadically throughout the record, laying down pacier passages of dense riffing like that on ‘Fade (Further Beyond)’, with some Swedish DM-like guitars. In many ways the album’s title serves as a description of Indesinence’s dichotomy where the decay of doom is combated by the light, in this case being moments of lush melody and then attacked again by the fury of death metal. Closing track ‘Unveiled’ really captures the essence of Indesinence, as beautiful radiant melodies give way to an invigorating crescendo to end Vessels of Light and Decay in stunning fashion. The Londoners have, seemingly with ease, hewed a ruthless and motivated record here that consciously scales to adroit heights and reaches monolithic summits, both in atmosphere and song writing – a definite death doom triumph. Jonathan Keane
Katabatic- Heavy Water (Raging Planet)
Katabatic appear to be one of the heavier post-rock bands around at the moment. “Heavy Water” appears to be quite an accurate description of what the album sounds like. Whilst there is lots of fluidity to be found on Heavy Water, typical of the post-rock genre, there is also an incredibly dense heaviness. The album opens with a deep, groovy chug on ‘Wonder-Room’. Unafraid to switch up the rhythm, Katabatic keep the listener's attention by playing around with the time signature. Luckily, dense chugging isn't all there is to Heavy Water.
Dreamy guitar melodies more typical of the post-rock genre swiftly grace the listener's ears, with a delicacy that seems worlds away from the album's opening. Despite this, the transition between the heaviness and light never seems forced or jarring, and the individual tracks flow very naturally. However, taken as a whole, Heavy Water doesn't flow very naturally at all. Many of the best post-rock albums, such as Sigur Rós' album Takk... will fade seamlessly from one track into the next, keeping the ebb and flow consistent across the album's running time, as opposed to being confined to individual tracks. Katabatic could do well to employ this, particularly with the shorter structures they are using. Godspeed You! Black Emperor can get away with having distinct and individual tracks on Lift Your Skinny Fists... because the tracks on that album run in excess of 20 minutes. However, on Heavy Water, it becomes frustrating that Katabatic have to recapture the atmosphere every 7 minutes or so. The second and third tracks, ‘Light Hexagons’ and ‘Morsa’ respectively, flow pretty well together, unfortunately this is not the case for the rest of the album. Katabatic frequently use Godspeed You! Black Emperor's trick of teasing the listener
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by building to a crescendo, only to fall back into the motif they were originally playing. Although this is generally effective, it sometimes feels like they play this out for too long. For the second half of ‘Wonder-Room’, we are kept waiting for a crescendo that never comes. Although it could be argued that Katabatic are avoiding the tried and tested crescendo based structure that is so popular in post-rock at the moment, there's got to be a more original way of doing it than building to a crescendo, only for all the tension to fizzle out again. Although taken individually, the tracks on Heavy Water are pretty good, it is difficult to recommend the album as a whole because every time you get enveloped by the dreamy, heavy, atmosphere, the structure of the album totally shatters that moments later. Katabatic are clearly talented musicians, but ultimately, Heavy Water became a frustrating listening experience. Tom Saunders
only adding to Kolp's bleak and hateful vision. As screams tail off to give way to blast beats and a barrage of riffs, the sense of struggle and tension is palpable. Kolp also seem to recognise when a change of pace is needed. Faster black metal gives way to a slower, more hypnotic approach on ‘Drowning’. A Deathspell Omega-like melody plays over the wall of distortion beneath, although there is little melodious about it. The influence of Leviathan can also be felt in abundance on The Outside. Although not quite as effective, The Outside's debt to albums like The Tenth Sub-Level of Suicide is clear. This isn't a bad thing, as Kolp are good at what they do, but until Kolp develop a more distinctive sound, their debt to these bands cannot be ignored. In short, The Outside is an effective DSBM album from the colder and more hateful end of the DSBM spectrum. The riffs are both deliberate and hypnotic, and although Kolp don't reach the highs (or lows) of the masters of this genre, this is a decent second album. Tom Saunders
Kolp- The Outside (Temple of Torturous) Kuolemanlaakso – Uljas uusi maailma (Svart Records)
Kolp are a depressive suicidal black metal (DSBM) band from Hungary. Although the genre is often known for its tendency to include moments of beauty in amongst the depression, there is no beauty to be found here. Kolp have gone straight for a depressive and hateful atmosphere, and it's paid off. There's a moment on the opening track, ‘There Was No Place To Hide’ where everything fades out except for the bass and drums. This moment is deeply unsettling, and feels very claustrophobic. When the traditional, icy riffs come back in, it is almost a relief to have something familiar grace your ears, but there is little comfort when listening to The Outside. The vocals are a fairly routine affair. Often, what puts people off DSBM are the prolonged uneasy shrieks that accompany the music. These are found in abundance here. Personally, I think they suit the music well,
Kuolemanlaakso is yet another doom side project from Swallow the Sun’s Mikko Kotamäki. Having already released an album with Swallow the Sun earlier this year, Emerald Forest And The Blackbird, as well as a new record with the “supergroup” Barren Earth, the Finnish vocalist has reared his head again with Kuolemanlaakso, alongside members of Chaosweaver amongst others. Translating as Death Valley, Kuolemanlaakso’s name mirrors the band’s musical content. Uljas uusi maailma isn’t breaking any new ground. In many ways it’s rather predictable with mostly deafening shrieks from Kotamäki met by the occasional croon that he has really mastered when in the ranks of Swallow the Sun. Meanwhile, some of the broody elements that too characterise Chaosweaver’s latest record are abounding here within the eight songs of Kuolemanlaakso’s debut,
however not quite with any of the former’s penchant for bombast. Tracks like opener 'Minä Elän' are dripping with melancholy in the cold keyboards to start and the trudging dense riffing that follows up. It’s a similar formula that runs throughout the record and the lack of deviation from this path leaves the album in a state of meandering. Many of the tracks, as a result, drag on with no destination in sight. Closer, 'Aurinko' makes for a marked improvement to end though, with some of the most melodic instrumentation slotting in nicely with Kotamäki’s rasping vocals. The Finnish lyrics and song titles appear to pay proud tribute to the band’s homeland and much unlike Swallow the Sun and Barren Earth, Uljas uusi maailma is not as accessible with a little more to sink your teeth into but still plenty that is similar, especially in the guitar work and overall approach to song craft and atmosphere. The unfortunate turn of events is that Uljas uusi maailma never feels like anything other than a side project as it doesn’t take too many daring steps away from the day jobs of its creators. Jonathan Keane
Krisiun - Arise From Blackness (Century Media)
Opening with what has to be one of the most evil-sounding roars ever put one record, Arise From Blackness quickly promises to succeed where most retrospective releases fail. Unfortunately, it fails to stay 100 percent true to this by the time we’ve reached the final drum beats of 'The Dead Are Rising Up'. Of course, as with most releases by established bands, it all depends on long you have followed the band or how far back you’re willing to go. For example, if you’re one of the few lucky enough to have acquired the releases contained here, Unmerciful Order and Curse of the Evil One, via some form of early nineties tape trade, then forget this. Seriously, you’ve got the better recordings— maybe not production-wise, but that clearer production pretty much exorcises the tracks.
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I mean, there was something just so monstrous about those early recordings, tinny drums and all. For those new to the world of Krisiun, this becomes a must have; an easier listen than the now much rawer recordings of Black Force Domain and an excellent introduction to the battering ram of South America. I’m not kidding when I say 'battering ram'; not of one of these tracks lets up. The drumming isn’t fancy, but it’s fast, it hammers you into the floor, and calls you a rude name, while Alex Camargo pretty much summons the hounds of hell to do his vocals for him, creating a deep, powerful roar that shouldn’t be possible. The real star here, though, is Moyses Kolesne who creates some of the most insane guitar lines you will ever here. Listen to the way his guitar cuts through everything when he wants it to—a squeal before heading into a solo, making his instrument seemingly scream with pain at times. Even when the production changes clearly between Unmerciful Order and Curse… (the drums sounding further away, and the vocals just a tad more human) that guitar stays the same, sounding instantly like the purest of death metal and yet out-playing pretty much all of his peers. I’ve been pretty positive so far. And, like I said, I thoroughly recommend this for anyone just entering the dingy world of Krisiun. For those already adapted, there seems little point. This sounds weaker somehow than the originals do. The clearer production, though successfully showing the immense talent this band had so early, fails to capture the atmosphere of claustrophobia, hate, and humidity that this band used to have. One for collectors and newcomers. Matthew Tilt
Munruthel - CREEDamage (Svarga Music)
CREEDamage is the 5th solo effort of Vladislav ‘Munruthel’ Redkin. His experience and ardent admiration for Mother Nature has culminated here as a striking ode to the natural world and modern society's mistreatment of it. The result of years of effort, CREEDam-
age's depth and vision has been an eyeopening experience. Not having much knowledge of the pagan/folk metal subgenre, my first listen was quite skeptical. However, each subsequent spin only enhanced my appreciation for Munruthel's craft. CREEDamage is unmistakably a metal album with speed-driven guitars present on most tracks, serving as a backbone while lush and varied instrumentation fleshes out the sound. This is immediately apparent on the battle-ready opener, ‘Ardent Dance of War's God.’ Prominent horns and strings rouse the listener in preparedness for what is to follow—which happens to be a veritable kitchen sink of metal, folk, and symphonic instruments. The majority of CREEDamage employs roughly the same operating plan, while incorporating those little things to distinguish each track. Backing the speedy and powerful guitar and excellently toned bass (very ‘Viking metal’) are various horns, woodwinds and strings. Each brings out a certain flavour. The horns bring pomp and an almost Roman air of dignity, the strings a smooth melody, and the woodwinds accent the overall orchestration. It's actually those woodwinds that stay with the listener and tie it all together. Complimenting the album’s gargoylesque vocals is Masha of Russia's Arkona on ‘Rolls of Thunder from Fiery Skies’ and ‘The Mown Dawn Lies on the Ground’. Her silky operatic voice melds perfectly with Munruthel‘s vision. Munruthel’s past work with soundtracks is apparent on many tracks, especially the majestic ‘Age of Heroes’ and three-part instrumental closer ‘Krada’. One could even say that the score is central to the album. In keeping with the everything-and-anything approach, ‘The Eyes of Abyss’ and ‘Carpathian's Shield’ include yet more instruments. The former sounds metalcore at times were it not for the bagpipes. And the latter opens with a mouth harp and mixes black metal speed, Far Eastern flavour, and slap bass. This all may sound like a haphazard attempt at trying everything, but Munruthel makes it work. Listening to CREEDamage has been a journey of discovery. Perhaps my ambivalence towards pagan/folk metal was misplaced. Then again, maybe Munruthel is just one of those projects able to capture the attention of many types of listeners. This doesn't mean I'll go out and find Turisas albums, but it has definitely opened my mind to bands with a similar sound. And thanks to the splendid cover of ‘The Lake’ featuring vocals by Forefather's Wulfstan, I'm checking out Bathory! Matt Hinch
Menace Ruin - Alight In Ashes (Profound Lore Records)
The hypnotic drone that underpins Menace Ruine’s work is a stark sound that invades your consciousness. It is a disturbing, almost painful sound that discomfits and disconcerts. There is something almost religious in the way it is used, particularly as the vocals weave melodies above it, accompanied by sparse percussion. It also means there is little space on these songs as the harsh, metallic drone continues even when the percussion and vocals fall silent. At times it provides a tone centre like a painful, distorted pedal note around which the melody can work; then again it can assume the form of a mournful death march or desperate fanfare that heralds something less than happy. The terms ‘martial-ambient’ and ‘neo-folk’ have been used to describe Menace Ruine’s music and to that you could add avant garde and experimental. Each song is long – from five and a half to nearly thirteen minutes – and contains the kind of distorted ambient sounds that would scare your average new age devotee half to death. There is little mellow or relaxing here; rather than music to chill out to, it’s something that will set you on edge. The abrasive nature of the sounds employed do not make for an easy listen; having said that the vocals provide a haunting fillip to the harsher aspects of the instrumentation. From the disturbing bell-like ‘Set Water To Flames’ to the more playful but no less disconcerting ‘Disease Of Fear’ to the discordant ‘Burnt Offerings’, the album is an original offering by a very unusual band. They have worked previously with Watain and Sun O))), but Menace Ruine can claim to have a unique – if disturbing – sound. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but sometimes you need to do something takes you way our outside your comfort zone and there’s no doubt Menace Ruine will do exactly that. Ian Girle
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My Sleeping Karma - SOMA (Napalm Records)
I'm usually not one for instrumental music. I can't say I've ever bought a single album by an instrumental band and quite honestly can't name more than a few bands that I have heard that I would listen to again. I know for a lot of people who listen to metal, the vocals take more of a backseat to the actual music, but for me the vocalist is usually the key part of the music. I've always thought of the vocalist as being a person who can make an average or OK band into so much better than they would be without him (or her as the case may be.) Most instrumental bands that I've heard have been nothing more than showcases for their respective players to show off for other musicians. Songmanship is generally forgotten about and long drawn out solos happen while the song kind of drifts off into nothingness. Therefore my initial reaction on finding out that My Sleeping Karma were an instrumental band was "Oh great. This is going to be a long drawn out wank-fest." However, I was pleasantly surprised that this was not the case. Right from the opening track the band drew me in with their psychedelic and proggy sound. The best way to describe the band is if Maynard James Keenan decided to sit out the next Tool album and the rest of the band decided to make an album without him. Yes I know that Keenan is one of the things that make that band great, however in the case of Tool they also have the trippy sounds that make the band what it is. It is a pleasant and dreamy experience and before you know it the album is over and you are reaching to start the album all over again. Good stuff and the best instrumental album that I've ever heard. Curtis Dewar
Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay (Neurot Recordings)
If you’re listening right, Neurosis will be a wholly unique experience — reaching that special esoteric place, alien to all but the Self, deliberately crafted to be personally interpreted. Try this: compare the Neurosis song title 'All is Found…in Time' with, say, Krallice album title Years Past Matter (yesyesyes, WAY different overall, I know). Depending on where you place emphasis, what you choose to believe, whichever helps you find deeper meaning — that’s where the magic happens. We do not necessarily place such high expectations on all music we listen to, not even all music we love, but rather to a select few who have proven themselves as true artists. When in my right headspace (where I happened to be the other night in a darkened room) Neurosis conjures tiny explosions in my mind — mostly white with flickers of red, green, and blue. Their structure creates an atmosphere that alternates from the Dot partying with the Squiggle in ugly, formless chaos, to finding both beauty and stability in the Line, whose once-simpler appearance progressed into increasingly complex arrangements. (Congrats if you get that reference; do some digging if you don’t.)
When musicians realize their expressive potential; when specialized visual artists bolstering live performances becomes a critical requirement rather than extraneous extravagance; when accenting synth strains and provocative sound samples incite intrigue instead of insipidness… THAT is fucking transcendent. The subtle connections between these dense layers is where Neurosis commands their muse. It’s what has allowed them to successfully sidestep well-treaded paths — like singalong choruses, or tunes with less than a five-minute runtime — and bravely bushwhack uncharted territories for the last quarter-century. Even reaching back to albums like The Word as Law felt the arterial pulse of Dave Edwardson’s bass match the deliberateyet-dextrous drums of Jason Roeder — the rudders that help control and steer Neurosis. Not that Scott Kelly or Steve von Till are slouches at guitar, but their riffs often wash over and drench the listener; more of a mantric fetish to channel focus than showy acrobatics. Further, both SK and SVT explore how their voices interact with the instruments, from plaintive whispers to tree-felling bellows. Joined by Edwardson, the devastating display of three-part harmony through the end of “At the Well” raises those relatively few hairs that evolution has seen fit to leave; as they run full-tilt until the conclusive crush, it’s amazing how the cacophony is constructed from humbly strummed origins. It’s quite Darwinian, really — to develop into a deadlier beast in the face of ferocious competition. But if boiling down to the purest essence, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more potent formula from mainlined psyche than Neurosis. Brains everywhere, prepare for overload. MetalMatt Longo
Opium Warlords - We Meditate Under The Pussy In The Sky (Svart Records)
Despite the title sounding like the creation of an extremely unimaginative pornogrind band, Opium Warlords actually attack you with a wholly different kind of aural barrage.
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Shining - Redefining Darkness (Spinefarm Records)
‘Sxi-Meru’ starts things off with a collection of seemingly random noises mixed with ambience and sudden blasts of dissonant noise; but it’s hardly a fair introduction to the band. ‘Slippy’ is far closer to what the rest of this album offers, and delivers in a truly insane style. Twelve minutes long, starting with the imposing mix of organs and drums before going all out in an assault of raspy screams and guitars, which seem to carry the same tone as an apocalyptic arcade game, and then changing, just as quickly, to a relaxing melody and harmonious chants. That’s what this album does; it disorientates you. Lulling you into a state where you dare guess you know where you’ll be taken next. The crushing clashes of feedback and guitar squeals that close ‘Slippy’ act as your punishment for this mistake. ‘Lament For The Builders Of Khara Khoto’ is much more about the build-up. Dark and mournful, it slowly adds more and more until the noise verges on unbearable. It’s an endurance test that lasts until about half way through the next track, ‘This Wind Is A Gift from A Distant Friend’, until the band break away, slipping into something more comfortable for the listener. It’s in these moments the band really shows what they can do. The harsh dystopia they’ve created beforehand is all very well but the deft touch shown during the lighter moments really help draw you in. Any good work is undone by ‘Satan Knew My Secret Heart’. It drones on and on, promising an end but never delivering, faltering at every possible point. At half an hour this album isn’t long by anyone’s standard and even if it meant adding more length, Opium Warlords could have shown off more with this track than just a notable talent for distorting melodies beneath unendingly dark synths. In a way, though, it’s fitting. This is an album of hits and misses. The darker moments are fine for a bit, but dominate what could have become a varied and interesting album. In the end a lot of this is as unimaginative as the title; it knocks you off balance, yes, but not in a good way. It’s more in the sense of enjoying a man and his acoustic guitar in a quiet pub and then having Merzbow come in. Both are excellent but the balance just wouldn’t be right. Matthew Tilt
Shining was never a band that really appealed to me in the past. Niklas Kvarforth’s, the band’s singer and creative driving force, notorious stage antics and general madness pretty much kept me from taking much interest. Things changed dramatically after hearing the previous Shining album, which I still consider a masterpiece in progressive blackened doom metal. Niklas is apparently on a roll, because a year after the release of “VII: Född förlorare” he’s back with a brand new studio album, entitled “Redefining Darkness”. It has to be said that Kvarforth and his musical partners in crime really went the extra mile on “Redefining Darkness”. Shining’s black metal roots are ever present on the album, but it’s the extensive use of acoustic guitar parts, the hauntingly beautiful leads and solos and the jazzy time changes that gives this album a distinct proggy feel. “The Ghastly Silence”, “Han Som Hatar Manniskan” and “For The God Below” are some perfect examples in this regard. Kvarforth and Co aren’t afraid to add some saxophone parts here and there, which gives the song material an unexpected jazzy feel. I really like this type of musical out of the box thinking. Despite the apparent beauty of “Redefining Darkness” there’s always a sense of darkness lurking just around the corner. This sense of duality is brilliantly captured in “Det Stora Gra”. It’s very beautiful piano piece that is soul stirring and utterly chilling at the same time. I guess that’s pretty much this album in a nutshell. Another compliment should be given to Niklas Kvarforth himself. His shrieks, growls, and anguished clean vocals really brings the lyrics to life. It feels like a confession and a litany of a man who has lost it all. Utterly breathtaking. “Redefining Darkness” is an album of many layers and secrets. It takes quite some time before you really get to the essence of this album. It’s often said that there’s a thin line between brilliance and madness. Niklas Kvarforth is walking that very same line on this album. This is certainly one of the best releases I have heard this year so far. Utterly brilliant! Raymond Westland
The Secret - Agnus Dei (Southern Lord)
Sometimes it's hard to forget cultural stereotypes. When I think if Italy, I think of picturesque villas, sprawling vineyards and the nexus of greed, power, corruption and murder (by which I mean The Vatican, of course). What I don't picture is crusty, blackened d-beat hardcore. But that's what you get with The Secret and their new album Agnus Dei. The title translates to ‘Lamb of God’ but make no mistake, this is no bible thumping beach party. Not Satanic either, The Secret no doubt have drawn upon today's socio-political turmoil, both blatant and subversive, much of which is rooted in religious beliefs. On Agnus Dei, they've taken all that negativity, hate and anger and turned it into something beautiful. Well, beautiful to some. The backbone of the album is relentless dbeat hardcore. Michael Bertoldini's buzzsaw riffs lay waste to unsuspecting ears while Tommaso Corte pounds them into submission. Tracks such as ‘Daily Lies’ and ‘The Bottomless Pit’ are superb examples of pure aggression concentrated into grindcore sized bursts. Just as important as the hardcore basis is the black metal that courses through the album icing the veins of Agnus Dei. Grim and bleak even when raging, the blackening is flawless and natural. ‘Agnus Dei’, ‘Vermin Of Dust’ and ‘Seven Billion Graves’ are cold and sinister while ‘Darkness I Became’ is pure black metal fury. The balance of white hot rage and coldhearted malice comes together in Marco Coslovich's vocals. Bile-ridden and resonating with hatred, his screams would work equally well on a pure hardcore album or a more "troo" black metal album. As if The Secret's riveting blend of black metal and hardcore weren't enough, they can bring the doom as well. ‘Heretic Temple’ slows things to a veritable crawl as it wallows in darkness. Matching Lorenzo Gulminelli's disgusting bass tone are the slow burning ‘May God Damn All Of Us’ and the (not so) hidden track. The Secret's versatility with speeds is a rare talent. It's not often a band can meld blistering speed with trudging mid-paced groove and crawling doom while keeping the overall tone and feel consistent. At no point does
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any part of Agnus Dei sound contrived. Refusing to conform to any one genre, The Secret have carved their own niche and lined it with broken skulls and charred bones. Devoid of colour, as black and deadly as the album's cover and with just as many subtleties, Agnus Dei is as innervating as it is infectious. Produced by Kurt Ballou and released on Southern Lord, the secret is out. This sonic maelstrom of dark negativity is mandatory. Matt Hinch
Toundra - III (Aloud Music Ltd)
Toundra are a French post-rock band, and III, unsurprisingly their third album, may not break any boundaries when it comes to postrock, but is all the same highly enjoyable. Bass rumbles and throbs, whilst muted guitar strings are plucked, building the tension. Toundra are a band who understand how to build a composition, layer by layer. When ‘Ara Caeli’, the opening track, truly kicks in, the listener is drenched in a warm guitar tone. Just when you think the track has given up all its secrets at the 2 minute mark, melancholic orchestra strings cut through the distortion. It's a shame these don't stay around for longer, as they sound great, and definitely add another dimension to Toundra's sound. There is no doubt that when Toundra hit their stride, their rhythms can be irresistibly groovy. I frequently found myself swaying or nodding at my desk in time with the music. Whilst a lot of post-rock can be too dreamy, Toundra definitely have some weight behind them. At 40 minutes, the album is pretty brief as post-rock albums go, but this suits Toundra's energetic style, and ensures that ideas don't outstay their welcome. Whilst the guitars steal the show on III, the bass does a great job of adding that grounded heaviness to their sound, and the drums give momentum to even the most dreamy passages, adding a sense of taught urgency to the whole piece. The standout track on III would be ‘Requiem’. Starting with a sample of a crow cawing, and some delicately plucked clean guitar, it brings a somber atmosphere to an otherwise rather uplifting album. Although the
drums don't do much here, the repetitive thud of the bass drum brings some weight to the intro, and is instantly ear-catching. The orchestral strings make a reappearance, playing a truly melancholic melody this time, the somber, delicately plucked guitar sounds almost uplifting in comparison. Moments of triumph start to glimmer through, before the song kicks in to a full cathartic crescendo for its final act. By the end of the 5 minutes, the song is incredibly busy, but never feels cluttered. What made ‘Requiem’ stand out for me is that it is the only song on the album which carries any serious emotional weight. From a personal perspective, a post-rock album will succeed or fail on what emotions it can provoke from me. Although III was on the whole enjoyable enough to listen to, the only song that I emotionally engaged with was Requiem. However, Toundra should be praised for writing a concise post-rock album, that never wanders, nor feels rushed. Although it might not stand out amongst the post-rock giants, like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, it would be a great shame if Toundra went unnoticed. Tom Saunders
Tiamat - The Scarred People (Napalm Records)
Tiamat are a band who have felt their way through a series of different genres since originally forming in 1987, under the name Treblinka. Back then they played straight black metal, ahead of changing their name and style to gothic rock in the early 1990s. From here they began exploring a more atmospheric rock style, then added a more metal vibe again in their 2008 album, Amanethes. The Scarred People is the long-anticipated followup, and musically, it seems to fit somewhere in between their last two releases.
Void Moon – On the Blackest of Nights (Cruz Del Sur Music)
Formed in Sweden in 2009, Void Moon are a doom-inspired four-piece that draw their main inspiration from the old-school, downtuned misery of classic Black Sabbath and Candlemass, albeit with a modern metal sensibility that touches on Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Grand Magus. So if that doesn’t give you an idea of what playground we’re playing in then you’d probably best go start your metal education again… go on, take that copy of Black Sabbath and report back when you’re up to speed. With lyrics that embrace the darker side of life (and death), Aleister Crowley’s teachings The first major appeal to the album, for me, is the range of musical diversity across the tracks. The opening title track has a definite atmospheric, gothic rock appeal, while ‘384 – Kteis’ has a doomy chill about it. Several other tracks, namely ‘The Sun Also Rises’ and ‘Love Terrorists’, have a clear ’80s rock influence, sounding like they wouldn't be too out of place on an old school Pink Floyd album. Johan Edlund’s voice is strong throughout the album, and his distinctive low-tone vocals are well suited to the overall slow tempo of the tracks. There is some rather elaborate guitar work in sections of the album, which gives a nice depth to the sometimes simple feel of the music. This is most apparent in the instrumental ‘Before Another Wilbury Dies’ and the epic ‘Thunder & Lightning’. After numerous line-up changes and explorations of musical style, The Scarred People is a strong, cohesive album with the band’s cleanest production to date. And if you can manage to block out the rather cheesy lyrics of ‘Messinian Letter’, you will not be disappointed with the latest offering from these Swedish metallers. Chantelle Higham
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and an all-encompassing Heathen theme, there’s not a lot of joy to be had on here, and that’s said in the kindest possible way as this is a very bleak and atmospheric-sounding album that draws a comparison with the first Danzig album for mood. The bone-dry production works well when the band locks into a melancholic groove, like on the chugging ‘Cyclops’ where vocalist/guitarist Jonas Gustavsson’s gruff wail rises over the Greg Mackintosh-style leads and gives the song a well-balanced feel with a lot of things going on. However, there are moments where the songs could do with a little beefing up as the production sounds a little thin and almost demo-like, and when songs like the Pink Floyd-esque ‘Among the Dying’ have as much scope as they do then a little more punch in the sound would carry the song that little bit further. The band have plenty of ideas running through their songs and although their influences are obvious – like many, if not all, in the doom genre – they don’t particularly sound like any of the bands they are trying to align themselves with and that can only be a good thing. On the Blackest of Nights is a very good album that just needs a little more grunt to it, and if Void Moon can keep evolving their ideas and be a bit more consistent on the production side then we may be seeing a lot more from them in the future. Chris Ward
Xibalba - Hasta La Muerte (Southern Lord)
Named after the Maya underworld, Xibalba deliver a punishing mix of death/doom metal and hardcore. Monstrously down tuned guitar and breakdowns that make you want to curb stomp babies are all stock standard for Xibalba and on their second LP Hasta La Muerte ( Until Death) they prove that they are more than adept at creating really, really, ridiculously heavy music. Hasta La Muerte opens with ‘No Serenity’ a song which introduces the listener to doomier aspects of the band, as well as their hardcore leanings. Lead singer Nate Rebolledo has vocals that recall both Agnostic Front and Obituary with the occasional deathly growl creeping in (see ‘Soledad’). Track number three, ‘Laid to Rest’ deserves special
the top or eclectic as the previous couple of TDEP records, they do share the seamless ability to combine different musical elements and make them flow. The polyrhymic assault of Meshuggah becomes very apparent in the slower and more groove-oriented tracks like “The Black Lodge”, “To The Villains” and “Krycek”, while the hardcorish fury of Converge and the punch of The Red Chord form the backbone of “Vertigo”, “Terrifyer” and “Of Fear And Total Control”. The first half of “Voyeur” is all fire and brimstone, but it’s on the second half of the record where War From A Harlots Mouth really come into their own. The forays into jazz and lounch seem to be a thing of the past (to my everlasting regret), but the band isn’t afraid to dabble with postcore elements (“Socophibia”, “Catatombae”) and ambient soundscapes In the field of mathcore few do it better than Berlin-based War From A Harlots Mouth. On (“Epiphany”, “Beyond Life And Death”). Espetheir previous two albums, “In Shoals” (2009) cially the latter two add a lot of atmosphere to the album. It’s this sense of experimentalism and “MMX” (2010), they really pushed the boundaries of mathcore. The band also made that gives War From A Harlots Mouth its edge. regular forays into (freestyle) jazz, which gave I do regret the absence of some more jazz their music a really fresh angle. This German oriented moments, but it has to be said that outfit is back with a brand new effort, entitled War From A Harlots Mouth really managed to “Voyeur”, so let’s take a closer look... push their musical boundaries even further on This album can best be described as the “Voyeur”. The song material is as convincing missing link between Meshuggah, Converge, and diverse as ever. Great album! Raymond Westland The Red Chord and The Dillinger Escape Plan. Though “Voyeur” may not be so over
War From A Harlots Mouth – Voyeur (Season Of Mist)
mention for the coolest drum intro since ‘Corporal Jigsaw Quandry’ by Carcass, while ‘Burning Bridge’ has enough groovy hooks to lay waste to any mosh pit. The title track is another doom laden affair, with the vocals delivered in Spanish, which adds an almost menacing and eerie element to the song. ‘Mala Mujer’, a cover of Thin Lizzy’s ‘Still in Love With You’ , was something of an anomaly (I had to check whether I was still listening to the same album when the dreamy guitar riff and female vocals kicked in). The highlight of Hasta La Muerte, and album closer is the re-recorded version of ‘Cold’ (a track that appeared on the band’s first LP). Channelling Sunn O))) the track begins with an ominous, two minute drone before it returns to beating your eardrums to death with the evilest and grooviest riff to ever grace this planet. After 11 tracks, and 54 minutes of metal/hardcore brutality, Hasta La Muerte will leave you bruised, battered and collecting your teeth off of the ground. Hasta La Muerte is an album that boasts excellent production, but not one that erodes the grit and rawness of the music. The bass and low end in Hasta La Muerte will liquefy your bowels, while the guitars and vocals will rip your face to shreds (with perfect clarity, of course). What Hasta La Muerte won’t do however, is inspire you. While breakdowns and sludgy riffing are an excellent way to create a heavy and punishing listening experience, they should be used sparingly, or at least with variation.
This is not the case on Hasta La Muerte, hence songs get boring and repetitive, fast. While certain tracks stand out (i.e ‘Cold’ and ‘Mala Mujer’), the majority of songs on this album are forgettable and monotonous (Instrumental track ‘The Flood’ is a good example of this). So while this is by no means a bad album, it’s still one that fails to engage the listener and hold their attention fully. Hasta La Muerte. It’s heavy. Really heavy. But not much else. Brayden Bagnall
Yurei – Night Vision (Adversum)
And now for something completely different. Those who traverse the astral planes of extreme music to their outer limits will no doubt have encountered Norwegian oddball Bjeima
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before in one of his other bands such as The Ghost Conspiracy or Alfa Obscura, or perhaps may have noticed his bass playing skills on The Agent That Shaped the Desert, last year’s critically acclaimed third album from rock weirdos Virus. 2012 sees him returning to avant-garde act Yurei for another swan dive into the depths of far-out eccentricity. ‘Insomniac Bug Hunt’ refrains from hurling you into the deep end immediately, preferring to induce frowns with its noodling elevator music-esque jauntiness acting as a buffer to the more chaotic and up-tempo ‘Reborn In Reveries’ which uses repetition in an attempt to confuse and disorientate the listener. Bjeima’s pronounced vocals are pitched reasonably high in the mix, but have trouble gaining a foothold on account of the lawless nature of the music flowing to-and-fro underneath with little regard for convention. ‘3am Revolt’ never quite bursts into the frenzy it threatens to, yet maintains its unsettling atmosphere of bug-eyed insomnia, akin to the jazzy interludes on Calculating Infinity by The Dillinger Escape Plan. The gently flowing refrains and thin spacy keyboards of ‘The Cognitive Crack’ offer a more conventional vibe despite the disturbing imagery of the lyrics, a horror made all the more real by the legibility of the vocals while the unsettling skittishness of ‘Diminished Disciple’ cranks up the menace in a Blue Velvet style representation of unpleasantness beneath the white picket fences. It’s about this time that you realise that you’re digesting a record with an ice-cold black metal mindset, but one too cunning to adhere to convention in its desire to claim your soul. However, ‘Dali By Night’ throws in a blinkand-you’ll-miss-it blast section just to fuck with your head even more. ‘Ditt Monument’ glides by on waves of sedate chilliness before Bjeima appears to lose it completely on the giddy surrealism of ‘Machinery’ where “everything goes backwards and electricity speaks.” We are left with the macabre spoken word and eerie atmospherics of album closer ‘Cranial Echoes’ and the feeling that something very odd has just occurred. Best described as Mr Bungle being covered by Arcturus in a lounge bar somewhere in hell, Yurei are difficult to categorise and hard to digest initially, but are worth sticking with, if only to hear how an album without distortion can be just as disturbing as anything put out by your common or garden corpse painted outfit. There’s method in the madness, somewhere down there. James Conway
Yakuza - Beyul (Profound Lore Records)
Chicago’s Yakuza are something of an acquired taste, having trodden a path of decidedly avant-garde and experimental composition over the years. Blending stoner riffs, jazz fills, prog meanderings and all manner of influences from John Coltrane to Black Sabbath to Pink Floyd they are rather a unique proposition and not an easy listen by any means. My difficulty with this album is that each track feels a little too much like two or three different pieces awkwardly welded together like sections of crash-damaged vehicles. The bits being used are fine in themselves, but the joins are obvious and they don’t work well as a unit. As much as I keep hearing wonder in
these songs, something just doesn’t fit quite right. The musicianship is as flawless as ever and there are moments of utter genius on that will have prog fans salivating and grooves that any headbanger will adore, but ultimately it feels like it’s trying a little too hard. 'Fire Temple And Beyond' is Mastodon-esque and hugely impressive, but could have been twice as good and had way more impact if it was trimmed down from ten minutes to six. The bombast of 'Mouth Of The Lion' and the trippy expanse of 'Lotus Array' are real highlights and work much better in terms of structure and momentum. Had the whole album possessed this kind of cohesion then this would certainly be a 5/5 review. This is not a bad piece of work by any stretch of the imagination, but for a band as talented as this it feels a bit thrown together and ramshackle at times, which is a shame considering their pedigree. The sheer power of their early work like Transmutations or their stunning debut on Profound Lore Of Seismic Consequence show what they are really capable of and sadly they haven’t captured that shimmering brilliance here. Die-hard fans will still enjoy it but for me it just doesn’t quite reach the heady heights this bunch of noiseniks are so clearly capable of. Dewie
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-Secondly: If your ambitions are economical and your passion isn't driven by a creative hunger to make music, you will most likely fail. Building a career as a Musician will take dedication, persistence and stamina. Only a very few have the network and skills to launch directly into a profitable career. You need to have a fundamental musical ambition that drives you forward. I know many Artists see themselves as only creative forces and some refuse both to recognize and take part in anything that resembles business, some even make an image out of that. But look into history and you will find that all the most successful acts have either been very aware on their own or had a manager behind them. Did you know Mick Jagger went to business school before Rolling Stones took off? And does anyone doubt that Gene Simmons is a businessman?
I don't think anyone should be surprised when I say that I have not been able to make a living out of being a musician. And I've tried to, I can assure you. It just didn't work out (yet). Why this didn't work out have baffled me for some time and a few months ago I delivered my Bachelor-paper about this issue. I have been lucky to get a re-education that started at the age of 35, and now I have a diploma in Entrepreneurship, or let's call it “Economics and Business-Development”. Going into Business School was not something I did to boost my career as a Musician. Still, the three years in school have made me very much more aware about business side, and it has made me aware that as a Musician you need to be able to take care of business to get anywhere. I did some research for this last paper around the history of Borknagar and why a band with such success in music is not able to make a living out of it. And it revealed some points that I want to let you all in on here, in a short version: -First of all: As a Musician you need to realize that if you want to be professional you will have to take care of business. This might sound a bit obvious, but there is a direct conflict of interest in the artistic and the commercial thinking. As an Artist or Musician you don't want to be caught thinking about money, that will diminish your integrity. You don't want to give people the impression that you do what you do only to get rich. I mean, some Artists are not very subtle about this anyway, but I'm discussing the proper Musicians here, not performers with playback, to them there's no conflict of interest. To a “Rocker” who opposes society and is rebellious there are obvious contradictions. You need to overcome the pride and think several thoughts, don't let your success benefit only others, make sure it benefits yourself.
As I dabble with Entrepreneurship I'm often presented with new ideas and inventions that people want to make into a business. One industry that strongly needs to do this is the Music Industry. My concern about the Music Industry is that it's led by companies that are too big and with that unable to change. Without changing it's only a matter of time before they go bankrupt. Trying to make a living out of CD sales in 2012 is in my opinion a waste of time. Trying to fight the technological development with regulations and laws is the same as drugging a half dead beast. You can't prevent that eventually it dies! In this situation I believe that we will see more upcoming Artists succeed who are able to build up their careers outside the traditional Music Industry. I look forward to see those artists that build up through Social Media, control both their publishing rights and merchandise rights as well as releasing music digitally instead of going through with the old-school album format. I want to see people who are not only creative in their music, but also how they approach the industry. I believe that Music Industry has come to that point in time where the asteroid is about to hit the planet and the dinosaurs will die, giving room to the smaller, more adaptable mammals... Jens F. Ryland
Jens in action with Borknagar GHOST CULT MAGAZINE | 52
ponderings on metal are no more important than someone who discovered metal in 1992, 2002, 2011 or yesterday.
I was going to take advantage of this guest editorial slot to talk about how well some metal bands age—a raft of 2012 releases from veteran bands having proven that point in an emphatic fashion. However, I stumbled upon an entirely different age related issue reading a review for Napalm Death's latest, Utilitarian, where a cranky commentator said that metal fans who weren't around during the burgeoning years of the genre (i.e. the 80s) could never fully appreciate Napalm Death's significance. I purchased my very first metal LP in 1983, and the ensuing 29 years of metal fandom have provided me with incalculable earsplitting thrills. The simple pleasure of having enjoyed three decades of raucousness has proven to be enormously helpful as a writer and a fan. When I listen to bands I appreciate the sociohistoric context of their music. I compare and contrast, map bands lineages, and take note of their cultural connections—placing all that information in that OCD-fuelled evolutionary chronicle that rattles about my skull. I love the reflective detail that age provides. When I started listening to metal, amped-up hard rock, glam, power metal, NWOBHM, speed and black metal were my choices. The majority of artists having none of the cross-genre adornments we enjoy today. I consider myself very fortunate to have witnessed the rise (and frequent fall) of countless formative metal bands. I watched the birth of sub-genres, and looked on as metal grew up and became increasingly adventurous. Metal was considered shocking and dangerous when I first tuned in. There was no internet shamelessness, viscera-strewn torture porn, or de rigueur Satanism to blunt metal's edge or impact. Metal was hazardous and scandalous for listeners and onlookers alike in the 80s, and that's why I loved it. I traded tapes with friends from afar, spent an inordinate amount of time pestering record store employees to listen to LPs that I could never afford to buy, and was once proudly suspended from school for wearing an Iron Maiden tee that wouldn't even raise an eyebrow today. My metal history has deep roots, but I disagree entirely with that aforementioned commentator that those decades of fandom correlate to any 'special' insights. Those 29 years as a metal fan allow me to contextualise the genres development in terms of lived experience, but with that comes my own bias, and my
I don't know exactly what it was like for you to discover metal, but I'm willing to bet that somewhere along the way you experienced the pure epiphanic ecstasy of the world falling into place around a colossal riff. We're metal fans, we celebrate the catharsis, comfort and challenge inherent in a form of music that encapsulates the way we see the world, and helps us to make sense of its insanity. It's important to remember that we share a love of metal, and at the end of the day, that is what counts the most—not time served. Obviously, experience matters in life, but travelling back to unearth classic metal albums from the past is just as noteworthy an experience as being there when they were first unleashed. Of course it will be an entirely different experience for someone to encounter Mercyful Fate today than it was for me in 1983, but it's no less a pivotal or powerful moment. The frame of reference is different, but new thoughts and theories matter. We should reevaluate metal, after all, unless I'm very much mistaken, metal is meant to be about radical ideas and dismissing differing observations is conservative and stale—aren't we supposed to be rallying against that? To argue that because you weren't there at point (a) and thus can't fully appreciate points (b), (c) and (d) is vacuous. It reeks of that fatuous follow-up that metal today just isn't as good as the days of yore. And what that really means, is the accuser has settled, and decided to sit and compare everything with point (a). To my mind, that sounds unbelievably boring. Us older fans, we love our classics, for good reason too, and we do throw our hands in the air and say "kids today". You'll do it too, you probably already do, but just ignore us, we're just grumpy because we can't fit into our Cannibal Corpse tees anymore, and we're surly because some of you haven't checked out Blue Cheer yet. Point being, my view on metal is based from my personal year zero, but if you're looking back along metal's timeline from a later period than me, then your opinions offer a valuable alternative perspective. Just rejoice in whatever juncture you connect with metal. Look forward and back, and school yourself. But whatever you do, don't discount the voices of those around you, don't become one of them—the dull and the conventional. There are enough divisions in the world; lets just focus on what brings us all together, a fervent love of metal. Lets just concentrate on giving the finger to the world, not each other. Craig Hayes
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