Category Archives: black metal

Burn down our churches for one day you’ll be Norway’s “brand”

Remember when burning down churches in Norway was bad and black metallers were labeled satanists? Well apparently, all is forgiven and the Norwegian government is looking to black metal to become its “brand.” I guess the country finally figured out that black metal is their nation’s top export over what…..herring?

norway-immortalRead this interesting story here.

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INTERVIEW: Carpathian Forest prepare for exclusive Maryland Deathfest show

Carpathian Forest embodies everything I love about black metal –grim but beautiful, atmospheric melodies, songs with misanthropic themes and socially biting, often disturbing lyrics. Yet the group couches this “strange old brew” of ideas into infectious rock and roll rhythms that make me want to get up and dance. They also are not afraid to add in unnerving audio samples and keyboards or include a cover song when the mood strikes. Weird? Of course. Disturbing? Sometimes. Awesome? Yes! Carpathian Forest perform Sunday, May 26 at the 2013 Maryland Deathfest, their first performance on U.S. soil.

Formed in Norway in 1990 by Roger “Nattefrost” Rasmussen and John Nordavind, the group established themselves as a powerful force in the second wave of black metal with two demos, an EP and their seminal full-length Black Shining Leather. In 2000, the group experienced a lineup change that has persisted to this day. Among the new members was bassist Daniel Vrangsinn.

Vrangsinn is among the most recognizable figures in black metal with an arresting image of him appearing in photographer Peter Beste’s book “True Norwegian Black Metal”. In the group’s infamous 2004 DVD, “We Are Going to Hollywood For This,” he performs on stage wearing little more than a leather S&M style harness. He cuts a striking and memorable profile with corpse paint streaming down his face and sweat pouring off of his bare shoulders.

Vrangsinn also founded and leads Misantrof, a not-for profit, anti-commercial experiment that releases music (ANTIRecords) and the written word (ANTIPublishing) for free and allows the artists to retain full right to their work. The organization is supported entirely by donations that go back to the artists. Founded on the principal that “without greed or corruption art is set free to remind mankind what it never can be,”  Misantrof is a noble effort and further evidence of his strong character.

Vrangsinn’s generosity seem as big as his physical stature, and he was kind enough to answer my basic questions, which follow. Daniel tells me that he and the rest of the CF crew will be attending the entire four days of MDF so be sure to be on the look out. Buy them some beer or some steamed crabs!

What will be the official lineup for Maryland Deathfest? 

Nattefrost – Vocal
Tchort – Guitar
Bloodpervertor – Guitar
Vrangsinn – Bass
Kobro – Drums
The line-up is the same Carpathian Forest you always get to see. No changes in the past decade.

What do you consider to be one of your band’s most essential recordings? And why?

The favorite album of mine is the first full length Black Shining Leather, but I do consider all the albums essential. Another of my favorites is Defending the Throne of Evil.
How does your band feel about playing Maryland Deathfest? What have you heard about this festival?

We are looking forward to this very much. We arrive a couple of days before our show to see other bands and meet US friends. 
What other bands playing MDF do you hope to see perform?

PENTAGRAM! I also hope to catch Venom, The Melvins, Bolt Thrower and many many more. 
Will you be doing other shows as part of your stop at MDF or is this appearance exclusive?
This is an exclusive concert. We won’t do any other U.S. shows
Will there be any unusual or special merchandize you will be selling while at MDF?

I don’t know yet

Is there anything else you hope to do while you are in Maryland? Eat crabs? Go to the Chesapeake Bay?

Hang out with friends, drink beer and watch concerts. Crab claws do sound tempting though.

Is there anything else you want people to know about your band?
We are slowly working on new material, and we hope to record a new album this year.

Arckanum to release Fenriz Kindir in May

Swedish black metal project Arckanum will be putting out a new album called Fenriz Kindir (that is, Fenriz’s Children) on May 14 with Season of Mist.

Fenriz Kindir coming soon from Arckanum
Check out this intense album art! 
According to band founder Shamaatae, “This album is a dedication to the flaming giant-wolf, son of Loki; created from the Chaos-fires of Múspellsheimr. It is a tribute to the wrathful giant-wolf, son of Angrboða, found in the Ironwood where he is breeding hordes of giant monstrous wolves with Angrboða. His victorious name is Fenrir, also called Tungls Tjúgari! Hail Fenrir!”

He continues: “The sounds and music on this album are my auditory vision of the march of Fenrir convoyed with his hordes of giant wolves from the depths of the underworld to face Ragna Rök with warlike glory – deformed giant-wolves swarming in thousands.”
Be still my nerdy, little  black metal heart. This recording looks like it’s going to be the soundtrack to that Norse Literature course I devoured in college. 
Shamaatae explains:  The Old Norse saga Völuspá (40-41) says, ‘In the east of the Ironwood (Járnviðr) she the Old One (Angrboða) sat and there bore Fenrir’s Kin (Fenris kindir). One of which became the most worthy of them all, the One taking down the sun/moon with a two-pronged pitchfork (tungls tjúgari), in a troll’s shape. He fills his belly with the corpses of dead men and defiles the houses of gods with blood. The sun’s beams blacken during summers and the weather grows stormy.’ The later saga Gylfaginning (51) reveals Fenrir’s flaming Múspell-descent during Ragna Rök: ‘Fenrir shall advance with gaping mouth, and his lower jaw shall be against the earth, but the upper against heaven, he would gape yet more if there were room for it; fires blaze from his eyes and nostrils… The Sons of Múspell shall go forth to that field which is called Vígríðr, thither shall come Fenrir also…'”
I like when a songwriter provides you with the citations from the literature. Do go on….
“This is my tribute to the wrathful, harsh and untamed anti-nature of Fenrir’s mighty essence! The anti-cosmic enemy of the worlds! Heill Tungls Tjúgari! Heilir Fenris Synir!”
Ok, so listeners will be immersed in some themes of deep Norse mythology. What about the music? What should we expect from the talented and mysterious Arckanum. Nothing but magic. Check out the guest players on each track!
The track listing and guest players for Fenriz Kindir are as follows: 
1. Fenris Kindir Grúa
2. Tungls Tjúgari: Peter Asp, horns.
3. Dólgrinn
4. Hatarnir: Lena Klarström: female vocals; Peter Asp: howling guitars.
5. Hamrami: Ljuder-Stefan Westberg: horns and violins.
6. Fenris Gangr
7. Vargøld: Olof Lindberg and Peter Asp: chorus and horns.
8. Angrboða: Lena Klarström: female vocals.
9. Úskepna
10. Spell
11. Sólbøls Sigr: Ljuder-Stefan Westberg: keyed fiddle (nyckelharpa) and violins.
12. Lycanthropia [Necromantia cover, bonus track on digital and LP editions]

My birthday is in May. I know what I will be reserving for myself. I can’t wait. 

Here’s a track from Arckanum’s last recording from 2011.

Full stream of Vreid – Welcome Farewell

Vreid, the Norwegian black and roll band that arose from the ashes of Windr in 2004, have a new record, Welcome Farewell, set for North American release March 5, 2013. Their blend of black metal, punky thrash and straightforward rock and roll combined with captivating song writing and lyrics puts them into my “what’s not to like?” category. I can put on any one of their albums and listen from start to finish without wanting to skip a song. I only hope a North American tour accompanies this release.

A recent press release about Vreid’s new recording describes the work this way:

Notorious for their well-researched, historically-inspired lyrics, the band’s third and fourth offerings, I Krig and Milorg, were both concept albums based around the liberation work in Norway during World War II. Liberation was also the keyword on VREID’s last offering, V, but placed in a broader historical/philosophic perspective. The lyrics on Welcome Farewell describe a lifecycle through a series of short stories, seen from an existential point of view and, inspired by Hváll’s own local community with its nature, architecture and historical artists such as Arne Garborg and Otto Valstad, are more personal than ever before.

The members of Vried are Hváll – Bass; Sture – Vocals/Guitar; Strom – Guitar and Steingrim – Drums.

www.vreid.no
www.facebook.com/vreidofficial?fref=ts
www.indierecordings.us

You can listen to a full stream of the new album here: 

REVIEW: The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair, plus philosophizing with Ptahil

I like to imagine that somewhere in northeastern Indiana there lies a portal to the Underworld where the members of the Ptahil have set up camp to receive messages directly from their Dark Lord. I am probably not too far off, based on  the content of their most recent recording.

Ptahil, which in gnostic mysticism can also be spelled Fetahil, is described as the builder of the material world. Ptahil, the band from Fort Wayne, Indiana, is comprised of drummer/vocalist J. Mhághnuís and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist D. Luathca, and they have been building their world of chaos since 2009. They have created two demos, two EPs, one single and two full-length recordings in that time, the most recent of which, The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair, came out December 21, 2012 (defying a predicted Mayan apocalypse).

Ptahil

Both members have also been in and are currently contributing to several other musical projects. Currently, Ptahil is in the process of mixing a third full-length recording called Born Against with Wraith Productions and is slated for release in 2014. But let’s talk about the album at hand.

The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair roars forth like a swarming horde from the very first track, “Satanicus Sabbathicus,” which features pummeling drums and an almost industrial black metal atmosphere. Launched with backwards invocation, “Possessed by Death” transitions the listener to a much doomier plane of existence. I can imagine fans chanting along with the refrain here.

The third track “Blood, Semen, Shit”– well, that just about covers the entirety of human existence doesn’t it. This song is a bit more trashy and lyrically will make you “curse all life’s creation”.

Track four, “Mors Aut Libertas,” continues in the somewhat trashy vein. Here, Ptahil builds a wall of sound with heavy guitar distortion and drumming. Lyrically, I think this may capture Ptahil’s spirit. “And what magic was (sic) you trying to summon, stirring up men’s hearts to action? Revolution and change? This is paid in blood. Not by obliging the chains to bind you. Nor by giving up your spark. Raise your fire for All the Gods to see. For your soul to be free.”

“Pact with the Devil” returns to the doom and features some of the most melodic segments of the album. At times, it dips into psychedelic realms! This track trudges along, crushing everything in its path. It is among my favorite songs on the record.

The title track of this album clocks in at nearly 13 minutes, which is long for a black metal song. Yet this epic and multifaceted track builds and builds to a crescendo of rage befitting a title song for this recording. Lyrically, like most Ptahil songs, the themes are simultaneously obscure and evident. “What love can survive and flourish in this realm?” There is deep “gnosis” here, but many people will probably not want to dwell on the possible implications and will be content to simply bang their heads.

Like a freight train plummeting over a cliff, the album’s final track, “Hell Spells and Satanic Rituals,” moves at a break-neck pace and concludes in under two and a half minutes. The album ends with another backwards vocal. A malediction perhaps, rather than a benediction.

Overall, The Almighty Propagator of Doom and Despair will likely leave you satisfied and exhausted, like a good old-fashioned shag. That’s ironic, given the underlying theme of the record that reveals itself through the lyrics. This album may cause you to question your existence and purpose in this shadowy physical plane. That is a mighty accomplishment from little more than 45 minutes of music and should put this record on the watchlist of any follower of American black metal.

On the downside, I am not sure I like the way this recording was mixed (granted I know nothing about this process). I feel like the vocals, which are quite good, get lost under the music. The guitar work sounds indistinct at times. Listening on headphones helps.

I interviewed Mhághnuís via email. Here’s what he had to say about the band, the future and this recording.

What did you set out to achieve with this recording? 
Total freedom. To put into light the terrible instinct of human reproduction. As people go on, so goes enslavement.

Where was the recording done and what atmosphere were you trying to create. 
Ptahil does all our tracking at our temple/studio. For The Almighty Propagator… mixing and mastering was done here as well. We always try to bring an atmosphere of chaos to our releases. With this release, however, we wanted to bring a manipulated feel. This is what mankind is the best at doing, manipulation. Manipulating other living things. Manipulating the landscape, and nature. This is why the full release could be played both forward and backward. There are specific messages both ways in our own attempts to manipulate the listener to seek out their total freedom by any means necessary.

I heard the band was looking for a bassist. How is that going? 
Ptahil is D. Luathca and myself. We are looking for a third to make our magic stronger, at least for live rituals, but we have not found anyone who can both play the music and deal with what Ptahil is about. It takes more than playing the music perfectly. It is about making a specific pact.

I have not heard reverse recording in music for a long time. I suppose the only way you could listen to it would be to get it in vinyl and spin the disc in reverse. Why did you decide to use this?
Well, when this was originally being recorded, the plan was to release it on vinyl. However we did not give a fuck about time constraints, we just worried about doing the release how it felt it should be done. This led to the recording being too long for a standard vinyl pressing by two songs. Our record label (Wraith Productions) received the masters and did not want to exclude the two songs. So we opted to release it on CD. (You can find this and other Ptahil recordings and merch here.)

What plans do you have to tour in support of this record, and how will it be distributed? 
We have distribution in Europe through Code 7 with Wraith Prod. People can pick up the releases in stores in Europe. There is limited distribution in America however, (of course) Into The Void Records carries our releases in their store in St. Paul, Minnesota. You can get the releases in the mail through us and Wraith.
Ptahil will be playing THE DEVIL’S COVEN FEST at Station 4 in St. Paul on May 18. This so far is the ONLY show for Ptahil in 2013.

What is on the agenda for the upcoming year? 
Ptahil has another release finished and in the mixing stages titled, Born Against, which is to be released through Wraith. We also have 2+ more releases in the rehearsal recording stages. We will start tracking these songs during this year.
D. Luathca has a release recorded playing bass for The Lurking Corpses, which is set for release this year. I have also joined up with Demonic Christ for their two fest appearances for this year and look to be recording their new release this year as well.

Anything else you want to mention? 
Demonic Christ will be performing at Cathedral of the Black Goat Fest March 30 and Martydoom Fest June 29-31. Ptahil will be performing at THE DEVIL’S COVEN FEST at Station 4 in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18. So if anyone hates my guts enough to take my life, there are your three chances.

REVIEW: Embers and Revelations, plus Weapon’s Monarch speaks

Weapon

What do you get when you cross the anti-religious themes of true black metal with the death metal aesthetics of Bolt Thrower and tinge it with the cultural undertones of Bangladesh? You get Weapon. (And yes, the name is trademarked; legally there can be only one.)

The first time I heard Canada’s blackened death metal group Weapon was shortly before the June 2012 Marduk show at the former Sonar in Baltimore. A friend had told me that Weapon were the only reason to go to the show. They weren’t the only reason to be there, but they sure were damn good.

From that time, I have gotten to know the band a little more, gone back and listened to some of their earlier recordings, and have kept in touch with the group’s vocalist and chief songwriter who goes by the name Vetis Monarch.

I have been listening to their latest recording Embers and Revelations since it was released in October 2012. Initially, I had fallen in love with the mystery and dark beauty crafted by their second full length, From the Devil’s Tomb. You can read more about my first encounter with Weapon here.

Now, months later, I feel like Embers and Revelations exceeds the intensity and excellence of this previous work. I am glad I waited to write my review.

The album slithers forth with the track “The First Witness of Lucifer.” With a relentless beat and chugging riffs, it’s an appropriate processional into the unholy aural onslaught to come.

The song “Vanguard of the Morning Star” offers devotees a perfect blend of black metal and death meal. Blast beats, tremolo riffs, a blistering lead and sinister growling vocals. “Crespuscular Swamp, Unhinged Swine” slows the pace down a bit to a death metal trudge. The track crushes its enemies and takes no prisoners.

The next track “Liber Lilith” stands out, maybe because of its memorable opening riff or its fist-pumping refrain. I can’t really post the lyrics about this “feral harlot; unchaste spirit” here, but rest assured, this song will creep under your skin.

“Grotesque Carven Portal” begins with some ethereal soundscapes and them moves into what might be called the “Weapon-sound,” as this group definitely has an identifiable progression of chords and musical themes that seem to reveal themselves, however subtly, in every track. (Maybe Vetis should look into trademarking this sound as well #joking.)

This instrumental quickly transitions into the roar of the title track of the album. At just under 4 minutes, “Embers and Revelations” packs a demonic punch, but I actually wish this song were a bit longer. It features a rally cry, which is sure to get audiences revved in a live setting, but it seems to lack the songwriting complexity that most of Weapon’s other songs possess.

The final two tracks are my favorite for this Weapon outing. “Disavowing Each in Aum” provides head-banging material for sure with raging rhythms and plenty of shredding, but it also offers up that subtle intricacy that Weapon does so well. The slower, more introspective sections of this song mesmerize.

The album’s final track, “Shahenshah,” will likely go into the group’s rotation of songs used as encores. Epic riffage, building tension and satisfying resolutions, Weapon gives it all to you here. In the song, Vetis Monarch sings the lyrics “O, archon, emperor, monarch, shahenshah -The luminous jewel on the acausal crown.”

The truth is, “Shahenshah” is this recording’s crown jewel and Weapon’s signature song to date.

Weapon’s third full-length album, Embers and Revelations, firmly establishes these warriors on the landscape of satanic metal bands to watch. I missed the sound of the sitar prominently featured in previous albums, so I invite you to go back and listen to Drakonian Paradigm and From the Devil’s Tomb and witness how Vetis Monarch and company have evolved to this point.

Here is what Vetis Monarch had to say about the band, his philosophies and this record:

How would you describe your personal philosophy, and how does it inform the music and lyrics of this latest Weapon recording? You seem to be a Theistic Satanist with Hindu underpinnings; is that how you would describe it?

In the most general of descriptions, I’d say that’s fairly accurate. On one hand, I can say I can say that I’m a Satanist and leave it at that; that’s the long and short of it, because to me, there’s only ONE kind of Satanism when you cut through all the red tape and unnecessary factions. But when talking on a more complex level, I can go further with what led me to my current belief system, what were the things I rejected, what culturally-leaning occult biases I absorbed and so forth. The Hindu / Eastern aspect is certainly a big part of it.

I thought your performance here in Baltimore back in June was very dynamic with good interplay between band members. Describe the chemistry of the band’s current line up and how that enhanced writing and recording this new record.

The three core members of the band – myself, Kha Tumos (bass guitar) and The Disciple (drums and percussion) – we are closer to age and grew up on similar bands. We have been playing for quite some time together now. Also, prior to joining Weapon, both of those individuals played in War March. So they already brought chemistry to the table, and then the three of us formed our own way of doing things and developed our own chemistry. The “new” guy Rom Surtr (lead guitars) is quite a bit younger and comes from a different generation, so of course there’s a gap when it comes to certain reference points and whatnot. But he caught on to our way of doing things fast; everything from understanding our sound, to camaraderie, sense of humor, et al – he’s there. In a lot of ways, understanding the aspects that DON’T involve the music are even more important, which Rom Surtr does. If there is no chemistry off-stage, it probably won’t translate on-stage.

What sort of experience or knowledge do you hope to bring to people when they listen to Weapon (other than kick ass blackened death metal that is easy to mosh to)? For example, what thoughts or emotions do you hope to provoke and why?

I am a huge advocator of reading lyrics, so for me it’s always fantastic when someone will write to me saying that certain Weapon lyrics inspired him / her to research further into a occult, historical or religious topic. That to me is pay dirt. A girl wrote to me recently that subject matter off ‘From The Devil’s Tomb’ inspired her to take Sanskrit courses in University. I thought that was very cool.

A good set of headphones and very little lighting should generate the best Weapon listening experience, I find. In a live setting we just like to see people get violent and hurt themselves / each other. This past summer when we were on tour, someone dislocated his knee from reacting too excitedly in the crowd. We encourage things like that.

Were there any particular challenges or triumphs in recording Embers and Revelations?

Between 2010 and early 2012 I had a lot of instability in my personal life, from getting arrested to being homeless – just one chaotic event after another, some of which I can’t get into due to legal reasons. Kha Tumos (bass guitar) had a lot of personal shit 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. Embers And Revelations ended up being a lot more belligerent and malicious than I originally thought it could be.

Tell me about the cover art/artist.

The artist is Benjamin Vierling, an American painter. He has been with us since Drakonian Paradigm, and he really understands how we work. 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 and 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.

I hear some of the same musical themes in Embers as I did in From the Devil’s Tomb. Can this new album be seen as a continuation of that story?

Most certainly. Every Weapon release is part of the same ongoing story. The songs on the albums themselves stand alone, in that, we don’t make concept albums; but the discography of Weapon is one singular concept. Weapon will always champion Satanism.

My current favorite track on this recording is “Disavowing Each in Aum”. What is it about?

Aum is Om and is of supreme significance in Hinduism. This symbol is a consecrated syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism – omnipotent, universal, and the foundation of all discernible life.

I believe that sociopaths and psychopaths are inherently missing the link to Aum, whether they are aware of it or not. They are void of that connection that links all living creatures to cosmic laws, both macrocosmic and microcosmic. The missing link is what separates the clay-born from the fire-born. I essentially wrote this song for criminals, sociopaths, psychopaths, invalids, outcasts, degenerates and lunatics of this secular world, who are raping the very tenets of godhood, thereby becoming gods themselves.

Likewise, what is “Shahenshah” about? References I found mention a Bollywood superhero! It’s a very cool song by the way, nice guitar solo there!

“Shahenshah” is a word that derives from Avestan meaning power and command, corresponding to the Sanskrit word kshatriya (warrior). The full, Old Persian title of the Achaemenid rulers of the First Persian Empire was King of Kings. It was a title of the utmost reverence, respect, adulation and fear for a lord above all. Of course, in our paradigm that is a direct reference to Lucifer / Shiva / Loki / Set / Pan, etc. This song is an all-encompassing piece about the Lord of the Left Hand Path and His ethereal decree upon and beyond the universe.

Anything else you want to share?

That’s all for now. All pertinent Weapon information can be found at www.weaponchakra.com.

Video captures YAITW in reflective moment

I was browsing YouTube recently in search of videos by the American blackened crust band Young And In The Way, or YAITW for short, when I stumbled across this mini-pic posted nearly a year ago. I can’t believe I have not seen it until now.

Young And In The Way. Photo by Mary Spiro

The film is set to the song “The Gathering” from the album V. Eternal Depression released by this North Carolina group in 2011. Unlike most of YAITW’s catalog, which is more chaotic,  this 11+ minute song provides a reflective, yet sinister, conclusion to the recording. If you have never listened to this band, “The Gathering” only represents a tiny segment of the styles they play, which tend to be something like black metal mixed with post-hardcore and a good dose of hatred for mankind thrown in.

Lush and evokative with themes such as death, mortality, ritual, fear and perhaps the conflict between father and son, the video matches the song perfectly. It is filled with tension and gives you a sense of hopelessness. Filmed in black and white, if features three characters and a grim landscape. I won’t say much more than that, just watch it and experience whatever it brings you.

Young And In The Way are one of my favorite groups. Their music is raw and their lyrics thoughtful. Their live shows are mesmerizing. This video, which was directed by John Bradburn and Andy Paton for 93MillionMiles, is a gentle introduction to their sound, which isn’t something every metalhead is going to like.


The Gathering from 93 Million Miles on Vimeo.

Marduk brings black metal juggernaut to Empire

Marduk and friends played Empire in Springfield, Virginia on February 20. Here are my general impressions of this crushing juggernaut of sound that is probably coming to a town near you.

First off, it was grim and frostbitten outside and waiting in line for even two minutes was excruciating. I got in line at about 5:45 and doors did not open until after 6 p.m. Strangely, the first band had already started playing to a practically empty room. Empire, why do you do this stupid shit?

The first group Helgardh are from Bluefield, West Virginia. They performed in full corpse paint and presented very traditional old school style black metal. They sounded solid, especially the vocals, and I would have been happy to have seen their entire set. I didn’t notice any merchandise or demos at the merch table. But since they are regional, it’s likely I will get another chance to see them.

Next up was Deathwolf from Sweden, founded by Marduk’s Morgan Steinmeyer Håkansson  who plays bass for this group. Musically the group was entertaining but I found the songs uninspired. I felt like I was watching a really competent biker bar band that might appear on an episode of Sons of Anarchy. The vocals were really strong though. Unfortunately, I was just not into the genre they were playing. They did seem to have a small following in the audience.

The Foreshadowing, a gothic metal group from Italy took the stage next, after what seemed like an unnecessarily long sound check. Again, the musicianship was excellent, but if I want to listen to the black metal version of Depeche Mode I will just listen to…um, no…I will just listen to Depeche Mode.  This band’s work has been nominated for all kinds of awards, so apparently people like them, but I find it incredibly hard to comment on a band that did not excite me. If I met them, I would say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Inquisition from Colombia/Seattle was the main reason I drove 70 + miles in rush hour traffic to this show on a weekday night, and I was very excited to see them perform. They did not disappoint. There is something hypnotic about the way the drums, Dagon’s guitar and his reptilian-affected vocals come together, and I think the rest of the audience could feel it. I had watched several YouTube videos of live Inquisition shows and none that remember can capture the real deal. They sounded great, they looked great and they got everyone revved up! They played one of my favorite songs, Cosmic Invocation Rites. Evening complete.

Portugal’s Moonspell like to sing about werewolves, apparently.  At one point, I think the singer howled. I don’t know, whatever they were singing about, I thought they were really good. They also fall roughly into the category of gothic metal, but they exude so much aggression and power that it feels more like melodic black metal to me. The band interacted well with the audience, who seemed to love them. I would go see them again.

Marduk arrived on stage about 30 minutes later than the set times indicated, which made me realize that I was not going to be able to stay for their entire set.  (Some people have to work in the morning.)  The last (and first) time I saw Marduk was at the former Sonar in Baltimore. During that show, which was held on a Saturday night, the entire room was packed and quickly turned into a mosh pit. This show seemed to lack that level of vigor. Should we expect black metallaers to throw down on any night of the week? Heck it was only 11 p.m.  There was some moshing, but for the most part the audience was pretty inert. I think, although I obviously can’t get inside his head, that vocalist Daniel “Mortuus” Rostén was really frustrated by the lethargy. At one point I felt like he was chastising the audience for not being more metal or something.  At any rate, the sound for Marduk was horrible compared to how it had been for the other bands. From where I was standing I could  hear the bass and drums pretty well but the vocals were overwhelming. I could not hear Morgan at all, which was why I love Marduk.  So I moved to his side of the room. Better, but still pretty bad. So sad, I was. I can always listen to them on CD.

This was the very first day of Marduk’s second North American trip in support of their latest recording Serpent Sermon. I know the first few shows of a long tour are kind of like dress rehearsals, a chance to work out all the kinks and get things right for “more important” shows like Saturday night’s appearance in New York.  Still I thought all the bands brought their A-game to  Empire. I was annoyed that the sound didn’t work out for Marduk and was only just a little bored by a couple of the bands I wasn’t into. But at least I finally got to see Inquisition, who blew my mind, and I enjoyed Moonspell, who played the Barge to Hell cruise last December.

The rest of the dates for Marduk’s tour are listed below. After that, they take a little break and start their summer shows in Europe.

February 21 Poughkeepsie, NY @ The Chance
February 22 Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
February 23 New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
February 24 Montreal, QC @ Club Soda
February 25 Toronto, ON @ Wreck Room
February 26 Millvale, PA @ Mr. Small’s Theatre
February 27 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
February 28 Saint Paul, MN @ Station 4
March 1 Winnipeg, MB @ Osborne Village Inn
March 2 Regina, SK @ The Exchange
March 3 Edmonton, AB @ Pawn Shop
March 4 Calgary, AB @ TBC
March 5 Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
March 6 Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
March 7 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
March 8 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Opera House
March 9 Los Angeles, CA @ The Vex
March 10 Tempe, AZ @ 910 Live
March 11 Albuquerque, NM @ TBC
March 12 Dallas, TX @ Tomcats West
March 13 San Antonio, TX @ Korova
March 15 Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
March 16 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade

Botanist: he drums for the trees

Botanist, everything you need for a one-man, eco-terrorist performance.

I am a firm believer in having no rules in most anything, especially music. Black metal may be one of the most rigidly defined subgenres, and its fan base can be rife with elitist assholes (of which I can be one), but black metal is still the soundtrack of outsiders and miscreants. Therefore, the music of Botanist, which consists primarily of minimalistic hammered dulcimer melodies, doom-y drumming and strangled vocals, may be the most sinister black metal there is. That’s right: hammered dulcimer black metal.

I first heard about Botanist, a one man black metal outfit from San Francisco, on the NPR website. Somehow, the melodic tendrils of this brutal, eco-terrorist wrapped themselves around my mind and heart. I vowed that I would track down the musician behind these hypnotic plant worshiping hymns and unearth his secrets.
Botanist has released two recordings. The first, which Botanist sent to me, is the double album I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose from the Dead. There are 40 tracks on this effort released in July 2011 on tUMULt.  This recording mostly consists of short, fast black metal haikus. Instead of praising Satan, Botanist praises flora and something referred to as the Verdant Realm. Everyone has a god I guess. Vocals are reminiscent of  the amphibious croaks of Dagon. The drumming is at times militaristic. The dulcimer is frenetic, discordant and evil. You will never hear anything like this anywhere. Guaranteed. 
The newest recording is III: Doom in Bloom/Allies, which came out in May 2012. The first half of the recording includes seven songs performed by Botanist. The second half of this recording are Botanist songs covered by other artists. The overal vibe of this new recording is very different from the first. The songs are slower, doomier, more dirge like. I have read a handful of reviews on this second Botanist album and some are not very complimentary.  But you know what? I like this effort even more than the earlier recording. Something about the slow, plodding beats, the buzzing dulcimer melodies and the whispered vocals make this recording feel more intimate, more organic, and even more devastatingly terrifying than the last year’s work. Plus, the last one was 40 songs, just sayin’–that’s a lot to get through.
I also read recently that the Botanist entry on Metal Archives was booted because the music lacked guitar riffs and therefore was not metal enough. Let me say a few words about the hammered dulcimer as an instrument for black metal. You might think that hammered dulcimer would sound too happy or sweet for this style of music. That might be true if you are thinking of a jig on St. Patrick’s Day or an hymn at a bluegrass festival.
But when I hear a hammered dulcimer I think of a villain tying a poor damsel in distress to the train tracks. I think of creepy old black and white silent films. You don’t get much more black metal than that. Furthermore, the way in which the dulcimer is played here, the sound closely resembles the tremolo guitar picking common in traditional black metal. Guitars are not required. I have heard tenor saxophones, violins, pan pipes, wooden blocks and even banjos used in black metal songs. There should be no rules. 
I was able to contact the man behind Botanist. Here is a short Q&A. 
Could you perform this music live? Or would you bring live performers with you on a tour? 
If Botanist played live, I would almost certainly play drums and do the bulk of the vocals. For the rest of the parts, I would need touring musicians. I’ve broadcast this desire in interviews in the past, and will do so again here. One capable dulcimer player has come forward, but really, to make a tour happen, Botanist will have to grow far more in popularity in order to be released by the kind of label that could organize a tour in which enough revenue could be generated in order to pay the way of touring musicians. Perhaps some day.

Why do you conceal your identity? 
The central theme of Botanist is the glorification of the Plantae Kingdom, and specifically that glorification as seen through the eyes of one person. The identity or specifics of that person are entirely up to the imagination of the listener. Just like anyone else, ever, who makes records, I, Otrebor, am of course a real person living a life that isn’t entirely involved with making music, but any presentation of that life, any images depicting my appearance — basically, anything having to do with mundane reality, is not only immaterial to Botanist, but counterproductive to its aims. Botanist is not about me. It’s about Botanist. Should you meet me in person, or see me — should Botanist ever perform on stage — that relationship between listener and artist would necessarily change, which must be accepted. If you want to dig around and “figure out” who I am, please feel free. It’s not that hard to find. But what will it get you? Will you like Botanist more?

How is black metal particularly suited to the messages of your music? 

Again, Botanist primarily concerns itself thematically with the reverence of a sense of sacredness in regards to Nature. Botanist has endeavored to, in some substantial way, adhere its work to the overarching tenets of black metal. As such, the core thematics of the project were adapted, as a sort of tribute, of homage, to the genre that has made such an impact in my life, and of the particular aspects of its philosophy, world view, mystique, sound, and lore that I personally identify with.

_________

At last word, Botanist has started work on another recording and is earnestly recruiting musicians to take this show on the road. Let’s hope both become reality.

Both Botanist recordings can be heard below.

Nachzehrer: wicked good black metal from Boston

This week I decided to spend my local show dollars on a black metal show at The Sidebar Tavern, featuring Boston band Nachzehrer. I did not know too much about this band but had listened to them a bit after stumbling across a news item some weeks ago about the singer in the band being detained on a train platform because of his bullet belt. (Apparently there really are fashion police out there.)

Anyway, The Sidebar, which is now under new ownership, has been booking some great shows lately, perhaps in an effort (consciously or not) to fill the void left by the demise of another smallish venue the Talking Head Club. So naturally, if they are going to go to the trouble to book some black metal, I am going to go despite having to get up for work early the next morning.

The other bands that played deserve separate blog posts so I won’t go into much detail about them here. But I will mention that  the bill also included Wolfnuke (black metal from Hagerstown, Md.), At the Graves (ambient blackened doom from Baltimore), and Necropsy (Baltimore death thrash).

So back to Nachzehrer. According to the Wiki, a Nachzehrer is a vampire that devours its family and sometimes itself. We all have one of these in our family I am sure. The particular iteration of the band I saw had drums, guitar, bass and vocals, though their Facebook page lists an additional guitarist.

I am a lousy show reviewer, I must admit, mostly because I am more of less caught up in the moment and not taking notes or anything. But here’s my impression of this group.

Overall the songs are solid, semi-melodic traditional black metal. The drummer and bassist are completely in sync with one another, providing a solid head-banging foundation. Riding atop the bassline are some searing guitar melodies, threatening. The effect is punishing and raw, which is exactly how black metal should sound.  The songs mirror the structure of everything you would call “TRVE” black metal. Sometimes the tremolo guitar picking even reminded me of my beloved Tsjuder, minus the breakneck speed metal pace.

Nachzehrer’s vocals, unlike traditional black metal singing, are more in the grindcore style. Anytime a singer stands out in front of a band and is as physically active as Nachzehrer’s singer is, it reminds me of grindcore. That is not a bad thing, it just is what is it. Obviously if you were listening to the music on a CD or otherwise, this would not be an issue.

Unfortunately, the band did not have any CD or tapes available.  Many of their songs are uploaded on their Facebook page if you want to check them out. I did get a t-shirt.

Nachzehrer produced some brutal tunes and got the small audience revved up. I am glad they were able to stop by Baltimore on their mini-tour this week.  Hopefully, they will come back again and bring a full-length recording.

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