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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.

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INTERVIEW Weapon delivers chakra bending black metal

Today was a beautiful sunny day, a great day for black metal. Tonight I will see Marduk, 1349, Withered and Weapon at Sonar at the first stop on their Serpent Sermon World tour.

Weapon, from Edmonton, Alberta was visiting Black Mess Records in Baltimore, Md., so I thought I would stop in and find out a little more about this group, which I knew next to nothing about until last week. (Thanks to Hasan Ali for alerting me to their greatness!)

Weapon is a four-piece blackened death metal band that includes Vetis Monarch (guitar, vocals), The Disciple (drums), Kha Tumos (bass) and newest member Rom Surtr (lead guitar.  They are signed to Relapse Records and say they plan to put out a new recording with this current line up by the fall or early next year.

Since its inception in about 2003, Weapon has released a demo, two-EPs and two full-length recordings. I picked up their 2010 From The Devil’s Tomb (with the previous lead guitarist), and so far have really liked every track. My favorite song is “Sardonyx.” The music is highly infused with East Asian soundscapes,  influenced by Vetis Monarch’s Bangladeshi roots. Where else could you expect to  hear an electric sitar and tabla drums in black or death metal? Weapon delivers many surprises! 
At the bottom of this post, check out this brief interview that I did with Weapon today, and take time to check them out when they come through town. Visit their Facebook page here
After tonight, remaining tour dates include:

June 02 – Baltimore, MD – Sonar
June 03 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 04 – Montreal, QC – Les Foufounes Electriques
June 05 – Toronto, ON – Wreck Room
June 06 – Ottawa, ON – Maverick’s
June 07 – Columbus, OH – Alrosa Villa
June 08 – Chicago, IL – Reggie’s
June 09 – St. Paul, MN – Station 4
June 10 – Winnipeg, MB – Park Theater
June 11 – Regina, SK – The Exchange
June 12 – Calgary, AB – Distillery
June 14 – Vancouver, BC – Rickshaw Theater
June 15 – Seattle, WA – Studio Seven
June 16 – Portland, OR – Bossanova
June 17 – San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge
June 18 – Fullerton, CA – Slidebar
June 19 – Hollywood, CA – House of Blues
June 20 – San Diego, CA – Ruby Room

Doom rockers Iron Man to play first Canadian show May 12

This weekend, Maryland doom metal godfathers Iron Man travel to upstate New York and then Ottawa, Ontario for their first-ever Canadian gig. Friday night finds them at The Downtown Quarterback in Endicott, NY and Saturday, they will share the stage with Blood Ceremony for the All That is Heavy II festival at Mavericks.

The current lineup for Iron Man includes Alfred Morris III, who has lead the band for more than 20 years, bassist Louis Strachan who joined in 2007, vocalist Dee Calhoun who joined in 2010 and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, who started playing with the band officially in January 2012. Waldmann also took the drum throne during the group’s last performance of 2011 on November 5 when the group played a benefit show with many area doomsters and the legendary Pentagram.

“It is a great honor to be invited to play the All That’s Heavy festival,” said Morris. “Iron Man has never played in Canada! It will be so much fun to see all of our fans. They probably thought they would never get the chance to see us, but the wait is finally over!”

Vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee Calhoun echoed Morris’ enthusiasm about the group’s first show for our neighbors to the north.

“Speaking on behalf of the band, it’s always a thrill to be asked to play a show like this, with so many other great bands. Speaking for myself, I’m beside myself, as this will be my first show that’s not on U.S. soil. This is the realization of a dream for me,” Calhoun said.

Canadian radio show host and promoter Derek Bradshaw seemed almost as  excited about the festival as the iron men were. A huge Iron Man fan, he and his wife Jenn host the show Crossing Boredom on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa.

“I thought that the only way I would ever see Iron Man was to buy a plane ticket and make a trip somewhere they were playing in the U.S.” said Bradshaw. “Unbelievably, almost one year later, after getting up enough money together to fly to Las Vegas to see Iron Man, here they are travelling to Ottawa Canada only 30 minutes from my house! We are so lucky, because this is Iron Man’s only Canadian date!”

Bradshaw is also impressed with caliper of performers arranged for the All That Is Heavy II festival.

“We have such an excellent line up this year for All That Is Heavy II. Local (Ottawa) bands Loviatar and Monobrow begin the night. Then it’s Revelation (Baltimore, MD), Blizaro (Rochester, NY), Iron Man (Baltimore, MD) and we finished off the evening with Canada’s powerhouse Blood Ceremony,” Bradshaw said.

Tickets to All That is Heavy II can be purchased at the door for $20 or $15 in advance from Vertigo Records, Birdman Records or The Record Shaap.

Friday night’s show at The Downtown Quarterback features rock/alternative band Mobday (Endicott, NY) and Break of Aggression (also of Endicott), who describe themselves as Southern Metal. $5 at the door.

Countdown to MDF X: (22) Anvil

If you get a chance before Maryland Deathfest, see the movie Anvil! The Story of Anvil, which documents the rise and fall and rise of this Canadian heavy metal band. I was inspired by the dedication and determination of this uncompromising group of metalheads when I saw the movie in 2009, and I think I will be equally inspired when I see Anvil perform live on Saturday night, May 26 at MDF.

Although Anvil is cited as influencing bands such as Slayer, Metallica, Anthrax, Motorhead and Guns ‘n’ Roses and were among headliners like Bon Jovi and Van Halen in 1984 at the Super Rock Festival in Japan, the band never really attained the greatness they deserved. The band essentially fell off the radar. Underground interest in the band never waned amongst the diehards, and they never stopped playing, even if just in some small Canadian clubs. The release of the documentary of their journey into obscurity helped relaunch the band’s career.

The current lineup for Anvil includes founding members Steven “Lips” Kudlow (vocals and lead guitar) and Robb (Geza) Reiner (drums). Newest member Sal Italiano has been playing bass for them since the beginning of 2012.  Make time to hear Anvil’s special brand of heavy, heavy metal. Their time is now.

Negru of Negură Bunget talks about Maryland Deathfest, first US tour

Among the most mysterious acts performing Friday night at the Maryland Deathfest is Romania’s pagan black metal collective Negură Bunget. I first heard of this band just two years ago on MySpace (yes, I still maintain a profile there), when they reached out to friend me, randomly of course, probably trying to increase their fan base. I thought, what in the world is this? Romanian folk black metal? One listen to their song, Dacia Hiperboreana, and I was hooked.

Negură Bunget plays music that resonates with something inside me that is primitive, pure, and eternal. Using traditional instruments such as panpipes and wooden blocks alongside modern guitars and keyboards, they create music that evokes a physical response in me,  a visceral yearning that is hard for me to describe with words. My ancestors come from Greece and Gaul, so perhaps, Negură Bunget is speaking to some kind of ancestral understanding that lives in my genes.

I would encourage anyone interested in the origins of Negură Bunget or the meaning behind their songs to read the “About” section on their Facebook page closely. Superficially, the band formed in the mid 1990s in Timișoara, Romania. The group focuses its music heavily on the myths, traditions, natural and spiritual realms of their region of the world. Instrumentation creates a rich, dark, ambient atmosphere, punctuated by some traditional black metal riffs, vocals and drumming.

Since encountering Negură Bunget, I have have the honor to have had occasional email contact with their percussionist Negru. The group’s appearance at MDF X was one of the first North American dates they put on their calendar for 2012, and they worked to build an entire US and Canadian tour around it. This tour, called Transylvanian Legacy, marks the 15th year of the bands existence. Negru was kind enough to reply to some of my questions via email following performances in the European version of Paganfest.

What band members are touring with you now and who is playing what?
The line-up for the US tour is: Chakravartin – vocals,Negru – drums / percussions, Inia Dinia – keyboards / horns, Gadinet – bass / panpipe, Urzit – guitars, Oq – guitars.Only Oq is a bit new into this. Although he has been one of our live and studio engineers since 2005, it’s the first time he plays live with us, covering the place of our member Fulmineos, who can’t do the US tour for personal reasons.

Is this the first time you have played in North America or the US? What do you hope to achieve with the Transylvanian Legacy tour?

Yes, this will be the first time we play in the US. The whole point of the Transilvanian Legacy tour is to expand out presence to such places we haven’t been played before. Doing more than 30 dates in US and Canada in amazing opportunity Asia and Australia is our next goal after US.

What will your set list of Maryland Deathfest look like? What albums will be featured prominently?

We’ll focus a bit more on the recent albums of the band, like Virstele pamintului, OM and ‘N crugu bradului, but we’ll also perform the very first track from the very first Negură Bunget album, just as a symbolic gesture.

How did you connect with the other bands on your tour: Wolven Ancestry, Eclipse Eternal, and The Way of Purity?

We’ve planned the whole tour along Wolven Ancestry, who although we haven’t meet yet, seem already like old friends. They connected us also with Eclipse Eternal, who are on the label or WA singer Mark. We toured a lot with The Way of Purity, but unfortunately they just announced they can’t make it to the US.

Will you have any special or unique items for sale at MDF?

Unfortunately we can’t bring some of the exotic releases we did, either because most are sold out for years, or for logistical nightmares. But we’ll do our best to have as many items as possible.

Is there anything you would like people to know or understand about your group and the music you perform?

I think that actually the live experience is the best way people will get a deeper idea about who we are and what we do musically. It’s hard, and most of the time pointless, to describe into words a musical experience which is a individual experience. All I can say is we’ll put on stage all we have within ourselves.

This was the very first song I ever heard from Negură Bunget….

Wordless Knowledge demonstrates both Negură Bunget’s pagan roots and black metal aesthetic..

(This article is No. 44 in a multipart series on all the bands performing at the Maryland Deathfest.)

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