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‘Tis the season of thankfulness for black metal

Four of my favorite regional black metal bands gathered at The Sidebar Tavern November 15 for what I’d like to call my own personal “kvltsgiving”. The show merged the tail end of the two-week “No Souls, No Minds” tour of Pittsburgh’s blackened avant-grinders Dendritic Arbor and Philadelphia’s ritualistic Haethen with Baltimore’s black metal practitioners Xeukatre and Frederick’s aggressors Dweller in the Valley. I call it a “kvltsgiving” because seeing all these people that I love in one place to play music that I love trumps any  meal-based “thanksgiving” I could imagine. This was a feast for my ears and my mind. And this is the month for giving thanks, is it not?

Black metal is an extreme subgenre of a genre of music that in itself is considered somewhat extreme. Few people understand black metal, or care to, and this is probably how it should be. Black metal is not for you. In fact it is against you. I don’t think that is the reason this musical style appeals to me so much, as I don’t really seek out things that are intrinsically obscure. I haven’t signed the hipster oath just yet. But I know what I like and I know what moves me, and this music, especially this particular line up of these bands, was not something I was going to miss.

Dweller in the Valley, an aggressive trio from Frederick with a drummer/vocalist, began the evening in usual ritual style. Drummer Dane Olds adorns his kit with a herd of horned animal skulls of various sizes. Their style is forthright and filled with agony.  I can’t understand Dane’s lyrics, but he sure looks pissed. The effect is very cathartic for me (and possibly for that drunk girl in the audience). I am looking forward to hearing their forthcoming recording of new music…..whenever that drops. You can download their demo for free—name your own price.

http://dwellerinthevalley.bandcamp.com/

Of the four, I have been aware of Haethen the longest. They performed at Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest I in December 2012, and I have followed them since. Their music is melodic, yet raw, anti-life, blast-beat driven ambient black metal. They are probably my favorite among the four, because they play the style of black metal my ear gravitates toward. (There are substyles of the subgenre! It never ends!!) Check out the video for a taste.

I heard about Dendritic Arbor earlier this year. They write songs with a pro-mother earth theme. Apparently, they used to perform shrouded in robes but I’ve never seen them play like that. Their music can best be described as certainly black metal but with definite experimental grindcore and avant garde underpinnings. Three of the four members are singing. It’s like a chorus of chaos. Dendritic Arbor is among the most challenging bands you are going to listen to as the music can be just as chaotic as the vocals. Most of their songs are short, except for the massive “Drifting,” which will fuck with your head after one listen.

http://dendriticarbors.bandcamp.com/album/sylvan-matriarch

Visually, Xeukatre  presents black metal the way it looked in the 90’s, complete with bullet belts and corpse paint. Musically, their style is raw and unpretentious,  a sort of what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach to black metal. I appreciate their aesthetic and am always entertained when they play. They will perform again next week with Demonic Christ at The Sidebar.

Black metal is alive and well, it would seem. It’s not what it was in the 80s or 90s, but because there is real evil in the material world, it seems to be evolving into something perhaps more brutal and sinister than its satan-worshipping roots. At my core, I find I need a means to express these themes and philosophies, and the presence of bands like these four is something to be thankful for.

View my gallery of photos below.

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Abazagorath rekindling the black flame of American black metal

Although many look to Scandinavia for “trve” black metal, the Americas have always played a role in the propagation of this extreme musical subgenre.  Abazagorath, from New Jersery, have reigned as pioneers of the USBM aesthetic  since 1995. Hey, New Jersey is not frostbitten, but it certainly can be very grim.

Over the years, Abazagorath (which I believe is pronounced Ah-BAZ-ah-goh-rahth) has remained close to their satanic roots, keeping alive themes noted in their public biography:  “war, melancholy, darkness, evil, the occult and death.” They eschew the pagan or shoegaze-y approach that many so-called American black or “blackened” bands seem to be using these days,  and that’s a good thing. There is nothing more satisfying to my ears than the pure, unadulterated sound of raw, unrestrained hatred channelled into musical form. Abazagorath is visceral. Even some of the more melodic passages of their songs are hate-filled.

abaz-logoLast fall, the group put out a five song self-titled EP which you can listen to/buy on BandCamp here. Prior to that, they had three songs on a split with Blood Storm. But their last full-length album has not been since Sacraments of the Final Atrocity in 2004. Abazagorath is about to change that with a new album, The Satanic Verses, on Negativity Records out this fall. They claim this new recording “may deliver their most controversial and blasphemous release yet.”

I interviewed Warhead, drummer and vocalist for Abazagorath, via email. Below is the transcript of that Q & A.  Come see Abazagorath in Wheaton, Md. on Saturday, Aug 24 at Sergio’s Place, where they will be performing with Isenblast, Nachzehrer, Haethen and Death Shroud.  Facebook event page is here. They also have other dates this fall such as Philly, Chicago, Boston and others, so it is best to check their Facebook page for the specifics on those shows.

What is the current lineup of Abazagorath?

The demonic entities known as Abazagorath consist of Warhead (drums, vocals) Maelstrom (guitar, vocals and studio bass) Ciemnosc (guitar, synths and studio bass).

Tell me about your song writing process.

Well, the last two recordings Maelstrom demoed the music with a drum machine and sent it to me. I would then listen to it, and play to the music through headphones adding my own drum style and Warhead flavor. Ciemnosc was then taught the material and given free range to add harmonies, solos, etc. Once everyone knew what they were playing, we would then begin our live rehearsals getting the material tight and ready to record.

What is your opinion of the current state of black metal in the world and also specifically in the US? For example, who do you admire/respect among the American black metal bands?

I believe nowadays that we are over saturated with a lot of bands claiming to be black metal. I hear a lot of garbage being released from people’s home computers that just sucks. I have also seen some local bands caring more about dressing up rather than the actual music (which pisses me off). With that being said, there are some newer bands I do enjoy such as Nachzehrer, Abysmal Gates, Ptahil, One Master, Haethen, Ritual Chamber and Dethroned Emperor to name a few. When I first started Abazagorath there were only a handful of USBM bands so I respect all my old school war brothers and sisters who have been at it as long as me such as Absu, Bloodstorm, Krieg, Demoncy, Kult Ov Azazel, Famine, Inquisition, Summon,Manticore, Grand Belials Key, Teratism, Necrovore, Demonic Christ, Engorge, Black Witchery, Judas Iscariot, Krohm and Nachtmystium.

What is your opinion of the trend in what some are calling “hipster black metal” that includes bands like Liturgy or Deafheaven (who are getting a lot of attention right now)?

Here is my opinion, I don’t give a fuck. My goal is to keep Abazagorath running at full potential and keep putting out releases each one better than the next. I have no time to worry about what attention other bands are getting. The true diehards know what USBM is. (Several who are from MD\VA area and always shown Abazagorath support).

From your discography, which recording (EP or full length or whatever) are you most proud of and why?

Honestly, I am proud of every single release Abazagorath has put out over the years. I started this band because when I began playing music I wanted to create something I wanted to hear, luckily every member who has been part of this disease known as Abazagorath has agreed. So each release is a combination of each member’s feelings at that time.

You only have two full-lengths to your credit. What are your plans for another full-length recording? And what label will you be on?

True we only have two full lengths to our credit, but we have released numerous EP’S and splits throughout our entire career.10 brand new hymns have just been recorded and are being mixed as we speak. Entitled “The Satanic Verses” this may be our most controversial and blasphemous release yet due out later this year on Negativity Records. An epic concept album based on the satanic temptation of the Islamic prophet Mohammad. (Writer’s note: Warhead is specifically referring to the Salman Rushdie book by the same name.)

Where do you go for musical inspiration? For example, do you get ideas from books, movies, other styles of music etc.?

Previous releases were definitely inspired by books and movies, but I always go back to my old school roots for musical inspiration with bands like Kreator, Sodom, Venom, Death, Slayer, and Celtic Frost. But since I have no time for movies or books anymore all of my musical inspirations have come from everyday life and people with a little Sativa\ Indica help.

How important are theatrics, corpse paint, candles and atmosphere to your performance?

Although I would not mind to play with some kind of fire live if possible, you will not get any stage show from Abazagorath. What you see is what you get: no corpse paint, religious articles or bullshit chatter in between songs. Once you get blasted with our live assault of pure mayhem theatrics are not needed.

What do you want people who see/hear you to feel or experience when they see your show?

We are a Black metal band I don’t give a fuck what people feel, this band was started to play music we enjoy. Now if you enjoy it cool. Guaranteed the crowd will be left with wanting more Abazagorath and hopefully the crowd leaves with feelings of loneliness and depression.

What do you hope to accomplish with this current tour?

The goal of this upcoming tour is to promote the new album and to play some states we have not been to before; it’s time to spread this cancer known as Abazagorath away from the north east.

Over your nearly 20-year history, what have been some of your most memorable moments as a band? And why?

Unfortunately most of our memorable moments were never good things that I can remember. They usually involved lots of alcohol, a beat down with fellow war brothers Summon, car accidents, drugs, a NYC public access TV appearance, and finally jail. (Writer’s Note: Sounds like I need to do some follow-up questions here when I see them in  August!)

Who would you love to share the stage with?

VENOM of course

What’s next for Abazagorath? For the rest of the year? For next year?

Abazagorath has begun writing our next album already, and for the rest of the year our plan is to play our already confirmed dates Philly, MD, NY, CT, MA and for our first time ever Columbus OH and Chicago. For 2014 we will focus on getting another album recorded and I have already been approached by numerous promoters who want to see Abazagorath on the left coast\ mid-west. There have also been talks about an Abazagorath\ Kommandant split as well.

Is there anything else you want people to know?

The new album “The Satanic Verses” will be out later this year on Negativity records. If you are looking for show dates, news merchandise check out our Reverbnation and Facebook pages. Hails and Horns. AS DARKNESS FALLS WE ARISE.
http://www.reverbnation.com/abazagorath
http://www.facebook.com/abazagorath666

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