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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.

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Countdown to MDF X: (21) Brujeria

Brujeria means witchcraft and this Mexican death metal band will want to put you under their spell Saturday, May 26 at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. First formed in 1989, the lineup of the group changes, the members conceal their identities and they use stage names. There could be six  people on the stage when they play, maybe more. Sometimes so many people have microphones it can seem like a rap show.

Brujeria writes songs about sex, drugs, satanism, the occult and of course La Migra (you know, immigration police). This is crushing death metal with heavy riffs and crashing drums, sometimes dipping into the doom or grind genres. There is also a good bit of humor (as in their “Macarena” spoof “Marijuana”).

I listened to a lot of Brujeria trying to choose a couple of representative songs. Every new album is different from the last. I think the music changes somewhat with whomever happens to be playing in the band at the time. So think of Brujeria as a collective, or coven if you will, of like-minded artists dedicated to presenting a united front of sound with a consistent philosophy.

I finally decided to post three of the songs I liked best and leave it at that. Brush up on your Spanish and throw up your horns. Brujeria ha venido por ti!

Countdown to MDF X: (23) Tsjuder

Norwegian true black metallers Tsjuder (pronounced shoe-der) have a mission statement posted on their Facebook page: “to create the rawest form of Black Metal, and continue that for the lifetime of the band.” No doubt, Tsjuder plays relentlessly raucous, blasphemous music designed to promote all that is evil, impure and brutal. The fact that the songs are as catchy as “helvete” only helps their cause.

Tsjuder actually sometimes sounds like some kind of awesome hybrid of black metal and speed metal. The pace is breakneck, the riffs furious and the vocals shrill, but dammit if  those blazing guitar solos don’t put a smile on your face. I dare you not to want to clutch some invisible oranges to the sky during the guitar solo in “Ghoul”. You will not want to stop head banging! The melodies are literally spine-tingling! Listen to “Mouth of Madness.” You will hear some Motorhead in there. You will hear Slayer and Anthrax. This music was built on the best and purest of metal foundations.

I know this joyous response may not be the intended effect, since Tsjuder takes their music and performances super seriously. This is all done for the glory of their Dark Lord, you know. But their songs just kick major ass, and that makes me happy. I don’t care what mythology their lyrics support. It should be evident by now that I really like this band.

Performance-wise, expect some spikes and corpse paint. Like many black metal bands, the members use pseudonyms. The current line up includes Nag on (frighteningly harsh) lead vocals and bass, Draugluin on (amazing) guitars and vocals, and AntiChristian on (phenomenal) drums. Unlike a lot of black metal bands, however, Tsjuder is cyber-active. They maintain a Facebook page, Facebook fan pages for each band member and someone representing the band even participates in Twitter. Hails the Tsjuder Tweet!

See Tsjuder live Saturday night, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

Countdown to MDF X: (26) Horna

I would like to think that Horna is the music that would have been created, had early pagan cultures had access to electrified instruments.  The roots of this Finnish group’s music certainly dates back to bygone centuries and old “country” ways.

Formed in 1993, this highly melodic black metal group stays true by singing in their native language and sticking to themes like paganism, the occult and satanic philosophy. Their music has evolved over the years. I particularly like this quote in their Facebook bio, which sums it up well: “Throughout the years the lyrics of Horna ventured from harsh anti-christian hatred, paganism and fairy tales to severe exultations of the occult, the mysteries of the dark side of mankind and Satanism – from youthful outbursts of anger to ever more maturing inner enlightenment.”

Horna plays “trve” black metal in the traditional sense. The vocals are harsh, the guitar picking fast, the drumming relentless. But they write thoughtful, contemplative melodies that are accessible and memorable, too. It’s not all about blast beats and growling, but much more complex. And somehow, the music is meditative and comforting. Another thought, I think this black metal must be how all rock music sounds to the infant in the womb: filtered and distorted by the mother’s own heartbeat and breathing. I know, weird, but I am funny like that.

The current lineup for Horna (which means abyss or hell, by the way) includes founding member guitarist Shatraug with vocalist Spellgoth, drummer Vainaja, guitarist Infection, and bassist Qraken. Their “ritual” will be performed Saturday night, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest. If some of the early satanic acts have chased you away, Horna should invite you back in.

Countdown to MDF X: (28) Black Witchery

Somehow in the sunny, Disney-fied, land of Florida (or perhaps because of it), one of the most wretched, satanic, and brutal black metal bands in existence has been spawned. Listen to Black Witchery and you’ll be convinced that they have crept directly from the pit of hell. I think this is the effect they are going for. But of course, this is no effect. Black Witchery means business.

Originally founded in 1991 as the band Irreverent by singer and bassist Impurath, the group became Witchery for a short while. Later, due to confusion with another band, the group changed their name to Black Witchery in 1999.  Along with Impurath, the current line up includes drummer Vaz and guitarist Tregenda. The mission of Black Witchery, as stated by their founder Impurath in an interview on their website, is simple: to spread death and terror. Fair enough. I think they will succeed.

Ok. But how do they sound? What about the songs? Somehow, in the 21st century, Black Witchery has managed to capture that massive brutality and raw evilness that originated with their “trve kvlt” brethren across the pond decades earlier. Musically, this is straightforward black metal in its most stripped down form: rapid tremolo guitar picking, practically inaudible bass, blastbeat drumming, growled vocals. Lyrically, Black Witchery is all about “vicious desecration upon the feeble, broken flock of Jesus Christ” and similar.

Black Witchery plays Saturday evening, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.
Here’s a taste from the studio and live. Not for the weak.

Countdown to MDF X: (29) Archgoat

The satanic black metal band, Archgoat, hails from Finland and has been performing their blasphemous rituals since about 1989. They will perform Saturday evening, May 26, at the 2012 Maryland Deathfest.

The trio that is Archgoat plays fairly straightforward, traditional black metal, but with more death metal vocals and certainly better recording techniques. Expect serious blastbeats from their drummer Sinisterror and distorted, rapid riffs from their guitarist Ritual Butcherer. Bassist Lord Angelslayer provides the death growl.

Extremely “trve kvlt” and definitely underground, Archgoat disbanded briefly from 1993 until 2004, or as they put it on their website, “decided to vanish from (the) now so commercial Black metal scene.” They certainly don’t participate in Facebook although it looks like they or someone close to the band maintains a MySpace.

Prior to their break up, the group had only released a few demos and EPs. Since their reunion, however, Archgoat has produced two full-length albums and an EP and appeared on a split with the like-minded group, Black Witchery.

UPDATE: I reached Ritual Butcherer via email and he said they will be playing music from all their recordings and will “bring merchandise that is pretty hard to find in the US” to MDF.  He added that no other shows are planned in the US before or after Deathfest.

Here’s a song from their 2011 EP and a live performance from last summer.

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