Saturday, December 24, 2011
I've been meaning to write about Inquisition's latest album "Omininous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm" for quite some time now, but after seeing this album pop up all over metal critics' "Best of 2011" lists within the past couple of weeks, I feel like now is the perfect time for me to weigh in on this album with my own thoughts. Before I begin, however, I would like to say that without a doubt this would be my favorite album of 2011, except since it technically originally came out in 2010 I'm not going to include it in my own "Best of 2011" list. Yeah, yeah, it wasn't on my "Best of 2010" list last year, but I hadn't heard it until this year and I don't feel like going back and editing that old post, so whatever.
Anyway, I'm really happy to see this album getting such high praise because I feel like it's easily one of the best black metal albums to come out in a long time. I know some people are turned-off by Dagon's Immortal-esque croaky vocals and the lack of a bass (I definitely can't hear any bass whatsoever on this album, pretty sure it's just guitars), but besides that, there's nothing else to dislike! Inquisition somehow come up with pretty simplistic riffs, but MAN are they bitchin'. Whether they're fast and pummeling ("Astral Path to Supreme Majesties") or slow, groove-laden, and hypnotic as fuck ("Desolate Funeral Chant"), or a combination of both ("Crepuscular Battle Hymn"), it's been over a year and I'm still not over them. However, what really drives Inquisition's "sound" are the vaguely psychedelic lyrics and occult themes that layer the album with a very strong mystical atmosphere, to borrow from the title of the album. If you've read any Inquisition interviews, it's pretty safe to say that Dagon actually seems pretty serious about his shit. Viewing space as the physical embodiment of the anti-cosmic Satanic spirit, mysterious pagan rites, mythical beasts, astral projection, inter-dimensional travel, it's all in there, and Inquisition's lyrical themes and mystique definitely contribute positively to their overall sound.
I don't want to go on for too long blabbing away about how cool I think this album is, just check it out for yourself! I'm pretty sure you'll dig it!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Video That Started It All:
HHH's Manifesto (most of it):
Obviously, it's these two things that have really caused the internet to take the piss out of Liturgy. As far as I know, it all seemed to come to a head when Chris Grigg of the USBM band Woe:
Without Logic - An Open Letter to Hunter Hunt-Hendrix - Metal Review Features and Editorials - Metal Review Community
You can find more interesting reviews, videos, and blog posts about Liturgy on your own, I'm definitely not trying to be exhaustive here.
Last, if you haven't heard Liturgy and you're too lazy to go on youtube or myspace or whatever to listen to them, I'm gonna embed one last video so you can hear them for yourself:
Obviously, for internet metal nerds like myself, this is very controversial stuff! These guys don't look or act very black metal!!
The reason why I feel bad for Liturgy and have some respect for them is because what they're doing is much more ballsy than most other metal bands out there attempting to be "controversial" by being anti-Christian, evil, or even racist! At this point, I feel like the whole "is it OK to listen to Burzum even though he's racist and a murderer?" is fairly played-out, and no one really gives a shit that Nokturnal Mortum or Graveland have strong NSBM tendencies. In 2011, if you really want to stir the pot, bring up Liturgy (or even better, Krallice, Wolves in the Throne Room, Nachtmystium, Deafheaven, etc.) to a bunch of internet metal nerds and watch the fireworks.
Anyway, another strength of Liturgy's is their originality. Obviously, these guys are competent musicians, and their style is unique both musically and lyrically. If you listen to their songs, you'll notice that their sound is very "high" compared to the typical grim, "low" sounds of BM's heavy distortion and thundering drums. Of course, something else to point out is Liturgy's lyrical themes. Sure, Hunter Hunt-Hendrix's "manifesto" is pretentious and a slightly arrogant, but aren't those characteristics that are usually embraced by the metal community? Read any interview with Peste Noire, Judas Iscariot, Deathspell Omega, it doesn't matter...it appears as if all this backlash truly stems from so-called post-black metallers' fashion sense, not music.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
There are also a couple interviews that I've recorded but have just been too lazy to put up here, namely the one with Jason Decay of Cauldron (which was split into two parts and is overall pretty messy, long story). I'll try and put them up later.
As a bonus, here are the questions for my Burzum interview that I spent like 4 hours trying to come up with, but ended up not working out for some reason. I'm actually pretty proud of these questions, and would legitimately like to know the answers to some of them, so if you're an interviewer and you read a question that you think is a good one, feel free to steal it and use it if you end up interviewing Mr. Vikernes...I doubt I'll have the chance again. I was really excited too (mostly because I wanted to know how his rpg was coming along!).
Malicious Intent's Official Burzum Interview That Didn't Make It:
Mr. Vikernes, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. I apologize in advance for my lengthy questions, as well as if there are any you find irrelevant or impertinent to the subject at hand (your new album, "Fallen")...or maybe just find to be a waste of your time. Also, you may notice that many of my questions are based on answers you've given in other interviews. I don't mean to do this, but I've found this method to be much better in creating questions than coming up with original ones on my own since almost everything I could think of ended up being already answered by you in earlier interviews!
*I read in a recent interview you did for the blog Invisible Oranges that what you hoped to accomplish with "Fallen" was to "make an album you could listen to without growing tired of it." That was almost a month ago, and since then I'm sure you've conducted dozens of other interviews answering question after question about this album. How has this album fared o far in that respect? Are you still hungry to discuss "Fallen", or do you believe you've essentially discussed this album to death and are ready to move on to a new project? For what it's worth, I feel that this album is very powerful (I actually found myself more drawn to "Fallen" rather than "Belus, although "Belus" of course was excellent as well) and I don't see myself growing tired of it any time soon.
*You've stated in various interviews that you spend much of your time listening to and/or working on unfinished Burzum tracks. I'm curious as to whether or not these "unfinished tracks" were songs that were all going to go on "Fallen", or if you're ALREADY working on another album?? Obviously, in the past you've had enough time to probably compose material that could fill up 20 albums or more, but how much material have you written exactly up to this point?
*In that same interview with Invisible Oranges, you acknowledged that death is a dominant theme in "Fallen", but it is only part of an "eternal cycle". If that also reflects your personal beliefs on the concepts of life, death, and rebirth, what do you feel about the "end of the world", or rather, when our planet decides to "rid herself of us" as you stated in your recent interview with MetalKings.com? Is humanity to be reborn anew, or do you feel we will be replaced with a new lifeform altogether and this "eternal cycle" shall continue?
*In a recent interview with MetalSucks.net you stated that you had to censor yourself a bit in order to not be too "politically incorrect". Why? As an artist who is constantly courting controversy, I found this to be an interesting choice.
*In the same interview, you also stated that "innovation, creativity, and lunacy go hand in hand". I know that you were speaking about our neanderthal-human origins, but I also found it to be a relevant statement regarding the mixed blessing (or, perhaps, more appropriately, the "double-edged sword") of being a writer. Your thoughts on this? On a seperate note, I mean no disrespect in asking this, but have YOU ever questioned your sanity while laboring over your music, or felt you may be going mad? The music of Burzum can be quite intense at times...
*While every song off of "Fallen" is intriguing in its own way, after reading many interviews you've done I haven't found much information about the last track, "Til Hel Og Tilbake Igjen". Forgive me if I'm way off the mark, but is this inspired by ancient Norwegian/European folk music, or is it completely from your own imagination? It's definitely eerie and perfect to listen to in complete darkness, which I suppose accurately evokes the "essence" of the theme (to Hel and back again). It's definitely unlike anything I've heard before, let alone from Burzum!
*Lyrically, these recent Burzum albums involve mythology, paganism, death, etc. While it's understandable that your Tolkien-inspired lyrics from your older albums haven't resurfaced, is there a chance that you will ever return to these themes on future albums, or has your interest in Tolkien waned over the years? Also, are you familiar with the works of George R.R. Martin (dubbed by some as the "American Tolkien")?
*Are you the sole member behind Byelobog Productions? I can't find much information on it besides it being Burzum's current record label. Also, are there any plans for Byelobog to expand its roster, or will it always be a "Burzum-only" label?
*It's clear that you're an extremely busy man these days, and it seems as if Burzum is your main priority right now. However, I know that you have other projects right now, such as your new (completed?) book "Sorcery and Religion in Scandinavia", as well as another book about the early days of Burzum (according to an excerpt from an April 2009 interview you did with the magazine Dagbladet). As a huge fan of role-playing games, however, I was very surprised and excited to see that you had stated in that same interview that you were working on your very own RPG (as well as some fantasy and science fiction books!). Would you care to give us any details on this RPG project? Is it similar to Dungeons and Dragons (sword & sorcery), Star Trek (sci-fi), or something else? Perhaps the first-ever black metal RPG? ;)
*Thank you so much again for taking the time to answer these questions. I wish you good luck in the future with Burzum and your writing! Any last words?
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Often erroneously lauded as "The Canadian Bob Dylan" for his expert storytelling, Cohen is far from Dylan in almost every conceivable way...OK fine, he's like Dylan's sad bastard fifth cousin. Leonard Cohen has written some of the darkest music in mainstream folk music, covering topics of suicide, infidelity, love, death, and religion amongst others. He most famously composed the tune "Hallelujah". While that song has been covered to death, his vast career has much more to offer than that. His lamenting, untrained voice and intimately personal lyrics is what first attracted me to him and allows his music to come through without pretense. Instead, his music evokes a feeling of very real human fragility and vulnerability.
Recommendations: "Songs of Love and Hate" and "Songs of Leonard Cohen"
Probably the most obvious choice in my list. Of all of the non-metal bands that get mentioned as influences for metal bands, Swans may be the name most often dropped, and for good reason. They are often claimed to be the progenitors to Post-Metal and Industrial Metal, while also greatly contributing to the beginnings of Gothic Metal. Swans began their career in the early 80s as part of the No-Wave New York scene. Their early sound was bleak and unforgiving. Their songs were often slow, dissonant, and metallic with Michael Gira's uncompromising baritone howl expressing perspectives of abstract violence, sexuality, and identity. Later, Swans refined their sound through a number of different musical transitions including Gothic music ("White Light from The Mouth of Infinity") and experimenting with found sounds ("Soundtracks for the Blind"). Luckily, Swans has reformed with their newest album "My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky" which matches the quality of the earlier material, with more orchestrated aspects.
Recommendations: I personally prefer their mid-late period, basically "White Light..." and on, highlights being "The Great Annihilator" and "Soundtracks for the Blind", but "Children of God" is also quite good. Check out their early material for more challenging aural experiences. Also, I would recommend checking out Michael Gira's other band, Angels of Light, which has a more folky sound heavily influenced by...you guessed it, Leonard Cohen.
90s Post-Hardcore and Math/Noise Rock
It was hard to pick one band out of one of my favorite periods/styles of music, but for me, bands like Polvo, Chavez, Drive Like Jehu, Jawbox, Jesus Lizard, Castor, Fugazi, Shiner, and Hum have made some of my favorite music...ever. It's incredibly unfair to lump all of these bands together because they all sound so different from one another. What most of these bands have in common is noisy, guitar-driven rock/punk music with whacky song structures and time signatures, but still retaining some sense of melody beneath the maelstrom. This balance between dissonance and melody is something I've striven for in my own music writing for years. Many of these bands would go onto influence the Noisecore of the late 90s and early 00s.
Recommendations: "Better Days Will Haunt You" by Chavez, "Yank Crime" by Drive Like Jehu, "Lula Divina" by Shiner, "Today's Active Lifestyles" by Polvo, "In on the Killtaker" by Fugazi, "Goat" by Jesus Lizard; and for those willing to endure a bit of "emo" vocal stylings, "Downward is Heavenward" by Hum and "s/t" by Castor.
For me, most progressive rock is just far too pompous, melodramatic, and even worse-cheesy. King Crimson is the only progressive rock band that I have consistently listened to and I can safely acknowledge them as one of my favorite bands without blushing. What makes them different than most progressive rock bands is, at least in their early period, they had a darker sound with minor third chord changes, flat fifths, and heavy metal-like distortion. Guitarist/songwriter Robert Fripp has always employed the most impressive musicians in King Crimson, not to mention Fripp himself who is widely considered one of the best guitarists of all time. King Crimson has gone through so many musical transitions it's hard not to find at least ONE album you like in their catalogue. I think most metalheads would prefer their early period, but I prefer their "new wave" period, with the apex of that being "Discipline".
Recommendations: "Red", Larks' Tongues in Aspic", and "Discipline"
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum
I purposefully put Sleepytime Gorilla Museum here on the list because they are actually heavily influenced by King Crimson. As a warning, I'll just say that these guys are fucking weird. As an example, one of their albums is based around a fictional political dialogue between The Futurists and The Unabomber. Not exactly your normal concept album, but interesting nonetheless. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum (SGM) combine a penchant for industrial noise, progressive rock, and avant-garde classical music into some truly whacked out compositions. They've mentioned in interviews that the way they generally construct songs is by having one person in the band make some "noise", and then the other members add their own parts. This often ends up in a polyrhythmic cacophony, but there is usually off-kilter melody lurking beneath the maelstrom of dissonance. Besides all of that, they are masters of dynamic shifts. Hearing is truly believing.
Recommendations: "Of Natural History" and "In Glorious Times"
Chelsea Wolfe has been making some waves lately. She plays a dark, brooding form of folk and dirge blues usually accompanied by a piano or a guitar. She just released a new album called "Ἀποκάλυψις" which translates to Apocalypse. I really don't that much about her, but she has a beautifully haunting style, which sometimes can be downright frightening. She has also covered one of Burzum's more kvlt numbers, "Black Spell of Destruction".
Some of Chelsea Wolfe's material reminds me of Dax Riggs in a way...er, maybe that's the other way around. For those that don't know, Dax Riggs is the former lead singer of NOLA heroes Acid Bath. After the unfortunate demise of said band, Dax has forged a solo career as a dirge/neo blues rock phenom. The subject matter of his lyrics are still quite dark, covering subjects like suicide, death, Satan, and the like. The image that his music brings to mind is the dark underworld of New Orleans, or the backwoods swamps of rural Louisiana. Dirty and dark.
Recommendations: "Say Goodnight to the World"
Killing Joke has been around for ages and is still producing good music. Not only that, but they have been highly influential on bands like Napalm Death, Nachtmystium, Behemoth, and even Metallica to name a few. They are considered to be one of the progenitors of Industrial Rock and Metal. Much of their music is often simple punk/metal riffs set with a driving rhythm section, noisy or melodic synthesizers, and of course, Jaz Coleman's recognizable snarl. Coleman's lyrics often deal with the negative side of the human experience covering themes like greed and religion. However, don't dismiss Killing Joke for their perceived simplicity or their use of synthesizers. Their cold, calculating execution is like that of a serial killer: exact and without remorse.
Recommendations: "Extremities, Dirt, and Various Repressed Emotions", "Killing Joke", and "Hosannas from the Basements of Hell"
For Metalheads into bands with electronic elements, I would recommend the more-often-than-not cold sounds of Venetian Snares or Autechre. If you're interested in some darker post-punk you have bands like Joy Division, Bauhaus, and early Cure.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
300% Density, by Candiria
Of the NE Noisecore/Mathcore/Whatevercore bands that made waves in the late 1990s and early 2000s (such as Converge, Cave In, Botch, The Dillinger Escape Plan, etc.), Candiria was by far the least abrasive. Despite their constantly shifting tempos and time signatures, Candiria had a smooth, fluid sound. That's not to say that I'm comparing them to the languid sounds of Smooth Jazz. It's more like Candiria were the "Kind of Blue" cool jazz to the others' "Giant Steps" Bebop. This comparison is also quite apt, because Candiria injected a heavy dose of Jazz into their particular brand of Noisecore…not to mention Hip-Hop and Progressive Rock. Furthermore, their heavy use of Hip-Hop rhymes and beats was coming at a time when Rap Metal was almost universally panned by fans and critics alike in the metal underground, but they did it both intelligently and unashamedly.
Seminar II: The Holy Rites of Primitivism Regressionism/Seminar III: Zozobra, by Old Man Gloom
Featuring an all-star lineup of Aaron Turner (Isis), Caleb Scofield (Cave In), Nate Newton (Converge), Jay Randall (Agoraphobic Nosebleed), Luke Scarola, and previously unknown drummer, Santos Montano, one could tell from listening to Old Man Gloom's albums as well as reading the liner notes that the band is/was a sort of concept-oriented joke (as also evidenced in some strange interviews). What that concept might be is…uh, up for debate and may be part of the joke. Something revolving around returning to a primal state, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and smoking gargantuan amounts of weed. The sequencing of "Seminar II" goes something like this: one short burst of sludgy metalcore followed by one song of ambient electronics. On the other hand, "Seminar III" is one 30-minute track. Both albums are two of my favorites from the 2000s and both helped to usher in a new interest in sludge metal (nu-sludge?) by the mid-2000s.
entire discography, by Khanate
Khanate is one of those bands that I simply don't listen to on a regular basis because they are so emotionally draining, which is similar to how I feel about Neurosis and Swans. The latter are two of my favorite bands, however I wouldn't consider Khanate to be one of my favorites. This is mainly because their later material got too sparse and improvisational for my tastes. For example, listen to over 30-minute track, "Every God Damn Thing", from their last album, "Clean Hands Go Foul. There is nary a discernible riff in the entire song. Some guitar noise here, a drum roll there, a blood-curdling scream of pain here…etc. I simply think that songs like that lose the power of their earlier material. Yet I still feel that their entire catalogue is underrated? Yes, and I'll tell you why. Khanate is the first Doom Metal band (at least, to my knowledge) that incorporated a Black Metal claustrophobic aesthetic into their particular style of Doom Metal. While most Doom Metal bands focus on creating a lumbering wall of sound to encompass the listener, Khanate was busy crawling under/within the negative space to explore existential agony. Maybe the loss of the discernible riff, and therefore the power, was the point…
self-titled, by Phantomsmasher
If "The Inalienable Dreamless" by Discordance Axis was Grindcore 2.0, then the self-titled Phantomsmasher was Grindcore 5.5. Phantomsmasher was the brainchild of guitarist/bassist/electronics guru/general weirdo, James Plotkin (also of Khanate). While most consider this album to be experimental/electronic Grindcore, it's also much more than that. While there is a colossal barrage of breakbeats and electronic glitches (in part, courtesy of drummer assassin-for-hire, Dave Witte), Plotkin's oddly pastoral guitar parts ring out, and DJ Speedranch's vocals (more than a little reminiscent of Yamataka Eye of The Boredoms) maniacally blabber from the undertow of it all. I don't think this electronic maelstrom will be fully understood by anyone (including myself), until the Terminator comes back from the future to destroy it.
From Wisdom to Hate, by Gorguts
Needless to say, Gorguts was going to have a hard time coming up with a follow-up to the stone cold (stoned cold?) classic, "Obscura". This was, if only retrospectively, apparent after the departure of second guitarist, Steeve Hurdle after the release of "Obscura". From what I remember reading and seeing, "From Wisdom to Hate" was considered a disappointment by fans and critics alike because it didn't continue the noisy, avant-garde nature of "Obscura", and seemed to rather take a step back. However, in my opinion, "From Wisdom to Hate" is one of, if not the best, Death Metal albums of the decade. The songs were thoughtfully composed, memorable (one can almost forget that Death Metal can be such), and reeked of absolute top-notch musicianship. True, there were some pretty obvious nods to Morbid Angel, Incantation, and the like, but I think that can be forgiven when taking "From Wisdom to Hate" as an effort unto itself and not in the context of the successor to "Obscura".
Grand Declaration of War, by Mayhem
I don't think anyone could have prepared for hearing this album. In fact, I don't think anyone could have even imagined hearing this album, except in passing jokes:
(while headbanging to "Wolf's Lair Abyss" upon it's release)
"Dude, this shit is so kvlt! I just knew Mayhem would continue carrying the flag for Trve Norwegian Black Metal!" - Metal Dude 1
"Dude, I know! But wouldn't it be funny if they had a trip-hop song on the next full length?" - Metal Dude 2
"Dude...(pauses music)...don't even say that." - Metal Dude 1
(Metal Dude 1 resumes playing music and both Metal Dudes resume headbanging)
Sure, prior to "Grand Declaration of War", we had equally weird (OK, much weirder) albums from Black Metal weirdos Ulver and Dodheimsgard, with "Themes from William Blake's Heaven and Hell" and "666 International", but Mayhem at that point were legends in the Black Metal scene. They were supposed to be the flag-bearers of Trve Norwegian Black Metal! When this album came out, it not so much stuck out like a sore thumb as it did a giant middle finger to the people that were expecting the next "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". "Grand Declaration of War" (GDoW) featured electronic experimentation (yes, a trip-hop song), Maniac's auctioneer-like barks having even more of a presence, crystal-clear production, electronic drums (gasp!), and a surprising amount of technical prowess. All elements that were (and in some circles, now) still looked down upon in Black Metal. Of course, GDoW got torn to shreds in a lot of reviews and forums by the kvlt naysayers. Nonetheless, as the old saying goes, Mayhem can be credited with tearing apart the rulebook. The fact that it was Mayhem, the flagship band of Norwegian Black Metal, who wrote GDoW, gave other bands the right to fuck with the playbook. Oh, and GDoW is an extremely well-written and performed album, too.
Dulling Occam's Razor, by Found Dead Hanging
I'll start this one off by saying that 99% of Metalcore and Deathcore is just not for me for a variety of reasons that I just won't get into. Found Dead Hanging (FDH), however, are part of the lucky 1%. Unfortunately, these dudes just released one EP and then called it quits, but in my opinion, their sound had much more in common with NOLA bands than their contemporaries in the then thriving Metalcore scene. This gritty, southern quality, gave them personality amongst the stale clones in their scene. However, they still retained a technical acrobatic nature to their song structures and riffs. I hate reverting to simple band comparisons, but if Eyehategod decided they wanted to start sounding more like The Dillinger Escape Plan, "Dulling Occam's Razor" might be the result. After FDH broke up, most of the remaining members ended up forming a band called Architect whose material wasn't nearly as technically interesting or full of personality. Finally, it's also worth mentioning that one of my favorite song titles of all time is from this album: "Solar-Powered Sun Destroyer".
s/t, by Humo Del Cairo
OK, admittedly, this release didn't see the light of day in the United States until Meteorcity released it in 2010, but was released all the way back in 2007 in Argentina by label Estamos Felices. Yes, I am guilty for throwing it on my top 10 for 2010. Guilty as charged.
As one collective sub-genre, I love stoner metal. However, I have my grievances when it comes to individual bands. There are very few stoner metal bands that I can hear, and almost instantaneously say, "OH! Orange Goblin!" or "OH! That's the new Acid Witch!" Meaning, I hear very few stoner metal bands with unique sounds, or very few stoner metal albums with distinguishable songs. Maybe it's the fact that there is TOO much Sabbath worshipping (who knew that could be a bad thing) or that I stopped smoking the ganja many moons ago, but sometimes I resignedly think, "For fuck's sake, I'm just going to throw on a Melvins album!", but Humo Del Cairo changed that. Dynamic and variable song structures, memorable (even catchy!) riffs, and a variety of sounds. Not to mention a punchy/groovy as fuck rhythm section, and a masterful guitarist/vocalist. There is a lot of substandard stoner metal out there, but Humo Del Cairo is far in front of the pack!
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Wait, you mean this stuff isn't meant to be taken literally?
A relatively young fantasy series, bands that have dedicated themselves to setting Songs of Ice and Fire to music are few and far between, but on my hunt to identify and listen to as many as I could find, I found that even older staples had slipped some Martin-love into their recent releases.
Here's a list of bands who have either created entire concept albums based off of Martin's ideas, or written songs using his world as inspiration. Some were pleasing to both the metalhead and the fantasy nerd in me, others, eh . . . I'll let you decide.
Winterfell (Pennsylvania, USA)
As if the name didn't make it obvious, Winterfell gets their namesake from the Northern stronghold of Winterfell in Westeros, home of the Stark family at the beginning of ASoFaI. The thing that struck me hardest were how mind-splittingly awful this band's guitars were, it was hardly uplifting. The lead singer switches between smooth singing, to wailing, to growling, creating a very inconsistent and unpleasant feel to the music. All together, Winterfell sounded like a power metal garage band. Their EP "Winter is Coming" (the Stark's family words) contains a title track describing the harsh living conditions in the North: "Cast out, unwanted, the Others will take you! We've warned that Winter is almost upon you"
It was scarier when Septa Mordane said it.
After only one EP and one full length album, Winterfell are listed as currently on hiatus, because according to the MA, all but one member quit.
Seven Kingdoms (Florida, USA)
So far, the definite cream of the bunch. Seven Kingdom's first release "Brothers of the Night" is a good listen from beginning to end. A solid album, Seven Kingdom's present us with tight melodies and a good amount of shredding. Oddly enough, lead singer Bryan Edwards sounds a helluva like the guy from Candlebox (remember them?)
Seven Kingdoms went through a significant line up change before recording their second album, 2010's self-titled release, including a new lead singer (Sabrina Valentine). While the band's power metal sound and fantasy narrative lyrics still exist, it would appear that the band has moved away from Martin's works as lyrical topic to a more generic fantasy theme.
This sword on your shoulder means you can't get laid anymore.
Arkngthand (The Netherlands)
There have been a lot of buzz about Arkngthand in certain ASoIaF forums due to the fact that this lesser-known band released an entire concept album titled "Songs of Ice and Fire" last year. Their second full-length album I would not hesitate to call a two-star performance. While the references to the series are clear (almost too much so - the lyrics contain very little creative interpretation) the entire album sounded to me as if someone took a fair-to-typical power metal LP and played it on a slower setting (let's say, a 45 on a 33, or something). Painful and cheesy even in a genre renowned for its cringing cheesy-ness. The only highpoint to the album for me was the song "The Waterdancer," which is about Arya's training under Syrio Forel.
While I found the musical stylings of Arkngthand lacking, the lyrical content might be enough I feel for any hardened fan of Martin's to at least consider them an interesting anomaly.
You can find the entire album on itunes (and no where else, it would appear).
While their are no definitive ties between Hammerfall and Martin, their 2005 album Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (and a track on that album "Take the Black") are titled after phrases from Martin's series. "Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken" are the words of House Martell of Dorne, and "to take the black" is a phrase used throughout the series to indicate going to work on the wall.
While the lyrics of "Take the Black" are ambiguous at best when compared to Martin's work, it's still a bit of a coincidence, no?
Speaking of taking the black . . .
The Sword (Texas, USA)
This one threw me off. I had been listening to The Sword for a few years before reading Martin's series, and only recently made this connection. The song "To Take the Black" found on the 2008 release "Gods of the Earth" is about, well, taking the black on the wall. While no a huge stoner/doom fan, I've always appreciated The Sword's lyrical stylings, and this song is no exception. There's something about combining acid-drenched stoner rock with geeky fantasy (and picking quite the depressing scenario to sing about) that makes it irresistible.
See what I mean? Dragons aplenty.
If you want to hear a few of the tracks discussed here, here's a link to an 8-tracks mix I composed especially for this article:
You'll also find mixes containing the tracklists from my metal radio show "The Catacombs." If you live in Douglas County, KS, listen in Tuesday nights from 10-Midnight on 89.7 FM starting in September.
Also, here's a link to another super-nerd who recorded his own metaled-up version of the Game of Thrones theme song, complete with a free mp3:
Friday, July 22, 2011
Matt Harvey and co. are back and from what I've heard of their new album, "All Guts, No Glory" (which you can stream here for free: http://relapserecords.bandcamp.com/), it's still the balls out Gore Metal you would expect! I think I've seen Exhumed a total of three or four times and each time is just pure thrashin' metal madness! Matt gets this crazy look in his eyes as he seemingly recites medical dictionaries and grisly necromantic tales while the other members whip their hair around like there is no tomorrow, enticing audience members to do the same. At one point during one of the shows, the three stringmen all held up the backs of their instruments to the audience and what did it read? "GORE.FUCKING.METAL." in crooked duct tape. Hell fuckin' yes!
I think the first time I saw Cephalic Carnage I was 15 or 16 years old. I think I had only recently bought "Exploiting Dysfunction" and my friend had told me their drummer was a bio-chemist. When they came out and launched straight into "Hybrid", I could have only assumed that their bio-chemist drummer (John Merryman) had cooked up some nasty stimulant concoction for the five of them because they all went bat shit crazy on stage. I then had the pleasure of seeing the great Cephalic at a 20 person show with about 7 good friends. When they put on their Black Metal masks for "Black Metal Sabbath" I think we all about lost it. Cephalic Carnage is one of those rare metal bands that doesn't take themselves quite too seriously, and they make it quite clear to everyone.
A while ago, I mentioned to Wulf that "Dixie" Dave (vocalist/bassist) has to be considered one of the "madmen" of metal, if elite and notorious group were to exist. I've seen them twice and I can certainly attest to the madness that runs through "Dixie" Dave's Southern veins. Besides having one of the dirtiest, meanest bass tones of all time and having a whiskey-drenched croak of a voice that would make your grandpa sound like Justin Bieber, Dave's antics on stage are numerous. Known to cross his eyes, slobber, and jump up and down like a cricket, one would think that Dave is not only playing a few cards short of a full deck, but maybe he is actually mentally handicapped. All joking aside, Dave's use and abuse of substances is also quite apparent. A few friends of mine tell me of a time when they saw Weedeater and Dave was puking on stage into a bucket in the middle of songs. Furthermore, Dave has been nicknamed (besides "Dixie", of course) "The Hummingbird" because he tapes a bottle of Robitussin to his amp, puts a straw in it, and casually strolls over to it periodically throughout a performance. "Why?" you might ask. To throat his coat when it gets raspy from too much touring! (http://www.spinner.com/2010/03/08/sxsw-2010-weedeater/)
If there is one time you feel the need to chug mead out of a drinking horn, decide to grow a three foot long beard, and drunkenly praise the glory of Valhalla to your uninterested girlfriend, then do it at an Amon Amarth show! On their latest tour for 2011 album, "Surtur Rising", the Swedish sons decided to play the entire tour without any supporting acts. They played the new album all of the way through, then they played old favorites. Two hours of nothing but mid-paced (albeit catchy and melodic) Viking Death Metal means one thing: bangover. My neck must have been sore for a week after that show. After every song vocalist, Johan Hegg, would thank the American crowd in the only way one can: with a raspy "Thank you...thank you very much!"
I've only seen Converge once, and although I LIKE Converge, I don't usually listen to them in my free time. But from what I saw of their live show, there are some people out there that would FUCKING DIE for Converge. I saw them around the time they had released "Jane Doe" (what many consider to be their finest album to date), and they were certainly in top form. With Jacob Bannon's maniacally shrieking and running around on-stage, the band acted as a tightly-knit killing machine with precise and violent noisecore. Unfortunately, with a band like Converge, you're going to see a lot of really retarded hardcore dancing in the pit. However, I remember at the apex of "The Saddest Day" that people literally converged in the front-center of the stage. It was like a gigantic car wreck with people trying to stage dive while simultaneously trying to get up on stage. Complete ecstatic chaos.
Of the original NOLA bands, Soilent Green has been the only one I have had the pleasure of seeing live, but I dare say they are the only ones I would need to see! The night that I saw them, bassist Scott Williams (R.I.P.) was obviously drunk. He kept on yelling at the crowd with comments like, "C'mon you fuckers, what's wrong with you!" while violently swinging his bass around. As with Goatwhore, Ben Falgoust II is a great front man, and I would have no hesitation putting him as one of the best modern metal front men around today. Ben had no problem getting the crowd riled up while the rest of the band ripped Southern grind and groove at its best.
(The Lord Weird) Slough Feg
I honestly can't remember entirely too much from the time I caught Slough Feg. I do remember that mainman, Mike Scalzi, fearlessly standing on top of the pinball machines that were right next to the stage while ripping some ultra-melodic solos. All I could think of besides, "Holy shit he is going to break that glass and his leg is going to get cut up to shit and he'll probably break his ankle too and maybe his guitar and the show will be over" was "Fuck yea!" Slough Feg's Iron Maidenisms are far from hidden and one can practically imagine that you're seeing an embryonic Maiden when you see Slough Feg. For being an oft-dismissed band in the world of metal, Slough Feg manages to put on one helluva show.
Keep in mind that I saw Dimmu Borgir right after they released "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" and they were still playing in small venues. Although I must confess that some of the show was plagued by bad sound management, it was one of the most entertaining metal shows I've ever been to. Galder with his various metal faces, Vortex with his operatic singing, Shagrath holding his invisible oranges, and not to mention Nick Barker with his virtuosic drumming and Uncle Fester looks. It was quite a symphonic black metal affair! I'm sure their live shows have only gotten more dramatic as time has gone on.
I've seen Mastodon twice and what enormous contrasts those instances were. I first saw Mastodon after they had released their first EP, "Lifesblood". There may have been about 10-15 people at the venue when the opening band played (local favorites, The Esoteric) and then half of those people left. Kudos to Mastodon for still putting on a really good show with the short set that they had. The next time I saw them, there were about 10-15 TIMES as many people on their "Crack the Skye" tour. Amazing live performance, never missed a note, and had the entire story in movie form on the back drop. They have truly turned themselves into a force to be reckoned with.
Anyone that knows my tastes in metal knows that I hate 99.99% of Power Metal bands. I can't remember the last time that I casually listened to an album by a Power Metal band. However, seeing it performed live is a different thing altogether. I firmly believe that going to a Power Metal show will reinvigorate you with the power of metal and Dragonforce is no exception. With the guitar wizardry of Herman Li and Sam Totman, the ludicrous keyboard runs of Vadim Pruzhanov, and the undying energy of the entire band, they CRAM the power of metal down your throat.
Lawrence, KS Thrash Metal Lords! Maybe I have slight bias because I'm friends with the band, but I have seen Hammerlord at least 10 times. Big credit to Ty and JP for every performance having spot on guitar work with virtuosic trade-off solos, whammy bar destruction, and catchy thrashing. However, the rest of the band is just as awesome with Stevie singing about metal and professional wrestlers, Terry headbanging with his bass, and the Hammerlord himself, Adam on drums. I think the last time I saw them I was headbutting Stevie in the stomach while moshing in a pool of sweat and beer. Thrash Metal superb!
There are also TONS of bands that I ASSUME would put on an amazing show, but I have just not had the opportunity for whatever stupid reason. Besides the obvious ones (like Iron Maiden or Motorhead):
The Dillinger Escape Plan
Wolves in the Throne Room
I invite any of the other Malicious Intent writers to edit this post to add their own!
- Judge Dredd
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Interview conducted via PMs metal-archives.com forum, July 2011.
WULF: Congratulations on the successful execution of your new album, "Xullux". I definitely enjoyed listening to this album, especially from a promising new band from Slovenia! How has the reception been for this album so far? What were you aiming to accomplish with "Xullux"? Do you feel like you successfully completed these goals?
ISVAROTH: Xullux was reviewed by webzines all over the globe and it got some fine critics, so I think we are quite satisfied and we’ve broken the ice somehow and from this point on we are going forward and aiming even higher.
WULF: Would you care to talk about the lyrical themes on "Xullux" and the meaning behind this name? Your Myspace describes "Xullux" as an "infinite ignorance and evil light" that covers the essence within humanity. Would you care to elaborate on this more specifically? It's funny, for black metal I found some of the lyrics to surprisingly have a positive, self-empowering message, especially on the title track. Is this an accurate interpretation, or am I way off the mark?
ISVAROTH: Well, Xullux is combined from 2 words: Xul Sumerian word for evil and Lux Latin for light and the words are the reflection of one another. The title connects with the lyrics that individually connect in the same point being how we are spiritually incapable and how the material world corrupts us. The idea of the light being the main antagonist because it enables us to see the material world while it suppresses the soul. That is the core of humanity’s ignorance that is never-ending. Yes, your interpretation is quite correct. The lyrics try to encourage people to find the might within themselves, in their souls or through death. I think this as positive as any other Satanic message from other black metal acts.
WULF: Your album is surprisingly high-quality for a young, new black metal band. I was definitely expecting demo-quality, bedroom black metal type stuff. Did you record the album yourselves? What was this process like, and how long has this album been in the making?
ISVAROTH: We said we’ll try to mix that kind of quality into our music, because there is not much black metal bands that have that. We went into Dyz Sonic Temple studio on February 2010 and we recorded all the instruments including the vocals in three months. We were quite fast because we have recorded almost every day. So, the album was mastered and mixed in June 2010 and we were really glad that all happened so fast.
WULF: Honestly, besides Metal Camp I don't really know much about the Slovenian metal scene. What is it like there, at least in your region of the country? Is there an exploding scene, or is it still growing?
ISVAROTH: Slovenia is really a small country but I must admit we have quite a high number of concerts here. There are a lot of local gigs with Slovenian bands for about 50-100 people, and foreign bands, which also play in clubs for about 50-100 people. Then there are bigger metal concerts where the numbers revolve around at least 500 people. But like I said, we are small (population 2mio) and 100-200 people per gig is really good for a standard concert. Metal Camp is of course the highlight of our metal scene.
WULF: I find the album cover to be very well-drawn and intriguing. If I'm not mistaken, the art was designed with help by Simon D from the Slovenian black metal band Bleeding Fist. What role did he play exactly in creating this album art? To me, it looks like the rotting corpse of the Virgin Mary breastfeeding an infant Jesus. Is this meant to be a statement towards Christianity specifically, or organized religion in general? At any rate, it definitely grabs your attention!
ISVAROTH: That’s right, the cover was made by Simon D., the bass player of blasphemous Bleeding fist. We are friends with them and Simon offered himself he could make us a fine cover and we said yes, why not. As you noticed, that is an undead Mary with a baby Jesus. He is representing the humanity that sucks the hypocrisy and ignorance out of the breasts of material world. One of the main culprits for this cause is of course organized religion.
WULF: This is something I'm always curious about...so much of the time, modern metal bands talk about video games, movies, and other music, but I'm always curious as to what people are reading and the role, if any, these books play in a band's lyrical themes or overall philosophies. Is there any specific literature or writer that plays a strong role in Nephrolith's music?
ISVAROTH: I’m sorry to disappoint you, but our vocalist and lyricist Nerthag, as far as I know, idolizes no writers or tries to follow no specific ideologies or philosophies. The lyrics are just from self-experience and his view of this world.
WULF: You're a band that performs live. Have you only played in Slovenia, or have you toured Europe and/or elsewhere? Are there any future plans for spreading your live pestilence to North America?
ISVAROTH: Yes, we’ve played only in Slovenia, over 25 gigs in 2 years and still counting. We would love to go beyond our borders, but it’s not that easy. If we get any chance to play in the US, we would love to, because I know there are a lot of crazy mofos out there that have yet to hear our music. Maybe someday we’ll come overseas to cleanse you all! >:]
WULF: I hate to take the focus away from Nephrolith, but as someone who is ignorant towards much of what's going on in the Slovenian metal scene, would you care to recommend any Slovenian metal bands that are similar to your style or friends of the band that would be worth checking out?
ISVAROTH: There are no bands that are similar to us. But we have some fine black metal bands like Somrak, Grimoir, Krvnik/Vinternatt, Bleeding fist and so on.
WULF: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Any final words or comments?
ISVAROTH: Thanks to you for this interview and to all the people who’ll read this!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
As legendary comedian, Bill Hicks, put it, musicians who make the records you love and cherish are “real fucking high on drugs” and Metal is no exception. Despite metal’s historical connection with substance use, starting with none other than Black Sabbath, what I would argue to be “psychedelic elements” have only relatively recently been introduced into many unexpected sub-genres of metal. Keep in mind that I’m not referring to Stoner Metal/Rock because the basis for that entire sub-genre is drugs, so we won’t be addressing that green monster. The primary sub-genres that have recently injected psychedelic elements on a somewhat large scale have been the Viking, Folk, and Black Metal genres.
In the last decade there seems to have developed a fascination of psychedelia within the Black, Viking, and Folk Metal sub-genres. Since the late 90s and early 00s, bands within said genres of metal have been experimenting with their foundational sound. One way they have been doing so is incorporating, only if subtly, the sounds of 60s and 70s psychedelia.
There are a number of bands...Enslaved, Peste Noire, Blut Aus Nord, and more recently Nachtmystium, Drudkh, Nokturnal Mortum who have been experimenting with such sounds.
Since the early 2000s, Norwegian Progressive Black/Viking Metal band Enslaved has praised classic psychedelic/progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd and King Crimson amongst others, whose influence has been more than apparent in their music. They also have openly referred to their use of marijuana in interviews (I can't find the link, but I remember reading a hilarious interview in Terrorizer many moons ago).
With 2010 releases from Ukrainian Folk/Black Metal bands Drudkh ("Handful of Stars") and especially Nokturnal Mortum ("The Voice of Steel"), their music has taken on more psychedelic qualities. On Drudkh's newest release, they seem to have stripped down their sound to essentially a minimalist sound (at least by metal standards). Furthermore, there are definite echoes of 70s guitar rock solos and even an instance of experimental guitar noise. Nokturnal Mortum have an elongated passage in "..." where they combine a bouncing folk rhythm with a 70s era guitar rock solo echoing Pink Floyd.
American bands such as Nachtmystium have acknowledge the psychedelic elements in their music to such a degree that they their 2008 album, "Assassins: Black Meddle, Pt 1", was partially named after the Pink Floyd album, "Meddle". Furthermore, the introductory track "One of These Nights" which even has a similar galloping rhythm to the Pink Floyd track entitled "One of These Days" which opens up the Meddle album. Musically, there are parts of almost hypnotic repetition and even a fucking saxophone solo. Not surprisingly, Blake Judd of Nachtmystium often casually talks about his drug problems in interviews (http://www.nocleansinging.com/2011/05/01/an-ncs-interview-nachtmystium/)
Within French Black Metal bands, there seems to be a far eviler approach to their particular brand of psychedelia. Bands such as Blut aus Nord and Peste Noire have a psychedelic sound that what one might characterize as "disconcerting" and "disorienting". On "The Work Which Transforms God" by Blut Aus Nord, one practically develops vertigo as the guitars swirl with dynamic use of the whammy bar and abstract dissonance. What can be said about Peste Noire that hasn't been said before? In their bizarre brand of black metal, they include birds chirping and French baroque/folk music (complete with accordion accompaniments). I pray every night to Prince of Darkness that Famine won't be committed to a mental hospital so he can continue to make righteously mind-altering black metal.
Who can forget English Black Metal madmen, The Meads of Asphodel? Their use of psychoactive substances (http://www.metalstorm.net/bands/biography.php?band_id=588&bandname=The+Meads+Of+Asphodel) has been documented and is more than apparent in their odd amalgam of Black Metal and seemingly every other style of music known to man.
So what is it about? Why this emergence in an oft looked down upon style of music in Black/Viking/Folk Metal, and hell, metal in general? For me, I often think about metal as a type of music that pushes the musicians and the listeners to a point of sensory overload in more ways than one. Adding psychedelic elements is just a different way that that point of "sensory overload" can be pursued. Rather than pursuing that point through pushing physical boundaries, these bands are pursuing that point through pushing mental boundaries.
I could go on and on about this, but I'll cut myself short while I'm ahead.
Tune in. Horns up. Drop out.
- Judge Dredd
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
But the thing that all of those band names have in common, besides being ridiculous, is that they all still sound metal as fuck. There is a much smaller population of band names that, well...don't sound quite as "metal as fuck" as the previous bands mentioned. In fact, they don't sound metal by a long shot. Here are some of the band names I have in mind:
If I was a 13 year-old girl and was wanting to start a metal band with my giggling, acne-faced, pre-pubescent girlfriends, I think Vicious Rumors would probably be my first choice. We could write lyrics about how we heard that Veronica gave, like, five guys hand jobs in the bathroom. Or that Tommy is the hottest guy ever and we want to have, like, 23 babies with him. Well, maybe Potty Mouth or Gossip Girls would be the only better names in that situation.
Job For a Cowboy
THIS IS A JOB FOR...a cowboy? You want to know what A Job For a Cowboy is? Exactly what Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhall do to each other throughout the majority of Brokeback Mountain. But in all seriousness, let's for a second consider if the job of a cowboy is actually metal: they spend their days herding and tending to cattle...um, I mean...I don't know.
Strapping Young Lad
Right, so me and my wifey were wanting to start a brilliant cyber/industrial metal band in tribute to our dear boy, Nigel. We thought it an absolutely splendid idea! He's oh so adorable!
I would totally understand this name if the band members were made of Hasidic Jews. With their Rabbi's blessing, they decided to start the heaviest, most complex fucking metal band in the entire fucking galaxy. Raise the horns for Yahweh!
(for those of us less cultured: meshuggah, also meshugah, meshugge, etc. all translate to "crazy" in Yiddish)
"Ahhh, the great sounds of a gentle rain. This reminds me of the last Enya record...(as the metal comes in) WHAT THE FUCK!?"
You've GOT to be kidding me. Just marginally less metal than naming your metal band Fairies and Lollipops, Nightwish (not just the name, but their music as well) reminds me of a horribly depressed, Fantasy reading, 10th grade nerd praying in his bed to the High Gods of Zandorra to be able to kiss Nicole Franklin, the captain of the cheerleading squad. If only those Gods, in all their infallibility and splendor, could hear his lonely prayer. If only they could hear his...night wish.
I can only conclude that some metal bands need to do a hell of a lot more creative thinking when naming their band. Can you think of any more band names that are real but completely unmetal?
- Judge Dredd
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
WULF: How has the reception for this album been so far on your end?
BARGHEST: The reception has been very good so far.
WULF: I would describe Spearhead's sound as relatively straightforward metal, but with allegorical, abstract lyrics and concepts. What were you aiming to acheive with this album, and was this album aimed at a specific audience in particular? Do you feel as if you've accomplished these goals?
BARGHEST: I don’t think there’s a great deal of allegory surrounding the lyrics, and the only abstract conceptions are abstract because they are metaphysical. We certainly planned on making a straightforward album, by which I mean plain-speaking, hostile and belligerent blackened death metal; there’s nothing subtle or equivocal about this album I feel. There is variation in the music - time changes, break-downs, etc. - but the focus was definitely on making a relentless and hateful-sounding album. I think we have achieved this with “Theomachia”. We do not have any specific “audience” in mind when crafting our music – we are not out to please anyone whatsoever.
WULF: While I understand that on "Theomachia" some of the lyrics involve the common misconceptions held by most people regarding ideas like "progress" and "pacifism", I get a strong sense of anger coming from your music as well. Would you agree? Or are you simply attempting to convey these ideas through aggressive music? I guess what I'm asking is how much of a role does actual anger play in your music?
BARGHEST: “Theomachia” is a genuine work of considered and focused hatred, so there is of course an element of anger pervading the music. The lyrics aren’t generally anger- or angst-oriented or anything like that though, yet what is said is done with a degree of force. I think if we were a bunch of hippies or something, with no anger in our blood, we would not be able to create this kind of music with any conviction. And I think you will find Spearhead has more conviction than a lot of other current bands in this genre.
WULF: Obviously, it's important for listeners to have their own interpretations of lyrics and lyrical themes when listening to music, but would you care to discuss the meaning behind the word "Theomachia", and perhaps in general some of the themes and ideas you explore on this album?
BARGHEST: I disagree that listeners ought to have their own interpretation of the lyrical subjects. This seems to be only something for bands with poorly considered lyrics. You end up with a superfluity of meaningless opinions this way – isn’t there enough of a problem with a superfluity of opinions? “Theomachia” (or “war of the gods”) refers to the common mythic motif of a divine conflict that precedes the cosmic or aeonic dissolution. This motif is probably more commonly known as the Norse myth of Ragnarok, but parallel conceptions are found in the Indic epic the Mahabharata, and in the Iranian/Zoroastrian mythos for example, as well as elsewhere. The cosmic dissolution and the declining cycle of ages is also something prevalent in a number of ancient world mythologies and cosmologies. “Theomachia” is all about the inevitable march of decay and degeneration, and the self-mastery that the last man must attain if he wishes not to rot among the ruins of the last age, before the cycle of time continues. But I’m not expounding anything new here – this is old wisdom.
WULF: Your interviews are quite fascinating. Obviously, you are often asked about your musical influences, but I'm curious as to if you are influenced by any specific writers or literature? You're quite well-informed when it comes to history, weapons, warfare, etc. Also, I have to ask if you are familiar with the writings of Robert Greene, author of books like 36 Strategies of War and 48 Laws of Power? Just curious.
BARGHEST: There is a certain amount of literary influences that have found their way into “Theomachia”, explicitly or otherwise. To name just a few direct influences: Spengler’s “The Decline of the West”, Evola “Revolt Against the Modern World”, Machiavelli “The Prince”; and mytho-philosophical works such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Eddas, Hesiod’s “Works and Days”, etc.
I’m not familiar with Robert Greene, but I’ll check him out.
WULF: The artwork for "Theomachia" is great. Would you care to discuss the meaning behind this artwork a bit? Who is the artist?
BARGHEST: The artwork was done by Manuel Tinnemans. I don’t want to go into this here in too much detail, but if you study the front cover you will see some relevant motifs, such as the Kali Yantra, some text excerpted from the Bhagavad Gita (11:32), etc. But perhaps you will be able to interpret yourself the meaning of the distant horizon that is flanked on each side by the trappings of war.
WULF: On a personal level, I must ask...are you or anyone else in the band a fan of wargaming (tabletop, video games, etc.)?
BARGHEST: No, I don’t think so. I used to play the Warhammer games a bit when I was a kid, but I don’t have the time nowadays. If you want to play a classic strategic, war-based board game, and you have a few hours to spare, “Risk” is good.
WULF: What are some future plans for the band? Is touring over here in North America something you're interested in? While I don't feel like a DVD or music video is especially your style, but I could be wrong...do you have any intentions of doing anything visually like this down the road? Also, your previous interviews are always fascinating and you guys definitely have some interesting philosophies and worldviews...have you ever thought about putting out something non-musical, like essays or a manifesto?
BARGHEST: We are currently looking into tour options. Another tour across the US would be good of course, but perhaps not in the immediate future; Europe needs re-conquering first! I can’t see anything like a music video working for Spearhead at the moment. Our standards are pretty high, and we’d probably need an exceptionally high budget to satisfy the requirements a good and appropriate video would entail. We’ll leave this to the MTV bands for now..!
I don’t think I have any real desire to put out an essay or manifesto, because I’m not interested in changing how people think. I am quite happy to let people rot in ignorance. Besides, there are plenty of good books out there for those who disagree with pacifism, modernist values in general, humanitarianism, etc. I wouldn’t be adding anything new.
WULF: Thank you again for taking the time to do this interview! Any final words or comments are yours!
BARGHEST: You’re welcome. Thank you for your support. Svpero Omnia!
Answered by Barghest 1st Jul 2011.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
E-mail interview conducted June, 2011.
WULF: Congratulations on successfully executing a great work of black metal art! I know “Ravencrowned” has been out for over a year now, but I am just now hearing it for the first time? Is it being re-released by your new label, De Tenebrarum Principio/ATMF, or what’s going on?
SERPENT EST: Thank you, Wulf.
Actually, Ravencrowned is out now (2011) for the first time ever. We recorded the album in Fall, 2009, and we planned the album for 2010. We had also prepared a video trailer for the album with the 2010 release date. I guess that's the reason why so many guys think the album was out in 2010. We spent lot of time due to the fact we changed the mixing 'cause the guitars were digitally recorded and we didn't like the result. So we had to play the data streaming through analog guitar amplifiers and re-record what was coming out. Then, we spent time in search for a label that was interested in our band, and after lot of time we finally signed with De Tenebrarum Principio/ATMF for two albums.
WULF: I read in an older interview you’ve done with Xag (USBMS) that you felt that at that point in the band’s history you hadn’t had a chance to evolve or develop into a truly elite black metal band. Do you feel like you’ve achieved that state following the release of “Ravencrowned”?
SERPENT EST: Our goal and ideals have changed a lot since the beginning. We really enjoy playing the new songs live and that's a very important thing that most forget about. You should consider that playing again and again and again the same songs is pretty boring. We composed these songs by the end of 2009 and the album is out now, in 2011. We've been playing those songs for a very long time and we'll play them again for the upcoming months but we still like it. That means that WE are satisfied by the album and that's the most important thing for an underground band. If you make money from your music you won't care too much about it, 'cause it's a job. But if you do it just for passion, you need an immediate reward. Our reward is to play something we've done and something we like.
What we're aiming to accomplish is to have a great response from the people who participate in our shows. We would be happy to have good reviews on the net and good feedback from the fans, but the most important thing for an underground band should be the live trial, when you have to play in front of the crowd, taking your energy and theirs and mixing the whole thing into something relevant.
An underground band shouldn't care too much about selling albums, nor about criticism, there are too many website out there and there are too many guys that have no time to waste with minor bands like ours, so they will listen just 30seconds per songs and write a generic good-for-all-seasons review. We are reading lots of bullshit on our Ravencrowned. Someone's telling that our album is nothing but blast-beats, a Marduk-alike thundering strikes, but our album is filled with melody from the beginning to the very end.
Surprisingly, the best reviews we got are coming from U.S.A. and U.K. which aren't supposed to be Black Metal countries...
Of course, I'm not telling you that our album is something memorable. I won't fool myself with such delusions. Ravencrowned is an honest album conceived by an honest band, nothing more and nothing less. But beware of the internet reviews 'cause with this widened community of people, every cunt out there is spreading his own irrelevant truth.
WULF: Unfortunately, the digital promo copy I received of “Ravencrowned” didn’t include the lyrics. Would you care to discuss some of the lyrical themes of the songs on this album?
SERPENT EST: Sure. The whole Ravencrowned album is a concept about the "Kaiserreich", which means "Empire". The concept of the Kaiserreich was first told on a track from our first album which is entitled "Ravencrowned", itself. That track depicts the last chapter of the Ravendom (the Empire). Now we're narrating one of the previous events of this dark-symbolic fantasy which I often explain as a "Tolkienan Mordor mixed with the warlike code of Sparta". The whole story is drenched with honor, sacrifice and loyalty. And death, of course.
To be honest, I like the story I conceived but it's a bit twisted to be followed on the booklet for different reasons. First and foremost my bad English. I didn't spend much time on grammar at school, nonetheless I forced myself to write metaphorical lyrics. I guess that those with English mother tongues will be horrified! But for non-English speakers (which are the majority of the audience) it should work well enough.
Secondarily, the whole story is about a world that the album unveils just a bit. I'm working on a paraphrase of the whole concept in order to bring to light the events. For example, in one line you can hear the phrase “hornless undeserving mob”, which is a symbol of weakness 'cause in this world everyone wields horns on their heads and the horns are a symbol of strength and honor. But there are is no line where this is explained, so the line could be unclear (yet evocative, I guess).
WULF: The album cover is really cool. Who is the artist and how did you get in touch with him? Obviously, the art depicts some sort of infernal creature (or perhaps Satan himself)…would you care to elaborate on this?
SERPENT EST: The artist name is Michal Klimczak, and we found him on the net. He's a Polish guy, very skilled with digital art. The artwork was chosen because of its evocative power and the fact that it's a bit different compared to the underground black metal black/white covers. You can find some of his work here: http://grishnackh.digart.pl/
Without lyrics it's easy to confuse the subject with Satan, but it simply depicts the Emperor, ruler of the Ravendom.
WULF: Can we expect a music video for a song off of “Ravencrowned”?
SERPENT EST: Well, I guess it's probably too late for that. We would love to shoot a video from a song and we planned to do it, but the time passed and now we're already working on the new album. Besides, a video nowadays should be very well planned and executed. A video such as Satyricon's Mother North would be hilarious these days...
We are still interested in some video release, but we don't care too much at this time.
WULF: I’ve read several Kaiserreich interviews, and you always seem like pretty down-to-earth guys. You’ve mentioned that offstage you have many interests, but I was curious as to your literary interests and inspirations. Do you have any favorite writers or authors that particularly influence your music or life in general?
SERPENT EST: Oh jeez! Of course we're down-to-earth guys, we aren't in the '90s! Saying that I don't mean that the 'true black metal bands' have disappeared, I'm simply saying that they didn't ever exist. Nowadays, you can't pose as what you're not 'cause with the net you'll be unmasked in a very short time. Of course there are lot of morons out there that pretend that they themselves are 'evil', but I tell you, no one whose involved in playing music could be really evil.
About our offstage interests I can answer only about myself. Besides my job, which is pretty boring, I'm involved as a screenwriter for a small group of filmmakers named Hive Division. About the literary authors I do not have any preferred name but I'm oriented towards sci-fi themes. No authors have a real influence on my life, I'm a very lazy guy but not so much to plan my life on another guy's words.
WULF: This is a question based solely on my own curiosity, but being a black metal band I’m sure you’ve met and toured with some musicians with quite eccentric and radical personalities. Of all the bands you’ve played with and/or toured with, who would you say is the craziest, or most wild/unpredictable? Does the northern Italian black metal scene have its own share of intense, thriving, underground black metal shows and bands, or is it a smaller, more laid-back collective?
SERPENT EST: The Italian black metal scene is smaller than an ant's asshole! There are lot of bands of course, but most of them aren't that good and, usually, they don't tour too much outside Italy. By the way, the audience is pretty small for black metal bands but I guess it depends on the genre itself. You should consider that the last world-renowned black metal band is Dark Funeral (which has been playing since '93), all the other black metal bands remains confined into the underground scene. I don't think it depends on the decision of the bands to maintain a low profile for themselves, it depends on the diffused lack of interest for this kind of music.
About the guys we played with, you surely understand that I won't give you any single name in respect of others privacy. Nonetheless, we've met some noticeable guys. There were one guy which was completely high on cocaine and he was loudly and CONTINUOUSLY sniffling his nose. On another gig, I asked another band for a mirror to put on corpsepaint, but once I needed it, they were using the mirror to sniff some coke. There are lot of guys in the scene that are devoted to coke as most of people here in Italy. I tell you, these guys are total losers to me. Another guy was cutting himself with a razor blade whilst he was talking to us. He was totally drunken (and probably high) and he was cuttin' his arms with the blood spilling on the ground, then he offered the razor to us in the same way someone could offer a beer. I tell you twice, these guys are losers: misery is a sign of weakness. If someone's unhappy, he should be very unlucky or very stupid.
WULF: What are some future plans for the band? Are there plans for a DVD? What about a North American tour?
SERPENT EST: We'll play in Czech Republic this July, then we'll start recording the tracks of our third album which is already composed. We'll play as more as possible in order to support our new album but we'll play in Europe the most. We also have some contacts for Russia and Mexico but we have to plan it carefully. We would love to play in U.S.A. but we have no contact for such tour. If someone's reading is interested in hiring us, just send us an e-mail!
A DVD would be a nice idea too, but we never record video material of our shows. Again, this is something one should plan a lot before shooting. We refuse the idea to sell a DVD with a single camera placed behind the shoulder of those who's watching the show.
WULF: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me! Any last words or final comments?
SERPENT EST: No way, I've been delighted by your questions. It's great that people like you are spending their time to promote underground bands so, thank you so much. If someone here's interested in Kaiserreich, please follow the link to our brand new website: www.kaiserreich.it