Trench Warfare releasing new split albums


Militant complex war metal band Trench Warfare plans to unleash two new splits, hot on the heels of its three-song EP Perversion Warfare. This shows the band continuing its style of textured riff-frenzy with songs that reach a definite apex and conclusion, in contrast to most of the war metal genre.

The band released the following statement:

Trench Warfare is currently recording three tracks for an upcoming four-way split entitled “Of Vultures and Vermin” which will be available via Surrealistic Fatality Releases (SFR). The other bands featured on the split are Sturmtiger (UK), Formulus (Alabama) and Lugubrious Descent (Florida).

We have also begun writing for a split with Morocco’s Agurzil for which we have enlisted the exceptionally talented drummer Lee Fisher. Lee has performed with Commit Suicide, Psyopus and Overlord Exterminator.

Someone close to the band also leaked three demo tracks from forthcoming Trench Warfare compositions. I traded a brick of Semtex for a dub and was able to hear clearly the progression in this band. Their same unrelenting approach has deepened its texture, with more interplay between riffs, and more fast tremolo riffs in the death metal style. The result is just as hard-hitting but has more internal variation and conflict, leading to a style of war metal that borrows the complexity of death metal, the intensity of grindcore and yet keeps true to its hammering martial assault.

Good things are coming from this promising Texas band, who raised eyebrows with the inscription on their debut EP:

ONLY HATE AND WAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

How to write better metal music – Recontextualization

Rachmaninoff playing a Steinway grand piano

Too many of the bands I review are (apparently) uninterested in their songwriting beyond a basic level, and too many of those that actually are interested approach improving it from exclusively an academic position – the idea that applying enough ideas from theory will make for interesting content. DMU’s orthodox positions are firstly that being able to work from some sort of message/concept is a potent motivator, and secondly that greater emphasis is needed on structural development. These are both useful things to keep in mind, but properly implementing them requires a great deal of effort and possibly some rearrangement of your internal mental hardware. While there is no substitute for hard work, there is one particularly useful technique I’d like to share that helps with the latter.

The concept is fairly basic – take a work of music, transcribe it, and adapt it for different instrumentation, but executing it effectively takes some proficiency. For the best results, you need to use instruments that require radically different performance technique than the originals, or at least something that imposes major restrictions on your sonic palette. The canonical example around here is either a kazoo or a piano, depending on how serious an article discussing the subject is. As someone who relies heavily on software to create and ‘perform’ music, I would tend to recommend restrictive, simulationist sequencing software like Famitracker (which emulates the limited sound hardware of the Nintendo Entertainment System). Ultimately, the exercise has been done enough by other people that de-emphasizing the specific choice of instrument makes sense.

Ideally, the very act of rearranging a composition will provide some insights into its structure. Transcribing the composition requires some understanding of what an instrument can and can’t do, and possibly a strong ear if good notation or transcription is lacking. Furthermore, the limitations of the new instruments may force one aspect of the songwriting into the limelight, revealing its strengths and weaknesses. One caveat is that the derivative you end up making will probably incorporate your own biases as a performer and composer, but even that might help you to understand your own strengths and weaknesses in that regard. I personally should know, since I often end up taking my own compositions and rearranging them as I gain access to new tools I want to take advantage of. In the process, I often end up making structural changes that hopefully strengthen the new versions, and I also learn ways to make future works better.

In short, rearranging is a useful technique to learn some aspects of composition, although it’s no panacea, especially since there are limits to how much original thought you add while still calling it a rearrangement. Given an opportunity to hone your composition skills, though, you should seriously consider giving it a shot, especially if you’re in a band that likes to play covers.

Carnage – …Left to Suffer in the Aftermath…


In my view, the premiere Swedish death metal releases were Therion Beyond Sanctorum, At the Gates The Red in the Sky is Ours and Carnage Dark Recollections. Those who appreciate the latter may enjoy this disc of a live set from 1990, a soundcheck from 1989, and the “The Day Man Lost” demo from that same year.

This compilation/re-issue is exactly what it purports to be: a highly competent live set of the songs in the form you remember them from Dark Recollections, a brief glimpse of the more chaotic earlier live performance, and the classic demo that is mostly similar to the album. For this reason, …Left to Suffer in the Aftermath… will be essential for no one except death metal historians and those who want a less-detuned and slightly faster version of these classic songs for the “live experience” feel. The 1990 set dominates the release with its uptempo take on the Dark Recollections songs, with little if any deviation from the album, where the demo shows the details of the crustcore plus death metal fusion barely beginning to come together. The 1989 sound check shows an interesting glimpse of this band in a more vicious mood, but peters out when it gets going, and could easily be forgotten. The demo is faithful and a pleasurable rough listen.

For almost any occasion, it makes more sense to throw on Dark Recollections, especially since the re-issue contains this same demo. The live set however conveys a certain energy that studio recordings can never hope to duplicate and is a great listen for afternoons outdoors when you want something loud and chaotic but structured, sort of like the reason that people still treasure Mayhem Live in Leipzig despite the microphone-in-Satan’s-anus sound quality. Obviously, if you are still reading, you are a Swedish death metal and/or Carnage fanatic, and you probably need this on your shelf.

Interview: Infamous (2015)


On a small ship in the Sea of Sardinia, I watched my companion cautiously. I had just seen him kill two men, one with a silenced pistol hidden under his battered sweater, and the other with his bare hands. We had changed cars five times since I left the airport, walked through a dozen train stations and busy stores, always leaving through the back door with a whispered command: Hurry!.

Now our journey had taken its final stage, leaving the coast on a small boat and nipping through a series of coves, always watching land, water and air for any who might follow us. As I wondered this, a ripple on the horizon announced another small boat approaching. On it was a solitary figure, menace and fire in his cold eyes.

I gathered up my notebooks and prepared to meet the obscure and sinister personality behind Italian black metal cult band Infamous

Is there any point to making black metal — or any music like it — in 2015?

Black Metal is a radical form of expression and, in my opinion, the most expressive form of musical art. It is an essential need to express myself!

It is my belief that this form of art can be conceived and understood only by “particular” souls. Surely, if you try to get rich or famous with this music genre, you have done everything wrong! Black metal is not for the masses and not for the bourgeois defeated by their lives. Black metal is a fire that burns inside of you! It is a weapon against weakness, a spiritual enlightenment, and the hammer that smashes this world of worms and disgusting merchants.

If you don’t feel this inside you, maybe you should change genre!

Your latest, Rovine e Disparazione, seems much closer to traditional black metal than previous works. What prompted this change?

I think that the reason of this “change” is linked to the departure of Alessandro. With his keyboards, he created a great amount of “mystic” atmosphere in the first releases, especially in Of Solitude and Silence. The guitar riffs and the other songs structures, instead, are born from the same inspiration and move in the same way of the previous works.

So far, there are three Infamous releases — Of Solitude and Silence, Abisso and Rovine e Disparazione — of which this reviewer is aware. Can you tell us what you intended to do with each one, and how it turned out? For example, did you hope to create a new style of black metal, refine your own style, or expand upon earlier ideas (of your own) or introduce new ideas?

Each song which makes part of the three different Infamous releases is born thanks to a precise inspiration aiming at translating my emotional state in music.

I have no ambition to start a new subgenre of the black metal style. What I really like is the most traditional way in this kind of music and I’m going to follow this traditional path, but with my personal sense of melody and “aesthetic.”


Many times, some reviewers have compared my project with other bands of this world. What is interesting is the fact that, at the end, they have recognized that Infamous sounds personal!

I mean, what is important is not to create a new style but a good and emotional song in a traditional way. In short, the creation of a perfect synthesis of traditional and personal music, which is not necessarily innovative!

This is sort of a silly question, but people will wonder, so I ask. There seem to be two versions of Of Solitude and Silence: a CD-R with an excellent cover, and a pro-CD with a more “regular” black metal cover that looks like a quicker job. How did these two editions come about? Is this album still in print? If not, will it be re-editioned?

The first edition was published by a small underground Italian label (Novecento Produzioni) and limited to 200 copies. No one wants to print a Pro-CD in Europe in this small quantity. However, this first edition is definitely sold out. The second edition was published by the excellent German label Obscure Abhorrence in Pro-CD, limited to 500 copies. It is true that the artwork looks different from the first one, but the reason is that they were created by two different persons… I prefer the first artwork but also the second is not bad!

The second edition is still available from the Internet site of the label or directly from me!

What I really like is the most traditional way in this kind of music and I’m going to follow this traditional path, but with my personal sense of melody and “aesthetic.”

In addition, recently, the Italian label Bylec-Tum has published, on limited tape format, the third version of this album with a series of exclusives bonus tracks.

Can you tell us where Infamous was founded, by whom, and who is in the band? Do you perform live or is this a studio band only? Do you choose anonymity for any reason other than longstanding black metal tradition (musicians calling themselves Quorthon, Warrior and Angelripper)?

Infamous was born in the Sardinian hills in the torrid summer of 2009, with the recording of the first demo “Torrid Summer Misanthropy.” Infamous is a one man band, obviously it is impossible to play live…

I choose semi-anonymity; S.A. is the acronym of my name and surname.

I thought that it would have been more serious to avoid the grotesque nicknames typical of the Satanic B.M. scene.

What are the influences on your style, both metal and non-metal, and both musical and non-musical? Are there influences from any punk genres in your work? Since the question will inevitably be asked anyway, is there an influence from Ildjarn on your work?

I’m surely influenced by “modern” Finnish Black metal. For me, this is the most important scene and I’m heavily influenced by the sense of sinister melody which is typical of their style.

But this is not my unique influence. When I was more young I listened to tons of Oi!, R.A.C., and other metal sub-genres. I think that Oi! and R.A.C., in particular, have forged my compositional style and my sense of “melody.”

Now, I turn my attention to your question, concerning Ildjarn. I was really shaped by his previous works, especially by his first demos and the first full-length. I listened to his art hundreds of times… Together with other Norwegian 90s bands, Ildjarn is one of my preferred bands!


In line with the non-musical influences, I think I am influenced by all my open-air activities like mountains or woods trekking, fishing and sports in general. I consider myself as hunter of natural landscapes. Obviously, this aspect has a huge impact on my music!

Do you listen to Ottorino Respighi, an Italian composer from the last century? The style of Of Solitude and Silence reminds me of his most popular work, “The Pines of Rome.”

Um… no! This is the first time I have heard the name of this composer.

Maybe, at the time of Of Solitude and Silence Alessandro took his inspiration from this composer, but I don’t know…

Why did you switch to title(s) in Italian? Abisso and Rovine e Disparazione are in Italian in contrast to Of Solitude and Silence which is in English. Do you write lyrics in Italian as well?

Of Solitude and Silence, outside of the title, has songs half in Italian (“Rex Verminorum” is in Sardinian language, a local variant of the ancient Latin) and half in English.

Abisso has only the title in Italian language. Each song, in fact, is written (from the session musician WLKN, not by me) in English.

Starting with Rovine e Disperazione, I have begun to use only Italian language because it is more easy and spontaneous for me; while, English language is more “melodic” and easy to insert in the music but, obviously, is not my language.

What influences your sense of melody? It seems unique, like a mixture of black metal, folk, Oi and sentimental 1980s Goth-pop, but also with its own inspiration that’s nowhere on the map.

As I have mentioned above, I’m influenced by Oi!-R.A.C. and Black Metal, but not by “1980s Goth-pop.” I think the Northern European Oi! scene of the 90s is my second main influence, obviously after Black Metal. Maybe, a little bit by Neo-folk but in my music, at the same time, there are not large spaces where I could insert neo-folk. It is possible that in the future this component will be increased.

What do you attempt to capture, express or communicate through your music? Or… is this even the goal of music? Is music communication or decoration? What is the goal of your art?

When I started, I was interested to vomit my hate and my need of destruction for this rotten world.

Infamous was born to give voice to this emotional war, misanthropic destructive hatred and the contemplation of nature, especially its beauty-purity.

Now, everything is evolved into an anti-modern propaganda and into a search of values for resist to this decaying world!

Do you think there is a sound in black metal that is specific to Southern Europe? And to the countries individually such as Greece, Italy and Spain?

In my opinion, each population has its land and each land has its traditions, sensibility and so on… According to this view, it is perfectly normal that every nation or geographic area has a common way of expression. Generally, everyone can distinguish a Norwegian disc from a French release, and a Swedish album from a Greek one!

I consider myself as hunter of natural landscapes. Obviously, this aspect has a huge impact on my music!

I think that Italy has developed its own personal style which is not very similar to the other Southern European scenes. However, it is undeniable to admit cultural and stylistic convergences with the rest of Southern Europe.

Personally, I love old and contemporary Greek Black Metal!

Do you have a long-term plan of what you want to achieve from album to album and as a body of work?

Ahaha, absolutely not! Inspiration to create music comes suddenly and, for me, it is impossible to have a long-term plan!

Rovine e Disperazione consists of five tracks named after either “Rovine” (ruins) or “Disperazione” (despair). Why did you decide to do a sequence like this? Are these numbered tracks part of the same song, or impressions of the same thing?

Rovine e Disperazione is comprised of different songs about a single concept!

The concept of this album concerns the disgust for the modern world, its spiritual decadence and the ideology of materialism (“Disperazione” I, II). It is the rebellion that has the aim of embracing a superior and heroic way of life, based not in the cult of the decadence, but in the traditional (pre-Christian era) values of Honor, Strength and Spiritual rectitude (“Rovine” I, II, III)!


This is my manifesto for the maximal resistance against the modern decaying world!

In the booklet, there are two important phrases (written in Italian) to understand this concept:

  • “Lascia agli altri le vie dell’infamia” = Let the others go through the ways of infamy
  • “Vi siete inchinati abbastanza davanti ai mercanti, ora ergetevi! Sfidate i ratti e i vermi che stanno ai vostri piedi!” = You have bowed enough to the merchants, now it’s time to stand up! You have to defy rats and worms that are at your feet!

Do these have any influence in your musical world? Ancient, Varathron, Burzum, Sentenced, Sacramentum, Landser, Summoning, Kvist, Eucharist.

Each band that you have mentioned has had an influence on my music. However, the most important influence comes from Finnish bands like Sargeist, Horna, Satanic Warmaster, Hammer, Nekrokrist SS or non-Finnish bands like Drowning the Light, Mutiilation, Xasthur and many others…

How do you compose a song? Do you start with a melody and develop structure/arrangement from that, or do you start with riffs and add melodies to them? Or is there an idea, lyrical or visual, before you start even making the music?

First of all, I compose music, starting from a simple riff and then slowly, or sometimes very fast, the rest emerges spontaneously. When a musical composition is definitely ended, I start writing texts; generally, each text follows a concept!

This is the path that allows me to recognize immediately if a riff has the emotional power to be part of a song…

For people new to your music, how should they get to know Infamous and how should they stay on top of band news, contact, and music?

People who want to know more about Infamous can add my Facebook profile or my email.

You’ve just recorded a new album, Tempesta. What is the theme of this album? How does it differ from the past? Where did you record it, how long did it take, and did you have other musicians involved?

About the concept for Tempesta, in the booklet you can read this:

Tempesta (Storm) is a radical hate declaration against all the subhumans defeated from the disvalues of this decaying modern society. I hope, therefore, a “Storm” that will destroy everything that continues to infect our blood and our minds.

The main enemies in this concept are the economicist view, the bourgeois way of life and modern human weakness in general!

Tempesta follows a natural and spontaneous “evolution” of the classic Infamous style!

On this album you can hear a more powerful sound, an atmosphere of struggle and victory that extols to the revolt! The recordings lasted half a year at various sessions, and I used the voice of Filippo Magri in “Tempesta II”, who is a friend and someone I respect!

Your previous album, Rovine e Disperazione, seemed to take a more Ildjarn-influenced direction as opposed to earlier works, which had longer melodies and remind me of Varathron Walpurgisnacht if it were expressed with a stronger, more naturalistic mentality. Does Tempesta continue this pattern?

In this album I think that the Ildjarn influences are implemented, especially in “Tempesta II” where percussion is heavily influenced by the Norwegian artist. Also for the harsh sound and radical extremism of disgust against the modern man, Ildjarn represents a landmark!

From the progression from early works through Tempesta the general atmosphere of mysticism, which refers to the idea of a primordial nature in its purest form, is partially changed. I have radicalized certain sounds and the general attitude and probably now everything sounds more agressive. This is a natural and spontaneous evolution.

As I understand it, this release is limited to 100 CD-Rs. Why did you choose to go this route, as opposed to a larger label? Will you ever seek a label to do bigger re-issues of your discography?

Yes, only 100 copies!

This is a radical anti-commercial choice!

I’m not interested in big productions!

This is the path that allows me to recognize immediately if a riff has the emotional power to be part of a song.

I consider that nowadays those who want to listen a CD, generally, can download it from internet…

Then I took a radical decision and I chose to produce everything by me; every step is taken personally and the choice of the number of copies to be printed is now proportionate to the copies that I can sell. Simply, if I had printed 1000 copies, 900 would remain collecting dust in my basement.

Few are willing to buy original CDs, especially for bands not yet known. This happens a bit “everywhere” but in Italy the situation is even worse.

Why do you think black metal is in such a slump these days? Vattnet Viskar and Myrkur get a ton of publicity, and good underground bands get ignored; is this related?

Everything is for sale in this world and if you try to be famous you have to spend some money! This is the only key to a successful career! You have to consider your band as a company and your music-art as a business. I’m about to throw up as I write this… But this is the truth!

Obviously I am not interested to take a part in this circus, I never dreamed the fame and do not want to look like a rock star. All this is so pathetic! I would destroy all this! I use my music to sing my hate against those that spoil the Black Metal and trying to making it a cute, harmless and fashionable music genre.


Music is the language of the devil


Calling to mind the 1950s American Christians who referred to rock ‘n’ roll by the same name, an Islamic Imam has been videotaped referring to music as “the devil’s language.” To be fair, the point he is making is that people should listen to religious music, which is sung and contains holy messages, instead of secular instrumental music.

But still, the comments are eerily familiar to metalheads:

When Allah speaks of music in the Koran he reminds us that music is the devil’s language. When did he remind us of this? So those who love music and listen to music, who are they listening to? The devil. They listen to the devil. There are people who disobeyed Allah and will listen to the devil…Empty your mp3 and transform it and replace it with the best words that exist: the Koran. If one says that musical instruments are haram and music is haram and that who listens or loves music risks being transformed by Allah into a pig, or will look like who? The devil.

He may have a point if we broaden “music” to mean “popular and therefore empty messages.” Then again, heavy metal has never been obedient, and has always loved the devil — the forbidden scapegoat beyond social morality where humanity connects with reality — so it is unlikely that his message will resonate with many metalheads.

Arcturus – Arcturian (2015)

Arcturus - Arcturian (2015)

Much of 2015 passed me by without commentary before I took up my position as the editor here at DMU. As the year draws ever closer to its end, I see the need to rectify that. How about some pseudo-prog? Arcturus began as a black metal band so underwhelming and half-hearted, to the point that their metamorphosis into a more obviously overwrought, melodramatic rock act on La Masquerade Infernale was actually an improvement. Their vaguely symphonic, electronic, and generally etcetera-based approach, along with a couple of other prominent bands (Borknagar, Solefald, etc) sold well around the turn of the millennium before, like most trends, people lost interest. Somewhere along the line, Arcturus decided to reform and write/sell more material.

Things haven’t changed much on Arcturian, but a few changes in the overall sound did catch my attention. There’s more synthesizers – I’d say “contemporary electronic music”, but metal musicians seem to lag a few years behind popular electronic music trends for better or worse. Furthermore, longtime collaborator Kristoffer Rygg is long gone. One thing I enjoyed about La Masquerade Infernale many years ago was his vocal performance – a powerful, assertive bass that was admittedly used primarily in this sort of post-black context. Simen Hestnæs (ICS Vortex) is similarly charismatic, but he performs in a much more heavily explored vein, so he doesn’t have novelty in his favor. Given that an album of this shape relies on aesthetic novelty to retain reader interest, that’s a strike against it. Otherwise, instrumentation here is reminiscent of Arcturus’s first two full lengths – modal, often mid-paced, sometimes drowned in symphonic instruments.

Arcturian does end up hitting some of my aesthetic buttons, but I’d be a pathological liar if I said I found it particularly interesting. The band relies primarily on varying its sound; the songwriting underneath is fairly standard. There’s a little bit of effort to vary up actual structures through use of dynamics, and techniques pulled from earlier eras of the band’s lifestyle, and there is a sinister sort of consistency here in that every track sounds different from the last. However, the emphasis on aesthetic changes over everything else basically relegates this to the level of soundtrack, presumably adequate for a high budget science fiction themed film or television series but not very interesting on its own. Nothing offensively bad or stupid here by my standards, but it’s essentially a rehash of a style that relies too heavily on its own novelty to be particularly valuable.

#Metalgate explodes: Maryland Deathfest denies, then confirms SJW censorship


Maryland Deathfest went full SJW by announcing that it was severing ties with death metal band Disma for its California Deathfest event. This comes only a day after the MDF organizers denied any connection between their act and SJW beliefs, blaming it instead on the departure of guitarist Daryl Kahan from the band.

Disma was dropped because of the pressures and safety/security at stake, demand by the Oakland community – which let me remind you – is the most racially integrated city and progressive in the entire country. As one of the organizers behind this, our community has zero tolerance for any kind of bigotry or hatred. Period. Craig Pillard had the opportunity to repudiate his past ties to fascist promotion, but he clearly choose not to. That is entirely his choice. Thanks tot he growing pressures of the Movement in Ferguson and Baltimore, with Oakland battling racist police for three straight weeks, you best think twice before coming here championing any kind of oppression.

Disma fired back a response that was predictably irate, seeing how the band has lost time and money in preparing for its departure to this fest:


ANGELA DANCEV is a liar! DISMA did not get kicked off the fest for any previous reason or accusation. We got kicked because of ANGELA DANCEV terrorizing the fest with her idiotic and selfish agenda. For her to lump this situation in with the past riots of Ferguson and Baltimore is absolutely ridiculous and utterly insane! Please show me ONE live show from us that caused any problems. Please source your accusations! She created this racist band myth based on her ignorance of Craig’s previous shock project that picked a different boogieman other than Satan. His past projects or whatever he does in his spare time has nothing at all to do with DISMA. All of us live within 10mins. of the most culturally diverse city on the planet! NYC So please spare us another ignorant statement. Our friends and fans know who we are! So stop hiding behind Oakland. All we were going to do was play a show for our fans. We do not promote violence or hatred of any kind. so again, please source your references to these false accusations. Sorry again to all the people who were looking forward to seeing DISMA.

Yesterday, Maryland Deathfest organizers reacted with denial and insults when confronted with their actions. Today, they confirm what was said here and then denied by MDF, and even more, double down on the vitriol and defensive posture. It seems that MDF does not like being recognized as SJW-run and pro-censorship, but they can’t find a way out of the corner they have painted themselves into. No sympathy here.

For those of us who steadfastly refuse to follow the beard trend


The Gentleman’s Art of Wet Shaving.

For those of us who steadfastly refuse to follow the beard trend (like it or not, beards are trendy — thanks hipster scum), shaving is an everyday routine that, at times, feels like a chore rather than a pleasurable experience. It doesn’t need to be this way. With a small investment of $40.00 – $50.00 you can turn your daily shave into a pleasurable ritual that takes you back to a simpler time, when gentlemen prided themselves on a clean, close shave. If this interests you, throw your disposable multi-blade razor and chemical filled shaving cream in the trash and embrace the gentleman’s art of wet shaving.

Wet shaving can best be described as “the kind of shaving your grandfather did.” It involves the use of a safety razor, a shaving brush, shaving soap, and a handful of other supplies.


The safety razor is the most important part of your shaving arsenal. Sadly when most think of them, the first thing that comes to mind is a bloody, nick filled face. I assure you this preconception is not true, and with proper technique using a safety razor is just as safe as shaving with the razor you are using now.

Safety razors are beautiful works of art crafted from a wide variety of metals and plastics, and choosing the one that’s right for you is simply a matter of personal choice. If you’re new to wet shaving, a great razor to begin with is the Edwin Jagger DE89811BL, it’s a gorgeous chrome plated razor that is weighty, easy to maneuver and not terribly aggressive.

Safety razors use a double-edged blade that fits into a receiver. The receiver allows only a small amount of the blade to protrude through it. That’s where the “safety” part of the razor comes into play. The blades cost about 10 cents a piece — far cheaper than those multi blade cartridges that you pay big bucks for, and range in sharpness from mild to deadly. For beginners, the Derby Extra is an excellent choice. For the more adventurous, the Feather is considered by many to be the king of the hill in sharpness.

Once you’ve chosen your razor and blades, it’s time to find the right brush and soap. Ideally, a badger hair shaving brush should be chosen because it balances stiffness and softness perfectly. A good brush is critical in helping you build a nice lather as well as raising your whiskers for a close shave, so choose wisely.

Choosing a shaving soap is a matter of personal choice, and there are literally hundreds of them in the market. Even the cheapest ones will be better than the chemically laced mass market shaving cream you’re using now. Most shaving soaps come in a tin, but if the one you choose doesn’t, you’ll have to purchase a shaving mug. I use a wide variety of soaps, depending on my mood in the morning. If you want an invigorating menthol zing to your face, try Proraso Green Label, if you want a spicy and warm feeling, try The Blades Grim “Smolder” (my personal favorite).


Once you have your weapons together, it’s time for your first wet shave. Remember, if you savor the experience and embrace the ritual, you’ll never go back to modern day shaving again.

Step one: Wash your face with warm water — this helps open your pores, soften your whiskers and prepare your face for shaving. If you really want to go old school, put a warm damp towel on your face for a few minutes.

Step two: Wet your shaving brush thoroughly with warm water, shake it out and begin building lather with your soap. Using a light touch, go in a clockwise direction with the brush until it is coated with some lather. If you don’t have enough lather, wet the brush a little more. Once you have a nice lather, take the brush cover the entire shaving area of your face by using a circular motion. This will help increase lather as well as lift your whiskers. Let the lather sit on your face for a minute before proceeding to step three.

Step Three: Now it’s time to shave. You’ll want to hold the razor against your face at a 30-degree angle from the floor. This angle should just allow the edge of the blade to touch your skin.

When applying pressure, forget everything you know about using a disposable razor. Most of these use sub-standard blades that are grouped together, and you’re probably used to pushing against your skin. With wet shaving, little or no pressure is needed to achieve optimal results; you simply hold the razor gently against your skin and let the weight of the razor do the work for you.

In short, slow strokes, do a single pass with the grain of your hair growth. If you’re able to, pull the area you are shaving taught in order to get a truly close shave. Once you complete this first pass, re-lather with your brush and do a second pass against the grain. Patience is the key — take your time, and as stated before, enjoy the experience.

Step Four: Once you’re done, rinse your face with cold water to cool and tighten your skin. Don’t’ forget to clean your shaving gear thoroughly as well. If you like, follow up with a nice aftershave (not a cologne). If you want to stay in old school mode, try Pinaud Clubman. It smells absolutely hideous out of the bottle, but once it mixes it with your skin’s oils, you’ll instantly smell like a real man, not an effeminate metrosexual — think Patton, Eisenhower and Humprey Bogart here….you get the picture. As an added bonus, the Pinaud also cools your skin nicely.

The whole wet shaving process takes about 15 minutes, but in the end you’ll be richly rewarded with a superior shave, great skin and a new relaxing ritual that will certainly make your day a little bit brighter.

Once you’ve mastered the art of using a safety razor, you can really step up your game and try a straight razor. That’s where the serious fun begins.

American Snuff Company – Cotton Boll Twist


Many (but not all) pipe smokers claim that they smoke for the flavor, not the nicotine. This is on par with wine drinkers talking about the “aura” and “palate” of a wine as they approach the end of the second bottle and begin slurring their words. For most of us, the pipe is a complete experience: taste, smell, feel, activity and yes, nicotine.

Why? Because Nicotine is a god among stimulants, providing cognitive benefits as well as relaxation. Because it helps us see our dead ancestors. Because it is fun. Pick one or more of the above, but be honest in recognizing that for many of us, nicotine is part of the trip. Accordingly, many smokers seek out a nicotine “holy grail”: the most intense nicotine blast that one can experience in a pipe.

A number of candidates arise, most from the Gawith Hoggarth stable, but rumored to be beyond even that in intensity are twists. These are nearly raw tobacco, taken from curing and wrapped in a distinctive shape, then allowed to age so the sugars in the leaf ferment and that dead vegetation flavor leaves. Twists are normally designed to be chewed and then placed against the cheek where nicotine absorption occurs through the membrane, but since the dawn of recorded history on the topic, smokers have been known to hack off bits of them and smoke them for a cosmic Nicotine experience.

You can get twists a number of places. Here’s a semi-comprehensive list:

These contenders for the holy grail of mind-blowing Nicotine trips are generally not all that expensive, in keeping with their functional origins in agricultural work. They do not have fancy flavors or extensive steps taken to reduce their rougher edges. But they do offer a staggering dose of the magic lady.

In my search for pipe smoking’s holy grail, I acquired an American Snuff Company Cotton Boll Twist, rumored to be one of the stronger twists. It arrived in a plastic bag, looking very much like a roughly dried leaf. Upon slitting the bag and removing it, I noticed a scent of old leaf, perhaps with undertones of oil, and felt how dry the twist was in my hands. But I noticed the hands were shaking.

Pipe smokers are famous for their lore, and while much of it is not strictly speaking factually true, almost all of it has metaphorical meaning, like religion or Texans telling tales where the fish keeps getting bigger or the boar gets meaner. It was entirely possible that this thing would kill me. They would find me, tense body twisted into an impossible pose in my comfortable share, surrounded by ashes flung aside during my final convulsions. The M.E. would shake his head sadly and proclaim death by misadventure, and I would be buried in a simple grave with the marker reading only HERE LIES AN IDIOT. This fear gripped me as I turned the twist over in my hands.

Being a somewhat intrepid sort, at least with my own life, I put it on the cutting block and hacked off an inch, then sliced it vertically and again, horizontally, to create small cubes. Because the leaf was dry and unpressed, these quickly expanded to tiny flakes — approximating the size of rough cut tobacco — of dry, slightly greasy vegetation. Figuring that here went nothing, I loaded up my favorite author style pipe and set match to tobacco, then waited for death to swoop down from the clouds and seize me in a spasm of final agonies.

Nothing of the sort happened.

First, I recoiled from the flavor. Almost no tobacco is actually “raw,” since you sort of have to dump something on it to help with the aging process and rehydrate it after drying. But this is as raw as it gets and it has a flavor that resembles, well, dried leaves. It burns quickly too, making me rehydrate the second batch. But for that first bowl, I lit, tamped, gagged and then lit again. After a few more puffs — slightly sour like the first notes of a newly-lit cigar — I found the flavor to improve. The nutty broad flavor of Burley replaced the raw taste of flame. Then a slight sweetness, very light, drifted to the surface. The more it burned, the better it tasted, although an oily undertone like old butter from an all-night restaurant persisted, and sometimes there was the slightly bitter “green” taste of minimally cured plant matter. But by the end of the first third of the bowl, I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

And then… it hit.

Like a serpentine form uncoiling in darkness, Nicotine wound its way through the smoke into my brain. My jaw dropped and cold sweat broke out on my forehead. I could see my fingers twitching like insects in the spastic repetition of instinctual motions. Sounds receded, and I could no longer speak. I could feel every hair like a finely-tuned instrument, detect even the slightest breeze brushing over my skin. “Unholy mackerel,” I thought, “This may indeed be the end.”

But I survived. And I hung on, chopping up another half-inch and adding the collected leaf-bits to a small bowl over which I draped a hot damp towel. I waited. And then I reloaded, lit, tamped and blazed. The same bitterness struck, the oily smoke curling around my head, but then the rancid butter and cut grass flavors faded and the nuttiness returned. The faint sweetness emerged as well, as did the Samurai warrior that is Nicotine. But this time, I rode the dragon. I felt myself pass into the shadow realms, and like the mythical Jenkem users of central Africa, I spoke to my dead ancestors. I enjoyed every minute of it.

In terms of raw strength, this tobacco is not more excessive than Samuel Gawith 1792 Flake or the infamous Gawith Hoggarth “Happy” Brown Bogie. It has some strength on those, but does not leap to another cosmic level. However, like a tropical storm it attacks quickly and holds you with an iron grip. In this case, it is pleasurable. Subsequent bowls revealed that this tobacco mixes extremely well, and even a pinch of an English mixture mutes its flavor extremes. Its heavy Burley takes the flavor of whatever it is mixed with, making this an even more enjoyable experience. But that power — the raw, infernal power — remains.

The stronger ropes from UK tobacco makers, or even some of the home-grown Perique mixes that the Americans concoct, most likely match this in strength. Part of its reputation comes from the fact that as a dry tobacco, it burns quickly and thus injects more smoke into the mouth (this is the same reason people like flake tobacco; the compressed flake burns a lot more leaf at any given instant than loose tobacco blends). But part of it is a sensible recognition of the dark forces at work within this demon of a twist. I paired it with Incantation Onward to Golgotha in recognition of its infernal strength, and sipped green tea to keep me anchored in the world of reality. This may not be the holy grail of Nicotine abuse, but it is one of them. And I am glad I found it.