Death Metal Underground

Neuraxis – The Thin Line Between

July 22, 2008 –
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Neuraxis civilize metalcore by infusing it with heavy doses of progressive metal and technical death metal. Metalcore — known for its rapid changes between seemingly irrelevant parts equally borrowed from metal, nu-metal, emo and hardcore — grew out of the MTV culture where images on a screen tell an unfolding story, and each scene is mirrored by changes in the music. Neuraxis give the metalcore as developed by bands like Behemoth or Necrophagist a good run for its money by massaging a more listenable and more musical instrumentalism into it, creating a work that will stick with the listener longer than its genremates of lesser dimensionality.

This CD has more in common with Cynic or Gordian Knot in the way it is composed. Taking a page from the jazz-metal book, it loosely ties itself together with a clearly defined harmonic pattern, and then riffs on that, using rhythm and harmony to hold together lead riffs that are more harmony than melody but have a “melodic” effect. Its ability to turn a good riff and work within harmony should appeal to fans of Opeth. Vocals remind me of Dying Fetus or Behemoth; the death metal parts can be attributed to Immolation as processed through Deeds of Flesh, with plenty of quick short melodies played in power chords funneled past hard-stop barrages; solos are classic progressive metal and extremely well executed, and the only nu-metal influence is the tendency to periodically bounce — but this is limited more than elsewhere in this genre.

Neuraxis can grow by giving in fully to their progressive tendencies, and escaping metalcore’s tendency to write roundrobin songs that cycle around a harmonic pattern without developing it because they are too busy mashing together disparate elements. What defines this CD are the rhythm tracks which fall between leads and repetitive riffs, letting the songs grow organically at the same time they batter the listener into submission. I hope this band continue developing in this style and go beyond the conventions of metalcore to bring out in their music what is most promising, which is what has always made metal rise above the horde of noise: ripping riffs which also have some musical depth, combined in such a way as to make the listener wake up out of a daily stupor and wonder how to fit his or her brain around the flow of relentless sound.

Neuraxis – The Thin Line Between – Dreaming the End mp3 sample (45 seconds)

Interview: John Gelso (Profanatica)

In all avenues and aspects of creative expression, different levels of effort produce different results. Moderation, pandering, or creating something merely unique enough to warrant attention result in transience; conversely, truly going for it” and channeling an inhuman energy to produce a horrifyingly powerful result results in a longer lasting relevance. This is the essence of extremity. In roughly three energetic bursts of activity throughout the past two decades, Profanatica (or its shadow project, Havohej) has created some the most “extreme, black, and ungodly music imaginable,” reducing metal to its most atavistically energetic and trance inducing form. We were able to catch up with Profanatica guitarist John before a most impious performance to discuss amongst other things, the band’s motivation in writing their full length Profanatitas De Domonatia as well as the relationships between art, philosophy, and religion.

Is art different from entertainment? If so, how?

To me, art and entertainment can be one in the same, but art should be one’s personal expression. Entertainment is looking into someone else’s expression. In essence, art is doing and entertainment is observing.

Can heavy metal/black metal be art?

Absolutely. Creating music is art and should be about the realization of the best of your true self and to a certain degree, your sense of uniqueness.

Does entertainment imply passivity from the listener?

Yes. Those being entertained, the observers, they are like parasites. They aren’t moving their own energy out. They’re just feeding off other people’s creativity. Of course, the exception is a live performance where the audience can add to the experience of “the art.”

So everyone should give the world everything they have to offer and create in any way they can?

Right. Everyone should express their true self to the fullest extent that they can. Although, not everyone is capable or they might believe they don’t have anything to express. they rely on others. So, it’s like a passive versus aggressive situation. Aggression, art, is letting out your own energy, as much as you can. The passive aspect, being entertained, is taking from what other people put out.

The unconscious egoism of the individual in the crowd appears in all forms of crowd-behavior. As in dreams and the neurosis this self feeling is frequently though thinly disguised, and I am of the opinion that with the crowd the mechanisms of this disguise are less subtle. To use a term which Freud employs in this connection to describe the process of distortion in dreams, the “censor” is less active in the crowd than in most phases of mental life. Though the conscious thinking is carried on in abstract and impersonal formula, and though, as in the neurosis, the “compulsive” character of the mechanism developed frequently – especially in permanent crowds – well nigh reduces the individual to an automaton, the crowd is one of the most naïve devices that can be employed for enhancing one’s ego consciousness. The individual has only to transfer his repressed self feeling to the idea of the crowd or group of which he is a member; he can then exalt and exhibit himself to almost any extent without shame, oblivious of the fact that the supremacy, power, praise and glory which he claims for his crowd are really claimed for himself.

- Everett Dean Martin, The Behavior of Crowds

I feel like some concepts, such as the Freudian notion of “Id”, are too abstract to be effectively communicated with words. They manifest in actions, expressed in the energy transmitted. Using music as an example, an artist can use the word “hate” in their lyrics and the listener might be able to comprehend on some level if they can understand these lyrics, but the idea would come across so much more universally and effectively if the music itself were to actually sound venomous, hateful, etc. I’ve always thought of Profanatica as one of the best examples of this; expression of raw emotion via the most simplistic possible means. How do you feel about all of this?

I agree with you. The energy of the music needs to match the lyrics. It should all be one unit. With Profanatica, a lot of it is about expressing frustration and hate, specifically with religion and morality. You shouldn’t rely on the ideas of others for your own idea of what’s “right” and “wrong”. You should make your own rules. Be your own god; make the world as you see it. To a certain degree, worship yourself. Treat yourself as a “god” or “goddess.”

This view seems to parallel Satanism, to some extent. In some forms of “Spiritual Satanism” and “Luciferianism”, all ideas pertaining to a god beyond the self are viciously blasphemed and rejected. The individual is then built up to be the one supreme being of its own reality.

I see your point. Simply put, I myself don’t like labels. I’ve always found them confining. Most humans have this “need to belong” and this “need for order.” I say it’s all bullshit. That’s why I say I follow no religion. Not Christianity or Satanism. All labels are man-made and are not natural. I am what I am. I believe in what I believe in and that’s it. I follow my own free will. To me, it doesn’t make sense to trade out one symbol, god, for another. After all, the concept of “Satan” is just a product of Christianity originally developed to inject fear into people. Very much the way the US government are using “terrorists” to inject fear into us. The fact is, fearful and needy people are much easier to control and manipulate.

The universe could be argued to be composed of tangible things, like substances, and intangible things, like designs or ideas or “natural laws” which are enforced through substance but are not substance. How do the two correlate?

It’s all interconnected. Ideas come at different times for different reasons. The universe wants you to do what’s best for you and to apply yourself to the fullest possible extent; to move everything forward as a whole. If you apply yourself, good things and good ideas will come to you. If you want something to happen, you have to go and do it yourself.

They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of which (“baritus,” they call it), they rouse their courage, while from the note they augur the result of the approaching conflict. For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm. It is not so much an articulate sound, as a general cry of valour. They aim chiefly at a harsh note and a confused roar, putting their shields to their mouth, so that, by reverberation, it may swell into a fuller and deeper sound. Ulysses, too, is believed by some, in his long legendary wanderings, to have found his way into this ocean, and, having visited German soil, to have founded and named the town of Asciburgium, which stands on the bank of the Rhine, and is to this day inhabited. They even say that an altar dedicated to Ulysses, with the addition of the name of his father, Laertes, was formerly discovered on this same spot, and that certain monuments and tombs, with Greek inscriptions, still exist on the borders of Germany and Rhætia.

- Tacitus, Histories

Do you believe natural selection should have primacy over technology?

Define natural selection.

The idea that only the strongest members of a species will survive in the long run.

I don’t think the popular concept of natural selection is necessarily accurate. Whatever you want to achieve, you can. Strength is in the mind not the body. With that, the human species is not living up to half of its potential. This is what is lacking in the world. I think that’s why there’s a lot of hatred for mankind. A lot of this can be seen in black metal. I believe this hatred is because it (mankind) isn’t necessarily doing the “correct” thing. There is so much more that it should be doing. So many better things and that’s what’s frustrating. The problem is that we’re basically just not challenging ourselves enough and this allows a few greedy individuals to get away with bad choices that affect many. I believe religion is the catalyst for this numbing of the mind that’s been going on over the last 2,000 plus years.

Profanatica’s newest release takes the high-speed, long-riff, motif-based style (similar patterns appear across different songs) that had been pioneered with incantation, and adds to it melody like one might find on a Gorgoroth album; what prompted this change, was it what you always wanted to do, and do you see it as a fusing of constructive (melody) and destructive (rhythm) properties?

Interesting perspective, can’t say I really got into Gorgoroth. Musically I didn’t feel there to be any major change in what we’re doing, other than tuning down.

It’s all based upon feeling and being in the moment. I still draw my influences from the same bands I listed to in my earlier years. Paul and I wanted to pick up from where we left off.

Interview by Michael Dean

Eugenics Reviews III

July 17, 2008 –
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Akhenaton – Divine Symphonies

I like this: it’s martial ambient in the style of Lord Wind with distorted bass. But, it is very predictable. So very predictable. As a result, it is pleasant to listen to as background music. About track seven, it starts becoming gothic with guitars and lush keyboards and Sisters of Mercy vocals. I think they need to go back to the drawing board and put more music into this, because their heavy repetition (a) isn’t layered and (b) does not consist of melodies that are all that exciting.

Ancestral – Avowed

Varg, this is your fault. Yours. These people are following your lead. You made it look so simple and now, it is. Trudge beat, open strumming while power chords undulate, and you can trick out a pop song into being like Burzum. The underlying writing on this demo is a lot like later Krieg, but even more poppy, and so it seems very emo when it emerges in quasi-metallized form. Again, like all covertly negative reviews, this one must contain the words “not badly executed, but lacking direction.” This demo sodomizes a Macintosh.

Chronic Torment – Doomed

This isn’t A+ material, but it’s a solid B. Sounding like a cross between Merciless and Fester, it’s heavy-metal and hardcore-tinged death metal in the Swedish style, with an affinity for fast riffs. You will hear nothing new on this CD, but unlike most of these discs, it has an attention span long enough to bond together simple songs over the course of a few riff changes and a verse-chorus devolution. It’s not like the best of Swedish metal, which leaves the stupid rock’n’rollisms behind, but it’s quite solid, with the same aggression appeal that made Verminous fun until it gave you a headache.

Chronic Torment – Dream of the Dead

Gosh, does everyone need to follow Immolation and Hail of Bullets? There’s some completely great stuff on this album, but it gets ruined by the nu-MTVcore/metalcore trend of ranting, dead-on-the-beat chanting verses. These sound like a braindead zombie attempting to sodomize an iron lung, and have about as much musical importance to the listener as well. I think it’s good if you want something angry-sounding in the background, like in a movie. They’re very catchy, but mind-numbing. This CD reminds me of Comecon in that way: their heavy metal has blended into their hardcore, with no emo, but it’s so bouncy and simple that I don’t want to ever put it in again. That’s said because some of the Bolt Thrower-style speed riffs, with two chords strummed fast in the background and melodic rhythm patterns picked over them, are great. Still a Merciless comparison, if Merciless listened to a lot of later Malevolent Creation and The Haunted. What a promising work, but awash in stuff designed to pander to blockheads.

Death to All Hype

July 16, 2008 –
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People Can’t Tell Surface From Essence

So as I travel the internet on random errands, I hear people talking about the new “underground” bands, which all sound like Blink 182 making atmospheric black metal. It’s pretty sad, but these bands insist they’re not retro while tossing together bits and pieces of the past, wrapping them around standard pop-punk, adding some emo and crust and a pinch of necro, and then thrusting it all forward with that bedroom blackmetal “truly too authentic to care” aesthetic. I’ve listened to well over a hundred such bands in the last week, and on every level — musically, aesthetically, artistically — they’re close enough to identical. Even more, they have nothing of distinction about them, so why bother? “Metal for metal’s sake” is a path to mediocrity.

Then there are people who love to bloviate on about the “undiscovered” past gems, which almost universally are third-stringers with no distinction. Their goal is to make you think they know something you don’t. They think they get ahead in life by pushing others down, and not simply by achieving more, because the two aren’t the same, even in a relative universe. One of these so-called gems is Fester – Winter of Sin, which I threw on a week ago and had to laugh at how consistent judgment can be. For a smart person, whether in 1995 or in 2008, this CD is crap.

It starts with heavy metal riffs done up like black metal, and gets worse from there. It’s a salad of pieces from here and there with no real direction except vague Venom worship. Every bad cliche of heavy metal and death metal is in here, and there’s no melody or structure to recommend it. What does it have going for it? To weak people, it seems like a good way to be important, knowing about this undiscovered masterpiece etc. Avoid.

Eugenics Reviews

July 14, 2008 –
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Stentorian – Gentle Push to Paradise

The best comparison I can make with this is Sentenced’s “North From Here” hybridized with Malevolent Creation. It’s big, dumb heavy metal riffs and some guitar noodling that goes nowhere, so much so that you forget you’re listening to something and it’s not a flaky engine idling in the background.

Sulphur – Cursed Madness

We want to be Immolation, but we want black metal cliche too. Yet life goes on, far away from the speakers and, …what was I saying? Oh, don’t buy this CD.

Troglodytic – Promo 2004

Hi, we’ve collected a ton of cliches and roped them together with Garage Band. Worse than shit, because at least you can plant shit in your backyard and grow flowers. This CD made me want to kill myself… but I threw it away instead.

Utgard – Thrones and Dominions

Dark Funeral and Watain are sitting on a bus while Darkthrone’s “Transilvanian Hunger” is playing, and it runs into the back of a garbage truck. Nice speed, good aesthetic, good mastery of Darkthrone through “Total Death,” but end result is totally pointless. What’s wrong with listening to the original albums that do this better?

Walknut – Graveforests and Their Shadows

Why does all of this stuff sound the same? Drudkh, Nokturnal Mortum and every NSBM band from eastern europe do this slow melody of three or four notes that’s half-lullabye and half-affirming, aerobic exercise music. It’s not bad; this is one of the better things to arrive lately, but it’s completely without character, which makes it unlikely I’d listen to this again. Vaguely reminiscent of Gehenna’s first album.

Wrath of the Weak – Alogon

This album was named after “a logon,” because it’s clearly destined for MySpace fame. These simple songs rely on a burly version of Burzum technique where layers of guitar and bass overwash, but unlike in Burzum, they’re not playing anything inspiring. The result is droning dischord that neither enlightens, clarifies or distorts the senses in any interesting way. If you can play drums while listening to a jet engine, the result is the same.

Aäkon Këëtrëh – Journey into the Depths of Night

Some people always thought black metal should sound like Abruptum, which to me sounds like art school rejects taking on John Cage under the influence of cheap drugs, maybe mixed with Bondo or Killz for added kick. Lots of theatrical stuff, really simple music, goes absolutely nowhere and seems to think it’s making a big splash by being anti-music. Well, if you’re trapped in Guantanamo Bay, maybe this would be acceptable listening but everyone else has something better to do. A boy’s choir from a home for the chronically retarded could do better.

Hail of Bullets – Of Frost and War

Do you like Verminous and Repugnant? This is similar: it claims to be old school death metal but it has more in common with metalcore tricked out with an extra dose of bad heavy metal riffs. High-intensity production and relentless attack makes this seem like it might be interesting, but then you realize that it goes nowhere when you subtract the effect these riffs had on you when the original artists played them, and that the constant drive/bouncy drums of a metalcore band make it both exhausting and tedious. Vocals are good, but CD is pointless.

Heresi – Psalm II – Infusco Ignis

They probably play this for suicide bombers. I could see blowing myself up to make this end. These guys can play their instruments, and production is good, and they’ve mastered the basic songwriting to make it seem good, but… and again, but… they pick very obvious patterns and then songs undergo no change except the basic demands of manipulating consciousness to make something sound good. “Now an uplifting part, then back to minor!” Just when you think we’re going black metal, suddenly the bouncy heavy metal riff off a KISS album appears, and then more parts barf up, regurgitated from metal genres past in no particular order… OK, please no. I would rather listen to the soccer moms of America trying to cover songs from the first two Destruction LPs than this vomitous horror of good-but-not-good-at-all. Nilla, please.

The Howling Void – Megaliths of the Abyss

Neat, a Skepticism clone. But without anything really unique going on. It moves forward so glacially that you forget what just happened, so all you hear is the simultaneous ringing of keyboards and guitar drone, with a snare-bass plodding in the background. Unfortunately, it is also all too predictable even if you speed it up. And it takes forever to end. Forever, forever. This CD is better than most but still unremarkable.

Interview: Protector / Richard Lederer (Summoning, Ice Ages, Die Verbannten Kinder Eva’s)

July 11, 2008 –
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When black metal went more toward an orthodoxy that by nature of emphasizing its strengths, simplified its technique to the point of crumbling complexity, Summoning went another direction, and made slower, reverent music about a former (and possibly future) time of honor and conflict. In the history of metal, Summoning represents one of the more potent variants of ambient metal and an encouraging aesthetic for anyone tired of modern time. Protector, one half of the dynamic duo that Summoning became, went on to participate in several other projects focusing on a classic theme of black metal: an ambient consciousness from which a sense of beauty and thus meaning in life emerges.

You have created music in several bands, and have been moving toward ambient material throughout this career. What inspires you to work with this medium instead of more concrete one?

My music can be surely described as ambient music, but for me that term is not an opposite to the word “concrete.” I always take care to make concrete melodies and rhythms which you could even create well with more traditional instrument or transcribe into notes. Un-concrete music is for me rather music based only on soundscapes and noises which don’t transport melodic or rhythmic information like many real ambient bands do. I always tried to be melody- and rhythm-oriented and always use sounds as carrier of that; I rarely use a sound just for the sake of the sound.

What definitively makes music ambient is the slower tempo and the multi-layered structure. Instead of playing a lot of super fast short riffs in fast succession, I prefer to create longer harmonic structures and build up a song by repeating them and adding more and more layers to it. That might sound monotonous for people used to fast breaks and tempo changes but that’s for me the way music has the most intense effect. Hearing different musical information at the same time is for me far more interesting than hearing bits of information in succession because that way I have more the feeling of a long huge song and not the feeling as if I were listening to 10 short simple songs that are combined into one long song.

When you write songs, do you start with a visual concept, or a riff, or something else?

The music is always the most important thing during the composing process. I neither think about anything visual nor about lyrics until the very end of a song creating process. With Ice Ages, I start from deep sounds while the higher ones appear the more the song grows. In Ice Ages I often have some kind of bass drum sound or a mighty bass line and with the keys I play around without any special musical aim. I think the less fixed the mind is during the early songwriting the better results I get. This does not mean that I never work in a structured way; on the contrary, structured work is one of the most important things for me, but structure without some kind of chaos (or creativity in another word) is not possible. After I have a nice bass drum or bass line part I see if I like it and if I like it the competition of that song fragment is already clear. I easily find new sounds and new layers which I add after each loop and in most cases after 1-2 hours I already have a full musical arrangement in full length.

Summoning seems to rest at an intersection of genres. What were your influences, and how did they urge you to reach for this unusual style?

I never considered my way of working as a mix of different musical styles. Actually, the crossover idea that was birthed already 22 years ago with bands like Faith No More is for me rather something old fashioned than anything progressive. So I never tried to take any existing musical styles and mix them together to pretend to create something new; I just make the music I have inside and see what comes out. When I was a child I learned classical drums, including kettle drums and march drums before I started to learn rock drums. My rhythmic style surely came from this part of my life. Also, the idea to create orchestral sounds is rather close at hand if you play the first time with a keyboard and check the different sounds. Another important part is the mentioned love for slower tempos which naturally grew at the time when super fast death metal was popular. It was a time where fast tempi started to bore me. So all in all you can see that the style is not the result of a wish to confuse people with style mixes but rather an expression of my musical taste and the musical experiences I have had during my life.

When Hellhammer said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. Where should the genre go from there?

I cannot see much reality in metal of today. Apart from some hardcore bands for me most of the metal (specially black metal) music is more a kind of fantasy music even if they don’t have fantasy lyrics. Even if some black metal bands try to spread some political views it’s also just a kind of fantasy as it mainly deals with some 1000 year old tribes that don’t have much in common with the present world. And also singing about death is not really dealing with reality because no one can know he feels after death.

But it should be particularly noted that if a public that was first placed in this yoke by the guardians is suitably aroused by some of those who are altogether incapable of enlightenment, it may force the guardians themselves to remain under the yoke–so pernicious is it to instill prejudices, for they finally take revenge upon their originators, or on their descendants. Thus a public can only attain enlightenment slowly. Perhaps a revolution can overthrow autocratic despotism and profiteering or power-grabbing oppression, but it can never truly reform a manner of thinking; instead, new prejudices, just like the old ones they replace, will serve as a leash for the great unthinking mass.

- Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

What are the goals of your art? Is there a goal to art itself?

I don’t think so much in goals, or better said, not in distant goals. The goal is each time to make a perfect album and to add as much music and passion to it as possible. I don’t have any goal concerning “success” for example. I think goals that are too huge are rather disturbing. Specifically, the aforementioned success goal would be a very disturbing one, because it would mean to try to adapt the music to the taste of the masses — which we never did. I think the more a person makes music for the sake of music, the more pure and honest that music becomes. I don’t want the music to become a kind of tool for any other aspects apart from music.

If sound is like paint, and we use different techniques and portray different things in our paintings, what does it say when a genre sounds similar and has similar topic matter and imagery? Can the genre be said to have a philosophy or culture (“subculture”) of its own?

Sure. For example, Ice Ages is always dark and negative, so the spectrum might be limited, but I think that life and the world is something endless so even if you limit the aspect used for your music you still have endless things to sing about. I prefer to focus on special parts than to integrate as many elements as possible. There is not so much super dark slow music around on the world, so it’s a natural thing to deal with that for me.

Ice Ages often sounds like ambient music, soundtracks, and the epic warlike feel of black metal rolled into one style. What sort of “space” are you trying to create for the imagination of your listeners?

In one way the music is different from black metal and in another, it’s similar. As I mentioned, before black metal is also a music far away from reality. Even if they sing about historic battles they still sing about a time long ago which most probably don’t know well and surely never experienced. The farther away a theme is from current reality the more it’s inspiring for fantasy. If you look at people of today they are just people (and in most cases quite boring ones ;-) but if you look on ancient people who were actually the same you can much better let your fantasy grow and imagine what god-like creatures they must have been and put any attitude you like into them.

Ice Ages does not deal with historic themes, but creates moods that make the listener feel as if he would be in a dark future which is far away from present times. And that’s the common thing between black metal and Ice Ages. They both don’t take place in the present world and therefore are both the best way to let your fantasy grow. For me dealing with a dark future world is even more inspiring for fantasy as you are even free from history and can imagine anything you want. When I hear Ice Ages, I often think about a world after humanity, where only the machines remain and rule the world. But that’s of course just my view on it and as music is something totally subjective and any listener will imagine something different in it.

Some have said that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs are motifs that evolve toward a passage between states of mind for the listener. Is this true, and if so, how is it reflected in your songwriting?

If music is considered as narrative then it’s rather a matter of the lyrics than of the music. I know that musicians often want to tell stories just with music, but I think without lyrics that does not work. For example if folk metal bands sing about the nature of their country they surely feel those images in their music but if I would play that music to my mother she what rather say “oh, what evil noise music from hell” and surely not “oh, what a nice landscape I imagine when I close my eyes” :-) music is always totally subjective and depending on your preferences you might imagine totally different things to the same music. The lyrics are the only real concrete thing in a song.

As in all of my projects, the lyrics are always the very last thing we add. We always just think in tunes and harmonies and just think how much they can move our hearts but we don’t really think about stories during the song composition process. Only at the end we add this narrative aspect by adding the lyrics.

Now in what way is the lover to be distinguished from the non-lover? Let us note that in every one of us there are two guiding and ruling principles which lead us whither they will; one is the natural desire of pleasure, the other is an acquired opinion which aspires after the best; and these two are sometimes in harmony and then again at war, and sometimes the one, sometimes the other conquers. When opinion by the help of reason leads us to the best, the conquering principle is called temperance; but when desire, which is devoid of reason, rules in us and drags us to pleasure, that power of misrule is called excess. Now excess has many names, and many members, and many forms, and any of these forms when very marked gives a name, neither honourable nor creditable, to the bearer of the name. The desire of eating, for example, which gets the better of the higher reason and the other desires, is called gluttony, and he who is possessed by it is called a glutton; the tyrannical desire of drink, which inclines the possessor of the desire to drink, has a name which is only too obvious, and there can be as little doubt by what name any other appetite of the same family would be called; — it will be the name of that which happens to be dominant. And now I think that you will perceive the drift of my discourse; but as every spoken word is in a manner plainer than the unspoken, I had better say further that the irrational desire which overcomes the tendency of opinion towards right, and is led away to the enjoyment of beauty, and especially of personal beauty, by the desires which are her own kindred — that supreme desire, I say, which by leading conquers and by the force of passion is reinforced, from this very force, receiving a name, is called love (erromenos eros).

- Plato, Phaedrus

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

I think the problem about metal is that it became a quite conservative scene that lost its rebellious attitude. True, especially in black metal, the bands still try to shock the audience with political incorrectness etc, but concerning just the music the shock effect is lower than ever before. You have now in the metal scene so many neo-bands. Neo-power metal, neo-death metal, even neo-old school black metal but hardly really something new. To be honest, I have not heard anything that surprised me in the last years of metal, while in the past every step from one metal sub genre to the next one was a huge thunder. I remember when I was used to thrash metal and for the first time heard grindcore / death metal; it was really very shocking and took a while to understand that style. Things like that don’t happen any more in the metal scene. For me the metal sound is some kind of complete and finished and there is not much to add to it. But on the other hand I think that people in the late 1970s also might have thought the same while they were proven wrong in the following decades.

I think metal music is maybe just a bit burned out because music with hard guitars already entered already the mainstream the years before. Apart from very conservative people a super hard guitar chord is no considered as noise as in the past. I remember clearly 15 years ago when I was walking with long hair and a dark metal shirt through the streets I often was considered as a mentally ill decadent maniac by old conservatives; now metal with harsh guitars has become far more socially acceptable.

How do you record Ice Ages material? Have you gone digital, or are you using a traditional studio?

I am a fan of working strictly in digital. The music is created in a digital way and therefore digital recording is the most suitable way for my taste. Meanwhile I even switched to pure software synthesiser and sampler solutions as they are far more powerful and flexible. I really don’t miss those analog days, and enjoy the possibilities to create a fine album just with a PC in a small room and to be able to store several of versions of a song-mix and continue with each of them whenever I like. I don’t miss all those dusty wires on the floor like in the past.

What kind of community (or “scene,” I suppose) is most nurturing to the development of excellent music? Is one required to have a critical mass of artists working in the same area and supporting each other? Or do communities create an expectation of clone music?

I was never really in any community. When I started listening to metal music at the age of 15 I think I was almost the only one who listened to that music in my school and for a long times I did not know a single person that did not consider that kind of music as pure noise. The same goes for dark electronic music; I am not really in contact with people who are into that music as well and I discovered it on my own as well. And I think I don’t need any communities to make my music, I rather prefer the possibilities that keyboards offer to be able to make music alone without being dependent on a band. Of course, I like to talk about music as well, but for me more than two people in a band is often more disturbing than useful and is the reason for many band splits.

I also usually play the songs to others before they are released, but not in order to get comments about the quality of the songs, rather about the sound, which is something more objective than melodies or rhythms. External opinions about something as subjective as musical taste can really limit the creative freedom and confused mind, so I try to avoid it.

Summoning steadily moved from somewhat traditional black metal to a new style where guitars and keyboards were equally important. This was a first for black metal, and opened up a new style. How did you maintain a consistent sound and outlook with the style changing so much?

I don’t think that what you say suits the difference between the debut and the second CD :-)

The debut was quite a pure black metal release with all the typical elements like double bass, and with few keyboard parts; for all other releases your question is valid. I think if a band really know what music it wants to create the surface is not so important anymore. I have a few aspects in my music that are essential for me (like huge songs, multi-layered song structures) that will always be the fundament of my music, so even if I were to use totally different instruments I still would transport the essence of what I like in music. It does not really matter so much if I play the guitars in a rhythmic staccato way as I did on Summoning – Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame or in an opened way as I did with Summoning – Oath Bound as long as I don’t forget about long melodic parts.

If so, is art decoration? Is it propaganda? Or is it a communication between artist and listener? Please explain your choice.

Art can be all of the things you mentioned; it depends on the artist which aspect is valid for him. For some people music is rather a tool to spread messages, for others the music is already the message. I definitely belong to the second group of people and would consider my music as degraded if it would just exist to tell people messages which I could much better relate with words and arguments. The less messages you want to spread with music the more pure the music can be.

Music is for me more like cooking. You cook to get a fine meal which shall tastes brilliant, but I hardly know any cook who wants to spread messages with the food; that’s how it should be with music.

Although I really care about people who listen to my music and write me, and answer each email I get, I don’t see the music as communication between artist and listener because during the song creation process I don’t think about any listeners for a single moment. As explained above, thoughts like that would subconsciously manipulate my music and might turn it into a mainstream direction. I know that lots of people like the music I do where I never care about the taste of the others, so the best way to keep on making music they like is not to care about any other tastes.

The author Kurt Vonnegut famously referred to art as a canary in a coal mine, or a warning signal for society. Other artists, notably romantics, have claimed that art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Where, if anywhere, do these views intersect, and is it possible for art to exist as a discrete one of them and not as an intersection?

As I said I make music just for the sake of music not to spread messages or to change the world, but that does not mean that I don’t care about the world. I care about it very much but I don’t think that the music is the right media for it. But anyway I think that politics, music and life can never be separate. No matter what you do, it’s in a way political as it influences others and therefore the world. For example the fact that in my projects I make music far away from the mainstream expresses my resistance to conformity and sheepness. By creating long songs, I am in opposition to the super fast capitalistic advertisement lifestyle of these days where everything is fast, bright and blinking. I know what I am telling now is not really happening consciously, but that’s how art normally happens.

Anyway, I certainly don’t see my music as celebration of myself. I don’t like arrogance, for example, as arrogance is just a result of narrow mindedness and in most cases of inferiority complexes. For me, it’s completely clear that if I were living in a different time or in a different place my music might not be known at all, or even I might not ever have started making music while others that are totally unknown might now be the well-known ones.

Quorthon of Bathory refers to his music as “atmospheric heavy metal.” What does atmospheric composition offer that the world of rock music, jazz, blues or techno cannot?

For me the question is not atmospheric versus concrete music, but electronic music versus “handmade” music but I think those two differences are related to each other.

Real handmade music like jazz or metal music is more a kind of music that’s made for the musician but it’s not so much composer oriented. Lots of the musical elements you hear there are the result of presenting your abilities as musicians rather than a product of your musical mind. Let’s take super fast double bass drums or super fast progressive guitar solos. Such things cause thoughts like “wow, what a great guy, a true hero, how can he move his feet/fingers so fast,” but they are very often not meant to be a serious musical idea. With electronic music it makes no sense to play super fast double bass drums for example, as this will not impress anyone. You can increase the tempo of any drum endlessly so that the speed of the drums is nothing challenging; the same goes to super fast melody lines. Therefore the challenge of music based on electronic devices can never be to show your bodily abilities, so the ability for composing music is the only thing that remains. All those elements like the slow tempo, the repeating loops, the lack of tempo or bar changes is a result of that electronic aproach and way of thinking.

Do you believe music should be mimetic, or reflect what’s found in life, or ludic, and show a playfulness with life that encourages us to experience it in depth? Do the two ever cross over?

Well, it’s obvious that my music belongs to a style that does not reflect real life. I think both approaches are OK and necessary, but I prefer to use music as something that’s in contrast to normal life. We have real life all the time so I don’t see the need to deal with real life in music as well. Modern technological times are pure logic and quite sober so I think especially in these times completely unreal music is more necessary than ever before. I can imagine that if I were to live in the medieval times where thoughts of people were controlled by religions and mystic beliefs far away from the logical mind, I might would try to make music for real life, but as this is not the case there is no need for that.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

I don’t really think in that distinction.

In the past I got quite angry when all of those conservative classical musicians told the people what’s good, serious and intelligent music, and what’s low, entertaining music. Anything that did not wholly match the strict classical rules of the centuries before was just stupid entertainment, and specifically metal was just some noise for them that makes people stupid. So I associate this distinction very much with conservative arrogance that was always the enemy to metal music. I think all kind of music must be entertaining! Sure the word entertaining has a negative sound, but I mean more that music must cause some kind of fire in your soul, make your heart beat faster or slower, make you shiver, cry or scream depending on the musical style. Anything that really moves the heart must be for me the basic of any music. If there is ever music that people just listen to with a pseudo-intellectual face just to show off with their musical high education but without any passion inside, I would recommend them to stop listening to music because its a waste of time in their cases.

You’ve just released a new Ice Ages album. What’s next — will there be a tour, or are you already at work on new projects?

Due to the long unwanted rest, I had some years before I could not fulfil many musical ideas I had in mind, and now that I am able again to make music I feel all this creativity come back to me in a super mighty fast way. This is the reason why, unlike usual, after a release I am still able to work on songs and don’t need a rest. I already made a new Ice Ages song and seven Summoning song fragments, and am waiting for my co-member to complete them. So I don’t think that the next releases will take a very long time if a serious tragedy doesn’t happen.

I am never focused on tours. With Summoning we don’t play live at all, but with Ice Ages, I gave a concert in Romania (for example) but there are no new concerts planned to far.

In fact, it is absolutely impossible to make out by experience with complete certainty a single case in which the maxim of an action, however right in itself, rested simply on moral grounds and on the conception of duty. Sometimes it happens that with the sharpest self-examination we can find nothing beside the moral principle of duty which could have been powerful enough to move us to this or that action and to so great a sacrifice; yet we cannot from this infer with certainty that it was not really some secret impulse of self-love, under the false appearance of duty, that was the actual determining cause of the will. We like them to flatter ourselves
by falsely taking credit for a more noble motive; whereas in fact we can never, even by the strictest examination, get completely behind the secret springs of action; since, when the question is of moral worth, it is not with the actions which we see that we are concerned, but with those inward principles of them which we do not see.

- Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

Thanks to Protector for an informative interview. You can discover his work here:

Summoning
Ice Ages

Classical Music for Metalheads

July 10, 2008 –
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Classical music offers what everyone secretly wishes metal would: an unbroken cultural tradition untamed by the modern whore, untouchable by the mediocre tools who seem to thrive in our industrial cities.

Here’s a few favorites:

1. Brahms, Johannes – Get your Romanticism on. Flowing, diving, surging passages which storm through tyrannical opposition to reach some of the most Zen states ever put to music. 4 Symph. (2CD)

2. Respighi, Ottorino – Italian music is normally inconsequential. This has an ancient feeling, a sense of weight that can only be borne out in an urge to reconquest the present with the past. Pines, Birds, Fountains of Rome

3. Saint-Saens, Camille – Like DeBussy, but with a much wider range, this modernist Romantic rediscovers all that is worth living in the most warlike and bleak of circumstances. Symph. 3

4. Bruckner, Anton – Writing symphonic music in the spirit of Wagner, Bruckner makes colossal caverns of sound which evolve to a sense of great spiritual contemplation, the first “heaviness” on record.Romantic Symphony

5. Schubert, Franz – A sense of power emerging from darkness, and a clarity coming from looking into the halls of eternity, as translated by the facile hand of a composer who wrote many great pieces before dying young. Symph. 8 & 9

6. Paganini, Niccolo – Perhaps the original Hessian, this long-haired virtuoso wore white face paint, had a rumored deal with the devil, and made short often violent pieces that made people question their lives and their churches. 24 Caprices

AVERSE SEFIRA live in Los Angeles

July 6, 2008 –
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Saturday, September 6, 2008

AVERSE SEFIRA (http://www.aversesefira.com/)
Necrite (http://www.myspace.com/necrite)
Blashyrkh (http://www.myspace.com/blashyrkhofficial)
Ancient Grave (http://www.myspace.com/ancientgrave)

@ The Black Castle / 855 W. Manchester / LA, CA 90044 (http://www.myspace.com/theblackcastleusa)

New Burzum album

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In 1992 Vikernes under the artist name Burzum released his first album. Now he has plans to release his seventh. The last album came in 1999. In addition, he finished writing the script for his autobiography. “It will work out a few new details about the killings,” he said, “which were never focused on before. But I will wait to tell the story in completion.”

Seventh Burzum Album in the Works

I love MP3s

July 4, 2008 –
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MP3s are an invitation to try before you buy. If you’re like me, and everyone I deem to be a good person and so desire as a friend, you listen for months or years and then you buy the CD when you can — if it’s available, which in metal is far from guaranteed.

Periodically, on a rainy afternoon, I go through the music as I do mindless tasks like fixing scripts and HTML. These mindless tasks are perfect because they put me in an ornery mood, at which point I have no tolerance for music that is more annoyance than beauty. Even ugliness can be beautiful in the hands of an artist — watch Apocalypse Now if you don’t believe me, or listen to the “defeat” sections of Beethoven’s third symphony. I’m not responsible for your tears that make you look like a girly man.

But it’s the right mood to consider something you might listen to for years in the context of a high annoyance situation like mindless tasks. It’s like being tired at the end of a day: you say exactly what you mean, uncensored. With music, you get in touch with exactly how little you care about stuff far from what you want, even if normally you’d be feeling obligated to listen to it because it’s musically advanced, some critic likes it, all your friends like it, etc.

I’ve been rooting out some turds. I take no joy in this, but I take great joy in having them gone. That’s less of my time thrown down a black hole of dysfunction and disorganization, the two creators of really bad music or worse — music that is halfway to bad, so completely ambiguous in its presentation. Most people are so cowed by the social factors mentioned above that they keep listening, bovine erotic, and never manage to articulate their own voice or even a moment’s sense and say, “Actually, this doesn’t suck, but it’s not good enough to fascinate me, so why not throw it out, with last year’s failed relationship and my old textbooks from classes I hated and my tax documents?” Get the crap out of your life and you have space for new things to do.

Arsis – A Diamond for Disease

Oh no, it’s the whisper-voiced rushing death/black assault. After a promising intro, and forty seconds of two-chord jazz-inspired rhythm riffing, suddenly we get the synthesized whisper and a break to a guitar fill that sounds like it’s from the book of minor pentatonic scale variations commonly used by jazz/fusion bands to distract audiences from that moment when an overblown, pretentious song really begins to fuckin’ drag… and that’s what this EP does, except at high speed. The problem is that there’s no concentration on songs or ideas as a whole, so you get these budget riffs made all technical and then little diversions, but nothing ever comes into its own. Nice try guys, but next time, use notecards to organize and concentrate on having a song make a difference to the listener, not just teach them fret muting technique.