Earlier this year, independent music distribution platform Bandcamp claimed that many stoner rock bands are in fact doom metal. This is a common logical fallacy based around associating the pace and instrumental tone of the music with actual musical content. The stoner “doom” trend of bands that started in the late 90s and early 2000s and has continued non-stop right up until the present almost twenty years later was one of the earliest hipster attempts to assimilate heavy metal before the waves of speed, death, and now black metal aesthetics rehashed into pop rock for the safe space generation.
These random, gimped releases are held in high regard by high-pitched “metal” critics and core pogo stickers. The Death Metal Underground staff takes it upon themselves to scorn and defile them in the name of all that is good in the metal genre.
As part of our ongoing series of heavy metal topics, or rather the ideas that are the cause of the effect of choosing to make music that sounds like machinery re-enacting medieval warfare, we look into the isolation of modern humans.
Let us begin through the eyes of W.H. Auden (as suggested by M.J.):
The Unknown Citizen
(To JS/07 M 378
This Marble Monument
Is Erected by the State)
He was found by the Bureau of Statistics to be
One against whom there was no official complaint,
And all the reports on his conduct agree
That, in the modern sense of an old-fashioned word, he was a saint,
For in everything he did he served the Greater Community.
Except for the War till the day he retired
He worked in a factory and never got fired,
But satisfied his employers, Fudge Motors Inc.
Yet he wasn’t a scab or odd in his views,
For his Union reports that he paid his dues,
(Our report on his Union shows it was sound)
And our Social Psychology workers found
That he was popular with his mates and liked a drink.
The Press are convinced that he bought a paper every day
And that his reactions to advertisements were normal in every way.
Policies taken out in his name prove that he was fully insured,
And his Health-card shows he was once in hospital but left it cured.
Both Producers Research and High-Grade Living declare
He was fully sensible to the advantages of the Instalment Plan
And had everything necessary to the Modern Man,
A phonograph, a radio, a car and a frigidaire.
Our researchers into Public Opinion are content
That he held the proper opinions for the time of year;
When there was peace, he was for peace: when there was war, he went.
He was married and added five children to the population,
Which our Eugenist says was the right number for a parent of his generation.
And our teachers report that he never interfered with their education.
Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd:
Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard.
Then let us turn to the poets of modern dissatisfaction, thrash band Dirty Rotten Imbeciles, first with the second song on their first LP, “Commuter Man”:
I play Pac-Man and I watch T. V.
I’m so happy ’cause it pleases me
I couldn’t really ask for anything else
Maybe my own chain of Taco Bells
I’m perfectly happy right where I am
I could live forever in a traffic jam
It doesn’t really bother me to breath the poison air
I’d choke anyway, I don’t really care
Sometimes I think about getting away for a while
But when I return I will be out of style
You may say I’m not an ambitious man
But let me tell you I’ve got some plans
Like there’s a new car I wanna buy
And a video cassette recorder yet I’m not sure why
I wanna get married and have three kids
‘Cause I’m lonely and I’ve got the hard dick
Then detouring to a track from Four of a Kind:
Suit and tie guy
With his fashion phases
And his quarterly raises
Feels he’s better than you and me
Suit and tie guy
Thinks he’s real cute
In the bathroom for a toot
Until his nose starts to bleed
Suit and tie guy
I see he always hurries
I know he always worries
He’s gonna die of a heart attack
Suit and tie guy
On his way to feeding
Or an important meeting
Just like a car on a track
Suit and tie guy
He travels between stations
With certain destinations
Never varying from that routine
Suit and tie guy
And he’ll tell you in one word
That he is insured
And it’s not as bad as it may seem
Then, to cap it off, a venture into the world of later Black Sabbath with their acidic (from Born Again) anthem “Zero the Hero”:
Accept the fact that you’re second rate life is easy for you
It’s all served up on a gold plated plate
And we don’t even have to talk to you
Your face is normal that’s the way you’re bred
And that’s the way you’re going to stay
Your head is firmly nailed to your TV channel
But someone else’s finger’s on the control panel
What you gonna be brother – Zero the hero
Don’t you wanna be brother – Zero the hero
When you gonna be brother – Zero the hero
Impossibility impissibolity mother really a hero
You sit there watch it all burn down
It’s easy and breezy for you
You play your life to a different sound
No edge no edge you got no knife have you
Your life is a six lane highway to nowhere
You’re going so fast you’re never ever gonna get down there
Where the heroes sit by the river
With a magic in their music as they eat raw liver
You stand there captain we all look
You really are mediocre
You are the champion in the Acme form book
But I think you’re just a joker
Your freedom life ain’t so much of a pity
But the luv-a-duckin’ way you’re walkin’ around
The city with your balls and your head full of nothing
It’s easy for you sucker but you really need stuffing
What do we see here?
“Good” things such as freedom, commerce, love and self-gratification shown as a path to emptiness, heat death of the inner self and entropy of the mind.
“Bad” things that we fear such as discomfort, risk, danger and violence as having an appeal as getting us out of the purported “good” state.
In the end, a species sprawling in excess and writhing in misery, unable to articulate this because it requires going against public opinion.
Sounds about right.
The inaugural September installation of Shadow Woods Metal Fest, the new mid-Atlantic, open-air, camping-based metal fest, has moved slightly Southeast, from its initial placement in Southern Pennsylvania to White Hall, in Harford County, Maryland.
Set to take place September 25th – 27th, 2015, the new location of Shadow Woods Metal Fest is similar to the previous site, with deep woods, cabins and tent camping fields, yet is slightly closer to both Baltimore and Philadelphia, making it even more accessible to East Coast metallers planning on attending the diverse three-day festival. The more intimate setup of the new camp is equipped with several cabins, modern plumbing bathrooms, a professional kitchen, a lodge building, and access to a river, as well as an indoor stage.
Since initial announcements, Menace Ruine dropped from the lineup and was replaced by Black Table, yet the remainder of the Shadow Woods Metal Fest lineup remains the same, including lead performances from Midnight, Falls of Rauros, Occultation, Velnias, Iron Man, Anagnorisis, The Flight of Sleipnir and Stone Breath, along with twenty-six additional acts. The fest is also likely to be the first live performance for the surviving members of Wormreich since their tragic vehicle crash in April. The gathering showcases underground black, doom, death, and noise and experimental metal bands on two alternating stages all day Friday and Saturday. Camping and workshops on topics such as runes, guitar maintenance, yoga and more will be offered and are included in the ticket price. Artists and record labels will be vending alongside several onsite food stands.
There will be ZERO ticket sales at the gate for Shadow Woods Metal Fest– advance presales to those 21 years of age and older is the only way into the fest, and is still BYOB. Cabin beds are now included in the ticket price but are limited to first-come first-served. There is a list you can sign up on mentioned in the private group. There are only 350 tickets in total, and half of those tickets have been sold.
Additionally, the Shadow Woods Metal Fest website has been redesigned to include a store — including a new poster for the event designed by Fred Grabosky of Sadgiqacea. — as well as the newly-launched Shadow Woods Radio, showcasing artists set to perform at the festival. Check it all out RIGHT HERE.
SHADOW WOODS METAL FEST 2015 Alphabetical Lineup:
- Anagnorisis (Louisville, KY – black metal)
- Anicon (New York, NY – black metal)
- Ashagal (New Hope, PA – ritual folk)
- Black Table (NYC/NJ – experimental metal)
- Bridesmaid (Columbus, OH – instrumental doom-sludge)
- Cladonia Rangiferina (VA – ritual black metal, doom, acid rock)
- Dendritic Arbor (Pittsburgh, PA – black metal / powerviolence)
- Destroying Angel (Philadelphia, PA – folk music for exorcisms)
- Dreadlords (Philadelphia, PA – ritual black metal blues)
- Dweller In The Valley (Frederick, MD – black, death, doom)
- Existentium (Baltimore, MD – melodic technical death metal)
- Falls of Rauros (Portland, ME – folk/atmospheric black metal)
- Fin (Chicago, IL – black metal; unsigned)
- Heavy Temple (Philadelphia, PA – psychedelic doom)
- Hivelords (Philadelphia, PA – experimental psychedelic black doom)
- Immortal Bird (Chicago, IL – black/death metal)
- Iron Man (MD – doom metal/heavy rock)
- Midnight (Cleveland, Ohio – black heavy metal)
- Molasses Barge (Pittsburgh, PA – traditional doom metal)
- Occultation (New York, NY – doom metal)
- Oneirogen (New York, NY – dark, doom, drone)
- Psalm Zero (New York, NY – experimental black doom)
- Sentience (Woodland Park, NJ – death metal)
- Slagstorm (Hagerstown, MD – prehistoric doom thrash)
- Snakefeast (Baltimore, MD – jazz metal sludge)
- Stone Breath (Red Lion, PA – experimental folk)
- The Black Moriah (Dallas/Fort Worth, TX – Western occult black/thrash)
- The Day of the Beast (Virginia Beach, VA – blackened death metal)
- The Expanding Man (Baltimore, MD – solo improvisational electronic soundscapes)
- The Flight of Sleipnir (Denver, CO – black metal)
- The Owls Are Not What They Seem (York, PA – experimental ritual soundscapes)
- Tyrant’s Hand (Baltimore, MD – deathened black metal)
- Unsacred (Richmond, VA – savage black metal)
- Velnias (Denver, CO – blackened folk/doom metal)
- Wormreich (Huntsville, AL & Nashville, TN – black metal)
- ZUD (Portland, ME – bluesy outlaw black metal)
What is the human problem? Everything we do is insincere, and any time someone rises above that standard, they are torn down out of the fear that their excellence might offend those who are mediocre, who (conveniently) comprise the majority of humanity. We separate mediocre conformity from people who make realistic, sincere and inspired art out of heavy metal genres, and ignore the blood on the floor and the tears on the fedora because feelings are always less important than truth. Step over the bodies of hipsters, poseurs, tryhards, SJWs, scenesters, day trippers, rationalization hamsters and sell-outs, and welcome to Sadistic Metal Reviews…
Torche – Restarter
What is sludge? It is what failed in other forms slowing itself down and mixing metal into its techniques in order to disguise that it has failed. If you tuned the guitars up, played it at mid-pace and avoiding the metal downstroke technique, Torche would be just another indie rock band in the late 90s style. The focus is on melancholic but egotistical vocal lines which are almost autistic and certainly narcissistic (and aren’t the two degrees of the same problem, which is exclusive self-referentiality?) in their tendency to confirm their precepts with their conclusions, backed by lots of downstrummed guitars and slow drums. In the 1990s, labels tried this style with Fudge Tunnel and later even Godflesh got in the game, but went nowhere, because people could realize the basic “Nirvana + doom” formula used back then. The formula now is even more basic. It is indie rock with metal technique and nothing else. Much of this sounds like outtakes from a Filter or Faith No More album, but updated with the kind of simplistic approach that became popular when music videos faded and became incorporated into mainstream cinema instead. This would be great background music for teenagers smoking dope by the old reservoir or similarly pointless rebellion that ends with them just getting locked into the system harder. This music is a fraud and its fans are idiots.
Armageddon – Captivity & Devourment
The title refers to the album itself: it lures you in with the promise of extreme metal, then subjects you to the 80s speed metal/nu-metal/melodeath hybrid cooked up by music industry executives looking over Excel spreadsheets of sales successes, or maybe just opportunistic musicians. Either way, most of our species are simple-minded idiots and this music panders to them with lots of Pantera/Meshuggah style violent verses and binary riffs that sort of wiggle around in the space between two points, ending symmetrically on the opposite note from the one that resolves the first half of the phrase. Lots of e-chord rhythm riffing in this style combines randomly with other influences and creates an end result that is not quite as blatantly distracting “carnival music” as Behemoth but more like heavy metal featured in movies: it sounds good when the solo kicks in, but the rest is lead-up to that with industrial music style vocals disguised as metal, and random riffs fleshing out what are otherwise pop songs whose parts barely relate to one another. For all the instrumental prowess of this band, they seem to have no idea what to write, and it shows in this amalgam of label darlings lashed together with rhythm for the brain-damaged.
Vermis Mortem – Evil Never Dies
The intro to this EP is pointless and should be deleted for being both without purpose and annoying. What follows is very closed-circuit death metal in a style like Angelcorpse merged with Hate Eternal and older Death, which is to say a very modern style, that emphasizes the vocals which lead songs through some rather stereotypical and extremely balanced and basic riffs. The result is painful boredom unless you like the vocals, which enunciate and jump around like a performer at a Shakespeare revival in the park, but this over-acting does not save us from the musical tedium of this release. It is catchy, its rhythms are compelling, but it develops nowhere. Vocal rhythms are obvious like children’s rhymes and riffs represent streamlined versions of what has worked well in the past 20 years, but in this streamlining, the parts of the riff that gave its shape interesting dimension are removed, and we are left with a three-part puzzle with no mystery. Burden a riff like that with the duty to provide support for vocals which are blurting out similarly quasi-catchy patterns and the result is a song which seems to chant in unison the most simplistic elements it has in common, and the listener is back in pop territory where repetition becomes a bludgeon and even small variations seem exciting. For as much as this band wants to be old school, its reliance on the ego — the vocals — forces it into surface-level composition and obliterates whatever of depth it may have hoped to express.
Pentagram – Relentless
We can all agree that 90% of everything on earth is crap and that most people are merely self-interested, meaning that there is no greater dimension to them, and as they tend to be incompetent they become the type of parasite that takes everything for itself and then destroys it, left blaming others for its “misfortune.” Most people behave this way and because they are somewhat aware of this, they seek material to camouflage their mediocrity with irony, novelty and other “different” and “unique” signals. These signals allow them to defer criticism by showing how they aren’t like the rest, which is a way of saying they are afraid we will find out that they are exactly like the rest. Pentagram has become somewhat of a media favorite and a crowd favorite mainly because it is not metal. This is straight out of the 1960s rock explosion, focused on melodic hooks in chorus and voice acting on the verses. They even made a movie about this band and its strung out vocalist, as if trying to make Pentagram into the doom metal version of Roky Erikson. The problem here is that Pentagram is a step back to before Black Sabbath but uses the muted strum of speed metal and the detuning of a heavy metal band, although its songs really have more in common with the previous generation. Beware of what the herd likes because they are liars trying to conceal their mediocrity, and this applies doubly with Pentagram. This band would not have gone far as a regular rock band but if you add the novelty factor of doom metal plus Satan-ish overtones, people are interested. Stoner doom metal is generally a fraud that disguises failed rock as innovative metal, and Pentagram is no exception. The herd lies and it will destroy anything it can control in its desperate quest to hide its own lack of soul, integrity and purpose. Throw this band in the ditch with the other 60s burnouts and move on to real, actual metal instead.
Acid King – Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Heavy metal grew out of many influences including psychedelic music. The challenge to psychedelic music is to make sound that induces hallucinogenic experience in sober people, not to create music which appeals only to the very stoned with cover art that looks good next to a bag of Cheetos. Like most stoner rock, Acid King is a fraud: basically slow jam rock with heavy distortion played with a few aesthetic elements of doom metal, but essentially unchanged from the 1970s jive that sent people fleeing to heavy metal in the first place. This is boring music played slowly to disguise how little actually goes on. A female vocal drones alongside a rock-style riff, with no “shape” as metal riffs have, and then guitars wheedle-beedle and zeetly-zeetly-zeet after prolonged “melodic” solo introductions that are merely repetitive. If you are very high, preferably on the higher grade of cheap weed that deactivates all higher brain function except what is required to order pizza and play NES ironically, you may find this appealing because it is sonically well-formed and texturally distinctive enough. But there is no meaning here, nor even a really good distraction, which tends to be the case with all stoner doom (which we might as well be honest and call “nu-doom” or “nu-heavy” metal).
Eternal Solstice – Remnants of Immortality
What a horror: death metal styling applied like vinyl siding to what is essentially hard rock with an addiction to uniform conclusions and obvious riff forms. It is just blockhead, paint-by-numbers death metal. At this point, nothing more needs be said except to mention the electronic vocals, which would not be a problem except they sound like a bad American crime show where the bad guy uses a voice disguiser bought from Radio Shack back in the 1970s to hide his identity when calling over a pay phone. The style alone would not doom this band, if they could simply make hard rock in the heavier vein somewhere between early Motley Crue and later Pantera, but their music is just boring. No harmonic or melodic hook exists, and the rhythmic hook consists of the same type of expectation that comes from waiting for the person in the apartment above to drop the second shoe on the floor before retiring to bed for the night. Sometimes, bands like this get miscalled “heavy” because they are numbing through repetition and sheer simplistic mentality to their riff-writing, and Eternal Solstice qualifies in this department. What drives you to listen to this band is the quasi-OCD that people on the internet talk about, which is that if there is a basic sequence of events, you want to see it completed. Other than that, no appeal, and this one should go back to the pits of hell for recycling.
Recueil Morbide – Morbid Collection
Recueil Morbide takes the fertile music of the late 1980s where bands verged on death metal from speed metal and adds to it a sense of melody and modern metal vocals. The result attempts to fuse the Unique Leader style of brutal deathcore with melodeath and come out with a good result, which this band mostly does, but is limited by the demands of the style that it keep within one level of cause and effect, resulting in pounding riffs and soaring melodic passages being used as effects in otherwise fairly straightforward death metal songs. That is distinct from the classic death metal approach which used structure to express content, instead of doing so on the surface where structure was recombinant and vocals, lyrics, effects, etc. were required to make an impression on the listener. Too much of Recueil Morbide takes the same approach and the result is that meaning and interest — what distinguishes this band from all others — are left on the surface with a feeling of being unexplored. If this band wants to succeed, they will focus less on the stuff everyone else does and more on what they do, taking it from 10% of this album to a much higher figure. As a side note, the melodies that this band writes sound like variations on the James Bond theme, which happens several times on this release. Maybe it’s an allusion.
Znafelriff – Ruin
Creating melodic death/black with simple song structures, Znafelriff uses a number of influences along these lines — “Ruin” borrows quite a bit from “Mountains of Might” from Immortal Blizzard Beasts — to forge together music which keeps charging energy high but never intensifies the energy itself, leading to a kind of circularity. Songs start, launch into a riff, add a counterpoint riff, and then cycle until they wear down. When the band wants more power, they add blasting drums and more extreme vocals; for emotion, they work in melody. Many parts of this resemble early Tormentor given a death metal makeover. While nothing is particularly wrong here, it leaves no particular impression either since songs are exercises in maintaining a mood rather than developing it, and the style is a semi-unique mix of standard influences resulting in a genericism of low expectations. If this band wants to move further toward excellent, it should rely less on vocals and more on combining riffs to create a focal point at which atmosphere shifts, and to make that atmosphere resemble something other than a vague uncertainty, darkness and rage.
Nader Sadek – The Malefic: Chapter III
When I first heard this artist, I thought: someone attempting to make something of the Hate Eternal style, itself a smart move by Eric Tucker which tried to harness the appeal of modern metal through a style that still retained the coherence of older metal. The problem artists deal with is that this style brooks no compromise. It demands constant charging vocals ahead of the drums with insistent patterns and those lead the song, which crowds out other instruments as lead, which demotes guitar to a secondary role and thus demotes melody and structure as well, in favor of relatively monotonic vocals. Guitars appear as adornments to this basic style, which is closer to pop than heavy metal, but when the detour is over the ranting vocals resume. This forces the band to cram its best activities into relatively small areas of each song. Nader Sadek struggles with this impossible burden as well. It is simply paradoxical. The interesting parts of these songs are the little transitions and flights of fancy between the “hard” verse riffs with charging vocals and the parts of the solos that are designed to be fireworks for a “wow factor” with the mouth-breathing, fetus-hands and neck-bearded audience. Can’t some label give this artist enough money that he can write songs based on those interesting parts, instead of the parts which we know the herd will clap its little hands without forearms for? The style betrays the artist.
Ossuaire – “Le Troubadour Necrophageophile” (demo 2014)
For that feeling of old school mid-paced death metal, Ossuaire makes a credible stab: good riff variation, songs fit together well, but with too much emphasis on vocals and not enough on structure, and often too much reliance on riffs that make their hook out of brief interruption of utter predictability. Those disadvantages are minor compared to the overall appeal of this brief recording which is its ability to keep intensity in a death metal style without relying on crutches, and while maintaining a character of its own, somewhere between old Morgoth, Infester and later Suffocation. The challenge for this band will not be to develop its own style, although it will want to go further in that direction, but to edit its material so that it presents its most dramatic elements at the right time after the right build-up, and so creates the kind of mood-shifting experience that made classic death metal great. All of the parts are there and the execution rapidly approaches that place; it would be aided with less reliance on the vocalist, which as many classic death metal bands found out, results in lessening of the influence of other instruments which bends composition back toward the rock/pop standard, which is designed as background music for vocals which exist to blurt out some message of peacelove or happiness, which was generally the point of rock ‘n roll. Ossuaire have done well to escape that, but if they do better, can be a top-flight death metal band.
Keep of Kalessin – Epistemology
This band went from being a bad black metal imitation to being a thinly-disguised modern metal band that uses melodic choruses to hide its otherwise bog-standard post-Pantera speed metal approach. Their “black metal” combined boring tryhard blasting with purposeless folk-metal styling and fooled a number of people, most notably the clueless NWN/FMP crowd, but apparently eventually the market caught up with them and started over-producing sing-song black metal so Keep of Kalessin switched to what could easily fit into the MTV hard rock of the late 80s with a stylistic upgrade to be contemporary. The melodic hooks are adequate but of well-known forms, and verses emphasize some kind of drama to distract from the underlying purposelessness, and the songs progress according to the formula of friendly verse, dramatic chorus, a brief bridge with noodly solo and then return to the loop. This formula appears in all rock, techno, blues, etc. and serves its purpose well for being background music to the unexceptional lives of the many people out there who, unwilling to step beyond the bounds of self to escape narcissism, flit from one distraction to the next without caring much about content. For anyone with a functional brain or any listening experience, Keep of Kalessin rings hollow and seems as commercial as it secretly is underneath the skin. It would be more honest to pick up an old Def Leppard album where these riff patterns and song forms are crafted with more conviction, and the nature of the music does not have to hide itself behind pretense, subterfuge and illusion.
The Basic Needs compilation of New England metal and hardcore punk bands can be heard online and purchased on cassette for those who wish to own a physical copy. Promoted by the shadowy forces behind Codex Obscurum zine, Basic Needs contains fourteen tracks of varied material from almost as many different bands, so it makes sense to review them by track.
- Sagnus – “Gaspipe”
This track starts off in a death metal vein but rapidly descends into bluesy heavy metal with updated technique like At the Gates Slaughter of the Soul. Nicely compact with no surprises but also no random or pointless bits, it fades out into noise.
- Human Bodies – “Stygian Reverie”
Very much in the tradition of older hardcore but with black metal styled vocals, this Human Bodies track puts a new face on a familiar riff style and adds a Discharge-like chaotic solo, but otherwise sticks to fairly standard song form but keeps energy high.
- PanzerBastard – “Workhorse”
Essentially d-beat hardcore, complete with broken rhythms and surging double-hit riffs, this song showcases high energy with emphasis on vocalizations.
- Sexcrement – “Chemical Handcuffs”
This track starts off as pounding death metal but detours into a hard rock/heavy metal number that shows the band setting up a groove and more internal harmony, which actually makes the chromatic passages seem less intense.
- Suffer on Acid – “Ride the Light”
Raging high-intensity hardcore from the “blurcore” style that emerged when the punk stalwarts confronted the horror of post-hardcore, Suffer on Acid creates music from fast simple riffs with exasperated shouting over the top. This track begins with a Black Sabbath style introduction riff that sets a mood to be destroyed which it is, amiably, by a thrash-style burst of collisive riffing and a classic hardcore punk extended chorus riff.
- Living Void – “Auxiliary Conspiracy”
Writing in the fast style of death metal that bands like Deteriorate and Nokturnel pioneered before Angelcorpse, Living Void charge ahead with a series of quality riffs but then slow things up for a trudge/groove passage. The former strikes more than the latter.
- Suffer on Acid – “Terminal”
Much in the style of the former track, “Terminal” relies more on vocal rhythmic hook and uses a standoffish groove more than burst but fits in lots of vocal rage and fast classic hardcore riffs to match.
- Living Void – “Categorizing Woe”
This track starts with a doom metal promenade, then drops into trope of muted downstroke before bursting into high energy speeding death metal complete with blast beats and ripping choruses, the detouring into a darker and more black metal styled cycle.
- Ramlord – “Distant/Detach”
At its heart, this track is older speed metal updated with death metal stylings to give it energy and more fluid transitions, but falls back into trope rhythm of vocals/drums in which the guitars drop like an interchangeable part. Some interesting black metal styled melodic work later in the track.
- Grue – “All Mortal Greatness is Disease”
Beginning as a sentimental heavy metal/melodic black metal track in the Eucharist or Dawn variety, but then diverges into a chanted delivery of later Bathory-styled vocals over trudging rhythm riffs alternated with fast melodic hardcore riffing.
- Word of Unmaking – “In the Crypt of Dead Values”
A Tangerine Dream style dronescape peppered with acoustic guitars and vocal samples, this track develops from linear into cyclic and recedes, leaving behind a homeostatic hint of atmosphere, then expands into a funeral doom track with articulated riffs like those from early Ceremonium.
- Fórn – “Dasein”
What’s with all the Heidegger worship recently? This sludgy doom metal track follows the Winter model of slong grinding chord progressions with lots of fills from noise and vocals, changing riffs relatively frequently over this nine-minute track.
- Morne – “Coming of Winter”
Sounding like a heavier version of Pelican, this band creates droning indie-influenced doom metal with heavy stoner doom elements and a hoarse plaintive vocal.
Of unusually high quality for a local compilation, Basic Needs shows a wide variety of the more promising bands in New England. Living Void, Word of Unmaking and Suffer on Acid strike me as the standouts which interest me in investigating further but there were no complete dead moments.
For a short book that you can finish in an afternoon, Extreme Metal by Joel McIver packs a great density of information of unusual breadth into this deceptively simple volume. Comprised of brief introductions and then combination profile, history and review of the major works of each band, this book applies a flexible strategy to information and dishes out more on the more important bands but refuses to leave out essential minor ones.
McIver released two versions of this book: an original (2000) and this update (2005). With each edition, the book gains more factual information and the writing kicks it up a notch. I first read Extreme Metal I shortly after it came out in a bookstore and noted how some of the writing was boxy and distant, but how (thankfully) it did not drop into the hipster habit of insider lingo and extensive pointless imagery. In Extreme Metal II, McIver writes according to the journalistic standards of the broader media and skips over the conventions of music journalism and especially metal journalism which are less stringent. If there is an Extreme Metal III, the language will be even more streamlined and relaxed.
A good book on metal includes not only information but interpretations; all books filter by what their authors think is important, and one of the strengths of Extreme Metal is its ability to zoom in on not just the larger bands but a number of smaller ones that contributed to the growth of the genre. With each of these bands, McIver presents the information as relevant to a metal fan interested in learning the genre but also in hearing the best of its music. After an introduction by Mille Petrozza of Kreator, Extreme Metal launches into a brief history and afterward is essentially band profiles in alphabetical order. McIver includes all of the big names that one must include especially in any book that wishes to have commercial success, but devotes a fair amount of time to focus on the underground and the odd details that complete its story. He displays a canny instinct for rooting out the important, even if obscure, and relating it to the progress of the genre as a whole.
Written in a conversational but professional style, the book unloads a large amount of information with a low amount of stress and reads much like an extended magazine article covering the growth of the extreme metal genres. Depending on what sub-genres a listener enjoys, parts of the book will be skimmed, much as some Hessians glaze over whenever anything related to nu-metal emerges. McIver displays the instincts of a metal listener and refuses to sugar-coat his opinions, but does not drift into the trendy internet sweetness-and-acid diatribes that afflict those who rage at the excesses of the underground. Instead, the book assumes that its readers are open-minded enough to listen to any good heavy metal and tries to dig out the best of it, even if those standards need to expand when nu-metal or metalcore float by.
Massacra was a French ‘neo-classical death metal’ band and was formed in 1986. Three demos landed them a deal with Shark Records from Germany and later, the major label Phonogram. However, the band was put on hold in 1997 when a founding member, Fred Duval, died of skin cancer at only 29. Some members of the band formed an industrial band, Zero Tolerance, and released an album on the Active label.
Recommended Album: Final Holocaust (Shark, 1990)
Among the truckloads of paper published since Lords of Chaos convinced the industry that money could be made in books about underground metal, Extreme Metal distinguishes itself by being open-minded and yet straight to the point. Most books pass over perceived minor bands like Massacra, Autumn Leaves and Onslaught, but this book fits them into context and explains their relevance in a way that is both enjoyable and informative. While major bands like Metallica will always get more coverage, here McIver works to tie his write-ups of those bands in with traits of other bands who both helped make that success happen and carried it forward.
McIver has gone on to write other books including a best-seller about Metallica, a biography of Max Cavalera of Sepultura, retrospectives of Motorhead and Black Sabbath, a band history of Cannibal Corpse and most recently, a book about alternative band Rage Against the Machine. He demonstrates comfort at every level of above-ground and underground bands, but his instinct as a fan makes him a writer worth reading as he tears through metal, sorting the entropy from the growth. While one can write about underground metal to any depth, Extreme Metal strikes the right balance of information and expediency and produces an excellent first step for any fan or researcher looking into these sub-genres of heavy metal.
History reveals little about Nidhogg, the musician known for his contributions to Ildjarn, Sort Vokter and Ildjarn–Nidhogg. These projects, while initially rejected by an increasingly faddish black metal “scene,” quickly gained fans for their use of elegant short melodies within ambient songs of abrasive noise fused with aggressive Oi rhythms and black metal riffs.
Using short songs structured around the transitions of song inspired by lyrics, Nidhogg creates albums that immerse the listener in a dark world of excitement: like the primeval forest come alive, this music pulses with the poetry of life in the wild. It embraces the world as a living organism in the pre-Christian tradition and brings out the fierce natural instinct for survival and power as well as the ambiguous lack of safety inherent to the frontier. Expansive and transcendent, like all good black metal from the Norse tradition, it transports the listener away from a failed functionalist time into a mindset of possibility and exuberant cosmic exploration.
Much of black metal would benefit from seeing into the mind of this primal artist concerning his contributions to the aforementioned nature-metal projects and his own artistic endeavors. Read on for the thoughts of one of the last embodiments of a genuine black metal mentality…
How did you first meet Ildjarn, the person?
Me and Ildjarn met when starting secondary scool at Bø Gymnas, Telemark in 1988. We had the same interest in metal and started hanging out together and experimenting musically in different directions in the basement at Akkerhaugen where we recorded “Norse” and “Svartfråd“.
Can you describe the formation of the musical project, Ildjarn, and how you became involved?
Ildjarn is his own project, and he started recording under that moniker in the early 90’s. Me and Ildjarn had played together in different constellations, and Ildjarn also played with Samoth and Ihsahn in Thou Shalt Suffer. After doing all sorts of stuff, even some noise/experimental, me and Ildjarn focused on the Black Metal sound, as it was where our hearts lay. I found some old lyric sheets which indicates that we initially called ourselves Nivlheim, but at the time of “Norse” we had landed on Ildjarn — Nidhogg, because Ildjarn had already started using the Ildjarn-name.
We recorded Norse in two sessions in 1993 which is discernible on the differences on my vocals between the a and the b-side. Samoth liked it and decided to release it on Nocturnal Art Productions. Ildjarn continued releasing his own records, and me and him then sporadically made music together, culminating with “Hardangervidda“.
What sort of guiding influence did you have on Ildjarn, and how was this different from your role in Ildjarn–Nidhogg?
I didn’t have any guiding influence on Ildjarn. He is very much his own man. But we had the same love for the proto-scandinavian black metal sound, shaped by athory and picked up by Mayhem with Dead, and so on.
Ildjarn — Nidhogg was a 50/50 collaboration, and we always had clear idea of where we wanted to go, both with the metal and the ambient stuff. The demos I uploaded were my concepts, like the Ildjarn stuff was his, so they were planned to be released as Nidhogg-demos.
Regarding vocal duties, what were your contributions in this area to Ildjarn–Nidhogg?
I did the vocals on all Ildjarn-Nidhogg recordings and also on Sort Vokter except for on “Hatefulle Tanker…” where I, Ildjarn and Harald all sang, and “Bak to Lysende Øyne” where both me and Ildjarn sang, but he did the prime vocals. The last song also appears on Svartfråd and I did the vocals on that version.
You previously mentioned that you were the collaborator with Ildjarn for the visual elements of various projects. What album covers did you create and is the impetus and process of creating them distinct from the musical process?
We did the layouts for many of Ildjarn’s albums on a computer I had access to. I mainly did the layout and was only artistically involved in the creation of Ildjarn transforming into a boar on the Strength and Anger-cover, Nob of NOB Art, did most of that, though. Nob was a friend of ours from Notoddden, and is the artist featured on albums such as Nocturnal Visions, “Minnesjord – The Dark Soil” and “93.” He also did the graphics for Forest Poetry along with another outstanding artist by the name of Javier Guerra who did the frontcover and at least two other illustrations Ildjarn used.
I’d also like to mention a fourth person who were also a close friend in Notodden at that time, who wrote the poem that was used for lyrics on “Eksistensens Jeger.” KK, as I’ll call him is now an established and published artist and writer. In Notodden me, Ildjarn, Nob and KK used to hang around, as three of us attended Telemark Lærehøgskole (teachers college) there. The pictures on the Sort Vokter-cover were taken in the forest behind the school, an area that stretches several miles. It was a place where especially me and Nob had many excursions, often in drug-induced states. I’m not exaggerating if I say I had some semi-paranormal experiences in that forest. This was also a feeling we tried to transfer to the cover.
What attracted you to metal in the first place?
Like all over Norway in the 80s, we were some kids in school who started listening to metal, copying tapes and borrowing music from each other. The energy and aggression was the appeal, of course. It was a rapid progression via Twisted Sister, Accept, AC/DC and such, to Metallica, Megadeth and Motörhead and then on to the more aggressive thrash as Slayer, Death Angel, Dark angel and Sabbat.
How did you first become entwined with the “black metal scene”? What was that time like, and what do you think of current “black metal” bands? What is missing from the present crop?
I was never involved in the scene, other than through Ildjarn and knowing members of Emperor. I met Ihsahn and Samoth, or Vegard and Thomas, first at a regional music talent show. They were playing as Xerasia and I was doing vocals with a band I sang in before me and Ildjarn did anything together. Later, we met in the basement at Akkerhaugen youth club, were Vegard and Thomas did all their initial projects. Besides some early exploits me and Ildjarn did together, we started started jamming as a hardcore/grindcore band with Thomas and Thorbjørn Akkerhaugen. Then when the Emperor concept was developed I was really blown away hearing them rehearse in the basement. It was clear they were on the verge of something. This was before all the ruckus started happening in the media.
I think there are plenty of good acts around today, although one has to sift through more music now than before. I guess as with most genres that establish themselves, there are going to be waves and declines, but great stuff still gets released and will be released. The major challenge I guess, is to make something original in a genre that has been very much explored already. I think there are plenty of bands still around worthy of a listen, but now it’s of course a global thing, so one can just as easily find good bands anywhere else besides Norway, which is also stimulating to the genre.
What was the genesis of Sort Vokter? Were you involved from the beginning?
Sort Vokter was a spur of the moment idea and an opportunity between me and Ildjarn and two guys I knew from Notodden. Me and Harald (Heiinghund) ended up living in the same dorm and jammed some together on synth. He was a natural musician as was also Kyrre (Tvigygre). Sort Vokter was a concept we thought up in my flat, and as far as I can remember, we were all four there at that particular time.
The concept was doing very necro forest metal, or Folkloric Necro Metal, as we called the album. Kyrre worked as a studio technician in Grenland (Not Greenland ; )), and his boss granted him the studio for a weekend when we could do what we wanted. Sort Vokter was more a recorded jam session, than anything else, and most of the songs were composed/played through once and then recorded. Second or third takes would have greatly improved the album, but we were on a very tight time schedule. So “ignoring technical details” as the cover states, was more out of necessity than anything else.
Why has there been only one Sort Vokter album?
It was never meant to be anything more. We had known each other for some years before, and we stayed friends and connected until we one by one relocated from Notodden, but there was never any intention of making any sort of follow up to that one album.
You additionally worked on a synth album with Ildjarn, which was dedicated to the glory of Norwegian nature. What was the process of composing and recording this album? What does your experience of nature evoke?
Hardangervidda is a celebration of a particular mountain region in Norway, yes, where me and Ildjarn have been many times, both separately and together, since childhood. It’s vast and relatively flat, and trekking across it takes several days. The album was written in my flat in Notodden and recorded and mastered a couple of hundred meters down the same street, with help from Tore Hansen. Because it’s very layered it was never considered to record it live in studio. I had put away all the money I earned during one of those summers and bought a Roland XP-80 synth which also functioned as a 16-track midi recorder. Me and Ildjarn started working on the album in sessions, gradually tweaking the songs, doing both composition and production together. Some songs are my original ideas, some are his. There was a very clear idea from the onset of where the album was going to go, and it was really just a matter of doing all the work. The XP-80 was very easy, but time consuming to work with, as we didn’t hook it up to a computer. When we had finished the album we sent demo-CDs out to a couple of record companies. Origo sound actually said they’d consider it if we made alterations, which was of course out of the question. Ildjarn ended up releasing it on his Norse League Productions some time later.
Nature is a big part of my life, and I’m not comfy living in the city. I’m lucky enough, now, to live right by the forest, surrounded by small lakes and mountains. Nature evokes most of all awe and calmness. There’s nothing like the view after you’ve trekked up a mountain.
Last fall, Ildjarn released a split album with Hate Forest, entitled Those Once Mighty Fallen. You’ve recently been active on youtube and have released the demo recording which that recording was based from. What’s your reaction to this situation? Will you be releasing any more recordings in the future?
Well, like I’ve also stated, I was just surprised to realize it. It didn’t dawn on me until I actually checked with some old tapes laying in my basement, but how Osmose came to mislabel them, I don’t know. I think the songs may have been copied onto the same tape as some of Ildjarn’s stuff, years ago.
No, I don’t have any plans to release anything else, although I have lots of riffs and ideas laying around. I might pick up music again, since I still have the old synth, but hat will be when I’m less busy. I started on a concept-album in Notodden about the time of Hardangervidda, under the name Shadow Hungry Onto God (S.H.O.G.). This project was purely classical music, and is what I would start up with again, if anything.
Do you have any recordings of your own, separate from Ildjarn-Nidhogg, that you will release in the future?
I only have two proper recordings, one of which I don’t know where is at at the moment, from the S.H.O.G. project. The other is an edit of the B-side from a 7 inch I intended to release on my own, self-financed. The A-side was already finished, but I lost it due to an equipment failure. Since this meant that I lost weeks of work, I didn’t pick up on it again, after I relocated out of Telemark. I’ll upload the edited B-side on my YouTube-channel when I get the time. It’s quite psychedelic and nothing like anything me and Ildjarn did, except for the rhythms which are quite punkish.
Most striking within your music is the level of refined aggression sublimated through strong melodies. In our interview with Ildjarn, he told us that grindcore/industrial band Godflesh was a major influence on you. In particular, the album Streetcleaner seems to embody a similar spirit to your work. What is it about that band that resonates with you? What other bands provide the same state?
In terms of any direct influence Industrial Metal had on me, it would have to be on an industrial band me, Ildjarn and Thomas played as briefly, using the basements Oberheim drum machine for rhythms. The name was Fast Breeder. We recorded some rehearsals but never released any first demo.
Yeah, Godflesh is pure genius, in my opinion, and I actually got to speak with them when they played in Kristiansand. I liked Godflesh from the moment I heard them, Justins grinding guitar and use of feedback is perhaps the foremost appeal with Godflesh for me, but of course the whole soundscape. I highly recommend the double CD reissue of Streetcleaner and the release of old Fall of Because recordings.
I was also very much into Pitch Shifter until they changed their style, and their debut “Industrial” is amazing. SWANS is, of course, a band that one has to mention, and their “Cop” is a favourite of mine. Saw Throats “INDE$TROY” is also a classic. And the industrial/crustmonster Sonic Violence of course.
At the time I was listening much to these bands, I was also listening to the Young Gods, Foetus, Minister of Noise, Skinny Puppy, KONG, Front 242 and In Slaughter Natives. G.G.F.H. is one of my all time favourites.
What influence does classical music have on you? Are there any specific composers who inspired you?
I grew up in the 70s, which was a time when classical music was still always played on national broadcasting TV and radio. When I got a tape copy of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” I played it repeatedly, and it’s amazing how it is really such a spot on musical interpretation of the progress through the year. Hardangervidda reflects a progression of time as well, from morning to night. The second half of “Sunrise” is very much inspired by Grieg’s “Morning mood.”
For the S.H.O.G. project I’d say music that would evoke the same feeling as I was after with that, would be Peteris Vasks, Arvo Pärt, Randall Meyers and Berlioz. Just talking about the inspiration now, of course, these are untouchable composers working with symphonic orchestras. I was using dark synths underlaying the classical instruments.
Another composer that may not be very known or revered in metal-circles that had a huge impact on me is Michael Nyman. Being a member and also running film-clubs in Bø and Notodden, the movies by Peter Greenaway caught my interest in particular. Michael Nyman wrote the music to four consecutive films (and more later on), and these four film/music collaborations are often referred to together. “The Draughtmans Contract”, “ZOO”, “Drowning by Numbers” and the epic “The Cook, the Thief, the Wife and her Lover.” Greenaway also made “The Belly of an Architect” with Wim Mertens doing the music equally good, and in somewhat the same fashion.
On that note, I’d like to mention my friend of Yayla of Türkey. If you want to check out his works here is his homepage: http://www.merdumgiriz.org/ and YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/merdumgirizworks
What do you think the purpose of art is? When you make music, do you have a conscious intention or goal driving you beyond the finalization of a piece?
I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, but for me it’s just an urge to express oneself through music. I started singing with a thrash band in ’87 and was hooked.
Looking back, there was always a clear intention with the music, and never any doubt as to what elements to include or exclude in the various concepts. I went in many different directions, by myself and with Ildjarn, although the metal and ambient stuff was the only released (except for a drone/folk demo I did). For instance, me and Ildjarn started working on a project we called “Myristic” which never came to fruition. The direction was very different from the metal stuff from Ildjarn — Nidhogg, but was nevertheless fully formed as a musical concept. At least for me, a composition or album is more like a road waiting to be discovered and mapped, rather than something one has to toil to invent. Once you start with an idea, everything rolls by itself, and reveals itself as you progress.
A drone/folk demo sounds fascinating. What was it entitled and when was it recorded? Can we expect this to ever surface again?
Well, I’d rather not reveal the title of it since it’s a totally unrelated project with Ildjarn session on bass. I recorded that one demo, which was also just meant to be a one off in 1994. It was a 9-track post-apocalyptic vision with references to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” where scavenging birds were now the rulers and terrorizers of man.
I don’t think I’ll upload it as it was a totally unrelated thing.
What role did THC play in Sort-Vokter’s music? What value do you find in altered states of consciousness?
Yeah, we put that on the cover as a spoof. Ildjarn didn’t smoke, of course, like he has already stated, but I guess music and drugs were the common interests of the rest of us. It added a certain feel to the whole weekend, so to say. How much it influenced the creative side to the music, I don’t know, but it certainly makes ideas pop up easier.
Altered States of consciousness has been a lifelong interest of mine, and I currently live in place where the surrounding fields are littered with magic mushrooms in the autumn. I find psychedelics can reveal a lot, and can also possibly be a door opener to unseen realms.
I have a great regard for Terence McKenna and Rick Strassmans works, and there are also many other previous pioneers which could be mentioned. In England there were some very early nitrous-philosophers. Ken Keasy said: “I believe that with the advent of acid, we discovered a new way to think, and it has to do with piecing together new thoughts in your mind. Why is it that people think it’s so evil? What is it about it that scares people so deeply, even the guy that invented it, what is it? Because they’re afraid that there’s more to reality than they have ever confronted. That there are doors that they’re afraid to go in, and they don’t want us to go in there either, because if we go in we might learn something that they don’t know. And that makes us a little out of their control.”
Do you find anything valuable in human society? What about individual humans?
While I don’t share Ildjarn’s nihilism (for lack of a better word, Ildjarnism, perhaps) I share some of his misanthropic attitude towards humanity. It’s obvious that we are, most of us at least, dependent on each other for food, lodgings and so on, so, on a practical level, saying fuck you to society and introducing full anarchy would feel pretty uncomfortable for most of us in the end. Some structure is required if we don’t want to go back to the stoneage. But everything is corrupt, obviously, and I suppose the more you learn about the world, the more disheartened one gets at society. I have great faith in nature and animals though, as nature have adapted catastrophes unimaginable to us.
On a personal level I do find value in other people, although I don’t consider many people close friends. One good friend outweighs ten bad ones tenfold, as have been said. And family will unlikely ever fail you.
Your first love in metal was thrash. How did you discover this genre, and what did you like about it? Were you able to carry over any of its ideals to black metal?
After listening briefly to the more commercially established metal for some time, I became a Metallica die-hard fan when I discovered Master of Puppets at about the time it came out. I’m from a rural area, and Metallica wasn’t heard here until Master. Ride the Lightning and Kill ’em All were gems I discovered subsequently. Before I left for the States, I had bought Reign in Blood, The Ultra-violence and Darkness Descends, and Slayer just ruled. Stll I was a Metallica-head. I lived in the States when Justice came out, and although it’s a great album, I, like so many others, started to smell something fishy. At the same time I bought Bathory’s Under the sign of the Black Mark which was one of a kind back then and still is my favourite black metal album. Back then I guess the only prerequistite was that the music was hard or edgy and I also listened to punk and such. Ildjarn introduced me to all types of music, like The Exploited, Napalm Death (love “Evolved as One”), Misfits and many others. Thrash and black are very different, for example in vocal style. It takes a lot more to be a good thrash-singer. I did the vocals on Ildjarn – Nidhogg, and the standard “witch-scream” of nordic black metal suited my voice and not least, my capabilities. So I can’t really say we took anything from thrash to the music we made, other than sheer energy, of course.
How much of an influence have other genres, such as classical music or punk music, had on your listening and your work?
Classical music has been an inspiration, although not consciously. There are some pieces on Hardangervidda, for instance “Night” (Ildjarn’s composition), which are more or less classical compositions and not ambient. Punk has been a more direct influence, which many people have also commented on. The drum machine I used back then were pretty basic, but there’s definitely a lot of “Ompa” (European term, perhaps) going on in the rythms. Combined with Ildjarn’s distored strings and my voice, our music displayed a certain punk-attitude. In norwegian Black Metal circles this was not necessarily a good thing, especially since the scene at that time had become very dogmatic, hence the term TRUE Norwegian Black Metal.
What are your favorite classical subgenres and composers?
As for classical subgenres, I’m not familiar with the terms on that. I’ve listened a lot to Arvo Pärt, Michael Nyman, Wim Mertens, and Ennio Morricone, as well as the old masters. I also like Peteris Vasks a lot. I listen to all kinds of music, though, and after Vidar bought Juno Reactor’s Transimssions, I got into Goa Trance. I’ve been a convert for many years, and I warmly recommend the afforementioned album and Hallucinogen’s Twisted. I guess I have to blame it on the drugs : P
Still love metal, though, and I also very much like bands who carry out their own unique mission, like Foetus and G.G.F.H.
Where did the concept of “forest metal” come from? Do you identify strongly with the forest? Why?
Norway is sparesly populated, and as you can guess, pretty cold. Nature is all around us. We also have a strong tradition of folklore in Norway, and tales of such creatures as “huldra,” “de underjordiske,” “tusser,” “troll” and others are deeply ingrained in Norwegian culture. I would suggest you do a Google image search on “Theodor Kittelsen”, and you will no doubt get an impression of what I mean, and you’ll also see where many black metal covers came from. Being non-satanic, this cultural tradition of the supernatural and the old Norse culture were the inspiration behind the themes and attitude in my approach to black metal.
I feel a strong pull towards the forest, and one of my favorite things to do is venture into native forests, and observe the natural cycle of decomposition and new life springing forth. The atmosphere in such a place can often have a feel verging on the supernatural, especially as night sets in.
How much do you think forest-worship is integral to black metal as a whole? You mentioned the proto-Scandinavian sound of black metal as seen in Bathory; was there forest-worship or something like it there?
Forest-worship was primarily important to the imagery of black metal bands in Norway, and the esthetics of an old forest is totally fitting the genre. An example would be the cover of Djevel’s “Besatt av Maane og Natt.” Of course, venturing into a forest in corpse-paint to take promotional pictures and such, I guess it was inevitable that the feeling of a dark forest would also influence the feel of the music. As for Bathory, no, I don’t think Quorthon was to prone to such, at least not on his black metal albums. Later, perhaps a little bit, I’ve seen some bloody good pictures of him and his musicians in battle gear in an overgrown forest, but that’s about it, as far as I know. I guess Darkthrone were the first to incorporate forest aesthetics fully into their concept. Also lyrically.
Based on the sound of some of these demos, I sense a kinship with some Oi punk music especially in the percussion. Was this an influence, or coincidence?
Yeah, I touched on that a little before. It was no intentional thing, but I liked rythms that made me want to move, quite different from most black metal. When pacing the drum machine to Ildjarn strings, I guess you could say we tried to make it “swing,” so to speak. I think Norse accomplishes this best, and is the one of the two EPs I’m most happy with. Ildjarn liked Svartfråd better.
Do you think black metal has a spirit, or a set of values to it? Where do you think these came from? Are there any historical antecedents?
It’s hard for me to make any valid statements about this. The music itself carries a spirit, yes, but where ideology fits into the music, is an answer best put to someone else. What united all Norwegian black metal, Norse metal or Viking metal bands was a hate for Christianity. As has been realized as years have passed, this has to do with the opression of the people the church has been guilty of for the last thousand years here in Norway, more than with any wish to carry out “Satan’s cause on earth.” We still have a state church in Norway, and I think about 76 % of norwegians are members. When I grew up “Christianity” was part of the curriculum at school, and the church still has a great hold on the population through the rituals of baptizing, confirmation, marriage and burial. So the genres in question held the same basic attitude towards christianity. It was forced upon us, and now we expressed the discontent through music.
Have you noticed any similarities between black metal and its values or imagery and that of Romantic literature, art or music (from the 17-18th centuries)?
There may well be similarities there, but it’s not something I have the knowledge to comment on. There is of course a strong element of classical and progressive composition from the more symphonic bands in the black metal genre.
I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to individual songs, just put the whole thing on like a classic symphony and let it rip. I don’t know how to ask, but I wonder how you achieved this effect of albums as a whole.
I can only speak for what me and Ildjarn did together. He had a different vision for his Ildjarn solo-project than I had for mine. At the time we released Norse, we had already played both hardcore/grindcore, industrial, drone/folk and noise/expertimental. Mostly just jamming and sometimes recording an obscure demo or performing at local talent shows. Thomas Haugen also played with us in two of these bands, as well as on the last demo I uploaded, as the demo states. So already when we recorded Norse we had known each other for about five years and there wasn’t anything uncertain about where we wanted to go with that recording. As the flyer also stated: “Raw and primitive Norse metal.” Thankfully Thomas liked it and put it out as his second single on Nocturnal Art Productions.
I don’t know if you are familiar with the old rehersal studio where we recorded “Norse” (an old bank vault, no less)? This is where Emperor went through its various stages and also where Ildjarn recorded his albums, using one mic. for the whole drumset. His metal-albums and “Norse” and “Svartfråd” where recorded there. It was basically like this: If you showed interest in using the vault for rehersals or demos, you were pretty much given keys, and you could lock yourself in and out as you pleased. An article in norwegian about the place is here: http://www.akkerhaugen.no/Heavy%20Metal.htm
Hardangervidda was a totally different vision, and at the time I was attending the teachers college in Notodden, where music was one of my majors. Hardangervidda was guided totally by nature (and the instructions for the synth ; )), and there was never any doubt or disagreement about where we wanted to with that album either. The nature is overwhelming there and it has a lasting impression of most people who visit the place. Ildjarn, Nob and I went there for a pilgrimage in the closing stages of the making of the album, ventured for some hours into the area, enjoyed the sunset and slept there in nothing but sleeping bags. There’s always a lot of commotion when album covers are changed, but I really think the artwork on the vinyl edition does it more service than the original would. The pictures on both editions are by me and Ildjarn and he’s also been up there again shooting pictures for another edition. As far as I know, this edition is intended to be in colour, I guess that makes some people cringe. I’ve seen the pictures, though, and they look great. I don’t have any details about that release as of yet.
Also, are you aware of the ressurection of “Helvete” (where Euronymous ran his business)? “Neseblod records” (Nosebleed Records) have recently moved in there and a museum of Black Metal is now emerging. I’m sure you’ll find the pictures on the web-site interesting. Check it out, here’s the link: http://www.neseblodrecords.com/
I can inform you that I’m currently in contact with a small record label for the possible release of the Nidhogg demo and a future extended version of “TrollTripp”. I recording the B-side of the demo now (bass and vocals) and then we’ll turn it the right way around and hear if it’s usable. It sounds good so far.
Here’s a link to the label. Like the sound of the WROTH-demo, btw. http://intotheshunnedhouse.wordpress.com/
We were also able to get some words in with Apelseth, one of the members of Sort Vokter who participated in recording Folkloric Necro Metal. While his answers are brief, they reveal his mindset about the recording and the nature of the band.
How did you get involved with the musicians who became Sort Vokter? Did you share any interests? Were you into metal, or black metal?
Metal and some black metal
I am told you are responsible for “Tårers Sang.” Did you compose this alone? What helped you come up with the unique blend of emotions on this piece?
“Tårers Sang”; melody and guitar on “Fra Kilden til Tjernet”; sound-engineering on the whole album.
The melody came to me one full moon night, I was in the forrest. Inspired by the shades and special light that is in the forrest at those times.
What kind of atmosphere do you think this band produced? Does it correspond to any real-world events, places, or emotional blends?
It is a soundscape based on the different landscapes and emotions in the norwegian nature
Thanks to all members of Sort Vokter and Nidhogg himself for making this interview possible.
Welcome to the strange and protean world of Steve Cefala, black/doom metal musician, MMA fighter, former adult entertainment actor, and now, the force behind the returning Dawning and its unique brand of slow melodic metal with horror movie keyboards.
Dawning was born in 1996 at the hands of Mr. Cefala and a close cadre of collaborators. Dormant for many years, but never forgotten, the band was resurrected with the – – –/Dawning split that showcased a classic song for the band and gave it new arrangement and orchestration.
We were lucky to catch up with Mr. Cefala between his many high-energy ventures and get in a few words about the split, the history of Dawning, and its future both as band and concept.
When did Dawning form?
Bud Burke (now in Exhumed) and I quit Pale Existence and started Dawning in 1996. Bud and I may have done some rough Dawning recordings on his four track as early as 1995. We were juniors in high school. We had just terrorized the high school battle of the bands with our cheesy Satanic side project Desecrator (there’s so many bands called that).
Why do you think Dawning is less known that other bands from the era?
First, although not many people know about Dawning, the people I know of that like Dawning are people I respect.
But there are several reasons for Dawning’s relative obscurity. Some are obviously self-inflicted: personnel/lineup problems and changes, lack of self-promotion, etc. We were more focused on making good music and recording it than on the promo side. Also not fitting an exact genre or lack of other doom/black metal bands locally at the time did not help.
We also had offers to be published by record companies which we messed up. As we were about to record for a 10″ release, the incredibly talented bassist who was the band’s contact had a breakdown from acid and thought he was an alien… and the other guitarist Mike Rabald turned super flakey and just would not record his darn guitar tracks, despite being at the recording studio drinking ale and playing Sega Genesis every day instead! After months of that B.S., when we finally threatened to kick him out, he and the sound engineer showed up at my front door demanding cash for what we had recorded so far or they would to destroy the reel! Prick…..
For some reason, we just could not get a show at this period in time. This pissed me off because I was the first metal guy to rent the local library out and throw many underground DIY metal shows and I had set up a lot of shows for local bands with my previous band Pale Existence. Some ugly heifer from my high school ended up renting the library out and getting metal shows banned from the library due to burning bible, blood spills, and setting off fire alarms. Way to go! I also threw a lot of shows for Exhumed and a bunch of local acts at the Cupertino library. They are cool guys but they never reciprocated because we were not gore metal (I remember them helping out Gory Melanoma a lot with shows for instance) or would not kiss their ass or something. Drummer Brian and I used to tease them about them being Carcass rip offs and Matt Harvey being Mr. Rockstar. Anyways, the library shows I threw were integral in bringing the South Bay death metal scene together. They were free all ages DIY shows that united a bunch of different metal and hardcore genres.
It’s also not like people didn’t know we were available. Dawning got only three shows! The KFCJ radio show, one at a frat party in SLO, one in a gazebo teen center I rented. This was despite that I had a full band lineup from 1996-2003! A third show was set up in an alley in Gilroy and the club owner canceled the show at like 7 pm (Maelstrom was headliner) before metal heads, who showed up later like 8, could get the message.
I would mention some other excellent local bands from that era which may have been forgotten includes Gory Melanoma, Infanticide, Butt, Agents of Satan, Deity, Disembodiment, Doomed-horn, and Gorgasm! :) I am glad to see that Morbosidad is still active also :)
Originally, what did Dawning sound like — what was the intent, and what were the influences, behind the sound you were going for?
The sound I have always aimed for with Dawning is to take a synthed out movie soundtrack and cross it with raw doom or black metal guitars and vocals. With a hint of ambient (backwards vocals, chimes, timpani drums). The end of the first demo has a incredibly slow doom ending with a collage of apocalyptic samples. When I started recording this shit back in 1996 I didn’t hear anyone grinding black metal guitar chords over a doom beat. I still barely ever hear that. I guess all the black metal bands are playing doom and ambient now mostly — at least the ones who aren’t constantly blasting as if they are at some type of competitive track meet event.
“New” Dawning sounds basically exactly like original Dawning. It’s all written on the Roland JV series keyboard mostly. There were some demos we did that trended more towards black metal, and some had hippy elements.
Our influences include movie sountracks like Goblin, Angelo Badalamenti (Twin Peaks), John Carpenter scores, Vangelis, Jerry Goldsmith (the Omen), etc. as well as classic 90s doom and black metal — Winter, Disembowlment, Grief, Marduk, Darkthrone, Impaled Nazarene, and My Dying Bride. There is also some trance influence from raves and partying. On the hippier demos there’s a Hendrix and Sabbath vibe to the guitars at times.
Also, Dawning has goth/industrial influences. I listen to Godflesh, Rammstein, Depeche Mode, My Life With The Thrill Kill Cult, Type O Negative, etc.
How did that sound change over time?
- Demo 1 – Blackened doom/new age-ish (hint of ambient). Just Bud and I, no bass.
- Demo 2 – Live on KFJC. Groovier. More Hendrixy and more Sabbathy. Full band lineup starting with this demo. Trippier more occult-based song themes. Bouncy hippy basslines.
- Demos 3 and 4 – More black metal. Less doom.
- Demo 5 – Exit Bud Burke, enter Mike Beams (Exhumed). More brutal and detuned. Added elements of sludge doom.
…then back to the original sound of demo 1 again for the split. The upcoming full length is like demo 1 but with more mid-paced grooves and a few blasts besides the doom beats.
You’ve re-recorded “Divine Arrival of the Massive Hoof” for the split with – – – on Preposterous Creations. How did this split come about, and what’s new with the re-recording?
I hooked up with Phil from Presposterous Creations on a web forum where he had posted some old Dawning demo links. I was told Gary from Noothegrush (who actually recorded our live at KFJC demo back in the day) helped get Phil interested in Dawning. Chiyo and Gary (from Noothegrush) have always been most supportive of my band. I honestly think Dawning might not exist today if not for them. And I was told that John Gossard (Weakling) had also talked to Phil about us, which helped. Originally Bud was planning to come out on vacation to visit and record on the new tracks with me. But Exhumed called him and off on tour he went. Now he doesn’t return my calls or lousy Facebook messages even.
“Divine Arrival of the Massive Hoof” on the split has a new arrangement. Better recording. Also, there was a period during these most recent recordings where I was diagnosed as allergic to sunlight. This time was depressing and that gave the songs a darker tone.
A couple of years ago I noticed there was something called the “101 Rules of Black Metal” going around the internet (you can google it). I noticed a rule saying that “the exact date if the divine arrival of the massive hoof shall never be revealed under any circumstance.” It even made it on the Ozzfest official page at that time. I was a little surprised that phrase was ingrained as a rule of metal (I see no other song title as a rule — but I could be wrong). I will admit that I did want to get some credit for the notoriety of the song I had created in 1995-96 and that was part of my motivation in redoing the song and getting it published. I am extremely thankful to Phil and to Noothegrush and the handful of people including John Gossard who kept the spirit of Dawning alive on underground message boards and such. Also whoever put it in the rules of metal I am thankful but would have been better had Dawning been given proper credit.
What’s – – – like, in your words? What was the appeal in working with them?
As far as actually splitting the record with – – – , it was Phil who came to me with this idea. Personally I find the piano parts on all – – – songs to be very inspired and unique and I also love his guitar tone (it reminds me of early Ulver!). So I was honored to split the LP with – – –, though I know nothing about them it is an honor to be associated with that level of talent.
Do you think metal is in a slump, or a time of over-abundance? Are there any parallels to humanity at large?
I do not like the overall musical trends in metal. Blast beat blast beat blast beat. Hail Satan this, hail Satan that. Blast beat blast beat blast beat. Blah blah blah. Playing drums like a track meet competition.
Most of the Gothic doom bands seem really gay (not in a happy sense though) compared to My Dying Bride, at least locally. Stoner bands who are not stoney — or original. Technical death metal which gives me a headache. I also don’t like the super mainstream bands right now like Lamb of God.
Nachtmystium and Electric Wizard and a few other amazing bands in the mainstream (I enjoy Noothegrush, Ludicra, and Weakling) but there’s too much crummy bands you have to go through to find a good one. Compared to the 90s — it sucks!
Locally I fell into the boring status quo sound a little too much with my last band Condemned to Live (DJ) for a few years so I must also take my share of this blame.
And yes humanity stinks too. Pretty much everything stinks these days honestly. I stopped listening to Marduk and Vader, and then Fear Factory and bands like that when they put out that pseudo techno album in the late 90s.
Also when you play a show these days its often a pissing competition between the bands instead of a brotherhood of metal. The other bands come up to you and complain about the band order instead of introducing themselves. Or you could be informed that another guy in the other black metal band that night does not like your band etc I was playing black metal live when he was in kindergarten but hey whatever…
In the 90s we knew we were all social rejects and we bonded over that. Today these kids who grew up in a post 9-11 world live in a darker cutthroat worldview. 90s metal tended to have some sense of humor that is now absent by in large. I think the global economic depression has caused metal to lose its fun fantasy oriented spirit that it had before. By the way outside a few dive bars here like the Caravan, metal is so unpopular where I live in San Jose — everything is gangster rap this, gangster rap that. I can go out for a whole week and maybe see one metal tshirt. Funny thing is my gangster friends like Dawning and are supportive.
What do you think are the differences between black metal, doom metal and regular old heavy metal?
Honestly, it’s all over genre-ized. I honestly wouldn’t even mention my bands genre but I feel strongly we were ahead of our time and deserve a little credit, even if its just a tiny bit. Everyone is mixing black metal and doom now. Back then I heard maybe one Incantation album that did that a bit, not much else.
I can tell you locally while I respect the underground hardcore approach of many bands — mostly everyone just wants to be a genre guy and fit in, which is sad cause metal ain’t even popular in the US in mainstream pop culture so these days why worry about fitting in.
It’s sad to me. Oh well. When I talk to other musicians these days its “Hey, I like this one band, Electric Funeral — let’s do a band like that” or “Hey, I like this band Cradle of Filth lets do one of those!” Nobody wants to make their own band sound. It’s much easier to join a specific genre, follow that genre’s rules to the T, and network from just within that genre. That’s my main problem with modern metal. Of course there are exceptions.
As I understand it, you also had a career in pornography. Can you tell us about this? What was it like? How did it inform your worldview as a metal musician?
For me it was just a job. It paid better than my retail job had been paying however.
The funniest thing was when I started working in it nobody believed me. Then when I showed them proof, everyone said I was weird for bringing the mp3 with me. That’s life. It was also weird I got in through the studios that mostly filmed “blacks” (Black Market XXX for instance). Eventually I worked for some big companies including JM Productions, Immoral Productions, Bang Bros, and more. I quit right after I had a shoot with Playboy channel where I was to play guitar and shoot with Tuesday Cross as well as a pilot of series for HBO fall through.
It was surrealistic working in that industry. The scenes were sometimes elating. But at the same time the conditions of a shoot were often sterile. The bright lighting, lack of music, no pictures on the walls, taking orders from director; also I was commuting to LA for this which made it harder. It was fun but also hard work. For one thing you have to stand on one leg most of the time so the camera can see. And theres a lot more logistics and networking compared to even a normal job. One thing I will tell you is we do most scenes twice. Once for the pics on the box. Then clothes back on and film the scene on video. Also going and getting tested monthly for STDs (mandatory) was a pain in the ass and came out of pocket. And a lot of the female models were too much drama and ruined the fun.
I was also sponsored as a mixed martial arts (MMA) athlete by a clothing company at the time. Between training MMA, doing the porn shoots, and performing metal in the clubs with Condemned to Live I had a wild lifestyle. I stopped working in the films back in 2010 though. That industry suffered from piracy much like the music industry. Anyways I have a girlfriend, a normal job, and a traditional modest lifestyle now.
Is Dawning back on the warpath? Will we hear more in the coming weeks, months and years?
I create the music of Dawning for myself and for the chosen few who are willing to listen to what Dawning has to offer them. To those who will listen we offer an escape to another another dimension in which their imagination can run free.
While I have been trying to get the band going live, at this point I am tired of auditioning show-off types and have taken matters into my own hands. I am currently playing electronic drums while at the same time playing keyboards on with my other foot (Moog Tarus clone). My right hand also plays some keyboards. So I am playing drums and keyboards; the drums are electronic, so I feel like I am piloting a spaceship when I am playing I can be in my own world. Also I am not a great drummer, but I can keep the beat.
My girlfriend Charity has taken over on bass guitar for now. She has named herself Nubian WitchGoddess (is that one taken?) and I am working with a guitar player named Gabriel. If this lineup works out we will be performing very soon. The Caravan has always been supportive and said we can play anytime. Noothegrush expressed willingness to play the tiny club with us eventually, which was very nice of them. Also I personally have an entire band’s worth of equipment including every instrument and amp and drums and PA etc., so let it be known I have 100% been trying to take Dawning live for the last year or so and basically have received little to no support from local musicians in this effort. I have had many ads out with few responses. And, funny, what do you know — now that the record came out like 10 people just contacted me all of a sudden about joining. Way of the world I suppose!
There is a full length album I finished recording coming out on cassette in a few months on French label. It has some more upbeat black metal stuff but plenty of doom too. It flows. The new full length album is about the Satanic albino cult that lives high in the hills above Silicon Valley, by the way. My car broke down up there many years ago and the Sherrif told me about them and gave me gas to get the fuck out of there.
Metal stumps many people because there is a values system within it which has been consistent across the years, but from reading metal lyrics it is hard to figure out what that values system is.
From the imagery and topics of songs, we know metal has a spread not unlike that of European Romantic poetry: nature, horror, the occult, ancient ruins, melancholy alienation and war-like power worship are frequently mentioned. It is difficult to translate those ideals into our contemporary individual-based values system.
Arguably the primordial ‘Lucy’ of metal bands, Black Sabbath augmented the aesthetics of heavy blues rock bands like Cream and Led Zeppelin with occult imagery, pagan and mystical overtones.
However, at the same time as they were seemingly ‘up in the clouds’, there was a nuanced and satirical realism present in the band’s aesthetics that prayed on rosy-eyed optimism.
For instance, in the lyrics of ‘Solitude’ we get a stark, if not sentimental, picture of the fragile nature of human life:
My name it means nothing
My fortune is less
My future is shrouded in dark wilderness
Sunshine is far away, clouds linger on
Everything I possessed – Now they are gone
‘Hand of Doom’ is a satirical jab at the escapism of the contemporary hippie drug scene:
First it was the bomb, Vietnam napalm
Disillusioning, you push the needle in
From life you escape, reality’s that way
Colors in your mind, satisfy in timeYour mind is full of pleasure, your body’s looking ill
To you it’s shallow leisure, so drop the acid pill
Don’t stop to think now
To many, this would seem hypocritical given Sabbath’s legendary history of drug use. However, as any user will tell you, there’s a difference between use to escape and use simply because you like getting high.
This seeming paradox extends to other areas. For Sabbath, the means-ends relationship between an action and its intention is important. It may not be bad to use drugs, but to use drugs to escape reality in such a way that you then end up with an ideology of denying reality, could well be bad.
They apply this lens to other areas, such as politics and religion.
More interestingly still, Sabbath were regarded by many as a ‘Satanic’ band owing to the cover art of their first, self-titled album. However, in the song ‘After Forever’ a charge of ‘group-think’ mentality is directed at, ironically, atheists:
Is your mind so small that you have to fall
In with the pack wherever they run
Will you still sneer when death is near
And say they may as well worship the sun?I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced
Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don’t believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can’t retrieve
The above content makes sense when we consider that one of the things that sets the best metal apart from its heavy rock is its nihilism. Nihilism is a form of extreme realism that rejects the intentions of human individuals when used for the sake of those human individuals, and respects only viewpoints that are oriented toward the larger reality outside the individual.
Metal has always been about blowing overly-optimistic and unrealistic view points out of the water, and worshiping what is ‘heavy’ about existence. Black Sabbath started this trend by calling out many of the convenient lifestyle viewpoints of its contemporaries.