Though the barrier of moral pretense that’s raised in the minds of those who live in fear of this world can be seen as the work of social or religious conditioning, it isn’t necessarily intrinsic to systems of thought that wish to superimpose theories of order upon nature. Rather, the impulse is an artifice of the ego, in assuring it’s own physical safety and metaphysical sanctity, whether the origin of this is ascribed to a divinity or otherwise and then marketed to the masses. This monochromatic rendering of a world half engulfed by the shadow of such a barrier disregards the interdependent balance of elements, the opposite and equal value of death to that of life, and begins to symbolise a holy war against the unknown, just as the actual structure has represented conflicts throughout human history, from Hadrian’s Wall to the West Bank. Maybe Demoltion Hammer one year later recorded the soundtrack to the destruction of these architectural demarcators but Ripping Corpse pinpointed the mental plane with one of the apex recordings of both these tri-state bands’ style of corpse-shredding Speed/Death Metal.
Dreaming with the Dead doesn’t so much harmoniously reconcile life’s opposite extremes, though, as it reveals their arbitrary placement on the spectrum of phenomenon and deconstructs such division with the characteristic absurdism of Death Metal and Lovecraftian inhuman consciousness. The thematic outline of the album is even marked by a transition from the pulp ‘escapism’ of subconscious terrors on one hand to social commentary on the other, as though returning from the Abyss to expose the hypocrisy of so-called civilised men who indulge in normalised forms of depravity while pouring scorn over uncivilised ‘savagery’. The musical elements that Ripping Corpse fuse on the album illustrates this idea further, overlaying the quasi-neoclassical shredding posibilities opened up by European Speed Metal bands such as the socially conscious Destruction with perverse melodies and sequences of increasingly fractured riffing typical of Death Metal at the time.
Although the adverse effect of retaining such past influences would be that some later songs still structure themselves around anthemic choruses – a burden that most of Ripping Corpse’s contemporaries had already evolved far beyond – the band manages to employ enough compexity in their compositions to keep up with the demands of their vision. The sound of the guitars may be construed as being weak or mixed poorly, but this lighter texture lends itself well to the progression of riffs from measured punctuations of rhythm to insane variations by way of fucked up artificial harmonics and blastbeaten tremolo sequences. Tempo blurs the lines of what is considered primitive, though the act may be embellished with the jewels of modern society or justified in the name of some ideology. As layers of humanity are removed from the conscious mind, lead guitars erratically and uncontrollably rip through passages and bring a microcosmic level of culmination within a song, like the fleeting screams of demons being exorcised from a long tortured soul.
There is some continuity to be heard in the first album of Erik Rutan’s much later Hate Eternal, which is a far more sizeable contribution than his involvement in Morbid Angel, however, Ripping Corpse clearly struck an evolutionary dead-end with Dreaming with the Dead. Yet for all it’s antiquated aspects, the focus and engineering of the music manages to highlight the illusions which obstruct mankind from understanding the world around him because he chose to no longer belong in such a world.
Back in the early days of death metal, it was fun to spin some contrast on the radio. Start out with the phrasal bands like Morbid Angel and Slayer, work up to something percussion like Deicide or Suffocation, then drop into the doom-death. Somewhere in there, Obituary, Asphyx, Incantation, and Morpheus Descends all got displayed.
The latter was a puzzler since it was grim, primitive and primal, yet thoughtful and very distant from the normal everyday lives most people aspired to. It was truly music to keep the listener outside the arc of society’s concerns, guilt and manipulations, and for many of us it was deliverance. It blended into the other death metal as if it belonged there, a distinct voice that yet upheld a shared spirit.
Morpheus Descends was thus for many of us a go-to band when we wanted the old school underground sound. Music from beyond this world, it chanted dark praises of outsider viewpoints on reality while crushing our heads with intensely grinding, explosive riffs. It is with great pleasure that after many years, I am finally able to interview Rob Yench/Xul of this massive underground cult…
Morpheus Descends appeared early in the death metal movement. What were you influences, and how did you conceive of the then-new musical style you were creating?
Before forming Morpheus, we were all in local area bands, Ken and I did a Voivod / DBC styled band called “Volitle Zylog”, Sam, Steve and Craig were all in a band called “Infectious Waste.” During the summer of 1990 we played an outdoor show together with a few other area bands. At the show we were talking to each other about the bands we were all interested in, as it turned out our tastes were very similar. When Ken and I heard “Infectious Waste” do a Pestilence cover we talked with the three of them right after the show and we decided to start a death metal band. A month later the five of us had all quit the bands we were in and formed “Morpheus.” Our first practice was on October 31st, 1990. Our style was based on what we listened to at the time, late 80s & early 90s bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Obituary, Napalm Death and our earlier influences like Black Sabbath, Voivod, Kreator and Celtic Frost. Once we became a band and played shows we started to meet other bands who shared the same goals, also playing many shows with our peers shaped the style known as New York Death Metal.
Were you among the creators of this genre? What do you think your contributions were?
All the previous mentions plus so many more helped create the genre but I will limit my scope to the bands that grew out of the scene that we were part of; Suffocation, Immolation, Mortician, Incantation, Ripping Corpse, Prime Evil, Human Remains, Nokturnel, Gorephobia, Deceased and Apparition (Sorrow). I don’t really measure what our contributions were to the genre except to say that I think the best reflection of what we have done as a band in Death Metal scene is all the people who still come up to us or still contact us online to tell us how much the band’s music means to them. We played a lot of shows in many states and even Mexico from 1990 – 1997, so I think we reached a lot of people in a time when Death Metal was “electric”.
I noticed that Suffocation seemed to have quite a bit of influence from Morpheus (Descends), with Terrance Hobbs wearing a Morpheus t-shirt on Effigy of the Forgotten and using one riff that seems similar to one of the riffs on Ritual of Infinity. Do you think you influenced Suffocation? Who else do you think you influenced?
Both bands were very good friends in the early 90s; we played our first show with them in Buffalo NY. After that it seemed like every weekend for a while, they either drove to our hometown to hangout or we drove to Long Island to hang with them. We would share ideas and jam with each other and show one another riffs and songs we had been working on. I think we are about as much an influence to Suffocation and much as Suffocation was and influence to us. The same things could be said for a lot of the other death metal bands from NY around that time too.
They’re talking about a “big five” of death metal bands doing a tour. Why do you think Morpheus Descends isn’t out there? What makes a death metal band popular more than others?
First and foremost I think the more popular DM bands of our era were signed to bigger labels (EARACHE, ROADRUNNER, NUCLEAR BLAST, METAL BLADE). We worked with a much smaller, less successful record label (JL AMERICA). With more promotion, bigger distribution and record company help; they also landed US and European tours. We did do some touring but not to the extent that a lot of those bands got to do. So they were much more accessible to fans in a time before the internet was so popular. We did EVERYTHING ourselves, touring, merchandise and even pressing. Outside of JL releasing the CD it was all 100% DYI.
Can you tell us the story behind your name change from Morpheus to Morpheus Descends? What happened to the other Morpheus?
JL had RED for distribution; they got a call that from RED that they wouldn’t be able to distribute the Morpheus CD because they already had a band of that name in their catalog. This band was some “gay” techno band, we did try to fight it but JL basically told us change the name or it will not be released. We had always planned to write a song called “Morpheus Descends”, so after some discussions we made the name change and never looked back.
You signed with JL America for your first album, which ended up being a rough path. What happened there? How would you do it differently if you had to “do it over”?
Well since NO other labels had any serious interest in us, it was a good choice. We got our music out to a lot of people that we would have never reached doing it ourselves. It may not have been exactly the record deal we were looking for but at least people saw the CD at stores and bought it. This is part of the reason for our notoriety today; you could buy the CD in most big record store chains at the time. Also it was distributed overseas as well. As far as doing it differently, it would have taken a better record label to have stepped and worked with us, which didn’t happen so there is no regrets when it comes to our history.
One of the things that stuck with me from Ritual of Infinity was the formal language you used for the titles. “Proclaimed Creator,” “Enthralled to Serve,” and “Ritual of Infinity” set a standard which other bands especially in New York aspired to. Where did you get the idea to write song titles this way?
Many of the songs you mention, we came up with the song title first; then we would talk about the concept of the lyrics; then Sam would write the lyrics around those ideas. I think that is why the titles sound so “formal”, we wanted the names of the songs to provoke interest in wanting to hear the songs. We stayed away from the simple titles of blood and gore and concentrated on making the titles and lyrics more interesting to the listener.
Is “Accelerated Decrepitude” a reference to Blade Runner? Were there other non-musical works that influenced you greatly? What about non-metal bands?
No, Blade Runner was not really an influence for this song. Progeria, the rare genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children was really the thought when we wrote the song as well as the artwork we used for the demo of the same name. Our take on it was that at birth the infant was already a century old, ancient and decrepit. I do not really think any non-metal bands are an influence to us, but we did listen to a lot of Wesley Willis when we traveled.
After Ritual of Infinity, Morpheus Descends came out with two very powerful EPs, Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones and The Horror of the Truth. Each of those had its own character. How do you see the band as changing during that time?
Yes, each MCD has a distinct sound and each time it was a reflection of the lineup at the moment and direction we would move in. We wanted to distance ourselves from a lot of the saturation of death metal bands of the mid 90’s, many were all using the same template as successful bands but really lacking their own identities. Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones was the first time we had time in the studio and did not have to rush ourselves; we developed a lot of ideas and had a real good time creating the music. It was also a transition time in the band; Sam and I became the main song writers and that is why you hear such a difference in the music. This music became much darker and doom laden than our previous endeavors.
When it came time to record Horror of the Truth more changes occurred; we had parted ways with Jeff our vocalist as well as our second guitar player Brian. Tom Stevens had recently joined the band as the replacement to Brian Johnson and then filled the vocal spot as well. So now the band had a different configuration and we went to Cleveland to record with our longtime friend Brian Seklua. The songs on that MCD were much faster and contain furious guitar solos; this was in contrast to the style of Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones. This would be the last recording we would do together as a band and I think the release didn’t get the exposure that it deserved. This was all shortly before the band disbanded, I would have liked to have seen where we could have gone with that lineup and sound.
Do you have any current plans for resurrection, touring, recording, etc? I see you’re set up for Martyrdoom Fest. Who’s in the lineup, and what expectations/hopes do you have?
We are taking things slow, things feel real good in rehearsals and it is sounding like Morpheus Descends should sound. This is very important to us to deliver what the band should sound like and to do justice to the legacy the band has become to Death Metal fans around the world. The lineup is the 4 of the original members from the MORPEHUS 1990 inception lineup. Sam Inzera, Rob Yench, Craig Campbell and Ken Faggio, Steve Hanson was not able to be a part of the reunion. Steve lives in Florida and when we started talking about making this happen we called him to see if he would like to be a part of this “return.” As much as he would have liked to do this, the distance is the real hurdle to work around; Steve did give this his “unholy blessing” and wished us the best!
After Martyrdoom, we are planning to work on some new songs for possible 2014 EP release. We have already exchange riff ideas and it sounds very Morpheus Descends!! Also there is a possibility in 2014 for more shows too but nothing confirmed as of yet.
What do you think of the state of death metal now? Is it fair to divide death metal into “old school death metal” and “modern death metal,” which is the term people use for the new style which has hardcore breakdowns, prog-math-metal riffs, and lots of sweeps?
There is a distinct difference between the two types of Death Metal you speak of; I myself am not really a fan of the “modern” death metal sound. I prefer what I grew up with and what feels comfortable to me. This is not meant to be a “dis” on this style but it is just not for me.
In your view, what are the bands who really shaped death metal into what it was, and what does death metal stand for? Does it have something to communicate, or is it just slightly weird music?
Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Death, Entombed, Carcass and Obituary would be some of the best known pioneers of the genre. As far as any deep meaning the music, I think each person has their own interpretation of what this means to each of them. For me it has been a way of life, family, work and Metal !!
Do you have any plans to re-release your older material?
There are plans in the works for some really cool stuff, but I will bite my tongue for now until things are more solid than at the moment. We want everything we do to be of quality and something that would be fitting in any MD fans collection!!
Members of Morpheus Descends have gone on to form a number of projects, including Mausoleum. How do these differ from Morpheus Descends, and do they reflect things you learned from the Morpheus Descends experience?
I play in four bands; Morpheus Descends, Mausoleum, Engorge and Typhus, Sam has Morpheus Descends, Mortician and Funerus. Ken does Morpheus Descends, Rooms of Ruin and Cabal 34. We have also done session work and played in a few other bands too but you see we are very immersed in Metal!! The bands we do are all different than Morpheus Descends, but what has been learned by me is to work with people and let each person express themselves and have input in all aspects of the process. Morpheus Descends was the “boot camp” for knowing how things work and what doesn’t.
How were the songs on Ritual of Infinity composed? They’re like mazes of riffs. Did you start with a riff, or an idea, or a story, or an image? How did you compose these mind-twisting tunes?
This was a time in the band when everyone was throwing riffs out there, we just kept sewing the riffs together and making things work and it ended developing into a style where we rarely returned to a riff once it was played in the song. When I listen back sometimes, I hear some riffs and I think “wow we could have done more with this riff!!” All in all though this is what helped made us unique.
What do you listen to currently?
OK here is what is in my playlist as I am doing this interview Repuked, Anatomia, Scaremaker, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead, Manowar, new Mausoleum songs, Deceased, Sadistic Intent, Slayer, Nekrofilth and Midnight !!
Thanks, Rob, and good luck in the future with all of your bands!
Tom Stevens has been providing technical extreme metal since the 80s. Known as a virtuoso on guitar and owning the distro/label Nokturnel Eclipse, he’s been a supporter of the old school since it began. Though Nokturnel has gone through numerous line-up changes, Stevens has defied odds and kept the flame burning with an indomitable urge to shred.
Nokturnel is what I would deem “old school technical blackened thrashy death metal” (OSTBTDM).
DeathMetal.org is proud to present an interview with Tom Stevens about his music and businesses.
Howdy Tom. Thank you for your time. What was the mentality that drove you to form Nokturnel? Was there a frustration that you had to unleash? Why did you spell “Nocturnal” as “Nokturnel”?
Nokturnel was not something I really intended to do, my first band Savage Death fell apart and black metal was “out”…. the Satanic thing took a dive and believe it or not it was considered uncool. I had only begun to take Savage Death into what was considered technical metal at the time, and when it fell apart I wanted to take technical to a new level. The drummer of Savage Death was cool with that and he went on to meet Martin O’Connor. By then I was beyond frustrated with generic sounds, so the three of us made Nokturnel as different as we could; we chose to spell it that way because we knew many other bands would appear with the same name.
What are your thoughts on religion? You have previously stated that you believe in aliens. Do you believe that aliens created the human species? How about a mutual collaboration of humans and aliens to further each other? Have you ever seen any UFOs?
Religion is too complicated for things that must be valued with “faith.” It never struck me. The song Force Fed Fear is about the fear knowing you were told there’s a price to pay for not believing in religion. I do believe in Aliens and think they have been part of Earth’s history forever…. I could accept the facts if they were proven; easy for me to have faith in believing in the existence of life other than here on this planet yet I cannot have faith in religion…. I think there will be good and evil Aliens… some will wanna help, some will want us for our worst nightmares… I have no trust in government and think it is a long established fact Aliens have already played their role in where we are now and we were are heading…
I haven’t heard much on Nokturnel since your last recording ‘Ancestral Calling’. What have you been up to?
I managed to get that single recorded right before we played MDF. I had a lot of fan support at the time. It was amazing and heartfelt to be in the position I was in as an independent with no label support and I took it all very seriously. I had a lot of problems I would rather not get into but my stress level was at an all time high. I made changes as best as I could for Nokturnel. It was beyond maddening to be on the verge of taking things ot the next level and not have a stable lineup. I did two more shows which were clusterfucks for me…. the last one killed my drive to be on stage again until I have whoever is playing for me sounding exactly as I intended it to sound. With that mindset I chose to go into the studio alone for the third time to record “Shadows Alive,” I used Kevin Talley this time and it is my favorite Nokturnel song. It was redemption for my self…but unfortunately it did not get half the coverage “Ancestral Calling” received.
I am so fucking fed up with what the younger generation considers metal I feel obligated to carry on…Not enough people have heard any of my music. Many who do pick it apart and have no idea what I am going for. The truth is I have never done the same song twice, and I am working on several new tracks now, far beyond anything I have ever done. I don’t know how I am ever going to complete this project, but I am glad I began a few months ago, I always give it my all but this is going to be the most shocking work of my life… mark my words. It’s 666% Nokturnel!
You’re an avid snake breeder. How profitable is this trade? What are your favorite breeds of snakes? How many do you own right now?
Being a snake breeder is a lot like being a musician. You see bands selling records and touring like crazy and they bitch about being broke as fuck. Snake guys have expensive animals listed for sale on web sites and drive fancy cars and they too swear they are broke. Snakes have been very good to me. I am a hard-ass and price ’em high and tell people my animals are too good for them if they want to haggle. Like any business it has its ups and downs. After 10+ years into the game I have a solid customer base. Some are people you would never think would pay attention to a psycho like me, I take an online bashing once in a while for being that evil metal guy. It is fuckin’ funny!
But snakes are animals that require care. It is low maintenance but I insist on them being in above average condition or they are not for sale. You have to put a lot into to get anything out of it. I think I have about 100 here now. My favorites are Southern Pine Snakes, Bull Snakes and Florida Kingsnakes… that is what I have the most of.
You played with Incantation for a while. What was it like touring with them? Any highlights that you’d like to share?
It was like most tours bands do where a lot of it is kind of bad but as soon as you get home you cannot wait go back out. Highlight show was in Santiago Chile with Cannibal Corpse and Death… I met many cool people during my time in Incantation but it all soured for me. I did meet my wife because I toured through Texas back then so that is something I do associate with the band as of course a great thing that came of it. Musically I am not meant to play for other people. I should do my own thing. More than one Alpha in a band is bad news… it could have been something, probably should have been but fuck it all…. was not meant to be and I lost interest in that band a long time ago
I’m curious to see which genre you regard Nokturnel as. Is it Technical Metal? Thrash? Death Metal? Black Metal? Or all of the above?
I now prefer to call it death metal but I really do not care anymore. People have been trying to label me since ’85 and they are usually wrong and it is not worth my time to argue. Nothing But the Hatred era material is harder to call death metal especially due to some of the humorous lyrical content but I saw that as a mistake and left that behind. People should realize that the extra track on Fury Unleashed, “A Collision of Dimensions” was a song in between Nothing But Hatred and Fury Unleashed and it showed the direction I was heading…. more death metal. People talk so much shit… too many solos, the vocals should be this way… it is not death or black…. blah blah blah…. I have watched the “scene” turn inside out several times over the years. Very few people have my respect anymore. Therefore… I do not care what anyone calls it if they happen to like it. That is good enough for me,
Nokturnel Eclipse has been supplying metal warriors with leather and spikes for over a decade. How did you come to crafting leather? Have you always been talented in this field?
I was seeing the need for a product and had a business that could easily carry it. My wife had made herself something that we felt we could take more into a typical metal armband. Osmose/Moonfog Black Metal was everywhere and people wanted Spikes. After some trials we introduced a few designs. Nokturnel Eclipse started by selling CDs which was destroyed by the digital shit we have today and now Nokturnel Eclipse focuses on Spiked Leather and Leather Masks.
Working with leather for yourself is one thing. Being able to sell it to customer after customer and build a reputation is another. We are now well known worldwide and have taken the whole process of creating what we offer farther than we ever thought. Years of experience make a big difference but making every single order perfect for every customer means a lot of hard work on our behalf. We are extremely busy which is great but it is delaying other new items we hope to add to Nokturnel Eclipse soon. We started in 1999 but things really took off for us in the past few years.
Please detail your contributions to Ripping Corpse. Are you still friends with Erik Rutan?
I became friends those guys early on in the Nokturnel demo days. We all got a long really well and were great friends, When they had shows booked out of state they did not want to miss and needed a bass player I was the go to guy. They knew I was capable of learning all their songs in a short period of time and I did just that including unrecorded new songs. They also stayed at my house during the recording of Dreaming With the Dead, I was there from the first note to final mix. I got to sing on all the backing vocals on the record and one other small part for half a second in “Glorious Depravity.”
I am friends with Rutan and consider all of them friends but it is Shaune Kelley I keep in touch with, I am a fan of almost any band any of my friends are in, of course that includes Hate Eternal but Shaune IS Ripping Corpse. The list of people I know in established bands is ridiculous. I do not speak to anyone on the phone often and do not go out of my way to keep up with any of them any more than any random person on the internet. I consider tons of people friends and we are happy to get together when they come through my area but I am a busy person and prefer the company of my family. My closest friends in bands get the invite to stay with us…. Rutan and Kelley would make that list.
You and King Fowley appear to be the best of pals. How many times have Nokturnel and Deceased played shows together? How long has your friendship been? There must be some crazy stories with you two in the early days of extreme metal.
Yes, we are. We agree on many things more so than disagree and know us older underground guys are a dying breed. I have known him and a lot of people since 1990 or earlier. Nokturnel and Deceased did quite a few shows together in the early 90s and I went to many shows down south where they were from on my own just to hang out. King and I are a lot alike but we are not by any means carbon copies of each other.
He is a unique personality and I would like to think people see me that way as well… One time I was with Deceased in Maryland we all piled into one hotel room. Long after everyone passed out I woke up to what I thought was a fucking gunshot. When I jumped out of my skin only one other person in the room woke up… I think it was King.. I looked through the curtain and saw some guy hauling ass through the parking lot, it was freezing during winter at the time. It turned out that some guy had bought a can of soda from a machine and smashed it through the window of the room next door. He was freezing out there and just had a freakout.
There’s some good babble [on this topic] in the book Glorious Times…One time in Cleveland we both played a show called Splatterfest. King misunderstood me and during their set invited the entire show to MY hotel. When I said see you there with everybody I meant Deceased… not half of Cleveland…. no fun telling carloads of people to go away that night, good times
You originally lived in New Jersey and relocated to Texas. I have noticed in previous statements that you have a disdain for your prior homeland. Why do you prefer Texas so much? Is it because Texas has the ability to secede if the US keeps twirling into nonsense?
Some people would consider leaving the area they grew up in a nightmare, for others it is a nightmare to stay. I much prefer the people of the South, not meaning metalheads…. they are the same no matter where you go, but people in general are easier to live with. NJ is a place I look back at knowing life for me got a whole lot better when I left. Some people refuse to leave and look for something better in life. I am not one of them. I moved to Florida around the time I joined Incantation which was no fun with the extra travel but even that was a massive upgrade for me.
Texas is fucking awesome. Great people, open minded and tolerant. Great weather, amazing food. When I met my wife she was living in Austin and it was a no-brainer for me to come to Texas instead of us staying in Florida. This is where we both want to stay. After living here and seeing almost everywhere you can think of…. I cannot see myself living anywhere else.
How long have you played guitar? You’re quite an amazing musician. What type of equipment, guitars, strings, etc do you use? What type of equipment would you recommend to new guitarists that are just starting out?
I began about 1980. I had experience playing piano when I was very young, which I blew off… I used to read complex sheet music and all this crap. I do not remember ANY of it. Matter of fact I only know the names of two guitar strings and one scale. All of my guitar [playing] is natural.
I took some basic lessons and was taught a few basic things before I was told I did not need any lessons and not to return. My teacher showed me “I Don’t Know” by Ozzy in the most retarded way imaginable. I showed him the right way; he was not mad. He made sure I knew how to tune the guitar and said I pick way too hard but I would be a great player some day… I was furious as I wanted to learn how to play lead. I figured it all out on my own. To these schooled modern shredders, they seem to pick me apart and explain everything I do in terms that mean nothing to me. “you don’t come all the way around on a this and don’t finish a that before you go into a….”…. I am thinking if I did that…. I would sound like you, and Nokturnel fans do NOT want that… so take your shred knowledge and tell someone who is easily impressed.
I am happy where I am in my own realm of demonic possession and appreciate others way more than they appreciate me. No sleep lost there. I am most known for using the Washburn EC29, but I currently play a Halo Inverted and having a Kahler Pro Series tremolo is mandatory. I only have one other V and am in the market for a new one now. I would appreciate it if you would link the Tremolo Torture video I did for Kahler. I talk a lot about why I need a Kahler tremolo.
I am a gain maniac. Crank a dual rectifier with active pickups and add more distortion and gain and noise and you are ready to create some noise, I think the two things a new player needs to help them gain confidence is proper reverb and a little delay effect. Best advice I can give anyone who wants to learn how to play… begin with Iron Maiden Piece of Mind, learn the riffs, learn the solos… you are now metal
How well was the single “Ancestral Calling” received? What inspired you to write it? The riffs don’t seem to differentiate much, but the technical ability is amazing. How did you approach this song? What was your mindset? How will Nokturnel top this song in the future?
Overwhelmed with it really. It was incredible for me. I set out to do something I had not done in 20 years. A song based off only a few simple parts like Savage Death did in the 80s. I also wanted a song where the vocals and storyline dominate and that it did, Playing that song at Maryland Death Fest was the greatest moment for me in all of Nokturnel history. Seeing the crowd respond and even sing the words with me was just unbelievable. I was worried I kept it too simple, had feared Nokturnel fans would just not be into it. I was wrong, they fuckin’ flipped over it and I gained a ton of new fans. I feel I did top it.
The followup was “Shadows Alive” which is completely different. It is also based on real life paranormal experiences I was cautious about sharing with anyone. It is a very personal song for me and also much more furious than “Ancestral Calling.” Finding myself standing alone again after the last show I played and passing on other opportunities I chose to turn my back on everything and go back into the studio.
That song for me is a personal triumph. Not content with the few offers I got to play in 2013 and all the hassle to get the line up going I am now doing the same thing. Back in the studio alone, writing. “Shadows Alive” surpassed “Ancestral Calling.’ The new stuff I am working on now is way beyond that material, and believe me when I say I love all my music. This is why there are only so many Nokturnel songs as opposed to 10+ CDs worth. I am striving to make the best music…. not the most.. Every song counts.
Thank you for your time. If you have anything else that you’d like our readers to know, please share.
I think you did a great job with these questions. I managed to keep it short for a change, Thanks for that! I do intend to play shows again but I have a lot going on and much more work to do on new material. This band means more to me than anyone could understand, I have a lot more to offer and will fight to the death to make it happen.
Feel free to check out Tom’s businesses and music:
A collaboration between zine enthusiasts Alan Moses (Buttface zine) and Brian Pattison (Chainsaw Abortions zine), this relic features rare photographs and stories from the bands themselves. There are no outside influences to censor or alter what is displayed.
Click on the cover picture above to see the flyer featuring Chris Reifert for the new edition of “Glorious Times”.
We reviewed Glorious Times: A Pictorial History of the Death Metal Scene 1984-1991 before, describing how it is a collection of first-hand retrospectives on the formative years of the underground metal scene that is motivating people to restore these older values in newer metal music.
Thanks to the rising interest in the book, what was once a limited edition has returned as what we hope is a regular product. Check it out:
After MUCH tenuous effort, we are extremely proud to announce that our revised and extended edition of ‘Glorious Times’ is currently finished, and now in the hands of our new printer.
Bigger and better than before! 160 pages of massively rare and mostly unseen photographs, tied together with sentiment and reflections from the very people who lived the era – the GLORIOUS TIMES.
This book is not designed to be perfect or even convenient armchair reading for the detached casual audience. It’s for the diehards. It’s power is in the content; not all of it, because some metal bands cannot even be edited into coherence, and the coverage of the evolution of the first generation of death metal. After this, death metal picked up steam, became a known style and had a different set of challenges. But if you want to watch it emerging from the primordial soup of speed metal, punk, thrash and extra-musical influences (Lovecraft) here’s a good chance.
I find it interesting — and I mean this in a good way — how nerdly and awesome these early founders are. Some are partying/mayhem types, but most of the rest strike me as intelligent, curious, introspective people who got failed by modern society because it’s a dying shroud of a pleasant illusion. These people aren’t hipsters and literati, but they think about life, and find meaning in concepts and art. That puts them ahead of most of this moribund species.
Glorious Times: A Pictorial of the Death Metal Scene (1984-1991) presents a retrospective of the early death metal scene, written by the bands themselves, and edited by Alan Moses (Buttface Zine) and Brian Pattison (Chainsaw Abortions Zine). If you want to see what the early bands were thinking, doing and how they helped invent death metal, this original book gives you a window into the past and future of death metal.
Here’s my original review of the book from August 6, 2010:
When Kontinual lent me his copy of this great book, I had no idea what I was in for. It’s not a retrospective and not so much a nostalgia swipe as an attempt to preserve the past of the death metal genre through the words of the musicians who created it.
Outside of an introduction by Laurent Ramadier, the book is entirely composed of short retrospectives written by the bands themselves. Some are apologetic and wistful, others charging ahead full of verve, and still others factual or like the odd literary piece by Revenant’s Henry Veggian, insights into the mentality of those days.
It doesn’t make sense to group this book in with other death metal books like Choosing Death or Lords of Chaos, which attempt to analyze and formulate a coherent single narrative for the evolution of the genre. Instead, this is primary research material, with each essay providing approximately a short interview’s worth of primary source material for the growth of the death metal underground.
Compiled by Alan Moses (BUTTFACE ‘zine) and Brian Pattison (CHAINSAW ABORTIONS ‘zine), this half-folio tome brings out the best in death metal, including introductions to a veritable treasure trove of early partial evolutions of death metal. If you want a shopping list for the most obscure neo-death out there, get a pad and paper before you read this.
Printed in an initial run of 150 copies, the book will be heading back for a reprint soon. In the meantime, here’s the list of bands who contributed material:
Where’s The Pope?
It will be great to see this book hit the racks for the long term, because it’s chock full of raw material for anyone curious as to the birth of death metal, the underground, and the related genres that spawned from the raw ferment of metallic anguish in that era.
From “Cambyses” over at Ultimate-Metal, here’s a list of death metal releases by year during the glory days of 1988-1995:
Sarcófago – INRI
Massacra – Legion Of Torture
Nocturnus – Nocturnus
Death – Scream Bloody Gore
Napalm Death – Scum
Rigor Mortis (US) – Rigor Mortis
Pestilence – Malleus Maleficarum
Incubus (US) – Serpent Temptation
Death – Leprosy
Nihilist – Premature Autopsy
Morbid Angel – Altars Of Madness
Dead Horse – Horsecore: An Unrelated Story That’s Time Consuming
Obituary – Slowly We Rot
Rigor Mortis (US) – Freaks
Repulsion – Horrifed
Autopsy – Severed Survival
Carcass – Symphonies Of Sickness
Pestilence – Consuming Impulse
Dr. Shrinker – Wedding The Grotesque
Nihilist – Only Shreds Remain
Terrorizer – World Downfall
Morgoth – Resurrection Absurd
Incubus (US) – Beyond The Unknown
Carnage – Dark Recollections
Disharmonic Orchestra – Expositionsprophylaxe
Massacra – Final Holocaust
Cadaver – Hallucinating Anxiety
Tiamat – Sumerian Cry
Baphomet – Inheritors Of The Dead
Entombed – Left Hand Path
Deicide – Deicide
Master – Master
Atheist – Piece Of Time
Merciless – The Awakening
Death – Spiritual Healing
Benediction – Subconscious Terror
Nocturnus – The Key
Cancer – To The Gory End
Impetigo – Ultimo Mondo Cannibale
Blasphereion – Rest In Peace
Megaslaughter – Calls From The Beyond
Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
Death – Human
Demigod – Unholy Domain
Master – On The Seventh Day God Created… Master
Revenant – Prophecies Of A Dying World
Unleashed – Where No Life Dwells
Gorguts – Considered Dead
Entombed – Clandestine
Death Strike – ****in’ Death
Edge Of Sanity – Nothing But Death Remains
Carcass – Necroticism – Descanting The Insalubrious
Therion – Of Darkness…
Suffocation – Effigy Of The Forgotten
Benediction – The Grand Leveller
Pungent Stench – Been Caught Buttering
Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick
Broken Hope – Swamped In Gore
Corpus Rottus – Rituals Of Silence
Dismember – Like An Ever Flowing Stream
Autopsy – Mental Funeral
Asphyx – The Rack
Immolation – Dawn Of Possession
Authorize – The Source Of Dominion
Massacre – From Beyond
Massacra – Enjoy The Violence
Ripping Corpse – Dreaming With The Dead
Grave – Into The Grave
Demilich – The Four Instructive Tales …Of Decomposition
Suffocation – Human Waste
Lemming Project – Extinction
Cancer – Death Shall Rise
Immortalis – Indicium De Mortuis
Gorefest – Mindloss
Cartilage – In Godly Flesh
Pestilence – Testimony Of The Ancients
Incubator – McGillroy The Housefly
Morpheus Descends – Ritual Of Infinity
Mordicus – Three Way Dissection
Incantation – Onward To Golgotha
Seance – Fornever Laid To Rest
Baphomet – The Dead Shall Inherit
Cianide – The Dying Truth
Mortuary – Blackened Images
Atrocity – Todessehnsucht
Demilich – The Echo
Torchure – Beyond The Veil
Rippikoulu – Mutaation Aiheuttama Sisäinen Mätäneminen
Altar/Cartilage – Split
Disharmonic Orchestra – Not To Be Undimensional Conscious
Edge Of Sanity – Unorthodox
Epitaph – Seeming Salvation
Therion – Beyond Sanctorum
Asphyx – Crush The Cenotaph
Adramelech – Grip Of Darkness
Cenotaph (Mex) – The Gloomy Reflections Of Our Hidden Sorrows
Lemming Project – Hate And Despise
Torturer – Oppressed By The Force
Cadaver – …In Pains
Solstice – Solstice
Eisenvater – I
Unleashed – Shadows In The Deep
Grave – You’ll Never See
Necrosanct – Incarnate
Transgressor – Ether For Scapegoat
Monstrosity – Imperial Doom
Impetigo – Horror Of The Zombies
Necrophiliac – Chaopula – Citadel Of Mirrors
Sinister – Cross The Styx
Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
Demigod – Slumber Of Sullen Eyes
Vital Remains – Let Us Pray
Deicide – Legion
Disastrous Murmur – Rhapsodies In Red
Miasma – Changes
Depravity – Remasquerade
Malevolent Creation – Retribution
Fleshcrawl – Descend Into The Absurd
Pathologist – Putrefactive And Cadaverous Odes About Necroticism
Brutal Truth – Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses
Merciless – The Treasures Within
Phlebotomized – In Search Of Tranquility
Totten Korps – Our Almighty Lords
Asphyx – Last One On Earth
Infester – Darkness Unveiled
Liers In Wait – Spiritually Uncontrolled Art
Adramelech – Spring Of Recovery
Brutality – Screams Of Anguish
Mordicus – Dances From Left
Utumno – Across The Horizon
Rottrevore – Iniquitous
Wombbath – Internal Caustic Torments
Disincarnate – Dreams Of The Carrion Kind
Demilich – Nespithe
Depravity – Silence Of The Centuries
Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence
Torchure – The Essence
God Macabre – The Winterlong
Depravity – Phantasmagoria
Benediction – Transcend The Rubicon
Broken Hope – The Bowels Of Repugnance
Ceremony – Tyranny From Above
Seance – Saltrubbed Eyes
Supuration – The Cube
Pestilence – Spheres
Misery – A Necessary Evil
Gorguts – The Erosion Of Sanity
Kataklysm – The Mystical Gate Of Reincarnation
Phlebotomized – Preach Eternal Gospels
Cancer – The Sins Of Mankind
Carbonized – Disharmonization
Grave – ..And Here I Die… Satisfied
Amorphis – Privilege Of Evil
Cynic – Focus – Remastered
Electrocution – Inside The Unreal
Unleashed – Across The Open Sea
Death – Individual Thought Patterns
Rippikoulu – Musta Seremonia
Sadist – Above The Light
Resurrection – Embalmed Existence
Suffocation – Breeding The Spawn
Morbid Angel – Covenant
Atheist – Elements
Morpheus Descends – Chronicals Of The Shadowed Ones
Brutality – When The Sky Turns Black
Cianide – A Descent Into Hell
Phlebotomized – Immense, Intense, Suspense
Banished – Deliver Me Unto Pain
Fleshcrawl – Impurity
Gutted (US) – Bleed For Us To Live
Incantation – Mortal Throne Of Nazarene
Pavor – A Pale Debilitating Autumn
Brutal Truth – Need To Control
The Chasm – Procreation of the Inner Temple
Oppressor – Solstice Of Oppression
Uncanny – Splenium For Nyktophobia
Cenotaph (Mex) – Riding Our Black Oceans
Abramelin – Transgression From Acheron
Hetsheads – We Hail The Possessed
Infester – To The Depths… In Degradation
The Chasm – From The Lost Years…
Sepsism – Severe Carnal Butchery
Suffocation – Pierced From Within
Agony – Apocalyptic Dawning
Solstice – Pray
Vital Remains – Into Cold Darkness
Adramelech – The Fall
Incantation – Upon The Throne Of Apocalypse
I wouldn’t say all of these are worth getting, but most of them are, and it’s fun to track the development of the genre.
Here’s the problem with critiquing programmatic music: any criticism levied at a piece or album can be explained away, by its adepts or its authors, as a failure to understand the external reference points, or their connection to the music.
As its title suggests, The Sinister Tarot is based on a Tarot cycle, a subject on which this author is entirely ignorant; an ignorance that undoubtedly hampers his comprehension of the album. However, it is clear that Deverills Nexion have created a work that is meant to be experienced as a series of separate but ultimately related images, therefore, “development” as traditionally conceived is not to be expected.
This would not in and of itself be a problem if the individual songs, or “images,” were compelling enough on their own, regardless of whether or not one is acquainted with the program. This, however, is most often not the case. Songs tend to begin by establishing a sonic template, as opposed to a theme, and then wander around it for a while before fading away. These sonorities, though varied, are usually not very interesting on their own, or at best mildly so, consisting mostly of cheap synth pads and aimless guitar playing. These are occasionally enriched by other typical elements of the dark ambient palette, such as chanted vocals and nature samples. The unsurprising nature of the sonic range would again not necessarily be a problem were it not approached in so uninspired, almost idly derivative and predictable way.
Burzum’s Hliðskjálf used a similar set-up, and an even smaller sonic palette, but it worked because it was driven by truly remarkable themes, a feat The Sinister Tarot cannot boast of. The few melodies that do appear are unexceptional, lead to very little, and are easily forgotten. The album’s lack of strong melodic direction ends up looking like a technique with which to hide a lack of content: place the texture at the forefront of the music and let things glide quietly by. This is often a problem with ambient music, in which it stylistically accepted, and almost expected, for melody to be given the backseat. But the best practitioners of this style have always managed to overcome this challenge by using the texture itself as a compositional device; as an element to be treated and developed with as much care as melody or harmony. This is how artists such as Tangerine Dream create works of profound stillness and yet, simultaneously, of gripping intensity. However, this is not the case here. In fact, after a few songs dissipate slowly, one after the other, the listener is left with the worst possible feeling for an art form, such as music, that exists in time: that nothing has actually happened.
On the rare occasion in which a song does not end exactly where it began the transition is often unsatisfactory. These few instances of minimal development, such as in “The geryne of Satan” and “A Deverills man at the Bladuds Head,” are a case of too little and too late; tension rises momentarily only to disappointingly stutter back into the album’s habitual plod. The Deverills Nexion are definitely capable of writing some beautiful raw material, as evidenced by Ere the dancers depart and Bestride a corpse with my face, but even these tracks seem to simply sit there without accomplishing much, fidgeting impatiently. These moments of beauty sadden this particular author, as they are testament to the project’s potential, which, alas, remains but a ripple in a puddle.
Ripping, furious death metal in the vein of 1980s death metal with vestiges of speed metal, solos that bear the mark of Trey Azagthoth, this band is one of the many followers of the legendary Morbid Angel. However, Blasphemic Cruelty is not content with being a clone and continues the work of Angelcorpse by playing a style that takes one facet of Morbid Angel and expanding on it. It is basically the older band’s most brutal side taken as the parting point and center of the music. While Azagthoth would mix a few fast sections with his own trademark of mid-paced and slow riffs, Blasphemic Cruelty pushes the pedal to the max throughout the entire pieces.
While Crucible of the Infernum will not distinguish itself as innovative in any way, it is an example of excellent composition for this style of ripping, blasting death metal. The band’s work here is ideal in the sense that within the limitations it sets for itself, every single space it uses is purposeful by virtue of its integration within the big picture, even if this picture isn’t very big. Admittedly a work of modest reach, Crucible of the Infernum is a solid release strongly recommended for fans of Angelcorpse, Sodom and early Morbid Angel.