Members of Demilich, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Winterwolf and Deathchain form The Exploding Eyes Orchestra

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Formed of five of seven Jess and the Ancient Ones members including Deathchain/Winterwolf guitarist Thomas Corpse as primary songwriter, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra explores a different side of garage rock which merges the nightclub chanteuse sound of the 1940s with the expansive atmospheric sound of 1970s heavy rock. The result has high emotional intensity, compelling vocals, and much of the darkness that keyboard-assisted bands like The Doors wrought from rock music.

The Exploding Eyes Orchestra launches its debut album, simply titled I, on June 12th via Svart Records. According to Thomas Corpse, the band channels material which was incompatible with the Jess and the Ancient Ones concept. Lengthy recording sessions in Kuopio, Finland during the winters of 2013 and 2014 produced two albums of material, the second half of which will be released as II in 2016, also via Svart Records.

The band prides itself on its “strong, carefully planned compositions” with classic rock influences and strong female vocals. The Exploding Eyes Orchestra has released a first track, “My Father the Wolf,” streaming below. For more information, seek out the band at the The Exploding Eyes Orchestra Facebook page.

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Demilich, Jess and the Ancient Ones, and Winterwolf live streaming concert

jess_and_the_ancient_ones-astral_sabbatMark your virtual calendar for Fri, February 22, 6:05 PM EET (which translates to 10:05 AM Central time here in the States) for a live concert which will be streaming over the internet to your screen.

In particular, this is reportedly the last ever concert of Finland’s Demilich, who despite being legendary and making legendary music, have probably seen their last days since guitarist Antti Boman is happily ensconced in Jess and the Ancient Ones.

Also playing will be Winterwolf, a band that calls to mind the buzzsaw guitar and dark melodies of God Macabre and Amorphis. Most likely the luminaries of the Finnish death metal underground will be there as well.

The concert, entitled Farewell to Rubble, includes the following bands:

  • Demilich
  • Jess and the Ancient Ones
  • Winterwolf
  • Blind Men of Doom
  • Standard Whore
  • Aben Erikois Housu Miehet
  • Cypher Acid

If you’re interested, you might as well go on over to the Google+ page for the event and add yourself. Then hit up the site to watch the video when it’s live.

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Winterwolf – Cycle of the Werewolf

I like this album, after having had it for two years and kicked it around during that time. I am constantly suspicious of those who resurrect the sound of the past; however, in this case, the band develops its own voice, although to make a quality 2nd album it will have to do so even more thoroughly. In addition, this gives you the rush of old school Swedish/Finnish death buzzsaw guitars and promise of doom.

Post everywhere! This band deserves your support.

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Serpent Ascending – The Enigma Unsettled (2011)

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Showing up on the metal radar somewhere between the third Therion album and the single release that Winterwolf put out, The Enigma Unsettled combines Scandinavian death metal with the more nuanced paces of doom metal and the subtler harmonies of instrumentally adept heavy metal. The result creates an atmosphere like a more listener-friendly version of Darkthrone Goatlord, building rhythmic intensity that it discharges through the unraveling of several threads of melody into a final statement of clarity and purpose. Guitars vary between death metal styled tremolo riffing and heavy metal style percussive offbeat riffs, creating a tension like a feral beast racing over land and through water, but these integrate similar rhythmic purpose and avoid the disintegration of song into component parts. Vocals take the hoarse and chanted approach, sounding like the calls of a demonic entity through a wall of distortion; these are probably the immediately recognizable weakest link. Inventive song structures, familiar riffs in new styles, and a tendency to have all parts of the song relate to each other and through multiple layers at the same time make this a well-sought listening experience for underground metal fans.

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Deathchain video premiere

Deathchain, a Finnish band that shares members with Demilich, Winterwolf and Jess and The Ancient Ones, recently released a video for their song “Seven Asakku Shadows” taken from their latest album, Ritual Death Metal.

The video is a slow motion celebration of flowing metal haircuts, complete with a guy pouring milk on his head and Antti Boman providing backing vocals in a robe and Cthulhu mask.

Ritual Death Metal is out now on Svart Records.

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Interview with Morgengrau

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Morgengrau rose from the ashes of underground metal and resurrected the ancient ways of old school death metal, hailing back to the 1980s and its fertile ferment of fusion between speed metal, death metal and the various hybrids. Sounding in part like a late 1980s speed/death album and in part like a crushing death metal venture from 1992, Morgengrau carry on the tradition of death metal and give it their own unique stamp.

Extrinsic Pathway is the band’s first full-length release and hits the stores on April 2, 2013. This album features all of what you might expect from older death metal, but also keeps true to its own vision of what the future and the past should hold in common. We were fortunate enough to get a chance to speak to Erika, Morgengrau‘s guitarist/vocalist, about the nature of death metal and where Morgengrau fits into this complex formula.

What made you enjoy death metal, and want to be in a death metal band?

The ferocity of death metal has had me since I first heard bands like Possessed, Malevolent Creation and Cannibal Corpse. While I’ve drifted in and out of enjoying other genres, death metal has been a constant. It speaks to me at a deep, intrinsic level more so than any other musical form. I think it’s natural for humans to create more of the things they love. This is certainly my story. I’m not looking to reinvent the genre or forge brave new paths into the realms of extreme music. Morgengrau is about writing songs springing from the dark places inside us, songs we identify with and enjoy hearing and playing.

Can you tell us a bit about the musical history of the band members? Who plays what and where are they from?

We’re all lifer metalheads, with some of us farther along the road than the others. Multigenerational, shall we say. I’m the oldest with the most bands and experience under my belt. I’m also the only non-native Texan in the band. For those who don’t know, I started out in 1995 up in the Boston, MA area singing for neoclassic group Autumn Tears. Kind of a bizarre beginning, now that I look back on it. Since then I’ve worked my way through progressively heavier projects: Ignitor, Bracaglia, sessioning for Vesperian Sorrow and regularly playing in Drifter, an Iron Maiden tribute. In Morgengrau, I’ve finally created the right band for me where I have full creative control and leadership. This is the first band in which I’ve done more than vocals. Learning to play guitar and sing has been quite the learning experience for me.

The others have had shorter but more focused careers. Reba drummed for a technical death metal band called Manifestation for about 5 years; Jake played bass with avant garde black metallers Humut Tabal and now plays in Plutonian Shore, a very traditional black metal band based in San Antonio. Morgengrau is Nick’s first band.

You list Asphyx, Pestilence and Immolation as influences for at least how you want the album to sound. But there’s a lot more influence in there, ranging all over the place. Can you tell us what else influences you?

I’m terrible at describing my own music; I use what others say they hear to describe it. A number of reviews so far have mentioned it as having “progressive” elements which is a shock — I don’t like progressive metal and certainly wasn’t aiming for that. Simply proves how everyone experiences music a different way. For me, it is what it is. I listen to a lot of Immolation and Finnish death metal like Torture Killer, Winterwolf and Demigod. That definitely lends a flavor, however, I’m acutely aware of avoiding becoming a clone. Morgengrau needs to stand on its own. When I write, I think about what attracts me to certain songs verses what repels me. What works, what doesn’t work. Why do I go back to certain songs time and again? What makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck?

How long has Morgengrau been around? How did you all find each other? Is it hard to find people who want to be in old school bands, as opposed to the new school styled ones?

Morgengrau officially formed in July 2010. Reba and I had been jamming cover tunes for a while and asked Jake to join us in the summer. Very quickly, we realized we made a good a unit. I’ve known Reba since ’04 when I met her at an Ignitor show. I prefer to hang out with guys, but when I saw Reba banging her head like a maniac, I knew we’d be friends. I met Nick in 2009 at a Belphegor show, and Jake shortly after. They were both going to school in San Antonio at that time. The whole process of coming together was inspiring, as it seemed ridiculous at first for a 40 year old to be asking 20 year olds to join a band, yet it worked amazingly well. There’s a whole group of young kids in Texas who are into old school metal for all the right reasons. Unlike when I lived up Northeast, down here I’m surrounded by musicians with whom I can connect and trust. I’m very particular about who I’ll have in my band. No drama or critical life dysfunctions. I’ve been in bands with that and it’s the worst. No thanks.

Extrinsic Pathway suggests someone reaching out, or finding a way through life that’s outside of the internal dialogue of a human being. Is this a concept song or album? Can you tell us what it’s about?

The inspiration came from Reba, who mentioned the phrase after hearing it in class. It’s a medical term — part of the blood clotting process triggered by outside damage to a vessel. I realized it could be used to describe walking the Left Hand Path. Most of us who walk it have been damaged or driven to the dark side in some way. It’s our way of protecting and defending against that unwanted outside insult. We’re all hurtling towards our own personal armageddon. You must ask yourself – “When the time comes, will I go standing and proud, or mewling and crawling on my belly like most everyone else?” Walking the Left is my way of embracing and preparing for that ending, however it comes. That awareness gives me incredible focus and strength. My bandmates feel similarly, in their own ways. The concept should ring true with other listeners, I imagine.

The cover of Sepultura “Inner Self” is phenomenal. You’ve also covered Pestilence and Asphyx. Why these three? Why did you pick “Inner Self”? Is it a “message thing”?

Thanks for the compliment. Before we started writing original material, like most bands we jammed a lot of cover tunes. Asphyx‘s music is simple, catchy and easy to play. I’d not played guitar for almost 20 years so when I picked it back up in 2009, I needed something fun with which to brush off the dust.

Pestilence is my favorite death metal band of all time. Consuming Impulse will be forever timeless. Sepultura wasn’t on the roster until Jake, Nick and Reba started banging out “Inner Self” at the end of practices just for fun. We weren’t planning to make part of our repertoire but it quickly stuck. The song means a lot to Jake, as more than any of us, he’s experienced a coalescence of self over the last few years. When we first met, he was unsure of his path, figuratively dipping his toe into the Acheron, while still clinging to old beliefs. We’ve watched him shed his weak skin for a more confident hide, to begin living a life beholden to none but him. What a pleasure it has been, watching his transformation. It’s one of the reasons why he handles vocals on “Inner Self” — that is his song, in many ways.

The first half of Extrinsic Pathway shows what seems to me is an affinity for mid- to late-1980s speed metal type stuff, which Sepultura and Slayer overlap, since they’re sort of half-death/half-speed. What do you think it is about that time period that’s so appealing, both to Morgengrau and the rest of us out here?

It’s a time of life thing. The late 80s were when I, as a teenager, truly found who I wanted to be as a musician. The riffs and sounds of that time are permanently imprinted in my psyche. This was the Buffalo scene at its heyday, so everything was about Slayer, Sepultura, Death, Deicide, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and Obituary. That time was truly magic. The ferocity of this new music was withering. I remember going with my boyfriend to Mark “Psycho” Abrams’ house to get a copy of Deicide‘s debut album which we’d won from his radioshow. We sat in the car after getting it, holding it, mute, afraid of it. Same thing with Morbid Angel‘s Altars of Madness. Music of such incredible intensity, that went straight to my core, ripped my soul out then fed it back to me, bloody and shredded. If I can capture even an nth of that feeling in my songs, I’ll consider myself successful. I want a young person to hear Morgengrau and feel something of that same, frothing insanity which marked all our days back then. There will never be another time like it.

It sounds like a conscious effort was made to vary up song structure and offer different conclusions to riffs so that each song grows a bit. What appeals to you about this idea?

That’s just good songwriting. It’s easy to write a bunch of singular riffs and stitch them together like a patchwork quilt. Some people love that kind of music but personally, I hate it. It feels like a epileptic fit. Songs have to flow. The transitions need to make sense. Dynamic is critical, otherwise the ear goes numb. Let’s not forget the importance of the concept of “hook.” If you can’t keep the main riff in your head after the song is over, it might as well not even exist. Bands get all wrapped up writing these complex, super fast, theory-based riffs to prove their musicianmanship. That does not a good song make — those tunes never sound like anything other than WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP in the typical shitty live setting. All I want is for the interested to get our music on first listen, so they come back for more.

Can you tell us where you produced this album, and how was your first time as a band in a studio? What techniques did you use to get that nice thick early 1990s sound?

Two words about studio time: fucking hell.

To elaborate: We recorded at Amplitude Media here in Austin. It was close and flexible, which in the end was fortunate as we didn’t move along nearly as fast as expected. I’d never recorded anything from the ground up. Reba had one demo under her belt. Nick and Jake – no experience to speak of. We got the click track going and off we went… into the sterile land of first album territory where the fan reaction is, “What the fuck happened? The demo was so ferocious!” I instantly understood how that happens — you think the “right way” is to record to a click and you’ve NEVER EVER used one in practice, so that click sucks all the life out of the songs. So… no click. Sure there’s some timing stuff here and there, but the songs sound alive, and that’s the key.

Four rhythm tracks with my Mesa cabinet double miked got us that fat sound. We used a Rectifier Roadster and a custom Brugera for amplification. All those tracks took a long time. It was very taxing — I’m certainly not a one take kind of player.

Everyone had their own personal freakout moment during recording. Rather unifying, in the end. The day I had mine it was hot (it was a good 108º outside, probably 90º in the studio), I’d had a long, shitty day at work and had received some rather horrible personal news a few days before. I sat down with the guitar to start on rhythm track 3 for “Antithetical,” sweat was pouring down the back of my neck and my arms and an ant was walking up the neck of my guitar. I just about started screaming. I wanted nothing more than to quit. But how could I? I had three other people believing that I could do it, that this would happen. So I shoved the panic down, ignored the ant and the sweat, and got it done.

Once we got to vocals, things smoothed out. Reba floored us with her backing tracks. She has a hell of a voice! On “Extrinsic Pathway,” “Antithetical,” and “Polymorphic”, that really deep roar under mine is her. The day she cut her tracks will forever remain one of my fondest memories. There she was in the isolation room, all 5’4″ of her, never having recorded vocals before, and suddenly this enormous demonic roar coming pouring out of the monitors and knocks us all off the couch. Jake was just open-mouthed. At that point, I started laughing and could not stop. It was such an amazing moment. What a hidden talent she has.

We mixed and mastered with Devo Andersson and Endarker Studio. Devo’s a friend whose work I hold in high regard. Mixing from a distance was challenging but worth it. There was no way I was going to let everyone’s blood, sweat, and almost-tears be wasted by cheaping out on the final stages. We finished the album late, vastly overbudget, way stressed out and exhausted… and it was worth every penny, minute, and ounce of energy.

What’s next for Morgengrau? I know that most of your team have other projects, both musical and otherwise. Are you going to tour? Gig around Austin, TX, which I believe is your homebase? Sacrifice goats to the Dark Lord Ba’al and His Legions of Necrocaprous Antagonists?

Hipster abuse. Shameless self promotion. Spamming teh Interwebz. Cat memes — ok, just kidding. We’re going to play as many strategically important shows as possible. There are gigs in San Antonio and Houston booked, then we’re heading to NYC to play Martyrdoom in June. I have to give thanks to Vinny and Signature Riff for such an amazing opportunity — we are so excited! Touring is definitely on the wish list, but with our various job schedules, might be tough. Never say never, though. One thing I will avoid is overplaying — we see that so much in TX. There’s always that one band that’s on every goddamned bill. After six months, nobody cares. It’s important to keep anticipation up. New material is in the works, and we continue to work on stage presentation. If you’re going to do it, do it big and do right, and with passion.

Do you think old school death metal is returning? Other than technique, what makes OSDM different from “modern” death metal, metalcore, deathcore, indie-metal, post-metal and bounce metal?

You forgot crabcore. I’ll tell you, the day someone sent me that Attack Attack video at work I nearly had to go into the bathroom and drown myself in the toilet. That’s METAL? And those are MEN? I’ve got more testosterone in my wizened left ovary than all five of them combined. WHAT HAPPENED?

I think old school DM is already back. Bands like Funebrarum, Disma, Cruciamentum and War Master are merely a few of the great examples of new death metal done the right way. It helps the old greats are still around with more enthusiasm than ever — last night, I saw Imprecation, Master and Incantation — that’s about 100 years of death metal experience rolled up into one show. Immolation‘s new album sounds like it’s going to be killer.

What makes it different? Shit, where to begin? Good songwriting. No jerking off on the fretboard. Solos that complement the music, even if they’re only five notes. Lyrical focus on destruction, the occult, anti-Christian sentiments, war, suffering, darkness. Musicians who would sooner kill themselves than get on stage wearing a white belt. Long hair or no hair, nothing in between. Pointy guitars. Blood, our own or yours, we don’t care. Steaks and hamburgers, none of that vegan shit. Going on stage blind because you’d sooner die than play wearing your glasses. Songs that generate circle pits. Self-knowledge. Willingness to sacrifice all. Passion without drama. Lifetime commitment. Honesty.

I could talk your ear off, but you probably need that ear for the next album. I appreciate the time you put into this and know our readers will as well.

I’ve always got an ear for DeathMetal.org. Thank you, Brett and your readers, for the support. Come walk the Extrinsic Pathway with us… Hail Metal, hail Death!

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20 years ago: Nespithe

Demilich-NespitheAlmost exactly two decades ago, Nespithe, the sole full-length album of Demilich, was released, like a snake swiftly escaping its cage. That simile is not entirely off: trying to explain what this now classic death metal album sounds like, one almost inevitably comes across likenesses to slippery serpents or, considering the “cut-off” melodies played, to dismembered slimy worms twisting and turning. And growing anew.

What about the vocals? Metal fans seem divided and either hate those belching croaks or love them to death. In any case, I think they fit the idea of the album pretty darn well. The world of Nespithe seems like a cavernous microcosm of life and death, an evolutionary breeding ground hidden away from the rays of the sun, where Antti Boman‘s murky vocals comment on developments like a detached god. Penetrating those underground worlds (that are surprisingly free from tremolo riffs) feels like being thrown down a dark hole, and, after hitting the ground, you realise the floor is “moving”. And the listening experience is much like that: the mind is forced to pay attention to every single movement in the dark despite its complexity. Challenging, terrifying, beautiful.

23 years since its conception, the band Demilich is no more (it now seems definite), but Boman, the mastermind behind it all, is involved in other interesting projects (e.g. Winterwolf and Jess and the Ancient Ones) and we will always have the ever so generous Demilich download page.

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Death Metal

Death metal uses tremolo strummed power chords in phrasal riffs, creating an internal dialogue of melody to project a narrative which takes us from a starting point through internal conflict to an ending radically removed from the start. This often complex music relies heavily on chromatic scales and solos that resemble sonic sculpture more than a reliance on scales or harmony, and use “modal stripes” or repeated interval patterns (such as a half interval followed by a whole) to maintain a mood. Inherently structuralist, death metal can be recognized by its “post-human” perspective, seeing the world through biology, history, warfare and mythology instead of the “I/me/mine” viewpoint of a modern society.

House recommendations: Morbid Angel, Slayer, Monstrosity, Cryptopsy, Suffocation, Therion and Vader.

BEST EVER

1. Massacra – Final Holocaust
2. Deicide – Legion
3. Morbid Angel – Blessed Are the Sick
4. Therion – Beyond Sanctorum
5. Sepultura – Morbid Visions
6. Incantation – Onward to Golgotha
7. Morpheus Descends – Ritual of Infinity
8. Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence
9. Obituary – Cause of Death
10. Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten
11. Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
12. Dismember – Like an Ever-Flowing Stream
13. Amorphis – The Karelian Isthmus
14. At the Gates – The Red in the Sky is Ours
15. Demilich – Nespithe
16. Asphyx – The Rack

COMPILATIONS

Projections of a Stained Mind (C.B.R. Records)
Harmony Dies Vol. 1 (Slayer Magazine)
Pantalgia (MBR Records)
Live Death: Vol 1 (Restless)
Sampler Volume I (JL America)
Deterioration of the Senses (Morbid Metal)
Book I: Induction (Hits Underground)

Reviews have mp3 sound samples for each album, coverscan, tracklist and label contact information.

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Metal: returning from the dead?

Listening to Schubert on a Saturday morning:

Underground metal died somewhere between 1992 and 1996, depending on who you talk to. Bottom line: by 1996 neither the quality nor the abundance of distinctive releases was what it had been.

From 1996 to about 2002, the metal community waffled and tried to re-live the past. Then with the rise of Opeth and later indie-metal like Boris, in about 2004 the metal community threw in the towel and decided to let itself by assimilated by indie-rock.

From 2004-2009 the rise of metalcore, indiecore, nu-metal and black hardcore continued unabated, until people realized that (a) this music had more in common with self-pitying egodrama radio rock than soul-renewing heavy metal and (b) that the new audience of “metalheads” were hipster idiots as a result.

Starting in 2009, we had a revival of the underground. Are we supposed to be cheering? Yes — guardedly. Every time anything retro emerges, all the frauds come out of the woodwork along with the honest artists, and the frauds tend to win out by sheer volume.

A few asides:

(1) Long live the notion of meaning to life. We don’t need it to be inherent, we just need it to be there to discover.

(2) Long live art. Art sings the sad and the good together into a balance, but makes that balance exciting, like a space through which we can dart and dive and discover ourselves again.

(3) The ego has its place, but the ego can fool us like a Satan-God hybrid that lures us away from life itself.

(4) Nothing is as it seems.

(5) Metal is a renovation of our spirit; it is the war-spirit mixed with the sentiment for all the beautiful things that makes us give a damn about doing right. We do not fear God, and we do not fear society. We fear meaningless and pointless exercises in personal satiation without ever really finding something worth expending our lives upon.

Whatever lies after death, and whatever rules this universe, or does not, we must consider that our lives need both meaning and significance, meaning that we need a reason to suppose our actions have consequences that we care about. Without that balance, we have no reason to exist.

As metal returns from the land of meaninglessness (twee indiecore hipster schmaltz), we see the retro-fakers being shoved aside and a rise of people who are continuing the spirit of the past:

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