Watain, Withered, Ritual Killer and Sarcolytic in Austin, Texas

Watain, Withered, Ritual Killer and Sarcolytic
October 25, 2008
Red 7
611 E. 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Austin has come by its current status as Texas’ metal capital somewhat disingenuously; San Antonio, once a world-famous metal mecca, has continued to fail the genre with a dearth of viable venues or solid attendance. The irony is that most notable Austin shows have an audience with San Antonians comprising nearly one-half, along with a considerable supplement of Houston visitors. Nevertheless, Austin has the advantage with an endless supply of mediocre but metal-receptive venues combined with its centralized location, so legitimate or not it is now the city for Texas hessians to go for shows. Red 7 itself is at least spacious with a semi-decent PA, though its current lack of air conditioning made the room sticky and uncomfortable. Vex was the first act but this reviewer chose to stand out on the street due to the aforementioned conditions, but also because the band itself is so stylistically confused they are virtually unlistenable. Local death metal stalwarts Sacrolytic came next and delivered a solid set that was sadly compromised by its muddy sound. The band presents as a convincing Suffocation variant complete with BC Rich guitars and a storm of hair from the front line, but their live shows would definitely benefit from a personal sound engineer.

Ritual Killer

Ritual Killer is a side project of Goatwhore axeman Sammy Duet, though few people are aware of this so the band was obligated to stand on its own merits. They attacked a set of songs that were one part Hellhammer and two parts Blasphemy, and while the band delivered a competent show (the dreadlocked and visibly disturbed vocalist added an enigmatic touch to the proceedings) the songs quickly ran together and monotony set in. However, they seemed aware of the limited range of their material and the thirty minute set prevented them from overstaying their welcome. They were not bad by any means, but also not nuanced enough to make any lasting impact. If the band ever moves out of side project status they may end up with more to offer. Once again this reviewer stepped outside to breathe dry air and to avoid Book of Black Earth, a band who describes themselves as “death grunge” and may quickly realize that this label reads to most people as, “ignore us, we’re not credible”. This is precisely what happened; there was no reason for this band to be on the tour.

Withered

Withered came next and drew most everyone back into the room in the process. They play a brand of driving Swedish-style death metal that invokes early Amon Amarth but with an injected dissonance and feedback manipulation that recalls “Souls at Zero”-era Neurosis. This hybridization is more effective than it may sound, as Withered succeeded in creating atmosphere with a well-rehearsed application of various effects pedals and thoughtful interchanges between guitar, bass, and drums. Vocals were standard variations of screams and growls, but the vocalists proved to be savvy in knowing when to back off and let the music speak for itself. Even more impressive was the performance of the unit’s powerhouse drummer who displayed flair and blinding velocity on a very minimal kit; his triplet blast-beats with no sign of cheating or fatigue garnered many cheers throughout the set. The band as a whole executed their songs in a manner that reflected intelligence, conviction, and an almost idealistic brightness rarely seen in the metal underground circa 2007, and for that they should be commended.

Watain

Watain was preceded by the orange funk of carrion that was hung on iron poles around the stage like some kind of perverse holiday display. A synth-orchestrated introduction brought them to an enthusiastic crowd, and then the band voraciously tore into their set. The sound was a bit anemic and the band’s musical dynamic was stripped down due to their regular second guitarist being barred from entering the US, but it was a solid execution of material predominantly from “Sworn to the Dark” with tracks from “Casus Luciferi” and a single number from “Rabid Death’s Curse” to mollify the purists. Vocalist and de facto bassist E. Watain was appropriately the center of attention with his deranged and snake-eyed countenance that is just as charismatic as it is confrontational. He is not a large man so it is always impressive to hear a such gigantic voice rising out of him. He also seemed to be speaking in tongues or perhaps reciting incantations while not on the microphone, and it helped further the sense of madness on the stage. Watain’s latest album has been derided by some as too polished and too accessible, and while these charges aren’t wholly unfair it should be noted that the band has refused to give way to brevity in their compositions; most of the songs clock in at around six minutes and as such they are allowed to build and breathe to greater effect. One of the highlights was their rendition of “I Am the Earth”, which best summarizes Watain as a whole. Grandeur, violence, and passion are all equally present in this song, and the only thing that comes close to touching it is the current album’s “Stellarvore”, which also made its massive presence known this night. Ultimately, the Swedish quartet succeeded in their mission by living up to their infamous reputation along with creating many new converts to their cause. Music aside, they deliver some of the most dangerous showmanship since an odd young man named Per Ohlin took up with a death metal band from Oslo.

– Written by David Anzalone

Bands:
Watain
Withered
Ritual Killer
Sarcolytic

Promoters:
Red 7

Interview: Kaiser Kuo (Chunqiu, Tang Dynasty)

Kaiser Kuo is a Chinese metal pioneer (Tang Dynasty and Chunqiu), blogger and columnist, who currently lives in Beijing. Having grown up in the United States, he was kind enough to offer his rare perspective to our questions on metal, media, and China.

First, we would appreciate it if you would kindly describe a bit about yourself for the benefit of our readers. Since this is a metal site, a brief history of your involvement with the genre would be helpful as well (as would some forgiveness from you for the metal-relatedness of many of the questions).

My pleasure, and thanks much for reaching out. I’m very happy to talk to you guys about what’s going on in the Metal scene in China. It’s something that the popular media doesn’t pay much attention to, and in the West, when stories get written about the Chinese rock scene, they tend to dwell on the punks and ignore the very vibrant and extremely creative Metal scene here. There’s also a lot of popular misunderstanding about what Metal means in the Chinese context, and this is a great forum to help clear some of that up I hope.

I get credited a lot for having been an early, if not the earliest, “Metal missionary” in China. I was born in the U.S. and from junior high on was really into two genres of music, Metal and Progressive Rock. I was one of those rare kids who was listening not just to Judas Priest, early Scorpions, and NWOBHM bads, but also to Yes and ELP. Rush was the band that, for me, wedded the two genres and I was a complete Rush fanatic all through high school and college and I owe them a tremendous debt for inspiring me in my early years as a musician. During college I played in a Prog Rock band, and through a fluke connection of my father’s — he was doing business in China — we were invited to come to China and play. It never happened, but that was because we couldn’t get it together on our end. Meanwhile I had this burning urge to go to China and see what I could make happen in music. So as soon as I graduated in 1988, I headed to Beijing ostensibly as a student of Mandarin, but really my goal was to hook up with the local musicians. I co-founded Tang Dynasty with a very talented guitarist/singer named Ding Wu and a bassist named Zhang Ju in early 1989. I went back to the States later that year, returning to China only for a few months at a time in the early 90s, and moving back to China to rejoin the band in 1996. I left the band in 1999, and in early 2001 co-founded the band I’ve been with since, Chunqiu, which people describe as a traditional Heavy Metal band with very distinct ethnic Chinese influences.

I know very little about metal in China, but I’ve read that Tang Dynasty is often considered a leader of the “movement.” How do you view your personal role in shaping the music?

I don’t think there’s anyone who doubts that Tang Dynasty was where Metal really got started in China. I certainly had a part in it: I introduced the other guys in the band to much of the music that would influence them (bands like Queensryche, for example), and I did come up with the name of the band. But they changed me as much as I changed them. Playing with Tang Dynasty I really found that the fusion of traditional Chinese music and Western Metal works: it’s not something I ever tinkered with before co-founding Tang Dynasty. A lot of credit is due not just to Ding Wu, the band’s singer and rhythm guitar player; but also to our first producer, Landy Chang from Rock Records in Taiwan, who saw the potential in the band and really helped shape the direction of the music.

And mutual fear brings Peace,
Till the selfish loves increase;
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care.

– William Blake, Songs of Experience: The Human Abstract

If you had never lived in the US, do you feel metal in China would have effectively been stunted until much more recently?

I have no doubt that it would have taken off, but it might have been a bit later and there might not have been quite such a home-grown success story, Tang Dynasty, to look up to for young Metal players. Tang Dynasty gave Chinese players and fans their first Chinese guitar hero, Lao Wu (Liu Yijun), and showed them that Metal despite its clearly western origins could be recognizably Chinese and still really authentically ass-kicking. I think if I hadn’t started proselytizing in the late 80s, by the early 90s there were enough other American musicians coming to China and exposing people to Metal that there would have been a kernel to the scene anyway, and it would have snowballed like it did with the availability of cheap pirated discs in the mid-90s and Internet MP3 downloads and sharing by 2002/2003 all the same.

What has caused more run-ins with Chinese officials (if any): playing metal or having a well-regarded Internet presence?

There really haven’t been “run-ins” at all, either for me personally or for the Metal genre in China as a whole. The worst that will happen is a bit of censorship of lyrics, but it’s not really onerous. Unfortunately Metal is still just too marginal in China to really catch the attention, for better or worse, of Chinese officials. They have much bigger things to worry about. And certainly the kind of stuff I do and say on the Internet isn’t something that’s going to get Chinese authorities breathing down my neck. It’s all pretty innocuous.

Having experienced both extensively, is there anything you prefer about life in the “liberal, bourgeois West” to life in China (during any time)?

Sure, there are things about the West that I still really enjoy whenever I’m back there. The air quality comes to mind! It’s always a thrill to go to record stores; I like owning CDs and not just having digital music on my iPod, so that’s one thing I miss. There aren’t any world-class record stores in China. And even though there’s a great live scene here, it’s still rare that major international acts come to Beijing, let alone smaller, more interesting acts. But for 99% of what I want out of life, China either meets or exceeds my needs. There’s a dynamism and buoyancy to life here that comes from living in a place where life just gets better pretty much every day. It’s a really exciting place to live still, and I’ve been able to play the kind of role here that I simply wouldn’t have been able to play had I never come to China.

How do you feel heavy metal fits into this general Western cultural current; is it drastically different from rock music in itself?

Like rock itself, Metal has subdivided into so many subgenres that it’s really impossible to make generalizations about how it fits into Western culture anymore. There are attitudes, habits of mind, behavioral and even ideological tendencies that correlate pretty strongly to every subgenre, so that Deathcore fans are really, really different than people who like, say, Progressive Metal like Symphony X or Dream Theater. You have everything from misanthropic nihilists to just plain music geeks who might be really mainstream in other ways. Once upon a time you could make generalizations, but not any more.

Is there any more or less differentiation between rock and metal in a more information-tight society?

I don’t think that in the last 30 years, deliberate information control in China has had ANYTHING to do with either the development of rock and metal or differentiation between and among all the different genres and subgenres of music. The simple truth is that musical tastes in China are mainly dictated by marketing and by cultural aesthetic preferences. The former, when it comes to music, tends to favor the kind of candy-ass Mandopop and Cantopop (which sometimes has the nerve to call itself rock!), and the latter — the cultural aesthetic preference — is still relatively unsophisticated outside of the fringe scenes in a handful of cities. Sad, really, but in this case I don’t honestly think it’s the government’s fault in any meaningful way.

Along those lines, there have been stories recently in mainstream press covering the “rise” of heavy metal in Islamic nations. Do you think there is any parallel in this to metal’s gaining in popularity in China?

I think Metal faces a whole lot more difficulty in Islamic societies, particularly in really theocratic or heavily religious polities. In China there are occasional flare-ups of anti-western sentiment, but they’ve never in my memory had a cultural dimension. They’re always political. You see self-described punks rockers or Metalheads in China — people who clearly have close cultural affinities to the West — take part in these sometimes. There’s a decoupling of politics and culture. I don’t think that’s so true in Islamic societies. If Metal has failed to gain popularity in China it has nothing to do with either religion or state controls.

Metal lends itself to lyrics of a “blasphemous” nature as well as anything, but there are plenty of other genres that are just as noisy and iconoclastic that could seemingly have a similar effect when directed at the status quo. Are punk/hardcore and related genres gaining in popularity in China as well?

Metal lyrics in China don’t tend to be “blasphemous,” in part because there’s nothing that really stands in for Judeo-Christian dogma to blaspheme against. The state hasn’t made an enemy of Metal, and so Metal doesn’t make an enemy of the state here. I have strong suspicions that other genres, like punk (and to a much lesser extent, hardcore, which isn’t well represented in China that I know of) tend to write more iconoclastic lyrics — defiant, anti-authoritarian, even politically critical — out of a cynical knowledge that doing so gets the noticed by the western media, which laps that kind of shit up.

I can’t read Tang Dynasty’s lyrics… I’m wondering if you could please comment on some of the general themes they cover, and from where you drew influence for them.

First of all, I’ve never had a hand in writing lyrics either for Tang Dynasty or Chunqiu. Tang Dynasty drew lyrical influences from the Chinese poetic tradition (which really reached a peak in the eponymous dynasty, 618-907 A.D.), and like Chinese poetry, the lyrics are highly imagistic and even pretty sentimental. There are a lot of themes of heroism, romanticism, that sort of thing. There’s also quite a bit of Buddhist influence, especially in the lyrics for some of the songs on the second album, Epic. Chunqiu also goes in for the imagistic approach, and also draws on timelessly Chinese poetic themes, as well as mythological, heroic, historical, and philosophical themes in it.

In your view, is “protest music” a limiting term, and does it apply to heavy metal in any way?

I don’t think “protest music” is genre-specific, and I don’t think there are many genres of music that either abjure it altogether. So there are Metal bands who do it, and those who don’t. In China, to the extent that protest applies to Metal, it’s really a protest against social conformity and slavishness to mainstream pop music tastes, not political protest. I’ve never really gone in for the latter through music, but that’s just me. I figure that if I have something I feel strongly about politically or socially, I can offer more nuance and substance in an essay than in a song with rhymed verses ad a repeating chorus. I’m not into slogans. I know that at least in China, the country’s had too much by way of slogans already.

In a recent article, you touched on the “virtues of piracy” and called for a general openness in China to Western media. Can you please elaborate on what benefit to China you see coming from this openness, particularly in regard to entertainment media?

I think piracy — physical disk piracy, file sharing, MP3 downloads and all that — helped to really create an appetite for and knowledge of western entertainment media. There’s a point at which it goes too far, of course, and I’m inclined to think we’re at or past that right now, but there’s no doubt in my mind that the availability of western entertainment media at prices Chinese consumers could afford is during the 90s and the earlier part of this decade built a market that the same companies grumbling so loudly now will be able to tap into in a very lucrative way down the road.

In the West there was (was — I would call it gone now), of course, a substantial “underground” for heavy metal tape trading well up until digital media democratized the creation and distribution of music in general. Can any difference be discerned between something like this and piracy such as in China?

There was certainly a whole lot of tape trading in China in the early days, but back then we were talking about a fan base so small that and so geographically confined — just to Beijing, really — that it wasn’t substantial. What happens now with the easy distribution of digital music is the same thing but on a much more massive scale, practically without cost and frictionless to boot. It’s something that has upended the music industry as we know it, and if I really knew the way forward out of this I’d be a rich mother by now.

See too, I said, the forgiving spirit of democracy, and the ‘don’t care’ about trifles, and the disregard which she shows of all the fine principles which we solemnly laid down at the foundation of the city–as when we said that, except in the case of some rarely gifted nature, there never will be a good man who has not from his childhood been used to play amid things of beauty and make of them a joy and a study–how grandly does she trample all these fine notions of ours under her feet, never giving a thought to the pursuits which make a statesman, and promoting to honour any one who professes to be the people’s friend.

Yes, she is of a noble spirit.

These and other kindred characteristics are proper to democracy, which is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.

– Plato, The Republic

To what degree have you seen ethnic nationalism used as a reactionary measure in China recently, particularly within heavy metal music (where it has often been made a component over the years, though a controversial one)?

I don’t think I’ve seen instances of “ethnic nationalism” in Chinese Metal. The few instances I’ve seen where Han Chinese musical or visual elements — or, for that matter, elements drawn from minority nationalities of China — it’s never been reactionary in any sense of the word I’m aware of. That’s not to say that it hasn’t been misinterpreted in that way. A lot of people assumed that Tang Dynasty, or even Chunqiu, was some cipher for anti-modernism and a desire to go back to some mythic golden age, but that was never the case: The name of the band in the case of Tang Dynasty was meant to evoke the age’s cosmopolitan nature, and its embrace of things foreign. This was really the source of that dynasty’s legendary greatness. It’s not “nationalistic” in any sense. Quite the contrary. I think using a genre like Metal, which is unarguably western in origin, to assert Chinese nationalism would be a complete contradiction and wouldn’t convince anyone in their right mind.

Is heavy metal malleable enough to act in multiple ways at once — say, both against “democracy” but for freedom in different instances and in different places — or are there more “correct” interpretations of its basic impetus?

Yes, I think it possesses that malleability but I haven’t really seen it employed to ends like you describe. I think only in rare instances is it harnessed for political ends at all. But in China it’s definitely used to vent the same sorts of emotions as in the west — things we’re all familiar with.

What conceivable event might make you move from China at this point?

Right now, it’d be pretty hard to think of something that would compel me to move short of massive civil unrest — something I rate as extremely unlikely — or a conflagration involving the U.S. triggered by a precipitous move toward independence by Taiwan that Washington unwisely decided to intervene in. Other than that, I do plan at some point to go back to the U.S. when my (now four-year-old) daughter starts college eventually. But that’s what, 13 years off, so who knows what’ll happen between now and then?

What will (or what does) an open China provide to the world that an open West has not already provided?

An open China has clearly already provided the world with inexpensive consumer goods and is moving up the value chain to become, within our lifetimes, a major force in innovation. By that I don’t just mean tech innovation, though that will doubtless be an important part of it; I also mean cultural innovation, plumbing the depths of traditional Chinese culture to give the world a taste of, among other things, a rich literary tradition of which the world now knows very little.

Being heavily involved with digital media, what drawbacks can you envision for children fully entrenched in the digital age in China? In the United States?

It’s the same in China as it is in the U.S., or perhaps even worse because there’s such a lack of compelling entertainment alternatives. Don’t get me wrong: The Internet’s the greatest thing ever, and it’s been a tremendous force for good wherever it’s seen wide adoption. But kids spend way too much time playing online games, and that’s just plain unhealthy when you’re playing for days straight and skipping meals, not sleeping, and screwing up in school. The Internet promotes too much of a sedentary lifestyle. I should know: I need to spend way less time in front of my Mac and way more time in the gym. Other than that, there are the usually dangers of digital stalkers and sex offenders — not as bad of an issue in China, to be sure — plus various scammers.

Thank you very much for the interview; parting words/shots, etc. can go here.

Thanks for having me! I’ve been on a mission to get people around the world aware of the really great Metal scene in China, which has dozens and dozens of talented acts and a few real stand-outs, like Kungfu Voodoo, Suffocated, and of course Chunqiu. You can download our stuff on iTunes. Unfortunately we don’t have other distribution outside of China currently.

Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of all things? Throw a stone into the stream, and the circles that propagate themselves are the beautiful type of all influence. Man is conscious of a universal soul within or behind his individual life, wherein, as in a firmament, the natures of Justice, Truth, Love, Freedom, arise and shine. This universal soul, he calls Reason: it is not mine, or thine, or his, but we are its; we are its property and men. And the blue sky in which the private earth is buried, the sky with its eternal calm, and full of everlasting orbs, is the type of Reason. That which, intellectually considered, we call Reason, considered in relation to nature, we call Spirit. Spirit is the Creator. Spirit hath life in itself. And man in all ages and countries, embodies it in his language, as the FATHER.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature (1836)

Nodens, Hod and Averse Sefira in Austin, Texas

Nodens, Hod and Averse Sefira
October 11, 2008
Room 710
710 Red River Street
Austin, Texas 78701

The phrase “welcome to hell” would be a sentiment fitting for the night in two ways- one positive and one negative. The negative, of course, was the journey to every scenester weekend hippie’s favorite city – that pit of insincerity and neurotic dysfunction known as Austin, Texas. The positive meaning was the sets conjured up by Averse Sefira and, to a lesser extent, Nodens, who brought a much less earthly hell to Austin that night, a Hell of black and true evil, an evil of passion ferocity, as opposed to the grey, human hell that was the surroundings of the club.

When this reviewer entered the venue, some death/grind abortion known as Self Inflicted was playing. The fact that as this reviewer was walking by the club, he heard them and thought that he was passing a biker club with rhythmic motorcycle noises passing for music probably tells everything that needs to be said about this band; and if it doesn’t, it’ll have to do, as they were as uninteresting to pay attention to as the white paint on the walls of an average apartment. This reviewer did not catch much of their set anyways, as after a few minutes they tore down, and Nodens took the stage.

Nodens

Nodens, a three-piece from Houston, TX, played a good set of anthemic death/black metal. This band incorporates tremolo-picked black metal style sections and Slayer-inspired dissonant lead riffs with Swedish-style slower, melodic riffs, but manages to hold the whole thing together with obviously veteran songwriting, and an instinct for which two riffs will work well together, even if they are radically different. The band’s weakness, however, likely springs from this style of composition- frequently, songs fail to differentiate themselves significantly from others; rather than having an identity of their own, they simply become “another Nodens song”. It’s no surprise that the set’s highlights, “The Shadowmancer” and “Doctrina Evangelica”, were the songs that had the strongest identity as individual songs, the former being an anthem that managed to simultaneously be moving and catchy, and the latter being the most “focused” song in the set with the fewest digressions into other ideas. However, despite this weakness, the set, taken in its gestalt, was an energetic call to war that was appreciated by this reviewer.

Hod

Hod, a five-piece death metal band from San Antonio, was up next. The band’s music seemed seemed to lack any higher thinking functions at all, relying purely on aggression, instinct, and energy to carry the crowd. This very nearly worked, for two reasons. The band’s technical skills are undeniably strong- when needed, they can tear through technical material at high speed with ease. In addition, they have an absolutely amazing stage presence, with the entire band in constant motion, and their vocalist constantly gesturing madly and using his microphone stand as a penile extension. However, ultimately, the lack of intelligence was this band’s death- the vocalist, frustrated with the lack of response his inane between-song banter about alcohol and sex was getting, finally threw a temper-tantrum on stage, which lead to audience members yelling “fuck you” and “get off the stage”, which caused Hod to cut their set short and end it in ignominy.

Averse Sefira

After some tear-down and set up, the lights dimmed, an ambient piece began to play, and the most anticipated band of the night took the stage, adorned in corpse paint and spikes. The ambient intro faded, and Averse Sefira wasted no time in tearing into what is likely going to be their signature song in a year or two, “Vomitorium Angelis”. The band proceeded to play an eight-song set culled from their most recent two albums, that showcased the violent and intolerant as well as the triumphant and joyful, and even the radiantly beautiful through use of high-speed dissonant melodic riffing over a pounding and precise percussion which was contrasted with the more playful right-hand rhythms provided by Sanguine Mapsama on guitar. Rather than enslaving himself to the “on the beat” tremolo-pick like many black metal guitarists do, Sanguine approached rhythm, with the touch of a jazz musician, using the beat as a guideline that could be deviated from when needed to give his riffs much more life- the best example of this came in the build down before the explosion in “Detonation”, which showed him lightly and sensitively playing at low volume, with little distortion, throwing in improvised arpeggios and improvising the details of the rhythm in the larger framework, making this passage far more effective than it is on album. Smaller examples of this rhythmic freedom were found throughout the night, and made this performance far more effective than the album versions of the songs. The glue that held the freedom of Sanguine’s guitar and the oppression of The Carcass’s battery together was Wrath’s bass, which followed The Carcass’s rhythm, but Sanguine’s melodies, thus creating a unifying factor between the two otherwise seemingly disparate elements.

This style of playing their material made their transitions between moods much more dramatic and marked, and it allowed them, in a manner reminiscent of Atheist’s “Unquestionable Presence” or Demilich’s “Nespithe”, to be simultaneously child-like and playful, and aggressive. They waged war against the forces of light, but they did it as a child would, with joy and affirmation of combat rather than anger. They summoned death, and they smiled as they did so. In the manner of all great metal, their performance was “dark”, but it wasn’t a mourning darkness that amounts to an emo’s whining about how life sucks, but rather was a celebration of the liveliness inherent to the feral and vicious. If you were in Texas and missed this, what were you thinking?

Averse Sefira setlist:

Vomitorium Angelis
Plagabraha
Heirophant Disgorging
Viral Kinesis
Serpent Recoil
A Shower of Idols
Detonation
Helix in Audience

Bands:
Nodens
Hod
Averse Sefira

Promoters:
Room 710, Austin Texas

Insecticide, Temple of Wrath, Last Rosary, Deadpool and Opia in Houston, Texas

Insecticide, Temple of Wrath, Last Rosary, Deadpool and Opia
September 27, 2008
Walters on Washington
4215 Washington Ave.
Houston, Texas 77007

Insecticide crafted thrash when it was a current item, and have not only not given up but have returned to reclaim the void left by metalcore and deathcore, which prove even to diehards to be as insubstantial as sugar-free, salt-free, oil-free donuts. Since they were playing in our favorite blazing moist flat wasteland of an industrial city, Houston, I leapt in my urban transport and hit the road.

Opia

Coya was billed on the flier for this show, but were replaced by Opia, who were already on stage at 9 pm when I arrived. They consisted of a drummer/vocalist and a guitarist. I quite admired this, because it is not easy to get up in front of a mostly empty room to play with such a sparse line up. I’ve also always been impressed with drummers who managed to be a main vocalist. They played solid, minimalist speed metal. After a couple songs, the guitarist took the microphone from the drummer and performed the vocals for the next song. For the following song, they switched instruments completely, with the drummer resuming vocals while taking on guitar duties, and the guitarist taking on the drums. This rare display of musicianship reinforced the raging wall of sound they were producing.

As one might imagine with such a lineup, their performance focused heavily on rhythm, with riffs that captured the dynamic space of time in which hardcore punk, speed metal, thrash and nascent death metal merged in the imaginations of those brave enough to explore such uncharted waters. Opia showed a lot of potential, and I believe they can continue to put on interesting shows if they do not resort to bringing in people who are going to divert them from their current course. Only time can tell. A valiant early effort on their part, and I applaud them greatly for their risk taking.

Deadpool

Next came Deadpool from San Antonio. They played standard Texas “hardcore” metal in the vein of Pantera. They had a song named after themselves called “Deadpool Society.” With them came the obligatory 24 people who follow any band in Texas, and show up only when that band is playing, enforcing a kind of tax on all underground bands that requires they include others, or be excluded themselves. Unfortunately, this leads to completely mixed up line-ups like this current show, which combines radio speed metal (Pantera, Deadpool) with bands closer to hardcore or death metal.

Last Rosary

The third act of the evening was Last Rosary from Houston. They tout themselves as being “Progressive / Grindcore / Death Metal.” I did not hear this in their sound at all. Their frontman was a runt with glasses and an emo haircut who screamed the entire time in the screamo style, while their riffs and songwriting technique were of the metalcore “throw everything in a blender, and be as random as you can” style. The result is not only songs that are not memorable, but a lack of any articulation but confusion, which I can get for free outside.

Temple of Wrath

Houston band Temple of Wrath followed. I noticed that they have the same drummer as Last Rosary, David Ramirez. The crowd peaked for this band. Clearly they had their group of friends and people who thought they were quite good. They inundated us with more generic Pantera-inspired Texas metal. It is unclear if they will make the transition from the local scene to the outside world; when you are selecting within a set of numbers, you can pick the highest one there, but it may not be high enough to be significant outside that limited set. I think it is this way with many local scenes, but it is hard to say that Temple of Wrath were unmotivated or unprofessional. On the contrary, they did their best.

Insecticide

Finally, Insecticide emerged, and all hell broke loose. Playing classic crossover thrash reminiscent of later COC colliding with Dead Brain Cells with Cryptic Slaughter on retainer, Insecticide incited the crowd into a frenzy. The crowd changed completely in the 15 minutes between Temple of Wrath leaving the stage and Insecticide taking it. Although fewer people were present, this was a different audience that was left over, a more deliberate and experienced cross-section of the metal crowd. There was more movement for this band alone than all four preceding bands combined.

Comedy broke out in the pit. Children’s inner tubes were being thrown chaotically. A luchador mask was passed around the crowd, ending up on the drummer for one song. The only real pit of the night broke out. Everyone was running around the stage. Sherman Jones, the bassist/vocalist, was running off the stage and twirling around in the crowd while he played. Random audience members would rush the stage and scream vocals into the microphones or just reach up from the floor and grab the microphone from there.

Drumming was active and rushed the music, pushing it to the edge of control. The drummer on the first Insecticide demo from 1987 is not the same one they have now. The following year, Rich Rowen played drums for them, laying the groundwork of their present style. Current drummer Alex Ron joined in 2007, which accounts for the discrepancy between the monotonous simplicity of the first demo vs their live performance.

At one point, three different audience members were screaming into the two microphones. Sherman almost fell over someone who was crawling behind him on the stage. Chaos ensued during their entire performance, and it was enjoyably hilarious. The music motivated the crowd toward energy and the drumming was especially ferocious. Insecticide concluded the night with a review of their classic songs and a powerful live performance which I was glad to witness.

Bands:
Opia
Deadpool
Last Rosary
Temple of Wrath
Insecticide

Promoters:
Walters on Washington

Obscurity, Tyrant and At the Gates in Malmö Sweden

Obscurity, Tyrant and At the Gates
September 3, 2008
Kulturbolaget
Malmö, Sweden

After a round of alcohol to suppress the academic background noise from that same day, we took the bus to the shit hole of the south of Sweden, Malmö. Once a great cultural market city, today a polarized ghetto, famous for its sky rocketing crime rates and ethnic segregation. Despite the social decay, Malmö has got a fascinating city life and impresses with its architecture, public events, and first class symphony orchestra. Likewise it’s the center of many metal and electronic acts, and tonight it was none other than At the Gates who would enter the stage at Kulturbolaget. A small, compact club greeted us once we stepped in, while the black/thrash metal band Obscurity was playing uninspiring satanic hymns in the old Bathory vein. The monotonous noise melted in with the screams and laughter from the nearby bar, setting me in a state of mind where the outside world seemed to be just another peripherical dream.

Observing the surroundings, one thing struck me immediately: a small portion of the audience seemed to be old veterans who’d obviously come only for listening to At the Gates, but the rest consisted of the typical Gothenburg crowd, which you’d expect for an In Flames show. Even fat kids with hip hop pants and Slipknot shirts showed up and were more concerned of acting hip and talking in their cell phones, than to pay attention to the music. It gave an unserious impression and made it clear that metal today has become more of a social thing for confused teenagers than being about art, ideals and principles. The next thrash band took the stage one hour late and crossed an abundance of pointless bridges with speed metal riffs and beer drinking. It was hard to take the music seriously, but the nature of these sloppy Bathory-clones made it seem like it was some form of tribute to the early Swedish metal scene, although the quality of the music said otherwise. When the concert was over, I chatted up with some of the people by the bar, most of whom were post-black metal fans, meaning they understood death metal as the aesthetic template found in “Slaughter of the Soul,” but didn’t understand the older material and couldn’t grasp the architectural differences in song writing between death and speed metal.

The people who came for the music were easy to spot, because they spent less time socializing and more time contemplating the musical experience. When At the Gates finally took the stage, the atmosphere in the club changed. The band began playing songs from later albums, and it was clear that Tomas Lindberg was in top shape. Although missing their old guitarist Alf Svensson, Tomas’ desperate screams from the red album, and the fact that the acoustics in the club compressed the sound of the riffs, this was At the Gates with full energy and expression. The feral, creative spirit of the band impressed me, and technically the performance was flawless. Tomas got almost nostalgic over the fact that they’d played in Malmö back in ’96, and now they were here again for the last time. The tour was obviously a dedication to the fans and to the music, revealed by the fact that they’d chosen to play songs from every album released. Songs that made a special impression on me were “Windows” from the red album and several classics from “With Fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness” and their first EP. It was a fresh experience, like a brutal realist nightmare, containing mental states of insanity:

Windows, sharp, cold
Wrap your psyche in blankets of pain
No more light of day
We’re the windows to your insanity

And the mandatory blasphemy of religious dogmatism:

The beauty in twisted darkness
Raped by the light of Christ
We were not born to follow
We don’t need your guiding light

This is the essence of death metal: a rejection of a morally principal approach to life, and the celebration of the raw, physical nature of mankind. The wild, dissonant power chords perfectly layered like a mental journey, backed by the typical death metal percussive rhythms and bridges, launched a macabre symphony together with the painful vocals, and stirred the crowd into unisonal head banging. Few things offer you the experience of feral freedom, like banging your head in rhythm to the sound of death metal, and feeling that the rest of the social world suddenly is reduced to noise. At the Gates provoked us into such a mood through its atonal riff patterns and ascending harmony, proving that they were still masters of the genre. The band was right in avoiding a sell-out by only playing later songs, but naturally, the crowd liked performances like “Under a Serpent Sun” best.

The reason to why people will always praise “Slaughter of the Soul” as the best ATG album is for the same reason that black metal bands like Dark Funeral, Xasthur, Drudkh and Blut aus Nord today obscure the great classics: it’s a musically shallow template that distils 3-5 years of death metal aesthetics into a neat package, kind of like how The Abyss created the musical template for 98% of all third wave black metal bands to come. We think it’s death metal, until we pay attention to the song writing, which is basically speed metal impregnated with the harmonic riffing and technical percussion that mark the band’s musical legacy. The mainstream appeal of the album makes it easy to understand and grasp, but doesn’t contribute anything outside of its technical concept. “Slaughter of the Soul” is a merchandise product, and the audience clearly enjoyed it. Although my best moments of the concert were performances from the two first albums, possibly something from “Terminal Spirit Disease” as well, the band was energetic and keen on playing later material for the new generation of death metal fans, and in a sense you could feel that what At the Gates was doing with this tour was to prove that the spirit of Swedish death metal was still alive and causing havoc.

The whole performance gave a very respectable, professional and worthy impression, and the band received admirable appreciation from the audience after the finale. When the concert was over, the Gothenburg crowd slowly descended out on the streets, among traffic lights, illegal taxis, and the enormous, clear night sky. The rush of energy, passion and alcohol still boiled in my blood, as I contemplated a new perspective on a band, whose music I’d otherwise reserved to lonely nights when the world had seemed more insane than usual. Death metal, not only as music, but also as an existential passion, was pointing my life in a new direction. Through this concert, At the Gates had proved that Swedish death metal is not a legacy, but an ongoing strife to deal with life intimately and choosing endurance as value in a world reduced to hollow social values. Despite the downfall of the genre and much of its audience, the music continues to emphasize the heavy in life, and the presence of death in our immediate everyday life. “Kingdom Gone” is the scream of mankind out into black space, without response, yet with the certainty that life needs to go on.

– Written by Alexis of SNUS

Bands:
Obscurity
Tyrant
At the Gates

Promoters:
Kulturbolaget

Interview: Eisen (Blood)

Of the many grindcore, hardcore and punk bands that pass through the world, very few have any staying power. Their music, in simplifying itself, also lost any form of uniqueness not in the hipster sense of accessorizing and randomization, but in the sense of a sentence or poem: expressing something that is its own and is both distinctive and relevant. An exception to this random bleaching of meaning is Germany’s Blood, who have pumped out quality material for years without particularly caring that they weren’t on the cover of glossy magazines. Thanks to guitarist Eisen, who kindly granted us not one but two interview sessions, we have the skinny on the unique mix of death metal, grindcore and early black metal that is Blood.

Do you view the music of BLOOD as death metal, grindcore or something else?

It’s a mixture of both: Grindcore and Death Metal. Generally more Death Metal, but almost always very fast with short songs as in the typical Grindcore-vein.

BLOOD lyrics are more like stories, using metaphor, or are insights into psychological and religious topics instead of political topics; why did you take this approach?

We have no fixed concept for the lyrics. We write about the things that disturb us. Sometimes also political things, but mostly horrible stories, bloodbaths, less serious things – also against god and stupid religions.

BLOOD lyrics portray a world where physical power and ancient psychic motivations prevail over civility and finance; this is a lot like horror movies, where supernatural forces defeat technology and law enforcement. What do you hope to communicate to the audience this way, and is designed to get past some of their expectations?

We have NO special message for the people – we only want to shout out what’s our meaning about those themes. Lyrics have to fit to the music, so you won’t get lovestories from Blood.

Your music sometimes seems to rest at an intersection of genres, being in song form like thrash or grindcore but in topic and riff style more like a death metal band with black metal overtones (like Hellhammer). What were your influences, and how did you reach this unusual style?

We were always into oldschool Death/Grind. Bands like Death, Exodus, Hellhammer, Possessed, Messiah, Napalm Death, later Impetigo, Morbid Angel, Unleashed, Terrorizer and thousands of others influenced us. That’s the music we are into and that’s the music for what our heart beats, so this is the music for which Blood stands!

Do you think it is easier or harder to write short songs than long songs?

It’s much easier to write shorter songs, especially when you are older than 40 *laughing* – no: It mostly bored me to listen to very long songs, so we prefer shorter ones with a clear and easy structure… right in your face!

You recorded your first demo in 1987. The world has changed a lot since then. Has the BLOOD vision changed? Has it needed to, or is the same process going on that was happening then, in the world?

We recorded our first demos back in 1986. From the very beginning the underlying concept of Blood never changed. We were always strongly rooted in the underground and never wanted to be “big.” Only we have learned how to use our instruments much more over the years.

For a band that is as blunt and confrontational as BLOOD is, there is a lot of subtlety in your lyrics and the way your songs are structured. How do people respond to this? Do they “get it”?

Do you think so? Well – we think a lot about our lyrics. We don’t wanna use the same stories again and again, but the major thing is our music. I think people love us or people hate us for what we do. There is not much between those two poles. We are very pleased with this situation.

By the data to date, there is only one animal in the Galaxy dangerous to man–man himself. So he must supply his own indispensable competition. He has no enemy to help him.

Any priest or shaman must be presumed guilty until proved innocent.

If it can’t be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion.

A “pacifist male” is a contradiction in terms. Most self-described “pacifists” are not pacific; they simply assume false colors. When the wind changes, they hoist the Jolly Roger.

History does not record anywhere at any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most people do have a religion and spend time and money on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling with it.

Of all the strange “crimes” that human beings have legislated out of nothing, “blasphemy” is the most amazing–with “obscenity” and “indecent exposure” fighting it out for second and third place.

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded–here and there, now and then–are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.”

– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love (Notebooks of Lazarus Long)

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

Mostly we start with a cool riff, or a drum-section, than we are jamming around for a while and test different rhythms and riffings. If a song isn’t ready in a short time, it’s usually shit and we throw it away. The lyrics will always follow after the song is ready.

When Hellhammer said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. Only DEAD INFECTION and BLOOD seem to do it by writing short stories and setting them to music, as if trying to show people a state of mind, and not the conclusions of their thoughts. Why do you think you both arrived at this method?

Hmm – do you think so? We try to let a lyric stand for itself… not as a small part of a “big” thing. I don’t like concept-records, nor do the others in Blood. Only in “Gas Flames Bones” we went a bit in that direction. I can’t say that much about DEAD INFECTION’s lyrics only that they are very cool persons and their music fucking rules!

Your music is very consistent, but the ability to make it keeps improving. Do you think bands need to change? Is it possible for bands to change both outward (style) and inward (content) without outward/inward influencing each other?

Yes – we stand for the same style over those many years. NO Band really needs a change, but most bands who try to change their style became crap. It looks like a band is totally fake and false if they play a different style holding the same bandname. A good example how a style change works is Malignant Tumour. They found a way to get their own sound, the lack of which was their problem in the early years. I really love their actualized stuff.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

No. I think both things are totally different from each other. Lyrics could be in the same way, but the sound/style could be absolutely different.

Grindcore seems to be composed of both metal music and punk music, just more extreme. What do you think grindcore inherited from punk, and what did it inherit from metal?

Grindcore is not the same as grindcore – there are many different shades. From Punk grindcore gets the short songs and mostly the lyrics and the attitude. From Death Metal it gets its brutality and also a part of its lyrics (for the Goregrind corner).

Is VENTILATOR’s name a joke about the name of the drummer from Kreator? (sorry, had to ask)

Ventor? No way. He’s called Ventilator because he rotates as fast with his sticks as the blades of a fan/ventilator.

BLOOD’s work and image has consistently assaulted Christianity, while most grindcore bands are political and most death/black metal bands are about gore, or take a “satanic” approach. Why do you take this approach, and what are you hoping to change in the minds of your fans?

We are no Satanists, so why pray the book of Satan? But we are totally against the manipulations of the church. A free human who stands in life only needs his own mind to know what is good for him, and what he prefers in life. So why not write lyrics about this theme? We hope to change nothing in the minds of our fans, ‘coz our fans are not religious!

BLOOD has released great CDs for almost 20 years, but is less well-known in USA than TERRORIZER, REPULSION, NAPALM DEATH, etc. yet, American fans respond positively to BLOOD when it is played on the radio. The only other early band slighted this much is CARBONIZED. How are these great works overlooked? Is it a cultural difference (American culture, such as it is) in what is expected from bands?

No! It’s because we never wanted to be big. We never wanted to play big tours or lick anyone’s ass. We have great fans in the USA, but bad distribution of our records.

A self does not amount to much, but no self is an island; each exists in a fabric of relations that is now more complex and mobile than ever before. Young or old, man or woman, rich or poor, a person is always located at “nodal points” of specific communication circuits, however tiny these may be. Or better: one is always located at a post through which various kinds of messages pass. No one, not even the least privileged among us, is ever entirely powerless over the messages that traverse and position him at the post of sender, addressee, or referent. One’s mobility in relation to these language game effects (language games, of course, are what this is all about) is tolerable, at least within certain limits (and the limits are vague); it is even solicited by regulatory mechanisms, and in particular by the self-adjustments the system undertakes in order to improve its performance. It may even be said that the system can and must encourage such movement to the extent that it combats its own entropy, the novelty of an unexpected “move,” with its correlative displacement of a partner or group of partners, can supply the system with that increased performativity it forever demands and consumes.

– The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge by Jean-Francois Lyotard

What brought about the concept behind the song Sodomize the Weak?

It’s a song inspired by Leatherface and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre mixed with my own pervert ideas back in 1993, so it seems to be a bit funny and not that serious at all.

Do you think that people use categories like genre names (black metal, death metal) to obscure the finer details of experience itself, like saying ‘that experience was bad’ or ‘that experience was good’?”

The whole world is full of categorisation. A person needs this to comparing things. Also I need such categorisation. In the Metal genre many bands coined words to define their style to show others, that they created this style – but most of them are ordinary and fake! In my early days of Metal, there also were different styles, but since I’ve been into metal, I only know good music and bad music in Death Metal, in Black Metal, in Hardcore, in Grindcore, in Rock, in Metal…

Dysangelium was released in 2003, and in 2007, Impulse to Destroy got re-released. What’s next for BLOOD? Are you going to tour Texas ever?

Since 2004 our situation has been a bit different. I (Eisen) moved to another city for private reasons. So now we can only rehearse a very few times a year or at the shows. That’s the reason why we have no new songs and it seems that we will not have a new record very soon. Since 2007 we have added another guitar player, maybe he gives the others in Blood some impulses.

When I listen to Blood, I feel like I am watching some action happen, in the same way that bands like Hellhammer or (early) Belial made me think of a movie or opera. You have captured the feeling one gets of watching a drama, in that the music is very visual and sounds like someone experiencing something. How did this come about?

Thanxx for this compliment, but I don’t know how this will appear. We write our kind of music, because it’s deep in our heart and come from the feeling, we get on this music. And also on stage we try to give people more than only playing our songs and that’s it. We try to show them fire, blood and horror!

“Bokanovsky’s Process,” repeated the Director, and the students underlined the words in their little notebooks.

One egg, one embryo, one adult-normality. But a bokanovskified egg will bud, will proliferate, will divide. From eight to ninety-six buds, and every bud will grow into a perfectly formed embryo, and every embryo into a full-sized adult. Making ninety-six human beings grow where only one grew before. Progress.

“Essentially,” the D.H.C. concluded, “bokanovskification consists of a series of arrests of development. We check the normal growth and, paradoxically enough, the egg responds by budding.”

Responds by budding. The pencils were busy.

– Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

Many thanks to Blood for the interview!

Blood homepage

Interview: Mike Smith (Suffocation)

No one has or will create death metal like Suffocation. Taking the muffled hard-stop strumming of speed metal, mixing it in with the structural cryptograms of death metal, and amplifying the intensity, Suffocation innovative the percussive death metal that spawned the goregrind genre and countless imitators. Drummer Mike Smith was kind enough to give us an interview on the state of the band and its future.

You’ve said in the past that Suffocation was inspired by the heavy metal of its time as well as the hardcore punk that was contemporaneous. A lot of the Suffocation sound however seems influenced by the speed metal bands like Exodus, but taken to a new extreme. Is there any truth to this, and how did you arrive at this fusion?

It was a natural progression of all things unaccepted in the mainstream. It started with metal, we rebelled like punks, and were driven by the speed or thrash metal that was at the time.

Suffocation is what we choose to be at any given time. If we chose to do an album of gloomy doom metal we’d differ from most at that too. It depends on how we feel and what kind of attention the world is paying.

In the Effigy of the Forgotten group photo, a Morpheus (now Morpheus Descends) tshirt is visible. Did this band influence your style?

No, our influence into music started way before that. It was just a shirt of a band we knew and hung with at the time. There was no special meaning behind it.

When you write songs, do you start with a concept for the whole song, or do you accrue riff ideas and fit them into a narrative? Do you conceptualize the song in lyrics first, or write music and fit lyrics to it?

When I write personally, I start with the guitar rhythms first and maybe a topic so as to work in a chorus. The song then gets built over time.

The feel and approach of the songs are also built on what emotion I want to portray on stage to the fans or to my self at the time.

I usually have the song complete with riffs, drums and a definite lyric direction before I submit it to the others. It can be done in days, or take months.

It depends on my mental state at the time. When things are good, things flow, when I’m stressed riffs and concepts take their time to form.

Night City was like a deranged experiment in social Darwinism, designed by a bored researcher who kept one thumb permanently on the fast-forward button. Stop hustling and you sank without a trace, but move a little too swiftly and you’d break the fragile surface tension of the black market; either way, you were gone, with nothing left of you but some vague memory in the mind of a fixture like Ratz, though heart or lungs or kidneys might survive in the service of some stranger with New Yen for the clinic tanks. Biz here was a constant subliminal hum, and death the accepted punishment for laziness, carelessness, lack of grace, the failure to heed the demands of an intricate protocol.

– William Gibson, Neuromancer

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I suppose your experience in life dictates your music. But one who wants to murder someone or cause mayhem could write a death metal song as well as blues or Grunge. For example, Kurt Cobain had a successful life in music but still chose to expire early, but the grunge music didn’t dictate or preach the message of suicide.

So it is what it is, the skill you have as a musician will dictate the type of music you play. Even though you may be a member of Satan’s circle you could easily sing bubble gum pop because you have no special skills musically.

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

There is no difference. The artist usually is looking to speak or release through their choice of artistry first, if the world happens to catch on then thats a bonus.

I would still be a musician who speaks through music if no one knew of Suffocation.

Do you think death metal has a distinctive worldview different from that of “normal” people? Can people interpret that worldview from the sound of the genre, and does this make them converge on musical communities?

First you would have to show me what a normal person is. I dont know of any or why they would be considered such.

I know plenty of dummies though. The communities they choose depends on the path their life experiences took them.

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

To each his own, some bands write with no goal or direction.

Suffocation chooses to have a purpose to the way the riffs, tempos and impact come across.

We hope to stir a certain emotion. We start by writing to draw the emotion within ourselves first, and hope the fans understand the idea.

Although your music is technical, you have taken pains to distance yourselves from technicality for technicality’s sake. What is the difference between technicality, progression, pretense and good (death metal) art?

The difference lies in the person listening. Technical to some could be as simple as a Sesame Street song to me.

My version of technicality is to be unique and unpredictable, without confusing the listener. Classical is completely intense and technically composed, but its purpose and direction is crystal clear when listened too. It just wasn’t created for the unskilled to pick up and play to like alot of the top selling crap.

The end result of complete cellular representation is cancer. Democracy is cancerous, and bureaus are its cancer. A bureau takes root anywhere in the state, turns malignant like the Narcotic Bureau, and grows and grows, always reproducing more of its own kind, until it chokes the host if not controlled or excised. Bureaus cannot live without a host, being true parasitic organisms. (A cooperative on the other hand can live without the state. That is the road to follow. The building up of independent units to meet needs of the people who participate in the functioning of the unit. A bureau operates on opposite principle of inventing needs to justify its existence.) Bureaucracy is wrong as a cancer, a turning away from the human evolutionary direction of infinite potentials and differentiation and independent spontaneous action, to the complete parasitism of a virus.

(It is thought that the virus is a degeneration from more complex life form. It may at one time have been capable of independent life. Now has fallen to the borderline between living and dead matter. It can exhibit living qualities only in a host, by using the life of another — the renunciation of life itself, a falling towards inorganic, inflexible machine, towards dead matter.)

– William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How, and what does it make you think?

The values in the music haven’t changed. The value in the industry and those with the power to help it grow has changed for the worst and most likely its demise if left in their hands much longer.

Those with the power to promote it don’t have the skill to write or create it, so they should do more listening to the direction of the musicians instead of trying to shape and mold the artist to what they think the world needs.

Breeding the Spawn followed a massively successful debut with an album that reached farther but seemed less complete as a vision. How did you learn from this, and how has it influenced your later work?

We learned that we need to record with who we wish to record with, and let the label take what we give them, when we give it to them. For BTS we followed the direction of our label which led to an unsatisfactory outcome that won’t happen again for Suffocation. We write record and produce our own. No one knows better than us what we are looking for so we’ve chosen to stay self contained in many aspects.

What influenced the choice of Latinate language and structuralist phrases in song titles and lyrics? (Epitaph of the Credulous, Anomalistic Offerings, Liege of Inveracity — a beautiful use of language)

The need to be different, unique, and think out of the box of most at the time.

On Despise the Sun, you mixed more fluid phrasing — fast tremolo strum, fewer hard stops — into what was otherwise percussive, or based on syncopated patterns of hard stops, music. What prompted this change and how have you developed this since then?

An unfocused Suffocation prompted the change. Some wanted to stay as is, others lost focus of our originality and chose to try and follow what was the trend. The band called it quits soon after.

Here are some revealing excerpts from an especially vivid hacker manifesto: “The Techno-Revolution” by “Dr. Crash,” which appeared in electronic form in Phrack Volume 1, Issue 6, Phile 3.

To fully explain the true motives behind hacking, we must first take a quick look into the past. In the 1960s, a group of MIT students built the first modern computer system. This wild, rebellious group of young men were the first to bear the name ‘hackers.’ The systems that they developed were intended to be used to solve world problems and to benefit all of mankind.

As we can see, this has not been the case. The computer system has been solely in the hands of big businesses and the government. The wonderful device meant to enrich life has become a weapon which dehumanizes people. To the government and large businesses, people are no more than disk space, and the government doesn’t use computers to arrange aid for the poor, but to control nuclear death weapons. The average American can only have access to a small microcomputer which is worth only a fraction of what they pay for it. The businesses keep the true state-of-the-art equipment away from the people behind a steel wall of incredibly high prices and bureaucracy. It is because of this state of affairs that hacking was born.

– Bruce Sterling, The Hacker Crackdown

You’ve got a best of collection out on Roadrunner and two post-reunion albums that lead the subgenre of percussive technical death metal. Where to from here?

The new album is in the works. It is titled BLOOD OATH. We expect our first DVD to be out very shortly as well.

Then we plan to make only the right choices in touring and biz associates to ensure that we finally reach the level we truly feel we deserve to indulge in.

20 years has been long enough to prove that we aren’t an overnight success or a basement idea. We mean what we say, show and promote, and I dont expect it to change anytime soon.

Thanks for all the great music, and I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions, as will our readers. Hope to see you on tour!

No doubt, no problem, take care.

Interview: John Gelso (Profanatica)

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

Is art different from entertainment? If so, how?

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

Can heavy metal/black metal be art?

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

Does entertainment imply passivity from the listener?

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

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

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

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

– Everett Dean Martin, The Behavior of Crowds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Tacitus, Histories

Do you believe natural selection should have primacy over technology?

Define natural selection.

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

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

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

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

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

Interview by Michael Dean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Immanuel Kant, What is Enlightenment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Plato, Phaedrus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t really think in that distinction.

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

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

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

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

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

– Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals

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

Summoning
Ice Ages

Possessed and Sadistic Intent in Austin, Texas

Possessed and Sadistic Intent
June 29, 2008
Red 7
622 E. 7th Street
Austin, Texas 78701

Sadistic Intent played their first-ever show in Austin last night, which was ostensibly more auspicious in that they were also serving as Jeff Becerra’s backing band in the current incarnation of Possessed. The band came out to a well-attended room and delivered a set of now time-worn but authentic tracks taken from the series of EPs they released in the mid-90’s. A distinct sense of “Abominations of Desolation” permeated the set in their favor, as few bands of the current era are able to draw upon their predecessors in such a convincing manner. Momentum was lost as one of the two guitarists suddenly had string problems and appeared to be unable to resolve it without consultation from both of his axe-mates. The unit left the stage after three songs but then returned to complete the set about ten minutes later. The audience reacted appropriately with multiple phalanxes of whirling hair and horns held high, and ultimately Sadistic Intent proved why their name continues to endure despite a spare discography.

Following another more prolonged intermission, the band retook the stage again with Jeff Becerra in tow. There was much curiosity leading up to this performance because save for the notorious vocalist this was effectively a Possessed cover band. Compounding this was Becerra’s confinement to a wheelchair since 1989 after being shot in a drug deal gone bad (these circumstances have since been obscured through revisionism and the fact that the event occurred before the advent of the internet), so expectations among the assembled faithful were punctuated with question marks and guarded commentary.

It takes courage to carry on after such a devastating blow to one’s health and mobility, and if Becerra had presented with conviction and dignity he would have easily overcome his perceived limitations. In this venue, unfortunately, he wore his handicap and a still-apparent substance abuse problem around his neck like an anvil and proceeded to turn the event into a spectacle. The man is admittedly scary in a way that transcends metal; mad-eyed and clearly unstable, he wheeled around the stage and spent most of the time crowding or hitting the dutiful members of his backing band or gesticulating to his handlers for more beer (which, once received, he continuously poured over his head). Sadistic Intent, to their massive credit, lashed convincingly through a set of tunes comprised of the proto-death classic “Seven Churches”, and seemed they focused on working as a unit in spite of the dubious situation. It was no surprise that they seemed divorced from the vocalist, given his complete lack of poise. Becerra rasped and yelled his way through the songs in a fashion that made it seem more like he was interrupting rather than contributing. There were a few glimmers of the hellish voice that made him famous, but it was hardly a showing that would have resurrected any former glories. The set’s highlight was the modern classic, “The Exorcist”, which led to several subsequent injuries in the pit and further acquitted the band’s efforts. The end of the show was marked by Becerra’s leap from the stage, wheelchair and all, face-first into the middle of the floor. For a moment it looked as though he had managed to finish himself off but his attendants managed to scrape him up and carry him past many bemused onlookers.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the legacy of Possessed is in terrible danger of being further maligned and invalidated through appearances such as this. It was an experience to be sure, but more befitting of a rodeo or a circus than the revival of a seminal metal act. Even a top-flight backing band cannot account for the psychotic and counterproductive behavior of its frontman, and ultimately it is Mr. Becerra whose reputation is at stake. For now it seems like he is a full-time resident of a truly dark and painful place, and if he does not find a way to surface then he will likely consumed by the very demons he invoked on his albums so many years ago.

– Written by David Anzalone

Bands:
Possessed
Sadistic Intent

Promoters:
Red 7