Interview: Frank Stöver of Voices from the Darkside (2015)

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Many of you know Frank Stöver from his days editing the classic death metal fanzine Voices from the Darkside, but many more have come to know him through his website of the same time. Having read his material for years, this writer jumped on the chance to ask him a few questions about what he does and how he keeps putting out high-quality material after all these years…

What do you look for in a metal band that makes them appealing to you? How important is imagery, packaging and production?

First and foremost it’s of course the music that I will have to enjoy, but to me that sometimes goes hand in hand with the band’s imagery or packaging as well. I often experience that bands that are really dedicated to what they’re doing come up with a better visual side as well, because they really know how they would like to present themselves. But a band with a shitty xeroxed cover and a poor looking logo can of course also be killer musically.

Since I’ve been involved in the tape-trading era myself I’m still used to poor sounding rehearsal- and live-tapes, so production definitely isn’t that important in the first place to discover great bands. Just remember the early Mantas/Death recordings… But then again killer songs could be even more killer with a fitting and crushing production of course, as long as the production really fits the band.

When you prepare to interview a band, how do you prepare? How much of this is research? How much of it is listening to their demos/albums?

Since I only interview bands that I personally really like it’s almost exclusively research. I do read a lot of reviews and other interviews, check out their discography, member changes etc. I ask questions that I personally would like to get answers for and hope that the readers find that of interest as well.

In one of your past interviews, you mention a zine as being “narrowminded” in a positive way. Is it important to be narrow-minded? Or is that a term for being open-minded and then making your mind up? Does death metal risk infiltration by imitators, poseurs, fakers, etc.?

Good question… I wouldn’t say it’s important, it’s just a matter of your personal tastes. Even though I’m musically totally open-minded, I still prefer zines that stick to certain styles exclusively. Otherwise I could also pick up one of the colored major magazines that are being sold at shops and supermarkets every month. Same with music itself. I have a lot of respect for bands that try to break boundaries by mixing new elements into established styles.

I ask questions that I personally would like to get answers for and hope that the readers find that of interest as well.

But when I’m in the mood for some brutal Death Metal, I don’t wanna hear that combined with clean vocals, a funky bass or whatever. Considering the fact that there’s constantly so much new music out, it also makes it a bit easier to select releases / bands for a zine. You gotta draw a line somewhere, otherwise you would have to feature 4251166898089090 and more releases every month.

You were manager for Kreator and Destruction back in the day. Why do you think Germany led the world in their kind of speed/death hybrid, but was less participatory in death metal as a complete genre?

Well, I just helped out Kreator a little bit with merchandise and fan club activities, I never managed them… But to answer your actual question: I can only guess. Maybe it’s because all the younger bands in Germany at the time simply looked up to the bands that had already become bigger (Destruction, Sodom, Kreator, etc.) and felt musically inspired by them. And since all of them are rooted in thrash metal, it probably resulted in a pretty healthy thrash scene. If Morgoth would’ve been one of our first extreme bands in those days maybe everything would’ve developed in a different direction, who knows…

Why do you think 1980s bands were so varied, and bands now sound more similar? Is the “market” flooded? How can metal recover from this? Or is it just harder to come up with something new, because everything has “been done”? Or is style less important, and content what drives uniqueness in bands?

I think you pretty much answered this yourself already. The number of bands simply exploded over the years, and almost everything has already been done in one way or another, so there’s not much room left anymore for fresh, unique bands that still deliver brutal music.

Back in the day everything was still fresh and new, so whenever a new band appeared on the scene, it still sounded a little different to the already more established names. I think something like that is almost impossible nowadays. I hardly find enough time to listen to all the new releases I receive every week, so I’m glad that I don’t have to write music in a band that tries to make it.

Why did you switch from print to internet-only distribution of your writings? Are you able to reach the same audience? Did you gain more readers? What are the advantages from print that you miss, and what does online do better?

That’s an easy one: lack of time and money were the main reasons not to continue on with the printed version of the zine. The advantages are obvious: you can easily update a site on a daily base if you like, while a printed zine always takes a lot of time until it’s finished and distributed. It’s easier, because you don’t have to do layouts, ship the finished magazines, deal with printing companies and the postal service and as a result you also safe a lot of money, which you usually spend on postage and printing.

The number of readers has exploded ever since we went online. Our last issue (# 10) was printed in 1,000 copies; with our website we have approximately 2,000 – 2,500 visitors each day nowadays. But of course I miss the print era. I just love the cut and paste type old school layouts… and reading stuff where ever I like is probably the biggest plus (reading in front of a monitor screen is really annoying).

Is it hard to get volunteers to work with? Is apathy a problem in the metal community?

Never really had any problems in that department at all. But maybe it’s that easy because Voices From The Darkside is already an established name that people are aware of and respect. So, whoever I work with (or have worked with in the past) is first of all a fan of the music and the zine. I guess that makes it a lot easier.

How did fanzines help shape the metal underground? Did this change from your days in Horror Infernal to when you started Voices from the Darkside in 1993? Do you think fanzines played a role in shaping what people liked, and made some bands into “favorites”? If so, was this good or bad?

Without fanzines there probably would be no underground, at least not in the way we know it. I don’t think it changed in any way. Fanzines have been around for ages and I received some of them already back when I started out in the early 80s. I personally found out about a lot of amazing bands through fanzines, flyers and tape-trading.

If a band is honest in what they do and they don’t sell out or change in order to reach a bigger audience, they deserve to get noticed by bigger crowds for sure.

I suppose without this great network, I probably wouldn’t have discovered a lot of the bands this early. A good example is Metallica. I got a live show from 1982 on tape very early on, even before I got to hear their demos and that made me follow them right from the start, which was really exciting.

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Should underground metal stay underground? Is this even possible?

No, I don’t think so. If a band is honest in what they do and they don’t sell out or change in order to reach a bigger audience, they deserve to get noticed by bigger crowds for sure. Of course it’s always a bitter feeling for the fans of day one to see that all of a sudden people like “their” bands, who probably don’t know anything about them, their roots or anything. But that doesn’t mean the newer fans are less dedicated. Some of them often turn into total diehards as well, they just discovered the band later.

The German scene is fascinating to me. From thousands of kilometers away, it looks as if German fans are fans first of heavy metal as a whole, not specialized into death metal, black metal, etc. Does this have some benefits? What about downsides?

Yeah, Germany is really a cool place for metal and all its sub-genres. The scene is very healthy with lots of venues, bands, magazines, etc. That’s probably also one of the reasons why big festivals such as Wacken work out so well. Metal fans are often more open-minded than one might think. They don’t have a problem with having their Terrorizer record next to a Thin Lizzy record in their collection (at least I don’t have). I don’t think that has a downside to it at all.

I wrote about how hacking was a parallel community to underground metal found similarities between the two. Do you think the metal underground had a lot in common with other undergrounds? What made it “underground,” in the first place? Was it only lack of commercial acceptance, or also of social acceptance?

I often compare the metal underground with the early punk movement (before both scenes got commercialized by the industry). This whole DIY mentality with self-organized shows, flyers, cut and paste fanzines etc. most certainly had a big influence on the origin of the metal underground. Also this “fuck off” mentality and trying to rebel against parents, employers or the mainstream is pretty similar. But all this probably makes it scenes on their own. To me being underground means that you’re different to the mainstream in certain aspects and you most certainly have that in various other sub-genres as well.

It seems to me that with the rise of the internet, we have information overload. Meaning that there are too many bands, sites, labels, radio/podcasts, etc. to possibly keep track of. Do you think that zines and some websites can be helpful in reducing this overload? Is that a positive goal? Can websites achieve the same effect that zines did?

I totally agree… and to be perfectly honest with you: I really hate this overkill! I’m sick and tired of receiving a shitload of download links for new albums every fuckin’ day. I mean, who’s supposed to listen to all this, not to mention who shall buy all the records? Today there’s probably more labels than we had bands in the 80s and each one of them releases as many records as possible. From old poor sounding rehearsal tapes, to compilations, split releases, re-releases, EPs, live albums, full lengths etc.

Today there’s probably more labels than we had bands in the 80s and each one of them releases as many records as possible.

The industry always mentions that record sales are going down, but at the same time they are releasing more albums than ever before. Websites such as ours can indeed be helpful by being more selective in what they review and feature in general. And that leads us back to the “narrow-minded” question: if we would be less narrow-minded, Voices From The Darkside would quickly turn into a fulltime job for sure. But luckily most people still care about quality. So, no matter what it is: a record, a band, a label or even a website — if it’s of poor quality people will sooner or later search for something better. Since our website is already online for almost 15 years by now with a steady growing number of visitors, I suppose we’re doing something right.

You have mentioned in several past interviews that you do not collect rare discs, but are interested in having the complete recordings. Do you think the “collector’s mentality” was good for metal? Why do you avoid it, or is this just a practical/personal decision?

I think this “collector’s mentality” opened a lot of doors for the just mentioned release overkill. Many metal fans tend to buy their favorite records in every fuckin’ re-release format there is. If a label re-releases a record with only one single bonus track or a different packaging some diehards most certainly will spend their hard earned money on it again, no matter how often they already have it in their collection. I don’t like that, but somehow I’m infected by that as well.

If I like a band, I try to get their entire material in one way or another. But I don’t keep a record in various formats then. I replace the older version with the newer expanded edition. That’s equally stupid (if not more), but at least I don’t have to spend a shitload of many for rare first press releases, hahaha.

What are your plans for the future with Voices from the Darkside? Do you have any other projects brewing? Ever think of writing a book (of new text, not compilation of the older zines)? If people like your work, how should they stay updated on what you do?

The website already keeps me extremely busy since I take care of all the daily updates myself. Every single review and interview that ends up on the site is being formatted, proof-read etc. by yours truly. And I also compile all the news, tour dates and so on. All that takes a lot of time every single day, so no – I don’t have any other projects in the pipeline at the moment, I’m afraid. All I can offer at the moment can be found at www.voicesfromthedarkside.de. Thanks a lot Brett, for this highly interesting interview and your support! All the best!

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Instrumental metal duo Tempel unveils new song Carvings in the Door

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Following their stunning debut album On The Steps of the Temple, the Arizona-based instrumental duo Tempel take their sound to the next level on their forthcoming sophomore effort “The Moon Lit Our Path”, due June 16 in North America, June 15 in the UK/EU and June 19 in Germany.

Recorded at guitarist Ryan Wenzel’s Phoenix-area Arrowhead Studio, “The Moon Lit Our Path” — which features intricate artwork by Lucas Ruggieri (Kylesa, Dragged Into Sunlight), as seen above — features five colossal tracks that mix progressive, black, death and post-metal into one mammoth sonic cocktail.

Today, Tempel is pleased to reveal the album’s opening track, the eight-minute composition Carvings in the Door. The song is now available as an “instant grat” download with digital pre-orders of the new album on iTunes and Bandcamp. Fans can also stream the track in its entirety on PureGrainAudio or directly below via YouTube.

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Deceased releases Cadaver Traditions tracklist

Longstanding US speed metal/death metal band Deceased has completed work on its upcoming two-disc album of covers, Cadaver Traditions, which will be coming out on Hells Headbangers Records this summer.

Cadaver Traditions will include 53 tracks in total, with two of those being brand-new recently written Deceased songs which had previously been released on vinyl. Judging from the wide range of influences on this disc, it will not only be fun for Deceased fans but for metal historians looking for the roots of early death metal.

53 tracks in all 2 cd set… look for it this summer on hells headbagers ‘cadaver traditions’. cover song mania and the 2 newest deceased songs finally on cd. up til now it was only vinyl.

    DISC 1

  1. Black Metal (Venom Cover)
  2. Deathrider (Anthrax Cover)
  3. Corporate Death Burger (MDC Cover)
  4. Dis-Organ-Ized (Impetigo Cover)
  5. Right Brigade (Bad Brains Cover)
  6. VoiVod (VoiVod Cover)
  7. Doomed By The Living Dead (Mercyful Fate Cover)
  8. California Uber Alles (Dead Kennedys Cover)
  9. Wrathchild (Iron Maiden Cover)
  10. Here To Stay (Sheer Terror Cover)
  11. Headhunter (Krokus Cover)
  12. SATO (Ozzy Osbourne Cover)
  13. Do Or Die (Znöwhite Cover)
  14. Violent World (45 Grave Cover)
  15. World Peace (Cro-Mags Cover)
  16. Eliminator (Agnostic Front Cover)
  17. Die By The Sword (Slayer Cover)
  18. Witching Metal (Sodom Cover)
  19. Social Security (Excel Cover)
  20. Violence And Force (Exciter Cover)
  21. The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones Cover)
  22. No Compromise (Xentrix cover)
  23. Chemical Warfare (Slayer Cover)
  24. Bodies (Sex Pistols Cover)
  25. Not To Touch The Earth (The Doors Cover)
  26. Reaganomics (D.R.I. Cover)
  27. Torn apart by werewolves (Deceased )
  28. DISC 2

  29. Mad Man (D.R.I. Cover)
  30. Fire In The Sky (Saxon Cover)
  31. 2 Minutes To Midnight (Iron Maiden Cover)
  32. Die Hard (Venom Cover)
  33. V.A. Rocks Your Liver (Verbal Abuse Cover)
  34. Blower (Voivod Cover)
  35. Wiped Out (Raven Cover)
  36. Stay Clean (Motörhead Cover)
  37. Tormentor (Kreator Cover)
  38. Nuns Have No Fun (Mercyful Fate Cover)
  39. Agents Of Steel (Agent Steel Cover)
  40. State Oppression (Raw Power Cover)
  41. Bombs Of Death (Hirax Cover)
  42. New Age Of Total Warfare (Warfare Cover)
  43. Metal Church (Metal Church Cover)
  44. Subliminal (Suicidal Tendencies cover)
  45. Zombie Attack (Tankard Cover)
  46. You Stupid Jerk (Angry Samoans Cover)
  47. I’m Not Jesus (Ramones Cover)
  48. Nothing (Plasmatics Cover)
  49. Iron Heads (Running Wild Cover)
  50. Stand Up And Shout (Dio Cover)
  51. False Profit (English Dogs Cover)
  52. Ultra Violent (N.O.T.A. Cover)
  53. The Ballad of Harry Warden (My Bloody Valentine soundtrack cover)
  54. Luck of the corpse (Deceased)

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Dutch black metal band Kaeck unleashes first track “Holenmuur”

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Black metal band Kaeck showed the world a glimpse of its first offering today with “Holenmuur.” As this new band composed of Sammath, Noordelingen and Kjeld members prepares to introduce itself to a new generation of fans, this track provides the first glimpse of its fusion of war metal and melodic vitriolic black metal.

As our first glimpse of this band asserted:

To the experienced ear, comparisons arise immediately to Impaled Nazarene and Zyklon-B, both of whom used the blasting full-speed attack with undertones of melody to its advantage. A more bestial presence occurs here, taking influence from both the death metal crossover of later black metal and the burly high-intensity rhythm and noisy attack of war metal. The result melds sawing riffs with rising hints of melody and then runs that violence into archly ascending phrases which emphasize a union of the aggression and the beauty into a rejection of all but the pure feral naturalism of both beast and forest. [I]t achieves the rhythmic intensity of current metal in concert with the elements of black metal that made it the most enduring underground metal genre, namely its ability to find purpose in nature and alienation from the corrupted mess that is our society. Both listenable and true to its genre roots, Kaeck opens a door to new possibilities in black metal.

Look for more from this promising old/new fusion that upholds the spirit and outlook of the old underground!

Update: Kaeck has added a second track.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr2G8GspwPo

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Giger – Submit to Reality (2019)

Language can be useful for its specificity or its generality, with the latter being exemplified by the phrase “chord progression.” It means a sequence of root notes and harmony notes and in rock music signifies the harmonic backdrop to a song, where in jazz it means more the geometry of a melody in relation to the notes of the scale, signifying what harmony will be used to write melodies within it.

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Nocturnal Metal

Slayer showed us the prototypical underground metal band, fusing together melodic heavy metal (Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Judas Priest) and high-speed hardcore to make a new voice for metal. It kept the metal spirit entirely, and turned up the volume on that, but also gave the music the voice of desperation amid dystopian decay where everything is broken and wrong that made hardcore so apocalyptic.

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Virgin Steele: A Retrospective (Part 2)

[Continued from Part 1]

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