We got a promo pack of these over the weekend, so I’ve been tossing the tracks onto the playlist and picked a few favorites.
Tempestuous Fall – Converge, Rivers of Hell
This CD compiles different doom metal bands. Tempestuous Fall is funeral doom with folk metal touches, like Skepticism crossed with Green Carnation or Falkenbach. The result is really elegant passages of slow guitars over which keyboards play a faster, almost medieval melody, while vocals chant and drums provide dramatic emphasis. Aesthetically this is a promising approach and Tempestuous Fall craft pleasant but melancholy melodies to fit it.
Sartegos – As Fontes Do Negrume
If you can imagine a black metal band with the technique of a primitive band like Mystifier or early Rotting Christ, but that used melodic progressions more like Ancient or Enslaved, Sartegos is a reasonable approximation. These are often winding songs that bring out the melody in their riffs, but not before sliding into some mid-paced aggression. Vocals are disturbingly grim as well.
The Wakedead Gathering – The Gate and the Key
This is old school death metal but of a faster variety, with riffs like Unleashed but more in an American style, such that momentum is conserved and transferred. Deep bassy guttural vocals accompany faster riffs like mid-period Incantation or Malevolent Creation but these are fragmented by extensive doomy, melodic parts that create contrast. This band does a lot well, but some of their shorter riffs are too predictable, and the result delves too deeply into the repetitive part of old school death metal.
Midnight Odyssey – Converge, Rivers of Hell
This song (from the Converge, Rivers of Hell compilation) alternates between extended phrase atmospheric black metal and acoustic-y stuff that sounds a lot like Craig Pillard’s Methadrone. This lengthy track mostly features the latter, which tends to operate in cyclic patterns with layers induced by using background keyboard tones to complement the foreground guitar. Using relatively few themes, it spins each off into melodies and then applies those in a variety of forms, some blasting and aggressive and others slowed-down and mellow. The result is similar to the longer tracks on Enslaved’s Frost but with more of a spacey vibe like that found on the early Manes material.
Texan mythological occult heavy metal band Absu, who began life as a death metal band and ventured into NWOBHM-tinged black metal before arriving at their current hybrid of Mercyful Fate and modern progressive metal, have extended their North American tour dates through the end of the year.
If you have been aching to see these highly technically skilled musicians live and live in the eastern half of the United States, look toward these dates to tell you when to cancel all prior engagements and head to the club.
Much as we all admire the ex-Emperor axeslinger, he’s fallen into the pit of what happens to musicians once they’ve blasted out their most vital creative material: they become masters of interesting details, but this means that they fit into the dominant paradigm. In this case, Ihsahn is basically progressive indie rock with a tendency to launch off on flights of fancy that sometimes involve metally riffs. But for the most part, he’s playing with the same pieces and riding in the same channel that everyone else has been cruising for the last 70 years. This doesn’t showcase the legendary creativity that propels this artist toward his best work, and also doesn’t make for great listening, since it’s a collection of mixed moods that never really pick up a direction anywhere but into themselves.
Falkenbach – Asa
Folk metal isn’t a genre; it’s an approach to any number of genres. Falkenbach is heavy metal with some black metal influences but is approached in a “folk” way that resembles jaunty pirate and epic Viking songs from Hollywood movies, thus continuing metal’s infatuation with the soundtrack. The music isn’t bad, but cycles verse-chorus and develops very marginally so there’s not much of a vertiginous sense of revelation. Further, either this dude has a sinus infection or they autotuned these vocals, which is somewhat repellent if your music is naturalistic. Thus this gets filed in the pile of stuff I’d like to like, but can’t have faith in, and find aesthetically irritating.
Beastmilk – Climax
When we run out of ideas, we run to the past. So it is with Beastmilk, who resurrect 1980s indie rock with a slightly more intense guitar focus, like R.E.M. crossed with Dave Mathews and grafted into Journey. This isn’t bad, but not so exceptional we must cover it on a death metal site.
Inferno – Omniabsence Filled by His Greatness
Strongly reminiscent of early Dark Funeral with lower tuning, Inferno provide charging black metal with strong concluding themes and high energy. None of these riffs will really strike you as all that unusual, but they knit together well into songs. To flesh things out, Inferno use fills of sweeps or lead picking between the rushing power chord riffs. This release really doesn’t have enough character to distinguish itself for the ages, but is more refreshingly clear about what it likes than most of the kvltists or hybrid-bands that wander through our review stack these days.
Blizaro – Strange Doorways
Sometimes we confuse having a lot of material with having something epic. This 2CD is a fusion of doom metal in the style of Confessor/Candlemass and a lot of random 70s influences from Hawkwind to Yes. These guys like to jam, and this music seems like someone recorded jams for a year, patched ’em up so they stuck together as songs, and worked them into an epic format. They’d do better to distill this to an EP of their best thoughts.
Polluted Inheritance – Betrayed
When Polluted Inheritance play death metal, they create a type of very familiar and nocturnal music that feels like moving through a darkened battlefield. This is broken up by speed metal riffs and lead-ups which sometimes have Pantera-style roundabout vocals circling the end of each phrase, causing a sense of this battlefield being broken up by machinery. In addition, Polluted Inheritance like to drop in sporadic progressive riffing or extremely noodly guitar, often accompanying some of the speed metal riffs. Reminiscent in many ways of later Adramelech, the band thus “comes into its own” less frequently that it would if some hard stylistic decisions were made and individual members had less freedom to indulge musicianship for musicianship’s sake. It is gratifying however to find a release that actually wants to be metal, and can execute moments of insight in riff form that evoke the best moments of classic death metal.
Boal – Infinite Deprivation
Although from the deathgrind genre, this album represents an attempt to use old school approaches to melody and riff with the “modern technical metal” style of static or harmony-based (sweep) riffs. These riffs are designed to contrast each other toward resolution in the old school way, but ultimately are too linear and rhythmic to develop enough phrase. However, the deathgrind portion of Infinite Deprivation is a breath of fresh air, incorporating groove in a subversive and unnerving way and building up to honest culminations. Obviously it’s too much to ask this band to go all old-school but they’re the closest thing to interesting in deathgrind.
Root – Viginti Quinque Annis In Scaena
This album sounds like Venom covering Cream. It’s basically hard rock and the generation before it, sped up with more precise playing and some hefty fellow bellowing over the top. While none of it is is particularly badly executed, it also sounds dated, like a flashback into the late 1960s which is being resurrected for purposes of nostalgia. The homebrew nature of this band would be appealing if the songs stretched beyond an emulation of that past state in time, but although heavily influenced by the Hellhammer-Bathory first wave of black metal, this music remains in part of that cluster of material that belongs to a time before the underground.
Circle – Incarnation
This seems like “sludge metal,” which is really just slow metalcore, with throw in influences from indie and black metal. Mostly disorganized, it fails from inability to make a point, although there are no other deficits. Like most music in this style, which seems to be people who want doom metal with aggressive open intervals instead of minor key ones, the modus operandi of the listener is to experience drone and forget where he is in the piece, then notice periodic interesting bits before descending again into a rumble of confusion.
Toxic Holocaust – Chemistry of Consciousness
The whole of the human condition is revealed by this album: it is well-executed on the surface, but its independent spirit is bound up in pleasing others with what they already know, in order to get power. As a result, it is a fun listen until you start thinking about hearing it a dozen times. It’s more instrumentally competent than your average retro-thrash band, but strays mostly into speed metal territory, mix and matching riffs from 1980s speed metal bands so that verse and chorus riffs each resemble well-known types but they don’t appear together as in the original song. Most of these songs are repetitive verse-chorus with a break to provide contrast before the reprise. Oddly, the vocals are whispered and distorted like a black metal band but using the rhythms of a late 1980s band like Sodom or Kreator. This is well-executed but I wouldn’t want to hear it again, especially as I heard all of these ideas the first time around — back in the 1980s.
Like thrash bands of the 1980s or the first two Napalm Death EPs, Ildjarn is often first mistaken for a novelty for its short and seemingly irrational songs. What exists under the skin is a complex outlook toward the world distilled into a simple naturalism.
Much like the techno, oi and black metal that these songs derive inspiration from, Ildjarn is a visceral emotion: its songs are not so much concepts, as emotional concepts created from the application of intellect to real-world problems. This is not theory; it’s application. However, it exists in small fragments that appear irrational to us because they are beyond the human perspective, as if spoken by the voices of nature themselves.
Seven Harmonies of Unknown Truths is an early Ildjarn demo that has appeared in fragmentary form on several other recordings, but never in full. Eisenwald Records has re-released the demo on CD and LP with new artwork.
Released on September 23, 2013, the new edition is properly balanced but not remastered or cleaned up for the authentic “period” sound. Pre-orders come with a free poster of the cover art and an ILDJARN sticker. It is gratifying to see interest in this band resuming again after a short periodic absence, as has occurred wavelike since the founding of the band.
If you’re tired of having fruity alt-rock interrupting your metal experience, you’re not alone. Polish black metal band Black Altar is set to release their EP Suicidal Salvation via Darker than Black Records; and thankfully, the release avoids many of the flaws of contemporary bands.
Playing black metal in a modern style, Black Altar builds songs based around winding guitar riffs and arpeggios. Vocals are of the shouted lower-pitched variety: strong, though rather derivative of the melodies established by the guitars. Drums are present in a minimal role which matches the needs of the guitar-voiced music. What deserves special mention is the layering present within riffs: the band is able to construct overlapping riffs that simultaneously merge and deviate.
This provides a more complex listening experience than there would be otherwise, amplified by synthesized instruments, somewhat reminiscent of Burzum or Beherit. Production (for this genre) is clear, allowing each element room to be heard. This allows each to have more individual impact but decreases atmosphere for the whole.
The release is not covering any new ground; what it does has been done before. There may not be any moments of discovery, crying “Eureka!” as original black metal inspires. However, what the band has in its favor is that it does its style well and provides an intriguing listening experience amid a field of bands increasingly bland and indistinguishable. Thus, it lends itself well to being a soundtrack to an afternoon at work — or desecrating a burning church.
As part of the continuing acceptance of the radicalism of black metal, Osmose Productions will re-issue Graveland’s first two works on LP. The releases feature new artwork, remastering and bonus tracks plus extended booklets.
In the Glare of Burning Churches will have four bonus tracks and remastering, in addition to new graphic design and a 20-page booklet featuring tributes from Nergal (Behemoth) and other black metal musicians. Also included will be previously unreleased photos.
The Celtic Winter (now titled Celtic Winter) will use a different mix that has not previously seen the light of day, including alternative bonus tracks. The booklet gets the same makeover, with tributes by black metal musicians, unreleased photos and new graphic design.
While in the 1990s it would have been inconceivable for such public leaders of the scene to reach into the radical underbelly of black metal, over the past twenty years black metal has acknowledged its radical origins — war against modern civilization and the morality of equality — and thus radicalization has been more accepted.
For black metal fans, the re-release of In the Glare of Burning Churches and Celtic Winter is a victory, since these essential works of third-wave black metal remain unknown to many new fans who instead must content themselves with third-wave imitations of these seminal works.
“Underground Never Dies!” chronicles the underground metal explosion of the mid-1980s through early 1990s when a decentralized volunteer force created a parallel music industry for music that had no commercial appeal, but a fervent sense of truth and opposition to some aspects of post-modern civilization.
With over 500 pages of interviews, photos, excerpts from period fanzines and artwork, “Underground Never Dies!” addresses the complex interweaving of bands, fans, zines, promoters, artists and labels that fostered the underground metal movement and allowed it to expand with maximum flexibility.
Written by Grinder Magazine Editor Andrés Padilla, the book includes fanzines from around the world as well as an extensive selection of underground flyers, so it will be not only a narrative of the history of underground metal, but also a massive and interesting menu of diverse viewpoints for devotees of underground metal genres such as death metal, black metal, grindcore and doom metal.
Doomentia Press will publish and distribute “Underground Never Dies!” which will include a compilation 12″ LP featuring historically important bands exhumed from the 80s, such as Slaughter Lord (Australia), Mutilated (France), Incubus (Florida, USA), Poison (Germany), Exmortis (USA), Fatal (USA), Armoros (Canada), Mental Decay (Denmark), Funeral Nation (USA) and Insanity (USA) among others. Presented in gatefold format, and limited to the first 500 copies of the book, the LP will be followed by CD and tape versions of the same material with added bonus tracks.
Cover art by Mark Riddick accompanies introductions by Ian Christe (Bazillion Points), Chris Reifert (Autopsy), Erik Danielsson (Watain) and Alan Moses (Glorious Times). This celebration of the underground will attempt to make sense of the fertile but chaotic years of its origins.
For those new to Profanatica, this is the album to get. Like the band, it is baffling, organic, unsystematic, arcane and labyrinthine. It resembles its own hybrid of occultism, blasphemy and feral Jack London/Fred Nietzsche style absurdist feral Darwinism. It is ungovernable, down to the 7″-sized packaging for a relatively plain CD.
Sickened by Holy Host shows Profanatica at two extremes. The first is Paul Ledney, the percussionist and conceptual designer of the band, with an unnamed collaborator on guitar. The second is the same drum track with contemporary Profanatica guitarist John Gelso riffing along on guitar. The idea is that the first side shows us Profanatica as it might have been in the early 1990s, while the second side shows us Profanatica now as it evolves.
The Grand Masters Session on the other hand is a CD recording of the material Profanatica unleashed as a 7″ box set, and is essentially the band in the studio covering some old classics with updated musicianship and production. This serves as a continuity for the two parts and unites the album at full strength.
Together, Sickened by Holy Host / The Grand Masters Session reveals this atavistic American black metal band in all of their glory. The motivic force is undoubtedly Ledney’s (Revenant, Incantation, Havohej) impulsive but controlled drumming, which like a ritual dance of knives lures our listening minds closer to the core of each song. Gelso holds his own with an ability to make classic and new Profanatica riffs both simultaneously awkward and unearthly and also surprisingly difficult to pull off at speed. The result is an untameable surge of raw ideas guided by the torn-silk vocals of Ledney.
This album provides an ideal introduction to Profanatica because it captures its extremes through its most evolved material, giving a quick but deep plunge into the psyche of this sonic terrorism against the civilizing forces of religion and sociability. Soon you too will be chanting blasphemies against the highest holy while engaging in ceremonial defiance.
Third-wave black metal band Marduk and legendary brutal Swedish death metal band Grave will be joining Death Wolf and Valkyrja on a European tour. Marduk, perhaps most famous for its fast melodic ode to the unknown Opus Nocturne, will headline all dates on the “Panzer Division Marduk 2013” tour.
For those who experienced early death metal, Grave is well-known for 1991’s Into the Grave, a dark and primitive Swedish death metal journey that straddled the line between dark death metal, brutal death metal and primal grindcore. Among metalheads of the day, not owning a copy of this seminal release was like not owning shoes.
This European tour sees these bands join forces for raw energy through intense speed and solemn but vicious riff attack, which is how each has distinguished itself in the past. European metal brothers and sisters are lucky to experience this unrestrained assault of sonic power.
Blackhearts is a new film about black metal after Norway in the 1990s, focusing on world black metal in the present day and how it is different from the original integral genre.
This is welcome news for those who were thinking “Aw, geez, do we need another film to tread ground well-covered by Lords of Chaos and Until the Light Takes Us?” You won’t have to suffer through a re-tread of the now-familiar early 1990s soap opera because it’s not mentioned in the movie, despite Blackhearts being the production of a Norwegian film crew.
Christian Falch, producer of Blackhearts, took the time to give us some answers to the burning questions that metal fans may have regarding this new movie.
You are the producer of the movie Blackhearts. Can you tell us what the movie is about?
I’m the producer and I co-write the script (documentaries actually do have scripts too…) with the director Fredrik Horn Akselsen. We both work for the Norwegian production company Gammaglimt AS.
Blackhearts is basically a feature length documentary about the profound impact that Norwegian black metal has had on the lives of fans and artists throughout the world. As you know, this genre has a lot of dedicated followers.
We have three main protagonists in the documentary. They are all really passionate and dedicated fans with their own black metal bands. One of them is a member of parliament in Greece, the other one is risking everything for the music because it is strictly forbidden where he lives: Iran. The third is a truly devoted Colombian Satanist. In the documentary we want to explore why black metal is so special to them and what the fascination is all about.
The story of black metal has been told a number of times, most notably through Lords of Chaos and Until the Light Takes Us. What is your documentary doing that these other sources have not?
First of all, our film will not deal with the events in the past, but rather look at the situation today. The storytelling in Blackhearts happens as the story of our different characters evolve, so this is not something retrospective, but we get do follow our three protagonists in several exciting episodes throughout the film.
I also want to mention that this documentary is being made for a wide, international audience, not only metal fans. Therefore we deal with universal topics like passion, politics, religion and dreams — of course everything still is about black metal. A great mix of everything a good documentary needs if you ask me.
Do you think it has taken us — Norway, the West and/or humanity in general — almost a generation to absorb what black metal was about?
In this documentary we will have a close look on how different cultures, religions, political situations and so on deals with the black metal phenomena. The fascinating thing is that it varies a lot! Here in Norway, the government pays black metal bands to record their albums and at the same time they would not mind flogging you for listening to Mayhem in Iran…
There are still a lot of different opinions around when it comes to what black metal is all about — and that is exactly what we want to explore and learn more about in this film.
Following up on the third question: what was black metal “about”? Do musical genres have ideals? Are those always clearly articulated? Is there a benefit in not articulating them like we articulate science and politics?
That’s a good but difficult question to answer. In my opinion black metal was about making atmospheric music with a hint of opposition to the society in general — the media (and some of the artists) made a great impact when it comes to defining the ideals behind it, but I believe that every individual had a personal, and therefore different, motivation to join the scene. I’m not a fan of putting the same ideological label on every individual or band just because they play black metal.
Speaking of politics, how are you going to deal with tricky subjects like Varg Vikernes and his political beliefs which I don’t trust myself to summarize, the murders of homosexuals by black metal musicians, the church burnings and the numerous statements of adoration for National Socialism and Stalinism by black metal musicians?
As I mentioned, we won’t go deep into the dark and difficult past of this genre, but of course we need to mention what happened and how it influenced the scene (and it still does). We would like to show that the black metal scene is more varied than most people think. We will do our best to deal with this subject as fairly as possible.
What do you think made black metal different from other forms of heavy metal, both musically and in idea?
For me, the difference is in the atmosphere, the way you feel when you listen to black metal, the images that appears in my mind…I don’t need to go into musical terms, it is the feeling of the music that makes black metal special. The idea of it all is of course to be more extreme than heavy metal and other subgenres. That’s really nothing I personally need to enjoy a good black metal band, but I have to admit that the myths surrounding some of the bands and artists attracted me in the first place, many years ago — and I still think it continues to attract new fans to this day.
Are you going to cover other extreme metal activity in Norway, like death metal bands such as Cadaver and Molested?
Unfortunately not. We simply don’t have the time to do that. Our focus will be more or less strictly on black metal. The only exception might be the appearance of Destructhor from Myrkskog and Morbid Angel.
You are apparently the metalhead among the production group. What got you into heavy metal? Do you still listen to it? Why do you like it, and what makes it relevant to you?
I’m the only metalhead in the crew…as with many fans of my generation it started with Guns ‘n Roses, hahaha, but it did not take long before I discovered other bands with more hard hitting music and once you start enjoying this kind of music it makes you start looking for the next band that takes it to a more extreme level and that’s how it goes I guess.
I still listen to all kinds of metal amongst other things, but I’m not very good at keeping up to date with all the new bands and releases. To me, music, and especially black metal is something personal and special. I don’t feel the need to share it with anyone else or even speak about it. Black metal is the little luxury I enjoy alone when there are no other distractions around. I should also mention that there is a lot of crappy black metal bands out there, guess I’m picky when it comes to this genre.
Where is Blackhearts in terms of production? When will we be able to see it? Will it be in theatres or online? How much interest does The Movie IndustryTM have in a film like this?
We have been working for two years with this documentary already and we have about 50% of the material shot. The timing of the release all depends on the financial situation of the project in the time to come, but for sure people would be able to see it sometime during 2015. We are planning a massive release on all platforms including cinema, festivals, TV and of course DVD and online.
To this day we have experienced an impressive amount of interest from distributors, international co-producers, TV broadcasters, film institutes and so on. I am really happy about this because it makes it possible for us to make this film on the level of quality I think it deserves. As far as I know, there is no documentary on black metal out there with the approach we are doing so there is a wide range of possible scenarios for the finalization and release of the finished film.
I guess the biggest question for all of us is “why”: why did black metal come about, why was it so violent, and why does it fascinate us today. Does your film address these whys?
This is the core of the film. It is a difficult question to answer, but this is why I wanted to do this film in the first place — to find out why this weird, hate promoting genre is so incredible fascinating. Hopefully we are able to understand it a bit more after seeing the finished film.
Can you tell us more about the format of the film? Is it interviews, or a narrative, or a mixture of both? Will you use black metal music in the film?
The film will be character driven. In other words, we will follow the people in real life situations and all of them have their own story that we are in the process of filming at the moment. There might be some interviews as well, but not like one would expect from a typical documentary. For example: in Blackhearts we meet an Iranian, Sina. He is the only black metal artist in his country. We first get to know him at home in Tehran, then we follow him to Norway as he is about to do his first ever live concert at the Inferno festival. Then comes the tricky part — can he ever go back home to Iran after promoting what some people consider to be blasphemy on stage?
Through following Sina’s story we will get to learn more about how strong the passion for black metal can be and how the music is still provoking authorities around the world. This is just one example and I can promise we have more fascinating stories too!
When it comes to the music in the film, people should not expect to hear lots of it, but of course it’s there when we show scenes from concerts etc. A treat for all black metal fans (and for me) is that the one and only Snorre Ruch has composed music specially for this documentary.
Last but not least, can you tell us about yourself, not necessarily as formal as a CV but a bit about film, how you came to love it, and how you came to be a movie producer.
I work as a full time documentary producer on several different films. Most of them are related to the second world war or religion and music. This is of course all topics that I am really interested in on a personal level. I never really loved films more than the next guy, but I ended up producing music videos and documentaries because it brought me to places and people that I never would have met under “normal” circumstances.
I have been doing it for the ten years now and I’m liking it more and more as time passes. One of the last documentaries I produced is called The Exorcist in the 21st Century and it has been doing quite well, specially in the US. We got unique access to one of the top exorcists in the Vatican and we followed him around the world as he was doing his thing. Therefore I have seen a about one dozen exorcism rituals being performed.
Since this interview will mostly be read by metal fans, I can reveal that the demon that reveals itself during the rituals we filmed sounded like Maniac from Mayhem at times, hahaha!