“Detail shows the face of Stela D which rises 12 ft beside the altar of sacrifice with a death god effigy. The stele represents the 13th ruler of Copán, King Waxaklajun Ub’aah K’awiil (in English, Lord 18 Rabbit), showing half of his face as it was sculpted, and the other half stripped as it would look in Death.” – Akherra Phasmatanás
Article by David Rosales.
Desolation is a full-on ambient project that blends simple and solid harmonic backgrounds, repetitive phrases of a dark coloring, with recorded lamentations both human and otherwise. The aim seems to be to produce the whole array of impressions encapsulated within that single word: desolation. The music’s structure is progressive and appears to be segmented in an episodic manner, which normally implies a loss of continuity between sections. This unwanted effect is expertly avoided by providing smooth transitions, interleaving ambient soundscapes, nature sounds, vocal improvisations, all of which bring variety within a strongly directly concept that never loses content density or a strong sense of purpose. Furthermore, the album being simply distributed between two long tracks reinforces its unity and the requirement that the audience listens to the whole work as if commencing a mental journey, which once begun must be seen through to its very end.
Cuando decimos que el metal llegó a su cúspide en 1994, después de una breve época dorada, y que lo que siguió no fue sino un declive clarísimo, esto no significa que no hubo absolutamente nada bueno. Por definición, lo que le sigue a una cúspide es un declive – aunque la decadencia sólo sea aparente debido a la perspectiva. Aún más importante es aclarar que cuando hablamos de esta manera, nos estamos refiriendo a un promedio a través del género, y no señalando a nadie específicamente. Después de todo, tenemos un Summoning publicando su clásico de clásicos en 1996 y más música grandiosa a finales del siglo. En Centroamérica, siempre un paso (o más bien diez o treinta pasos) atrás del resto del mundo como resultado de procesos históricos que podemos identificar, lo poco que su reducida población, recursos y cultura permitieron desarrollar al metal local, floreció entre los últimos cinco años del siglo pasado.
Since ancient times man has looked into both himself and nature around him as a portal into dimensions our species’ abilities are not adequately or readily prepared to perceive let alone understand. This is why and the sciences developed their theory and instruments which became increasingly specialized and compartmentalized, to the point that the ulterior workings of, for instance, chemistry and physics are not even truly understood by any single person but that have been recorded and detailed so that theories can be devised to model them. This is both a weapon for more precise understanding and a blindfold that prevents us from seeing the big picture. The ancient occult sciences attempted something contrary to this, which was to grasp at the phenomenon as a whole, not by measuring bits here and there, isolating them and attempting to harness them for mundane tasks, but rather seeing how everything interacted and describing it through metaphor and accepting that knowledge concerning reality cannot be taught or communicated: the path can only be hinted at but it is for each person to take.
“We do not know it because we are fooling away our time with outward and perishing things, and are asleep in regard to that which is real within ourselves.”
Music can be used as a way to contemplation, as a window of what is in front and within us. This is a way towards the self, towards one’s nature, the species’ nature, and our place in the planet as life springing from it. When done correctly, it is not an escape from “reality” as materialists would have it, but rather a search for the experience and understanding of actual reality through human eyes. This includes an accepting of the limitations we can never truly overcome and yet trying to capture visions and feelings of what the universe beyond us is like. Music can convey this by acting as a conduct, taking the mind to a certain state. This is much more than the “setting of a mood” of pleasure-oriented music, and requires an active engagement by the listener, a locking in the senses, a voluntary stepping-through to the unreachable umbra of that-which-is. This is not about salvation or reaching out for a different world, it is a discovery of the cosmos as it is in reality.
“Could one that’s damned stand in high Heaven, even there He’d feel within himself all Hell and Hell’s despair.”
Underground metal and its related genres (dark ambient, for instance) as a mystical experience may lead us through a variety of paths, up to mirrors, dead-ends and upside-down positions which may seem incomprehensible at first but whose value is appreciated in retrospect as a lesson. At the end of the day, no vision reflects reality, we can only dip into experiences that transmit flashes of this or that aspect, but nothing that encompasses everything which is far beyond our capabilities. It is like trying to capture the infinite in one’s mind, or simply trying to imagine not being human.
“To reach something good it is very useful to have gone astray, and thus acquire experience.”
The following are a few album recommendations that the author feels are strong and sure passageways from whence grand sights a piercing eye may descry. Though each of these may follow a slightly different path, they all shine light into particular corridors and avenues by virtue of different methodologies and philosophies. Each kind of experience is in the eye of the beholder and is ever partial and incomplete, but the truth behind all of them is one and whole.
When we say that metal’s golden era peaked in 1994 and that everything went downhill, it does not mean that there was nothing good after that. By definition, quality after a peak must go downhill in comparison. More importantly, when we say such things, we are referring to a genre-wide average, not to specifics. After all, we have Summoning releasing their classic of classics in 1996 and more great music before and around the turn of the century. The same is true of several black metal bands and a very few death metal ones. In Central America, ever one (or ten or twenty) steps behind in everything as a result of traceable historical processes, what little its reduced population, resources and culture allowed for metal to develop flourished between 1995 and 2000.
The ratios of complete rubbish to authentic music to outstanding music can, in my experience, be roughly and informally distributed in percentages 95%, 4.9% and 0.1%. An actual and precise statistic would be interesting, it’s just a matter of time before we have some empirical data for you here. It is no surprise, then, that you can count the number of enduring releases from Central America with your fingers. To the best of my knowledge, the two bands that are worth mentioning for posterity (rather than out of nostalgia, which would be more inclusive) are death metallers Horgkomostropus from Honduras and black metal project Abyssum, officially from Guatemala.
Formed by the Honduran Akherra on drums and the Guatemalan Rex Ebvleb on vox and the rest of the instruments, Abyssum released two demos in the span of 1995 and 1996, and finally a full-length in 1998 titled Thy Call (it should be clarified that the drummer in this album specifically was Diatharma Thoron). In here the band follows in the most advanced footsteps of mature black metal that is inclined towards ambient music yet does not yet abandon its black metal roots. No trace of rock whatsoever is in sight. In fact, a familiar vibe of dark and “dungeon”/medieval ambient is felt in its instrumentation and coloration. It is the coming-out of metal on the other side of the spectrum and into purity, but Abyssum stops itself short of departing from metal altogether.
As if walking into the forest domain of an ancient mountain god, one sees the vibrant symbiosis and inter-dependent life forms, so insignificant in themselves but meaningful and majestic when brought together. Simple acoustic guitar picked passages, arpeggios that complement synth chords and melodies in a loop followed by episodes born through them. Some of these originating passages serve as starting points in pathways into this wilderness, not complete in themselves, but without which the magic of the next distinct moments would be without significance as all manner of relative points of departure or reference would be missing.
The perfect balance of parallel worlds, one of the physical, the other of the energetic and spiritual, is portrayed vividly in Thy Call. The music is taken to the extreme of what respectable metal can indulge in ambient repetition, while keeping it relevant not only with respect to the rest of the music, but a healthy, though minimalist, movement in harmony guided by a leading melody is ever present. Life itself manifested in the inseparable music. Its nature is not rhythmic, neither is it based on the hanging-on of one harmony either, and it definitely is not the pop indulgence of a single melody line without any other merit. It is neither and yet it is all. Take away one, and it is utterly destroyed. It is a perfect balance of the three in which a holy, indivisible yet distinguishable trinity of elements which would be for naught without each other.
Treading through this dreamy world reached by walking through a portal created by Abyssum, we come by all these scenes of lush greenery among the autumn pigments of melancholy. Here and there animals rush to and fro — an electric guitar and drums disturb the calm, calling out in cries that rip through the whistling wind. Well into our journey, we finally come face to face with the lord of the realm, an old, powerful beast crowned with leaf, moss and flower. Screeches fly over among powerful but controlled black metal drumming made famous and effective in Emperor and Graveland and supported by tremolo-picked melodies rushing under echoing synths.
This is the atmosphere that envelops one in its presence, this is your shuddering under its gaze. If it were prone to violence, there would be no escape. But the old one is the guardian and center of life and its benevolence is abundant towards those who do not come with destruction. And so, quietly, gracefully, it departs and fades into the vegetation. Distorted guitars and drums vary in patterns that bring it closer to a calm. Acoustic guitars, voice and cello synths come in to see peace instaurated as passages continue in singular impermanence, forming a continuous and uninterrupted existence as they die and are born (and reborn). We walk away and out, with only a lingering note and the whistling of the wind in our ears.
An interesting project emerging from the murky Texas underworld, Lech makes music of nearly pure noise and calls it “doom music” rather than a form of metal, but its similarities to metal (as well as electro-acoustic and other forms) cannot be denied. After reviewing the first album from this project, we wanted to hear more and were fortunate to get in a few words with Lech.
Who “is” Lech? Can you tell us band members, your history in music outside of Lech, and how you came together to form Lech -or- decided to do so?
We come from various experimental band backgrounds.
After some time away from music we decided to get together, and put out an 8 track ep.
You describe your music as “doom music,” although others might say electro-acoustic, drone or organic ambient. What inspires your choice of words to describe the sounds that you organize into music?
Doom in our opinion is the fear of impending threat or danger, but it can be taken out of context when describing music genre.
A lot of people think of Black Sabbath as being the godfathers of doom, and no doubt Tony is the Riff master but we believe Screamin’ Jay Hawkins was the true originator.
Doom music describes us best.
Is there a connection to heavy metal, or underground metal, that informs how you compose? Or is this an entirely different style? Do you have influences from any of the following ex-metal projects: Lull, Neptune Towers, Final, K.K. Null, Suuri Shamaani?
Actually the influences of the 8 tracks we have out now come from dark classical. Requiem, dirge, and Walter/ Wendy Carlos.
How do you create your music? Are these found sounds, digital manipulated, distorted or some combination of the above?
Our stuff is all original recordings.
No sample, found, or computer manipulation sounds.
What you hear that doesn’t sound like guitars are in fact guitars. The beginning of Waterwalker is a guitar run through an Eventide Space.
The experimentation that went into our sound would have to be seen to be understood.
When you compose, what do you aim to create? Do you hope to provoke a reaction or recognition in the listener and if so, what is it?
The first thought is probably “what the hell is this?”
Which I think we accomplished without saying, and the other is the true dark side of music.
Music is sometimes misunderstood, and when it is questioned you are usually on the right track.
Is this self-titled release your first recordings? What others are present? Will this be released on a label, or is it already out?
Yes, there will be another album out this summer under the Forlorn Group Label.
Why did you choose the name “Lech”? Does it have a particular meaning?
The name LecH was chosen because of the many different connotations that go along with it.
From the perverse, to the river in Austria.
It’s the unknown.
What are your future activities — will there be touring, more recordings, promotion or collaborations?
As for touring, and live shows we can’t wait to get a road crew together, and smoke some amps.
If you could play live with any Texas metal bands, which ones would you choose?
One would be Ryan from Howling Void out of San Antonio, and the other would be Annie Clark from St Vincent out of Dallas. She’s not exactly metal, but like us she has her own sound, which we like.
If people are interested in your music, where should they go to find out more and stay in touch with Lech?
We are taking a different approach to getting our music heard, so the best way for now is links on our Youtube stuff through our PR guy Kyle Lee.
Other than that we are working on a website, and hope to get out on the road to play live.
Lonegoat of necroclassical band Goatcraft issued the following statement today on, of all topics, Death Metal Underground itself. Read on for some clarification of the oddities of Goatcraft coverage for the past year or so, and the “no Goatcraft rule” implemented some time ago.
Brett Stevens is a controversial man. He’s made more armchair activists angry than anyone else on the internet. Founding the legendary Dark Legions Archive, as well as many other groups/websites/etc, his reviews were unmatched and were of the highest linguistic artistry. He created worlds in his reviews that paralleled the musical subjects better than anyone else who ever wrote about metal.
He’s been around since the nascent stage of the internet to this now populace, SJW Tumblr Tranny modern wankery that resembles dumpster diving more than anything else. It’s only suiting that he swapped to writing movie reviews.
For a while I aided Brett by helping out behind the scenes at Deathmetal.org. I wouldn’t really consider it “helping” as I’ve never been a writer nor cared to be one. Usually my contributions were drunken and juvenile. It was what it was.
In return for my contributions, Brett hosted this domain while I was in between jobs and had no spare money to pay for it. About a month after that we had a falling out over a mutual acquaintance and our stances regarding this person. Goatcraft.net was then nuked. Most of the Goatcraft material was pulled from Deathmetal.org at my request. There’s now a No-Goatcraft rule implemented at Deathmetal.org because of all of this.
About 8 months later Brett gave me the Goatcraft.net domain back.
I’m indifferent to what Deathmetal.org is nowadays. There are some good articles like the recent Abominations of Desolation controversy article, although he should’ve been more specific in the article instead of hiding its intent through multiple layers.
This should clear up any confusion regarding the friction between Deathmetal.org and Goatcraft.
Consider it a generous statement and a fair one, and wonder no more why our Goatcraft reviews went away. It is what it is.
Belgian death metallers Emptiness return with Nothing but the Whole which combines death/black metal intensity with the brooding ambiance of dark ambient similar to Desiderii Marginis. The result creates a dark, visceral experience.
The album exudes a deeply haunting and nightmarish feel which the band expands with its knowledge and application of melodic development. Songs unfurl in a rise-and-fall approach to intensity showing us different levels of thought and mood which develop and eventually conclude in melancholic unity.
Like similar experiment Lykathea Aflame Elvenefris, Nothing but the Whole occasionally struggles with direction which can cause a distracted and confused outcome which translates into meandering filler. There are also some unappealing “rock” riffs that do not fit well with the context of the songs.
Emptiness have attempted to add their own creative spark to the death/black metal world and have produced a decent creation albeit one that needs more focus and direction. Like many experimental albums, Nothing but the Whole is best described as a stimulating listen that will inspire others to expand upon its aesthetic ideas.
Neoambient gains another stronghold. This genre — constructed of film soundtracks, Dead Can Dance style medievalism, neofolk and dark ambient with some structural ideas from black metal — rose out of the ashes of black metal, with bands like Beherit, Neptune Towers (Darkthrone), Lord Wind (Graveland), Danzig (Black Aria) and Burzum leading. On The Ways of Yore, Burzum integrates organic sounds like vocals and guitar into the cosmic ambient that defined the last album, Sôl austan, Mâni vestan.
The Ways of Yore creates within the same spectrum of music stretching between Dead Can Dance and Tangerine Dream that marked the previous album but with even more of an ambient feel. Songs rely on repetitive patterns with layers of instrumentation and song structures that shift to develop melody or make dramatic contrast enhance the imitation of their subjects. As in ancient Greek drama, poetry and music merge with sole musician Varg Vikernes‘ spoken and sung vocals guiding the progress of keyboard-sample-based music. Melodies refer to each other across the length of the album through similarity and evoke themes from past albums, culminating in “Emptiness” which previously made itself known as “Tomhet” on Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, the album that ended black metal by raising the bar above what others could imitate.
Somber moods prevail throughout this work which mixes melancholy with a sense of reverence for the past. Hearing Varg sing and develop harmonies with his voice shows room for expansion by this creative musician who previously let the guitars do the talking. Guitars show up on later tracks, distorted in the shuddering but mid-tone texture that gave Filosofem its otherworldly sound. Even though songs begin with simple note clusters, they expand to full melodies which match to a cadence and regulate atmosphere. The result demands attention through its conquest of empty space with the barest of sounds but over time reaches an intensity of expectation that resembles a ritual.
What makes people love neoambient is that it obliterates the pace of modernity and replaces it with a reverent, transcendental atmosphere. Burzum takes an approach that aims at a sound older than medieval, a primeval cave-dwelling primitivism that strips away the pretenses of developed culture. Its striking Nordic imagery, including songs to Odinn and Freyja, add to this mystery and the Burzum mythos as a whole. Escaping black metal, while controversial, granted Vikernes a chance to explore the development of melody in silence, and the result serves to expand atmosphere beyond our age to something that is both ancient and futuristic.
The movement that some are calling “neoambient” — a fusion of dark ambient, Conan soundtracks, and neofolk — generally arose out of the metal community. The classics of the genre converge on Lord Wind (Graveland), Burzum and Black Aria (Glenn Danzig). In addition, metal bands contributed to related forms of epic ambient, like Beherit (Electric Doom Synthesis) and Neptune Towers (Darkthrone). Newer entrants like Winglord and Hammemit explore different paths along similar directions.
But how do we trace the influences and evolution of this genre? Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain, Danzig) launched a partial revolution in 1992 with his Conan-inspired Black Aria. Several years later, Burzum followed this with Daudi Baldrs and Hlidskjalf, both of which used Dead Can Dance-themed ancient world music to frame the epic nature of its compositions, giving it a feel not just of Conan-styled epic conflict, but of a cultural basis.
There’s another influence lurking just a few years before Danzig — affirmed by Rob Darken as an influence on his music in Lord Wind — which was the music of Clannad as used in the BBC series Robin of Sherwood:
Burzum, the sometimes black metal and sometimes ambient project of Norwegian-descended French national Varg Vikernes, announced the release of new album The Ways of Yore on Byelobog Productions/Plastic Head for June 2, 2014. No further information is given about whether the album will continue with the post-modern black metal style of Umskiptar or the folkish dark ambient style of Sôl austan, Mâni vestan, which was one of our “Best of 2013”.
Emerging from the same locus of intensity in Norway that produced Immortal, Mayhem, Emperor and Ildjarn, Burzum began in the early 1990s as a complex riff-narrative style of black metal with unnerving vocals that combines a feral animality with emotional sensitivity. Early works attempted to integrate elements of ambient music and create a sense of ritual designed to “stimulate the fantasy of mortals.” This era ended with Filosofem and composer Varg Vikernes being jailed for the murder of Euronymous of Mayhem.
During the incarceration years, Burzum shifted direction to full ambient with Dauði Baldrs and Hliðskjálf. These albums allowed Vikernes to escape the monolithic sound of guitar/bass/drums and work with multiple instruments, culminating in the lush creative density of Hliðskjálf (which was revisited somewhat in Sôl austan, Mâni vestan).
After prison, Burzum entered a period of post-modern black metal influenced by droning indie-pop variants of NSBM such as Drudkh and other Eastern European bands. This music reflected pop song structures, a shoegaze-style approach to melody but with the longer phrasing — albeit recursive — of black metal like early Ancient, and extensive use of North mythology. It is unclear whether this period continues now with folkish dark ambient album Sôl austan, Mâni vestan in 2013 being a temporary detour, or whether Vikernes will launch Burzum into a fourth period with the more complex instrumentation and hence compositional density of that album and Hliðskjálf.