Interview: Põhjast

June 2, 2013 –

põhjast_logo

Having discovered Põhjast recently, the DeathMetal.org team was psyched at this chance to interview Eric Syre (vocals) and Gates (guitar) of this energetic new band.

Combining the atmosphere of black metal with the speed and riffing of old school doom metal, Põhjast revive the classic metal vibe as hybridized with the adventurous and somewhat darker spirit of the northern styles. The result is both satisfying to anyone who enjoys Angel Witch or Candlemass, but might also appeal to those who keep old Darkthrone and Immortal on hand for daily listening.

The result is a band that avoids the retro backward-looking sensation of many recent releases, but also bypasses the intellectual forgery that is the assumption that making Sonic Youth ripoff albums with black metal logos is somehow a motion “forward.” You’ll be hearing more of them and their energetic vocalist Eric Syre, who channels three decades of metal talent into a single voice…

When did you discover you had a talent for classic metal vocals? How did you form the understanding of melody and sonic topography that guides these vocals? Who were your influences? Why haven’t we heard this voice before?

I have always been into clean signing and started as a singer in a rock band back in the early 90s. I also did some choir work for different projects in the past. When the time came for me to start my own bands I just ventured into heavier music and adapted my vocals to it. I have very little musical training so I work a lot with instinct and feeling, improvising vocal lines first and then reworking them with a keyboard or an acoustic guitar to make them musically “right.” I try to stay away from copying the riffs I sing over and come up with a melody standing on its own. It complements the music a lot better and expands the palette of feelings the whole song has to offer.

As far as influences, I always liked singers who had some grain to their voices, not the perfect-sounding ones. I have a baritone/bass range and I guess that naturally I prefer singers close that range. I have always been into Bathory and Candlemass so I guess you can find traces of both Quorthon and Messiah in my vocals. Bruce Dickinson remains the ultimate clean vocalist in the metal genre, for me. Dio and Gillan are also vocalists I have high esteem for. I also like the octavists singers. They are out of my range but I admire the power and resonance of their voices.

Tell me about how Põhjast came to be. I am told that the band is scattered across the globe, and you collaborate remotely. How do you do this?

We are scattered here and there, both in Europe and America. I am located in Quebec, Canada. With the technology which revolutionized the recording process in the last decade, it became a lot easier to have such a band. They record the music in Estonia and I do my parts here. We exchange emails and samples and, like in any normal band, we come to a conclusion where everything pleases us enough to release the music. It just requires a bit more time and technicalities. I sometimes miss the whole “rehearsal room feeling” but so far it’s the only way to make it work.

What style of music would you describe Matused as being, and how does it differ from previous Põhjast work? Can you tell us what “Matused” and “Põhjast” mean in Estonian? Does the band have any influences, and do they show on this album?

This new album is a good follow-up to the previous one Thou strong, Stern Death, released in 2012. It has some doomier elements, a little more classic Heavy Metal to it and the references to Bathory are present more than ever. To me it sounds like Scandinavian/Baltic Metal should sound; It’s heavy, cold and pounding. If I am not mistaken, “Matused” means “funerals.” It obviously refers to the lyrics of all songs. “Põhjast” means “north,” or at least that’s the understanding I have of the word. I speak French so you can understand my limits with Estonian.

Maybe Gates (guitars) can elaborate a bit more:

Exactly, Eric is right: “Matused” means funerals in Estonian and the name of the album is connetected with the album lyrics. The name of the project — Põhjast — means both the direction of North and the base or foundation of something — a revival, the end of something old and the birth of something new. Therefore the name has a much deeper meaning, at least for me, than just a mere name of a band.

Definitely the project has its own influencers. I personally have been greatly influenced by such persons as Quorthon and Abbath. Both have paved the way to extraordinary music styles. May these be black metal or viking metal, there’s no difference – everyone who have heard their creation can admit that the music is special and that they have not heard anything like this before.

I am not inspired only by their music. I find their healthy sense of humor and attitude towards life inspiring as well. I have always enjoyed the interviews of Abbath — his interviews from 1991 in Septicore and in 2007 in Inferno are both equally pure gold to me.

However, if I should still generalize, then the music of Põhjast can be categorized under Scandinavian Metal — one can certainly detect similarities to Oz, Bathory, Immortal, Morgana Lefay and Candlemass.

Do you think the “true” styles of metal are experiencing a resurgence? If so, why? Is Põhjast part of this, or building on what it has done? If the latter, where do you think your music is going, both stylistically and in terms of content?

I don’t think Põhjast is part of anything. The music stands on its own on among a well-established tradition of European Metal. You can hear traces of classic metal, probably due to my vocal approach. I do not want to link what we do with any of the current “retro” or “true” trends. If there is a resurgence of classic metal it’s probably due to the fact that what’s current isn’t that interesting for the record-buying public. I am just back from the Maryland Deathfest and I can tell you that the people attending there longed for good old heavy music. Most of the acts there either disbanded years ago and reformed recently or were directly linked or influenced older waves of metal.

I agree with Eric — Põhjast is not trying to follow trends.

I personally do not listen to a very wide variey of stuff – I listen the things that I used to listen to in my “youth”, be that either Bathory or The Smiths. I have never had an ambition to “invent a bicycle”. I have always wished to create the music that I admire. I wouldn’t call it plagiarism, rather as a bow and a hommage towards the musicians I admire, hoping that the music we make is worthy enough. If not, let it sink into the obscurity of ages…

When you sing, how do you pick the notes and textures you use? How much of it is based on the music as written, and how much is your own interpretation of where it should go? Are the rest of Põhjast flexible about giving you space to create?

In Põhjast, everything is already written and recorded before I even start working on the vocals. I work on finished songs so I need to adjust everything I do to the reference files I get. I usually start improvising vocal lines and then refine everything using keyboards or classical guitars as guidelines. I try to have everything in tune but also keep a lot of notes “on the edge,” if you know what I mean. Quorthon used to do that a lot (voluntarily or not) and I like that. It’s important for me to write according to my vocal range but I also try my best to fit the vocals with the mood of the songs. This is the highest in pitch I ever went on a record so far as I am more of a baritone/bass singer. It’s a good thing to have completed songs to work over as I can get the whole feel of it a lot better. Sometimes I hit a wall trying to fit in patterns and melodies as the lyrics are also completed. It’s a maze I come out of with time and a lot of demo recordings. I get total creative freedom from the rest of the band and I truly appreciate that. They trust me a lot as they rarely or never hear anything up until I send them all the vocal tracks at once.

What do you think makes a good metal band? Is there an outlook, content or stylistic direction that is uniquely “metal”? Can this be lost such that a band could use metal riffs, techniques, etc. and still not be metal?

If you keep aside the usual instrumentation (guitars, bass, drums, vocals), metal has this abrasiveness and weight you rarely find in other genres. Heaviness isn’t all about tuning down and playing loud, it has a lot to do with the whole package built around the music, the themes, the vocals and even the artwork. Metal is this visceral manifestation of the darker side of human nature trough music built around riffs played on electric guitars and accompanied by pounding drums and intense vocals. It requires passion and dedication to make it sound right and it’s no wonder enthusiasts of the genre smells the fake ones miles away. Listen to Front Line Assembly’s Millenium or Skinny Puppy’s The Process to see if using metal riffs automatically makes metal music. I like those albums but they’re definitely not Metal.

Why do you think that black metal (which seems to be a partial influence on Põhjast) exploded as it did? Was there a mental state required to bring it about? Or was it all just music?

I like to think that there has to be more than just the music. The innovators of the genre believed in more than just “music,” at least when they began. A lot of death metal bands were just into it for the music and you see where the genre ended in the late 90s. The same happened with black metal with the turn of the millennium. You can’t get great art from trend-aspiring musicians writing typical riffs. Black metal exploded because it was the latest genre representing integrity and involvement transcending creation. It looked and sounded fierce and the leading figures behind the genre made everyone feel like they meant it. Some truly did and some didn’t, as history proved to us. The metal scene needed this level of “involvement” after the debacle of death metal. It still does today, now that most genre has been swallowed by the mainstream. Doom metal is the current trend and I never expected it to be…

I think also that there should be more than music – why not friendship? I believe that for example The Smiths might as well never have been, if Mr. Marr and Mr. Morrissey had not met… or Abbath and Demonaz.

How was this album recorded? Did you use a studio, and if so, which ones? Did you have any idea of what the final product was going to sound like when you did the vocals?

I will let Gates answer parts of this question:

Both Põhjast albums are recorded in Estonia, in Roundsound professional studio under the baton of Keijo Koppel. Cooperation with Keijo has been very productive and we hope that it will continue, as there are more Põhjast records on the way. I personally have had a very concrete idea about the material until Eric comes along :)

As for the vocals, everything was written and recorded so, yes, I had a good idea of where I was heading with the vocals.

What’s next for Põhjast? Will you all unite somewhere to tour, or continue recording? Do you have a label for Matused? Was this a recent signing?

I will let Gates answer this question:

We thought that Põhjast would always remain a studio project. But we have to probably eat our own words, since, if everything goes according to the plan, Põhjast can be seen already in summer 2014! At the moment we are looking for a worthy record company, with whom we could develop an effective cooperation.

If people like Matused, where should they next turn for more Põhjast or related acts?

People can check our previous album Thou strong, Stern Death (Spinefarm, 2012) — www.pohjast.com They can also check our other bands: Metsatöll, Sorts, Barren Earth, Rytmihäiriö, Ajattara, Beast Within and Thesyre.

Thanks a lot for your support and involvement. It’s appreciated!

Põhjast
Eric Syre – vocals
Gates – guitars
Vesa Wahlroos – bass
Marko Atso – drums

The brilliance of Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet

June 1, 2013 –

A new series of articles in which the writer explains why his tastes in music are so impeccable. The title of the series is a cheap spin on a recurring sketch from the English comedy show The Fast Show.

skepticism-stormcrowfleetThis week I have mostly been listening to…. Skepticism – Stormcrowfleet

Doom divides metalhead opinions. Arguably a lot of it is just regular heavy metal slowed down, so probably doesn’t deserve to be considered a separate entity, and while there isn’t really a definable doom “scene” the music does attract a type of personality and culture that is fatalistic and overly emotional, i.e. not very metal.

Nonetheless, there are at least two bona fide classic metal albums that have come out of doom – Cathedral’s Forest of Equilibrium, and Skepticism’s Stormcrowfleet.

Considered one of the fore-runners of funeral doom (doom played very, very slow), Stormcrowfleet inverts the rock music expectations for predictable, foot-tapping rhythms and offers spacious, atmosphere-heavy music with the rhythmic elements subordinated to the melodic and textural components.

Many doom albums that are near-misses succeed in evoking a morbid, foreboding atmosphere but ultimately fall short because they are music about personality dramas, rather than, as with all the finest metal, music made to mythologicize existence. Stormcrowfleet succeeds because it offers a worldview that is not overwhelmed by external trials, but embraces them and uses them to reframe individual life in the context of something more majestic.

Similarly to Burzum, it creates an experience that is journey-like and transformative, yet vaguely sentimental, although in a way that directs the sentiment towards cosmos, nature, and mysticism. The album as a whole entity doesn’t really arc and conclude as neatly as a Burzum album, but instead it leaves a sense of the thoughts and emotions of the album lingering for a while after it has finished, leaving normal life to seep slowly back in to the room after the experience of the music has finished.


By the healing waters
Of my lovely shores
I laid
The air so bleak
I breathed with my eyes
With my ears
Through aeons went my journey

From these mountains
I swear the world
I am the hammer
I am lightning
By the signs I shall return
To burn all land
Beyond the seas

Põhjast – Matused

May 19, 2013 –

põhjast-matusedCrafting slowed-down heavy metal in a style that verges on classic doom but incorporates some of the vivid dynamics of black metal, Põhjast release their third album, Matused, to a world audience in need of quality metal faithful to the genre.

Unlike most entries in this sub-genre, Matused is not campy hard rock with metal licks and prolonged droning riffs. Instead, it cuts back to the core of what made heavy metal great, with the amazingly adept vocals of Eric Syre guiding a guitar-driven, riff-based band with a sense of how to create and nurture mood like a doom metal band.

Syre’s vocals highlight these riffs with melodies but do not merely duplicate the notes, but instead serve as a separate instrument, winding around the progressions that guide the song and by carefully choosing where to go in that space, both accentuating consistency and foreshadowing change. Like serpents in the trees of an enchanted garden, vocal melodies slowly enwrap each riff and then merge with it, urging the song on to new dimensions.

Matused follows the time-honored metal tradition of complex songs structures adapted to the material in each song, where riffs comment back and forth. Composition resembles a cross between Candlemass, later Bathory, and Confessor, with thunderous riffs interweaving with vocals while drums keep time with workmanlike precision and bass pumps like a nuclear reactor.

What will win listeners over to Põhjast is the quality of this material, which plays with older riff styles but invents just as many of its own, and its tendency to set up songs so that their dramatic development plays out organically and does not repeat. The result, kicked into high gear by the apparently only recently discovered vocal talents of Syre, drive this band to produce an atmospheric and yet powerful form of heavy metal.

Cathedral – The Last Spire

May 3, 2013 –

cathedral-the_last_spireProduction: Digital compression presents a narrow range of murky distortion, rendering instruments detectable but unexciting.

Review: For their farewell album, Cathedral present a fusion of stoner rock and doom metal riffs, with the occasional synthesizer interlude to break up the monotony. Having chosen to forgo death metal growls, vocalist Lee Dorian belts out vocals in a style more in common with hard rock than with extreme metal.

Tracks are executed competently, as can be expected from a group of experienced musicians. However, what’s missing is any sense of purpose. Tracks drag on for an excessive length of time and while the notes and structures may change, the overall vapid and uninspired spirit does not take leave.

In an attempt to shake the listener awake, the band inserts a few abrupt changes of instrumentation that presumably are supposed to provide energy and new focus to the track, but instead have more in common with the modern metal technique of carnival show composition, whereby vastly different themes are placed in succession and the relationship between them is left ambiguous, while leaving the problem of missing spirit unresolved.

As a concluding release, this is undoubtedly a disappointing way to end the band’s career, as it has more in common with the band’s later work than with their first release, Forest of Equilibrium. Far into the future, that will be what is remembered as the band’s high mark and if it’s remembered at all, The Last Spire will be but a brief and unfortunate footnote.

Cathedral launches new album The Last Spire

March 30, 2013 –

cathedral-tower_of_silenceNoteworthy doom metal band Cathedral has released a new song named “Tower of Silence” from their upcoming album The Last Spire. It features a mixture of old-school heaviness and modern accessibility, wrapped in a package of skillful structure.

Vocalist and band founder Lee Dorian, who assembled Cathedral after his departure from seminal grindcore act Napalm Death, styles the new album as a return to the form that made 1991’s Forest of Equilibrium so powerful.

“This is the album I’ve been waiting to do since the first one, it almost feels like we made our second album last in some respects,” said Dorrian. “We actually recorded a lot more material but decided to sacrifice many of the tracks to make the overall album feel more complete in its nihilism. I don’t like happy endings, I never have. So many good films are ruined by happy endings and I didn’t want that to be the case with Cathedral, it was my dream to bring everything full circle.”

Cathedral deserve their place in metal history for having essentially resurrected doom metal, a style lying dormant except for a few Black Sabbath-worship bands like Saint Vitus and Pentagram. Fresh from the chaos of Napalm Death, Dorrian reversed his deconstructionist path and instead created a somber, resonant and enduring feeling of pervasive darkness and fatalism, using death metal technique and influences from nascent drone and trance genres to create a new form of the oldest form of metal.

“Tower of Silence” shows us a band more inclined toward 1970s style relatively harmonically immobile riffs, in contrast to the phrasal and drone riffs of the 1990s, and not surprisingly, the vocal and song rhythms follow more of a hard rock pattern than the death metal styles of Forest of Equilibrium. This song has a lot more commercial appeal than anything from the early albums of this band, and so despite having a bit more “bite,” probably belongs in the second era and not the first of this groundbreaking doom metal band.

The Last Spire can be purchased from Season of Mist’s online shop. If the rest of Cathedral’s farewell album is of the same quality as this advance vanguard track that combines the psychedelic rock and proto-metal of the 1970s into a bleak but tuneful package, it will feature on many “Best of” lists for 2013.

Earthen Grave – Dismal Times

March 19, 2013 –

earthen_grave-dismal_timesEarthen Grave casts doom metal with a twist: this traditional doom metal in a form very much like Black Sabbath, Pentagram (US) or Witchfinder General adds a virtuoso violin player and occasional touches of high-speed riffing in the style of death metal bands.

Dismal Times (if they named a newspaper after this album, I’d subscribe) powers itself with good ol’ 1970s metal riffs, appropriated detuned and given the mid-paced treatment that made early Cathedral so successful. They rock along, create a groove, and then into it drop dissonant sounds and a slow-down, imitating what it feels like to run into bad news.

The bad news theme continues throughout this album. “Relentless” rips along in the style of Slayer’s South of Heaven, but then stalls into a dark collision of melody, sounding like a day of ambition that ran full-tilt into a morass of oblivion. The violin of Rachel Barton Pine, renowned classical player and life-long metalhead, dips in and out of the music to accent a riff or zip in a quick fill, contrasting the slow churning riffs.

Vocals are of the higher register type that listeners may be familiar with from Pentagram or Witchfinder General. These work to great effect because the guitars are downtuned and slow, allowing the more able vocals and violin to dart around them and flesh out the layers of sound.

Dismal Times will satisfy metalheads because it is something old and something new; it is classic metal riffs, put together in songs with a mid-paced slightly upbeat feel, but it doesn’t lose what makes it doom metal. Instead, it amplifies it, and shows us that the bad news can be fun reading indeed.

Earthen Grave signs to Ripple Music for debut album

March 15, 2013 –

earthen_grave-earthen_graveTraditional and yet untraditional, doom metal band Earthen Grave plan to unleash their first album, Earthen Grave, on Ripple Music for worldwide release on July 9, 2013.

Featuring ex-Trouble member Ron Holzner and classical virtuoso Rachel Barton Pine, Earthen Grave craft 1970s style doom with the addition of progressive touches and Pine’s elegant but savage violin fretwork. On top of this, the band modernize their sound with a throbbing intensity that is unique to their interpretation of metal.

Originally released in 2012, Earthen Grave was originally released on Claude + Elmo music (and can still be purchased here) but sees re-release with four new tracks and a cover of Dio’s “Stargazer,” complete with the violin talents of Pine, who plays a new type of violin-like instrument called “the Viper.”

In addition to the new album, Earthen Grave launches on a US tour with the following dates in addition to others soon to come:

Earthen Grave violinist melds classical, metal

November 27, 2012 –

Classical music and metal are not as strange bed-fellows as first seems. Both try to take the listener on a journey from A to B via certain key points emphasizing conflict/discovery/victory in a narrative style that’s as old as the hills.

Both rely on a sense of heaviness of life itself in their songwriting, classical from a typically more light perspective, and metal from a darker one. Both are full of references and allusions to literature and ancient history.

As classical violinist Rachel Barton, who plays in doom metal band Earthen Grave in addition to symphony orchestras, points out, metal finds inspiration and even riffs in classical music, but even when it’s going in a different direction it draws from the same well of inspiration.

“When you listen to the great guitar soloists, they’re stealing licks from Vivaldi,” said Pine. She mixes Led Zeppelin, Paganini, AC/DC, Vivaldi and Black Sabbath in some of her live shows, when not creating crashing curtains of doom metal with Earthen Grave.

Classical music is named for its creators’ desire to allude to ancient civilization in form and ethos, specifically but not exclusively the classics – Greece and Rome. What could be more metal than obsessing about the ancient world? In the post-Renaissance world that classical music came out of, studying those older civilizations and reviving their aesthetic values was seen as enlightened and forward-looking, contrary to the “newer is better, always” argument we’re used to hearing about our own times.

Metal and Classical also have in common then that they are both a kind of romanticism: oddly traditional whilst at the same time being futurist and affirming. Through an embrace of the powerful and epic in life, both use an acknowledgement of life’s heaviness to find meaning in its struggle.

Divine Eve – Vengeful and Obstinate

July 7, 2010 –
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divine_eve-vengeful_and_obstinate

Divine Eve‘s Vengeful and Obstinate is a three-way cross between Entombed, Motorhead and Cathedral. More technically adept than most doom metal, it alternates between two-chord riffs that are pure surging rhythm and longer, plodding, doom riffs that reduce your soul to ash. On top of the thunderous doom melodic guitar leads both echo and play with the melodies of those long riffs, opening up the sonic space of the album to more possibility.

Embryonic exhumations – Unearthing classic demos

June 28, 2010 –
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Ras Algethi – Oblita Divinitas
Helheim – Walpurgisnatt
Alioth – Channeling Unclean Spirits
Graveland – Drunemeton
Tsjuder – Ved Ferdens Ende

Ras Algethi – Oblita Divinitas

If the architecture of the great Gothic cathedral, with its upward arches, towering spires and cosmic domes laden with images of the suffering divinity on this earthly realm, had been constructed as a kind of sacral road sign to the eternal paradise beyond, then the music of Ras Algethi’s demo is a fitting soundtrack of cathartic expression, a release from the pain and misery of the mortal existence. Like the immortal Oneiricon – The White Hypnotic album to follow, ‘Oblita Divinitas’ relies heavily on the sounds of the mighty organ for it’s intensity as an imposing beacon of death, magnifying the mournful, melodic patterns that guide the listener through the distinct passages of these songs. Where the organ picks up on the general idea of a riff that’s introduced first, the guitars go on to elaborate this phrase in an almost improvisational, though highly restrained, story-telling manner. The bigger picture develops more gradually – far more slowly and funereal than the full-length – and the organs and percussion eventually give way to the austere logic of the main riff, with clever variations that manipulate this momentary freedom from time and space, or blissful acoustic passages that prolong and reflect in it (anticipating ‘When Fire is Father’, one of the most memorable songs on ‘Oneiricon’), before the other instruments return in an emphatic transition, taking the music to an even deeper level of suffering. Ras Algethi show a very mature compositional style from the onset, not just giving a vague sensation of sadness, but carefully detailing the journey with a reference point of possibly going beyond the world that causes it, re-addressing this emotion as a painful longing for release. -ObscuraHessian

Helheim – Walpurgisnatt

Ghoulish, ethereal and enwrapped in a magnetic tape production reeking of ancient tombs and broken 4-trackers, Helheim’s vision of industrial black metal is far more elemental than the connotations of that description during the last decade. As with the primitivist throbbing drum machines of Mysticum and the ambient blankets of Sort Vokter, the aim is ritual-hypnotic music which does not try to spice up black metal in order to make it more comforting or exciting; instead, it challenges one’s concentration by looping, returning and rewiring little fragments and pieces of riff in powerful early Norwegian black metal language, conducted by the raging screams of the now-deceased vocalist Jon A. Bjerk. The svastika simulacrum depicted on the cover highlights the natural difference with the smoother approach of the other Helheim of the same era, famed mostly for the vagrant mythological epics of “Jormundgand” – this Helheim rather spits in the face of the observed tradition in order to bring forth the subconscious terror of life and death that has been embedded in the mythos of all ancient cultures and bring across a pertinent message to the civilization (macrocosmically) and the black metal of our time (microcosmically). -Devamitra

Alioth – Channeling Unclean Spirits

Remember how disappointed you were the last time you heard a new Varathron or Rotting Christ album? If the same lack of consistency and effort permeates other areas of Greek society, them having descended from the mythic glory of Athene into debts and poverty needs hardly the prophetic eye of Cassandra to fully explain. As in Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel “American Gods” the lost European deities are found prowling the Wisconsin backwoods, Chicago based Alioth’s mystical and sensual tribute to Hellenic black metal ca. 1993 is admirably not only a continuation of the electric technoid dynamo drumbeat and an application of the palm muted speed and doom riffs in esoteric underground context; it’s also a highly logically strung sequence of moods as if the physical organization of pain and pleasure in a Dionysian ritual theatre, succumbing with the heavy held back moments of “The Channeling” and “Apocryphal Dimensions” and rising through the interludial “Invocation” and “Invocation II” to softly expire orgasmic relaxation. So much could be created out of this basic concept that it’s a pity the full-length album has remained cloaked in the depths of the primal sea, while Wargoat Obscurum iterates far less subtle (and far less interesting) metal with Cult of Daath. -Devamitra

Goreaphobia – Morbidious Pathology

Goreaphobia’s debut album wouldn’t have been quite so eagerly anticipated without a strong back catalogue of minor releases such as the ‘Morbidious Pathology’ demo, which provides an unexpected listening experience if Mortal Repulsion is the only recording you’ve heard from the band. Where the full-length communicates visions from the abyss through the blank eyes of an old mystic locked in a lucid dreaming state, this demo is full of enough youthful energy to express the paranoia of a thousand souls trapped within the claustrophobic confines of their own mortality. Variations in riffs reflect these tightly packed structures, seeming to progress with not so much a linear logic than the re-arranging of parts of the whole, like limbs being removed from a body and sewn on to somewhere else entirely until the true grotesqueness of humanity is revealed. As with Mortal Repulsion, despite the physical connections to Incantation, there is a stronger similarity to the craftsmanship of Immolation and albums that would come in later years, such as the complex and disjointed but melodically evocative Here in After. The lead guitar work, though highly restrained, possesses a sense of neoclassical refinement that bridges some short-burst riffage with eloquent but totally disturbing solos. This demo shows the beginnings of an all too rare experiment in Death Metal where you can observe the maturation of a consistant idea as it goes through the turmoil of a tortured, temporal existence. -ObscuraHessian

Graveland – Drunemeton

It’s not difficult to understand the distaste that Darken has for the recordings commited to tape during Graveland’s infancy in the light of his recent catalogue of pristine, epic and Atlantaean creations. Some distance away from the expansive scenes of battlefields and expressions of Romantic nationalism, this ancient offering from the living master of Pagan Black Metal is totally shrouded in a necrotic production, like ghostly shadows moving through oaken forests, casting a spell within more cloistered and Druidic surroundings than the output of Graveland from the past 15 years. Alongside the visions that created the force of Scandinavian Black Metal in the early 90′s, this demo represents the reclusive and misanthropic esotericism of that era, especially the primality of the lowest fidelity cults, Beherit and Ildjarn. Sounding like the work of a punk ostracised by that increasingly over-socialised group for being too idealistic and inhuman, Darken conjures a lurid interpretation of hypnotic Bathorean riffing that develops through the echoing of majestic, synthesised voices that open this recording as though a prologue to ‘The Celtic Winter’. The experimentation with primitivism in ‘Drunemeton’ is so deconstructionist that the guitar technique becomes fragmented completely and subordinated to reveal gloomy ambient moods that amplify the silence of a forest at night before the dawn of battle. There’s a similarity to the Beherit song ‘Nuclear Girl’ in how the guitar is used more like a sample, reverberating it’s texture through the keyboards to emphasise a cloistered sensation, accompanied by monastic chants at other times. Culminating in the ambient classic, ‘The Forest of Nemeton’, this demo is the successful beginnings of Graveland’s exploration into unconventional and nihilistic territory beneath the folky phrasing of guitar-led melodic work, which would shape the dynamic of his entire discography to follow. -ObscuraHessian

Tsjuder – Ved Ferdens Ende

Fifteen years ago, we were too proud and lofty to listen to it, our sensory devices soothed and inflamed by Panzerfaust, Battles in the North and Høstmørke, while the new generation of neo-progressive and mainstream black metal bands sought to enrapture even wider audiences with movie soundtrack influenced keyboards and angelic female voice conjured by fat-bottomed gothic tarts. For the atmospheric maniacs only, as it’s hard to argue for its musicality against the likes of Vikingligr Veldi; but the epic wanderlust and distorted pagan death ritual of this demo’s centerpiece, “Fimbulwinter”, unfolding like a flower at dawn or the psychedelic mandala of LSD invading brain receptors, is one of the pure innocent and mesmerizing gems of underground black metal in this sacred and forsaken era. The primal Isvind-esque melody dance like ripples of waves on a forest pond, the hissing tracker production complete with the macabre clack of a drum machine and the dampness of a Nordic bedroom cellar permeate the recording to such a thickness of adolescent black metal fury that it’s hardly palatable to generic audiences then and now. Barely a trace of the fast norsecore of the more familiar debut album Kill For Satan is noticeable here, the only similarity being the guitarist Draugluin’s technique of bricklike tremolo chord architecture where rhythm plays little importance. While primitive, this compositional method bears an intrinsic beauty which is worthy of recapitulation when the pure augustness of early Norwegian black metal has mostly become forgotten in favour of seemingly more rich and elaborate indie stylings. -Devamitra